Ultimate Fantasy, Sq. Enix’s lengthy working collection of sprawling, epic role-playing video video games, occupies a revered and deeply sentimental place within the comparatively brief historical past of gaming. Early Ultimate Fantasy titles established themselves as pinnacles amongst their friends, with their high-end visuals, deep narrative, and distinct characters serving to the video games form the medium itself. A technology of avid gamers have grown up on Ultimate Fantasy, and these video games have left a formidable footprint on impressionable hearts and minds.
Nonetheless, after a string of beloved titles which can be to today held up as among the greatest video games ever made, Ultimate Fantasy misplaced its method. Subsequent video games did not stay as much as excessive expectations and as different trendy franchises grew fashionable, the collection considerably misplaced its cultural foothold. Ultimate Fantasy grew to become an excellent relic of the previous, its relevance dwindling in a shifting gaming panorama.
Reinvention, nonetheless, has remained a trademark of Ultimate Fantasy. The franchise is much less of a collection than it’s an anthology of standalone video games that don’t share their worlds or the first protagonists who inhabit them. Every mainline title harbours its personal setting and storyline. The video games do, nonetheless, share a standard ethos. They borrow generously from fashionable tradition and have recurring motifs, each in title and nature. And whereas Ultimate Fantasy narratives play out on a grand scale, in addition they paint affecting private portraits of their heroes and villains.
Ultimate Fantasy XVI, Road Fighter 6, Diablo IV, and Extra: New Video games in June
That is why Ultimate Fantasy XVI, the collection’ newest reinvention, seems like a rebirth. The long-awaited sixteenth most important instalment within the franchise, which launched June 22 solely on the PS5, represents a departure from Ultimate Fantasy norms in some ways. It is up to date for contemporary instances and brings a streamlined action-RPG expertise that tilts closely in the direction of the motion and fewer in the direction of the role-playing. Within the course of, it sheds a piece of what defines a Ultimate Fantasy recreation. There isn’t a occasion system — not within the conventional sense, at the least. Whereas there are occasion members who accompany and help you in quests, you don’t management them. FFXVI additionally sticks with real-time action-based fight, akin to latest titles within the collection — one other contentious departure from its turn-based roots. These adjustments may displease old-time followers of the franchise, however they’re additionally prone to appeal to a brand new technology of avid gamers who have not skilled a basic Ultimate Fantasy recreation.
Like its predecessors, FFXVI tells a brand new story; one that pulls closely from Western medieval fantasy. The clear inspirations listed below are Sport of Thrones and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, however the recreation manages to craft its personal world and folks with distinct aptitude and readability. It takes widespread fantasy tropes like palace intrigue, betrayal, and revenge, and spins them right into a convincing coming-of-age story, charting the non-public journey of our hero, Clive.
Deep and persistently partaking lore; a number of kingdoms and their very own motivated inclinations; and dozens of gamers all have an effect on the story, shift the balances of energy, and add their very own chaos to the prevailing churn. There’s additionally a deceptively easy and ridiculously enjoyable fight system that focusses on participant reflex and retaliation, utilising melee and magic to color a Jackson Pollock of elemental skills and particular strikes in your display screen. All of it’s scored by among the yr’s most evocative and emphatic music in video games, driving each the emotion and the motion residence.
The end result, in some ways, is a convincing return to type for Ultimate Fantasy. Regardless of its shallow RPG expertise, its weak facet content material, and its sore lack of customisation and exploration, Ultimate Fantasy XVI accomplishes what it units out to do. It lacks the flexibility of its friends, but it surely makes up for that in its complete dedication to its singular craft. It additionally wears a veneer of old-school attraction that is exhausting to search out in slick trendy video video games.
Ultimate Fantasy XVI overloads its most important marketing campaign, providing a dramatic and meaty story that retains you turning the pages all through its 40-hour run — virtually. In its imprecise imitation of a feature-complete RPG — which ought to embody merchandise crafting, customisation, exploration, significant selection, character builds, and fleshed-out facet content material — the sport falls flat on its face. However, as a persistently enjoyable motion title that cranks up the manufacturing worth to 11, FFXVI soars larger than maybe another recreation launched this yr.
The latest Ultimate Fantasy takes place in Valisthea, a high-fantasy world sustained by Mothercrystals. These monolithic crystals, towering over the realms of Valisthea, are primeval and highly effective sources of aether — the cradle of all magic that flows by way of the land and its folks, powering trade and financial system. The mountainous Mothercrystals are additionally centres of energy, imparting political power to the nations that maintain them. Neighborhood to them is paramount; realms wage battle and forge alliances to take care of their maintain over them.
