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Final Fantasy 16 – Mindless Hack’n’Slash Action in an Empty World

All eyes were on the release of Final Fantasy 16 this week, hoping for the next step into the future of the – rightly so – long lived, story rich franchise. But such a long history could build up a lot of expectations of long time fans and new players…

At the start of the game I had to pick the difficulty. Unlike other games, where you can choose between easy and very hard – with two or three balanced choices between those two, here you just pick either “Story” or “Action”. “Easy” or “Normal” – which could already be a big no-no for seasoned action players that love the challenge of a tough battle. But it already made me frown: Why only two? Why so simple?


FROM FUZZY WARMTH TO ICE BRICK

I’ve had my hands on Final Fantasy 16 for 14 hours now and must sadly write that all of that warmth is frozen down to an ice brick. I am deeply concerned and disappointed about how superficial the series will become if it continues on this path.
The story is rich, the graphics beautiful and the fights can be complex but else than that, it plays and feels more like a visual novel with hack and slash elements than a complex Final Fantasy game that I have gotten used to from the past. The Side Quests are the shallowest I have completed in any Final Fantasy game consisting of go fetch, find, fight, take back with no interesting twists or well hidden items. The Side Quest content is presented with very little effort.
The fights mainly happen by hitting the square button on the controller. Also this game should get a health hazard warning – you might get a skier’s thumb by playing this – hitting the square button in fights too many times.

One of many fights

The companions are software controlled (I hate writing “AI” these days since everything seems to be “AI”). You can’t look at the companions’ specialities, can’t assign roles or spells. The only constant companion is a wolf, that can be given 3 commands. Clive’s encouraging sentences towards his wolf during fights is limited to a handful. So after hearing “Get them boy” or “You know what to do, boy” various times in a fight with one encounter after the other, I just want to turn off the sound all-together.


DEAD CORRIDOR WORLD

The world with its local area maps feel empty and dead. It’s not an open world at all, as promised: You are faced by a corridor environment with nothing to discover at all. No secret caves, no secret bosses, not even collectibles. There are plenty of towns and villages, which feel empty, too. The NPC’s talk in towns but the talk doesn’t matter. It’s just background noise with no meaning. The only meaningful place in towns is the shop, with items and potions at the bare minimum. There are a total of three potions in this game. THREE!

Bare shopping

All Side Quests are marked on the map – all of them, no exceptions. There’s even someone who knows where all Side Quests are and this person will instantly send you to the nearest Fast Travel point. They’re the shallowest I have completed in any Final Fantasy game consisting of go fetch, find, fight, take back with no interesting twists or well hidden items. The Side Quest content is presented with very little effort put into by the developer team.

The game doesn’t care about where you’ve been on the map and all of the conversations are just going one path, regardless of your previous travels. For example, you have to go through a vineyard map various times to do Side Quests and hearing Clive say, after passing through the third time: “This must be the vineyard” is just ridiculous!


THE VERDICT

The Final Fantasy series can produce visual masterpieces, but I would have liked to see a better future of Final Fantasy in FF16 – one that has – apart from a gripping story – LIFE with interesting Side Quests, mini-games and secrets in a rich and complex world.
While FF15 was bursting with side activities like fishing, cooking and Chocobo races – which were not mandatory and could totally be avoided by pure action lovers – at least it was those activities that put live into the game. FF16 has only 3 “activities” which alternate and mix up until the end of the game interrupted by Cut-scenes: Walking – Hack’n’Slash – Shopping. This may be enough for others but certainly not for me.



This is FINAL FANTASY XVI
Release: June 22nd, 2023
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Official Website: https://na.finalfantasyxvi.com/

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