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Review: ‘Final Fantasy XVI’ offers rich fantasy alongside deep character development

‘Final Fantasy XVI’ has been marketed as being accessible to anyone who has not played any of the previous 15 games. (Supplied)
‘Final Fantasy XVI’ has been marketed as being accessible to anyone who has not played any of the previous 15 games. (Supplied)
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16 Jul 2023 06:07:48 GMT9
16 Jul 2023 06:07:48 GMT9

James Denselow

LONDON: The “Final Fantasy” series is a renowned franchise of role-playing video games. Spanning over three decades, it has captivated players with its deep stories, memorable characters, and innovative gameplay mechanics.

Each installment presents a unique world filled with magic, technology and adventures. Players embark on quests, battle formidable foes, and unravel complex narratives interwoven with themes of friendship, love, and the struggle between good and evil.  

With its rich lore, breathtaking visuals, and captivating soundtracks, “Final Fantasy” has become a cultural phenomenon, enchanting millions of fans worldwide and cementing its place as one of the most influential and beloved game series in history.

“Final Fantasy XVI” has been marketed explicitly as being accessible to anyone who has not played any of the previous 15 games.

Although the game has a leveling-up system, it is more character action than a classic role-playing game. Indeed, despite having over 50 hours of story, the depth and quality of its yore are impressive and accessible right from the start of the game.  

The world of Valisthea will seem familiar to fans of “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones.” It is full of foul-mouthed soldiers, societal injustice, and ever-present violence. It is a lot to take in. However, the introduction of the function of “active time lore” — where you can access an encyclopedia of knowledge in the game — allows players to learn more about decades of history across five kingdoms in a digestible manner.

This is not a particularly open or interactive world compared to the new “Zelda” game or other peers, but it is visually impressive and distinct in its character.  

Within this realist fantasy is the story of the central protagonist — the surprisingly named Clive. It begins with him as a teenager responsible for looking after his younger brother who is a “dominant” able to transform into a titan-like creature. These powerful monsters, called Eikons, are a unique feature of the game in both their playability and scale, which are accessible and memorable.

The game’s dramatic soundtrack and pacing make for a thrilling balance between showing and playing.  

Combat is reflex-driven and a test of timing, combinations and taking advantage of key moments, such as an opponent staggering, cinematic opportunities for a key defense or a killer blow. Weapons and spells are the central assets along with jumping and sprint-like attacks toward enemies.

Non-playable characters help at points around the periphery of fights, but your key ally is your dog, Torgal, whom you raised as a puppy and who can be directed in battles. However, while the early battles are bombastic and exciting, the combination of enemies with copious health bars and the sheer length of the game can make it feel somewhat repetitive.

Thankfully, the power of the storyline keeps players engaged beyond the frequent fights and the reward is a genuine connection with characters who have a complexity that is allowed to flourish by the depth of the world they have built for them.

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