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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Five improvements we’d like to see in a Final Fantasy XVI successor – Destructoid

Final Fantasy XVI ended up being one of my favorite games from last year. Clive’s journey to liberate the oppressed magic-weiding Bearers of Valisthea and cleanse the world of the spreading Blight won me over with its earnest and lovable characters, flashy and frenetic fights, serene and grandiose soundscapes, and the titanic, cinematic boss battles that are simply unforgettable. But for all of its many achievements, Final Fantasy XVI felt a bit simple and underdeveloped at times. A number of design choices seem derived from the developer’s previous experience with Final Fantasy XIV, while other elements fail to meet the same complexity and variety as its MMO counterpart. If the recently rebranded Creative Studio III gets an opportunity to follow up on this style of Final Fantasy game, these are some of the improvements that would truly elevate the game beyond its current potential.
Give us less busy-work in side quests Side quests in FFXVI are very commendable, delivering important context and full story arcs to many of the supporting cast members. However, the tasks themselves are not nearly as interesting, with too many side quests that ask players to go from point A to B, defeat a few enemies, hold a button to pick up three key items and return back to point A.
This kind of busy work is outdated even in the MMO space. For a cinematic action game, the process is boring and meandering. Future installments would benefit from more diverse objectives and sequences that differ from routine fights. Just imagine destroying nests of spawning deadly insects at a nearby village or capturing and holding multiple points from an invasion of Akashic. I’m sure the team can come up with ideas leagues better than my own with a bit more time and focus on them.
A great wide world with nary a thing to do  The world of Valisthea is vast and beautiful, inspiring players to wander off into the open terrain and lose themselves in its various locales. The only problem is, there’s hardly anything rewarding to find amid it all. The existing design is full of potential for interesting events to occur and secrets to discover, but most of these moments are reserved until the correct side quest has been acquired. Outside of a handful of interspersed item chests and a few Chronoliths hosting combat challenges, the environments are barren of meaningful content to uncover.If we ever get a chance to revisit Valisthea or its spiritual successor, the explorable spaces need more discoveries to stumble upon organically to incentivize players to roam the maps.
Over-reliance on cooldowns makes for stagnant battles Eikon abilities are the core mechanic that binds FFXVI’s combat together, serving as dazzling and impactful extensions to Clive’s basic abilities. However, every one of them is on a cooldown, and once access to these powers has been expended, players are left with a rather dull and simple base skillset. This is punctuated by the game’s opening hours, where players have to lean on this very limited array of abilities.
Upgrading moves and incrementally attaining new skills to work into combos is highly rewarding at first, but it’s all too easy to end up falling into the same groove, efficiently dispatching enemies with the same rotation of fiery uppercuts and laser blasts. Introducing additional button combos to the regular swordplay and magic casting would make it all the more fun to interweave alongside the Eikon powers to further amplify the pulse-pounding action.
The cast of supporting characters is under utilized Party members are poorly integrated into the overall gameplay of FFXVI, considering the presence of each member is contextual to the story. The only consistent party member is Togal, who gets a dedicated menu for action commands, but these aren’t particularly useful.
Imagine having a selection of party members on reserve at the hideaway that could be rotated in and out of the party, ready for the call to action for each mission you select. The partner options could still be limited by the events of the story, omitting characters as needed but leaving room for more player choice and playstyle intricacies. While it would be too cumbersome to control multiple party members with FFXVI’s style of action-RPG combat, the ability to customize each teammate’s abilities to better complement Clive’s would contribute greater depth to each encounter. Top it off with their own equipable items and gear to bolster their abilities, and suddenly, these ancillary companions would become invaluable comrades in battle.
Useless gear, loot, crafting and overall economy With so much attention given to the fighting and Eikon moves, FFXVI offers shockingly little in the way of stat boosting and loadout optimization. The game only includes the four basic stats: health, defense, attack, and stagger infliction. Technically there is also strength, vitality and willpower, but these only increase by leveling up and are unaffected by equipment.
In total, there are only six equippable slots to improve Clive’s attributes: sword, belt, bracers, and three accessories. The former three pieces of gear only serve to improve the character’s base stats, which makes the power scaling of weapon and gear upgrades incredibly linear. There’s just no room for customizing attributes for different variations in play style.  As for accessories, they provide a much wider range of different effects, including cooldown reduction, healing potency, and even stacking buffs on precise move executions. But with only three slots to choose from, it doesn’t take long to find a preferred loadout, making it difficult to get excited about acquiring new accessories in chests or as quest rewards.
The game could have significantly benefited from the integration of the franchise’s familiar materia system, allowing for extra bonuses to attach to existing gear. This could also diversify the upgrades attained at the forge, allowing players to opt for expanding their materia slots instead of – or, simply, in addition to – base stat increases. On top of everything else, the game’s economy is completely useless. There is no sense in buying potions since they are completely replenished any time you retry from a game over. Meanwhile, tonic buffs are rare to come across and exceptionally expensive for routine restocking, so they are not compelling to purchase either. The only item of value to put money towards is orchestrion rolls, which serve more as a collectible than a value proposition for your hard-earned gil.
Crafting items are also obtained throughout the game, but since they only contribute to the basic forge upgrades and item crafting, they are seldom used. Perhaps if forge upgrades also required a monetary cost, or if there was more purpose to the crafting mechanic that would facilitate a demand for buying crafting items, that could potentially improve the game’s economy systems. But as they stand, it is barebones and forgettable.
Final Fantasy XVI is still phenomenal, I promise! While this may seem like a lot of problems, these are ultimately blemishes on an otherwise fantastic experience. The remarkable presentation, captivating action, and grimly optimistic story and themes still burn brightly as the Phoenix’s flames, outshining any mars against it. I’m confident that any effort from Creative Studio III to iterate and improve on the precedent set by Final Fantasy XVI is well worth being excited for.

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