This review is written from the perspective of someone who values the combat system the most. So I will be focusing mostly on the combat throughout this review however I will also mention a few thing about the world and story. Mainly though the combat is going to be front and center in this review being discussed in autistic detail.
A Context Sensitive Start.
The first about 10 hours or so of the story for Final Fantasy XVI is fairly slow with some flashy cutscenes to keep your attention. I literally fell asleep as my Broadsword and I where playing through the first act. So really the story isn’t what I’m going to highlight but rather Clives starting move set with just Phoenix. Your given plenty of time with Clive in the beginning to learn how to use your core tools such as: burning blade, combination step, and magic burst. As well your paired with Phoenix which has really only one good ability outside of its teleport and flames of rebirth. Heatwave is definitely an ability you will want to have and will likely have a place in your rotation for the majority of the game. Serving as a ranged launcher as its essentially drive it also has a ranged counter. You’ll have to unlock most of these abilities through a small amount of gameplay but honestly I haven’t had to grind for ability points at all throughout my play-through which I will touch on later.
So if we take a look at the move set as a whole when you just start. You have access to a decent variety of options. Which are not apparent right away. One thing that FF16 doesn’t convey well to the player initially however is discovered through gameplay is the concept that most of Clive’s move set is context sensitive. Take burning blade on the ground its a knock back, in the air its a very strange vertical slash. So lets take a moment to talk about burning blade in the air. Honestly I could probably write a whole article on burning blade as a mechanic however I want to highlight the black wacky hit-box that has a pulling effect associated. In this way its a in air enemy position reset for combination stomp. Combination stomp is extremely important and having burning blade being a way to confirm its usage enables a whole myriad of options.
without Torgal burning blade on the ground is a really easy way to get enemies in the air combined with a well timed charged shot to send them vertically. The hit-box as well is a small square in-front Clive from my testing so you can actually catch falling enemies with it as well which is interesting. Of course you can also perfect sic after both of these actions for Torgal to suspend them in the air for a moment. In all of these instances the game doesn’t explain these properties which is a detriment to the system as a whole. Which is especially true for combination stomp this resets dodge, dive kick (Odin in air dive), and cold snap from my experimentation so far. It is absolutely invaluable in the world of style. How in the absolute sodding hell could anyone allow this to go unexplained. Who wrote these honestly poor skill descriptions. Ill use the burning blade example again to quote the skill description “Hold square to imbue Clives blade with fire. Release to unleash a powerful attack.
This skill description is just not suitable for the amount of actions that can actually be performed with burning blade. Even if you exclude the entire bit about enemy positional resets in the air: the video is there yes, I have my problems with those to. Does the video is play Nero context sensitive actions?: Yes. What it doesn’t display however is literally everything else I or anyone actually wanting to make combos would need to communicate. I’m not purposing we showcase every action within these small clips what I am purposing is to show the hit boxes and every action including ones that depend on enemy state. Not just Clive’s state.
It is easy to overwhelm the player with information especially with a combat system as complex as this. Having this data displayed would help newer and experienced players understand how a ability is supposed to be used no matter the context. Giving access to the information needed to be more stylish and allowing players to put more into the system easier.
Trick with extra steps.
The other portion of the kit I would like to highlight in the beginning here is pheonix. This is just trick from dmc with two attacks you can do out of it: shift strike and shift shot. Shift strike you just hit the enemy to set up an in air string. Shift shot you send the enemy straight down after teleporting. Not really useful in combat but for style this has some cool implications. The lack of a 45 degree angle knock down is disappointing and I would like to see something with that property added.
Pheonix replacing trick in a lot of ways is disappointing as well, I would have liked to see at least a more on demand trick down option integrated into pheonix as the option we currently have with Odin just has to many steps to feel smooth in any capacity. I mean to do a trick down in FF16 in the middle of a combo is somewhat demanding where as in dmc its just a consistent input without the need to cancel. If you don’t know what I’m referring to if you charge a Zan in the middle of the air you teleport to the ground before doing the Zan. You can cancel the attack portion with rift slip and get a trick down effect. So instead of back+style its: hold down square while in Odin, pallet swap and cancel the ability with another one. I will never understand why they decided the theme of this system is just “add more fucken steps.”
Instead of pheonix being a cop out of a ability honest a bloody mockery of action game design. Why wouldn’t you put an actual useful ability like perhaps a in air stinger or something to that effect. Give the player more tools instead of making tools we already have take longer.
Clives Greatwood and Torgal.
The first real area you get to mess around in is the Greatwood and honestly the Greatwood looks amazing. The foliage and vibrancy on display is beautiful. The first enemies are basic as well but this gives you a chance to figure out how Clive works with an enemy. And really experiment, by this time you’ve also unlocked Torgal. Torgal is. Very good boy. So I’m going to take a moment to go over what Torgal does.
Learn to use Torgal’s perfect sic in your own time unless you just want an easy launcher with ravage; the only ability I would focus on is his heal its decent. However it only heals the “wounded” or recoverable health portion of your bar. The only way to replenish you actual health is through potions or using your limit break. Pheonix does have flames of rebirth but the heal thing from that is no where near worth it. When compared to potions anyway. Torgal’s usage will become more apparent when you start going into the training mode and attempting more flashy combos. His perfect sic in the air is just a suspension for a moment allowing Clive to set up really anything. On the ground its just used for more damage.
