Final Fantasy XVI – Clive’s equipment is the one thing holding the game back

As we said in our review of Final Fantasy XVI, the latest instalment in this franchise is phenomenal. The action parts of the game are tight and combat is satisfying; the writing is outstanding and I would die to protect Jill and Clive. The Moogle is sassy, the Chocobos are cute; all in all, the game is a tremendous entry in the Final Fantasy franchise, and potentially one of the best to date.

But we didn’t give the game a perfect 10/10. There were a couple of minor niggles to the game, and they all come back to one system: the loot and equipment.

Final Fantasy 16 Combat

Upgrading your character is integral to RPGs. Change is a big part of that growth and Clive changes in many ways throughout the game that, in the interest of not spoiling it on launch day, we won’t go into. The two aspects of Clive’s growth you can control and affect in your ‘build’ are abilities and equipment. The Eikonic abilities system is great; the equipment system, however, is so sorely lacking it leaves a gaping hole in the experience the size of that giant crater in the middle of your world map.

We’re all accustomed to post-combat loot. Beat an enemy, take its pelt. Kill a wolf, take a tooth as a keepsake. Kill a Rathalos, turn it into a fancy suit of armour — wait, that’s the wrong series. Loot in Final Fantasy XVI feeds into the equipment system: give your resident blacksmith a dozen hides and a tooth and bam, you have a fancy new belt.

The issue is that with each story mission you complete, you unlock new crafting recipes at the smithy — and once you’ve taken down your first Eikon and made the fancy new sword with the unique item it dropped, each subsequent recipe is invariably worse than what you have equipped… that is, until you take down the next Eikon, which allows you to improve your existing mythical weapon. Once you realise this pattern, and that the thousands of fangs and pelts you’re sitting on are only worth selling to buy new music for your Hideaway, you realise the gaping hole in the system.

Final Fantasy 16 open world

It wasn’t until the 60-hour mark that I found a sword genuinely worth making outside of the Eikonic weapon tree. This is ever so slightly less of an issue for the Belt and Vambraces — the two bits of armor you can actually change — but if you pick up anything from a chest while out in the field, it’s almost certainly better than what you find in your base. The rest of the pelts, teeth and Gil Bugs got sold to buy even more new soundtracks for the Hideaway. I didn’t even want them — the default BMG is beautiful — I just had items to sell and Gil to burn.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike previous games where your sword affected more than just your Attack stat, your sword only has two variables: attack damage and will (stagger) damage. Any modifiers beyond that need to be set by the three bits of jewellery you can equip; but once you get the three that increase your AP, EXP and Gil (which you unlock at the same time), this system is immediately rendered moot; you equip the first two, plus the best other thing you have in the third slot.

This all removes an aspect of variety and customisation that RPG fans not only love but have come to expect. While FFXVI updates and rewrites what we should expect from a Final Fantasy game, this is one advancement we can live without.

Final Fantasy 16 Dominant

Few games are perfect — with the sheer volume of games we get through at TSA Headquarters, we are keenly aware of that — but when you have a game that comes so close to a perfect 10/10, and then misses out due to what should be an obvious, easy win, it is incredibly disappointing.

Written by
Barely functional Pokémon Go player. Journalist. Hunter of Monster Hunter monsters. Drinks more coffee than Alan Wake.