Through the harshest of weather
Back at the start of April I reviewed Final Fantasy XV’s first DLC episode Gladiolus. An experience I found to be somewhat fun, though ultimately too short and unsubstantial to really recommend. It’s an experience I’ve since barely remembered and my interest in future DLC was along the lines of well if there’s nothing else to play I’ll pick up the next one (luckily the summer game drought saw me to this point)
Episode Prompto the second DLC episode released this week is the exact opposite of the first, where the first felt inconsequential and overall unimportant, Episode Prompto feels impactful and substantial adding new layers to its titular character and tying up loose ends left by the main game. Where episode Gladiolus felt short and underdeveloped, episode Prompto feels well-paced and offers a nice chunk of content. Almost all the problems and misgivings I had with the first piece of DLC have been addressed or changed here, leaving me with a decent 3 hour experience that left me satisfied both with its story and gameplay.
Episode Prompto follows (you guessed it) Prompto, overall comedy relief character and general goof ball after his disappearance in the main game (there was a train, Ardyn was up to his old trick and well we may have attempted to kill him but no biggie) as he finds himself stranded in the snowy outlands of Nifleheim. Through the DLC he is confronted with elements of his past (that I won’t spoil) as he begins to question both who he is and where he belongs in the world. Its pretty heavy stuff to cram into a £4 DLC and its genuinely impressive just how much of a different side of and the depth given to Prompto over the 2 to 3 hours. For a character who’s only real characteristic in the main game was being the goofy one, we see him go through serious emotional turmoil and growth overall. It’s a far cry from Gladiolus never once reacting to or even so much as mention his father’s death in his own DLC or main game.
While playing XV proper my opinion on Prompto wasn’t all that high I didn’t mind him but he felt like he lacked any sort of depth, after playing his DLC and learning his past I find his happy-go-lucky attitude far more endearing (though I don’t think I can ever forgive the amount of phoenix downs I wasted getting the guy up every 5 seconds just yet)
Where the previous DLC episode felt like it didn’t really add anything new to its character, episode Prompto feels near enough essential to understanding Prompto. (something I’m sure a lot of people on the internet will not be happy about)
Its numerous moments of downtime and it’s willingness to go at a much more methodical pace pays off and offers a short tale that both enriches the overall lacking lore of XV and its titular character himself, couple that with the return of criminally underused characters from the main game and you have a story that is genuinely enjoyable from start to finish, that feels important overall.
Gameplay is also something that Episode Prompto (for the most part) gets right.
While I thought the gameplay was decent in the previous episode, my problem was that it just felt like using the heavy weapons in the main game only way easier, with Episode Prompto we get to try our hand at something almost completely absent from the main game, guns.
Being the firearms member of the party in XV, actually controlling Prompto feels more like playing a third person shooter than it does an action rpg. (though of course they find ways of jrpging it up a little)
The DLC for the most part forgoes the melee combat of the main game in favourite of machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket launchers and the result is a fun if a little clunky affair. The Nifleheim base you will be spending most of the game in is littered with weapon caches and enemy soldier’s ready to have their weapons relieved from them. Prompto’s trusty pistol is to put it lightly fairly useless and ammunition for the above mentioned weapons is fairly light, so the gameplay becomes more about stunning enemies then running up and stealing their weapons than it does about taking them out. This isn’t a negative though, as you have to be tactical somewhat about how you use your ammunition and when to run out of cover, though luckily ammo caches replenish fairly quickly alleviating any frustrating that might arise.
Its a fun system and while it can be fairly clunky, as weapon switching and aiming is a little finicky (somewhat expected when putting shooter mechanics into an action rpg frame)
it ends up being a lot of fun. And you get to drive a snowmobile down a mountain, so you know there’s that.
Graphically it goes without saying that Final Fantasy XV: Episode Prompto looks incredible, anything with the Final Fantasy name on it usually looks better than anything else on the market. Just like the last DLC, episode Prompto brings with it an incredible new environment in the snow-capped mountains and secret bases of Niflhiem’s outlands. The environment is expansive and there is an impressive amount of cut-scenes and visual eye candy to enjoy over the adventure, as well as new enemies and costume designs. Everything comes with the FF level of detail, with character models looking second to none and environments having a high level of imaginative design.
Further praise can be given to the eclectic soundtrack that somehow manages to mix glitchy dubstep electronic songs with slow minimalistic piano themes. It’s an interesting mix that manages to work with the tone of the DLC overall and offers up some of my favourite tracks from the entire game as a whole (namely Prompto’s theme because I’m a sucker for those slow piano numbers)
Episode Prompto is pretty much everything I wanted from the Final Fantasy XV DLC back when Episode Gladiolus launched, it’s a good length, tells a story that actually feels important and ends on an appropriately epic boss fight. The combat system is a blast and does a lot of new things with XV’s mechanics, the story feels impactful and well paced and at over twice the length of the previous DLC it completely justifies its small £4 price. Of course it’s not perfect, the combat system does have the expected clunkiness of an rpg trying its hand at shooting and the DLC’s main villain could have done with more screen time, but these issues are minor overall and probably expected from the lower price point.