Published on December 21st, 2023 | by Daniel
Final Fantasy XVI: Echoes of the Fallen – PS5 DLC Review!
Summary: Echoes of the Fallen is a tasty little expansion that adds more of the game I love. My only wish is that they'd give us more!
Firstly, spoiler warning. Thought this DLC is only a week old, I won’t be saving you from any spoilery details, so if you haven’t played the DLC yet, do it first and then come read my review. You have been warned, now, onto the review.
The first load of DLC content; Echoes of the Fallen recently dropped and by now if you’ve read a lot of my reviews. You’ll know I’m a Final Fantasy nut for everything post FFVIII, with interests in the entire lore of the franchise. So of course I put my hand up when the time came to review FFXVI’s first DLC, in fact only the second in the game’s entire mainline series to ever get downloadable content of any kind.
If you’re not familiar with FFXVI, but have played or had an interest in playing the Final Fantasy franchise. I highly recommend getting yourself a copy when you can. FFXVI is an action role playing game, set in the fictional world of Valisthea, wherein two continents of Ash and Storm are divided amongst six Nations who hold power through access to giant crystals called Mothercrystals, which contain the powers of deities known as Eikons. These crystals produce smaller crystals which are used by humans to go about their daily tasks and are protected by Dominants; unique individuals who have been chosen as hosts of these Eikons and can access powerful magicks and even transform into the embodiment of their Eikon when necessary. Below the Dominants are other unique individuals called Bearers, who, like Dominants, can wield magicks without the need of crystals mined from the domain of the Mothercrystals. All children are tested at birth and any bearers are immediately seized and subjugated as slaves for their respective nations, though their use is finite and if they exceed their limits, will eventually petrify from a condition known as the Crystal’s Curse.
Clive is one such individual, born as a Bearer of fire and later to be discovered as the second Dominant of Fire, being the host of the destructive Eikon; Ifrit. Clive comes to learn of the plight of his fellow bearers having been enslaved himself after the betrayal of his mother to his nation at the death of his brother Joshua, host of the Phoenix, the first Dominant of Fire. After meeting with Cid, the Dominant of Lightning and host to Ramuh. He comes to learn that the Mothercrystals are leeching the land of it’s Aether and together with Cid decide to destroy these crystals. Cid perishes during their first encounter with a Mothercrystal, leaving Clive to take up his name and continue the fight. Systematically destroying each one before a final confrontation with the mastermind behind it all, Ultima.
Echoes of the Fallen
It’s just before the journey to Origin, where Clive and co are set to face Ultima in a final showdown. That Clive receives a strange request from the Hideaway‘s resident shopkeeper Charon. There’s been a strange crystal floating around the black market ever since Clive and co began destroying the Mothercrystals. This crystal is said to be like every other, usable as fuel to create magicks, but with one major drawback. They’re limit is incredibly finite, taking only a few uses of minor spells before crumbling into useless dust. In fact, if one was to use an average level spell, it would consume the crystal in just a single use! As expected this has caused outcry as they being sold effectively useless trinkets for a hefty price. Through interactions with Charon and their resident scholar Harpocrates, they learn of an attempt made by scholars to create their own man-made Mothercrystal. With this knowledge in hand and knowing that they cannot leave this Mothercrystal alone to drain the land of it’s Aether. Clive and co set off to investigate these crystals and stop their distribution. Finding that they’re being sold by a merchant, they track him down, albeit with great difficulty and several interruptions from fiends and angry customers alike.
They chase him all the way deep into old Rosarian territory, Clive’s old homeland and come across a mysterious Fallen ruin called the Sagespire deep. Without hesitation they follow the slippery merchants inside, once there, a distinctly robotic voice speaks and initiates a lockdown of sorts, enabling defences. Finding their runaway merchant, they stumble into a fight with a strange creature, massive and glowing with aether to match the crystals deposits lining the entire ruin. The very same crystals that these silly merchants have been selling. One heroic boss fight later, Clive knowing now where the source of the crystals is coming from must fight his way through hordes of creatures adorned with the same crystals, after many battles, they eventually reach the top and find the Mothercrystal. Of course when they get there, they’re confronted by a Omega, a man-made Eikon. One with the power rivaling that of Ultima himself, Clive is forced to battle and destroy this being of awesome power and with great difficulty, he accomplishes his mission to destroy this man-made crystal and stop the flow of counterfeit stones.
