Does The Rising Tide DLC Impact Final Fantasy 16’s Original Ending?

Does The Rising Tide DLC Impact Final Fantasy 16’s Original Ending?

Final Fantasy 16’s (presumably) final DLC, The Rising Tide, is a fascinating case study on how fan speculation can wildly shape an audience’s expectations. On one hand, Square Enix and the folks at Creative Business Unit 3 never promised this DLC pack would impact the main storyline of the game. However, prerelease teasers and rumors ahead of The Rising Tide’s launch inadvertently fueled the rumor mill about a potentially changed or secret ending.

To make a long story short, completing The Rising Tide will not change the ending of Final Fantasy 16. However, it’s worth unpacking the reasons why the speculation exists in the first place, since it’s linked to some nifty secrets in this new campaign.

The following contains spoilers for both The Rising Tide and the ending of Final Fantasy 16.

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Image: Kotaku Australia
Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

What’s the deal with the secret Eikon in The Rising Tide?

As teased by the game itself after you download The Rising Tide, Leviathan isn’t the only new toy you get to play with. While it’s not exactly an Eikon, Clive Rosfield can gain the powers of Final Fantasy 16’s big bad himself: Ultima.

To unlock Ultima, you’ll need to clear the main story quest of The Rising Tide. This means defeating Leviathan and seeing the splash screen that reads “The Rising Tide Quest Complete.” Afterwards, you’ll see a window pop up that reads “An Invitation,” which will beckon you back to the Arete Stone in The Hideaway. Go there, and the sequence in which Clive gains Ultima’s powers will play out immediately.

Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

I was able to trigger this sequence without completing any side quests in The Rising Tide, so there are no prerequisites to speak of there. However, if you don’t unlock the invitation after defeating Leviathan, make sure you’ve cleared the final boss of Final Fantasy 16 and play using the clear data you are prompted to create after beating the game. This is also required to unlock the Kairos Gate endgame gauntlet.

Now, Clive running around with Ultima’s wings sounds like it should have notable story implications. In fact, the original teaser for this feature at the end of The Rising Tide’s trailer is almost certainly what sparked speculation that Final Fantasy 16’s ending might change. However, this moment is treated strictly as a neat bonus and is never spoken about again after the fact. Even using Ultima’s powers in the final battle doesn’t trigger as much as a “You’d use my own powers against me!?” at any point.

Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

What about the special epilogue quest in The Rising Tide?

This is another feature of The Rising Tide that’s been taken a bit out of context. If you’ve completed Echoes of the Fallen, The Rising Tide, and side quests involving Shula, an extra quest called The Water of Life will appear in Mysidia. If you meet the prerequisites, Shula will give you this quest by the water in Haven. You can’t miss it.

Note: You do not need to complete the epilogue to earn the “The End Can Wait” trophy. You’ll just need to clear all the other available side quests instead.

Here’s the thing: The Water of Life is an epilogue to the DLC stories, not the main game’s story. You’ll see how Echoes of the Fallen connects to The Rising Tide, and you’ll get some closure involving little Waljas after the whole ordeal with Leviathan. If you’re an English literature nerd like me, you might draw some parallels between the quest’s themes of life and death and Final Fantasy 16’s ending. However, nothing here explicitly comments on what happens after the ending.

Again, completing The Water of Life doesn’t change the ending in any way. There isn’t so much as an extra splash screen in the credits acknowledging Mysidia and its residents. Trust me, I checked.

Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

So does Clive really die at the end of Final Fantasy 16?

With the above established, it seems the ending of Final Fantasy 16 is set in stone for now. If you’re still struggling to interpret Clive’s fate at the end, well, the developers have intentionally left it so you could do just that, according to an interview with The Gamer. That is to say, if you want to believe Clive survives at the end and goes on to tell his story, no one can authoritatively tell you otherwise.

That said, if you want my take on it…well, considering Clive says this before the end:

“It seems Ultima’s power was too great for this vessel all along. But while I have it…Perhaps I can use it to set things right…and see Ultima’s legacy – Bearers, Dominants, crystals, magick – consigned to the flames. Even if it means the end of me.”

And Gav says this to the newborn child:

“The world’s yours now. Yours to do with as you please. That’s what Cid wanted. That’s what they both wanted.”

And the lyrics to the ending song and Jill’s theme, “My Star,” contain this verse:

“And when I cannot bear the pain
I’ll look up to the sky and pray
That though our night is over, you shall always remain
Forever my treasure, my star.”

I mean, Clive seems pretty dead to me. Or, at the very least, he’s mostly dead.

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