I call myself a massive Final Fantasy fan, but I have regrettably become disillusioned with the current state of it’s single-player mainline entries ever since Final Fantasy X released back in 2001. This franchise has constantly sought to innovate and experiment on the backs of prior titles, but it has seemed to have lost sight of what made these games so memorable—a compelling story with strong emotional resonance.

Our mini VIDEO REVIEW of Final Fantasy XVI!

What the Series Has Been Missing

Here, the narrative of Final Fantasy XVI easily rubs shoulders with the likes of VI, VII and X. Featuring a gripping tale of crystalline kingdoms that weaves together a tapestry of intricate, well-acted characters and a world brimming with rich lore. Said information can be easily accessed in real-time using the appropriately-named ATL (Active Time Lore) system to look things up about specific events, characters, settings, the jargon they use and more. Throughout the game, I can safely say that I forgot about certain things along the way. Hence these little guides came in clutch at the end of the day.

One thing’s clear—Clive is the manliest lead FF protagonist yet.

As a whole, the game delves into deep and complex themes, exploring the human condition, political intrigue and an unrelenting morality clash of ethics. Each character is delicately crafted for Final Fantasy XVI’s tone, allowing players to form genuine connections and thoroughly empathise with their struggles, without forgetting a dash of humour or two. Even though the game does dilly dally at times and a few side quests could’ve used a bit more depth, the majority of them smartly expand Clive’s (and the player’s) understanding of the world and how kingdoms and everyday folk interconnect with the above themes. Similar to the way last year’s God of War Ragnarök further enhanced the game’s narrative through its optional content.

This keeps the pace and action of the game relatively steady, as most open-world games with an involved story can often bewilder the player with all sorts of icons and waypoints that take them too far off the beaten path.

The land of Valisthea is home to many warring countries and areas that make up its vast territory. And so to streamline the story and general movement between areas, the devs have opted to set the stage in a level-based format. This keeps the pace and action of the game relatively steady, as most open-world games with an involved story can often bewilder the player with all sorts of icons and waypoints that take them too far off the beaten path. The attention to detail is astonishing in Final Fantasy XVI, however. Whether it be the lush forests, bustling cities or the ethereal realms Clive and his party members traverse, Square Enix has expertly harnessed the power of next-generation hardware, immersing players in a world that feels truly vibrant and alive. Even if the frame rate and graphical quality can be a little shaky at times for both the 60FPS 1080/1440 ‘Frame Mate’ mode and 4K 30FPS ‘Graphics’ settings. Regardless of which option you choose though, it still looks absolutely stunning in and outside of combat with virtually zero glitches in sight.

Final Fanta-Cry

The battle system in Final Fantasy XVI is a seamless fusion of real-time action and classic RPG elements, as the Devil May Cry-inspired mechanics offer an exhilarating mix of strategic depth and intense combat. From up close and personal encounters, to spell-casting and chip-damage attacks, Clive has several different load-outs that players can mess around with to suit their individual tastes. There are also charged attacks, parrys, precision dodging and more which can dramatically affect an opponent’s Stagger gauge. Once this is depleted, it stops a boss-type enemy in their tracks and lets players stack on the heat with scalable damage multipliers up to 1.5x. This gives Clive time to bust out his strongest moves and build up to his own version of DMC’s Devil Trigger; partially restoring his health and letting him go to town on enemies with increased sword swings, combos and strength to boot. Great system here!

The game’s difficulty does start off fairly easy, but scales perfectly to match the player’s skill over time.

