Final Verdict XVI

So I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XVI again.

I started a new game+ on hard mode right after I finished my first playthrough, but it kind of dropped off after a few hours. While the hard mode does add a few new things, like increasing the level cap from 50 to 100, remixed enemy encounters, and further upgrades to equipment, it’s not substantially different enough to warrant an immediate second playthrough. Also, even the weakest enemies are hella tanky and take forever to kill. So it gets tiresome pretty quickly.

On the other hand! Since I was playing on a new game+ (I actually don’t know if you can access hard mode from a fresh save file), I had all the Eikons and abilities unlocked from the start, which allowed me to play around with my ability loadout a little more. And after a lot of tinkering, I was able to come up with a pretty good setup for melting through even the most hardy damage sponges. On the other other hand, using the exact same strategy for every single encounter also got tiresome quickly.

And I think that’s actually FFXVI’s greatest weakness (at least in my opinion): every single enemy in the game is fought the same way. Yeah, they have a fairly wide variety of attacks to avoid, but once you find a good groove for taking down foes as quickly as possible, there’s absolutely no reason to play any differently. Very specifically, I’m sad that there are no gimmick bosses – something that Final Fantasy has almost always been very consistent about. Nothing that makes you try different builds or forces you to change your playstyle. You never have to wait for a foe’s vulnerable phase. Even though there are seven different elements of magic, enemies don’t have elemental resistances or weaknesses. It’s really too bad, because the combat system is incredibly fun. It just ends up also being incredibly shallow.

All that said, I picked the game up again because Square-Enix shadow-dropped the first DLC pack during the Game Awards. And though the amount of new content is a little less than I would have hoped for. For you money, you get: a (very cool) new dungeon, a (very cool) new mid-boss, a bunch of new palette-swaps of existing enemies, a handful of broken (in a good way) new accessories, a (disappointing) new sword, and an absolutely incredible new superboss. I remember back in Final Fantasy XIII-2, they sold standalone superboss fights as DLC, so I’m quite pleased that this one came with a whole bunch of garnish.

Let’s go over that new sword first. I was very excited to get what I imagined would be a game-breakingly powerful new weapon for conquering this DLC quest. What I got was a sword that, while it looks great, is scarcely more powerful than the endgame sword from the base game. Booo. I was hoping for something that would decimate monsters when I inevitably start up another NG+ a few years from now. To be fair, it’ll probably be great in the first half of the game, but I can see its effectiveness wearing off once you get to the tougher bosses and the S-rank hunts.

The new dungeon sure doesn’t disappoint, though! At the start, it seems like it’s just going to be a rehash of the four or five Fallen ruins you’ve already explored, but the further in you go, the more it changes and the more interesting it gets. I’m not going to spoil anything, but it was a great way to add a little more context to the backstory of the game’s world. It also finally solved the mystery of why there was an interactable door in the game that never opened: it was put there as an entrance to the DLC dungeon! I can finally sleep peacefully at night again!

Finally, there are two completely unique new bosses: one that you fight early on and one at the end (there are a couple of reskinned bosses with new attacks as well). The first boss is very cool and all, but I could not have anticipated how awesome the new superboss would be. And I think that says a lot when the main game is all about awesome, over-the-top boss fights. It was an incredibly tense fight that had me use almost all of my potions, high potions, and strength tonics, even thought I was using one of the “cheater” rings (the one that gives you a nice, little didge window) the entire time. The final phase was especially intense, and honestly that single boss fight was worth the price of admission alone.

Conclusion: While I wouldn’t recommend playing through FFXVI twice in a row (or at least twice within six months), it’s an excellent game and I’ve absolutely had my fill of fun with it, and then some. The first DLC pack didn’t disappoint, and I’m eagerly anticipating the second DLC that’s set to release next spring. It’s looking to be a bit more substantial, but we’ll just have to wait and see!

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