Final Fantasy 16 ticks plenty of boxes – fluid combat, epic boss battles and an engaging story – but for every win, there’s a spectacular fail, be it the bland semi-open world devoid of much to do or the uninspired fetch quest-style side quests. It’s a game at its best when its focus is narrowed, but that doesn’t happen often enough.
- Epic boss battles
- Largely engaging storyline
- Typical Final Fantasy combat
- Semi-open world is bland
- Boring, uninspired fetch quest-style side missions
Platforms:PS5 (Exclusive for first six months)
Release date:22 June 2023
After falling in love with the Final Fantasy franchise with Final Fantasy 15 and thoroughly enjoying the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, it’s safe to say I was excited about the prospect of a totally new Final Fantasy experience to sink my teeth into.
The Final Fantasy series is beloved for its layered stories, hand-crafted worlds and, most importantly, the epic, heart-pumping grand battles. But while that’s still somewhat the case with the latest title in the series, I find myself yearning for something more. Here are my thoughts.
Storyline and campaign
- Set in a quasi-medieval continent
- Suffers from tired cliches
- 40+ hour campaign
Final Fantasy 16 aims to be grittier than the standard ‘teens trying to save the world’ affair common among FF titles, evident from the very start of the game.
The title’s prologue centres around a teenage Clive Rosfield and his brother Joshua, culminating in a battle within castle walls that sees betrayal, slaughter and the particularly heartbreaking death of an especially brave Chocobo.
The world of Valisthea is a complex one; the quasi-medieval continent is threatened by in-fighting between warring dynasties backed by their Dominants, essentially vessels for god-like creatures to channel their energy in epic-scale wars.
But, from relatively early on, you learn of a second, more ominous threat; the Blight. Threatening to destroy the entire continent by destroying all fauna and flora it touches, it’s down to Clive Rosfield, his dominant and a growing roster of allies to save the world and its inhabitants.
It’s supposed to be more grounded than those that came before it, and while the prologue and other particularly memorable parts of the game helped sell this well, vast swathes of the game fall back onto that growingly tired cliche of a group of people able to take on anything and survive by simply believing they could.
That’d be fine if it were a relatively short campaign, but over the course of 40+ hours until the credits, the notion of ‘teamwork can make the impossible possible’ became a little tiresome.
That’s not to say the story isn’t entertaining; it has all the typical flare and plot twists of a Final Fantasy title, complete with unforeseen betrayals and a story that is hard to predict until you’re practically at the end of the game.
It is a story of incredible high peaks and astonishingly bleak lows; when it’s good, it’s amazingly captivating and exciting, but when it’s bad, it can be a challenge to power through – especially with no ability to skip most cinematic cutscenes, some of which go on for more than 10 minutes. Classic Final Fantasy, amirite?
- Semi open-world feels lifeless
- Little incentive for exploration
- NPCs aren’t very reactive
Final Fantasy 16 is designed in a similar semi-open world fashion to Final Fantasy 7 rather than the fully open Final Fantasy 15, which was a bit of a disappointment considering how vibrant and lived-in the kingdom of Eos felt. By comparison, Final Fantasy 16’s Valisthea feels almost barren – and that’s not by design.
The semi-open segments of the world are at least varied in terms of their design and the flora and fauna that can be found, but it doesn’t really encourage off-the-beaten-track exploration. There’s very little in the way of secrets to find, interesting side quests to stumble upon or even the incredible in-world boss battles that were present in Final Fantasy 15.
You do, at around the midpoint of the game, begin to discover particularly strong beasts in the open world but these pale in comparison to the ‘main’ boss battles in FF16, as well as those that you’d randomly come across in FF15. There’s nothing like the mountain-sized tortoise, Adamantoise, here.
Even the various settlements that you discover feel stagnant and rather uninspired. The NPCs repeat the same one or two lines of dialogue while constantly performing the same task regardless of the time of day or whether there’s a war going on just outside their walls. In an era with incredible open-world games like Elden Ring, The Witcher 3, Breath of the Wild, the open world here seems basic; something that’d probably pass in the early 2010s but certainly not in 2023.
