Action JRPG Review

Final Fantasy XVI – Review

Set in a medieval society where slavery is widespread and unescorted travelers are likelier to find their throats slit than safety, Final Fantasy XVI doesn’t have the lightest tone. This action JRPG tells an epic story spanning years and takes the protagonist over a wide world.

Start of a Journey

Final Fantasy XVI wastes no time by throwing us straight into a war. Between scarce crystal resources used to cast everyday magic, a blight spreading throughout the land that makes it uninhabitable, and many other concerns, it’s not surprising that the political situation isn’t the most stable. To add to this powder keg of a situation, there are less than a dozen special humans called Dominants, who can turn into powerful creatures called Eikons. These can completely turn the tide of a battle, being able to take on an army by themselves.

We soon learn about one of the major religious differences in the world. In some countries these Dominants are respected, in some feared, and in some reviled. 

Adding to this is another class of people known as Bearers. Born with the ability to use magic, throughout most of the world they’re treated as property. Much of Final Fantasy XVI’s early story is based on their plight and some particularly emotional and depressing moments come of this. I was impressed by the level of detail and backstory that the game gave this too.

Grand Fantasy

Following some unexpected events, protagonist Clive finds himself joining with a man named Cid, who wants to help Bearers. He dreams of a world where all are said to be equal. But many of their efforts have to be hidden, as the world would turn against them if they knew.

Joining with Cid spirals into getting involved with events on a global scale, as often happens in JRPGs. An emperor who claims that his cause is just pushes towards war, another influential figure who wants revenge brings his armies, and a manipulator sets in motion events that spiral out of control. Beyond that, there are events related to the Eikons in the background that slowly build up.

Final Fantasy XVI has hours of cinematic scenes telling us not just about Clive and his adventure, but often about the influences in the background that our band may not know about. While there were a few occasions where I felt a character’s actions were extreme, everything was explained clearly and kept me wanting to find out what would happen next. With that said, it does have some aspects that require a pinch of salt to believe. In the latter part of the game, the fantasy elements become more important, with Eikons and other mythical influences taking center stage over more human interests.

The story as a whole was amazing. How everything was connected, how we see relationships built, slowly teased reveals, and human elements such as the feeling of guilt and weight of responsibility portrayed by certain characters helped to keep me invested and keep playing. It often explicitly brings up the importance of freedom, but I felt the more important theme here was comradery and family.

On relationships, the comradery between Clive and Cid was particularly great. It feels like a very real male friendship, with the almost insulting banter, but clear respect and pushing each other on. I was less impressed by Clive’s love interest Jill, who had a few good moments, but always felt like they were acting in support of the wider narrative, which is Clive’s journey.

Clive himself is a particularly interesting protagonist to experience the story through too. With a traumatic history and inner conflict, he’s not just a strong warrior with a sword, but a multifaceted person that we see experience not just rage and the wish for revenge, but joy and sadness.

Final Fantasy XVI - Blackthorn

Violence, Sex, and Other Fun

Final Fantasy XVI doesn’t shy away from violence, sex, or a mixture of the two. Within the first few hours, we see people get crushed, someone takes an axe to the head, and there’s an implied rape attempt. And while the protagonist and friends are certainly shown to be on the side of good, they don’t shy away from killing either and it’s directly shown in cutscenes. With that said, despite dismemberment and more, a surprisingly minimal amount of blood is shown.

It certainly earns the mature age rating. There are scenes with nudity, seduction, and cutaway sex scenes. Brothels come up multiple times too. Women are shown as the seductresses here and at times manipulative. While not all of the female characters are portrayed negatively, quite a few do seem to fall into negative roles or supportive roles, rather than more active ones. I suppose this does fit the world, but it did stand out.

A Diverse World

As Clive travels throughout the world, we see many different places and people. Each feels unique, with different styles of architecture, ways of dressing, customs specific to certain villages, and more. Some were more obvious than others, such as a country that seemed to be based on the Middle East, but even seeing minor details like how different organisations have their own salutes was appreciated.

While it may seem it to some, this is not an open world. It has quite a lot of huge connected zones, which do make it feel as such at times though.

Exploring the World

While there is a lot to say about the story, and far more to not say to avoid spoilers, it’s worth noting that how much of it you experience is down to you. As many JRPGs are, it’s set out as a main questline where you wander from town to town by walking (or fast-traveling) through the countryside and many side quests. The areas between towns are filled with monsters and marauders alike.

