When Clive Rosfield takes to the battlefield in the latest Final Fantasy 16 Dominance trailer (opens in new tab), a barrage of attacks explodes across the screen. It’s a spectacle, where the protagonist flies into the air with an enemy, dealing damage quickly thanks to Geruda’s elemental wind forces. Shortly before that, another series of attacks throws fire-infused blows at enemies by channeling the powers of the Phoenix Call. Final Fantasy 16’s combat looks fast paced, frantic and undoubtedly action packed, with Clive reacting to player input in real time, utilizing a myriad of different interchangeable Eikon abilities. Our first close look at the combat in Final Fantasy 16 showed a marked departure from the classic turn-based and command-based combat of older games in the series.
Developer Square Enix knows this shift will divide opinion, but as producer Naoki Yoshida tells me, it’s impossible to appeal to every fan who’s picked the Final Fantasy series over the past 35 years. “Everyone has a different opinion, which means everyone has an idea of what they think is best for the series,” says Yoshida-san. “And because we have so many ideas about what Final Fantasy should be, and what the fans want a Final Fantasy to be, when you try to put all those ideas together, I mean… some of them are extreme opposites! And so it is impossible to bring together what every fan wants in a single Final Fantasy game.”
Final Fantasy 16 will take us to Valistea in 2023. It is a world teetering on the abyss of war as six factions begin to struggle for control of Mothercrystals and the divine power they provide to the realms. From what we’ve seen of Valistea so far, it resembles classic Final Fantasy: sprawling environments, beautiful architecture, and beautiful skyboxes. This familiar-feeling world contrasts with what we’ve seen of the combat, with Clive Rosfield wielding a combination of melee-based sword attacks and magical abilities in real time with relative ease.
This fusion of old and new is at the heart of Final Fantasy 16. As Yoshida-san acknowledges, everyone will have their favorite game in the series and therefore think differently about the different combat systems, but he also wants to point out that there are plenty of younger players. players who “have the idea that it’s just one of those older series” that may not appeal to them.
That, Yoshida-san explains, is why developer Creative Business Unit 3 has tried to “go back to the series’ roots” in terms of Final Fantasy 16’s world build and tone – a more “classic fantasy feel” – while trying to modern sensibilities through the action. He adds that his team “focuses on creating a setting that is reminiscent of the original Final Fantasy games, but then adding real-time action that is more reminiscent of modern games.”
Bringing in a new generation of players is important to Square Enix, but Yoshida-san says his team is well aware of the challenges that a more action-oriented real-time combat system can bring. Yoshida-san offers us the reassurance that battles in Final Fantasy 16 will be accessible to those who may not have played these kinds of fast-paced, timing-based action games in the past or necessarily excel at them.
“Of course we know that there are many players who may not excel at action games – that action games may not be their forte,” adds Yoshida-san. “But those fans don’t have to worry, because we’ve developed systems and developed in-game features that will give those players a helping hand. You know, and we have a lot of faith in these systems. And we want to get our hands on it.” of players. And we’re actually a little excited to see players who might not consider themselves action game players actually step in and try out these new systems.”
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To bring a real-time action combat system to life in Final Fantasy 16, BU3 brought in Ryota Suzuki to serve as combat director – Suzuki spent over 20 years at Capcom on games like Devil May Cry 5, Dragon’s Dogma, and Marvel vs. Capcom. Parallels have already been drawn between Devil May Cry 5’s combat style and Final Fantasy 16 – for example, a star rating feature appears to seemingly rank the delivery of your attacks, which is similar to the style rank system found in the final installment of Capcom’s long-running action series. . For the BU3 team, which had little experience with action games, Suzuki-san’s contributions helped make the new system a reality.
“Our development team had very little experience making action games, and we had a really hard time in those first few days of development, so we brought in Suzuki-san,” says Yoshida-san. “And by bringing in this super talented veteran in Ryota Suzuki, he was able to bring together everything we had and build on that using his wealth of experience from previous titles. Whether for the overall combat system , or the animation trees – Clive has so many different skills, and being able to seamlessly string all those skills together without any stress, and make it look very, very natural, helped us do that. was amazing, and we couldn’t have done this without him.”
