Final Fantasy XVI preview

Putting the fantasy back into Final Fantasy

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PS5
Release Date: 06.22.2023

Across the years, there have been numerous elements of predictability when it comes to Final Fantasy releases. Crystals will play a part in the story, airships will likely fill the skies, someone named Cid will show up somewhere, and creatures such as chocobos and moogles await throughout the landscape.

And yet, at the same time, part of that predictability is a sense of unpredictability. Unlike many other gaming franchises, Final Fantasy has never locked itself into one set world, gameplay style, or overall thematic structure, a fact which is exceptionally clear in the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI. Where as its precursor Final Fantasy XV felt far more modern and technology-based—to the point that main hero Noctis literally drove around in a shiny black convertible—FFXVI returns to a high fantasy world that more closely resembles earlier chapters of the series and its two more recent MMORPGs.

That last point is especially notable given that Final Fantasy XVI is being helmed by producer Naoki Yoshida, the man responsible for helping turn around the initially floundering MMO Final Fantasy XIV. Yoshida and his team have won over the hearts of fans through that game’s beloved characters, gripping storylines, and thrilling gameplay scenarios, and now they’re using their talents to craft the next mainline Final Fantasy title.

Don’t expect Final Fantasy XVI to just feel like an MMORPG solo run, however. For one, the game features flashy, high-energy battles, where players directly control protagonist Clive Rosfield as he fights alongside a team of AI-controlled partners. There are character stats to improve and gear slots to maximize with newfound loot, but both areas will focus on a smaller set of skill trees and slots to avoid players getting too bogged down in the details. And, in contrast to other modern RPGs that focus on lengthy experiences, FFXVI’s director Hiroshi Takai noted that the main storyline should only take around 35 hours to complete—though players can choose to nearly double that length by exploring all of the side content.

The only proof you need that Final Fantasy XVI is embracing modern gaming trends: You can pet the dog.

One of the most interesting ways in which Final Fantasy XVI will set itself apart from its older siblings, however, is in its storytelling. It’s hard to give you a quick summary of the events of the game, because this will be a complex tale of kingdoms, warfare, ambition, betrayal, and loss, more akin to something like Final Fantasy Tactics and less the adventures of a ragtag band of teenagers saving the world. Yoshida recently stated how he wanted to tell a darker tale that had a more realistic sense of weight to the events and gameplay that players experience, and even mentioned 2018’s God of War as a release with a similar overall flow of gameplay. So, no, you probably won’t be taking breaks to go fishing or play more lighthearted minigames as the world burns down around you.

What you should probably expect instead is a bombastic and enthralling new chapter of the Final Fantasy saga that will take the franchise into some brave new territory. And, given the team’s love for the older chapters of the series, some old but beloved territory as well.

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