Final Fantasy 16 The Rising Tide review — vital PS5 exclusive DLC

In this Final Fantasy XVI The Rising Tide review, Lee discusses why the final DLC release for FFXVI feels essential for this PS5 exclusive.

Final Fantasy 16 The Rising Tide review — vital PS5 exclusive DLC
Lee Brady

Lee Brady

Published

Whether you've already finished collecting those Final Fantasy XVI trophies or if you haven't started, you'll absolutely want to check out the game's latest DLC expansion: The Rising Tide. In this Final Fantasy XVI The Rising Tide review, I'll detail all the new stuff this last piece of DLC brings to the game and why I think it truly enhances the experience of playing one of the best PS5 games of 2023.

Lee

Final Fantasy XVI The Rising Tide review — a lasting legacy

The highest praise I can give Final Fantasy XVI's latest DLC expansion, The Rising Tide, is this: it made me want to play Final Fantasy XVI all over again.
If you had asked me whether I ever saw myself replaying the game from start to finish after I wrote my Final Fantasy XVI review last year, I would have politely laughed and said "No." As much as I enjoyed Clive's adventures in Valisthea, I found FFXVI's final act to be such a chore to get through that it put me off the idea of ever replaying the whole game.

Yet, after having played The Rising Tide DLC, I have started to reconsider my stance. I mean, the fact that the Final Fantasy XVI platinum trophy patch lets you skip the most tedious parts of the game's side quests had already done most of the work to convince me. It simply took The Rising Tide's stellar new content to remind me of Final Fantasy XVI's strengths and fully win me over to the idea.

FFXVI The Rising Tide

What's new in The Rising Tide DLC?

Where Final Fantasy XVI Echoes of the Fallen left me disappointed in its basic offerings, The Rising Tide more than makes up for it with a whole bonus chapter's worth of new story content.

The big draw here for fans is the expanded story which sees Clive tracking down Leviathan the Lost — the eighth monstrous Eikon who is mysteriously absent throughout the events of Final Fantasy XVI. We find out that the sea beast has been frozen in time along with its Dominant — a now 100-year-old baby named Waljas.

Sought out by Shula, the leader of the tribe responsible for keeping Leviathan and Waljas frozen in time, Clive is tasked with undoing the magic, freeing the baby, and defeating Leviathan. Also, if he could do so without triggering a tsunami which could wipe out Shula's people, that would be great. The story bears out across a couple of new action stages, with players getting to explore a new verdant region filled with side missions called Mysidia.

FFXVI The Rising Tide

What impressed me right off the bat was just how perfectly The Rising Tide fits into Final Fantasy XVI's existing story. Like the very best story expansions, it feels like an effortless continuation of the story that's already here. It's a new episode that slots seamlessly into the original work and won't feel in the least bit out of place even if it's your first time playing the game's story.

The new locale is gorgeous and the addition of a few new enemy types — like iconic Final Fantasy knife fiends, the Tonberries — brings a few refreshing twists to your average encounter. Plus, if there's one stand-out moment that needs to be raved about, it's the inevitable showdown with Leviathan.

Easily one of the most fun and memorable in the entire game, Leviathan delivers challenge and spectacle in equal doses. Yet like the very best fights in FFXVI, the battle doesn't overwhelm the player with a mindless barrage of noise to dodge. Instead, you get plenty of opportunities to show off all your favorite abilities and moves — which is handy, because you might have a few new favorites by the time you start the fight.

FFXVI The Rising Tide

The Rising Tide expands Final Fantasy XVI's best bits

Combat is the very soul of Final Fantasy XVI. Each new Eikon added to the game gives the player the chance to rethink gameplay entirely. So, it's a big deal when The Rising Tide brings not just one new set of Eikonic abilities, but two.

The first new set of moves the player gets comes from Leviathan, and they're an absolute joy to get to grips with. Leviathan's Eikonic Feat allows Clive to trade his sword for what is essentially a magic shotgun. Now, adding a projectile weapon could easily have been a mistake — I've played enough Hades to know that adding a gun to a melee-centric action game can rob the combat of its essential crunchiness.

Mercifully, that's not the case with Final Fantasy XVI, which also gives Clive an extra-long dodge roll to compliment the new close-range projectile moveset. This means Clive can get in close, deal some heavy damage, and then peel away before the enemy can catch him. The increased maneuverability can prove handy in any number of combat scenarios, and I found myself mixing Leviathan's moveset into fights regularly.

FFXVI The Rising Tide

Leviathan's other abilities also focus largely on crowd control, which gives them plenty of utility in action stages when you want to dish out damage to several foes at once. Much like story expansions, the best gameplay expansions build on the mechanical depth of what's already in the game. That's exactly what we get here in The Rising Tide.

