A story without a plan: Final Fantasy XV – Episode Prompto

The last three announced downloadable episodes for Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV were cancelled following the departure of director Hijime Tabata. Pulling what I call “a Bioware”, Square Enix has collected the remains of episodes Aranea, Luna, and Noctis into book form (Final Fantasy XV -The Dawn of the Future-, available in Japanese but yet to be released in English).

Each addition retailed at about $10 AUD upon launch, or are included in the Royal Edition. They are their own fully fledged experiences, that will entertain you for about an hour or two. I took a look back on the four released single-player DLC available to all players today and ranked them from worst to best.  And while this one doesn’t share the same level of disappointment or is as disorganised as Episode Ardyn, Episode Prompto falls flat in it’s execution.

But at least there’s no head-splitting rap music.

Prompto takes centre stage in his very own episode!

Separated from the group and alone in an arctic environment, experience an untold story as Prompto fights to discover the truth behind his origins and to take control of his own fate. 

Become the gunslinger in all-new third person shooter gameplay.

FINAL FANTASY® XV – Episode Prompto

Episode Prompto centres around Prompto’s time after being pushed off a train by Noctis and left to fend for himself in the snow. He’s kidnapped by Ardyn and taken to a magitek facility, where he comes to terms with being a clone of Niflheim researcher Verstael Besithia. Along the way, he runs into Aranea Highwind, who has a mission of her own: to destroy one of Besithia’s most dangerous magitek creations.

The DLC offers the biggest shake-up of controls you’ll come across in any iteration of Final Fantasy XV. Tossing any swordplay to the wind, you take control of Prompto’s small arsenal of firearms in primarily close-quarters locations: pistols, rifles, and grenades. It also includes what the DLC attempts to call “stealth”—though the most you’ll ever engage in this feature are the three enemies you’ll take down for the trophy. What initially appears a semi-open-world layout, complete with snow mobile, quickly proves to be a waste of player time. There is no incentive to remain in the outdoor map for more than a single side-quest, putting what might have been dozens of hours of hard work to complete waste when players favour moving the story along over exploration. 

The button layout for your menus and techniques shifted slightly to accommodate for Prompto’s firearms. Shifting from the typical fire-arm controls with Prompto’s pistol to over-the-shoulder third-person shooter controls for his other guns is awkward and takes time to come to grips with. But you do at least have a companion; with Aranea by your side, you can set up a sniper nest somewhere and command her technique while you take pot shots at magitek troopers. Or you can get up close with a submachine gun, pistol, and your one melee weapon. The variety of gameplay sometimes negates the overall finger-twisting controls.

Episode Prompto introduces “Snapshot”, allowing you to take photos mid-battle with your enemies.

Common encounters are as basic as any typical FFXV fight, proving only slightly complex while working out the DLC’s basic controls. Boss battles, however, are disappointing. The final battle is an on-rails shooter where you hold the trigger button and hope to hit the correct target. You are not using the skills you accumulated over the course of the episode to fight to the end. The time you put in to retraining your trigger finger for choosing weapons or lobbing grenades is thrown out the window for what is the cheapest battle I’ve ever experienced in Final Fantasy XV.

The episode is heavily focused on Prompto coming to terms with his being a clone, intended to become a magitek trooper—and while it’s emotionally engaging, it comes to a sudden end with no connecting element to the base game. He defeats Besithia, he gets on a snowmobile and starts his journey to meet up with the other chocobros . . . and that’s it. It just ends, contradictory to what many perceived to be the DLC’s purpose. Noctis finds Prompto being held hostage by Ardyn in Chapter 13 of the base game—the DLC hints to this, but never answers how he got there. Episode Prompto merely adds an extra stop in that already confusing mystery. 

By focusing on Prompto’s battle with his identity, but promising to explain “what happened when Prompto was pushed off the train”, the DLC has set out—functionally speaking—to tell the wrong story and leave players unsatisfied with the conclusion. Given the size of Prompto’s revelation (that he is a clone from Niflheim), players will feel disappointed that the DLC doesn’t live up to its mandate. The culmination of factors in controls, story, and lack of content leaves it sitting firmly as one of the least favourable FFXV DLC available.

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