The crystals’ blessings are additionally handed on to Dominants; individuals who maintain huge reservoirs of magic inside them and function hosts to colossal beasts. These elemental creatures, known as Eikons, are monstrous distillations of the crystals’ energy. Eikons, which signify summons from earlier Ultimate Fantasy video games, are the final word weapon on the disposal of a realm. Dominants thus fulfil an important strategic function, appearing as each deterrent and aggressor for his or her nations.
Ultimate Fantasy XVI follows the story of Clive Rosfield, the first-born son of the ruler of the Grand Duchy of Rosaria, one of many six nations of Valisthea. Clive, anticipated to be born as a Dominant, was handed over for the crystal’s blessing, which as an alternative bloomed inside his youthful brother, Joshua — born because the Phoenix, an Eikon of fireside. The sport’s opening drops us within the footwear of a 15-year-old Clive, sworn to guard his youthful brother.
The intro offers us a useful fight tutorial and units up the transferring items of the story. Younger Clive’s world is torn aside when he witnesses a traumatic occasion that units him on a path of revenge and redemption. Whereas I do not need to give extra particulars away, FFXVI’s two-hour lengthy opening is extremely efficient, pulling you into its complicated world order. It’s highly effective, not simply in its motion set items, but in addition in its narrative stakes.
Years later, a grown-up Clive resides the lifetime of a mercenary, preventing battles that are not his to struggle. A want for vengeance seethes withing him, however he solely finds goal when he meets Cidolfus Telamon, a charismatic outlaw chief working his personal revolution. Cid, a serious facet character within the first act of the sport, takes Clive beneath his wing and aids him in his journey. Ultimate Fantasy XVI’s story is delivered primarily by way of lengthy, superbly crafted cutscenes with extremely excessive manufacturing worth. These function prolonged interludes within the frenetic motion, however they by no means drag. You would watch them as you a watch a TV present, following the arc of your protagonist.
It additionally helps that FFXVI has in-built instruments that can assist you take up the story because it performs out in actual time. The Energetic Time Lore system supplies essential context in regards to the folks and locations in your display screen, by no means letting the world overwhelm you. At any level within the recreation or throughout a cutscene, you possibly can long-press the contact bar on the DualSense controller to confer with Energetic Time Lore. Most video games have a codex that serves as an overstuffed encyclopaedia for his or her world, however you by no means hassle to learn them. Energetic Time Lore, alternatively, condenses info and presents effectively. Consider tapping a phrase in your telephone display screen and searching up its that means, versus getting an precise dictionary, flipping by way of the pages and discovering that phrase. This handy lore supply system softens the blow of exposition dumps, making FFXVI’s total story extra digestible.
The narrative is not with out flaws, although. The laser give attention to Clive means the folks round him do not get their due. Cid stands out for his mischievous magnetism and debonair aptitude, however the remainder of the solid are flat at greatest. Jill Warrick, Clive’s childhood buddy and trusted companion, exists as a phantom presence all through the sport, by no means making her personal choices or imposing her will. Regardless of being a Dominant who homes the facility of the Eikon Shiva, Jill stays meek; her goal and ambitions walled inside Clive’s personal journey. The villains of Valisthea additionally fail to take flight. Their conflicts with Clive really feel remoted from the geopolitical churn on the continent. They exist purely as one-dimensional foils to our hero and thus wrestle to occupy their very own place on the planet.
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FFXVI’s story can really feel overstuffed at instances. There’s a lot happening and never all of it will get the identical therapy as the primary story thread, resulting in sub-par facet plots. In actual fact, there’s little that helps the sport’s most important marketing campaign. Fascinating premises are sometimes established solely to be deserted or left unexplored.
Let’s speak in regards to the fight in Ultimate Fantasy XVI. It’s ridiculously good, and Sqaure Enix is aware of that it’s ridiculously good, as a result of it is served up at each alternative. It is a a bottomless buffet of battle, but you are at all times in charge of the chaos. FFXVI’s fight hinges on sword-based melee assaults and elemental magic that stems from the crystal’s aether. You’ve got seen the usual sword combos of sunshine and heavy assaults in related video games earlier than, but it surely’s the synergy of the swordplay and the more and more enjoyable arcane skills that makes the fight right here stand out. Clive, who has the Phoenix’s blessings, begins out with fire-based skills and retains including different elemental powers from corresponding Eikons to his repertoire as the sport progresses.
Every magic kind has its personal ability wheel, letting you unlock and improve particular particular strikes. In fact, you possibly can change your magic sorts on the fly, swapping out their corresponding signature skills with button mixtures particularly certain to them. These skills are the first drivers of the fight system. They work on a cooldown timer and thus encourage strategic use in battle.
