Final Fantasy XVI Key

Final Fantasy XVI Key

This is a spoiler-free FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo impressions piece, but there will be images included that will show bits of non-major spoilers of the demo without context.

Release Date: June 22, 2023
Platform(s): Timed PlayStation 5 Exclusive
Publisher: SQUARE ENIX
ESRB Rating: M (“Mature 17+”)

You can download the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo here. You can also see my thoughts on the FINAL FANTASY XVI Pre-Launch Celebration here.

The thought that kept going through my mind as I played the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo and subsequently unlocked Eikonic Challenge was not the graphics, was not the gameplay, nor was it the unfolding story. Instead, it was the sheer accessibility of the gameplay to everyone, whether they were veterans of the Lands Between from ELDEN RING or are completely new to this type of real time attack gameplay.

“These simple and immediately accessible ring accessories make it so that even new players can enjoy FINAL FANTASY XVI and feel like a complete badass while playing by dodging and attacking with ease, even if they cannot read enemy attacks and respond quickly.”

This complete accessibility was possible thanks to four rings included from the start of the demo to equip: Ring of Timely Focus, Ring of Timely Evasion, Ring of Timely Strikes, and Ring of Timely Healing. If you equip the Ring of Timely Focus, time slows down before an evadable enemy attack hits, and gives you a decent amount of time to hit R1 to dodge the hit. If that proves too hard to do, then you can equip the Ring of Timely Evasion, which will automatically dodge every evadable hit. If you have issues with combo timing, you can equip the Ring of Timely Strikes and do complex ability combinations just by pressing Square. Finally, the Ring of Timely Healing makes it so that you will automatically use potions when your health is low instead of having to fumble for the D-pad.

The various Rings that you can equip from the beginning of the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo really help make the demo accessible to everyone and their ability to play this type of video games. (Photo by author).

These Rings were automatically equipped for the Eikonic Challenge, and I purposefully left them on so I could experience the gameplay with them. Playing with them on felt like I could enjoy the game and not worry about having to memorize attack patterns and spin the camera around constantly to see who or what was gearing up for an attack behind me. It was a stark contrast to me playing the demo without them, where I had to chain up attacks and combos while reading attacks and dodging/parrying accordingly.

These simple and immediately accessible ring accessories make it so that even new players can enjoy FINAL FANTASY XVI and feel like a complete badass while playing by dodging and attacking with ease, even if they cannot read enemy attacks and respond quickly. It also prevents FINAL FANTASY XVI from becoming SQUARE ENIX’s attempt to make a FromSoftware-style punishment game where you have to ‘git gud’ to see everything that the world has to offer. I have friends who have expressed some concern about not being good enough to play FINAL FANTASY XVI, and these simple items make it so that anyone can play. I cannot express just how much of a game changer this is, and I am so happy that SQUARE ENIX put them into the demo and the full game.

Aside from the accessibility factor, the Grand Duchy of Rosaria that the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo takes place in is a beautiful place to be. The swamps shimmer with dirty water, the grass bends and moves, and even the cities and castles are delightful to look at. Even in this tiny sliver of the overall game, Valisthea feels like a truly lived-in world. The character models are no slouch either. I never expected to see all the pores in Clive and his father’s face or all of the individual floating feathers on a chocobo’s breast, but there they are in evident glory. SQUARE ENIX clearly is pushing the power of the PlayStation 5 to be even better than the graphics in 2001’s FINAL FANTASY: The Spirits Within, and I think they are succeeding here. The only downside to these amazing graphics is that more than once, I do not realize when a cutscene has ended and gameplay has resumed, and so Clive stands there for a moment or two before it clicks in my head.

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The combat itself, even outside of the accessibility factor, is a lot of fun and reminds me a lot of BABLYON’S FALL (the other SQUARE ENIX/PlatinumGames collaboration). The Eikonic Challenge encourages you to mix up and flow between not just your Square sword attack and Triangle magic cast abilities, but to also use the L2 trigger to switch between attuned Eikons and R2 + Square/Triangle to use the Eikon Abilities. I found myself often opening up a group AOE (area of attack) of the Pheonix Eikon’s Scarlet Cyclone and then moving the wheel to Garuda and using her Gouge Eikon Ability to do further damage. Once I had staggered the enemy, I would use Titan’s Windup (which has a lengthy timer to use) to do massive damage before pairing it with his Upheaval. All of the Eikons are different and play differently, and they fit in well with the basic sword and magic attacks to do damage. While it does sound like a lot at first, the combat was surprisingly intuitive to learn and utilize fully — especially if you’re using the aforementioned Rings to assist your gameplay.

FINAL FANTASY XVI | Eikon Abilities in Combat.
This screenshot shows Garuda’s Eikon Abilities on display, and the absolutely followable chaos that erupts from it. (Photo by author).

