A star rating of 4 out of 5.

The wait is nearly over. Final Fantasy XVI — also known as FF16 — is launching this week as a PS5 exclusive. As is normally the case with mainline numbered Final Fantasy games, this action-packed release is designed to be an entry point for new players, as well as being a satisfying reimagining for returning fans.


This means there's a whole new voice cast, playing a fresh host of characters, in an original story that includes lots of familiar elements like magical beings, sword combat and deep lore. In this case, some new inspirations are also fairly obvious, with the influence of Game of Thrones being hard to miss.

This is no accidental homage, either. FF16 producer Naoki Yoshida told Eurogamer, "We had our core team of about 30 members very early on buy the Blu-ray boxset of Game of Thrones and required everyone to watch it, because we wanted this type of feel."

We'd argue that this was a genius move, which goes a long way to making Final Fantasy approachable to a wider pool of players. The game is more grounded than you might expect, introducing you first to a handful of human characters, before gradually layering on thicker helpings of high-concept lore and increasingly wild set-pieces.

Leading the narrative is a new character called Clive, played by British actor Ben Starr (Netflix's You, Sky's Jamestown). Clive is a sort of Jon Snow type. At the start, he's in the bosom of a powerful family, receiving the very best in combat training. But as you may have seen in the FF16 demo, Clive is soon clad in black armour on a solemn solo adventure.

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As Clive sets off on a revenge mission tied to the plot of the prologue, he'll gradually learn an impressive array of magical attacks. Not unlike Thanos in the Avengers movies, he picks up different colour-coded abilities at crucial points in the story. These moments are spaced out nicely, giving you plenty of time to learn each set of attacks before you're taught a new one.

This is where the other obvious influence comes into play. The combat — which allows you to quickly swap between powerful attacks, as well as juggling your enemies in mid-air and dishing out fun combos — feels very reminiscent of the massively enjoyable Devil May Cry 5. This makes sense, because the games share a key combat developer named Ryota Suzuki.

As the layering on of lore and abilities gets more complex, Ben Starr's impressively rich performance at the heart of the game does plenty to keep you engaged. There's also a lot of readable lore that you can refer back to if you ever get lost with all the families and factions. The game goes to admirable lengths to make sure you know what you're meant to be doing, even if you may lose track of the 'why' from time to time.

This isn't to say that everything in the game chimed well with us. We'd say there's an over-reliance on lengthy cut scenes and Quick Time Events, which get in the way of your organic enjoyment of the story and the combat from time to time.

Sometimes, a great bit of dialogue and world-building will occur as you wander around (very reminiscent of Game of Thrones' early seasons), but at other points you'll get a lengthy unplayable info dump that might send you reaching for your phone (or the skip button).

Some of the levels are a bit too linear, as well, making your path seem very pre-determined at points. That being said, there are some sizeable open areas later on, and these are worth exploring, but a lot of the key moments feel overly staged. On top of that, some of the side missions are bland and one-note.

Clive in Final Fantasy 16, as played by actor Ben Starr.
Clive in Final Fantasy 16, as played by actor Ben Starr. Square Enix.

All in all, though, the game hangs together really well. The graphics look very nice on PS5, the combat feels fluid, and the musical score by Masayoshi Soken is nothing short of beautiful, blending tuneful guitar riffs and orchestral pomp with aplomb. There is also a loveable canine companion named Torgal, who steals the show at points.

The voice performances from Starr and his colleagues — particularly Ralph Ineson as Cid and Nina Yndis as Benedikta — are very strong, too, making this world feel real and lived-in, despite the kaiju-sized monsters and the magical crystals. All of these elements combine well, making the game very playable and easy to spend time with.

FF16 wears its inspirations on its chainmail sleeve, and that is mostly a good thing, with the game delivering thrilling action and a grounded-ish story, making for a fantastic overall experience. If you've ever been curious about Final Fantasy but didn't know where to start, we'd highly recommend jumping in here.

And if you're already fan, well, you probably don't need any convincing to try this bold new entry.

Final Fantasy XVI launches on Thursday 22nd June for PS5.

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