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Final Fantasy XVI preview: The action RPG the series has been waiting for

Final Fantasy 16 takes steps forward from what came before, with flashy fast-paced combat like never before

Regardless of your opinion on Final Fantasy 15, you’re likely to view Final Fantasy 16 as an improvement. Things are better across the board which makes this the best attempt at an action RPG the core Final Fantasy series has seen to date.

Disclaimer: This is a special version made for media to experience, and contents may differ from the final version.

For this game, the team brought on the combat designer from Devil May Cry 5, Ryota Suzuki, and it shows. Combat has a much faster pace, but doesn’t sacrifice any of the weight or satisfaction of each impact. Between your melee, magic, and special moves, you can pull off some crazy combos that all pop off the screen with incredible visual flair. The effects of the magic and special moves in particular are absolutely beautiful when in motion.

It plays into the feeling of harnessing the power of gods, and you can switch between elements on the fly, changing your fighting style in a flash if you need to. It strikes a great balance where there’s plenty of potential for complex combos, but it’s condensed into relatively simple controls, so you don’t need a third hand to pull off the coolest moves.

Final Fantasy 16 boss

It doesn’t stray too far into hack-and-slash territory though. You’ll be faced with large groups of enemies every now and then, but you can’t just charge in and destroy them all at once, you must divide and conquer.

Your AI companions are a big help in this regard. You’ll have your faithful dog by your side from start to finish on your journey – you can give him basic commands or let him do his own thing. On top of that, various characters will fight alongside you for sections of the story, although you don’t have any control over them. They help keep enemies off your back so you can focus on fighting the ones in front of you.

Naturally, a system like this is at its best in boss fights. Your variety of moves are all useful at different times, and you get a chance to use everything in our arsenal. All enemies also have a “break” bar alongside their health bar, and draining will stun them for a time. It’s not a new mechanic for action RPGs, but it’s used quite cleverly in this game, serving to cut boss fights into phases.

Final Fantasy 16 slash

This is aided by several cinematic segments in each boss fight. These are intricately animated sequences that make you feel truly awesome, and they’re almost always brief enough that they don’t overshadow the rest of the fight. They feel like a quick change of pace, rather than the game playing itself.

There is one giant glowing asterisk on the system though, and that is the Eikon fights.

The Eikons are giant god-like monsters, and the game will feature several battles where two of these monsters fight. I got to play one such fight and it was pretty dull. It suffers from the same problem as every game that lets you control giant monsters – they don’t feel powerful. You plod along and act so slowly against monsters that are faster than you, which makes you feel weak and bumbling, not all-powerful.

That is just one Eikon fight though, and we’ve been promised that each fight will be markedly different with you controlling other Eikons, so it may just be the only bad one in the bunch.

Final Fantasy 16 dog

The Eikons play a significant role in the story though, and they serve their purpose there. Their power looms over every fight, especially when you’re up against someone you know can control them. They stand as a constant threat, even if they only get unleashed on rare occasions.

What little of the story I got to see had me hooked. The writing and the voice acting is over the top in just the right way for a JRPG. Voices are big and bold, performances are all about hitting the high moments with as much flair as possible, and the dialogue gives the actors plenty of opportunities to shine.

It feels like this story will be firing on all cylinders from the word go, which is a big step forward from how long it took 15’s story to properly get going.

I came away from my time with Final Fantasy XVI feeling very satisfied. The series has been making small steps forward toward a game like this for ages, and it’s finally on the horizon. Ten years ago, when everyone was imagining what a “next-gen” action Final Fantasy game would look like, 16 was the game they were imagining.