Final Fantasy XVI Hands-On Preview – Ifrit May Cry

1 year 4 months ago

Final Fantasy XVI Preview hands on gameplay clive magic summons eikons

Platform: PlayStation 5
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix

Since the reveal of Final Fantasy XVI in 2020, my questions about the title have continued to grow. Mind you, my questions are firmly planted in the fascination of everything surrounding this game, like how Final Fantasy XIV studio Creative Business Unit III is developing the title with Naoki Yoshida in the producer role or how former Devil May Cry 5 and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 combat designer Ryota Suzuki is the game’s lead combat director. Will FFXVI feature the storytelling prowess of FFXIV? Will its combat go full stylish action? What does it mean that this upcoming sequel is the first Mature-rated game in the series (quick answer: hearing Final Fantasy characters say f**k)? 

These are just a few questions I had going into a recent hands-on preview for FFXVI. While many still linger, I’m now ready to let myself be fully excited for the game’s June 22 release. Yoshida assured us the game will not get delayed, but this is the same company that spent a lot of money on a three-hour Final Fantasy XV stage show to announce that game’s release date… only for it to get delayed. The game’s trailers have done a lot to sell me on the world, but with this being the most action-heavy Final Fantasy yet, going hands-on was something I’d been hoping to do for a while. After nearly two hours of controlling protagonist Clive and the Ifrit Eikon, I’m stoked by how well Suzuki’s Devil May Cry-isms work in Final Fantasy. 

FINAL FANTASY XVI © 2023 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved

Clive’s younger brother, Joshua, is a Dominant, a unique being that can transform into an Eikon, the game’s term for summon monsters. This is a handy power for Rosaria, the kingdom where the two reside, and these Eikons help keep the lands of Valisthea, made up of five nations with their own Dominants, in check. Without spoiling much, this relationship is seemingly at the heart of the game and soon after its start, Clive embarks on a journey of revenge. 

Yoshida says we’ll bear witness to Clive’s teen years, his 20s, and even his 30s. I like the idea of sticking with this main protagonist for so much of his life, especially because Yoshida says Clive is who we’ll primarily control throughout the game. Party members do join Clive from time to time, he says, but they’re always controlled by A.I. Most of my playthrough saw me running Clive and Cidolfus Telamon, a dominant able to become the Ramuh Eikon, through a castle dungeon taking place about five hours into the game. 

Immediately, FFXVI’s combat is faster than anything else in the series. It’s combo-driven, reliant on a mix of Clive’s sword attacks, Eikonic abilities, and standard magic. And after some time familiarizing myself with the combat, I was able to pull off some impressive combos. I’d start slashing with my sword, then press Circle to use my Phoenix Eikon’s fiery dash-teleport ability to close the distance between myself and the next enemy. As I finish that enemy, I tap R2 to switch from my Phoenix ability wheel to my Titan Eikon wheel because its Circle ability allows me to draw upon a large rock shield to block incoming attacks. 


With each of these weapon wheels, Clive has special abilities he can use on a timer. The Phoenix has large AOE fire attacks at this point in the game, with one lifting enemies into the air, while the Titan uses a large rock hammer to deal extreme damage. The Titan’s abilities are especially fun to use because you can release the button during a specific window (indicated with a circle on screen) for extra damage. In between all of this, I’m dodging unblockable attacks and parrying others. During a final boss fight, I was slamming buttons frenetically, seeing just how reactive the combat is, and to my surprise, it kept up quite well. Devil May Cry fans will feel right at home in FFXVI. 

But fret not if action games aren’t your thing; special ring accessories let you customize the difficulty on the fly. There’s no easy, medium, or hard mode – just story-focused and action-focused. Regardless, you can equip these rings to amplify or lessen the challenge. I had access to a ring that temporarily slowed time before attacks, allowing me to easily press R1 to dodge. Another ring automatically selected the attacks Torgal (your dog companion that, yes, you can pet) performed. Others let me auto-dodge most attacks or used potions automatically when health was low. There’s even one that turns the game’s heavy action into a one-button show that performs combos for you. I like how I could curate combat without changing the entire experience on a system-wide level. 


I was also able to fight the Garuda Eikon as Clive, and while it was flashy and cinematic, it was less exciting. The battle played out in a tight arena, and I was button-mashing until prompts appeared to further the fight. It was ultimately boring compared to the rest of the combat in the game. 

Wesley LeBlanc