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First Impressions: Final Fantasy XVI [PS5]

With easy-to-understand combat and a story that promises a grand adventure, we're loving Final Fantasy XVI so far.

The latest entry in the Final Fantasy series made quite a splash when it was announced back in 2020. It dazzled audiences with its flashy combat and darker atmosphere, as well as its return to a medieval fantasy setting. Now that Final Fantasy XVI is out, everyone’s first impressions seem to be enthralled with the game and its story.

I’m no different. I played two hours of the game earlier today, just reaching the title screen before setting the controller down. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to play this game, especially since I was unable to play the demo that was released not too long ago.

Now the full game is in our hands, and I adore the game so far. Everything from the initial setup to how the story has progressed to the gameplay has resonated really well with me. It certainly has the making of a grand adventure, and it has the potential to be a fantastic game. Time will tell if Final Fantasy XVI keeps this momentum going, but my first impressions are very positive.

Brothers in arms

Clive Rosenthal
It hasn’t been easy for Clive Rosenthal.

I’ve only gotten to play the prologue to the overall story so far. Already, though, I’m heavily intrigued by the world and invested in our main character. With some great dialogue and characterization, it’s easy to empathize and understand these people and what their deal is.

It is proving to be a lore-heavy game, and that might turn some people away. I was able to follow the plot clearly, but subtle world-building details might have been lost on me. However, the Active Time Lore system, a new addition to the series, lets you access context-establishing terms and logs whenever you want. It’s very helpful for digging through the deep and complex lore, and thankfully, I haven’t had to use it too often so far.

That brings us to the main story — a tale of revenge, despair, and family tragedy. It concerns Clive Rosefield, first-born son to the Duchy of Rosaria, who’s destined to protect the heir to the throne, his young brother Joshua. Unfortunately, betrayal sets Clive on a path of revenge when his family is taken from him.

It’s a compelling story in its early stages for sure. While I’ve yet to fully unravel the main objective beyond Clive’s quest for vengeance, the opening set pieces have already made me excited to see what’s next.

Pick up your blade

Final Fantasy XVI Combat
All sorts of creatures roam the land of Valisthea.

If Final Fantasy XV was the game that signified the series’ shift towards action-RPG combat, then this is the game that officially cements it. If you deeply love the turn-based combat of the series’ past, you probably won’t find much to adore here. For everyone else, our first impressions of the combat in Final Fantasy XVI have been more than satisfactory.

There wasn’t a huge set of tools at Clive’s disposal in the initial stages. You have your standard sword and magic attacks, with a few special moves to liven things up. You’ll understand the basic maneuvers in a heartbeat. Time will tell if the combat will open up further, though the foundation is rock solid.

Even in the early hours, there have already been many gripping action set pieces, both in and out of combat. There’s been everything from cinematic strikes against tougher enemies to a full-on Kaiju battle between Phoenix and Ifrit. It sets the stage for even bigger and more menacing encounters to come. Given the game’s heavy focus on bosses and Eikon battles, our hopes are high for more and more spectacles.

The focus on action rather than statistics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the battle system itself is very enjoyable. It’s fast enough to keep you on your toes, but not so much that you can’t easily grasp its mechanics. The controls feel very natural for the most part, although I personally wish the Dodge and Phoenix Strike buttons were swapped. I didn’t experiment with any other control layouts, but fully customizable inputs would definitely be helpful.

First impressions of Final Fantasy XVI are glowing.

Final Fantasy XVI Phoenix Ifrit
Look closely down this tunnel and you’ll see Gandalf fighting the Balrog!

I had every reason to believe that Square Enix would deliver on its promises for an epic, gripping, and dark-as-hell RPG. The combat is easy to get into, and the game absorbs you into the world without being afraid of pushing you away with its deep lore. It’s a suitably epic tale that has already hooked me in.

So far, Square has certainly hit the mark and then some, and I can’t wait to dive deeper into the land of Valisthea and see how the story unfolds. If the first two hours are anything to go by, it’s going to be a grand rollercoaster of an adventure.

What do you think of the game so far? Have your first impressions of Final Fantasy XVI been positive? Let us know!

Daniel Hein

Daniel Hein is either A) a lifelong video game fanatic, writer, and storyteller just sharing his thoughts on things, or B) some kind of werewolf creature. We're not quite sure which yet. He also makes mediocre video game retrospectives (and other content!) on YouTube where you can watch him babble on for hours about nothing.
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