I finally got time to try out the Final Fantasy XVI demo as I am awaiting the game’s final release with bated breath. I will be honest here, I am big on turn-based combat, but I also enjoy the story and characters most in my games when they are done well. Hearing about the change to action gameplay made me more hesitant about this title in particular.
However, after playing the demo, I was amazed and inspired. I went from wanting this game eventually to needing to consume every detail this game had to offer immediately. That result is directly from the demo and its presentation.
Fighting For Your Future
The Final Fantasy XVI demo begins with Clive working with a band of people going after some of the Dominants of the kingdom. Dominants are individuals who can use the power of Eikons. Eikons are the summons that the Final Fantasy series itself has to offer. After the battle breaks out and Clive barely makes it out alive, we get a flashback scene to his past growing up as a prince. His brother is the crowned prince since he is blessed by the Phoenix Eikon to be its Dominant.
There is a lot of political strategy going on in the background as Clive is more focused on the well-being of his friends and his brother. It is interesting to see the difference between the 13 years of Clive between the beginning cutscene and the first playable segment of Clive being younger. I don’t want to go too in-depth with the story sections, as even the demo ends with huge heavy-hitting revelations that let you see the Game of Thrones inspiration front and center. Honestly, a Final Fantasy system of politics hasn’t been this thorough or centered around the story since Final Fantasy Tactics or Final Fantasy XII. I am excited to see how much more depth this system brings to its overall narrative. The demo’s ending, though, demonstrates the range of the main voice actor for Clive. Major kudos to Ben Starr for his performance.
We get a taste of the combat of Final Fantasy XVI in this demo, and it is well-designed and polished as a system. You do have some of the basic four-hit combo and magic system that you can spam. However, it doesn’t do a lot of damage by themselves. You also have an ability that was gifted to you from the Phoenix. The ability is a big-fire upper slash. You don’t do a lot of damage, but with each consecutive hit, it does add up to a multiplier as long as you don’t get hit or take too much time getting another hit in. It can be hard to keep the multiplier going on targets actively trying to hit back, but you can stagger them by breaking their stagger gauge. They are then stuck for a period that will let you build up multipliers and additional damage. I would generally try to save up the fire slash for after they are about to get their stagger meter back up to full. Then it maximizes the multiplier to get the most damage you can get out of it.
The Final Fantasy XVI demo is playable via two different modes; Graphics or Performance. Graphics mode locks you at 30 FPS with huge increases in fidelity and resolution. Performance uncaps your framerate but also makes the resolution and fidelity much less intensive. I decided on Performance mode as I appreciate the added frames. While you are exploring big areas in performance mode, you can feel a bit of a dip in the overall frames per second. By the time combat starts, you usually get a consistent frame rate that makes battle feel fluid and responsive.
The backgrounds to fights and locations in the Final Fantasy XVI demo were dynamic and flowing with life and environments. This game feels alive, and that is in large part due to how well backgrounds and sets are used in the game. Even when you are running alongside linear paths, there are generally a lot of landmarks and sights to take in. In some of the areas, you will also see events play out or, in some cases, battles being fought.
While you are following your party at the beginning of the demo, there is a giant fight between Eikons. They will be in motion and cause boulders to collapse around you on the mountain. It creates a real tension in the environment, and you can’t even see the event boulders versus the ones that are just sitting there as part of the environment. They did a good job of showcasing the fidelity of the game and how scale erupts from the soul of every level you play through. At least for the first two hours, we got to play in the demo.
I hope the rest of Final Fantasy XVI is similar to how this demo showcased the game. The demo was a fantastic experience, and it was much more than I was expecting out of the game. Overall I am a lot more hyped about the game now than I was just watching the trailers. This is a demo worth trying!
Final Fantasy XVI releases June 22nd, 2023 on PlayStation 5. There’s supposedly a PC version that will be released five or six months after the PS5 launch. However, Square isn’t talking about that just yet.