Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (2023)

It wasa really long time agodarlingAFinal fantasygra.Final Fantasy XII,that came out in 2006 was a bit of a forgotten party that mostly left me yearning for another oneA traveling story. Unfairly vilifiedFinal Fantasy XIII(2009) had someI do not know whatbut it didn't quite hit. My distaste for Tetsuya Nomura's nonsensical storyHeart of the KingdomI missed himFinal Fantasy XVin full. Even nostalgia for the 90sRemake Final Fantasy VIIdared to amaze until he didn't.


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What these games have in common is the different ways they tried to modernize themRPGflavor elements. Whether it was MMO-like automation or hybrid real-time combat with a slight alternating time lapse, each entry seemed to delve deeper into "action" and away from "RPG." It's not bad in itself, especially whenSquare Enixaownartificial retro revivalscratch the itch of old heads like me. And how much I love itaction gamesI was wondering if this was the right directionFinal fantasygo down.

Then I playedFinal Fantasy XVIand all that crap I just said flew right out the window.

A rolling stonehe recently got a hands-on experience of a near-final match at a press event in New York, which proved to be equal parts pounding and confusing. In a good way.

Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (1)

Mandatory previous version disclaimer: "This is a separate media release and content may differ from the final version."

Developed by Square Enix's Creative Business Unit III, under the direction of producer Naoki Yoshida and, perhaps more importantly, fight director Ryot Suzuki,Final Fantasy XVIis a big departure from the series because it is primarily an action game and then an RPG. Another way. But more on that in a moment.

During the event, journalists were able to play three main parts, including an introduction to the game about the youth of the main character, Clive Rosfield, a jump forward to the twenties, as well as a completely separate, quasi-casual part of the game from the beginning. After all, it was roughly the first four hours of the game, giving a taste of the world and upcoming story that will be based on this patternmassive. Huge, like "title screen only appears after two hours" massive.

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Teased over the years, most recently with an announcement in February, much has been made of the game going all the way back to the Middle Ages. Referring to the early years of the series (ie entriesandVI), is a welcome return to a well-established fantasy setting with no pseudo-sci-fi concept to be seen. There are castles, princes, knights in armor and giant chickens (wrong…Chocobos). It seems like the franchise is getting back into a comfortable space, but it's notthispleasant considering the elephant in the room.

HisGame of Thrones. not like"Game of Thrones, ForIs Game of Thrones.

Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (2)

At first glance, this might sound like a lazy gimmick for any modern fantasy content shrouded in red mist and insistent "fuck it," but it's not. Both visually and tonally, the developers have been very receptive to their Western influences - this is literally their first game to be made with both Japanese and English translations - but the fact is that it borrows so much from the world of George R.R. Martin and the narrative that at least during business hours you won't be forced to expect Daenerys to show up growling "Dracarys." Except that it would be agiant filetinstead of a fire-breathing dragon.

To respect both the embargo and the gameplay experience, I'll stay vague on the details, but there are countless direct narrative parallels to both during runtime.Game of Thrones'the first season and the whole narrative is great.

Tell me if you've heard it before: a shaggy, grumpy recluse from a privileged royal family, loved by his father, despised by his mother, must balance his oath with his desire for revenge on the people who betrayed his family. His true nature is a mystery to him that could change the known kingdom. There is also a giant wolf-like dog.

Now that may sound like a criticism - it's not. I'm fuckingLoveThis one. Considering the 4+ hours I've spent with these characters and the world, I can safely say that this is the game I've enjoyed the mostFinal fantasysince the 90s

And to be perfectly honest, there are a lot of ways that Clive is different from "Shmon Shmow" and frankly, he's a better character. As the "Shield of Rosaria" at a young age, she is tasked with protecting her brother Joshua, one of the "Dominants" of the kingdom who was chosen by fate to be the living avatar of Eikon, a kaiju of elemental creatures of greatness. divinity. Although he can use the power of the Eicons in minor ways, he is passed over as a Dominant, making him the lesser sibling despite being respected by his younger brother.

Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (3)

What could make for a sob story is heightened by Clive's inherent likability. He has friends - well, friends - in the form of a brave young girl named Jill and his adorable dog Torgal. Both companions progress from Clive's early days to adulthood, and despite a series of tragic circumstances, so does his sense of personality. There's a bit of thinking involved, but overall Clive acts like a human being and is able to make friends along the way without succumbing to the (too) obvious clues surrounding tortured, mischievous heroes - at least during the opening hours.

If the story continues to walk the tightrope - and stick to the landing - during what is sure to be a long campaign, Clive will fare better than mostFinal fantasyheroes. Not reallya girl(See:Final Fantasy VIIcloud;Final Fantasy VIIISquall) and far from a playful trickster (Final Fantasy IXZidane'a;Final Fantasy XTidus), occupies a space where he's mature enough to match the dark tone of the game without being downright depressing.

But while its edge is relatively well defined, much of the wider world is difficult to trace. returnGame of ThronesAs a benchmark, many viewers found the series difficult to follow, especially if they watched season after season without a consistent theme song to distinguish Bran from Bronn from Brienne. Similarly, in a game, the sheer speed at which information is thrown at players during work hours is completely exhausting. I spent a good chunk of each scene furiously jotting down notes about the main players and their loyalties, many of whom frankly wasted my time before I had the common sense to turn on the subtitlesespeciallywith the names of the speakers.

Seemingly aware of how this could ruin the experience, the developers have included a feature called "Active Time Lore" - which appears after about two hours of gameplay - which is supposedly an X-Ray feature from Amazon Prime Video that spoils every person, location and story in the context of any ongoing conversation and button presses. This isliberation. Really, it's a feature that's so brilliant yet mind-boggling in its simplicity that it should be implemented immediately in any game of its size. Industry standard.

Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (4)

Maybe it was the setup, playing the game against a ticking time during the demo, but I was constantly distracted and losing track of the characters I was talking to and their motivations, so this feature as a cognitive accessibility feature shouldn't be overlooked. It makes understanding Valista's inner workings infinitely more enjoyable.

Allusions to other media aside, there's a lot to be said for how hard Square Enix is ​​trying to keep identifying this worldFinal fantasy. From the aforementioned chocobos instead of horses to the imitation of Eicon as favorite summoned characters like Ifrit, Shiva, and Ramuh, everything here actually feels authentic to the DNA of the series.

Even when it comes to the game's visual identity and user interface, little love letters to the series' roots can be seen everywhere. In the pause menu, the player group is represented by pixelated sprites taken straight from the 16-bit era, instead of the shiny character sheets or key images that most modern games would have. The weapons, equipment and monsters in the bestiary are presented in beautiful game-like illustrationsFinal Fantasy tactics, with every blade and bracelet beautifully reproduced in what was previously only an instruction manual.

(Editor's note: The instruction manuals were little paper booklets tucked into game boxes that...never mind)

Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (5)

Even the whole world has that sly tact. Arranged as visually appealing maps full of detail, the World Map functions as a simple point and click between locations and once again evokes, among other things,Final Fantasy tactics, with the three-dimensionality and atmosphere of a living model, similar to the well-known oneshow open(I'm sorry!).

It's worth paying attention to the world map, because despite taking narrative and tonal inspirations from Western media, the developers chose not to rely on Western RPGs' penchant for open-world frameworks. Based on the first four hours, but essentially confirmed by the developers and on-site representatives, the game is primarily based on linear progression through carefully curated areas with occasional stops in more open environments.

We had access to such an open environment for about 30 minutes and it played out as expected. Created as a bridge between important locations, it served as a small playground for approaching and fighting enemies, collecting XP and items, and snooping around small dead ends for treasure chests before moving on. We're not allowed to activate any main or side quests in the region, so it's hard to tell if they go outside of a specific area or if they're down to simple quests to collect and kill enemies per the genre norm.

Areas are known to be playable in arcade mode, which is fitting considering the game's biggest inspiration comes from high-octane action games likeBayonettaanddevil may cry. While the predecessorFinal Fantasy XVallowed players to get down and dirty in combat and throw enemies into the air for juggling à laHeart of the Kingdom, fighting director Ryot Suzuki's pedigree in the action universe is on display here.

Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (6)

Combat encounters are incredibly staged and rely heavily on precise timing to dodge, parry, and unleash the ultimate carnage through a complex formula of basic attacks, magic, and Eikon's many abilities and feats. It can be downright overwhelming at times, with multiple sets of multiple attacks to keep in mind in order to deal damage effectively enough to stun enemies. I wouldn't call the battles grueling, but there was a legitimate sense of fatigue during many of the mini-bosses and actual boss battles, especially if you lose a particularly tough fight multiple times.

There are a few accessibility options that can be mitigated in the form of add-ons that increase reaction time or slow the pace, and the entire game can be played in story mode, but ultimately it's either your kind of game or it's not. , and that's okay.

Unlike the classicsFinal fantasygames and even the latestRemake Final Fantasy VII, there is almost no control over AI teammates, either by taking direct control or by assigning commands. Instead, players just control Clive on the field, but can (thankfully) give orders to the best boy, Torgal.

Yes, you can 100 percent live out your "Shmon Shmow" fantasy by imagining a world where canine friends aren't introduced as an integral part of the plot, only to be completely trashed with no further behavioral impact.

Of course, there are skill trees in the skill trees through which players can learn new basic combat and Eikon skills. Each tied to an individual Eikon and its element, skills can also be individually upgraded in a manner reminiscent of the old onesFinal fantasymagic and spells on a numerical level.

The combat is exciting and the progression systems are rewarding. Overall, once you accept that it's more action packed with stats and less RPG - even with the modern design - you'll start to enjoy the great things it has to offer sooner.

Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (7)

Given the focus on high-octane combat, it's a shame that the game often fails to deliver the punch needed to seamlessly bring the fantasy to life. Sure, the cutscenes are beautifully rendered, and the environments can be stunning when you stop and admire the details, but overall, it's not the best looking or performing game on current-gen consoles.

They are far from the perfectly detailed and constantly optimized blockbusters of today, like Sony's own masterpiecesThe Last of Us Part ILubHorizon: Forbidden West, many areas and character models have muddy textures and curly edges. While there are plenty of modern additions like the glowing particle effects of magic attacks, the game often struggles with inherent jerkiness when combat gets too hot and heavy, or worse, you're just moving through densely packed areas like deciduous forests.

As per the norm, there are modes and qualities to change, with the former supposedly delivering 60fps, though you might have me fooled. I spent a lot of time changing them while playingtrialto see if there were any noticeable improvements, and for the life of me I couldn't tell the difference. There is constant motion blur that bothers lower frames per second (probably in quality mode), but it seems to be present in performance mode as well. At times, the blur combined with the jagged edges of the character models gave me motion sickness that I've never experienced, even in VR.

Maybe the difference between the modes will become more clear as the hands-on takes longer to release, or maybe the game will get some additional changes with patches, but as it is now, it's completely playable and extremely enjoyable, but it's sad to see how the game looksimportantstaying behind the bend.

Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (8)

Things look better during the Eikon encounters - which are ultimately heavily scripted kaiju battles where players take control of elemental beasts in story-driven climactic sequences, each with their own specific mechanical twist. In the preview in February, journalists were allowed to play the fiery Eikon Ifrit in the Eikon the Garuda knockdown. An exciting sequence that is often visually overwhelming, these sections offer a small foretaste of the monster's great power, and while they don't offer the same level of control as the main fight, they are good enough to provide a rollercoaster of mostly exciting set pieces without completely taking control from the player.

The game itself begins with another Eikon battle, between player-controlled Firebrand Phoenixes in hot pursuit (pun intended) of Ifrit. The sequence plays like an arcade shooter and is very different from anything else in the game. It will be interesting to see what other Eicons will be playable and how the matchup between colossus will differ.

Final Fantasy XVI should pick up where Game of Thrones left off. (9)

Despite raising my eyebrows at the visual madness and endlessly twirling my knife looking for similarities to other media, I walked away from the demo with a sigh. Heart pounding after defeating the fire monster and a notebook full of names and places to remember, I was completely absorbed in whatFinal Fantasy XVIhad to offer.


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If the full game can provide working hours, it might be the bestFinal fantasyhas been playing for more than two decades. At least it still probably ends better than thatGame of Thrones.

Final Fantasy XVIIt premieres on June 22nd on PlayStation 5.


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