Final Fantasy 16: The Rising Tide Review - Riding The Wave

  • First Released Jun 22, 2023
  • PS5

The Rising Tide works great as one last hurrah with new Eikons and a short but worthwhile adventure that shows a different side of FFXVI.

It's always a bit weird to go back to a game you finished for story-centric DLC, especially when the base game had a pretty definitive ending. However, those that have just a little bit more left in the tank can take the opportunity to give a game you really loved one more high note to end on. I often think of the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC as the best example--an oddly placed, yet near-perfect send-off. Final Fantasy XVI: The Rising Tide evokes similar feelings in that I was just happy to have an excuse to revisit that world and spend a bit more time with characters I cherished. While it does largely play out like more Final Fantasy XVI content, The Rising Tide fills in a few blanks left behind and lets you wield two new Eikons in a questline that reaches similar heights of the original game.

The Rising Tide questline is slotted into FFXVI right before the main game's point of no return, making it feel like an impromptu diversion at a critical point in the story. That said, it is necessary, as many of the events leading up to the DLC provide the context around its story. As Clive, you and the crew are invited to visit a region called Mysidia--a quiet area tucked away in the north and cloaked under the veil of powerful magic to both conceal itself from the rest of the world and maintain a facade of bright blue skies. It's a new area for the game that has its own interesting, isolated society and lets you explore a relatively small but vibrant region, and its stunning views remind you of how FFXVI uses its technical strengths to paint an expansive and enticing world.

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Now Playing: FINAL FANTASY XVI - The Rising Tide DLC Release Date Trailer

Much of FFXVI was visually dour given its grim nature, so Mysidia's tropical tinge is a refreshing contrast. But this isn't a vacation for Clive--The Rising Tide revolves around the history of Leviathan as an Eikon that, like every other Eikon, was wielded in bad faith. Through the main scenario quests and sidequests, you learn about the people of Mysidia, their way of life, and their particular relationship with Leviathan. The people are self-sustaining and treat magic quite differently from the rest of Valisthea, and their leader, Shula, embodies their ethos as she accompanies you throughout the DLC. She's not exactly a standout character in the grand scheme of things, but she is a solid anchor for The Rising Tide and provides a good enough excuse for dragging Clive off the beaten path. It's a twist to the typical FFXVI plot beat and comes around to be a rather sweet story about breaking generational curses in a way that lends itself more to FFXVI's softer side.

That's not to say The Rising Tide doesn't go hard, because like the base game, its blend of intense boss fights woven into impressive cinematic cuts remains the foundation here. Along with the new region are an additional dungeon and another larger-than-life Eikon battle. While the dungeon itself is quite short, the boss fight that awaits at the end of it features some clever and inventive mechanics that even impressed the Final Fantasy XIV Savage raider in me. FFXVI's base game shares a lot of similarities with the MMORPG in terms of battle mechanics, and this remains true here, but a few twists caught me off guard and left me grinning when I was able to overcome them. And even if I could see it coming from a mile away, the build-up to another climactic Eikon battle and the arduous fight itself brought back that specific feeling of hype FFXVI was so damn good at evoking. The telegraphing of certain mechanics in the EIkon battle aren't always great, so there is some trial-and-error as you bang your head against the wall to get through it. Still, figuring out how to resolve the mechanics along with pulling off nasty, weighty attacks as Ifrit was as gratifying as ever, matching the best of what the original game had to offer.

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As a chapter all about Leviathan, being able to use the power of the iconic serpent is a definite highlight. Creative Business Unit III really said, "What if we gave Clive a gun?" and that's essentially what they did. Leviathan is a projectile-focused Eikon power that has its own unique mode that turns Clive's arm into a shotgun capable of blasting lethal chunks of water, and boy, does it melt away enemies' stagger meter. For cooldowns, you also get a rapid-fire bubble blast and wave-like ability that starts from the sides and crunches small enemies together, making them easy targets for shotgun blasts or any other AoE spell you have lined up. There's a satisfying feedback to landing shots and weaving between Leviathan's moveset, and it's great to see that FFXVI brand of action combat still had room for creative ideas.