Torgal is another example of the move set just being broken up into multiple parts for seemingly no reason. I can’t really think of a good reason why the most basic launcher is tied to Torgal; other than get players used to the idea of Torgal. If you remove torgal it doesn’t really take away from Clive in any way though. It just makes the player have to do more steps to achieve the same result.
As you progress through this level get used to the way it plays, if you want to participate in the endgame of FF16 arcade mode is one of the best ways to do that. You replay stages one of them being Greatwood, and get scored; the scoring system is just poorly designed though. Your not timed during these arcade mode runs and due to how the scoring system encouraging the use of abilities that do essentially DoT damage. You just end up repeating the same handful of abilities over and over that don’t deal a lot of damage; just to build up score. Instead of just taking the style system from dmc and just using that…you know since this game is just rpg Devil May Cry. This is not to say the arcade mode isn’t fun if your not interested in leaderboards but instead Ultimanic mode. I will cover that a bit later though.
One aside I feel I should make is the pacing issues of the game. Honestly if your powering though the story I feel the game is exhausting. Most of the bosses have cutscenes and multiple phases. On final fantasy mode they do have some interesting mechanics that make the fights worth replaying however they can get kinda repetitive just because of the amount of time each fight goes on for. Unless your going for mongo dps and avoid every attack perfectly its a decent marathon.
The Real Game Is The Training Mode.
At this point your out of the Greatwood and into the game proper. You don’t have all your Eikons some are better than others but tbh I’m kinda over talking about the side content. I would like to move on to the real meat and potatoes of the game in my opinion. The training mode and the fact that action gamers can rejoice! There’s a proper training mode baked into the game! Oh my god this is amazing. So this allows the player to just go ham with the games mechanics and express your creativity.
Every ability in this game is very canned and telegraphed to make it consistent. This is a godsend for style as this basically allows us to know the enemy state after a given ability effectively 85% of the time. Theirs some minor differences depending on the placement of the enemy in the arena particularly when on rough terrain. Sometimes the enemy will just refuse to get knocked up or knocked back or something if its on rough terrain. This however is minor as you can just wait for the enemy to stand up and move the enemy somewhere else. Or just reset the enemy and Clive’s position by toggling a setting in the training options menu.
While some mechanics like jump canceling return from dmc theirs a lot of wacky things going on with FF16. For instance, did you know the little Crystal cold snap leaves behind, if a enemy is frozen in the crystal it will store the momentum of the enemy. Or reset the momentum of and enemy if it is hit with a charged shot for example. This allows for some nutty things. Personally I really enjoy the amount of hangers and momentum shifts you can do with this as it allows for some really crazy mobility. For the purposes of style of course. A enemies gravity is also effected by the amount of times it is hit in the air, with each hit and subsequent suspension after the first adding gravity. This will eventually capped if it is not reset in some way, which from my testing so far is determined by if Clive or the enemy has touched the ground. As performing a ground reset into heatwave resets this hidden gravity counter from my testing so far.
So essentially gravity is a lie. Until its not again then its a lie once more! Gravity is strange. Anyway during normal gameplay this shouldn’t effect you its only until you start pushing for style.
Clives Play Style As A Whole.
The training mode allows us to remove Torgal and isolate Clive. It also allows us to turn on and off ability cooldowns. Some people argue that leaving cooldowns on is actually the way to push the normal system; however my argument is rift slip. Rift slip essentially replaces Torgal in every instance where you would want to use torgal to suspend a enemy rift slip will instead. However you cannot hit the enemy in rift slip if you want them to stay suspended unlike Torgal’s perfect sic. If you cancel an ability with rift slip it grants you witch time, its also essentially quicksilver from dmc 3. This enables Clive to function without Torgal and still do stylish moves.
This is all fine and dandy, but its all a moot point really unless you can actually execute most of this tech. Which brings me up to my biggest complaint about FF16 is the control setup. Any control setup provided Is just awful the default for me has been the most comfortable. This is due to the Eikon switching being on the triggers instead of a face button. I don’t understand why they didn’t just let players customize the controls to whatever they wanted. The fact that stinger is tied to a dual face button input is also somewhat finicky. If you start wanting to do jump cancels close to the ground, or if your wanting to do a stinger and instead Clive just jumps and swings his sword in the air.
Apart from these I don’t have much gripe with the way Clive plays. I think overall he’s well designed and if you put some time in you can come up with all sorts of stylish combos.
Endgame and Arcade mode.
The endgame of FF16 once you’re done with the hunts and side content. All you’re really left with is the arcade mode. There is a bloody palace equivalent but it’s just for fun and doesn’t really serve a lot of purpose. So unless your into posting combos on twitter get ready fro a tedious slog it’s honestly my only really gripe about the game is this scoring system.
Is it worth it though?
Apart from what I’ve discussed here theirs a wealth of story and side content as well that players can engage in. Obviously I think the combat is bloody amazing as I’ve ranted about some of the finer details. IS FF16 worth $70 honestly yes. If you enjoy action games with deep combat or just spectacles, I mean I didn’t even mention the Kaiju fights.