Final Fantasy XVI: Breaking Down the Battle System

Final Fantasy as an action game? Let's examine what that might look like.

Final Fantasy XVI: Breaking Down the Battle System
Source: Press Kit.

It is now official that Square Enix’s flagship franchise will leave behind its RPG roots to re-invent itself as a full-on action game, following the same path as other titans of the genre such as Horizon Forbidden West and God of War. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to see exactly how players will fight their enemies in Final Fantasy XVI.

Following a series of interviews that went live recently, the game’s (exhausted) producer Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida confirmed beyond a shred of a doubt that FFXVI will not be a role-playing game in any form (either traditional or action-oriented) and will instead be a full-on action game.

Considering the people that are involved in its development as well as battle-system designer Ryota Suzuki’s reputation, this comes as no surprise. For those who don’t know, Suzuki is the man behind the fast-paced battles of many successful action games, most notable among them the Devil May Cry series. So upon reflection, it wasn't difficult to see this coming.

Looking beyond that, it’s time to break down what this battle system will look like. Considering the recent ‘Dominance’ trailer and combining it with Yoshida’s statements, it helps clear the field a bit regarding how FFXVI will actually play and how you’ll go about taking on your foes in the world of Valisthea.

Source: YouTube.

Let’s look at the image above. Some basic indicators like the health bar (more reminiscent of something out of Street Fighter than Final Fantasy, but just roll with it), an Lv meter (signifying the character’s level), and an HP (health point) digit. It’s unknown if this will always show the max HP or how much the character has left as we have not yet seen enough footage, but it’s easy to guess that it’s the amount that remains. Next to the bar, we see the main character’s name: Clive. Remember this for later.

Above the HP bar, there are several ‘perks’ (also known as buffs). It remains to be seen if these will activate automatically during battle, if there will be specific spells for them like in previous titles (Haste, Shell, Regen, etc.), or if their activation will depend on the player’s actions before battle (sleeping, eating, etc.).

On the bottom left of the screen we have several items that are allocated on each of the D-pad arrow buttons: pressing up will provide Clive with a Potion, left gives him a High Potion, and down will boost his power via a Strength Tonic. The left D-pad button remains unincluded here, leaving us to assume that we will use it for some other task.

On the bottom right of the screen are the names of several attacks placed in a cross pattern. Up top is Fire, left is Attack, down is Jump, while on the right is called ‘Phoenix Shift’. We’ll get to that soon.

Now, it’s easy to assume that these attacks will find themselves allocated to the DualSense’s X, O, triangle, and square buttons, but, considering this game’s creators, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s not all you needed to press. Since the R2 button symbol is shown between the four attacks, it's possible you'll be holding down R2 and pushing the allocated button to have Clive use one of these commands. This must tie into the attack names that appear in the middle right of the screen, yet are nowhere else to be seen. Unless they’re some type of auto-attack that is preset from the in-game menu, I can’t see any other way the player could have access to these.

Then we see random levels and health bars of enemies. I predict these will also come in various colours, depending on the opponent's strength (like in Pokemon Arceus) or how low their HP is.

Regarding the ‘Phoenix Shift’ command that was (presumably) set on the O button, we know little about it yet, but my personal prediction is that you’ll be able to use several other commands, depending on the Eikon that Clive is borrowing strength from.

We already know it’ll be more than one, as Yoshida himself confirmed it. So, by pressing O, Clive might enter ‘Phoenix’ mode and gain several other abilities provided to him by the firebird. Then, he can become attuned to Titan, and so on.

Having already been told — and shown — that this game will be heavily based on the summoned monsters, it’s easy to predict that they’ll also have a significant influence on the battle system as well.

Source: YouTube.

The next image is the same as the last (regarding the battle system specifically) with only a few key differences. First up, Clive’s name no longer appears next to the HP bar. Instead, we see a figure there that, looking to the bottom right of the screen, certainly seems to be a picture of Odin. Underneath is a button prompt (L2) with mini-photos of Garuda and Titan shown.

On the bottom right, the abilities have changed and, for those more familiar with the franchise’s history, seem to resemble attacks that Odin himself would use, rather than anything Clive would (not that I know the guy).

With these pieces of information gathered and added up to what we already know from the previous image, we can definitely say that Clive ‘enters Eikon states’ with just the press of a button.

The last thing to take from this image is the three yellow bars under the HP bar. Those who play FFXIV regularly may be an irresistible urge to scream out “Limit Breaaaak!”, but we may use it for something a little different. For example, to use an attack belonging specifically to that Eikon. That Arm of Darkness command on the O button seems like a prime candidate!

Source: YouTube.

Next up, we have Eikon battles. Yes, in this Final Fantasy we’ll be taking on the roles of the beasts themselves as we duke it out in larger-than-life battles that shake the earth (or in this case, Valisthea).

All we see here — apart from a very haunting Titan image that’s enough to give us nightmares until the game’s release date — are two HP bars: one for the earth dominant and one for Ifrit.

Personally, I believe the trailer is withholding information from us to avoid potential spoilers, as may be the case with the next image.

Source: YouTube.

Say we’re the ones controlling the king of dragons, Bahamut. How will we know how to use Megaflare? Or when? There are usually prerequisites for that attack, which is the Eikon’s strongest. There’s more here than Yoshida & co. will show us. They’re probably doing it for our own benefit.

Finally, I added the image below to show that the game will include one-vs-many battles, putting the players in scenarios of actual warfare where they’ll end up surrounded by enemies on all sides. I expect these to be both magnificent and tragic, offering a visual spectacle while also showing gamers the raw brutality of war (they have confirmed the game to be the first-ever ‘R’ rated mainline title of the franchise). Expect to be wowed!

That’s about it in a nutshell! That’s essentially all you need to know, based on the information we have right now, on how FFXVI‘s battle system will work. Fighting this time around will probably offer no room for thought or strategy, moving at an incredibly quick rate and throwing one thrill after another your way.

Whether that's the right move for the franchise or whether it will be proven that Square should finally bite the bullet and go back to its roots, that's a question that remains to be answered.


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