When Clive Rosfield hits the battlefield in the latest Final Fantasy 16 Dominance trailer (opens in new tab), a torrent of attacks explodes on the screen. It’s a spectacle, with the main character drifting into the air with an enemy and quickly inflicting damage thanks to Geruda’s wind forces. Just before, another set of attacks throws explosive strikes at enemies by channeling the forces of the Phoenix summons. The battle in Final Fantasy 16 looks fast, frenetic and undoubtedly action-packed, with Clive responding in real time to the player’s inputs – using a variety of interchangeable Eikon abilities. Our first real look at the battle in Final Fantasy 16 showed a marked deviation from the classic turn and command based battle in older games in the series.
Developer Square Enix knows that this shift will share opinions, but, as producer Naoki Yoshida tells me, it’s virtually impossible to appeal to all fans the Final Fantasy series has chosen over the past 35 years. “Everyone has different opinions, and that 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 fans want a Final Fantasy to be, if you try to put it all together, I mean … some of them are extreme opposites! And so it is! impossible to put together what every single fan wants in a single Final Fantasy game. ”
Final Fantasy 16 will transport us to Valisthea in 2023. It is a world that is faltering in the precipice of war, as six factions begin to struggle for control of Mother Crystals and the divine power they provide to the kingdoms. From what we’ve seen of Valisthea so far, it looks like classic Final Fantasy – vast environments, wonderful architecture and beautiful skyboxes. This familiar world contrasts with what we’ve seen of battle, with Clive Rosfield using a combination of melee-based sword attacks and real-time magic abilities with relative ease.
This fusion of old and new is the core of Final Fantasy 16. As Yoshida-san admits, everyone will have their favorite game in the series and as a result feel different combat systems, but he is also keen to point out that there are plenty of younger players out there who may “have the idea that it’s just one of those older series” that may not appeal to them.
That, explains Yoshida-san, is why developer Creative Business Unit 3 has tried to “go back to the series’ roots” when it comes to Final Fantasy 16’s world structure and tone – a more “classic fantasy feel” – while trying to push the modern sensitivity through action. He adds that his team “focuses on creating an environment reminiscent of the original Final Fantasy games, but then adds that real-time action that is more reminiscent of modern games.”
Bringing in a new generation of players is important for Square Enix, but Yoshida-san says his team is very aware of the challenges that a more action-focused real-time combat system can present. Yoshida-san offers us an assurance that battle in Final Fantasy 16 will be available to those who may not have played, or necessarily excel with, these types of fast-paced, action-based action games in the past.
“Of course we know that there are many players out there who may not excel in action games – that action games may not be their strong point,” adds Yoshida-san. “But those fans do not have to worry, because we have developed systems and developed features in the game that will give a helping hand to these players. You know, and we have a lot of confidence in these systems. And we want to get their hands on them. “And we’re actually a little bit happy to have players who might not consider themselves action game players to actually come in and try out these new systems.”
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To bring to life a real-time action combat system in Final Fantasy 16, BU3 brought in Ryota Suzuki to serve as a battle leader – Suzuki spent over 20 years at Capcom working on games such as Devil May Cry 5, Dragon’s Dogma and Marvel vs. Capcom. Parallels have already been drawn between the fighting style of Devil May Cry 5 and Final Fantasy 16 – a star rating feature, for example, appears to seemingly rank the delivery of your attacks, similar to the style ranking system found in the latest installment of Capcom’s long-running action series. For the team at BU3, who had little experience of action games, the contributions from Suzuki-san helped to turn the new system into reality.
“Our development team had very little experience creating action games, and during the first days of development we had a really hard time. That’s why it really helped us bring 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 then build on that by using his abundance of experience from previous titles. Whether it was for the overall combat system, or animation tree – Clive has so many different abilities and to be able to put all these abilities together seamlessly without stress and make it look really, really natural, he helped us do it.His contribution has been amazing, and without him we would not have been able to do it here.”
