Final Fantasy 16’s Combat Looks Incredible, But Has A Major Flaw

Although the combat of Final Fantasy 16 is flashy, stylish, and satisfying, one major flaw can bring the game’s action down for some players. Breaking away from Final Fantasy tradition, FF16 is a fully-realized action game, with real-time combat courtesy of the game’s combat director, Ryota Suzuki, who has previously worked on games such as Devil May Cry and Dragon’s Dogma. Despite the game’s character action leanings, however, one decision may hold its combat back for fans of the genre.

In gameplay, many of FF16‘s similarities to other action games are clear – Clive can launch enemies and juggle them in the air with attacks, his expansive moveset lends itself well towards player skill expression, and even some particularly specific mechanics mirror those of games like Devil May Cry. For example, Clive’s Stomp ability, which allows him to jump off of enemies for extra height, is equivalent to Devil May Cry‘s Enemy Step; to the point where it can even be used to cancel out air attacks in both games. Unfortunately, however, one aspect of Final Fantasy 16‘s combat doesn’t quite match up to other games in the same genre.

Related: A “Modern Masterpiece”: Final Fantasy 16 Review

Final Fantasy 16’s Eikon Movesets Take Too Long To Cooldown

Final Fantasy 16 Bahamut Eikon Ability Wings of Light

Existing separately from Clive’s “base” moveset, Eikon abilities are especially effective moves that give Clive the opportunity for heavy damage, rapid Will Gauge depletion, or even the ability to fully counter attacks in FF16. To make up for their power, however, they also come with two notable limitations – only two Eikon abilities can be equipped per each of the three Eikons that Clive can have enabled at once, (in addition to each Eikon’s Eikonic Feat), and each Eikon ability has its own separate cooldown before it can be used again. While it makes sense to limit the use of Eikon abilities, their cooldowns can harm FF16‘s combat.

FF16’s Eikon Ability Cooldowns Can Harm Its Combat

Final Fantasy 16 Zantetsuken

Although Eikon abilities are both flashy and powerful, limiting their use in the form of cooldowns can have negative repercussions for FF16‘s action, making it possible for gameplay to feel like it’s simply filler combos in between the cooldowns of bigger moves. This can especially be a problem in the early game when Clive only has one or two Eikons at his disposal; combined with FF16‘s Will Gauge system, the limitations of Eikon abilities can easily pull players into a relatively uninteresting loop of spamming abilities off cooldown and using Clive’s basic combo as filler between ability uses.

Compounding the issue, FF16‘s Eikon abilities can encourage a thoughtless playstyle through a lack of any other limitations besides their cooldowns. While many abilities have optimal use cases, like Heatwave’s projectile countering, they also generally lack major downsides for being used outside those conditions, which can further incentivize players to simply use them whenever available. Clive’s core abilities that don’t have cooldowns, such as Magic Burst or Downthrust, also play into this, as, while they are best used to combo into or out of Eikon abilities, they won’t quite hold up on their own for any players who simply use them as filler.

Related: One Early Final Fantasy 16 Feature Makes Combat Much Easier

FF16’s Combat Compared With Other Action Games

Benedikta clashes swords with Clive atop a castle tower at night in Final Fantasy 16.

In comparison to the action games that FF16 seems to trying to emulate, its cooldown-based approach to much of Clive’s moveset stands out as an oddity. In a game like Devil May Cry, for example, very few moves, if any at all, are limited by static cooldowns, even for extremely high power abilities. Instead, the usage of many moves is limited by other factors, such as windup, recovery, or the need for external resources or conditions. Combined with the tendency for these action games to grade players based on the stylishness of their combat, they encourage using all of a character’s tools in a versatile way.

Many of the most powerful moves of action games like Devil May Cry or Dragon’s Dogma, for example, still require players to be smart about their usage despite the lack of cooldowns. Most of Devil May Cry 5‘s best, most effective moves can only be accessed through the use of a character’s Devil Trigger, costing DT gauge to use, and further encouraging aggressive play to gain that meter back. Similarly, abilities in Dragon’s Dogma all require a requisite amount of stamina, with the most powerful abilities demanding that players carefully manage their resources to get the most out of them.

FF16’s Combat Can Still Function With Cooldowns

Final Fantasy 16 Early Combat gaemplay screenshot of clive fighting in forest

Although Final Fantasy 16‘s cooldown-based abilities can hurt the experience for some players; the game’s action can still function well. Later in the game, for example, Clive will gain access to many more Eikons and Eikon abilities, giving him access to a wider range of abilities and leaving less time spent waiting for cooldowns to finish. Similarly, Eikonic Feats, which have no cooldowns at all, become more varied later in the game, which better serves to fill the gaps between uses of Eikon abilities; and as players experiment further with their moves, more optimal uses than simple spamming will become clear.

Related: Final Fantasy 16’s Combat Is Rethinking The Franchise. Is It Enough?

It’s also important to note that simply removing cooldowns from FF16 wouldn’t immediately “solve” its gameplay issues, and might in fact create more problems. Although the cooldowns can encourage an uninteresting style of play, the game’s abilities are also designed around the limitations of those cooldowns. As a result, removing them would mean that FF16‘s Eikon abilities have almost no limiting factors at all, as they require no resources, and using them at the “wrong” time will rarely result in players being significantly punished (at least on the default difficulty).

Although the action-based combat of FF16 is well-made, with plenty of room for players to express skill and creativity, the cooldown-based nature of its more powerful moves can encourage a less interesting style of play; especially in the game’s earlier sections, before players gain access to a wider variety of moves. As an additional consequence, using many of the game’s Eikon abilities can be less interesting than similar abilities in other games. Despite some of the drawbacks of Final Fantasy 16‘s approach to combat, however, the game can still offer compelling, flashy, and stylish action.

Source: PlayStation/YouTube

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