Final Fantasy XVI (16) is the highly anticipated next mainline entry into the legendary Final Fantasy franchise and it is coming with some drastic changes to the combat formula. We have only been allowed a brief look at the world of Valisthea, but even just that is enough to prove that this Final Fantasy will be unlike any other – for better or worse.
The series is known for its ATB or turn-based entries. Still, Final Fantasy XVI appears to be taking the combat down a whole new avenue with a focus on character action, real-time ability switching and combos, summonable monster battles and so much more. With so much information, it can be hard to nail down what is really happening.
Here is everything we know about Final Fantasy XVI combat from the trailers, news and interviews.
Diablos May Cry: Final Fantasy XVI’s Action-Oriented Combat
As previously stated, the biggest change to the typical Final Fantasy formula is a more direct pivot towards action oriented gameplay. While not a new thing, it certainly seems to have been refined and built upon far more than any other entry: since Final Fantasy XII, the series has been drifting away from the turn based battles that many fans know and love. This culminated in a completely action heavy (if far too simple) combat model in Final Fantasy XV.
Final Fantasy XVI’s take on action gameplay is far more akin to something like Devil May Cry or the original God of War – character actions games where the focus was on scoring big combos with flashy moves and a cool protagonist. The comparison isn’t super unexpected considering that the famed Ryota Suzuki, the combat director on the title, previously worked on Dragon’s Dogma and Devil May Cry 5. As a result, the general moment-to-moment gameplay of XVI is expected to have much more emphasis on that action focused experience as opposed to the slower tactical gameplay of classic titles.
So far, most of the combat we have seen has been of the main character, Clive Rosfield, cleaving through packs of enemies with various magical abilities and weapon combos, dodging and weaving as he dispatches enemies. Each hit gives off damage numbers that are sure to trigger some dopamine glands on certain players, and items such as potions are are mapped to the directional face buttons. It seems fast, frantic and alongside the stellar animations, super fun.
While some may be disappointed by this shift, there does seem to be a lot of variety and decision making to go along with the spectacle.
Combo Heavy Gameplay
Throughout all of the trailers, combos and accolades for completing certain activities in battle seem to be a big part of the game. Phrases such as ‘Eikonic Strike’, ‘Precision Dodge’, ‘Precision Counter’ and more are seen during all of Clive’s combat encounters. Others are more specific, such as ability specific accolades like ‘Diamond Dust x2’ or ‘Collateral Upheaval x6’, seemingly tied to certain attacks that can be performed.
These are racked up on the right side of the screen and appear to give Clive energy for a certain blue bar beneath his health gauge (which turns yellow upon fully filling). We don’t ever see this gauge being depleted during gameplay, only it being filled by combos and attacks, but we can safely assume that this will likely give the player access to large special attacks. There are special attacks mapped to the circle button, Garuda’s ‘Deadly Embrace’ and Odin’s ‘Arm of Darkness’ being 2 examples, but it doesn’t seem like these are the special attacks that require meter as Clive performs ‘Deadly Embrace’ without requiring a full bar during the trailer.
Each accolade also has a star rating, going from 1 to 3 stars. This will likely be how much energy each accolade gives you, with more stars meaning more energy to the bar, with more difficult acts rewarding more energy. An example is that ‘Collateral Upheaval x6’ (3 stars) is rewarding far more energy than a simple ‘Collateral Upheaval x2’ (1 star).
Overall, on the combo and combat front, the game seems to have a lot for players to work towards, whether that be parrying, dodging, getting in as many hits as possible or just racking meter for big super moves. It’s definitely a step up from the previous entry Final Fantasy XV where most actions could be performed on a single button press with very little input. Much more love seems to have gone into this systems.
Single Character or Party?
Another big point of contention so far is that the game only seems to have 1 playable character: Clive. So does the game have a party? Yes and no.
In almost every other mainline Final Fantasy game, the player controls a whole party ranging from about 4 to 6 people on average. In Final Fantasy XVI it seems as though only Clive will be playable, as he is the only character we have seen in both the ‘Awakening’ and the ‘Dominance’ trailers, as well as screenshots released on the official Final Fantasy XVI website.
Additionally, the game’s producer, Naoki Yoshida, confirmed this when doing an interview with IGN on Final Fantasy XVI. He confirmed that while Clive will be the only playable character, as to allow the player to solely focus on him, but that he will be accompanied by several AI controlled characters that will fight alongside him. One such example is that during the ‘Awakening’, Clive can be seen fighting alongside a man as they try to take down a troll-goblin-thing (1:19). Who the rest of these party members will be is unclear right now, although one theory is that it will be the other Dominants that Clive encounters such as Hugo Kupka (the Titan Dominant) or Benedikta Harman (the Garuda Dominant).
“These companions will participate in battle, as well as trade banter with Clive. That said, the party members will be AI-driven so as to allow players to focus solely on controlling Clive.” – Naoki Yoshia, IGN Interview about Final Fantasy XVI
Clive does seem to possess more abilities than the general protagonist. Due to his abilities and how he can switch between the powers of Eikons, he effectively has access to a lot of different roles and playstyles that would be found on other characters: he has access to traditional magic such as Aero and Blizzard, he can perform normal attacks with his sword, he can teleport around the battlefield like Noctis and so much more. Clive is essentially a jack-of-all-trades main character, with the ability for the player to pick and choose what attacks and what way they want to play him. This was something emphasised by the game’s producer, Naoki Yoshida, in an interview with Game Informer:
“There’s lots of room for customizing these types of builds that Clive has and the player finding a build that matches their playstyle is one of the fun things about the action system we have.” – Naoki Yoshida, Game Informer Interview about Final Fantasy XVI
It is reassuring to know that the game will retain a party system in one-way shape or form while still advancing to a new style of gameplay and combat. Hopefully this is something that old and new fans alike will be able to rally behind.
