Final Fantasy 16 hands-on preview: Square Enix’s FF16 is all action

final fantasy 16 is set in a high fantasy cold war, where superpowers from the world of Valisthea wield weapons of mass destruction called Eikons, known as Summons to Final Fantasy players, to maintain their political dominance. It’s an action game, very much in the vein of Devil May Cry, that breaks cleanly with the turn-based heritage of Final Fantasy. It is also the intensely personal story of a man seeking revenge for the death of his brother.

It’s the most engrossing mainline Final Fantasy in years, thanks to its blend of character action gameplay and game of Thronesstyle political intrigue that will unfold alongside Clive Rosfield’s personal journey told over the course of three time periods.

During a preview event in New York earlier this month, final fantasy 16 Producer Naoki Yoshida likened Square Enix’s newest entry in the 35-year-old RPG series to a “thrilling roller coaster”. He brought a playable demo of the game to the PlayStation 5, one that featured a pro wrestling-inspired battle between two giant monsters, to back up that claim.

But first, Yoshida outlined final fantasy 16‘s setting in great detail. He described the realm of Valisthea as “a realm in its twilight”, where the enormous Mother Crystals serve as a source of holy energy for the residents of two continents: Ash and Storm. To the west is Storm, home to the Grand Duchy of Rosaria, the home of Clive Rosfield and the Holy Empire of Sanbreque, a theocracy. To the east is Waloed, with his military might; the Dhalmekian Republic, a ferocious political power; and the Iron Kingdom, an island nation where the Dominants, humans who embody Eikons, are seen as ungodly. At the heart of Valisthea lies the island of the Crystalline Domain, established around the largest Mother Crystal in the world.

Many of these nations and states are represented (and protected) by Dominants with the power to transform into Eikons. Think game of ThronesWesteros and Essos, only each faction has its own dragon. At the heart of the story, the Rosaria dukedom is represented by the Phoenix, for which Clive’s younger brother Joshua served as Dominant. When Joshua seemingly dies, Clive’s journey of revenge and Valisthea’s fragile peace begin to shatter.

Image: Square Enix

In an action-focused demo created especially for the media, a fact Square Enix repeatedly emphasized, I was able to experience a taste of Clive’s journey. There were bits of the story, of course, but it was all out of context; much of what I played was designed to convey how much of a pure action game final fantasy 16 be. That shouldn’t be surprising, given that the game’s combat director, Ryota Suzuki, built a career at Capcom working on characters like Marvel vs. Capcom 2, dragon’s dogmaand devil may cry 5. Still, the influence of action-fighting games is a notable change for Final Fantasy, which has traded off turn-based action to varying degrees and party-based battles. Here, Clive is mostly alone, with the exception of occasional support from his wolf Torgal and this game’s Cid, Cidolfus Telamon.

(The developers said that Clive will sometimes have a big party, but those allies will be, for the most part, controlled by AI.)

Yoshida described Valisthea as a massive and detailed world, full of places to explore. But it’s not an open world; the areas appear to be contained, and players will be able to travel across Valisthea from a central location. In the playable demo, set about five hours in final fantasy 16As the story goes, I took control of Clive, sneaking into a fortress tower in search of Benedikta Harman, a representative of Waloed and the Dominant of Eikon Garuda. Clive comes simply armed: he has light armor and a sword. At his side, he has Torgal and Cid, and they sometimes help him in battle autonomously (although the game gives players a semblance of control over Clive’s companions). But Clive’s greatest power comes from the Eikons.

Clive Rosfield takes on the winged giant Eikon Garuda in a Final Fantasy 16 boss battle

Image: Square Enix

While Clive is not introduced as a Dominant, he seems to absorb the power of various Eikons, including the power of the Phoenix that was previously controlled by his brother. The demo also featured abilities that Clive may not have at this point in the final version of final fantasy 16, including the powers of the Titan and Garuda Eikons. Every Eikonic power has its use in battle, and the developers hope players will mix and match the loadouts to suit their playstyle.

The Phoenix powers that Clive can control include a teleportation move called Shift Strike, which closes the distance between him and his opponent. Rising Flame is a type of uppercut that summons a flaming wing that strikes an enemy upward to initiate a juggling combo. Scarlet Cyclone summons a whirlwind of flames around Clive, damaging anyone nearby.

