In the four months of its release since the 10 year build up, Final Fantasy XV has been kind to its fans by offering a wealth of free game updates including additional music and a whole festival dedicated to two of the franchises most famous creatures, moogles and chocobos. The first paid-for DLC has now arrived and as advertised as focusing on each of Noctis’ companions, with this one concentrating on Gladiolus.

This episode takes place at the part of the main story where Gladiolus decides to take some time away from the group in order to build up his strength. Whilst it takes part within the main Final Fantasy XV timeline, the DLC is accessed from the main menu.

Upon loading up the content, you have the opportunity to play a tutorial. This is highly advisable as Episode Gladiolus features a new battle system. As you are no longer playing as Noctis, gone are the abilities to use magic and warp all-round the battlefield. Instead, all Gladiolus has to rely on are his trusty Claymore sword and a shield. Hold B to attack, hold X to defend, or press Y if you have stored enough energy in your Glaive Arts meter to perform a special attack. Gone is any real need to prepare for a battle as you are also unable to change weapons to exploit enemy weaknesses – simply hold B down when walking into a group of enemies and you will come out on top.

As mentioned before, Gladiolus takes time away from Noctis et al to strengthen up and protect his King better than he has done to this point. He teams up with Cor to travel to a new area called the Tempering Grounds in order to undertake the trials within. Only one person has survived these trials before, Cor himself, so he is the obvious companion.

Throughout the DLC, Cor will reveal little titbits of info of what it was like taking on the trials 30 years ago, and coming face to face with The Blademaster, the big boss in the DLC. Fans of the series will be pleased to know that The Blademaster is in fact Gilgamesh, but in Final Fantasy XV Gilgamesh has a very serious attitude. He still has his Genji Blade though and after defeating him this can be taken back over in to the main game.

The new area plays out largely like the dungeons in the base game, only this one appears a bit longer. That said though, I had the final boss defeated within 90 minutes of first heading in, but for the price of £3.99 then it goes without saying that we shouldn’t expect loads of new content. Annoyingly as well your Gladiolus does not carry over from the main story into the DLC. He is Level 24 throughout the DLC and does not earn any EXP.

The new content is lengthened by two extra modes upon completion of the main dungeon: Final Trial grants one last battle against a new opponent and Score Attack is a mode that has you travel back through the Tempering Grounds in the fastest time possible, only this time without Cor. Compared to the first time you enter the dungeon, these new modes are tough as nails and provide a major challenge to complete and/or achieve a high score. It is almost unfairly difficult in comparison. Get a score of over 500,000 though and you also unlock a new outfit for Gladiolus for the main game. I say an outfit, but it’s actually a topless version of the character which, weirdly boosts his attack and defence higher than it is when he is wearing clothes.

In the prologue and epilogue to Episode Gladiolus you will find yourself in more familiar surroundings, sat around a campfire with Noctis, Prompto and Ignis. They are inquisitive and want to know where Gladiolus got the new weapon and more importantly, the new scar. It’s a nice touch to be back with these characters that players have spent more than 50 hours with, even if it is a short meeting.

Sadly, there isn’t much positive to write about for the first piece of Final Fantasy XV DLC which, as a massive Final Fantasy XV fan is an almighty shame. They’ve stripped away most of the good battle mechanics from the main game (understandable considering it’s a different character who did not have access to these abilities), and replaced it with a very bland system where a lot of the time your finger is left holding the B button down. It’s fun to explore this extended dungeon, but it offers nothing over the existing ones in the main game, where you have a Gladiolus tailored to your playstyle.

Thankfully, it has a final teaser for the next DLC once completed, Episode Prompto, and this so far looks far more exciting so you’re better off waiting a bit longer.

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