Back in 2015, developer FromSoftware released Bloodborne, a PS4 exclusive spiritual successor to the studio’s renowned action role-playing game, Dark Souls. While Bloodborne possessed almost all the hallmarks of a Dark Souls game, FromSoftware managed to make its gameplay feel fresh and unique by devaluing one of Dark Souls’ key features: blocking. Final Fantasy 15 Episode 15 Gladiolus DLC manages to bring the same fresh change in gameplay by stripping some features.
One of the biggest changes in Episode Gladiolus is a new gameplay system that removes the training wheels of Final Fantasy 15. Players can only control Gladio in this expansion. Unlike Noctis who can warp to far distances for both evading and attacking foes, Gladio only has his brute strength to rely on.
Players must also raise Gladio’s shield at the right time to parry incoming attacks. Final Fantasy 15 Episode Gladiolus also scraps the huge “parry” prompt that appears in the middle of the screen, meaning players must now rely on visual cues for enemy attacks to successfully parry.
These minor gameplay changes help make the gameplay of Episode Gladiolus feel more engaging than the main game. A rage meter has also been added, rewarding good plays with a huge damage multiplier.
While Square Enix did a great job in making the new gameplay system, the expansion’s pacing and level design was handled poorly. Final Fantasy 15 Episode Gladiolus is basically a one hour affair that involves fighting from one linear corridor to another, taking breaks in-between to reveal some story details as well as some advertisement time for Cup Noodles.
The worst offender is how Square Enix only highlights the new gameplay system in two of the expansion’s boss fights. Except for the final boss and the Final Trial one-on-one battle, players can win enemy encounters by holding or mindlessly mashing the attack button.
Final Fantasy Souls
The latter two boss fights completely penalizes the lack of skill in battles, forcing players to sparingly use Gladio’s slow sword strikes at opportune moments. The latter two boss fights hit hard and can knock out Gladio in two to three hits, forcing players to carefully analyze their enemy attack patterns to block or parry their attacks.
The huge difficulty spike in these two fights made the game feel something akin to a Dark Souls game. Personally, these two fights alone make the $5 expansion worth the cost of entry.
The developers also gave Gladio the ability to lift huge stone pillars to whack against his foes. Gladio’s attacks while wielding the stone pillars can down foes in a few slow strikes. While using stone pillars as a weapon sounds exciting, it feels sluggish and breaks the aggressive combo-based gameplay of the expansion.
Without spoiling its barebones plot, Episode Gladiolus is simply about the titular character’s untold story on how he went through an unwinnable fight in his quest for power. In the main game, Gladio is one of the most one-dimensional characters who protects Noctis by sheer power and determination. The expansion does nothing to add more to both Gladio’s personality and the overall story.
The only thing intriguing in the story of Episode Gladiolus is Cor “The Immortal”. Cor’s backstory gets a spotlight during the brief quiet moments in the game, allowing fans to know how he got his “Immortal” title.
The fact that Gladiolus has no drastic changes in the main game after his trial in this expansion also undermines his quest for power. There’s no added emotional weight to the character and Square Enix should have only kept his trial as a footnote.
Final Fantasy 15 Episode Gladiolus is a short and decent story expansion that brings an engaging new combat system. The same can’t be said for its story as it brings nothing new to the table. Episode Gladiolus gets a 7 out of 10.
- New gameplay system
- Difficult final boss fight
- Final Trial
- Cor backstory
- Captivating new soundtrack
- Shirtless Gladio as a reward
- 1-2 hour length
- Score Attack is simply an arcade mode of the main story
Final Score: 7 out of 10
Note: This game was reviewed on a standard PS4. The copy of the game was purchased by the reviewer.