Final Fantasy XVI: Echoes of the Fallen offers a compelling reason to return to Valisthea

During my playthrough of Final Fantasy XVI, I recall a curious gate-like ruin a little north of Eastpool. In the distance is a large, looming tower. Clive had a throw-away line about him being curious about it, but then never mentions it again. I’d spent the game revisiting that little corner of the world, hoping that some obscure action or story progress check would open it. It never opened. 

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That is, until late last Thursday night, when XVI’s expansion pass was revealed alongside the announcement that the first expansion was being shadow dropped that day. There’ll be two expansions on offer – Echoes of the Fallen, and Rising Tide. The former is the cheaper of the two – and it’s available now.

There was no confirmation for this, but it seems like the intent is for Echoes of the Fallen to be the combat themed DLC, and The Rising Tide to be the exploration themed DLC. The trailer shows a brand new locale, Misidia, in The Rising Tide and the implication is that this will be a brand new Zone. For Echoes of the Fallen the main appeal is providing a linear story mission and a bit of extra lore details. If you are a fan of XVI’s combat, this is definitely worth your time. As someone who fought every last enemy in the base game before any of the post launch patches dropped, I can say it was definitely worth mine.

This DLC is a pretty short affair because of this, clocking in at anywhere between 3 to 5 hours depending on how much time you take. I was a bit on the further end, because I had spent time lingering in the providence of Rosaria. NPCs in the towns near here will comment on the events of the story, involving three mysterious men running from mercenaries over a crystal dispute, and I found myself compelled to listen to as many as I could. It’s a small detail, one many might miss, but appreciated all the same.

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When you get to the tower, you’re on a linear path towards the Omega fight with large amounts of Fallen in your way to be disposed of. Like with all of XVI’s linear missions, there is loot to be found off the beaten path and companions for Clive to banter with. In specific parts of this dungeon will be kiosks to dispense lore that will be sure to entertain any who fell in love with XVI’s world. However, I had been hoping for more character moments. This is the rare opportunity for Clive to have a full party, so it would have been nice to see them have some fun moments together. Those do exist, but given the stakes of the towers reawakening there’s less than I would have liked. 

The story outside of these moments isn’t much, it just fills in any details on the Mysterious Fallen who left ruins all over the continent. I personally did not have any questions about these and am not someone who cares much for lore outside of it providing color to a work. What is offered up is good, though, even if a bit unnecessary.

By buying the DLC you’re given a couple of extra items, like orchestrations and Cloud’s iconic Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII. It is quite strange to see Clive swing the Buster Sword, let me tell you. There are also several new pieces of gear to be found on your trek up the tower, and a new weapon to craft after you finish the quest. At the moment, this is sure to be the best gear in the game and gives me hope that it signifies these will be needed for Leviathan in The Rising Tide.

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The new accessories are the highlight, with the combat actually evolving in small ways because of them. They each seem to lean into specific play styles. For example, the Bombardment Bit increases your damage with aerial attacks and will massively increase the times you can jump off an enemy from 2 to 6. Another focuses on improving Limit Break. One can even change the color of the enemy’s name when their attacks can be parried. Given XVI’s limitations on only being able to equip three accessories at once, giving players six new ones that vary up gameplay this much and making them choose which they value the most (or not using them at all) is pretty clever.

Getting to Omega will have Clive face off against a handful of mini-bosses, all of which are quite enjoyable. I’ve always been a fan of XVI’s combat, and although I needed an adjustment period to get used to it all again I found myself seriously enjoying the battles in this DLC. Even with my completionist mindset for getting the game’s best gear in the main campaign and leveling up to 48, this gave me a solid challenge. There’s even a new enemy type in the game that can cast a spell of protection around them, damaging Clive if he gets near. Range based magic fell off around the midpoint of XVI for me, so an enemy type that requires it was an enjoyable change of pace.

The Omega fight itself is pure spectacle, one I’d really like to not spoil. The tidbit in the trailer might even give away too much, but it has quickly become my favorite normal (as in, not playing as Ifrit) boss in the game. It’s hard, but with XVI’s forgiving retry system not annoyingly so. Omega has several phases, and the amount of AOE markers and mechanics to juggle kept me on my toes. 

After you vanquish Omega, the status quo of the world hasn’t changed significantly. In a way that makes sense, since the Expansions are set immediately before the Final Boss when the world is already in turmoil. Echoes of the Fallen feels like a lavish side quest that could have been tucked away in the main campaign all along, but the mechanical changes that come from these new accessories and the enemies that await you in the tower feel reactive to XVI’s critical response. It doesn’t fix all of its faults, but if you left XVI feeling positive then I think you’ll have a fun time. For a DLC that’s aspirations only extend that far, I’d call Echoes of the Fallen a success.

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Time will only tell if The Rising Tide will offer players who favor XVI’s story and characters more to chew on than this DLC. This was a nice taste at what could be to come, and I had a fun time revisiting one of my more enjoyed games of 2023 after months of being away.

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