Remember that really bizarre moment in Final Fantasy XV, when Gladio turns around and tells the group he needs to take care of some business, then comes back a day later with a huge scar and no explanation? If it wasn’t obvious all the way back then this is where the Episode Gladiolus DLC takes place, as we follow his quest to obtain power from the legendary swordsman Gilgamesh, to become strong enough to be the kings shield. (Take a wild guess where the Prompto DLC will be taking place) The end result is a brief and somewhat fun affair that feels just a little too inconsequential in the end.
Stepping into Gladios shoes we’re given some light context as we meet up with Cor Lionis (you remember, the guy who showed up near the beginning of the game was made out to be a total badass and then vanished at the halfway point) before we arrive at the dlc’s dungeon, the home of the blade master Gilgamesh. In terms of story and development Episode Gladiolus is a little light. We learn about the trial of the kings sworn shield and a little about Cor’s past, however I feel a real opportunity to highlight Gladiolus’s inner struggles and more vulnerable side would have been perfect here. (this dlc carries on the tradition of the main party completely forgetting their past ties) what’s here is fine, however it doesn’t add as many layers or interesting tidbits to the man mountain.
Gameplay wise Episode Gladiolus feels like a bit of a power trip that’s just a little too easy. Gladio was always the go to for the most effective techniques in the main game, thanks to his large sweep range and that can be felt in full effect here. Taking out large groups of enemies can be done with a couple hits and I ended up playing Episode Gladiolus as more of an action game on easy mode than anything else. Without Nocts warp abilities the options are more limited and the environments smaller to compensate the lack of verticality.
Gladio has arts, that essentially act as special moves, the more damage you do the better the art you cast and then you sit back and watch as Gladio wipes the screen in one fine sweep. There’s also a rage meter here, that charges up the more hits you take but the dlc is too easy for it to ever really be a factor. The dlc culminates in a great boss fight that plays almost like a one on one fighting game but up until that point it’s a complete cake walk. Gladio plays exactly how you’d expect high damage and large sweep that makes playing him just feel like button mashing and little else, it’s fun for sure but just feels a little uninteresting.
Graphically Episode Gladiolus offers possibly the most beautiful location in the game. The Himalayan mountain inspired dungeon is package with little details and impressive architecture. The mix of FF’s neon blues and illogical designs with the scope and eeriness of its inspiration delivers an environment I was stopping to admire constantly. There aren’t many new enemy types but the design of this iteration of Gilgamesh is a good one. Episode Gladiolus offers undoubtedly the most unique and vertical dungeon in the game and I found myself wishing the team had made the ones in the main game half as interesting as this.
Episode Gladiolus is fine. Running at about an hour in length, with time trials after completion it’s pretty light, but at £4 I didn’t really expect much more. I didn’t feel the dlc added much to my XV experience overall and honestly would have preferred Square pricing it around £8-£12 and making it a more substantial experience, in which we play flashbacks into Gladios childhood, see his relationship with his father, sister and the gang. (Again Gladios father Clarus goes almost completely unmentioned) Instead it’s just fine for what it is and little more. If you’re dying for more XV content you’re not risking much with the low price tag (or if Square already got you with that season pass) but if you’re on the fence about it, I’d say you can skip it without missing out on much overall.
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