Final Fantasy

Building A Dark Fantasy World In Final Fantasy XVI

A paradigm shift for narrative in the series.

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Final Fantasy has a knack for reinventing itself with each mainline entry into one of gaming’s most well-known franchises. Alongside pivoting to an action framework, Final Fantasy XVI has a strong focus on building a dark fantasy world, drawing from contemporary epics like Game of Thrones and The Witcher. It’s not the first time Final Fantasy has ventured into a medieval setting, but new ground is being broken in the way it explores themes and characters.

It’s a markedly different approach from what we’ve seen in prior entries, but not one that’s all too surprising given the recent resurgence of dark fantasy media. Here’s a look at a few of the things that Final Fantasy XVI is doing to deliver on this commitment to a darker, grittier Final Fantasy – and don’t forget to check out the playable PS5 demo for yourself right here.

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The Legacy of the Crystals

Conflict in Valisthea comes down to the Mothercrystals; sources of aether that powers the magicks many rely upon in daily life. This power is dwindling, though, and the deadlands close in on untainted land. It’s these final flickers of aether that ignites the struggle for power and control over the Mothercrystals. Neighbouring kingdoms are locked in conflict while contending with the inevitable creep of Blight and the deadlands.

Despite their imminent downfall, the people of Valisthea hold on to the blessings of the Mothercrystals as if their lives depend on it. It’s the steadfast belief in the Mothercrystals that leads to shaky alliances and backstabbing betrayals akin to what you’d find in Game of Thrones. It’s a narrative embroiled in uncertainty, desperation, and oppression that doesn’t shy away from all the brutality that comes with it.

final fantasy xvi state of play

Weapons of War

Final Fantasy’s legendary summons – better known as Eikons in Valisthea – are at the forefront of XVI’s narrative, but in a way we’ve not seen them before. Eikons are beings of immense power, each one residing within a single person called a Dominant. While some regions in Valisthea herald Dominants as war heroes and treat them as royalty, others live in fear of their power and enslave them as weapons of war. Dominants are portrayed in Final Fantasy XVI similarly to the handling of Witchers, both in reputation and the way they’re perceived by those around them.

Regardless of which kingdom a Dominant is born into, it’s a life of cruel and inescapable fate shaped by bloodshed and the wars fought by those that harbour these titanic entities. The fallout of a duel between Eikons is catastrophic. Armies are crushed underfoot and stray elemental blasts snuff out the lives of unsuspecting victims. It’s this senseless, perpetuated violence that moulds Valisthea’s perception of Eikons and Dominants at large, stoking the flames of conflict and fostering fear within the people.

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final fantasy xvi

Pawns of Fate

An RPG isn’t an RPG without an engaging cast of characters to accompany and play as during your journeys. Clive Rosfield is Final Fantasy XVI’s protagonist, the firstborn son of the Archduke of Rosaria. After failing to awaken as Phoenix’s Dominant, he lives to protect his younger brother, Joshua, who inherited the Eikon of fire instead. Childhood friend of Clive and Joshua is Jill Warrick, Dominant of Shiva, who was raised as a Rosfield after being taken from her homeland. It’s these three that form the backbone of Final Fantasy XVI’s exploration of fate, burden, and revenge.

It’s through the lens of these characters that we’ll come to learn what life is like as a Dominant in Valisthea. While Clive is quick to throw himself into harm’s way to protect Joshua, the young Dominant is much less confident in his abilities. He struggles to understand why he was chosen to inherit the flames of the Phoenix over Clive, and contends with the burden of expectation that comes with inheriting an Eikon. These themes are at the core of Final Fantasy XVI’s dark fantasy narrative, and will no doubt define its characters across Clive’s journey.

final fantasy xvi

A More Mature Fantasy

All of these elements are wrapped up in presentation that reinforces the dark tone and gritty world setting of Valisthea. Creature designs for Final Fantasy staples are more rooted in traditional fantasy while still retaining their core identities, people are killed in ruthlessly violent fashion, and voice work delivers the emotional depth and tact you’d expect from the sharp tongue of characters like Geralt. If you’re concerned about the potential lack of Moogles and Chocobos, there’s no need to worry – they’ve made the cut.

Dark themes and ideas are nothing if they can’t be explored in an appropriate fashion, and Final Fantasy XVI looks to deliver in spades in this regard. Aside from a more gritty presentation through incredible visual fidelity afforded by the PS5, Masayoshi Soken’s original score is sure to provide. If the trailer themes are anything to go off of, it’s clear that Final Fantasy XVI will deliver orchestral bliss similar to what can be found in Soken’s recent work on Final Fantasy XIV.

final fantasy xvi clive


Final Fantasy XVI is launching on June 22nd exclusively for PlayStation 5. A demo is available now with save transfer to the full game. Learn more and pre-order here.