As a piece of epic fantasy, I anticipated Closing Fantasy XVI to dazzle me visually—particularly on my costly PlayStation 5. However whereas choose scenes do delight visually, they’re sadly rare. For no matter cause, about midway by means of Sq. Enix’s newest mega-budget RPG the sport decides that it’s principally going to drown you in drab, overcast skies, the quantity of which solely enhance because the story goes on. Thematically acceptable? Maybe, however as a substitute of inspiring narrative dread, the gloom merely makes for an excessively bland, one-note visible expertise that wears on the senses, particularly after a pair dozen hours.
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Closing Fantasy XVI is notable for taking over a darker, extra “mature” theme in its storytelling and artwork design. Whereas the sequence has by no means been shy about overlaying darkish themes, FFXVI chooses to go along with storytelling and aesthetic types extra befitting of Recreation of Thrones and related (normally western) works of fantasy. Too usually, sadly, that leaves the sport trying wan and dreary. That’s unlucky, as a result of the map design is in any other case fairly beautiful.
I’m going to get into some minor spoilers for Closing Fantasy XVI in addition to the unique Closing Fantasy VII and Closing Fantasy X. You’ve been warned.
These birds usually are not thrilled with the climate round right here.Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Kotaku
Seashore climate this ain’t
Not like its controversial predecessor, FFXVI made the (good) choice to forgo an open world in favor of linear-yet-sprawling, interconnected, thematic environments with devoted setpieces. At first look, the primary few environments, consisting principally of darkish citadel corridors and woods, aren’t terribly visually spectacular. However the first journey to Martha’s Relaxation is a breath of contemporary air with shiny blue skies, lush inexperienced vegetation, and distant ruins and mountains. After I first arrived, I felt a way of openness akin to stepping outdoors of Closing Fantasy VII’s Midgar for the primary time. I hoped that was an indication of what was to return, a gradual unfurling of visible splendor and beautiful colours. However nope!
Take pleasure in it whereas it lasts.Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Kotaku
Because the story progresses, occasions within the area of Rosaria take a flip for the more severe as villages are attacked by the Black Shields, roaming dying squads out to take away “impurities” from the land. That is when the area falls right into a endless state of overcast with a facet of drab. And whereas certain, thematically it is sensible to go for a moodier, darker palette that displays the tragedy that befalls the area’s populace, this specific everlasting grey therapy makes for a bland, tiring exploration and searching floor.
It’s not that I’m anti-gloom; Demise Stranding pulls off moody vibes with an evocative eeriness that provides that sport a memorable ambiance all its personal. So I’m undecided if it’s a technical problem or a creative one, however no matter’s happening in FFXVI’s dingy landscapes doesn’t work, and I’m not satisfied the.fixed dreariness is really essential to convey the sport’s somber themes. And in contrast to Kojima’s sport, sadly, FFXVI can’t work out the right way to make that aesthetic visually interesting.
It stayed overcast by means of Martha’s Relaxation.Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Kotaku
The sport pulls this “the whole lot sucks now” trick a second time. Whereas its visuals get extra energetic when you arrive on the desert areas in Dhalmekia, that’s short-lived. At a sure level within the story, the cosmic big-bad Ultima casts your complete world right into a state of—you guessed it—cloudy and overcast, and from that time on, your complete world principally sucks to have a look at.
Darkish themes and visible splendor needn’t be mutually unique
Closing Fantasy’s narratives have by no means shied away from calamities and different darkish themes; little or no in FFXVI is arguably any “darker” or “mature” than earlier Closing Fantasy video games. The distinction, it appears, is that FFXVI doubles down on the drudgery and distress all over to its colour palette, and the sport is poorer for it. Different Closing Fantasy video games have embraced wider colour palettes, reveling in the advantages of being set in otherworldly fantasy realms whereas proving that darkish themes and wealthy colour palettes aren’t mutually unique. Think about Yuna’s “sending” dance, after numerous individuals are murdered by Sin in Closing Fantasy X:
Sq. Enix / Shirrako
FFX’s sending scene not solely takes place throughout a lush sundown, however the blue flame of the torches and the various hues of the spirits of the fallen rising out of the ocean creates a visible spectacle that makes for a memorable scene, one which feels prefer it’s set in a fantasy world. Whereas Closing Fantasy XVI feels prefer it’s set in Seattle or one thing.
