Final Fantasy 16 review roundup: 'A bold new benchmark for the series'

Final Fantasy 16
(Image credit: Square Enix)

Final Fantasy 16 is almost here... well, not for us. But you know, for PlayStation 5 owners it's almost here. We're going to have to wait a little bit longer for the latest entry in Square Enix's long-running RPG to grace our beloved PC setups, unfortunately. How long, you ask? I dunno. I'm not even sure director Naoki Yoshida knows. First, we weren't getting a PC port at all—please buy a PS5 wink-wink nudge-nudge—now the answer seems to be that we're definitely not getting it as soon as console exclusivity lifts, but it's happening at some point. 

Perhaps one of the benefits of missing out for an undetermined amount of time is being privy to all the reviews and initial reception far in advance. Am I coping? A little, but the reviews are in from a ton of sites and while general critiques are aligning across sites, there seems to be quite the score spread. There's a bit of a mixed response to its Game of Thrones-esque story and the side quests haven't quite hit with everyone. It definitely errs on the higher end of the scale though, and with Final Fantasy 16 currently sitting at a very impressive score of 88 on Metacritic, here's what some of our rivals have to say about it.

"A smart combat system straining under the weight of a characterful but ponderous pseudo-medieval soap opera"

Eurogamer: 3/5

We're kicking off with Edwin Evans-Thirlwell's review for Eurogamer, coming in the middle of the pack score-wise. He had high praise for the game's boss battles and Devil May Cry-style action combat, but lamented its excessive worldbuilding and sidequests. The lore library that tucks away all manner of information was criticised, too. "It's all grandiose rather than helpful and thankfully, you can mostly ignore it. The same can't quite be said of all those sidequests, which confer useful items, crafting materials and XP, and besides which, this is an RPG - sidequests are supposed to be the secret main attraction, right?"

"With 16, it feels like Final Fantasy is focused again"

Push Square: 9/10 Robert Ramsey

Push Square's Robert Ramsey felt far more positively about Final Fantasy 16's narrative. "Its character-driven story is grand and intoxicating, its fantastical world-building is brilliant, and it's fit to burst with glorious battles." He agreed that the side quests left something to be desired however, with particular early ones being "mind-numbingly dull" and calling out the quality difference between the main story and side quests.

"At its best, Final Fantasy 16 is a jaw-dropping epic of rarely seen proportions," Ramsey concluded. "It's pretty much the pinnacle of cinematic spectacle in modern games, and its often gripping, emotional story is only matched by its fantastic combat system. While its overall quality does dip outside of the main plot, this is still a must-play action RPG, and the best single-player Final Fantasy in over a decade."

"Final Fantasy 16 will very likely be looked back upon as a turning point for mainline Final Fantasy games"

IGN: 9/10

IGN's Mitchell Saltzman was another to sing Final Fantasy 16's praises. Another one to call out the early side quests as tedious, Saltzman also called the RPG side of things "a little underdeveloped," but noted that the action elements were "all top notch." The Active Time Lore feature was also a huge selling point for Saltzman, who appreciated having access to all of the game's terminology and history readily available at the touch of a button, even during cutscenes.

"The Active Time Lore feature is incredible, and should be standard for all story-driven games going forward, and while the combat may not live up to the sky high standards as some of the best games in the character action genre, among other action RPGs, it’s near the top of the heap," he wrote. "Pair all of that with one of the best soundtracks of the year, incredible performances from top to bottom, and drop dead gorgeous visuals, and you’ve got a game worthy of an orchestral Final Fantasy victory fanfare."

"Final Fantasy 16 is a bold new benchmark for the series that puts emotional complexity and courageous world building at the forefront"

Benedikta sprouting Garuda's wings.

(Image credit: Square Enix)

TheGamer: 9/10

Similar to Push Square and IGN, Jade King was similarly a huge fan of Final Fantasy 16. She echoed previous praise for the game's combat, story and "spectacular" boss battles, but lamented the lack of opportunity to explore the world of Valisthea. "Unfortunately, many of the larger cities featured in cutscenes and larger battles aren’t fully explorable," she wrote. "Instead, you’ll walk through them as part of mostly linear missions that involve little more than dozens of battles and the occasional cutscene."