With the help of this new combat system, Clive will be able to perform a variety of movements linked to the unique powers of Final Fantasy 16’s Eikons – powerful creatures that can reside within certain individuals called Dominants, who can summon these summoned monsters and use their abilities . . Summons has been an important part of the Final Fantasy series, and in 16 many fan favorites (such as Geruda, Odin, Phoenix, Shiva, Titan) can actually be equipped – giving Rosfield new skills to practice in combat. In the Dominance trailer from Sony’s Summer State of Play, you can only see a handful of these Eikon abilities in action – Garuda’s “Deadly Embrace” seems to draw enemies towards you to help maintain a combo, or Phoenix’s “Rising Flames” as looks to shoot up enemies in the air.
Although we have not yet played Final Fantasy 16 for ourselves, Yoshida-san promises that these Eikon abilities and skills will provide some diversity in the battles – so you can decide how you want to fight and have some freedom in how you approach you every instance of battle. “Using the different abilities of the Icons – changing them and changing them, and deciding which way you want to take your character and how you want them to fight – is, I think, one of the most exciting features we have in store. And by offering many different options in this combat system, you can really choose a style of play that suits you best. ”
In addition to offering players the freedom to try out different abilities and forces from their favorite summonses in combat, the action-packed combat system also allowed the team to create different types of encounters. If you pay close attention to the Dominance trailer, you may notice that Clive is not present for any of the battles on screen, and that’s because there are what Yoshida-san describes as unique “one-time battles” while you can actually turn into an Icon and fight a Dominant who does the same.
“This combat system has enabled us to create many, very unique battles, and we have a variety of battles,” says Yoshida-san. “Whether it’s Clive against smaller enemies, Clive against bigger bosses, Clive against Eikons, or even Clive who becomes an Eikon and has these Eikon against Eikon battles; these battles feel fresh and unique and not repetitive. Many of our Eikon vs. Eikon battles were created to be one-time battles, where they were created specifically for that instance – and that system was not used anywhere else. And so you will have something that feels fresh and new every time you play. ”
With the battle system moving away from the command-based format we’ve learned from previous games, one aspect of the battle has really stood out – the fact that Clive seemed to be fighting alone. Historically, the Final Fantasy games have had a party system – which allows us to take control of several characters in battle and adjust their charges, items and abilities in the menus. The Dominance trailer is strongly focused on Clive, so much so that we began to wonder if Final Fantasy 16 would be a more solitary affair.
Yoshida-san says that, given the amount of information presented in the trailer, the team was keen to “focus a lot on Clive’s battles and on his role in the battle” to avoid unnecessary confusion. However, Final Fantasy 16’s producer says that Clive will not be alone on his journey. He may be the character we mainly control, but there will be AI-powered companions who will accompany you on your adventure throughout Valisthea and help you in battle encounters.
“Clive has a huge amount of unique abilities in its fully customizable arsenal. We wanted players to master these and adapt them to the point where they can use them smoothly and stylishly,” Yoshida-san continues. “But by spreading battle controls, across multiple party members, it can stop hindering the action – or just make things more complicated. And that’s why we decided we’d rather the players focus solely on just controlling Clive.”
“And so in combat, you have these characters who will be completely AI-driven. But that does not mean they will just be there in combat,” Yoshida-san continues. “It’s going to be a party joke. They’ll be accompanying Clive along this journey. And you’ll let party members go in and leave the party, and different people will come in depending on where you’re in the story. And these characters will “They play big roles in the story, and they themselves will have their own arches. And so it’s not just … basically having someone to help you in battle, it’s actually having party members participating in Clive’s journey.”
Understandably, there is a great fondness for previous turn-based games, but it’s exciting to see Final Fantasy 16 try something different for the next version coming to PS5 in the summer of 2023. With Eikons, Clive’s arsenal of attacks to offer a variety of different moves on the battlefield, companions who will fight with us, and a new environment to visit that the team hopes will capture the classic fantasy feel, Final Fantasy 16 looks to be about to become a new entry that will offer something to existing fans and newcomers.
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