Best bits of 2023: Accepting the Truth in FINAL FANTASY XVI

We’re celebrating our favorite gaming moments of 2023. Today, we explain why Clive accepting the truth is so darn satisfying!
By Duncan Heaney

In this new series, the Square Enix Blog team looks at some of our favorite moments from throughout the year and why we think they stand out. To be clear, we're not declaring them to be the pinnacle of the game, merely one of many moments that stand out. So, don't get cross at us if you disagree, okay?

FINAL FANTASY XVI is full of incredible moments that combine character-driven drama with eye-widening spectacle. When Producer Naoki Yoshida described it as a ‘rollercoaster,’ he wasn’t kidding!

WARNING: There are spoilers from this point on.

Some of the most powerful moments in the early game come about as Clive delves into his past and his true nature as a Dominant - someone who can channel an Eikon - in the ‘Buried Memories’ questline.

What happens in Buried Memories

Over the years, our battered hero has focused on one thing: revenge against the mysterious hooded figure he saw during the destruction of Phoenix Gate - a tragic assault that resulted in the death of his beloved brother Joshua. So, the discovery that he may have been responsible for the destruction of Phoenix Gate - and by extension his own friends and family - is a difficult one for him to bear.

Despite his anguish, questions about what really happened and the identity of who Clive saw still linger so, with his new ally Cid’s typically frank urging ringing in his ears, he and Jill head off to the site of the tragedy to discover what really happened.

It’s been a long trek through the remnants of his former nation, now part of the Holy Empire of Sanbreque, and the duo have witnessed many horrors along the way, including the suffering of Bearers in the realm. Now though, they have finally reached their destination: the ruins of Phoenix Gate.

Using the blessing of the Phoenix, bestowed on him by his late brother, Clive is able to open a mysterious door and enter the dark underbelly of the castle. He discovers a vast ruin of the Fallen - an ancient civilization long since vanished.

After battling through a gauntlet of hostile Fallen defenses, classic FINAL FANTASY Bombs and more, Clive discovers an ancient mural on the wall - and something awakens within our tormented hero.

He’s transported back to the past, where he is forced to confront Ifrit, the Infernal Eikon itself. It’s a true spectacle, as Clive is utterly dwarfed by this gigantic foe, but after surviving that assault, he then has to face a far tougher opponent - a dark, shadowy vision of himself.

It’s a brutal battle, but as the Infernal Shadow primes into the full-size Ifrit once more, Clive realizes that he can’t avoid the facts forever. There was no hooded figure - he is indeed the Dominant of Ifrit, and responsible for the death of his family. He accepts the truth, and gains the ability to draw power from his Eikon directly.

Filled with resolve, he steps forward, ready to forge a new path that will let him atone for his crimes.

What do we love about this section?

As far as we’re concerned, this is a hugely affecting part of the game - a perfect fusion of gameplay and story that showcases FINAL FANTASY XVI at its very best. It works on multiple levels:

It culminates in a moment of fist-pumping awesomeness

Let’s break tradition and start by talking about the end: Accepting the truth.

As Clive accepts his demons, the game holds still, waiting for you to activate your Limit Break for the first time with the prompt ‘Accept the Truth.’ Click in both sticks, Clive’s body bursts with flames and Composer Masayoshi Soken’s already iconic track, ‘Find the Flame’ explodes into action.

It’s an exhilarating, pulse-raising spectacle, but it doesn’t just work because it’s visually dazzling and audibly awesome - it’s because you experience the same burst of catharsis as the hero himself. It’s story, sound, spectacle and gameplay all working together to create a moment that’s purely unforgettable.

It’s the climax of Clive’s early journey

For most of the early game, Clive is driven by thoughts of revenge against the elusive Dominant of Fire. This hunt drives many of the game’s events, so the mission presents a palpable sense of climax - even if the result wasn’t what Clive expected.

It also sends our hero on a new path that will come to define him throughout the rest of the game - he abandons his selfish, single-minded quest for revenge, and starts a new path to free Valisthea from the injustices he has both seen and endured.

It constantly throws new challenges your way

Clive embracing his past is a big moment, and naturally has garnered a lot of attention from fans, but the lead up is no slouch either.

The Fallen ruins beneath Phoenix Gate is an area that is always ready to throw something new your way. It starts with the Fallen Hunters and Guardians - ancient mechanical devices that feel very different to anything encountered thus far.

Then, the game starts throwing new enemies your way - iconic FINAL FANTASY creatures like Bombs and the Iron Giant or the unsettlingly agile Lich. There’s always something new to battle, and it makes for some truly satisfying encounters.

As you can see, this section of FINAL FANTASY XVI left its mark on us, just as it did Clive. Of course, it’s just one of many magical moments in the game - there are so many more we could pick, from earth-shattering Eikon battles to tender moments between Clive and Jill.

If you’ve yet to discover your own best bits, the game is now available for PS5:

The Echoes of the Fallen DLC is also now out. It sends Clive and his allies up the dangerous Sagespire - and into conflict with the powerful Omega. It’s available standalone or as part of the Expansion Pass, which also includes The Rising Tide DLC, due for release in Spring 2024.

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