Square Enix has dumbed down the difficulty in Final Fantasy XVI and it has ultimately ruined the game. Don’t get me wrong, as the most ambitious, action-based entry in the series to date, Final Fantasy XVI holds up but the game’s lack of difficulty and spam combat approach fails to deliver any sort of challenge.
This seems to be a theme at Square Enix when the company westernizes its games. The last big triple-A RPG which went this route was Kingdom Hearts 3. At launch, the game was incredibly easy. Even on the top-tier difficulty at the time, Hard Mode, it barely offered any sort of intensity when it came to combat. Kingdom Hearts 3’s combat was heavily dumbed down to make the game more accessible to the masses and sadly, the same thing is said for Final Fantasy XVI.
Before you all scroll down to the comments section to blast me, just hear me out. I don’t expect a soulslike challenge in Final Fantasy XVI but the game’s combat inspirations – Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, reveal where this new RPG has fallen short.
If you haven’t played Final Fantasy XVI yet, just know that instead of turn-based combat which has been a staple for the series up to now, the game adopts an action approach which is fine. This means Clive can whirl together combos by hitting the square button. He can perform abilities which all depend on his equipped Eikons at the time too.
The combination of the basic attacks, holding down some buttons to charge magic and pulling off abilities delivers a flashy and rather satisfying fight. Sadly, enemies just end up dying too quickly and don’t fight back as hard as Clive hits.
Sure, Clive can dodge attacks and parry them. A perfectly-timed dodge results in a quick counterattack and a parry slows down time giving me a chance to spam even more attacks. These moments do rely on quick reactions and paying attention to enemy movements but missing these opportunities doesn’t come with enough consequence.
A missed dodge doesn’t always mean Clive gets hit. Instead, he would still dodge the attack but not be able to counterattack. Even if Clive does get hit as a result of a poorly-timed parry, the damage is minimal. This means I would have to fail my dodge a few times to really fear for my life and start popping potions.
The potions are a whole other story too. While Clive can only carry a set number of them at any given time, they are easily found in the world and if you’re carrying more than the max capacity, the collected one is then automatically used.
Most of the time, Clive also travels with his hound and other party members who will end up healing him when need be. So even if you were to say “no” to potion use (you know to try and give the game a little challenge), it doesn’t always work out.
Most of the challenging fights in Final Fantasy XVI (I use the word “challenging” loosely here) are also ridden with quick-time events. So pressing a button within a 5-second timer results in a block or counterattack. So all the grinding and gear management in the game doesn’t matter during these portions anyway.
I absolutely hate quick-time events. They add nothing to a game. Why would a simple press of a button take a chunk of health away from a boss when I have spent hours trying to level up and master combos I want to pull off myself? Can’t I just use my own gear and abilities to take the health away myself? This further takes away from the game’s challenge.
Of course, if you look at the combat inspirations for Final Fantasy XVI, you can see where the game’s combat has fallen short. In Bayonetta and DmC, combat is tough. Enemies hit hard, dodge, and have quite a lot of health and parrying and dodging relies on a much tighter pressing of buttons.
The big difference in those games is that health doesn’t come easy. HP items are hard to find, refilling health during segments is few far and between and the more health items you use, the more expensive they get. So in a way, you’re forced to master every aspect of the combat or pay the consequences.
Final Fantasy XVI doesn’t do this. Potions are always available and healing is plenty. There’s no risk either. Instead, dodging is easy, enemies are squishy, quick-time events hold your hand and abilities are just overpowered. One specific attack called Flames of Rebirth, is a large AoE attack that just decimates enemies. So much so that any fight with five or six enemies would last just a few seconds.
I even tested things out to see how forgiving the game would get. For example, dying in a fight automatically refill all your potions and health. So if you’re at a boss, there’s no risk of death either. On the odd chance you have no potions and health, just walk into the fight and die. You’ll then reload the game with everything maxed out.
I know I am harping on the subject now but I kind of miss the challenge that Final Fantasy games offered. Remember those save-lock encounters where you were stuck for days trying to beat a boss? Lady Yunalesca served me my backside and I couldn’t go back to train my team and get better. Even the fun of grinding some XP in preparation for a fight was a staple in the series.
Then we had those difficulty curves when we thought we were overpowered only to start a new chapter and realise the game cranked up the enemy’s health and damage. It was always enjoyable working your way back up the ladder by sweating through these new fights, using all your potions while you’re at it and saving at every possible point.
There’s nothing close to that in Final Fantasy XVI. Don’t get me wrong, these fights are fun but spamming combos and watching enemies vanish isn’t really offering a challenge. It all brings back memories of Kingdom Hearts 3 and sailing through the game without ever worrying about health, stats, gear and what the next encounter will bring.
Square Enix has also implemented some gear in Final Fantasy XVI which aims to make the game even easier. Certain items automatically evade attacks and even slow down time when you need to evade. This does make the game even more accessible. But you don’t even need to use them because, without these accessibility trinkets equipped, the game doesn’t offer much of a challenge anyway.
Of course, I haven’t dipped into the New Game+ yet and apparantly that is meant to offer more of a challenge. However, I wish the first playthrough of the game was already on that level. Why make me play the entire game with almost zero challenge only for me to have to replay it AGAIN to experience a difficult mode? It should have been there from the start.
Maybe I am just being a brat. Maybe I should roll over and just accept that Final Fantasy fans wanted an action game that holds your hand and does little to test your skill. I mean the game already has a shallow gear system, next to no elemental weaknesses to build into, and an ability tree that feels uninspired. It is an action game alright, just not a very difficult one.
How are you feeling about the Final Fantasy XVI difficulty? Let me know in the comments.