Final Fantasy

franchise has been picking up some steam in recent years. While the series has never gone away and been part of the gaming landscape for over thirty years, its been quite a while since the series single-player experiences have resonated with gamers across the spectrum. While the mainline titles have never been bad, theyve rarely connected in the same long-term way that

Final Fantasy VII

did and

Final Fantasy X

could, arguably, have a legacy if only through my generations nostalgia. But


is rarely discussed,


was an event for the time but forgotten otherwise, and


was liked but, again, has no legacy.


comes on the heels of the fantastic

Final Fantasy VII: Remake

, which took the most beloved game of the series and gave it a makeover, an enhanced story, and more modern combat. And much like



Final Fantasy XVI

forgoes the open world, dated RPG mechanics and turn based combat for a story-centric, fast-paced adventure set in the series most mature world.

Clive Rosfield is the eldest son of the Archduke of Rosaria. Despite his age, he is not next in line for the throne as his younger brother has the power of the Phoenix. Because he was born with the ability to summon this elemental beast, he is heir to the throne instead.

But in typical fantasy style there are betrayals and deaths that leave Clives serene world torn apart. We meet him 13 years following a family tragedy, now a front-line soldier and slave to the empire that destroyed all he cared aboutand plotting his revenge.

From the outset you get a sense for the scale and beauty of

Final Fantasy XVI

. While it doesnt rely on huge open areas (and actually has a map through which you select areas to tackle), the vistas and battles are massive in a way the series has never showcased before. Rather than have you hack through dozens of grunts in a slow plod through an area, you explore with seamless combat crafted by the very same person who designed battle in

Devil May Cry 5

. That means this game plays more like an actioner, combat requiring carefully timed dodges and parries. Bosses are more prevalent, offering up a ton of intense and cinematic battles that are among the best the franchise has to offer.

That means that

Final Fantasy XVI

might be the most accessible iteration of the series. Youre not going to be managing a party, saving up dozens of health items for one-hit-kill bosses, or slaving through an hour-long battle that could, ultimately, end in failure and a waste of your time. For diehard fans this might be too mainstream and a betrayal of the franchises roots. For me, it was engaging entertainment.

What does slow things down is an abundance of cutscenes. The story has a mature edge that feels more in line with the grimdark fantasy of popular fiction, but it has the pacing of a typical Japanese RPG, getting caught up in long diatribes and sometimes only giving the player control just to move five more steps to another episode of anime Masterpiece Theater. I had quite a few moments I found myself tuning out as I wanted to get to the meat and potatoes that brilliant combat.

But something I did appreciate was the real-time lore system. In any situation or cutscene you can simply hold down the center touchpad and see any pertinent encyclopedia entries for characters or events. It makes keeping track of the multi-layered plot much easier, especially as it doesnt ease you into the world but drops you right in with little context for the conflicts or nations involved.

Final Fantasy XVI

is a massive, gorgeous and exciting new direction for the franchise. Steeped in a more mature fantasy world, enhanced by an engaging combat system, and constantly throwing new cinematic challenges at the player,

Final Fantasy XVI

may be the best the numbered franchise has been in years and a perfect game to sate those of us still chomping at the bit for the next installment of the

Final Fantasy 7


Publisher provided copy of game for PS5.