It’s an ongoing downside that spoils side-quests as properly. The gloom of everlasting overcast skies would possibly’ve been palatable had they been tied to particular narrative beats. However as a substitute, the fixed grayness overshadows the whole lot. It’s particularly painful provided that monster hunts truly activity you with scouting out particular places as a substitute of simply beelining to a ping on the map. Sure, in concept I wish to spend time traversing Closing Fantasy XVI’s world, however when it’s continually grey and monotone, the entire expertise feels miserably the identical.
As soon as we get into into Dhalmekia it’s nonetheless uh, nonetheless overcast.Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Kotaku
Concern the large scary grey factor within the sky
Closing Fantasy XVI disappoints visually but once more in its remaining act, when the antagonist has sealed himself in an enormous crystal that hangs ominously within the sky. However the crystal is usually only a colorless, featureless object. At first it’s form of spooky, however that impact barely lasts. Within the sport’s hub, an NPC usually repeats a line about feeling referred to as to it, however that’s by no means mirrored within the visible storytelling, because the crystal simply kind of fades into the sky’s bland grayness. Evaluate that to Closing Fantasy VII’s related late-act backdrop of the daring, purple meteor hanging within the distance. Although hardly visually spectacular by trendy requirements, it’s placing nonetheless.
Sq. Enix / Tombrunnerh9
And nothing happening in FFXVI’s story is any darker than the occasions of FFVII or FFX, for that matter. FFX is rife with mass dying and spiritual persecution. FFVII sees an NPC throw himself off a cliff as a result of he’s satisfied he’ll by no means be a very good father. FFXVI can’t lay declare to completely providing “tough grownup themes,” so the ocean of endlessly bland, grey skies and in any other case dismal areas doesn’t actually translate to a way of daring, distinctive distress distinctive amongst Closing Fantasy video games. At greatest, the sport’s visible look is simply generic medieval fantasy. And that’s a disgrace.
UFOs make themselves extra alluring.Screenshot: Sq. Enix / Kotaku
It actually doesn’t assist that a lot else in Closing Fantasy XVI is simply visually disappointing in different areas. It’s not like there’s a lot attraction or spectacle piercing the boring environments. The ruins left behind by the Fallen (a precursor civilization whose artifacts are strewn in regards to the world) are at all times the identical pale grey colour interrupted solely briefly by flashes of blue mild. The Eikon fights provide a pleasant reprieve of splashy particle results, however these additionally diminish in frequency as the sport goes on. And whereas it’s good to have the ability to stroll round cities once more (one thing FFXV and FFXIII actually dropped the ball with), it’s onerous to understand the map design’s extra alluring points when it’s all blanketed in that limitless mire.
It simply wears on you
A few of the sport’s environmental issues, I feel, may’ve been solved by a easy day and evening cycle. Such a dynamic would possibly’ve added a mild quantity of liveness to the linear (although generously wandering) maps. That’d be a begin, at the very least.
However in selecting to freeze the state of the world in place after key narrative moments, and the drudgery bred by the world’s depressing lack of colour, I discover Closing Fantasy XVI miserable to have a look at in a approach that fails to stir have an effect on. It barely even conjures up moody dread; as a substitute it’s merely boring. The exhaustively drab and dismal environments have performed a big position in my choice to desert my quest proper earlier than the finale, with little intention of going again to complete it. Even when banishing the large unhealthy from “the Realm” have been to immediately brighten the skies, it’d be too little, too late for this participant.