Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Final Fantasy 16 Early Reactions Are Surprised By Its Darker World

To put it mildly, gamers have a had a lot of questions about "Final Fantasy 16" since its initial announcement. The game's darker aesthetic and M Rating have caused some longtime fans of the franchise to pause and wonder if this game is even for them. How could a gritty and violent installment directed by Hiroshi Takai stand alongside some of the franchise's more whimsical elements? Could it avoid the pitfalls of the try-hard "Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin?"

Now that reviewers are getting their hands on a demo for "Final Fantasy 16," it sounds like the game is falling somewhere in the middle. While many reviewers are definitely taken with the grim aesthetics and high-octane combat, it sounds like the overall experience is far from the series as we know it. As IGN's Steve Watts explained, "This new take on 'Final Fantasy' is kinetic and hard-hitting, and very little like anything we've seen in the series before. In fact, in practice it often feels less like a 'Final Fantasy' game, and more like a 'God of War.'"

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though, at least judging by some of the early reactions to the game. Well ahead of the game's June 22 release, Square Enix has provided several outlets with a demo that picks up a few hours into the game's main campaign. It should be noted that this demo does not necessarily mirror the final product, but it has given journalists a feel for the series' new direction.

Final Fantasy 16 is big and intense

Across the board, reviewers are in favor of the game's new combat system, which emphasizes real time swordplay and stringing together impressive combos of melee and magic attacks. Basically, it's pretty obvious that "Final Fantasy 16" shares a combat director with "Devil May Cry 5" in the form of Ryota Suzuki.

IGN's Matt Purslow favorably compared the game's sense of scale to "Shadow of the Colossus," noting that this "Final Fantasy 16" demo includes its own magical spin on a kaiju battle. The game charges players with challenging the all-powerful Eikons, massive summoned beasts with elemental abilities, and each one of these encounters offers an opportunity to shake up the formula. For instance, the battle against the Eikon Garuda plays out like a mix of "Monster Hunter" and "Attack on Titan," with players firing a grappling weapon at the airborne enemy. 

Reviewers have also responded positively to another new system: magic rings that each alter a specific mechanic in the game, effectively functioning as an active difficulty slider. One ring makes combos easier to pull off, while another makes the player character dodge automatically. There are five of these rings in total, each with a game-changing effect that allows players to tailor the experience to their own proficiencies.

After going hands-on with the game and learning more about its approach to combat — including a new version of Limit Break that throws players into a berserker rage — Ars Technica's Michael Higham remarked, "the playable demo has me largely convinced that this new gameplay formula is actually the right move for the franchise." However, even the reviewers who enjoyed the demo had some misgivings about the series' new direction.

Final Fantasy 16's dark tone may divide players

Overall, even though the new game apparently plays like a dream for hack-and-slash fans, the darker tone and high levels of violence ultimately make "Final Fantasy 16" stick out among its peers in the series — and not always in a good way. The game doesn't quite have the sense of whimsy or levity in the face of danger that the franchise is known for, at least in the section provided to press. For some reviewers, this makes the game a compelling evolution for the series, but others feel like it just isn't quite a "Final Fantasy" title.

TheGamer's Meg Pellico described the plot and tone as "an emotional rollercoaster" and expressed excitement at the idea of continuing the story when the game releases. On the other side of things, Ash Parrish of The Verge wrote, "While I was assured by the developers that the RPG and story elements that fans have loved about Final Fantasy for 35 years are still in FFXVI, I worry that Square Enix's attempt to appeal to everyone will end up pleasing no one." This is a fair concern, especially when considering how meme-able "Stranger of Paradise" became as soon as players got a look at its Limp Bizkit-blasting cutscenes.

Fans can decide for themselves if this game feels like it belongs to the series when "Final Fantasy 16" arrives on June 22, 2023.