If you’ve seen Final Fantasy XVI protagonist Clive Rosfield, you’ve likely noticed he has a black face tattoo on his left cheek. This tattoo connects more widely to the world of FFXVI, Valisthea, and magic’s place in it.
During my cover story trip to Tokyo, Japan, to speak to developer Creative Business Unit III, I learned a lot about magic in FFXVI and how it affects Clive’s life and everyone in this world. The special tattoo on Clive’s face is the mark of a Bearer, which indicates he can use magic. This might seem like a great ability, but the nations of Valisthea view Bearers as something other than human. These nations brand their Bearers to show they are enslaved, and nations trade Bearers across borders based on who needs their magical abilities. When Clive receives this branding, his life is forever changed.
In my hands-on time with FFXVI, I saw various other people in The Grand Duchy of Rosaria, Clive’s home at one point, with the same mark. They were completing tasks like fetching water, carrying heavy objects, and more. Flashing forward past the game’s opening hours, Clive is on a mission to assassinate a key figure in a war, and he’s joined by a few other soldiers also bearing the mark. Before this trip, I thought Clive’s tattoo was unique to him, but the mark of a Bearer isn’t as unusual in Valisthea as I initially thought.
Valisthea’s reliance on the magical work of Bearers speaks to its greater reliance on magic in general. While the main scenario will drive Clive’s story forward, localization director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox says the world of FFXVI isn’t all politics, intrigue, and Clive’s story all the time, and CBUIII worked hard to inject minor, everyday problems into the world. Those problems speak to something larger happening in Valisthea and the driving force behind the game: the depletion of Mothercrystals.
FFXVI director Hiroshi Takai says these massive crystals are akin to oil fields in our world, describing that nations in Valisthea fight for control of them much in the way our societies have fought entire wars over oil.
Koji says if you ask, “How do they do that in Valisthea?” the answer is likely magic powered by the Mothercrystals.
“Why do we need to find a way to make fire hot when we can just use a fire crystal and make the fire hotter? You don’t need to invent bows and arrows in a world where you have magical projectiles that can be shot via a crystal,” he says. “And so because you have these people relying on the magic, they don’t learn how to do a lot of stuff, and they rely in some places too much on these crystals.
“[This reliance] becomes one of those centerpieces in the narrative: what happens when the magic starts to run out? How are we going to pour our water? How are we going to dry our laundry? And instead of figuring out ways to light their cigarettes without a crystal, the first thing they think of is, ‘Well, we need to go and invade this country and get their crystal because that one is still working.’”
Creative director Kazutoyo Maehiro says FFXVI positions magic in this way to explain its basis in a way Final Fantasy games haven’t done in previous releases.
“In the Final Fantasy series, magic is just something that you see in all the games, and it’s never really explained why it’s there,” Maehiro says. “It’s just always there. It’s always been that staple for the series. People use it [and] it’s an everyday thing. Everyone can use it. But we think in past Final Fantasies, it hasn’t really been explained why people have this magic. Why can they use it? Yeah, there’s an MP bar, but what is that empty bar? What happens to the person that’s casting it when they use magic?
“We wanted to introduce those themes in this story that’s focused around the Mothercrystals. And it’s the same thing with the [crystals of Final Fantasy]. What is a Mothercrystal? What are these crystals that people are using to cast these spells? Why is it an everyday thing for them? Let’s explore their everyday lives with this magic. How does that affect their lives? Bringing this concept of magic and making it an actual part of the narrative was something we wanted to do.”
While magic will, from a gameplay perspective, primarily serve as a way to damage enemies, it’s interesting to hear how much thought CBUIII put into its place in Valisthea, and I’m excited to learn more about its role in Clive’s story.
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