Final Fantasy 16's Clive and Cid actors discuss the importance of in-person chemistry when working on massive story-driven RPGs

Final Fantasy 16
(Image credit: Square Enix)

The build up to Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth has sparked some interesting conversations around voice acting and scene-setting in RPGs. In what will surely be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) PS5 releases of the year, Square Enix is once more balancing new and nostalgia, catering to a modern audience of fast-firing role-playing game enthusiasts alongside retro gamers who long for the heady polygonal days of last millennium. 

Our Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth review suggests Square Enix has made a pretty good job of it – but whether this is the first time you're guiding Cloud and co. around the Grasslands and beyond; or whether you're a 27-year PSOne veteran, one thing is more important than visual nuance and powerful technology: storytelling. Narrative is the bedrock of the abiding Final Fantasy series, after all, and in today's market a successful story is driven by its voice acting. With Ben Starr and Ralph Ineson leading the charge in Final Fantasy 16 as Clive and Cid, the talent in last year's sprawling fantasy role-player was never in doubt. But their chemistry might not have been the same had they not been performing in the same room. 

"I have to shout out to Ralph, obviously," Starr tells GamesRadar+. "I felt like when I first started the game I was perhaps a little out of my depth. Then we did the sessions together, where it's like: 'Oh, there's another human here, I know what I'm doing', and that was great, being there together. Ralph turned up and was so fucking good, and I was like, oh shit, I need to be as good as him."

Real-People Games

Final Fantasy 16 protagonist Clive conjures up a magic fireball

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Starr hails the entire process of acting for video games, echoing the sentiments of Final Fantasy figurehead (and producer on FF16 specifically) Yoshi-P, saying a game like Final Fantasy 16 is the equivalent of four full seasons of television, in terms of its size and scope. By filling the shoes of Clive for dozens of hours, charting his in-game journey from his teenage years through to his 30s, Starr says the range and demands of getting into this space are nothing to be sniffed at. "I would recommend it to any actor," he says, "if you want to know a bit about yourself, get into a booth or get into a mo-cap studio and do some practical video games because it's really hard."

Starr says that he put so much of himself into Clive's character, and as a result can still vividly remember where he was when recording specific lines, or when recording particular scenes. Ineson underscores the inherent humanistic value of recording shoulder-to-shoulder with his co-star, suggesting their relationship on and off record benefited from being in the same room at the same time. 

"The good thing about [Final Fantasy 16] was that for the first time in as long as I can remember, certainly in my time working in games, we were put together," says Ineson. "We had two actors working together in a session, which might not seem like much, but usually you're working against nothing. You're on your own delivering lines. Obviously, it brings everything to life if you've got something, and someone, to work off of. Ben and I got together, we got on very well, and we fired off one another as performers. I think that elevated our relationship, the character's relationship in-game, and the game itself."

Final Fantasy 16

(Image credit: Square Enix)

"I only managed to produce the level of performance that I did in Final Fantasy 16 because I was guided by Ben... he loves the series, he knows it, and that's why he's so good at what he does."

Ralph Ineson, Cid actor

With that, Ineson expresses pride in working alongside Starr, noting his passion for games and the overarching Final Fantasy series as a whole shines through in everything he does – making him the ideal person to play such a central role in such an epic RPG. Ineson even believes that the main reason he was able to deliver such a convincing performance as Cid was down to Ben's in-person presence and infectious enthusiasm for his work. 

Ineson says: "I only managed to produce the level of performance that I did in Final Fantasy 16 because I was guided by Ben. We've been together for a while now, all over the world promoting the game – he loves it, he knows it, and that's why he's so good at what he does."

Shortly after Starr won Best Actor at last year's Golden Joystick Awards, Ineson wrote a series of tweets again praising his colleague and the circumstances during which they brought the characters of Clive and Cid to life. Ineson spoke about the lengths Ubisoft went to when bringing its cast together for 2013's Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag – "Ubisoft invested in flying me, Mark Bonnar and lots of other actors to Montreal to rehearse like a theatre company then perform in full performance capture suits, it was brilliant" – before saying a decade on and he feels lucky to be in the sound booth with one other person. 

In the case of Final Fantasy 16, that's exactly what happened – and I don't think it's unfair to say the game, its storytelling, and our enjoyment of it hugely benefited as a result. Ineson adds: "Final Fantasy 16 was one of the few video game acting jobs I've done where we had the chance to be in the booth together as actors, and the chemistry really helped. I hope the games industry does more of this, it's much more fun." And I, for one, hope so too.

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Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.