Fans of Final Fantasy have to wait a little longer for the eventual release of the upcoming Final Fantasy 16. As per what the trailers revealed, it seems Square Enix‘s new entry to the hit franchise will try to go back to the series’ high fantasy setting. In the story, six factions arrive at the brink of war through Eikons, monsters summoned by gifted humans called Dominants.
Additionally, FF16 gameplay seems to combine the tactical premise of older titles with the real-time elements of recent games. However, given the scarcity of details on the full extent of FF16‘s gameplay features, just what exactly would be must-haves and must-skips of the upcoming title?
Stories of the first Final Fantasy games made a mark because of their unique takes on a persistent trope surrounding elemental crystals. Somehow, Warriors of Light gather to find and protect crystals, all of which evil empires plan on exploiting one way or the other.
Sadly, modern Final Fantasy games tried to explore crystals again but failed to add to their relevance. For instance, despite FF13‘s setting that featured crystals, its story still focused on overwhelming lore surrounding the l’Cie and the Fal’Cie. In FF16, its story revolves around six factions on the verge of war because of crystals. Hopefully, this time around, crystals take center stage in the plot once more. That way, FF16 can thematically serve as a “return” to previous Final Fantasy story hooks.
Aside from its storyline, perhaps fans love Final Fantasy for its impeccable choice in character design. After all, legends such as Yoshitaka Amano. Akihiko Yoshida, and Tetsuya Nomura gained popularity for their iconic designs across titles in the franchise. However, a constant reason for divide among fans would be the game’s choice for aesthetic and visual design.
Some fans argue that the flashy designs of some characters add to the otherworldly appeal of the franchise, as compared to other more medieval RPGs. For instance, Sephiroth’s rather unrealistically-long katana has become both his signature and a meme. However, such a concept might not work for FF16. After all, Valisthea’s high fantasy setting seems to demand a more grounded take on Final Fantasy‘s unique approach to character design.
Interestingly, despite the popularity of open-world titles, some hit RPGs are surprisingly linear in nature. For instance, God (Dad) of War, 2019 Game of the Year Awardee, won the title for its storytelling despite its straightforward approach to narrative. Likewise, The Last of Us 2 foregoes massive exploration for its dynamic but linear narrative.
In fact, Final Fantasy fans against a linear approach might look at the contrast between the success of FF10 and the middling reception of FF13. Given the critical reception of FF10, it seems FF16 can achieve the same memorable narrative with linear storytelling, provided that each section has various offerings for players to begin with.
Despite the middling reception of FF15, one can’t deny that being able to explore the vast biospheres of Eos in a sports car with a boy-band troupe is nothing short of breathtaking. Sadly, aside from repetitive quests, bounties, fishing, and taking photos, there’s not much to do when free-roaming in FF15.
In turn, this made the game’s rather suddenly-linear second-half a bit infuriating for some fans. Hopefully, FF16 decides to do away with an open-but-empty world. Instead, they can rely on standard explorable “zones” as featured in previous titles. If FF16 doesn’t want to have a linear take on the story, perhaps the small-but-interactive zone system in FF12 could make FF16 feel both open but fairly-restrictive at the same time.
Interestingly, three modern Final Fantasy titles give fans the opportunity to compare three vastly-distinct battle systems. On the one hand, FF15 boasts a fast-paced Active X Battle system. Meanwhile, FF14 uses the Real Time Battle system to integrate the MMO’s cooldown-resource balance.
Unlike recent titles, FF16 seems to rely on both careful movement and pinpoint strikes. Interestingly, this game seems to resemble more of FF7 Remake‘s Active Time Battle variation. In the FF7 Remake, battles happen in real-time but characters can only make impactful actions with enough ATB charges. In turn, FF16 should probably adopt a similar system. Hopefully, the game allows players to switch between a “tactical mode” to plan actions or direct allies and a “real mode” to execute commands.
As an RPG, Final Fantasy titles always face the constant challenge of balancing character progression with an unnecessary grind. For instance, some players find certain spots notorious for lengthy grinds in Final Fantasy titles. Moreover, even fans criticize the first Final Fantasy game for its excessive grinding to defeat its higher-level enemies.
Hopefully, FF16 manages to create a decent character progression system that diversifies level-up options for players. After all, despite the potential of Valisthea as a location, things get pretty dull when players need to stick to the same area and tear through the same mobs. For instance, FF12 has a Trial Mode that provides grinding opportunities for players by loading their Save Game state in a special arena.
Thankfully, some RPGs introduce diverse endgame challenges and concepts that provided reasons for players to stay even after finishing the main story. These include New Game Plus, harder modes, or better loot across playthroughs. Interestingly, FF16 can improve the overall player experience by simply introducing endgame challenges and a comprehensive New Game Plus mode.
In relation, fans praise FF10‘s endgame due to the challenging nature of Dark Aeon battles. Moreover, despite the middling reception, FF13 offered more secrets and bosses to fight past the main story. Due to how Valisthea itself has six potential warring states, it makes sense for endgame content to at least explore some of these areas in-depth.
As mentioned, fans of FF15 feel divided when the need for updates and DLCs implied the “unfinished” state of the base game. After all, why settle for an unfinished game with required DLCs and updates instead of just taking more time to release a finished game?
In turn, some fans can get reasonably concerned about FF16 getting a similar experience. Given its intense premise, fans hope FF16 has a base game that explores the story as a whole and only getting DLCs for optional content. Perhaps these DLCs could contain side stories, add quality-of-life features, or offer extra but optional new gameplay options.
Thanks to FF10 and FF10-2, Square Enix realized that an impactful title could expand its story into a sequel. Granted, FF10-2 (and even FF13-2) didn’t make as much impact as its successful predecessor. However, the game made Square realize the potential of telling a new story featuring the same world and related protagonists.
If Square Enix is planning to expand FF16‘s story in any way, perhaps the team could settle for a sequel with a complete story. Instead of relying on a sub-franchise with a whole host of spinoffs with no guarantee of success, hyping a sequel with complete content could probably retain the FF16 fanbase for a long time. That way, Square could also complete FF16‘s story with an ending twist that feels complete on its own but is still open for a sequel.
Hit titles of the franchise often expand into their own sub-franchises. For instance, FF7 eventually got the Compilation of Final Fantasy 7 metaseries that expanded lore on the Planet, the Shinra Electric Power Company, Midgar, and Lifestream. Likewise, FF13 got its Fabula Nova Crystallis series that focused on the game’s overarching mythos surrounding the world crystals. However, Square Enix hopefully doesn’t plan on withholding content from FF16 for the sake of expanding it into its own sub-franchise.
Remember, sub-franchises didn’t always work for Final Fantasy. For instance, fans might barely remember that FF15 actually expanded its content into the Final Fantasy 15 Universe. Sadly, the sub-franchise didn’t make as much impact as the aforementioned ones above.