Final Fantasy XVI (PlayStation 5) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 02.07.2023

Review for Final Fantasy XVI on PlayStation 5

How does one introduce Final Fantasy? A series so long running and successful it's forever used as a measure of quality on the platforms it graces. Well, it's the baby of Square Enix and this newest entry Final Fantasy XVI or 16 if roman numerals don't fly, was developed by their Creative Business Unit III team. That team is most well-known for the MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV (14) which after an initially wobbly launch has become well regarded and has been expanded multiple times. So how does a team who are mostly focussed on a multiplayer experience tackle a single player adventure game?

Final Fantasy XVI does some very cool stuff with its world building and story. Making use of its higher age rating the story delves into slave labour, society's injustices and classism. These things have not been portrayed in this way in the series before and the sometimes heavy tone can bring to mind darker fantasy titles and series but it still very much has the Final Fantasy feeling. It successfully offers a more mature story with ultimate tear-jerking ability and heartbreaking moments however, these are stitched together with little funny moments that were previously out of scope, such as brothels existing in a few scenes.

Clive's personal story is an interesting story full of tragedy and growth, he is the protagonist and he faces an uphill battle from the beginning. Most of the cast is in similar positions with several of them having their own personal struggles, however this is the most interesting cast since the original Final Fantasy XIII. This cast is hosted by an equally interesting world full of intrigue. Split into multiple Kingdoms, Valisthea has a massive variety of biomes and some truly spectacular vistas. Unfortunately, there is a lack of human variety in these realms which takes away from the realism of the world. The story writing is fantastic even for a majority of the side quests there is an interesting aspect or world building angle.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XVI on PlayStation 5

For the first time the series has taken a stab at a much more linear character action gameplay style. While XV attempted to do this too it was pulled down by a messy production and sloppy combat. This time combat design was handled by an ex-Devil May Cry staff member and the combat mechanics really benefit from that. The combat is focussed, fast paced, flashy and has a great gradual complexity slope. As the game progresses Clive's repertoire of powers and combos expands massively. This gradual ramp up of the intensity really feels great and can challenge even the most experienced players. Where things get muddy are with the enemies themselves, the variety is awesome and the animation work is stellar but some of them are extremely spongey, nothing is more deflating than an enemy whose health bar is much larger than it feels it should be. This isn't a problem for bosses.

Speaking of bosses this game has some of the most amazing boss fights in gaming. It really manages to capture the spectacle of something like the original God of War series with its giant monster battles and huge levels of destruction. The first eikon fight the player witnesses between Shiva and Titan is tremendous, the particle effects from all the magic and the ground warping from Titan's attacks is stunning to experience. The Eikon's also represent some of the best designs these monsters have ever had in the series, the texture work, detailed models and dynamic animation really bring them to life. Most of these fights make a limited use of Quick Time Events (QTEs), these moments are sparingly used to create transition points in the biggest battles and the cinematic splendour this affords the designers is quite something to behold.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XVI on PlayStation 5

During combat scenes the camera is often zoomed out offering players a nice view of the battlefield. Something that many current action games need to start doing. In fact, this game's lack of "over the shoulder" cam is excellent as it means crowd control is far more achievable and in general that aids combat with an air of control. In terms of other aspects of gameplay, it's unfortunately a slightly mixed bag. The level design is that of wide levels forgoing the open world of XV, this is excellent as an empty open world would ruin the vibe and pacing of the game. The level approach was perfect, and allows for plenty of backtracking when necessary.

Side quests are a bit of a mixed bag, sometimes they are excellent and involve a great opportunity to world build and present some fun gameplay, but there is the ever present speak to person, grab item, speak to person variety that can be a little bland. Exploration itself is grand and the areas the player can explore have little bits and pieces hidden away to find and often there is interesting set dressing in the form of NPC dialogue. The more story driven scenes often offer up some fantastically detailed areas that just sing Final Fantasy, grand castles, giant crystals and cool fortresses adorned with detail items. It really helps immerse players in the setting.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XVI on PlayStation 5

Detailed is also the way to describe the game's visual makeup. Character models, at least for the main characters, are super with loads of incidental animation work on their outfits. Faces are also a standout and can sometimes be extremely realistic, calling to mind animated feature films. It feels like the natural progression for the series presentation. Sadly, side characters see a sharp drop off of this high detail, main side characters look fine, often passing for main characters but the level below them are stiff, their clothing is very simple and their faces look flatter. The same can be said of environmental work. Most environments are fantastic looking with high levels of foliage and very detailed textures. All of which are accentuated with the lighting which casts a natural look over everything. In fact, with the exception of one area, the lighting and colour are so thematic that it really is a time to just stop and soak it all in.

Sound design-wise, as expected, the soundtrack is sublime. The orchestration of recognisable themes is fantastic. There are a couple of very good remixes of the Final Fantasy theme, one of which is used once and is quite dark that deserves a shout out for the atmosphere it gives the scene. A lot of the time the music is what cements the feelings for the area and scene the player is experiencing. Even the battle themes are awesome and really do help pump up the adrenaline. These compositions will be worth listening to from the official soundtrack. It's not only the music, the sound design in general is excellent; it all uses surround sound for depth, or Sony's 3d audio if available. All the environmental sounds are great and the NPC hustle and bustle sounds realistic for each level. The same goes for character voices. Here there are a lot of English actors with a wide variety of UK accents. This helps lend the medieval fantasy setting an air of authenticity an otherwise accent-less casting may not have managed.

There are rough edges no doubt but this is a marvel of a game that only really suffers from slightly lower quality side content, something many other games do too. The level of polish is unprecedented in this era of unfinished and buggy releases. There is a distinctly solid feel, a premium-ness that has been lacking from many titles. That said it does occasionally slow down during the most intense battles where effects fill the screen but it's almost never during active gameplay so it's ignorable.

Screenshot for Final Fantasy XVI on PlayStation 5

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

While it would be easy to look at Final Fantasy XVI from certain angles and proclaim something looks rough when looked at as a single package and a sum of its whole, this is a fantastic game. The cinematic flair, crazy action combat and extremely involved story with a nice side dish of world building make this a game worth playing. This is likely to appeal to fans of most character action games but also to those who just want another cool Final Fantasy to get lost in. Absolutely get this game.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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