Videogame Review: FINAL FANTASY XVI (Playstation 5)
Rolled credits on FINAL FANTASY XVI last night and all I can really say is…I’m really glad to be done with it.
This game sadly wore out its welcome incredibly fast. While being one of the smoothest & prettiest games you can get on Playstation 5, it comes at the cost of short bursts of weak gameplay between hours upon hours of cutscenes, fetch quests, and occasionally a boss fight. At times, it feels like the game remembers it is, in fact, a video game and includes little pointless moments of walking from point A to point B just to get to another cutscene (the most egregious example of this happens near the very end of the game).
The inspiration the developers took from Game of Thrones is ever-present. Lore-wise, this game is filled to the brim and implements a cool feature called “Active Time Lore” where at any time, you can open a menu to get the necessary background information of all the key players on screen (people, city, families, etc). Like GOT, there is a LOT going on across the world, so implementing this feature for the first time with this game was absolutely necessary to understand the context of some encounters (and frankly, remembering who some people are).
However, the story itself is not as immersive as I think they were hoping it to be. In fact, it was incredibly predictable and sadly somewhat bland. Emily, who was only ever half paying attention to it as I played, would sometimes even comment at any reveal, “who didn’t see that coming?” I never felt like the stakes were too high, and more importantly, I didn’t have any emotional connection to any of these characters.
The world is huge and beautiful, but it doesn’t feel lived in. At any given time, you can look off into the distance and see beautiful landscapes, but the level designs are mostly linear and contained to *very* minimal exploration. The only sense of progress is getting from the start of a location to its end. Sometimes there are mobs of creatures to fight, but the fighting becomes so uninspired by the game’s end that I began just skipping the mindless fighting to continue progressing the story.
Without giving anything away narratively, there was a moment in the first act where the combat gets upgraded, to which a friend of mine even messaged me excitedly about how the game just leveled up. It sure did and at the time, it felt really good – the first new upgrade to the combat system and made me as a player excited to upgrade it further. Little did I know at the time though that those new combat abilities would later just become different flavors of the same food, and none of them made any fight any more enjoyable.
As a lifelong fan of the franchise, I can’t help but feel ultimately disappointed with this addition. Final Fantasy is no stranger to changing things up and experimenting with different systems and mechanics but despite all the attention to lore, this one just felt so empty.