'Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus' Review: Greatswords Aren't All That Great

8.5
  • Playstation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Action
  • RPG
2016-11-29
episode gladio
Final Fantasy XV Episode Gladiolus Review Square Enix

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus has arrived, the sprawling epic’s first major piece of DLC since its November release. And it’s pretty much exactly what you’ve been led to expect.

This is normally the point where I’d advise readers this article contains spoilers, but the trailer and descriptions of Episode Gladio have pretty much revealed everything that happens. Playing through the actual DLC just gives you more of what you already knew was coming. Gilgamesh is the main boss. You play as Gladio. You’re in a cave. Cor's there too. 

If you’ve played FFXV, you know that Gladio leaves the main party in Chapter 6 after losing a fight with Ravus, aka Luna’s Sephiroth-looking brother with the robot arm. It’s never been quite clear to me why Gladio’s so devastated by this “defeat,” which isn’t even a proper fight in the first place, but more of a Real Housewives-style out-of-nowhere shove. On top of that, Ravus is a duplicitous little weasel who doesn’t fight fair (again, robot arm) and not actually a particularly compelling nemesis.

Anyway, separated from the Chocobros, Gladio meets up with Cor the Immortal to take on the Trial of Gilgamesh in order to prove to himself worthy of being the head of Noctis’ Kingsguard (which he already is  – he has been since the beginning of the game and it’s clear Noctis has never once questioned Gladdy’s capability to carry out this role, but okay).

The whole DLC takes place in a single dungeon; you don’t get to spend time with Cor in the outside world, though there’s a little cutscene in the Crow’s Nest at Talepar Rest Area. There’s not a new little enclave of the Lucis continent you get to explore either. I was really hoping we’d find out what Cape Shawe is, that inaccessible place west of Cape Caem, but nah (WHY IS IT ON THE MAP THEN, SQUEENIX?).

Making your way through The Tempering Grounds in Episode Gladiolus is not going to take you more than two hours, as the dungeon is quite linear and there’s not a whole lot of exploring to be done. Yet even that short time feels frustratingly limited in terms of what you’re allowed to do, particularly compared to the main story of FFXV. For instance, despite an on-screen prompt at the beginning of the DLC informing the player that Gladio can equip all kinds of weapons, that’s actually not accurate in any way. You’re stuck using a slow-ass greatsword the whole time. You can’t equip accessories or change your weapon. You also can’t gain levels or tell Cor when to use his battle skills. FFXV’s main game will have trained you to expect a lot of freedom in how you approach combat; that isn’t so much the case with Episode Gladio, which can become frustrating.

READ : 'Final Fantasy XV Episode Gladiolus' DLC: Tips And Strategies For Gilgamesh's Trial

It stands to reason that a lot of the time that went into making this DLC was spent on revamping FFXV’s combat system to reflect Gladio’s distinct fighting style. This sounds cool, in theory.

I enjoyed playing as Gladdy in Chapter 13 Verse 2. It was much less infuriating than trying to sparkle 34 goblins to death at a time with the Ring of the Lucii. In Episode Gladiolus though, playing as Gladio feels less fun and more limited than controlling Noctis. FFXV’s combat system can seem chaotic when you’re first getting used to it – the epileptic camera, taking damage from your own magic, Noct’s uncanny ability to store 72 different weapons in his butt. Eventually though, Noctis’ versatility on the battlefield more makes up for the fact that you don’t have much direct control over the other members of your party.

In contrast, playing as Gladio can feel exasperatingly lumbering and slow, and I never quite got the hang of blocking and parrying, as the timing differs substantially from Noct. Also, Episode Gladiolus clearly prompts you to use stone pillars against enemies throughout the dungeon, whether for crowd control or to inflict meaningful damage on armored foes. But the controls aren’t always precise enough to allow you to take hold of these columns without getting pummeled. I found this was especially problematic with the second-to-last boss, Humbaba, a speedy baddie who kept scoring cheap shots as I was struggling with the controls, causing me to blow through a ton of healing items right before the final battle with Gilgamesh.

You might feel differently; if you vibe with the combat style in Episode Gladiolus, you’re probably going to like it more than I did. iDigi’s own ND Medina loved this DLC in a hands-on preview. Maybe greatswords just aren’t for me, but I found myself continually wanting to warp-strike all over the field.

READ MORE : 'Final Fantasy 15' Episode Gladiolus DLC Preview: This Is What DLC Was Made For

The campsite cutscenes between Cor and Gladio are worth seeing, and while there aren’t any especially jaw-dropping revelations to be found in Episode Gladiolus, it’s fun to get a bit more insight into Cor’s background and the Amicitia clan’s ties to the Crown City and Kings of Lucis. Even if the motivations behind this whole sidequest never completely make sense.

The new modes accessible after completing Gilgamesh’s trial aren’t anything that will have you coming back again and again; the only reason to play Score Attack Mode, basically just a speedrun through The Tempering Grounds, is to get the sexy topless Gladio outfit.

I didn’t necessarily dislike Episode Gladiolus, I just wanted more from it, and it makes me a little apprehensive about what's to come in Prompto and Ignis' chapters. I'm glad I played it, but I don't really see myself picking it up again. Part of me wants to like it more than I did, because the highs of FFXV are so damn high, and you can't help but be impressed by the extent to which Square Enix has listened to the fan community and put substantial time and effort into improving FFXV since its debut. Obviously, give Episode Gladiolus a whirl if you’ve got a season pass, but this DLC alone isn’t worth pulling the trigger if you haven’t already.

REVIEW SUMMARY
Final Fantasy XV
8.5
Combat, Plot, Characters Create Something Flawed, Beautiful, Fantastic
Despite it's flaws, Final Fantasy XV is a milestone achievement: not just for being completed, but for being completed with polish, aplomb and love.
  • Engaging main cast of characters
  • Fun, fast-paced combat
  • A massive, beautiful world to explore
  • The Regalia!
  • Continuous updates have addressed some shortcomings of the initial release
  • Major aspects of the story feel rushed or absent, particularly toward the end of the game
  • Stealth sequences feel out of place
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