- Challenging multi-part boss encounters
- Huge arsenal of unlockable combat abilities
- Excessive cutscenes
Final Fantasy 16 is at its best when the semi-open world aspect morphs into a more linear setting, with constant Hollywood blockbuster-level cutscenes and a charming roster of British voice performances (including a few celebrities) that helped keep me interested.
It’s also where you’ll find some of the best boss battles in the title. These are challenging multi-part battles that’ll likely take you multiple attempts to tackle, with impressively powerful counterparts that, at times, seem impossible to deal with.
But with an ever-expanding barrage of melee combat skills and Eikon abilities that let you hurl lightning bolts, scorch the earth or even freeze enemies solid, you can slowly chip away at the daunting health bar.
I wouldn’t describe general combat as particularly challenging though; there are no real skill combos for you to take advantage of, and even in the toughest boss battles, features like completely replenishing your potions between attempts can quickly change the sway of a battle.
Combat is at its best in these high-octane boss battles with incredible environments, elemental effects and explosions that’d put a Micheal Bay movie to shame. Quicktime cutscene actions mean you never quite relax during a battle, even when control is taken away from you.
My only complaint is that some of the most epic parts of these off-the-scale boss battles occur within cutscenes, which can be a little disheartening after spending 10 minutes slowly chipping away at a Dominant’s health bar.
That all said, Final Fantasy 16 is a game with an obvious formula; overcome some kind of adversity, advance on a mother crystal, battle an Eikon and gain access to new combat powers. It’s essentially the same process copied and pasted several times.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with this concept, but the repetition feels very evident here, with the only real changes in the way of differing environments and enemies you face off.
- Repetitive side quests take up bulk of game
- Special side quests offer more well-written stories
Frankly, there’s a dismal offering of side quests available in Final Fantasy 16 – some of the least inspired I’ve seen in any game in recent years.
The vast majority of these side quests have little to no impact on the story or world you live in, with most boiling down to what are essentially fetch quests. Go here, grab that thing, save that person, slaughter that creature and bring the spoils back to me. It’s the same idea over and over again, even as you progress further into the story, so much so that I completely ignored most side missions from early on in the game.
The only exception to this is special side quests, which are slightly more involved and well-written than the slew of low-quality quests that smatter the semi-open world environments. However, even they are only there to serve as a way to upgrade your equipment. Collecting rare herbs allows for creating more potent potions, while helping your depressed blacksmith result in new, powerful equipment available for smelting.
It works well as a gameplay mechanic to improve base stats and make more difficult late-game enemies a little easier to handle, but it’s not woven well into the tapestry of Final Fantasy 16’s campaign; in fact, they’re very easily missed unless you’re constantly examining your map.
Should you buy it?
You’re a fan of big boss battles: Final Fantasy 16 is at its best in its epic boss battles, some of which extend beyond the confines of the entire planet.
You like to explore open-world environments: Though the semi-open-world environments of Final Fantasy 16 are large and varied, there’s very little in the way of secrets to discover.
As a successor to the hugely popular Final Fantasy 15, Final Fantasy 16 leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Sure, the crucial elements of a Final Fantasy game are all present and accounted for – engaging boss battles full of impressive visual effects, fluid combat and an interesting storyline – but for every win, there’s a massive fail, be it the bland semi-open world devoid of much to do or the frankly uninspired never-ending list of fetch-style side quests.
Charming voice acting, a plethora of twists and turns and Hollywood-esque cut scenes helped keep me entertained through the majority of the 40-hour campaign, but once it was over, I was done. There was no urge to explore the semi-open world or even dive into the new Game+ mode. It’s very much a one-and-done affair, which hasn’t been the case for previous Final Fantasy titles I’ve played.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it, we will always alert the reader.
Completed 40-hour campaign
Sony has secured a six-month exclusivity period, at the end of which it could theoretically make an appearance on other platforms like PC and Xbox Series X|S.