On top of the combat, there are ‘Cinematic Strike” and “Cinematic Evasion” mechanics. During certain moments of a major fight, a mini-cutscene plays out and a quick time event with a fairly generous timer appears on the screen to require you to either hit the Square or R1 button to execute an epic attack or epic dodge on the enemy. These are really cool moments, and I am glad that SQUARE ENIX didn’t make them too hard to pull of for even beginners.

FINAL FANTASY XVI | Cinematic Attack
The Cinematic Attacks are too cool to miss. (Photo by author).

Finally, there is the gear and ability level up. While the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo did not dwell overlong on either of these, they were still interesting. You can spend Ability Points to unlock new skills and battle enhancements for your character, and the gear can change up the gameplay, including on how much damage various Eikon Abilities can do. It was fun to poke around and experiment with, though I will be reserving judgment until I see how it is implemented in the full game.

“If the overall FINAL FANTASY XVI game is as much fun and as enjoyable as this demo was, then I will have a new favorite in the running for top FINAL FANTASY title.”

While I will not go into the story itself, because I do not want to spoil it for anyone reading this, I will say that the game clearly deserves it’s ESRB ‘M’ rating. There is violence, there is definitely bloodshed, and there is clearly human sexuality on display (though nothing explicit). SQUARE ENIX does not shy away from the adult content in the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo — though to be fair, the series never really has since what happened in FINAL FANTASY VI with Doma Castle. The characters introduced in the demo gameplay also immediately come off as three-dimensional characters who I hope will maintain that complexity throughout the overall game. SQUARE ENIX does a great job not just TELLING the story with dialogue but SHOWING the story through the sometimes-subtle expressions on the various character’s faces. It is also a credit to the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo that I did not need to read a screenplay, watch a full-length movie, play a no-longer accessible demo, and then watch a short anime series in order to be able to fully dive into this game’s story like I had to do for FINAL FANTASY XV — and I say that as a person who absolutely LOVES that game and Noctus’ story.

FINAL FANTASY XVI | Graphics of a cup
“Is it live or is it Memorex PlayStation 5?”. The graphics in the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo cannot be overstated on how absolutely gorgeous they are. (Photo by author).

Another feature that I loved, but will be absolutely overlooked, is the Active Time Lore. You can pause a cutscene, press the touchpad on the PlayStation 5 controller, and bring up a small menu that will give you refresher information on the characters in the cutscene, the locations, and pretty much anything else that is going on. This is something that I will be undoubtedly using during the release of FINAL FANTASY XVI whenever I am forced to put down the game for an extended period of time and I don’t quite remember everyone or everything I see. This is a feature that I really wished FINAL FANTASY XIV has, as I certainly didn’t remember a certain minor character from September 2016’s Patch 3.4 that reappeared two full expansions later and I had to actually look that character up on a wiki in order to figure out who the heck it was. (Again, no spoilers!).

You can see down to the individual pores on the characters faces, and that is something that I have not really dreamed of seeing in a FINAL FANTASY title since Aki Ross paved the way in FINAL FANTASY: The Spirits Within. (Photos by author).


A couple more minor points: I would occasionally get hung up on environmental elements while running around, and I really dislike that. I kind of wish there was more worldwide environmental collision effects — like if I bump into a chocobo, then it would rear up, or if I tap a bunch of small boxes with my foot, they would then get knocked over. Those are small somewhat unimportant touches that, while in other video games, aren’t here. I also didn’t care for how you have to hold down R2 to open heavy doors or gates or whatever beyond just pressing the X button. Even though it feels like it’s utilizing the PlayStation 5 controller’s haptic feedback, it is still a gimmick that has somehow stuck around since 2005’s God of War on the PlayStation 2. That is more my own individual taste than anything else, I will freely admit. Both of these are minor issues though, and they absolutely do not detract from the overall FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo experience. Additionally, while I did have framerate issues with the demo…it is a demo build, not the final game build, and so I am purposefully not reading too deeply into that.

I seriously cannot stop talking and thinking about how beautiful this demo is. (Photo by author).

The overall demo clocked in at around two hours for me, though you could easily do it faster if you want to push through it and the Eikonic Challenge. I wanted to see every corner of the maps that I could, and to fool around with the combat and accessibility options as much as possible during the gameplay. If the overall FINAL FANTASY XVI game is as much fun and as enjoyable as this demo was, then I will have a new favorite in the running for top FINAL FANTASY title. It will be incredibly hard for it to beat Lighting Returns: FINAL FANTASY XIII and FINAL FANTASY XI Online: The Chains of Promathia for me, though.

If you haven’t picked up the free demo, then what are you waiting for? Stop reading this and go download it now!

FINAL FANTASY XVI | End of Demo Screen.
The end of the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo…But it made me want to play it even more. (Photo by author).

Have you picked up the FINAL FANTASY XVI Demo? What do you think about it?

Let us know in the comments below!

Quentin H.
I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it.