At first, Final Fantasy XVI is very linear. Luckily when it does open up, there is a lot to explore. These do tend to be the standards such as delivery quests, kill quests, and so on, but many of them are worth doing. They can add a lot to the lore, such as learning about some of the events after a tragedy took place, the hideaway’s attempts at growing food despite the blight affecting the land, and expanding on the discrimination that bearers face. Beyond that, a few are worth doing for gameplay reasons, such as unlocking a Chocobo mount, unlocking equipment crafting recipes, and increasing the number of potions carried.

Most of your time will probably be spent following the main quest, but it’s really worth taking your time. While not all of the side content is perfect (I didn’t really care about hunting down a creature for someone’s leather business…), much of it does significantly add to the experience.

Final Fantasy XVI - Combat


The combat of Final Fantasy XVI was one of the high points. It plays like a particularly smooth and somewhat fast-paced action RPG, which at first seems simple, but keeps adding more options and abilities as the story progresses. As well as learning new abilities through progression, they can be set and upgraded via distributing ability points too.

One of the best things about the system is how accessible it is. The difficulty is controlled through accessories worn, which allows it to be changed almost whenever needed. Each accessory gives different features to make life easier, so you can customize your experience thoroughly.

On one extreme, Final Fantasy XVI can essentially be a hack and slash game, just constantly pressing the attack button and that being enough most of the time. On the other extreme, you can constantly switch between abilities, learn by watching enemy patterns to dodge, and control your lupine companion who will attack and heal for you.

With that said certain accessories can be slightly frustrating at times, as well as reducing difficulty. For example, one automatically activates abilities. It can do this at rather annoying times, such as changing to a wind ability when you plan on manually activating a fire one, or happening during a limit break and cutting that off. But in exchange, don’t have to keep track of up to six gauges and when they’re full to use special moves.

More generally, I found the combat to feel extremely smooth and fair. If I got hit, I didn’t react quickly enough or I didn’t notice an enemy’s tell. Attacks were almost always dodgeable, which felt satisfying when getting the timing right and taking no damage during a boss battle.

Final Fantasy XVI - Eikon Battle

Visuals and Audio

While Final Fantasy XVI looks great overall, it particularly stands out for battles between Eikons. These are huge spectacles, filled with a mix of cinematics, quick-time event prompts, and action. Some of the battles between humans also have their own share of cinematics. At times, this really does feel like an action movie. Aside from fights, plenty of the more dramatic moments make use of techniques such as switching to first-person view, and slow motion.

The regular gameplay stands out too. Even just walking through the world, I was amazed at the quality of the graphics. The models and environments are very detailed. The lack of pop-in or low detail at distances in most cases stood out too, considering the scales involved.

The background music supports the world well, though the only ones I felt that stood out were some of the boss battle music and occasional other pieces of music. I did like that many bosses had their own unique music, which gave a different feeling to each battle.

In terms of the voicing, there are English and Japanese voiceovers as you might expect, but also ones for French, Italian, German, and Latin American Spanish. The English and Japanese both sound good, though it’s worth noting that subtitles match the English speech and can be slightly different from the Japanese at times. Unusually for me as the person who always watches subbed anime rather than dubbed, I preferred the English.

The English voice acting was breathtaking, added to by the use of regional British accents. That said, occasionally some of the dialect-specific words confused even me, who studied British dialects as part of my university degree. Bits here and there can be quite archaic, but it adds to the atmosphere and was never a problem.

Final Fantasy XVI - Chocobo


Final Fantasy XVI crafts a deep world with plenty to explore, builds a multi-faceted story with characters that kept me playing for hours on end, and blew me away with awe at the visuals at times. Adding a genuinely fun customizable combat system kept the fun going the entire time too. And if you’ve not had enough at the end of the journey, it even adds in a few extras for New Game+.

While I do have a lot of nostalgia for the older Final Fantasy titles, I feel this is the best one in the series yet.


Platforms: PlayStation 5

Want to see more JRPGs? How about checking out our review of Persona 5 Royal or Final Fantasy VII EPISODE INTERmission?

Many thanks go to Square Enix for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.

If you’d like to see more articles from us, please remember to follow us on Twitter🐦 and consider turning notifications on. Or type in your E-mail address and click the button for free email updates. You can also come chat with us on Discord.

Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage

Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!