Garuda’s Eikonic power allows Clive to send out a giant claw to pull enemies towards him; Gouge, a series of quick hits; and Wicked Wheel, an upward attack that sets up a combo in the air. Titan powers include a powerful block, a devastating punch, and Shake, a slam attack. The last two moves display a time meter, allowing players to unleash more powerful attacks if timed right.

Clive Rosfield dodges an attack from an enemy in a dark chapel in a screenshot from Final Fantasy 16

Image: Square Enix

Combined with swordsmanship and magical missiles, Clive’s Eikonic powers bring an incredible amount of depth to final fantasy 16Combat action in real time. After some tweaking (learning all three of Eikonic’s powers at once, rather than over time, was a challenge), I found myself quickly switching between each skill set while certain skills were on cooldown, and simply because it was so much fun to engage with. . with the variety of attacks at my disposal. Since many skills can be improved and mastered through experience, there is an impressive level of depth to final fantasy 16the fight.

While much of the action in final fantasy 16The playable demo of focused on clearing rooms full of soldiers and magic-wielding sorcerers, it also featured two action-packed boss battles: one against Garuda’s twin allies Chirada and Suparna, in a fortress chapel, and another against Benedikta, channeling Garuda. It is in these battles that final fantasy 16‘s emphasis on action, including perfectly timed dodges, parries, and quick, precise strikes, becomes more apparent.

But what about veteran Final Fantasy players who aren’t fans of action games? The developers have a solution. Players will be able to equip items called timely accessories that will allow for long windows to dodge attacks and single button presses to perform more complex combos. Other accessories allow for a more powerful attack or better defense, but they are all optional. Players who want to experience a challenge have that option. For my part, I played much of final fantasy 16Demonstrating it both ways, using the appropriate accessories to learn its systems, and then revisiting it when you were more familiar with its controls. They both felt great, in different ways.

A Final Fantasy 16 menu screen, showing the Gear and Eikons section, and the Ring of Timely Strikes accessory that allows for combinations that can be executed with the press of a button.

Final Fantasy XVI © 2023 Square Enix Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.
Image: Square Enix

Image: Square Enix

Where final fantasy 16 it feels unapologetic, well Final Fantasy, it comes from its boss battle pageantry. My 10-minute matchup with a Garuda-powered Benedikta was full of outrageous action and violence, with my opponent breaking huge stacks off the tower and hurling them at Clive. All of this was interspersed with melodramatic dialogue and Benedikta’s evolution from a well-dressed woman to a bright green winged monster.

But the real spectacle was saved for another scene, separate from the other section I played, when Clive summoned the full force of the Eikon Ifrit and grew to the size of a skyscraper for a battle with Garuda, now a six-armed, four-winged giant. This was a battle of Eikon against Eikon, officially called the Clash of Eikon, in the context of a Neon Genesis Evangelion Angel attack, with two huge monsters that launch fireballs and huge chunks of earth at each other. There were body slams, limbs torn from their bodies, and a brutal beating that ultimately resulted in Clive’s Ifrit summoning Hellfire to burn Garuda alive. It was a laboriously long Final Fantasy summons spliced ​​with 3D fighting gameplay, complete with health bars across the top of the screen. It was the kind of visual dazzle that will captivate you even if you’re not the one playing it.

Yoshida and Suzuki later told me that not all Eikon battles will play out this way; in fact, in a brief snippet of a teaser video that Yoshida played, I saw an Eikon vs. Eikon fight that looked like a level of space harrier either panzer dragononly the player controlled a Flying Phoenix.

(For the die-hard fan of character action games, I’ll point out that Yoshida has promised both graphics and performance modes for final fantasy 16and the latter prioritizes a constant frame rate over graphical fidelity).

As Yoshida made clear at the beginning of his presentation for final fantasy 16 At the preview event, their team’s new game is exciting, with a focus on action and massive battle hubs. Of course, there’s a great story to be woven there, but based on the hours I spent with FF16the spectacle is already tempting enough.

final fantasy 16 is Coming to PlayStation 5 on June 22. The game will be exclusive to the Sony console for at least six months. Square Enix says that the playable demo described here is a special version made for the media to experience, and the contents may differ from the final version.

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