While King calls it a "standout package," she adds: "This pilgrimage towards greatness is marred by a few stumbling blocks, many of which see Final Fantasy 16 awkwardly get in its own way as it desperately tries to set up parts of the narrative or flesh out its combat system to a degree where it extends beyond mashing the same button while constantly recycling a reliable trio of different abilities. Such faults are made doubly awkward when the opening is otherwise fantastic."

"If every part of 16 was as good as its boss fights, this would be one of the greatest games of all time"

Polygon: Unscored

Gita Jackson's critiques aren't far off Eurogamer's. She found the boss fights and "excellent action" to be stellar, calling it "a fast-paced action game that begs to be played over and over again." However, she felt its story left something to be desired, calling out its poorly-executed commentary on slavery. 

"Worst of all, the plot is diametrically opposed to the gameplay: wooden where the gameplay is vibrant, rote where the gameplay is inventive," she wrote. "During some cutscenes I found myself falling asleep, the characters’ lines just sliding off my brain like water off a duck’s back. This isn’t to denigrate the voice actors, who are all doing their best with some very tired material. Ben Starr’s performance as Clive is a particular standout, as is Ralph Inseon of Game of Thrones fame. It’s just that I have seen this exact story before, almost beat for beat—not just in novels but in movies, songs, video games, and even other Final Fantasy games."

"Not only does Final Fantasy 16 bring new ideas to the series, then, it implements them with plenty of polish in a way that makes sense in the world built"

GamesRadar+: 4.5/5

Our sister site GamesRadar is feeling pretty damn positive about Final Fantasy 16, too. Iain Harris calls it the most approachable Final Fantasy to date, writing "The design decision to make Final Fantasy 16 an action-RPG will likely open the door to those with a passing interest in the series. However, accessories which can be equipped throughout ensure that every player will have the opportunity to feel eikonic."

Harris did call out some visuals that obfuscate the screen, breaking up the flow of combat and making it difficult to continue the fight while some of the grander effects played out. Overall he praised the game for taking the series in a new direction, though. "In ditching turn-based combat for combo-heavy melees, Final Fantasy 16 recaptures the spirit of reinvention that the series lends itself to, he wrote. "This new approach to action coalesces with a world you'll want to explore, and an endearing story which is powerfully executed by its voice cast. Overall, Final Fantasy 16 is an experience that stands alongside the series' greats."

"Final Fantasy 16 delivers when it comes to spectacular action, but dated design and shallow RPG systems drag down a promising blockbuster"

DigitalTrends: 3/5

Giovanni Colantonio wasn't quite as sold as some of the more positive reviews. He wrote that the RPG "has a dull approach to storytelling, with the bulk of its worldbuilding done through long conversations with dead-eyed NPCs," and particularly called out its sidequests as "uncharacteristically weak for a team that's responsible for the beloved Final Fantasy 14."

Despite criticising its "uneven story," Colantonio was another who had plenty of good to say about Final Fantasy 16's "extraordinary" boss battles. "Throughout the story, Clive awakens his own inner demon and goes toe-to-toe with kaiju-sized monsters in jaw-dropping cinematic battles. These fights make up all of Final Fantasy 16's best and most varied moments," he wrote.

Similar to Eurogamer, Colantonio wishes it had been more akin to an action game in its playtime. "Each battle tells its own unique saga through spectacular action, showing that the creative team has a true gift for visual storytelling. Were this a focused 10-hour action game that mostly built up to that handful of fights, it would be one of the series’ crowning achievements. But there’s 40 more hours of game around that… and it isn’t nearly as gripping."

Mollie Taylor
Features Producer

Mollie spent her early childhood deeply invested in games like Killer Instinct, Toontown and Audition Online, which continue to form the pillars of her personality today. She joined PC Gamer in 2020 as a news writer and now lends her expertise to write a wealth of features, guides and reviews with a dash of chaos. She can often be found causing mischief in Final Fantasy 14, using those experiences to write neat things about her favourite MMO. When she's not staring at her bunny girl she can be found sweating out rhythm games, pretending to be good at fighting games or spending far too much money at her local arcade.