Final Fantasy 16 is one of the most anticipated games of 2023 and it aims to be one of the longest-standing RPGs of this generation and setting a new benchmark for the genre. Final Fantasy 16 is set to usher in a new era for the franchise with its action heavy gameplay, and it builds upon the gameplay foundations of Final Fantasy 15 while carefully avoiding the many issues of that same game.
But how does it fare on a graphical level? What are the improvements that fans can expect with this release, and how does it utilize the power of current-gen consoles to render its dark fantasy world? These are the questions that we aim to answer with this in-depth graphical analysis of Final Fantasy 16.
Game Engine And Improvements Over Final Fantasy 15
The developer used the Luminous Engine for Final Fantasy 15 but now Final Fantasy 16 is built using proprietary tech – but details surrounding these custom tools remain scant for now.
Coming over to the presentation however, Final Fantasy 16’s visual makeup looks pretty similar to its predecessors. The switch from the Luminous Engine brings a whole host of new changes on the visual front, and most of them feel like an evolution of those foundations. Particle effects look especially impressive, and everything from the character models to the environments also boasts a consistently high level of detail.
Final Fantasy 16 isn’t an open world game like Final Fantasy 15, so it can afford to have a much higher attention on micro fidelity and make good use of cutting edge rendering techniques without having to worry about world streaming systems and memory constraints. On a surface level, we get to see abundant use of high quality assets which might be a direct result of photogrammetry based rendering. Indirect lighting is much better, and distant detail looks to be markedly higher across the board.
The game makes good use of the PS5’s added horsepower to render scenes with a scope that dwarfs that of its predecessor – as can be seen in the battle between nations at the start of the game. Of course, there are a bevy of other improvements as well – which we will be discussing in detail in further sections.
Let’s start with the character models, which have remained a highlight of the Final Fantasy games for some time now. Unsurprisingly, the character models in Final Fantasy 16 look absolutely superb with great attention to detail. The polycounts are appropriately high and are about as much as one would expect from a current-gen release.
Skin meshes also feature realistic shading and have high density which comes together to create character models that don’t look too different from real life. Hair rendering is also one of the more impressive elements of the character models, and while there are some shimmering artifacts around the edges of the hair – they feature impressive physics properties that allow them to sway appropriately with the player’s movements and the rustling of the winds.
Final Fantasy 16 also features plenty of nonhuman characters, and they all look visually impressive as well. Take, for instance, the Chocobos which have been properly rendered with dense fur on their bodies that react to the movements. In a similar vein, the Eikonic beasts also have geometrically complex rough surfaces that look really cool as well.
Final Fantasy 16 takes place in the magical world of Valisthea where a war between kingdoms is raging in full force. Valisthea is home to great fields, large castles, and all manner of towns and settlements that help make it a place that’s rich in personality and varied in scope. And all of this has been brought to life with some great use of high-quality assets for the terrain and surrounding areas. The developer seems to have utilized some sort of photogrammetry based rendering for assets like rough terrain, and it makes for some realistic vistas that are an absolute treat for the eyes.
The foliage can also be pretty dense depending on the area, and trees and grass are also rendered with great attention to detail. Blades of grass react to your movements, and barks of trees have appropriate texture shading that makes them look like an essential part of the environment. Indoor areas and settlements are also geometrically complex with tons of props littered throughout, which is where we also get to see some great use of physically based materials for cloth and metal that allow the light to be reflected in a realistic manner.
Coming over to the sky rendering, the clouds in Final Fantasy 16 don’t have the volumetric density that they should, and it seems that the developer has used some sort of static textures to populate the entire skyline since they don’t really seem to move or change over time. The resolution on the clouds also looks a bit blurry, and while the sky doesn’t look bad by any means – it definitely leaves a bit to be desired.
Over on the world streaming front, Final Fantasy 16 features both linear dungeons and sprawling outdoor areas, and the game does a good job of rendering these maps without any hiccups. Distant detail looks to be high across the board, and the level of detail swapping happens in a smooth manner without any signs of visible pop-in. Everything loads in and loads out without any hitches, and the developer seems to have made good use of the PS5’s SSD technology to power its world.
Lighting, Reflections, And Shadows
Final Fantasy 16 seems to be utilizing a global illumination implementation, and the best part is that the game retains this element of the visual presentation regardless of the graphics mode you choose to play on. Direct lighting from primary light sources does a good job of illuminating the appropriate areas and masking others, and indirect or bounce lighting from secondary sources also works reasonably well for the most part. Cutscenes seem to utilize extra cinematic lights, and they serve to add more detail and shadowing to the character models and environments.
Over on the reflections front, puddles of water also reflect the surroundings with appropriate precision, and physically based materials reflect light according to their own properties. So while you might be able to make out the reflections in shiny armor plates, rougher surfaces wouldn’t obviously reflect the surroundings with that precision or resolution.
Shadows also remain a strong aspect of the presentation, and they are pretty crisp for the most part. There are little to no shimmering artifacts to be found along the edges of shadows, and they are also cast for objects that are pretty distant from the camera. Final Fantasy 15 had an issue where shadows would only be cast for objects that are in the immediate vicinity of the camera which resulted in some visible pop-in – and we’re happy to report that Final Fantasy 16 has alleviated those criticisms.
Over on the post-processing front, we get to see some gorgeous particle effects that are rendered using a large number of alpha particles. The ethereal Mothercrystals are the primary source of energy in the land of Valisthea which is an important part of the overarching narrative, so rendering them in an effective manner is obviously paramount to nailing the appropriate feel for the game. Balls of ethereal light can be seen flying left, right, and center during combat proceedings while streaks of light follow each dash and evade from the player. These particles also emit light into the surroundings, and they make for some pretty amazing sequences like the fight between the two Eikons where you descend down a dark cave only momentarily lit by fireballs and other attacks.
In addition to this, we also get to see some great implementations of volumetric smoke within the environments. Observe the sequence where you try to make your way through a crumbling mountain, and notice how the debris flies around in a realistic fashion with thick dark volumes of smoke. Similarly, shafts of volumetric light can also be seen throughout the many environments – and they look great. Motion blur and depth of field effects also make an appearance, and their implementation also looks to be quality stuff.
Graphical Modes And Performance
Final Fantasy 16 features two graphical modes – namely Quality and Performance. The quality mode targets an upscaled 4K image from a 1440p native image with a frame rate target of 30fps. On the other hand, the performance mode renders the image at 1080p and upscales it all to 1440p – but bumps the frame rate up to 60fps. Shadows are noticeably crisper in the quality mode, and we also get slightly better post-processing effects in this mode. As for anti-aliasing, the game presumably makes use of checkerboard rendering to render at a higher resolution – and while relatively static sequences look good, we did find some shimmering artifacts in fast moving sequences.
As for the performance figures, the quality mode does a good job of sticking to its frame rate target – and drops are kept to a minimum. Performance in the 60fps mode on the other hand tends to vary wildly from scene to scene – and you may notice some erratic drops here and there which can come in the way of combat fluidity. That said, the developer has promised that a launch day patch will alleviate these issues so keep an eye out for when it drops.
In conclusion, Final Fantasy 16 does look like a genuine step forward for the franchise – not from just a gameplay perspective but also a graphical one as well. The new engine makes good use of the power afforded by current-gen console hardware which makes for some genuinely pretty vistas. Sure, there are a few minor rough edges here and there and performance isn’t always the best – but the game is a visual powerhouse and a great showcase for the power of the PS5.