Flowing between Clive’s abilities is just as fun as Devil May Cry, and he can even call upon his loveable hound, Torgal to attack and extend combos with the D-pad. If players find the combat a little too overwhelming though, Square Enix has cleverly implemented accessibility options that let Clive use one-button combo strings, auto-dodges, AI-control Torgal and the like. The game’s difficulty does start off fairly easy, but scales perfectly to match the player’s skill over time. On the other hand, once the story has been finished, the more difficult, New Game+ ‘Final Fantasy’ option remixes the enemy encounters throughout the entire game, making each battle a lot more challenging. If that’s not enough, the devs have also included a Stage Replay option and Arcade Mode where you can be graded for pulling off specific battle techniques and how well you performed them. A fitting addition for those who’d like to master this exceptional combat system.

Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!

I’d be remiss for not mentioning the most thrilling part of the gameplay—the glorious Eikon battles. Not only do these titanic clashes let players duke it out against classic Final Fantasy summons like something out of a Godzilla fanfic, but these multi-phase encounters constantly change up the location, abilities and setpieces to keep things exciting. When Clive transforms into his Eikon, his moveset practically mirrors that of his human form, making it super easy to jump in and start thrashing the life out of his opponents. And since there are several story-intensive fights that occur in both Clive’s normal and Eikonic forms, the devs have also included scripted QTE moments which really amp up the drama. Saying the word “QTE” is like a sin these days, but they honestly don’t overstay their welcome here, as they’re so amusing to watch and only appear on screen for a few seconds or two max.

Removing the Staples

There’s not much in the way of traditional JRPG mechanics like turn-based battles, using various status effects or playing through an assortment of mini-games, but I don’t think they’re necessary here. Director, Hiroshi Takai said “I just can’t imagine that a protagonist bearing such a harsh fate and someone who feels like he has lost his humanity would want to play a puzzle game that doesn’t match his goals, or relax and go fishing.” I tend to agree. Final Fantasy fans may be disappointed that all these long-standing traditions have been omitted. But for a series that’s all about innovation, this shouldn’t come as that big of a shock. There are still hunting Hunt Board quest marks to slay for your fittingly-named Moogle friend, Nektar the Bold as well as Chocobos to ride, where you can show off all your fancy Tokyo Drift skills throughout the land.

Square Enix’s slick VFX are always so sparkly-sparkly.

Whether you’re soaking in the gorgeous sights of Valisthea or charging head-first towards an Eikon, the music of Final Fantasy XVI makes for the perfect accompaniment. Masayoshi Soken has delivered several awesome remixes of iconic compositions from series veteran Nobuo Uematsu, along with fresh inclusions that masterfully complement the emotional beats of the narrative. This soundtrack covers a wide range of musical styles, from epic orchestral symphonies to pumping heavy metal tunes that you’d find in a Devil May Cry game, and they all fit together seamlessly. I must admit, I was slightly apprehensive when Yoko Shimomura stepped in to take the reins of XV—as I was here with Masayoshi Soken—but it turns out that my reservations were completely unfounded. These guys understand exactly what makes an epic Final Fantasy OST and aren’t afraid to add their own secret sauce into the franchise’s long-established musical flavours.


It’s been seven years since the last mainline entry in the series, but the wait has certainly been worth it. Final Fantasy XVI delivers an extraordinary gaming experience that excels in almost every conceivable aspect. Its engrossing narrative, stunning visuals, innovative action RPG mechanics and awe-inspiring musical score combine to create one of the most memorable video game experiences of 2023. Final Fantasy XVI sets a new standard for the franchise and is a must-play title for almost every long-time fan or first-timer. People may have some minor gripes with the pacing and side quests, but they hardly diminish from what is an already outstanding action RPG.

By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PlayStation 5

Must Have

Final Fantasy XVI stands tall as one of the best entries in the series, encapsulating the essence of the long-standing franchise whilst delivering an experience that sets the framework for future titles to come. From the moment I embarked on this journey, I was enthralled by its captivating narrative, breathtaking visuals and addictive action RPG gameplay, leaving me with no choice but to award it a straight 10/10, minor faults and all.

This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Square Enix. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.

One thought on “Final Fantasy XVI Review – A CLIVE-TACULAR ADVENTURE

Tell us your thoughts....