Using this new combat system, Clive can perform a variety of moves related to Eikons’ unique powers in Final Fantasy 16 – powerful creatures that can reside in certain individuals known as Dominants, who can call on these summoned monsters and use their skills. Summons were an important part of the Final Fantasy franchise, and in 16 many fan favorites (like Geruda, Odin, Phoenix, Shiva, Titan) can actually be equipped – infusing Rosfield with new skills to use in battle. In the Dominance trailer of Sony’s Summer State of Play, you can see just a handful of these Eikon abilities in action: Garuda’s ‘Deadly Embrace’ seems to be pulling enemies towards you to maintain a combo, or Phoenix’ ‘Rising Flames’, which seems to launch enemies into the air.
While we’ve yet to play Final Fantasy 16 for ourselves, Yoshida-san promises that these Eikon abilities and abilities will bring some diversity to combat – so you can decide how you want to fight, and have some freedom in how you approach each instance of fight. “Using the different abilities of the Eikons – swapping and changing them, and deciding which way you want your character to go and how you want them to fight – is, I think, one of the most exciting features we have in store . And by offering a lot of different options in this combat system, you can really pick a playstyle that suits you best.”
The action-packed combat system not only gave players the freedom to try out different skills and powers of their favorite summons in battle, but also allowed the team to create different types of encounters. If you pay close attention to the Dominance trailer, you might notice that Clive isn’t present in some of the on-screen battles, and that’s because there are what Yoshida-san describes as unique “one-off battles” when you actually transform into an Eikon and battle it out against a Dominant who does the same.
“This battle system has allowed us to create very, very unique battles, and we have a variety of different battle types,” says Yoshida-san. “Whether it’s Clive versus smaller enemies, Clive versus bigger bosses, Clive versus Eikons, or even Clive becoming an Eikon and having these Eikon versus Eikon fights, these fights feel fresh and unique, and not repetitive. Lots of our Eikon vs Eikon battles battles are made as one-off battles, where they’re made just for that case – and that system wasn’t used anywhere else. So you get something that feels fresh and new every time you play.”
With the combat system moving away from the command-based format we’ve come to know from previous games, one aspect of the combat really stood out: the fact that Clive seemed to fight alone. Historically, Final Fantasy games had a Party system – allowing us to take control of multiple characters in battle and customize their gear, items, and abilities in the menus. The Dominance trailer focuses heavily on Clive, so much so that we started to wonder if Final Fantasy 16 would be a more solitary affair.
Yoshida-san tells us that given the amount of information presented in the trailer, the team was keen to “focus a lot on Clive’s combat and his role in the battle” to avoid unnecessary confusion. However, the Final Fantasy 16 producer tells us that Clive will not be alone on his journey. He may be the character we mostly master, but there will be AI-powered companions accompanying you on your adventure across Valistea and assisting you in combat.
“Clive has a huge amount of unique skills in his fully customizable arsenal. We wanted players to master these and customize them so that they can use them fluently and stylishly,” continues Yoshida-san. “But spreading combat controls across multiple party members can hinder the action — or just complicate things. Which is why we’ve decided we’d rather let players focus solely on controlling Clive.”
“And so in battle you have these characters that are completely AI-powered. But that doesn’t mean they’re just going to be there in battle,” continues Yoshida-san. “There will be a party buzz. They will accompany Clive on this journey. And you will have members of the party enter and exit the party, and different people will come in depending on where you are in the story. And these characters will play big roles in the story, and they’ll have their own arcs of their own. And so it’s not just… actually having someone to help you in battle, it’s actually having party members join Clive’s journey.”
There’s understandably a great fondness for the turn-based systems of games of the past, but it’s exciting to see Final Fantasy 16 try something different for the next installment coming to PS5 in the summer of 2023. With Eikons imbuing Clive’s arsenal of attacks to perform a variety of different moves on the battlefield, companions who will fight alongside us, and a new setting to visit that the team hopes will capture that classic fantasy feel, Final Fantasy sees 16 looks like it’s going to be a new entry that will offer something to existing fans and newcomers alike.
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