When I demoed Final Fantasy XVI again in February, I had some questions. The slice I performed was very a lot targeted on the upcoming PS5 launch’s fight system. I used to be instantly impressed with how briskly and livid it was, bringing a little bit of Devil May Cry to the RPG collection. That mentioned, there was fairly a bit I didn’t see. The story mission I performed would solely give me a short introduction to its hero, Clive Rosfield, and the war-torn nation during which the sport takes place. I used to be itching to know extra.
I’d get all these lingering questions answered once I went hands-on with the primary three hours of the sport, which launches on June 22. Rather than letting me take a look at out an arsenal of spells, I’d begin with a a lot much less succesful Clive with just a few assaults to his identify. I’d get to see his full tragic backstory play out by means of lengthy cinematics with just a few smaller gameplay snippets between. I’d go away my demo session with far fewer query marks, a bit extra intrigue, and a few lingering considerations that may very well be alleviated later within the journey.
If you’re in search of a basic Final Fantasy recreation, it stays clear that the brand new installment gained’t scratch that nostalgic itch. Instead, what I noticed was a pitch-black darkish fantasy that jogged my memory extra of Game of Thrones and even The Last of Us. If you possibly can settle for that change, you’re in for what looks as if an engrossing political drama punctuated by visually beautiful titan battles. The recreation’s explorable world, then again, appears notably extra compact than these cinematic cutscenes thus far. It’s a story of two video games
The story begins with an introduction to Clive Rosfield, who begins the story within the midst of a army operation within the desert. I didn’t join with Clive an excessive amount of once I first met him in February. I discovered his generic gruff man demeanor a bit flat and I nonetheless really feel that to an extent. But the primary two hours of the sport go a great distance towards constructing out his historical past. That’s as a result of Final Fantasy XVI opens with a protracted flashback that performs like a feature-length movie.
Through the course of the cutscene-heavy opening, I’d get quite a lot of justification for why Clive follows the tortured hero archetype. I’d met him 13 years earlier as a bright-eyed member of a royal household sworn to guard his sickly youthful brother, who was destined to develop into the embodiment of the Phoenix. A bloody inciting incident wouldn’t solely break Clive’s cheerful spirit however thrust him into a chilly lifetime of army servitude. That’s the place the present-day story picks up from.
The storytelling in that introduction is a little bit of a combined bag. Early on, I’m admittedly just a little bored because the story walks by means of a dryly delivered political drama stuffed with a sea of flat, homogenous characters spouting lore. It’s a gradual burn that requires quite a lot of desk setting to get to the emotional meat. Though as soon as it did get there, I used to be far more captivated. It looks as if Final Fantasy XVI is a dense fantasy story that balances larger-than-life mythology with excessive private stakes.
It’s maybe just a little cliché to say this, however I can’t assist however really feel just like the staff at Square Enix is drawing from The Last of Us just a little right here. The opening isn’t that a lot totally different from that recreation if I’m it beat by beat. And as soon as I acquired by means of that flashback, I used to be in a well-known storyline the place Clive performed the function of an impassive sword-for-hire at all-time low who unwittingly comes right into a protector function shortly after. Whether or not it might probably clean up what’s develop into a considerably drained string of recent gaming tropes will depend upon the place the revenge story goes within the remaining recreation.
There’s actually room for it to discover some thrilling dramatic territory, too. An early scene has Clive’s youthful brother Joshua questioning why his kingdom ought to have a lot energy simply due to the magical talents they have been born with. That thread about privilege isn’t adopted up on instantly, however I hope it digs into that extra. Though it could appear considerably odd to discover societal injustice after we already know that there’s an absence of range in its characters, based on Producer Naoki Yoshida.
What continues to impress most in regards to the narrative is its spectacular Eikons, which make this really feel like a excessive fantasy spin on Godzilla. In the intro, I acquired to see an unlimited titan battling in opposition to Shiva. It’s an unimaginable, costly conflict that places the facility of the PS5 to good use. Later, I get to attempt a brand new Eikon battle the place I management Phoenix in a glitzy 3D shoot-em-up that’s not like anything I’ve seen from the sport thus far. Anytime an Eikon is on display, Final Fantasy XVI shines.
There is, nonetheless, a notable distinction in scope between these sequences and the sport between it. In my first demo, I famous that the fortress I explored felt just a little underwhelming. It was a reasonably linear assortment of sparsely designed rooms with not a lot persona. That design philosophy appears to hold by means of all the recreation, which may find yourself being polarizing for followers.
In the intro, I’d discover one other fortress that seemed pretty equivalent (although it’s potential it was the identical one I’d performed in February, however 13 years earlier). I figured the linear nature of it was principally as a result of I used to be working by means of a story-driven flashback, however I’d get the identical vibe once I lastly acquired out into the world. My first true mission as modern-day Clive despatched me into the Greatwood, a forest location. I figured I’d get extra exploration there, however that wasn’t the case. Instead, I used to be strolling by means of one other pretty linear assortment of paths with just some small alcoves hiding crafting objects.
The extra open areas aren’t far more detailed. I’d ultimately attain a equally sparse hub space with just a few distributors and easy side-quests scattered round. Late within the demo, I’d leap ahead to a way more open-ended area the place I may stroll round and discover extra, however I can’t say that it was far more intricate. I may go off the primary path to battle some free enemies and discover the occasional treasure chest, however there wasn’t a lot to marvel at other than grass. The stage design I noticed felt surprisingly archaic (it jogs my memory a little bit of the unique Nier), which appears incongruous with the big scope of its grand story.
Of course, every thing I’ve seen thus far is barely from the primary few hours of the sport. I by no means anticipate a protracted RPG like this to place its extra intricate foot first and I think about its scale and complexity will layer on step by step. I can affirm that’s the case for its fight system, which feels simplistic at first however ultimately sings as Clive equips extra Eikon powers and spells. I’m hopeful that there’s a gradual burn occurring right here that’ll give the journey some momentum the deeper it goes.
Though I’m nonetheless uncertain of the way it’ll come collectively, I nonetheless have loads of causes to be enthusiastic about Final Fantasy XVI. Its fight alone is sufficient to attract me again in and its spectacular Eikon battles really appear particular. If the remainder of the sport can sustain with that and ship a meaty fantasy story within the course of, it ought to make for a worthy entry to the long-running collection. I simply hope that the big-budget spectacle of its most cinematic moments spreads out just a little additional than it does within the introduction.
Final Fantasy XVI launches on June 22 for PS5.