Though deeply saddened by this, the merchants choose to believe in Clive’s words and return to their tribe. Thus ending this chapter on the final Mothercrystal before Origin itself.
Gameplay, Graphics and Audio
It’s at this point in a normal review, where I’d go over the gameplay, graphics and audio in their own separate categories. Giving you all the lowdown on how the core mechanics of the game work, what’s great about it and what needs work, as well as discussing the graphics and audio. But since this is DLC and effectively no changes have been made to the game’s core systems, I’m going to do it differently and combine them into one segment where I cover what’s relevant to the DLC itself.
Gameplay is exactly as it was in the core game. If you’ve played any of the following games; FFVII Remake, Stranger of Paradise, or even Devil May Cry. The game will feel pretty similar in nature. You have basic attacks, ranged magic attacks and special abilities. You can channel up to three Eikons at once and can cycle through them in battle to change up your special abilities. You can swap out your channeled Eikons at any time outside of combat to create different combinations, as some monsters have different elemental weaknesses. Each Eikon has a couple of different abilities you can switch between but basically boil down to, short cooldown and long cooldown and one special trait. For example, Phoenix’s trait allows for long range dashing to and between enemies, while Shiva’s trait is a short dash in any direction with the additional trigger of a short duration, short range freeze debuff on any enemy in range. Garuda can reach out with her claws and cripple semi staggered enemies, Titan can block and counter enemy attacks and so on. With perfect timing, or the right items to cheese timing, you can dodge attacks and counter with a precision strike.
Shiva is the only Eikon who’s dash can be used defensively as well, dashing at the right time instead of dodging causes the enemy to be frozen in ice for a longer duration that the standard dash and double click towards an enemy. Every Eikon is unique and allows for a fresh take on combat to be taken at any time in the game, keeping the moment to moment action fresh and entertaining.
Graphics too, are exactly as they were before. The only thing I’m going to cover here, is the insane designs of the new areas. Sagespire is incredibly unique compared to other Fallen ruins, as you enter, you’re greeting by a sweeping camera of the wide open expanse that serves as the tower’s atrium. Beams of warm light from the sunset outside pour into the space from all angles and this in turn illuminates the deep reds, purples and obsidian colours of the pseudo-crystals around the facility. Blue light adorns the walls and floor, serving as panel and console lighting, later this turns to a crimson red when the alert is kicked up in severity further into the tower’s innards. Off in the distance is a central shaft with an exposed core housing the Mothercrystal, which after the first boss fight of this DLC, retreats to higher ground, deep within the belly of this awakening marvel of man-made technology and godlike magicks.
The rooms you pass through as you traverse the tower are mostly quite similar to other Fallen ruins, but there are a number of unique floors. Since this content focuses almost entirely on the tower. We get a more in depth look at this tower specifically and how it differs from the ones created specifically by the Fallen many eons ago. There’s a distinctly futuristic, but obviously human aspect to a lot of the internal construction of the tower. It almost has an industrial vibe to certain areas of the tower whilst others are distinctly Fallen in nature, to remind you that you’re essentially walking in what is “gods'” domain. There’s several new enemy designs and they’re mostly just versions of other beasts that have just been fused with the crystals or artificially created by mechanisms using the crystals. But the most unique enemies is the first and last bossfight.
Omega is exactly what I was expecting when I first stepped into the Sagespire and his appearance here, is almost exactly what I was expecting him to look like. Until about half way through where he upgraded himself. The fight against Sigma at the start and Omega at the end, are marvelous. Sigma is a great intro into what to expect from the content and a great setup for the final fight against Omega, who blows the previous setpieces out of the park. It’s only second in design to the Ultima fight at the end of the main game, with good reason.
