We’re roughly four months out from Final Fantasy XVI’s release, and the press recently got to preview the next entry in the legendary JRPG series. Writers in attendance were impressed by the grandiose, cinematic real-time battles that some likened to God of War. They praised the series’ departure from turn-based combat and the darker, grittier setting. Mostly, people seemed shocked that FF characters were, for the first time in a mainline game, allowed to say fuck. Oh, and it seems that the producer is sticking to his guns about his previous diversity comments.
While the previews took place in New York City (and Tokyo), Kotaku was not invited to the event. So we’ll be rounding up some of what other people have been saying about the press build of FFXVI. Most of the press build (which is a promotional version of the game that may be different from what appears at launch) was focused on combat. Journalists played through a single dungeon and then a boss battle at the end.
Eikons make battles feel bigger and faster
Part of the transition away from turn-based combat comes from Yoshida Naoki’s perception that fewer gamers want slower gameplay. He believes that JRPGs are “niche,” and so his team turned to blockbuster action. And now we know why this game isn’t available on the PlayStation 4: The meld between cinematics and real-time action required current-gen processing power.
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Players will be able to transition “seamlessly” from human characters to massive summons called Eikons—which are magical beings that are used as weapons in the world of Valisthea. Players aren’t limited to using just one Eikon for the duration of battles; using multiple summons with different specialties is key to ending battles as efficiently as possible, and previews note that battles felt more cinematic due to the Eikons’ sheer scale.
Other strategic aspects include comboing attacks in real-time and staggering enemies by breaking their will gauge. The transitions are said to be smooth, so don’t expect any loading screens while you’re juggling between protagonist Clive and his Eikons. FFXVI seems to be more of an action game than a traditional FF RPG. The “satisfying” combat had the game likened to God of War by multiple outlets. (One writer jokingly referred to it as Devil May Clive in a tweet.)
The setting of Valisthea feels darker
While I think it’s funny that a few writers felt compelled to point out that the characters say “fuck” and “shit” now, press agreed that FFXVI overall feels like a more “mature” FF than other games in the series. The series has always incorporated real-world themes, but this entry feels dark compared to its predecessors. Even the fantasy battles are reportedly bloodier.
However, attendees didn’t get to play through the more story-centric part of the game. One seemed skeptical that the game would be as hopeful as Yoshida claimed, due to the ruthless tone of battles.
A holistic approach to difficulty
The developers are asking a largely turn-based audience to adapt to action combat. So they’ve implemented a more personalized approach to difficulty.
Instead of difficulty sliders, FFXVI will use “accessories” to tailor a player’s experience. One of them allows you to slow down the combat right before an enemy hits your character. Another allows your dog companion to attack automatically. Another causes your character to perform combos, heal, or dodge automatically. So you’d be deciding the amount of multitasking that you’d like to commit to. And you can swap them around at any time, rather than committing to a single difficulty.
Yoshi-P continues to double down on the game’s poor racial diversity
One would think that the superstar producer of the Final Fantasy series would do some soul searching on how badly his comments about racial diversity have landed. Unfortunately, he didn’t. Instead of admitting that limiting FFXVI’s races to European-flavored white people was a bit of a boneheaded move for a series grappling at cultural relevance, Yoshida told the press that the game incorporates “value systems from all around the world.” Nobody was asking the developers about their cultural inspirations—we were asking whether or not the global audience that you’re chasing will be able to see a fraction of themselves in the game. Since he’s not providing an alternative response, the answer is likely still a hard “no.”
Final Fantasy XVI will be available on the PlayStation 5 on Jun 22, 2023.