Final Fantasy XV: Episode Prompto (Xbox One Review)
After finishing Final Fantasy XV’s first batch of DLC content entitled Episode Gladiolus, I was pining for more of it. With a limited breath of life, Episode Gladiolus fleeting flames had sizzled out as Gladio’s hour-long dungeon escapade came to a close rather quickly, taking with it the epic soundtrack and weighted combat that made his particular adventure so memorable, more so than the main game. Now, enter Prompto. Taking to the stage with high hopes that his own venture of self discovery will technically and emotionally surpass that of his ripped comrade-in-arms Gladio. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
For me, and maybe for many, Prompto was a character that I failed to appreciate throughout Final Fantasy XV’s main story. With his most notable perk being his ability to take photos means that really is his only purpose, to fit around a mechanic that has on real gameplay benefit. That, and that he is Noctis’ best friend which unfortunately means he’s attached to Noctis at the hip, squealing the Final Fantasy victory theme tune and occasionally making thirsty remarks to any women he comes across. Nothing about him made me feel like I wanted him to be there.
Episode Prompto changes that. I don’t exactly have a whole new appreciation for him but now I definitely feel Prompto has a place in the world of Eos and not simply as a glorified walking tripod.
Set within chapter 12 the main campaign, Prompto is thrown asunder from a moving train by Noctis (tricked by antagonist Ardyn) into the cold, harsh frozen tundra of the lands of Niflheim. Seeing his friends continue on without him, Prompto is forced to brave these frozen dunes whilst combating feelings of abandonment and self-doubt. As Promtpo’s own story of self discovery and self worth unfolds, he becomes a more likable character to boot. Whilst most of his self reflection is through him moaning and crying about the past and things to come, Prompto as a character develops to a point where he matures into an individual of worth, with re-prioritised goals and a new look on life, ready to take the world on with his friends.
But not everyone is here for Prompto’s own story. There are those who are simply in it to see if Promtpo’s bullet dodging gunplay is upto scruff with Noctis’ own melee centric, warping fighting style or even Gladio’s heavy hitting, combo gameplay. The answer; it doesn’t. Prompto’s own fighting style revolves around firearms and the most thematic answer to that is of course a third person shooter aesthetic; a style that Episode Prompto was destined to have. And this is one gameplay style that, although fitting to the character, doesn’t work well in-game. With Prompto’s main revolver missing more shots than a stormtrooper at a keg party, players will need to resort to the additional weaponry provided by the enemy forces. Assault rifles, sniper rifles and rocket launchers are at the player’s disposal. However, unlike Prompto’s revolver, blind firing and lock-on are unavailable. So, Square Enix have implemented an over-the-shoulder camera to Prompto, allowing players to line up headshots and critical shots that can stagger foes for his unique move “Crackshot” which does huge amounts of damage in one go. All of this may sound attractive to some, but the shoulder mounted camera aiming is just outright awkward. There are no options in combat that make it feel as fluent or as engaging as that of Noctis or Gladio. And since Prompto is obviously the only character you can go throughout this DLC segment, Prompto himself becomes a deterrent for his own DLC adventure.
The only highlight I found during combat was when Aranea joins the fray to help Prompto on his journey. Often leading to Aranea doing all the heavy lifting while I watched from the sidelines. Hardly an engaging arrangement.
As much fun as the first DLC component was, Episode Gladio lacked a large world for players to explore and uncover for themselves; rather it simply limited them to a singular dungeon path. One that got stale as you played it several times over. Episode Prompto rectifies that by letting players loose in the environmentally unfriendly frozen tundra’s of Niflheim. After trudging through corridor after corridor of Niflheim research labs — all of which feels like an homage to the notoriously received Chapter 13 — the world opens up to us, sidequests and all. While the world isn’t nearly as big as the main game, it does offer breathing room to explore and take in the world Prompto has been thrust into.
Even though the world has been opened up to us, there is still very little in the way to do other than a few sidequests here or there. Side quests that give players parts to upgrade their main mode of transportation, a snowmobile. One that is only helpful during this open area, because as soon as you decide to continue on, you won’t really be using much of it again. Making the rewards and completion of this optional content rather redundant. So with that being said, the open world aspect falls short of any real reason to invest time in exploring it, but it is still available to those who want Episode Prompto to last a bit longer than that of Episode Gladiolus.
And just like Episode Gladiolus, once the main portion of Prompto’s redefining journey comes to a close, extra content opens up for you to take a jab at — one piece being a sparring match with Aranea, a one-on-one fight that puts all your skills and understanding of Prompto’s mechanics to the test. Secondly, we have Time Trials, a set of three stages that pit Prompto against the clock. Using the snowmobile, you must make it to the finish line as quickly as possible, picking up crystals as speed boosts and avoiding enemy fire as to not slow you down. And surprisingly, these Time Trials were rather fun. The controls can sometimes be a bit off but the maneuvering of obstacles and the adrenaline rush of trying to get the fastest time all work well together.
Overall, Prompto’s outing is underwhelming at best, with the gameplay being subpar to anything that has come before it, the open world being nothing more than a blank canvas that you can’t really do much with, and sidequests being rather redundant in the scope. Its only saving grace is Prompto’s continued character development from a weeping man-child to someone more mature and collected, ready to face the world ahead of him. That, and some of the Time Trials are fun too. If you thought Episode Gladiolus was a fun venture and thinking about picking up Episode Prompto then it may be best to think again, as everything that it aspired to be doesn’t really pan out for the best.