This review contains minor spoilers for first half of Final Fantasy XV.
Episode Gladiolus is a decent start for Final Fantasy XV’s serialized story DLC. While it has new gameplay and character development, the story itself isn’t overly memorable.
Episode Gladiolus: Final Fantasy XV DLC
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
In our review of Final Fantasy XV, we noted that there were some elements of the plot that were somewhat glazed over. One of these side-stories was Gladiolus’s seemingly random departure after being overpowered by Ravus, followed by his return with a new scar, and no explanation as to where he was. Thankfully, Episode Gladiolus fills this gap well, even if the overall story is somewhat derivative.
Immediately after leaving the main party, Gladio meets up with the Marshal of the Crownsguard who appeared early in FFXV, Cor Leonis. After a quick discussion, it is established that Gladio seeks to undergo a dangerous trial that is available for those who aspire to be the best “Shield” to the King as they can be. After losing to Ravus, Gladio feels unfit to protect Noctis, so it feels natural that Gladio would partake in this trial. It doesn’t change the strange pacing of his departure, but I’m glad to get some clarification as to why he left.
The trial itself is very average as a dungeon. While it’s fun to run around with Cor, as he was criminally underused in FFXV, the battles themselves aren’t particularly special until the final boss. The atmosphere of the surrounding area, with the bodies and swords of those who failed the trial, is great though, and adds a sense of eerie tension to the trial.
The trial is linear and easy to run through, with the occasional rest stop where Gladio will, naturally, eat some Cup Noodles to restore his health. Strangely enough, these rests serve as a highlight of the Episode, as you learn a great deal about Cor and his experience from taking the trial thirty years prior. Cor’s insight into the battle ahead shows that he wasn’t always “Cor the Immortal”, and it adds new dimensions to a character I really wanted to see more of.
The obvious highlight of the episode is Gilgamesh, the iconic swordsman who is a staple of the Final Fantasy franchise. While Gilgamesh is much more stoic and samurai-like in this version, it’s a bit disappointing to see him not being his goofball-self we’ve become so accustomed to. Regardless, this serious Gilgamesh fits better with the story’s tone, and to be fair, he’s pretty cool. His position as a powerful swordsman who exists to test and destroy the unworthy is a refreshing new concept for his character, making his intense fight feel like a true duel.
The gameplay in Episode Gladio is somewhat different from that of the base game, as Gladio doesn’t have the same abilities as Noctis. Gladio’s attacks fill a special bar that allow him to do specific special moves (normally his Link Strikes), with the bar charging more quickly if Gladio can nail consistent combos. It’s not an overly drastic difference in gameplay, but it’s definitely unique enough to keep things interesting for the Episode’s two hour runtime.
The music in Episode Gladio isn’t memorable for the most part, but the game’s version of one of my favourite Final Fantasy tracks, “Battle at the Big Bridge” is exemplary, as it’s unlike any of the other remixes I’ve heard, which may be due to the unique tones of Keiichi Okabe, composer of NieR Automata. There’s an epic subtlety to it that is absent in other versions, which is interesting in comparison to previous versions.
The Final Word
Episode Gladio is a good start for Final Fantasy XV’s planned DLC. While Cor and Gilgamesh are great to see, and the changed gameplay is interesting, the dungeon and overall story are somewhat bland.
MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair