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Final Fantasy 16 won’t be an open-world game

Producer Naoki Yoshida says it will feature an AI party and have a mature rating

A warrior silhouetted against a dim, foggy forest background in Final Fantasy 16 Image: Square Enix
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Final Fantasy 16 producer Naoki Yoshida is a busy man. He’s also the producer and director of the hit online entry in the series, Final Fantasy 14, a game he is widely credited with saving and which, following a recent explosion in popularity, is now the most profitable game in the series’ long history.

Small wonder that he should be given stewardship of a mainline title as well, and in a recent spate of interviews, Yoshida has shed a little more light on Final Fantasy 16 and the departures it will make from other recent Final Fantasy games.

Most significant is that it will not follow Final Fantasy 15 in using an open-world design. Yoshida told IGN that, while inspired by the open-world games that dominate big-budget single-player gaming at the moment, he wanted to use smaller sections of more varied locations to convey the game’s epic scope.

“Yes, in [Final Fantasy 16] you’ll find inspiration from recent triple-A open-world RPGs,” he said. “However, to bring a story that feels like it spans an entire globe and beyond, we decided to avoid an open-world design that limits us to a single open-world space, and instead focus on an independent area-based game design that can give players a better feel of a truly ‘global’ scale.”

He also explained that, while Final Fantasy 16 would feature the series’ traditional party of combatants, companions would be AI-controlled and the player would remain focused on the protagonist, Clive. “We didn’t want to overwhelm users in our newest trailer, so we focused solely on Clive’s battles,” Yoshida said. “That said, for most of his journey, Clive will be accompanied by one or more companions. These companions will participate in battle, as well as trade banter with Clive. That said, the party members will be AI-driven so as to allow players to focus solely on controlling Clive.”

Another interesting combat tidbit fed to Game Informer is that, when the game’s giant-sized Eikon summons face off against each other, their battles will vary widely in genre. “I saw a lot of comments on social media after the [latest, Eikon-focused] trailer released about how the UI is kind of reminiscent of a fighting game,” Yoshida noted. “The overall game design for these Eikon-versus-Eikon battles, however, is meant to be unique and in fact, we don’t actually use the same exact system twice. Each battle is completely unique in its playstyle and so we’re doing something that’s kind of crazy. For example ... if you have Eikon A versus Eikon B, that battle will be reminiscent of a 3D shooter. Whereas another Eikon versus a different Eikon, it’s more like a pro wrestling match, and then maybe even a third with one Eikon versus another Eikon will transform an entire area into a battlefield.”

Speaking on the game’s story, Yoshida revealed to Gamespot that it will likely be the first mainline Final Fantasy game to receive a mature rating, due to the “difficult adult themes” his team wants to tackle. “This time, to make sure that we could tell the story that we wanted in the way that we wanted to, we decided to pursue a mature rating in most of the regions that will be releasing the game,” he said. “But ... this is not because we simply wanted to make the game more violent or the game more explicit, this is because we felt it was necessary to allow us to explore those more mature themes that the game tackles.”

You can also find interviews at PlayStation Blog and GamesRadar that go into how simultaneous development with Final Fantasy 14 is working, how Yoshida built the development team, and how he is seeking a “classic fantasy feel” reminiscent of the earliest games in the series to differentiate the new game from the more modern settings of Final Fantasy 15 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake.

Final Fantasy 16 is slated for release in summer 2023 on PlayStation 5 and PC.