Final Fantasy XVI: Echoes of the Fallen Offers Brief but Fun Return to Valisthea
The multi-phase [final battle] quickly rises to being one of the standouts of the game overall as players have to deal with an exciting array of abilities that keeps them on their toes throughout.
A few months ago, Square Enix promised at least two pieces of DLC would be coming after the successful launch of Final Fantasy XVI. The first of those came with a surprise release earlier this month, giving RPGamers a reason to return to Valisthea and see what new offerings it would bring. Echoes of the Fallen might not add anything particularly new story wise or be a hugely substantial experience, but it offers a highly enjoyable dungeon romp that helps highlights some of Final Fantasy XVI’s best bits.
Echoes of the Fallen takes place just prior to Clive Rosfield setting out to the final location in Final Fantasy XVI. It sees him and his allies investigating the appearance of new Dusk Crystals, which are inferior to the normal kind found in Valisthea but hint at the possible existence of another Mothercrystal. This investigation takes them to a giant tower built by the Fallen, the highly advanced precursors of the game’s world, where they get an insight into just how advanced the Fallen had become, and why the relics and ruins are all that is left.
While the DLC somewhat builds upon the questions about the Fallen that remain unanswered through Final Fantasy XVI, it doesn’t pack any real surprises with the story, and the things that are revealed can be readily guessed. However, the tower — known as the Sagespire — is appropriately imposing and builds up the creepiness factor nicely as Clive and company advance up it. Although not particularly original, the themes are still well handled and Echoes of the Fallen is great at ratcheting up the tension and threat. Curiously enough, Echoes of the Fallen is the content in Final Fantasy XVI that feels closest in structure to Final Fantasy XIV, and it feels like it’s taken lessons from XIV’s dungeons and raids to create an engaging experience that fits nicely into the three-to-four hours it takes to work through.
Echoes of the Fallen doesn’t add too much to the combat system by itself, with the only noteworthy addition being an extra protective effect for certain enemies. Players are expected to come in with their character ready for the game’s final boss, and the DLC is balanced accordingly. There is a good mixture of foes, perhaps moreso than the main game often doles out. Advancing through the tower follows the regular Final Fantasy XVI dungeon template of following the corridors, pressing occasional buttons, and opening doors, though the atmosphere of the Sagespire and the cadence of encounters work well at keeping the player’s attention. However, it is the bosses where Echoes of the Fallen really shines.
Echoes of the Fallen features four brand new boss fights, and each brings its own set of challenges. The DLC takes advantage of Final Fantasy XVI’s strengths with boss fights, with players having to learn and avoid attack patterns while trying to deliver their own combos and make best use of their Eikonic abilities. All of the bosses will provide strong challenges, so players rusty after a short absence may need to spend a little time getting back into the swing of XVI’s combat. The final battle sees players going up against a new version of an iconic Final Fantasy foe and though it doesn’t have the set piece nature as the main game’s inter-Eikon clashes, the multi-phase struggle quickly rises to being one of the standouts of the game overall as players have to deal with an exciting array of abilities that keeping them on their toes throughout.
Although the narrative elements behind it have been seen before, the Sagespire’s design certainly helps it stand out as a location. The transition from imposing architecture to advanced technological marvels to living corruption works well with the story themes and gives a good feeling of advancement towards the secrets and threats that lie within. A few new music tracks further build upon these elements, including another excellent, heart-pumping boss battle theme. The expansion also provides some additional pieces of gear to unlock, including a selection of powerful accessories found within the Sagespire designed to help certain play styles or ability builds.
Ultimately, Echoes of the Fallen does a good job acting as a hold over until the second DLC, The Rising Tide, which promises a more substantial experience more deeply entwined with the main plot when it launches in spring 2024. It offers an enjoyable reason to spend an evening or two back in Valisthea to remember Final Fantasy XVI’s journey and some of its many high points. While it doesn’t offer anything revolutionary, fans of the game will certainly enjoy the opportunity to join Clive and his allies on the battlefield once more.