Final Fantasy XVI The Rising Tide — Trophy Tactics

Final Fantasy XVI The Rising Tide's DLC trophies are mostly hidden, but there's very few surprises in there waiting for you. Beat the new story expansion and the Leviathan boss battle and you'll find you've already unlocked half of the new trophies.

For the other half, you'll need to explore Mysidia a little bit more. There are ten new side quests to beat (eleven if you own Echoes of the Fallen) — a trophy unlocks if you clear the base ten missions. There's a new Chronolith Trial hidden on the island that will test your new Leviathan powers — beat that for another trophy. Just like Echoes of the Fallen, there's also a trophy for beating the big DLC boss on "Final Fantasy" mode (hard mode).
The second new set of moves is actually a secret one, so I won't spoil it for you here. All you need to know is that this other set of abilities also plays with Clive's base movement in a fundamental way, allowing for easier enemy juggling to chain aerial combos together like never before. Between both move sets, it feels like you're playing as a completely new version of Clive.

This is a big contributor to why I feel like playing the game over again. Here, we have the opportunity to mess around with new ability combinations and enjoy Final Fantasy XVI again as if from a completely new perspective. It's a testament to FFXVI's great design that it only takes a few new tweaks and tools and suddenly the game feels fresh and exciting to play again.

FFXVI The Rising Tide

Final Fantasy XVI's legacy, secured

The final big addition The Rising Tide brings is the Kairos Gate — a true endgame state for Final Fantasy XVI. In this mode, players have to survive twenty rounds, accruing and spending points on stat upgrades in an attempt to complete the mode without dying. Every few rounds, Clive has to face an old boss battle, and your success will largely depend on how well you've done in preceding rounds and how savvy you were spending your points.

In all honesty, Kairos Gate is a fine mode — but it is more exciting to think about than it is to play. That said, along with Clive's secret second ability set, the addition of Kairos Gate does something a little bit more for the game: it gives Final Fantasy XVI an old-school air of mystery.
This new mode isn't just handed to the player — it's only unlocked if you complete some objectives in a certain order and discover it. Kairos Gate also contains its own secrets that depend on your performance, gating off content and rewards that you can't experience anywhere else in the game.

While Final Fantasy XVI did have a few unlockables squirreled away, only to be gifted to the more dedicated players, it never had anything that felt truly hidden before. Now, the game has surprises — the kind that even dedicated players might miss.

I can't stress enough how important this element is to include in a Final Fantasy game. When your RPG franchise contains stories as linear as this series, players need little secrets like these to craft unique experiences. It's in these moments — in these little discoveries — where the legacy of a game can truly thrive.

FFXVI The Rising Tide

What is Final Fantasy VII without "Knights of the Round," or the scene where you break into Tifa's room, or Vincent Valentine? What is Final Fantasy XV without the final vehicle upgrade or the Adamantoise battle? What is Final Fantasy VI without the option to save Shadow or to add Mog to the party? It's discoveries like these that elevate linear RPGs beyond simply being a fun game with a good story into lasting experiences that players joke about and pass on to one another.

This element was crucially missing in Final Fantasy XVI. Unfortunately, for some of us permanently online types, we'll never get the chance to experience the game this way. However, with these small discoveries now lurking within The Rising Tide, Final Fantasy XVI has secured its legacy with future players for years to come.

Now, there's always a little more in Final Fantasy XVI that players can get from the experience — a little more they can take with them and pass on to others.

FFXVI The Rising Tide

Summary

The Rising Tide does everything a great expansion should do, making the game feel as good as it truly is and only stopping short at magically mending bigger issues from the original release. For returning fans, the expansion gives you several great reasons to come back and play FFXVI some more. For new players who have yet to experience Final Fantasy XVI in its entirety, The Rising Tide is vital. Make sure you have this content ready for your playthrough — it could make all the difference in bringing Final Fantasy XVI to life for you.
8 / 10
* Lee played Final Fantasy XVI with The Rising Tide DLC installed for about 10 hours. He completed the campaign, replayed the original game's finale, finished some loose ends from the core release, and enjoyed a few runs at the Kairos Gate. He unlocked 11 of The Rising Tide's 13 DLC trophies. A code for Final Fantasy XVI's Expansion Pass was kindly provided by Square Enix.
Written by Lee Brady
Staff Writer Lee keeps one eye on the future (Shadow x Sonic Generations), one eye on the past (PS1, PS2, and PS3 games), and his secret third eye on junk he really likes (Final Fantasy, Sonic, Kingdom Hearts). A PlayStation fan since childhood, he loves nothing more than to scrutinize PS Plus and PS5 player data.
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