Designing combat in a Final Fantasy game seems like a double-edged sword. On one hand, you likely want to appeal to the fans of the series, and on the other, you want to attract new players. But it’s impossible to please everyone when making big changes like developer Creative Business Unit III is doing with Final Fantasy XVI – using a real-time action combat system that couldn’t be further from the series’ classic turn-based roots.
As someone who loves the franchise’s turn-based format and its more action-forward design as of late, and as someone who’s played FFXVI for more than five hours at this point, I’m quite pleased with the combat. It’s fast-paced, action-heavy, and perhaps most importantly, fitting of this world and these characters. I especially like the singular focus on Clive, as you never control any of your party members (although you give combat-related orders to Clive’s dog companion, Torgal).
Designing this combat was the biggest challenge of FFXVI’s development, according to producer Naoki Yoshida (the same Yoshida that’s the director of Final Fantasy XIV).
“Probably the biggest challenge had to do with designing the battle system and going into full real-time action,” Yoshida tells me within Square Enix’s Tokyo, Japan, office building. “We’ve mentioned in the past that with Final Fantasy XVI, we wanted to bring in a new generation of gamers to the Final Fantasy series, and one of our main focuses during early development was how to do this.”
Yoshida says CBUIII is full of developers that love turn-based games and grew up on them, even within Final Fantasy history. But when it came to designing FFXVI, the team asked itself which games are popular today amongst younger generations of players and which games the team was enjoying these days. It turned out that a lot of the teams’ answers were action games.
“Instead of going back to turn-based, we said, ‘Okay, this is a chance for us to challenge ourselves to try to do something that the series had never done but that we want to really try to do, and that’s moving to the full action-based system,’” Yoshida continues. “There was always the option to maybe try a hybrid type of system where we have action and turn-based elements, but again, rather than trying that and having something that’s not complete and not satisfying, we decided to focus fully on just bringing the action.”
And that action is what you can experience in FFXVI when it launches exclusively on PlayStation 5 on June 22.
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