On top of that, you also get to wield Ultima as an Eikon power, which allows Clive to hover with wings that can also violently swipe at mobs of enemies. Many of the cooldown abilities with Ultima are heavy and dramatic displays of power that aren't exactly conducive to swiftly weaving into an attack rotation--if you just want to disrespectfully pummel enemies, Ultima is the Eikon for you. Ultima is unlocked by starting up the new content called Kairos Gates, which is part of the DLC's package. It's a run-based combat challenge where you gradually build Clive with boons and enhancements to help make it through a genuinely tough gauntlet of enemy hordes and remixed bosses. The menus and sound effects between rounds are encased in an old-school Final Fantasy presentation which is a cute touch, but these fights are anything but cute. If you've been wanting FFXVI to up the difficulty, it's a decent, albeit straightforward, way to get more out of its combat.

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The Rising Tide contains a handful of sidequests to fill out Mysidia, which offer rewards or unlock features for the region. These range from talking to NPCs, fetching items in the world, taking out certain targets, or some combination of those things--mostly continuing the typical FFXVI quest design, which wasn't exactly its strong suit. Not that it's surprising, but many of the conversations in the DLC still have that odd, stiff style of conversation via a cutscene that stood out like sore thumbs in the original game. It's another one of those FFXIV-isms that don't quite hold up when used in a highly produced, prestige-style game.

However, the DLC does use sidequests effectively in a few key ways. For one, they tend to be more combat-focused so they're opportunities to sharpen those new Eikon-wielding skills. But after the DLC's main scenario is done, a new batch of sidequests pop up to let the overall story breathe, and they're vital for giving Shula and the people of Mysidia closure. I'm a bit shocked these are marked as sidequests considering how impactful they are in contextualizing The Rising Tide. And while the reward for completing all of it isn't necessarily a tangible one, it's an emotional payoff that instead brings some much needed warmth to FFXVI's dark world.

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The wonders of Mysidia are also represented in the new music for The Rising Tide. To the surprise of absolutely no one, composer Masayoshi Soken and his team were cooking once again. The main village of Haven has a catchy yet sorrowful acoustic tune that wonderfully captures the setting, and the beautiful overworld theme struck me as an extension of the bittersweet feelings I had playing through parts of FFXIV: Endwalker. The dungeon theme incorporates light electronic elements to communicate something inexplicably magical about the environment while also calling back to the main leitmotif used throughout FFXVI, as if to wrap the whole journey together through sound. While the Eikon boss battle theme is among the explosive and impressive tracks to hype you up in the moment, it's the more calming music where the emotional nuances of the adventure are delivered through the notes that make up the songs.

Playing through The Rising Tide was bittersweet. For all its flaws, I have a deep fondness for Final Fantasy XVI, so I was happy to have a strong hook to bring me back to Valisthea, even if it was a rather short-lived journey that wrapped up just as I was starting to vibe with the new setting, abilities, and characters. In several ways, The Rising Tide offers something I wish the original game had a bit more of in its story: vibrance and warmth. FFXVI was outwardly grim and dark--fitting what it was going for. But having this contrast that complements the core themes of the original game was a real treat, especially with some great gameplay twists along the way. The Rising Tide is an easy recommendation for those who enjoyed the base game, and a damn fine way to send off FFXVI.

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The Good

  • The new region and its story contrast nicely with the rest of FFXVI
  • Leviathan and Ultima are fun and satisfying new Eikon powers to use
  • Thrilling boss fights evoke the highs of the original game
  • Sidequests are effectively woven into the DLC's main story
  • New music complements the existing soundtrack fantastically

The Bad

  • A solid, but fairly short-lived storyline that wraps up just as it picks up steam
  • Many of the dated design elements from the base game show here

About the Author

Final Fantasy XVI was one of Michael's favorite games of 2023 and he was more than happy to go back to it with its DLC package. He spent about six hours with The Rising Tide, completing the main story, all the sidequests, and giving the Kairos Gates a fair shake. Code was provided by Square Enix for review.