I enjoyed Final Fantasy 16 immensely when it launched. From the visuals and the combat to the characters, it was truly something special, which is saying something in a stacked year like this. There were certainly areas where it lacked, but for the most part, it delivered the essence of a an amazing role-playing game. (in my opinion).
So, when the developer announced they were working on paid DLC, I expected more story, maybe tying up some loose ends and delivering experiences that the base game didn’t quite offer. Having great boss fights seemed a given.
"I like how the game sets up this new location – you don’t just naturally discover it on the map. Events kick off, new characters – regardless of how contrived they feel – are introduced, and it’s off to stop a new major threat."
Echoes of the Fallen, which surprise-launched recently, delivers on some of those fronts but also falls behind with others. Of course, right off the bat, it’s worth stating: If you like Final Fantasy 16, this is worth picking up. If you didn’t or had a few misgivings, this won’t change your mind, but there may be some bright spots, especially for those who enjoy combat.
The DLC is set late in the base game. If you don’t want to be spoiled on certain things that occur early on, this is your last warning.
The plot revolves around mysterious Dusk Crystals that have suddenly emerged in Valisthea. After some digging, Clive and friends discover the Sagespire, thought to be a ruin, is actually an active tower with defense mechanisms and all kinds of nasty stuff. A Mothercrystal is seemingly at the center of it all, but where did it come from? These are just a few of the mysteries to be solved.
I like how the game sets up this new location – you don’t just naturally discover it on the map. Events kick off, new characters – regardless of how contrived they feel – are introduced, and it’s off to stop a new major threat. While there is some good banter and performances (Ben Starr as Clive especially has some witty comebacks and responses), the overall plot is pretty simple. Even with all the interesting lore, which provides some interesting parallels to Clive’s journey, the result is also predictable.
"With the sheer effort put into designing this environment, there could have been some interesting ways to traverse it. Maybe some puzzles or secrets to discover?"
Still, the presentation remains top-notch, whether it’s in the cutscenes or the Sagespire itself. The environment looks varied and visually resplendent, mixing ancient ruins, fleshy interiors and futuristic technology while sticking to the game’s overall aesthetic. It’s fun to traverse, especially as you look down on the rest of the world from above, and discovering all the lore bits also feels nice.
Unfortunately, by “traverse”, I mean walk from point to point, much like the main story dungeons from the base game. What’s the big deal, especially when the base game gets away with it? There’s been copious feedback on how the dungeons felt too linear. I’m not saying the development team must incorporate that, but this is DLC. There are opportunities to do things otherwise absent in the base game. With the sheer effort put into designing this environment, there could have been some interesting ways to traverse it. Maybe some puzzles or secrets to discover?
Sure, you have the data entries, and they are interesting, but they highlight another problem with the Sagespire – no backtracking. Did you skip a data entry and go through a door, thinking you could collect it later? That door is now closed. You snooze, you lose.
Thankfully, Echoes of the Fallen doesn’t skimp with its main attraction – the boss fights. Each boss is incredibly well-designed, starting with Sigma, who moves super-quick, striking with melee blows and kicks while also unleashing bullet hell-like projectiles and eruptions. The mini-boss, Omicron, is also great with its hit-and-run tactics while flying around. Others like Angrya Mainyu may be reskinned from other enemy types but offer several new, engaging mechanics. If you thought the base game had its share of bullet-hell sequences, then Echoes of the Fallen ups the ante.
There are a fair amount of reused enemies from the base game, though I appreciate new mechanics like Hearthflame, which mix things up, if only slightly. Other than the new bosses, Echoes of the Fallen also adds new accessories called Bits. These offer up new and – in some cases overpowered – new perks.
Assailment Bit, for instance, increases the rate at which the damage multiplier rises while increasing the maximum to 200 percent on Staggered enemies. Reach the max, and Double Impact activates, dealing even more damage. It’s perfect for someone who likes to unleash their powerful Eikonic abilities when the enemy is staggered for massive damage.
"It may be enough for its price, but for the fan in me who liked the base game and looked forward to the DLC expanding on some things and fine-tuning others, it just felt acceptable."
Bombardment Bit is for those who love aerial combos, increasing the Will damage dealt from most airborne attacks by 20 percent and the maximum number of stomps from 2 to 3. There’s even a Revivement Bit, which activates Limit Break immediately if you take fatal damage when the gauge is full, thus preventing you from dying (though it doesn’t work in places like the Deadlands). That’s more or less it, though – you have some new gear which provides some stat increases and two new swords, with one upgradeable into perhaps the new best-in-slot weapon for the entire game.
Final Fantasy 16: Echoes of the Fallen isn’t very long – it takes a handful of hours to complete (the developer estimates about three). It’s standalone and doesn’t affect anything else in the base game. From the outset, it sounds like a series of well-designed boss battles that are challenging but fun, even if their scale is nowhere as epic as the Eikon battles (which is perfectly fine). The graphics and music are great, and the gang is back together for one more crazy adventure. What’s not to like?
It may be enough for its price, but for the fan in me who liked the base game and looked forward to the DLC expanding on some things and fine-tuning others, it just felt acceptable. The Rising Tide will offer more story-telling, new abilities and even a new Eikon, so it’s probably more of what I’m looking forward to.
With Echoes of the Fallen, it felt like it could have delivered more within its confines. Make no mistake: There’s fun to be had, but if this is the bar, I hope that future DLC surpasses it.
This game was reviewed on PS5.
Sagespire's aesthetics are gorgeous and present some varied backdrops. The new boss battles are excellent without feeling like pushovers. New Accessories offer excellent options and lean further into specific playstyles. Music, especially in the final boss fight, is fantastic, as always. The Fallen-focused lore can be interesting.
Traversal through the new location is still very linear, with no puzzles or secrets, plus there's no backtracking to pick up any missed lore entries. Even though there's a new mechanic or two, the regular enemies are still the same as the base game. Outside of the accessories, there isn't much new gear or weapons.