Audio remains as incredible as it is in the base game. All your favourite characters reprise their roles and bring their A game to their performances. Even the merchants who start the whole incident in the first place have their own unique and interesting flair. Their leader is cunning, curious and charismatic. And the two brothers who serve as the muscle, mining the crystals are dim, fearful and jittery. Though the brothers complain, they ultimately follow along with him, this adds an almost three stooges element to the game, bringing a light hearted set of characters to a rather dark and dangerous set of circumstances. The conversations between the main cast; Clive, Jill and Joshua is the meat of the experience though. Their chatter as you explore the tower helps to explain the lore of the story in between the cutscenes or lore dumps at the start and end of the experience. It’s like they’re learning at the same time as the player, the story’s themes have been presented before and the final boss Omega is a staple of the franchise.
The soundtrack features a couple of new additions, which thankfully are gifted as orchestrion rolls at the end of the content. Elements of the music come across as very familiar to me, a series veteran. Whilst I’ve never played the earlier games prior to FFVIII, the music has a distinctly FFXIV feel to it. There are several pieces that sound like they’ve taken elements of tracks from the MMO and remade them for the experience here. Whether that music is instead taken from games prior to FFVII as the content is rumoured to be similar to events from some of the previous games. I’m not sure, the content I’m referring to in FFXIV is itself derived from previous games like FFI and FFVI so it’s heavily theorised that Echoes of the Fallen, may indeed be repurposing content from those older games. The final track in the battle against Omega goes hard too, very suited to the theme of ancient but far more advanced technology.
The DLC is perilously short, but for that it makes up for it in story. The story implications, go incredibly deep. It gives reason to why Rosaria was the first land to feel the effects of the Blight, despite apparently having no Mothercrystal of it’s own. It further makes lore lovers go mad for it’s notes about how man essentially challenged to gods, desiring to find a way to harness their power in such a way that they could control it themselves. For power, for war, for whatever purpose deeds these ancient peoples could want. It teases info on the Magitek war, a reason it’s linked to previous games, further alluring lore lovers to think it might actually be connected. As a lore nerd myself it gets my creative brain ticking. But the elements I connected it with FFXIV, made it even more an entertaining experience.
With this content and recent updates, a few other notable things were added that didn’t really fit into any of the usual categories. We’ve now got cool new alternate costumes for all of our party. Clive and Joshua get a cool red and black themed outfit with glowing red accents. Jill gets a gorgeous new icy blue outfit, that I personally like more than her regular outfit, Torgal gets an icy grey and teal fur colour and even Ambrosia, the bestest white Chocobo gets a sweet, Rosarian themed armor set! All of them lookin’ fly in their new fits was perfect for the new content. I think the my favourite part of the update, is the ability to glamour Clive’s weapon. Now I don’t have to keep using old, outdated and weaker weapons just because I prefer its design. Nor do I have to suffer ugly swords just to be strong, I can simply pick the strongest weapon I have and use the Arete stone in the Hideaway to cover up the ugly weapon to whatever cool design I feel like.
The only two things I’m a bit sad about, is the shortness of the content. It’s basically 2 hours long, 3 if you really pad the time out. Which isn’t really long enough for someone as hungry for more story as I am. But what we got was good, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience from start to finish. And lastly, that there was no Eikon battle. I was hoping phase 2 of the Omega fight would see us struggle so hard at the increased difficulty that we’d be story forced to transform into Ifrit for the final showdown. Alas, it was absent from here, but I believe it’s been factored into the next piece of DLC coming in 2024 so I’m hyped for that. All in all, if you loved FFXVI and need more content for it. The price might be somewhat steep for a single pack, considering its short length. But the price won’t stop someone who is dying for more FFXVI content, so go for your life.
Game Genre – Action Role Playing
Developers – Square Enix Creative Business Unit III
Publisher – Square Enix
Rating – MA15+
Year of Release – 2023
Platforms – Playstation 5
Mode(s) of Play – Single
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