Final Fantasy XV - Episode Prompto Review
It's very clear that Square Enix is trying to keep Final Fantasy XV alive, with persistent free game updates and a DLC schedule that will at least be stretched to the end of 2017. It's actually kind of strange in a way, especially with future plans to add multiplayer and character creation to a traditionally single player game.
Episode Prompto is the second major character DLC after Episode Gladiolus released in March, which was honestly such a disappointment I couldn't even bring myself to review it on this website. It was a boring, short, pointless addition that really accomplished nothing and was certainly not worth the $5.00 cost of entry. Thankfully, Episode Prompto is at least a little bit better than that.
As in the nature of this DLC, there will be some light spoilers in the review for Final Fantasy XV.
Episode Prompto takes place late in the Final Fantasy XV storyline where Prompto is separated from the party after a clash with the game's main villain. Even before booting up the additional episode, the situation is already immediately more interesting than Gladiolus due to the surrounding circumstances. In the main game, Prompto returns to the party after learning a bit about his origins. He shares this with his comrades upon being rescued, which provides a sudden revelation about his character. However, it comes off a bit abruptly and, of course, this DLC episode is meant to flesh out this aspect of Prompto.
Prompto is not in the best of mindsets during his episode. In the heart of enemy territory as he proceeds through Empire facilitie, he begins to doubt his bond with Noctis upon learning more and more about his birth. He begins to question his place in the world, and his worth as a person. It's not the most unique of character origins but it's effective enough to keep things interesting, at least a little bit.
While Prompto is probably the most compelling character in Final Fantasy XV, at times, I think the DLC goes a little too far with his struggles and self-doubt. This culminates in him having difficulty in fighting man-made soldiers because he himself feels like he's no better than them. I get what they are trying to say with this sort of dilemma, but it doesn't quite feel genuine that Prompto would struggle so much at this point after everything he had gone through prior.
On the plus side, one neat addition to this DLC package is the return of Aranea to the picture. In a story sense, she helps Prompto get back on his feet and regain his confidence. Many characters felt like they didn't get enough 'screentime' in the original release, so it's good to see them get a little more time here. Of course, you also get to see Aranea a lot more in combat, as she helps out Prompto for a large chunk of the enemy encounters in the DLC.
Aranea is actually invincible as a party member, so you can often keep Prompto firing at a distance while she maintains the enemy attention. This does remove a lot of the potential difficulty, but it's still enjoyable to have her along for the ride.
The DLC turns an RPG into a light third person shooter. It's nothing fancy, but surprisingly functional otherwise. I got accustomed to the slightly tweaked control scheme fairly readily - which is a bit of a hybrid from FFXV's usual gameplay style and that of a typical shooter. You can hide behind cover, aim and shoot while moving, the things you'd normally expect. You can still activate special artes that same way they are done in the main game. This style of gameplay would not carry a full game, but works well enough for this side-story.
Mechanically, the weirdest aspect of the DLC is how it handles Prompto's weapon set. He has his pistol which works as the infinite-ammo base in case you don't have anything else, but he can also pick up an SMG, sniper rifle, or bazooka from lockers scattered around the level. These weapons don't have many clips/bullets and you're bound to run empty fairly quickly. So, what ends up happening is that you tend to hover around lockers when battling in order to continually pick up new weapons as your ammo runs out.
It's not functionally broken, but it certainly feels a bit awkwardly structured. In the gameplay video above, you can often see how I continually run back and forth between lockers to keep a weapon on hand. Even during some of the game's boss fights and optional large creature encounters, I found myself huddling near weapon stashes to always have access to the arsenal. It felt a bit too restricting than what could have been offered here.
Partway through the episode, you get access to a snowmobile to help traverse the snowy landscape with ease. There are also sidequests you can tackle, which result in both restorative items as well as parts you can use to upgrade the snowmobile's speed and handling. Upgrading the snowmobile is totally optional, and there's absolutely no penalty if you decide to ignore this. Overall, the episode is about 2 hours long - moreso if you feel like tackling all the quests.
Episode Prompto is a significant improvement over Episode Gladiolus, and fans of Final Fantasy XV will enjoy the additional light character development. It's still a bit awkward in places both narratively and mechanically, but it works well enough to fill a gap in Final Fantasy XV.