There’s a tactical factor to FFXVI’s fight, regardless of it seeming like a senseless button-mash of wanton violence. Except for a well being bar, enemies even have a poise meter, which when whittled right down to half, staggers them, leaving them open to assaults. Enemies additionally take additional injury when staggered. The perfect technique is to time your particular transfer utilization to a T, in order that once you stagger your foe, your signature high-damage-dealing skills are able to be unleashed in consecutive flurries. This by no means will get previous. Well timed dodges will provide you with home windows of alternative to hit again, and the sport additionally utilises context-specific fast time occasions (QTEs) for cinematic motion set items.
Along with basic fight, you additionally participate in monstrous Eikon battles. These gargantuan bouts solely happen throughout scripted story sections of the sport and are equal to Godzilla preventing King Kong. Eikon battles are epic in scale and supply one thing new every time. Throughout these bouts, the music swells, the motion reaches a crescendo, and the visible vitality climaxes. Eikon battles are a spotlight that elevate the Ultimate Fantasy XVI expertise. It is among the most enjoyable you will have in video video games this yr.
Whereas fight varieties the thrust of the gameplay, there little or no extra to decorate the expertise. There may be an merchandise crafting and improve system, but it surely’s a pale, paper-thin imitation of what trendy RPGs supply. There’s subsequent to no weapons and armour customisation — you get to purchase or craft new swords occasionally, however they haven’t any distinctive worth besides larger injury output and beauty variations. Items of armour may be purchased and crafted too, however they do not look any totally different within the recreation and solely offer you marginally larger stats. It doesn’t matter what you equip your self with, your apparel stays the identical.
Ultimate Fantasy XVI will not be an open-world recreation, which fits its no-frills strategy and funnels you into purposeful engagement with its methods — a distinction to the aimless meandering most open-world video games encourage. As a substitute, the map is split into small hub worlds that function vessels to your most important and facet quests. FFXVI has a world map that marks the realms of Valisthea and offers you the lay of the land, however these hub worlds lack any potential for significant exploration. There’s nothing to be discovered except for stray enemy encounters and odd trinkets for crafting. Most missions can have you beelining to the target marker because it’s merely not price your time to wander.
Aspect quests, which ought to function autos to discover a recreation’s ancillary choices, undergo probably the most. All facet missions are aggressively unimaginative and most are prosaic fetch quests. Solely a handful of them contain essential gameplay and story features that have an effect on the primary marketing campaign. I did fairly just a few of them early on, working round FFXVI’s stunning environments, doing inconsequential favours for bland NPCs, however I deserted that pursuit quickly and as an alternative centered on advancing the sport’s most important story. Why ought to the participant take care of facet content material if the builders could not be bothered themselves?
Except for its narrative and fight, Ultimate Fantasy XVI succeeds emphatically within the visuals division. The sport is gorgeous to have a look at virtually on a regular basis, mixing a fantastical aesthetic with realism in its environments and character fashions. Nothing is just too flashy; as an alternative, FFXVI opts for a muted tone that grounds the sport and its brooding narrative. The world of Valisthea is commonly oppressively darkish and the sport’s visuals, music and story embody its underlying melancholy.
Ultimate Fantasy XVI can be graphically demanding and pushes the PS5 virtually to its limits. The sport typically drops frames, struggling to take care of 60fps within the Efficiency mode, particularly once you’re out and about within the hub worlds. I discovered the resolution-focussed 30fps mode to be a extra constant expertise.
Regardless of its many inadequacies, FFXVI holds on strongly to what makes it good. It leans closely on real-time fight to ship its kinetic motion, and its stunningly produced cutscenes spin an enticing story. The sport is basically a collection of wickedly enjoyable motion set items, with beautiful cutscenes serving as well timed interludes. And since each these components signify the most effective that FFXVI has to supply, the gameplay loop sustains itself until the top.
There are various elements lacking within the puzzle. In the case of versatility of gameplay mechanics and variety of facet content material, FFXVI pales compared to most trendy video video games. Even the dizzyingly good fight system barely ever will get difficult, and half-baked methods result in an annoyingly insufficient RPG expertise. In actual fact, you can not name FFXVI a role-playing recreation by any current requirements.
Nonetheless, it is a wonderful motion recreation with maybe one of many medium’s most likeable protagonists in latest instances. Ultimate Fantasy XVI is a worthy return for an iconic franchise — that a lot is obvious. Whether or not this success can mild the trail for future Ultimate Fantasy video games and elevate the collection to its previous heights, is maybe a trickier query to reply.
Enjoyable fight and epic Eikon battles Partaking narrative and finely crafted cutscenes Glorious world-building and deep lore Likeable protagonist State-of-the-art visuals
Shallow RPG expertise Paper-thin crafting, upgrades, exploration Sub-par facet quests Lack of customisation Efficiency points
Score (out of 10): 8
Ultimate Fantasy XVI launched June 22 solely on PS5.
Pricing begins at Rs. 4,799 for the Customary Version on PlayStation Retailer for PS5.
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