Where Eikons Belong in Final Fantasy XVI
Another part of Final Fantasy XVI that has gotten a massive overhaul is how the Summons work. Usually, the pantheon of classic Final Fantasy beings ranging from the ice queen Shiva to the destructive dragon Bahamut are able to be summoned by the party in various ways.
In Final Fantasy X Yuna was able to summon several Summons for her to control in battle, where as in the older titles they acted similarly to magic and in Final Fantasy XIV they are Trial bosses known as Primals that the player must beat. Overall, how Summons are used has always fluctuated, but they key through point is they are primarily controlled by the player.
This is true of Final Fantasy XVI, only on a much grander scale. Here they are called Eikons.
So far, the list of confirmed Eikons in XVI are:
These Eikons not only serve to give Clive access to his unique abilities, but also allow the player to embody the Eikons themselves in massive Godzilla style Kaiju fights.
As previously stated, Clive has access to a number of different powers within the trailers. The game takes place over 3 decades, with Clive aging across them, and he appears to only have access to the powers of Phoenix at the start of the game (as someone bonded to the actual Dominant of the Phoenix, his brother Joshua). Evidently he gains access to a whole host of other Eikon powers as the Final Fantasy XVI combat sandbox evolves across the gain.
These powers are what give Clive so much flexibility in the combat. Clive is seen with up to 3 power sets available at one time, of which he is able to switch between them at a press of the L2 button. Each has access to a regular attack (bound to square), a jump (bound to x), some kind of spell (bound to triangle), and a special unique attack (bound to circle). R2 can also be pressed, which seems to switch out the inputs bound to square and triangle in favour of a special set of abilities tied to the Eikon: in the images below, the left image showcases the neutral UI in the bottom right, whereas the one on the right showcases that same UI with R2 engaged and the abilities have been changed.
These abilities all offer something completely unique and different so that Clive can pick and choose whichever fits the player’s preferred playstyle. From what we can tell, each Eikon has a major strength alongside their elemental affinity:
- Garuda favours aerial combat and juggling enemies up into the air, alongside being assigned to Wind. Gardua’s weapons appear to manifest as claws.
- Titan is a hard hitter, with wide heavy slams and it even seems as though it will be a little tanky with an ability called ‘Titanic Block’. Titan is assigned to Earth and manifests as massive fists.
- Phoenix seems quick and fast, capable of teleporting around the battlefield and manifesting as wings on Clive. They are assigned to Fire.
- Odin seems like they will give Clive more range, specifically with the ability to use Gungir, Odin’s lance. They are assigned to Dark.
- Shiva and Ramuh both have the least to go off right now, but Ramuh seems to manifest their powers in the form of a lightning staff, and Shiva’s manifests as an icy shawl.
By comboing each of these abilities together, the player can juggle enemies and dominate the battlefield. The ‘Dominance’ trailer even gives us a brief glimpse of this, when Clive combos the powers of Shiva, Ramuh, Garuda and Phoenix to freeze, stun, aerial combo and then smash into an helpless enemy. While many would have preferred a turn-based system, this combat style is showing a lot of depth especially in the variety of each of the Eikon’s and it is certainly shaping up to be an engaging experience.
The other side to the Eikon’s in Final Fantasy XVI is that they aren’t just limited to giving powers to Clive. Those who embody the Eikons, known as Dominants, are able to manifest and become the Eikons, and you are able to battle as these Eikons in the game.
In scenes which are reminiscent of a fighting game, two Eikons duel each other in massive battles of pure spectacle and awe. From a first glance, many of them appear to be nothing more than prerendered cutscenes, but Yoshi P has something to say about that. In his interview with GameSpot, he specifically calls out a moment in a fight with Titan where he says:
“That part of the battle is actually fully playable. But again, what you’ve seen there is only a very, very small part of that battle. So the battles with Titan, for example, it’s only about maybe a 20th of what you actually get to experience.” – Naoki Yoshida, GameSpot Intreview on Final Fantasy XVI
These battles look gigantic and bombastic, even including the damage numbers when an enemy hits. How playable these fights actually will be is unclear, but in the fight with Shiva from the ‘Dominance’ trailer, it seems as though the player can switch between 3 different Eikons: Phoenix, Garuda and Ramuh. Most of the other fights are locked to a single Eikon, like Phoenix or Ifrit. Whether this implies that this fight may have more to it than the others is not clear, but something else Yoshi P mentioned during his interviews was that the fights would all be unique in gameplay as well as spectacle.
Specifically, he mentions one of the fights being like a ‘3D shooting game’ while another is like a ‘wrestling match’. This level of diversity seems to be in part to make the Eikon combat of XVI just as enjoyable and memorable as the ground fighting. Eikon’s as a whole are being pushed massively by Final Fantasy XVI and their unique fights will definitely make for memorable moments in the game’s story and setting.
Closing on Final Fantasy XVI’s Combat
Alongside the more mature tone and the semi-open world, the changes to the typical Final Fantasy formula in regards to combat has got to be one of the largest and most divisive changes to date. It certainly is a step in a new direction, one that Final Fantasy XV started to tip-toe towards before it backed away in fear: meanwhile, XVI appears to be sprinting towards that horizon.
With Yoshi P in charge and with some exceptional talent on the design team, the combat of Fantasy XVI is looking to be a superb addition to one of next years most hyped titles.