Occasionally here at Player2.net.au, we will play something that deserves your attention but probably doesn’t need a full review written for it. Be it DLC for the latest AAA title, a little indie game or even an Android/iOS title. We play these titles for a blockbusting amount of time (2 – 5 hours) and report back to you the reader on what we found. So grab your popcorn and settle in for the latest episode of Blockbuster Gaming
Blockbuster Gaming – Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus DLC
PS4, Xbox One
Final Fantasy XV was one of my favourite games of 2016. Perhaps this opinion was slightly nostalgia filled, or driven by a decade of anticipation, but it was a game that for the better part of a fortnight I was unable to tear myself away from. I sliced and diced my way through countless side-quests, all because it was fun to do so before launching into the final chapters and completing a game that I’d waited on for far too long. I then purchased the season pass with the knowledge that more was to come – and so it has with the release of Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus, and it’s fair to say that I’m disappointed by what I’ve received.
Everything great that the core Final Fantasy XV experience delivered is countered by a less thoughtful approach in Episode Gladiolus. Where the core game was open and contained few barriers to where you could go, Episode Gladiolus is about as linear as a game gets. Where I felt combat had depth originally, it felt shallow and simplistic now, and while it was certainly an intriguing tale, due to the quite lacklustre gameplay framework around it, Episode Gladiolus never really demanded my attention.
Linearity is a divisive aspect of gaming in recent years. Final Fantasy XV was applauded in 2016 for having granted us a truly open world, that allowed you to travel anywhere you wanted, and provided you had the skill to offset the difference in player level versus what was recommended, you could tackle any mission or monster you liked in these areas. In the case of Episode Gladiolus, you’re on a one-way path, that has little room for deviation, and it’s a shame, because while the narrative thread dictates that Gladio should find himself in the particular location we find him in – more could have been done to open up this environment and give us more to explore within it. The consequence of this decision is that most players will not at any stage take in the sights around them, and will just mash their way through combat to the next segment – rinse and repeat.
Combat itself was also quite disappointing. There was significant depth to the combat of Final Fantasy XV. Combining moves with your allies and approaching the encounter with a thoughtful mindset were two of the best aspects of the core game, but in Episode Gladiolus, combat rarely elevates between a level of button mashing. The intended design is supposed to see players alternate between offence and defence, with the fundamental difference between Noctis and Gladio being that in the case of Gladio, his defensive manoeuvre is a block, rather than Noctis’ evasive dodge. It is, however, rare that you will need to defer to the block because you can quite quickly mash your way through any undead foes you encounter.
I was however impressed by the story that this episode was looking to tell. Gladiolus was the mysterious bodyguard who you always knew had been on a rough road up until the point where he became Noctis’ protector, but to get one sample of the trials he’s been through was most satisfying. It was also nice to see how a particular point of the core narrative, where Gladio breaks from the party for a period of time filled in by this DLC.
The primary portion of Episode Gladiolus is the 60-90minute long narrative, but for those looking for more, and something a little bit different to anything presently available in Final Fantasy XV, then you may derive some enjoyment from the Score Attack mode. It’s pretty straightforward, and you’re essentially looking to speed run the DLC campaign without saving, whilst scoring points along the way which you can then compare to your friend’s efforts. It’s a simple distraction that may keep players interested for a bit longer post campaign completion, but I would not expect it to capture your interest for too long.
The bland setting, the slow, and poorly considered combat, and some really poor musical decisions mean that Episode Gladiolus doesn’t come close to reaching the heights of the main game, and that’s a shame given that it has an interesting plot, and it’s experimenting with ideas in the Score Attack mode. There’s simply too many negative aspects associated with this DLC for me to truly recommend it to anyone but the hardest of hardcore Final Fantasy fans. If you’re anyone else, make like Noctis and dodge this one.