I played Final Fantasy XVI during a recent preview event in February, but it was focused almost entirely on combat. I enjoyed the combat a lot – you can read my thoughts here – but my latest hands-on with the game happened during my cover story trip to Square Enix’s Tokyo, Japan, offices. I played a few hours of the game, which is what everyone who’s part of this latest wave of previews played, and that’s what I’ll be talking about here.
But I also saw never-before-seen gameplay, received an exclusive tour of some areas in FFXVI, learned about its endgame, and more for this month’s Game Informer cover story. That story goes live today so check it out for exclusive details about the game. Be sure to check back in for even more exclusive articles and video interviews in the coming days and weeks as part of our FFXVI exclusive coverage hub. In the meantime, check out our cover reveal from last week.
My hands-on with FFXVI for this preview begins in the game’s opening hours. The game quickly thrusts me into a dramatic and scene-chewing fight between the two Eikons adorning the title treatment for developer Creative Business Unit III’s latest: Phoenix and Ifrit. In the various times I’ve spoken with producer Naoki Yoshida about the game’s Eikon combat, he’s explained that each fight will be different. In an earlier preview, I played as Ifrit and fought Garuda in all-out brawl-style combat. This time, however, I control Phoenix and the battle plays like an on-rails, third-person shooter.
With Phoenix, I aim a reticle to shoot fireballs at Ifrit as these two Eikons crash through a massive underground cavern. Ifrit fights back, of course, and I dodge their attacks in flashy, cinematic fashion. The action here is frenetic, and vibrant flames pop on screen. But soon after, I transition to protagonist Clive Rosfield, a soldier tasked with finding and assassinating a Dominant, who is someone that can transform into an Eikon. In this case, it’s Shiva.
Without spoiling much, Clive is eventually dubbed a traitor by those he works for. While on the run, he meets Cidolfus Telamon, or Cid for short (because it is a Final Fantasy game, after all). Together, Clive, Cid, and Clive’s companion dog, Torgal make their way to Cid’s hideaway, one of the main hubs in the game. This hideaway features a lot – a pub, a blacksmith, an item store, and more – and it looks like a great point to rest, check in with characters, and prepare Clive for what’s next in his journey.
CBUIII has spoken before about how FFXVI takes place across three decades of Clive’s life – his teens, his 20s, and his 30s. Up until now, Clive is 28 years old, but much of what I experience in the game for this preview happened 13 years prior, when Clive was 15. In what seems like a crucial moment for both Clive’s life and the crux of FFXVI’s narrative, I see Joshua transform into Phoenix. It’s agonizing to watch, and it’s clear he’s not yet comfortable doing so like other Dominants who do this more regularly. This flashback sequence is where the fight between Phoenix and Ifrit takes place.
My hands-on time with young Clive culminates with him watching Joshua brutally murdered by a mystery assailant. It’s gory, heartbreaking, surprisingly bloody, and fantastically sold by the character’s voice actor, whom you might recognize as Logan Hannan, the voice behind Hugo de Rune of the Plague Tale series.
Unable to fight back, Clive harbors a deep desire for revenge and this revenge seems to be a driving force for the narrative throughout FFXVI, or at least a starting point.
Later in the game’s narrative, I run around one of the open areas near where the Rosarian duchy once resided for about 20 minutes. It’s a gorgeous, picturesque landscape with ruins, a scenic waterfall, marshy land, and plenty of monsters to defeat. There are quests here, but I’m not allowed to interact with them. However, I enjoy fighting the various enemies in the area and discover some hidden chests, too. What I experience seems to be roughly an eighth of this entire open field area, and the scale is impressive. There are multiple of these in the game, and I’m excited to explore each and see how they vary.
I won’t spoil more of what I experienced – you can read a lot more about what I played, including exclusive details you won’t find anywhere else in my cover story that’s live right now and in the coming weeks via Game Informer’s FFXVI coverage hub – but it’s clear FFXVI is aiming to be one of the darkest, most mature, and most action-forward games in the series’ entry.