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02/05 - Final Fantasy XV - Episode Gladiolus/Episode Prompto/Episode Ignis
Finally got around to these DLC chapters. Still got Episode Ardyn to do at some point, but that feels more like an outlier compared to these, which were always meant to be closer companion pieces. Overall I think they start off pretty poorly, but get better as they go along, and end on a pretty high note. So in that sense they feel right played together as well. If I was buying/playing these piecemeal as they came out I might have been a bit disappointed in them. So, a few words on each.
This one is pretty mediocre and lacking in substance. It's just a single short dungeon that is completely linear and gives you no room to explore. The lacking attempt at a story is nothing more than beating some ancient spirit to prove you have the power to defend Noctis, which was never something that felt like it had any relevance to anything else in the game. It was however quite a pretty looking dungeon, having you move through a series of caves that poke out on to a cliffside of a huge canyon, along with some impressively fantastical looking rock formations. Time passes as you progress too, giving you some really nice sunset lighting at the finale. I suppose you could say there's also some fun in it if you enjoy the combat of this game, since it focuses on pretty much exclusively on that. I do personally enjoy it, but I can see why for a lot of people it doesn't really cut it. On top of that, you only get access to Gladio's big sword, which is pretty sluggish and unwieldy. Not the most fun weapon type to use in the game. Overall, inoffensive, but not really especially appealing. And with how arbitrary and pointless it feels, it fits the really unsubtle way Gladio just leaves the party in the main game for this side-chapter.
This one was quite a lot more ambitious when it came to gameplay. This time it's focused almost entirely on ranged weapons, which feel nothing like any of the normal weapons you get to use in the base game. Yet at the same time the way they do it feels very appropriate. If you imagine what the game does to a traditional hack-and-slash control scheme, this DLC applies that same logic to a third-person shooter control scheme. It's very odd. It more or less works, although it's definitely not giving the likes of Vanquish a run for its money. It has some novelty value though I suppose. In addition to that, this one is semi-open world for the second half of it. You get to explore a large snowy mountainous area on a snowmobile. The problem is, there's pretty much no reason to do so. There's nothing in it. You have some "side-quests" you can do, which seem to consist of just random battles that show up periodically. But they just look like fights with basic enemies, and reward you with upgrades for your snowmobile, which seems totally pointless. There's no need.
That said, it does have a couple of interesting narrative bits. Aranea shows up for this one, and seeing her interact with Prompto is pretty fun. They also dig in to Prompto's back story a bit more, which was interesting. Nothing new gets revealed, but they explore his feelings about wanting to be accepted and worthy to Noctis and co. The DLC also ends with an insane set piece of a boss fight that has a really weird twist to it. So spoilers ahead if you don't want to know, but honestly I don't think explaining this one thing ruins anything major. You sit on the back of the snowmobile in a turret section, where you are chased by a colossal robotic worm that is possessed by the demonic spirit of the head weapons researcher of the evil empire's army. Yeah. In general though I'd say this one had a few interesting bits, but still wasn't amazing. I enjoyed the narrative bits I mentioned, but that only makes up a very small part of the run-time. Combat was somewhat interesting for being so different, but I still prefer using swords, etc.
This one was actually quite impressive. All these DLCs were only about 2 hours long, yet in that short time, this one managed to pack a lot of cool stuff in. It takes place towards the end of the Altissia section of the main game, so you are back in that setting here. Except now you have way more mobility options, giving you a grappling hook to zip up to rooftops, letting you run around basically anywhere. It's really impressive given how fiddly it was to navigate that place before. It also has this system where you can defend certain districts of the city from attack, helping turn the tide of the battle that was just in the background in the base game. It also goes some way to help fulfil the promise of what was shown in one of the earlier trailers of the game, where they showed this same battle, with Noctis jumping around rooftops and stuff, participating much more than you ever get to do in the final product. It's not exactly the same, but it's something. Ignis' daggers are also easily the most fun combat style of all the DLCs too. Much faster and responsive than Gladio, and just more involving and cool than Prompto. Having different elemental magic that changes how your attacks work beyond applying different damage types is cool as well. Although I'm not sure on his weird counter attack thing. It seems like you need to get hit to even get a chance to do it, but it's impossible to predict and the timing on it is strict.
Story-wise it has a few really cool moments. Seeing the reason for the big change Ignis goes through for the second half of the main game is pretty satisfying, and it delves in to his feelings of duty towards Noct in a way that was pretty well done. There's even a scene at the very end with the two talking that was actually quite moving. They also add something in that adds some extra dramatic weight to their relationship in the game proper. It definitely manages much better than the other two DLCs on the narrative front. That would have been enough in itself, but then it goes and tops itself by having an alternate ending. While this wasn't as good a story as the main ending, it does go down some interesting roads. It gives you a little bit more insight in to Ardyn, and explores Ignis' devotion to Noct in a different way as well. It's an entertaining "what if" scenario, that adds a little extra flavour to the DLC and was a nice surprise to see them go the extra mile on this when they didn't need to.
As is probably clear Episode Ignis was my favourite overall, and I would say it's well worth trying out. Gladio can be skipped and you would miss nothing. Prompto is okay, but not necessary. Doesn't add anything meaningful outside of novelty. But Ignis is pretty cool and actually adds something that feels worthwhile.