final fantasy 16 rising tide

Final Fantasy XVI: The Rising Tide Review – Clive Into The Deep End

Baby blues.

Editor’s Note: In keeping with our usual DLC reviews, this review is intentionally unscored. We’re aware that OpenCritic has put a 6/10 score on their website, and have made multiple attempts to have this rectified, but have had no response.

After some time away, it’s so very good to be back in the world of Final Fantasy XVI. Last year’s Echoes of the Fallen DLC was a brisk return trip to Valisthea, but with the launch of The Rising Tide, fans are getting a good chunk of brand-new content. With a new open area to explore, a compelling new storyline to follow, some tough-as-nails new endgame content and – of course – the long-awaited arrival of the Lost Eikon Leviathan, this is a proper DLC expansion.

Like Echoes, The Rising Tide’s adventure is inserted neatly into the tail-end of Final Fantasy XVI’s main campaign and sees Clive receive a missive alluding to the whereabouts of the only Eikon unaccounted for at that point, Leviathan. Following the thread, Clive and party wind up meeting Shula – a new face who leads them to a mysterious northern region cleverly hidden from the rest of Valisthea and known as Mysidia. It’s here that we learn of the plight of the Water Motes, a people living in seclusion and with the guilt of the misdeeds of their ancestors, which have resulted in the binding of Leviathan and the eternal torment of its dominant.

final fantasy 16 rising tide

What results is a roughly five-hour main questline, with another couple of hours of side content, where Clive, Jill, Joshua, Torgal and new tag-along Shula travel from fields to coasts to ancient ruins in an effort to free Leviathan’s dominant, and ultimately the Eikon itself. Without going into much more detail for fear of spoilers, it’s all a very worthy addition to the game’s overall lore with a lot of historical value and a fresh perspective on the world these new and returning characters inhabit. It’s tied in nicely to the events of the main game, and Shula is easily a favourite character amongst the DLC and base content. Best of all, of course, is that soon into the expansion Clive gains access to a whole new set of Eikonic abilities thanks to Leviathan.

Where the previous DLC was a great reminder of how good Final Fantasy XVI’s combat is, The Rising Tide goes one step further and makes it better. Leviathan’s combat features are an absolute blast to use, with its core feat essentially turning Clive’s off-hand into a gun arm with a Leviathan head that shoots blasts of water. With a focus on swift dodges and long range shots, plus a reload mechanic not unlike Gears of War’s Active Reload, it gives a whole other feel to fights that’s incredibly compelling. Throw in some formidable abilities that go great for crowd control and this winds up being an invaluable addition to your Eikon loadouts. It’s also not the only new twist to combat that’s been added to the game, but that’s something for players to find out on their own.

final fantasy 16 rising tide

And in good news for those of us who revelled in the challenge and epic boss fights of Echoes of the Fallen, The Rising Tide ups the ante once again with some seriously impressive fights that really put Clive’s expanded arsenal to work, especially on Final Fantasy difficulty. The new “standard” boss encounters come with some great visual and mechanical variety and put up a decent fight, but the real highlight is the Eikon battle with Leviathan itself, a multi-stage epic that’s up there with the best in the base game – although if you’re playing on FF mode be prepared to retry one phase in particular a good number of times before it sticks.

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The rest of the questing in this DLC, outside of the main stuff with all of the big battles and cool new locations, is pretty standard fare for this game. It’s a lot of stiffly-animated NPCs asking Clive to go fetch things or beat up specific groups of monsters, none of which is particularly compelling but usually has some world-building value. The best of it is getting to run into this game’s fresh interpretation of Tonberry enemies, which are cool as hell. There’s also new gear to find with new mineral types to hunt down, so there’s plenty to do if you want more content out of your $30.

final fantasy 16 rising tide

And if you really want a challenge, there’s a whole-ass survival gauntlet/roguelike/arcade mode dubbed Kairos Gate that unlocks after you finish the main quests in The Rising Tide, and it’s brutal. Having done everything else on FF difficulty, in the main game and both DLCs, I’m still getting absolutely hammered before I can make it even halfway through its 20 floors of battles. The mode gives Clive set gear but also doles out points every round to spend on permanent and temporary buffs, and offers rewards for the main game for progressing, so it’s definitely worth diving into for the brave.

Of course I can’t leave it at that without talking about Mysidia itself and the visual splendour on display. Given how grim and dark Final Fantasy XVI’s main regions are in the late-game stages of its story, the sudden shift to bright blue skies and lush, green fields is enormously welcome. It’s all stunning to behold, no less because huge temples and sky-scraping waves completely frozen in time paint its backdrop with the promise of what lies within them. 

There’s not a corner of this new region that isn’t brimming with life and wonder (save for the dodgy facial animations), a stark reminder of how gorgeous Final Fantasy XVI has always been. I’m especially fond of the way the colour blue is used throughout, as a symbol of the people of the region and their history, culture and environment, as well as a connection to the overall theme of water and a point-of-difference to the palettes of the rest of Valisthea.

Oh, and the score? *Chef’s kiss*

final fantasy 16 rising tide
The Rising Tide is exactly what a Final Fantasy XVI DLC expansion should be. It's got a beautiful, mysterious new region to explore, an engaging questline with great new characters, hugely satisfying new additions to combat and plenty of extra challenge for those ready to seek it out. It doesn't do much to fix the main game's few flaws, but what's here is some of the most compelling and exciting content in the entire game.
Mysidia is a stunning location to explore
The Water Motes and Leviathan add a rich history to Valisthea
Leviathan's Eikon abilities are a blast to use
New endgame content is fun and challenging
Some very neat secret additions to discover
Side quests haven't evolved at all
Facial animations and conversations are still very stiff
Can be quite short if you ignore the extras