In a world of meta humor, it’s refreshing to see just how far Final Fantasy XVI is willing to take its story. The story of Clive and the dominants is one of bloody revenge- with factions vying for power, and people clawing for their own place in the world.
We got to try a special build of the game, playing through the first 4 hours of the game- watching Clive go on what I like to call the “Guts bootcamp of character development” as he goes from starry eyed knight-in-training to grieving royal who’s lost everything.
Disclaimer: This is a special version made for media to experience, and contents may differ from the final version
My biggest take away from Final Fantasy XVI is just how grand a scale it operates- it’s a theatrical game in the best sense of the word. Dramatic moments are presented with an absolute bang that’s not just for Final Fantasy newbies, as it cheekily references other titles in the decades-long franchise. There’s a scene in which a Dragoon strikes the pose- just as he dives down to engage you in a fight. To the new player, it’s incredibly cool- a dragon-knight by moonlight is never going to not be. To the storied fan, it’s an iconic reference that makes you wanna scream in joy.
Submitting To Dominants
Of course, the stars of the story are definitely the game’s Dominants- hosts of the Eikons. I love me a good Robot Master-style boss roster, and the Dominants are a pretty good example of that. From literally the first time you see them, you can tell they’re not all the same- some countries treat their Dominants like walking curses, while others revere them.
In a sense it almost feels like the Dominants are quite unlike any other characters in the game- characters like Archduke Murdoch are great, sure, but at the end of the day his scope of concerns start and end with the responsibilities of the Archduke. On the other hand the Dominants are kind of like walking rockstars- for as loyal as they are to their kingdoms, you can tell they’ve got their own wants and needs, and when they talk to each other it’s with all the tension of people who can turn into massive kaiju when provoked.
It creates a great atmosphere among the ruling class in the game- basically all warfare is built around an inherent fear of Dominants. It’s tense in a way that doesn’t feel overstated- rather than have characters suddenly crackle with energy as they argue, it’s more of a subdued understanding not to piss off the dudes radiating main character energy.
Admittedly, it does have its downsides in the fact that they steal the show a little too much- the early hours of the game have Clive dealing with a lot of unimportant NPCs, and you definitely feel it when you’re watching Clive hunt goblins with fantasy Biggs and Wedge when all you wanna do is get back to the leather-clad lady who calls you her little lamb.
If anything, the preview is a good way to sell us on the idea that for as many air combos as you can do in the game, Final Fantasy XVI is still very much a JRPG at heart, story and all. Clive still runs around hub worlds, needing to gather materials and fight monsters on his quest for revenge. Considering how action-heavy and intense the last preview was, it was almost refreshing to see the game shift down a few gears as early Clive has a much more limited moveset. For goodness’ sake, we don’t even get Torgal until the tail end of the preview. A life without canine-assisted air combos, imagine that?
Still, I think it’s a great way to ease people into the idea of a new genre- for the action fans, you’re likely to be won over by the more JRPG side of things as they basically act as content sat between your action sequences. Meanwhile, the assist tools are great for people who prefer their action turn-based but are open to walking the path of flashy air combos.
I’m especially a big fan of how often “big” enemy fights show up- these get you a victory fanfare on kill, where the game tells you how many skill points you’ve got so you can upgrade Clive’s moves. It’s a small gesture, but considering I’m anxiously waiting to get the next level stinger and helm splitters, these are the closest you’re going to get to DMC-style Mission Clear screens.
Speaking of, it’s not like those fights are any pushovers either. It’s impressive to see how cool even normal wildlife are- having all sorts of cool mechanics going for them like an Uragaan-style roll. It even makes great use of the RPG aesthetic, as bosses have their moves show up on the top of the screen. You’d think it was cheesy but it actually works really well- not so much to be informative, but just for dramatic flair.
Honestly, it’s hard to not just be taken aback by how grandiose everything is in Final Fantasy XVI. There’s a lot to this game that you just have to experience first hand to get- and a lot of the challenge comes from just describing it without spoiling it for the others.
It’s definitely a lot darker and more violent- characters bleed, cuss and even get… intimate. Considering how many Final Fantasy games have always skirted around such things, it’s interesting to see the game just go for it. It’s obviously not going to be to everyone’s taste- considering how much sailor-speak Benedikta gets up to its easy to assume the worst and that everyone was going to be like that, but once you put more time into the game it’s actually really just a temper to her own bad temper.
Despite all that, Clive is still far from a brooding edgelord. He does reach out and talk to other people, and his banter with Cid is that iconic Final Fantasy bro energy you love to see- making some of their adventures an absolute delight despite the absolutely horrid atrocities that make up its backdrop.
I always love a good and proper blockbuster game, and Final Fantasy XVI is certainly joining those ranks with its dramatic story. There’s a free demo coming soon ahead of the game’s release this June 22nd, so hopefully those who are still on the fence can be won over and get in on the adventures of Clive in politics, revenge and giant monster boss fights.
All images courtesy of FINAL FANTASY XVI © 2023 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
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