Final Fantasy XVI is the next entry in the long-running series, and we have been graced with a prologue demo before the full release on June 22, 2023. This demo covers two hours of content, allowing us to see some of the world of Valisthea as well as a taste of the combat system. Read further to see our Final Fantasy XVI Demo Impressions.
The demo has a limited scope. It contains the first sections of the full release and an additional ‘Eikonic Challenge’ Mode. These two parts give you a taste of the story and the battle system respectively.
The main course of this demo is the prologue of the main game. This is the genuine article on display; the actual beginning of the full game is right here, feature complete. You get the start of the story, a glimpse at early-game combat, and a feel for some of the structure.
The ‘Eikonic Challenge’ Mode included is just here to give players a more in-depth taste of the combat. There is a new story chunk here, but Clive’s combat abilities do not indicate what he can do during this section in the full game. In fact, this mode appears to be a press demo that some lucky people got to play months ago.
Generally speaking, I truly adore what I experienced! The gameplay was fun, the story seemed promising, and everything else was varying levels of stylish or polished as well! Just about everything was well-paced and finely crafted.
The combat. It’s engaging and fun! It’s very clearly inspired by Devil May Cry but with a few RPG elements sprinkled in. The story chunks themselves appear to be structured like action game stages. This has been confirmed, as I touch upon this in Final Weapon’s Final Fantasy XVI Difficulty Guide.
The main things that scream DMC to me are how you swap ability sets and how you juggle enemies. The juggling is very different from something like Kingdom Hearts due to the completely different feel of the physics and flow. Also, Clive’s Lunge ability is just a stinger! The Deadly Embrace ability is also like Nero’s snatching. It’s a very satisfying ability to use. Some of Titan’s abilities are reminiscent of some KH3 keyblade abilities. The grading system using stars also screams FFXIII to me.
I do want to mention things that separate Final Fantasy XVI’s combat from DMC or KH. Your damage given and taken is influenced by your gear, so there are RPG elements at play in the combat. Also, the cycling of Eikon abilities, while having similarities to devil arms, gives me a different feel. The order in which you load your Eikons is very important. You have to kind of plan out combos or remember how many button presses it takes to equip the Eikon you want, as you can’t cycle your Eikons in reverse order. Luckily that will only take a couple of taps. What I mean about planning out combos is that you can formulate effective combos and then order your Eikons with intent.
The default ordering in the demo has some merit to it. Phoenix’s abilities can be used to close the distance between you and your foe, launch them, swap to Garuda, keep them in the air, foot stop to gain more air, snatch them back to you, and then pop off a Titan ability to slam your foe to the ground when you run out options to keep you in the air. I have some great hopes about other Eikon abilities and the creativity that can be exercised to enact some truly awesome combos.
Start of the Story
The start of Final Fantasy XVI is playable in this demo. Save data will carry over to the full game to boot! To kick things off, the player is treated to some set piece-y Eikon clashes, a few boss fights, a town to check out, a swamp to explore, and lots of lore and political intrigue. A lot of time is spent on the setup, and in all honesty, that’s what most of the demo is here. However, this carries hope for the full release of the game. Even the content that some may consider trite or bog-standard is well-made. The gameplay lacks Clive’s later abilities in the story section of the demo, but even Clive’s base kit is enjoyable enough. I won’t spoil anything, but the twist at the end of the prologue shows immense promise for the story and is quite emotional.
Music, Voice Acting, Graphics, and More
So the combat and the story already seem up to snuff; what about everything else? Well, the quality sure doesn’t stop at the story and gameplay. Everything else is great and even accentuates the story and combat. What makes a cutscene even better? Emotional music and heartfelt performances. Yes, the music and voice work is top-notch. The music even highlights the bombastic and stylish gameplay. From epic Eikonic clashes to the moment-to-moment shredding of your foes, you will be bathed in pure ecstasy from the masterclass soundtrack.
I also would like to spotlight the UI. Good lord, it is so clean. Tying controller haptics and bass-heavy sound effects to it was genius. It feels so nice to use. Every RPG on PS5 should have haptic vibrations, as far as I’m concerned now.
Now, what is an FF without some stellar graphics? Yep. Final Fantasy XVI sure delivers. An amazing spectacle, stylish action with ample effects and gorgeous artwork. The main sticking point for some could be the style of the characters. Even though this game is certainly realistic, Final Fantasy games always try to find a balance between realism and the anime art styles they have. Whether this balancing act was successful or not will depend on the beholder.
Concerns? (Final Fantasy XVI Demo Impressions)
While I am quite enthusiastic about this game and immensely enjoyed what I played, it is admittedly standard ‘Final Fantasy Beginning’ fare. It is certainly a strong start to the game, but it is always a concern whether the rest of the game can deliver on these expectations. My expectations are quite high after playing the demo, but these expectations are based on the pedigree of the team and how solid the prologue is.
Performance is a concern of mine. I detail some of my findings in this guide here. There is a chance that this could be improved in the game, but there’s also a chance that it isn’t. The performance on display isn’t horrible, mind you, but with all of this talk about not needing a day-one patch, I sure hope there isn’t some high level of hubris preventing a performance patch.
I also hope that the full game has bindable controls, a concern I raised in this guide here. I don’t hate the default controls, but I am getting sick of games not letting players have full control of their, well, controls. I can forgive it for less complex games, but this is beyond infuriating for me for action games. I have some very specific preferences, as in I literally just want the dodge button and lock-on buttons swapped, but none of the available control schemes have this minuscule change.
Closing the Prologue Chapter of this Epic Tale
The demo for Final Fantasy XVI is indeed very promising. I’d give it a 4.5/5, at least. I do have some qualms and concerns, but depending on where the gameplay and story lead in the complete game, these can be quashed. Even disregarding some personal taste, the teams behind this game have obviously made an amazing product and a fine new entry in the series.
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