Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus (Xbox One Review)
By now those who have invested their time in Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV will have no doubtedly have one too many questions that are still left unanswered. Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladious is set to rectify a small portion of those answers while giving an extended look at the sole character in question: Gladio
At a rather early and integral point in the campaign, burly man and stereotypical heavy hitter Gladio disappears to run some “errands”, leaving poor Noctis and co. to fend for themselves. Later on Gladio re-emerges claiming to be changed man, all for the better, without an inkling of a hint or clue to where he’s been all this time. And it’s not until the recent release of the Episode Gladiolus expansion to Final Fantasy XV that we get to uncover the secrets of Gladio’s soul searching expedition.
In short and without spoiling too much, Gladio gives his old pal Cor Leonis a call to see if he wants to help Gladio on a heartfelt journey of self discovery. After certain events take place within the main Final Fantasy XV campaign, Gladio is feeling rather overwhelmed and not upto the task laid before him, being the King’s Shield; a title bestowed to members of his family for their royal protective duty. With that being said, Gladio and Cor venture into the depths of the Tempering Grounds to undergo the Trial of Gilgamesh and face the Blademaster. Ultimately in hopes that Gladio can prove to himself he is a worthy inheritor for the title of King’s Shield. Episode Gladio is a short and sweet affair of tight knit battles revolving around combo’s, destruction and just straight up looking badass. Battles are fairly sequential fighting a few of the same creatures you’ve probably already faced umpteen times in the main campaign with a few variations on each. For anyone who’s delved into one of many of Final Fantasy XV’s dungeons will find familiar structure in how the new Tempering Grounds area is laid out; some narrow passages ending in a large room for a grand fight. Nothing new to be had in terms of layout, although the design is quite fiendish with rocks and bone merging into one,a litany of corpses lie littered as all those who have failed before you; invoking a true sense of weight to Gladio’s expected triumph.
Gladio himself handles not to dissimilar to Noctis. He can parry, dodge roll, jump, swing his mighty sword all with relative ease akin to Noctis. Though he no longer has the ability to Warp/Warp dodge. Negating the ability to effectively dodge incoming attacks, Gladio opt’s for a shield to take the brunt of the incoming force, though his defence is not impenetrable. A meter will slowly deplete as Gladio raises his shield and regenerate when not in use. Encouraging players to use it effectively and gradually learn to parry attacks without the prompting of “Press X to block now” QTE system. Gladio can also perform a variety of moves that use up his “Rage” meter, the more consecutive blocks and parries you perform the faster the meter will build up, allowing you to unleash Gladio’s more destructive techniques. This meter is all too useful when it comes to facing the Blademaster himself, learning to block, parry, and unleash your flurry of attacks at the most opportune time is paramount to victory.
The main bulk of Gladio’s own inclusive story doesn’t last long, roughly an hour tops. Even though battle’s are fairly straight forward – a few requiring that you to master the parrying technique- they leave you wanting more as Gladio himself feels more stylish and badass than his cringe worthy compatriot Noctis ever was. Add to this the soundtrack that accompanies Episode Gladio, with the main battle theme being a culmination of heavy guitar riffs and frantic drum beats compounds to the feeling that Gladio is a complete badass and someone not to be trifled with. That said, the soundtrack only includes 3 to 4 tracks total and the main battle theme repeats itself ad nauseum, becoming a tedious sound on multiple playthroughs. Once your initial playthrough is done and dusted, and if you are still wanting more from Episode Gladio, then lucky for you Time Attack and Final Trial are unlocked upon first completion of Episode Gladiolus. Time attack is fairly self explanatory, an arcade style run of Gladio’s campaign of self discovery. Earning points for big combos, items used and of course time take to complete. Final Trial on the other hand pits you against your rival and self reflective buddy Cor Leonis. A 1vs1 fight full of dodging and parrying; a conclusive test to see if you have really master Gladio and his various techniques.
Episode Gladiolus is not what I expected it to be. Rather than a single dungeon to explore I envisioned multiple areas to venture into and various characters to interact with other than Cor Leonis himself. But maybe that’s me just being spoiled by how other developers handle DLC. Regardless it was a bittersweet journey through Gladio’s thoughts and emotions. If this sort of story telling is being done with the rest of our budding king’s entourage then i’d more than welcome it, whilst secretly wishing for more.