Struggling to push on, feelings of loss, confusion, and betrayal sink in as you force yourself ever onward, unsure if you’ll make it through unscathed, darkness prodding at the edge of your vision. Not only was this how I felt playing Final Fantasy XV‘s second piece of story DLC, but it’s also how it opens, as Prompto struggles through a Niflheim tundra.
It’d be hard to talk about the story of Episode Prompto without spoiling some of the late-game story of Final Fantasy XV, so consider this your warning. As you’d expect, Episode Prompto follows Prompto after he is “accidentally” pushed off of a train by Noctis (Ardyn used magic to make Prompto appear to be him during the train attack), but before he meets back up with the rest of the party in Chapter 13, inside Zegnautus Keep.
XV is given some time to delve into Prompto’s history and Verstael’s experiments.
During this time Prompto finds himself at a magitek production facility, overseen by the DLC’s mad scientist big bad, Verstael. This guy is responsible for creating the magitek soldiers, who are all Stormtrooper-esque clones of himself merged with demon power. He’s also Prompto’s creator, as he is a “reject clone” (I warned you about spoilers). This is revealed abruptly and without context in Final Fantasy XV itself, and never feels like it has much bearing on the plot at all.
Here, at least, XV is given some time to delve into Prompto’s history and Verstael’s experiments. It’s nice to have, but as retrospective context as opposed to a reveal it’s a bit lacking in impact throughout. It may have been nicer if this is how we first discovered Prompto’s origins.
There is, however, an in-game rendered version of Prompto as a fat child, first introduced in the anime tie-in, so at least we get that. Fat Prompto (Plumpto?) being part of the two-pronged “tragic backstory” of Prompto where he also had to learn to better himself to lose weight and become Noctis’ friend, as well as deal with being a clone from Niflheim.
Aranea Highwind also jumps in to help Prompto as a party member. Somehow she manages to blisteringly make tracks from meeting Noctis and the gang in Tenebrae to where Prompto is, then have an adventure, and then send Prompto off on his way to be captured and held captive within the Keep. She can do some pretty big jumps, so that’s probably how she manages it. She’ll kill a lot of enemies for you, and also run around in front of them not being spotted before you initiate combat. Aranea is a cool character, but has a pretty passive role here, which is a bit of a shame as of all of XV’s guest characters she’s the one that could use the most extra screen time about her as a person.
Mechanically the game plays like a third person shooter, taking advantage of Prompto’s handgun combat. Said handgun auto locks to enemies so you can deal chip damage from a distance. There are some extremely light stealth elements. Approaching an enemy from behind will allow Prompto to perform an instant kill. This also gives you the now deceased soldier’s sidearm as your primary gun.
You can also nab an enemy’s weapon by finishing them off with a special prompt when they’re low on health in close quarters combat. Can’t manage either? No need to worry, as most areas of the game that require much fighting will have handy racks of all three gun types available where they respawn. Which feels very cookie cutter.
While combat encounters aren’t very varied, there is a rhythm to taking out the waves of goons that does begin to click.
The gun types on offer? You’ve got the assault rifle, the sniper rifle (which zooms in, of course), and the bazooka (which consistently clips through Prompto’s body every time he uses it because it’s just designed that way I guess). Unlike the handgun, these are weapons you have to actually aim, pulling the trigger to zoom in and then firing, as you’d expect. You can pull off some headshots with the assault rifle, but the latter two do far more damage in either a focused or spread out way respectively.
There’s not much need to worry about ammo, because each area is, as mentioned before, filled with gun racks. Not to mention normal close combat attacks are very strong, so you’re probably best off sliding towards enemies and shooting them for a bit before kicking them in the face. While combat encounters aren’t very varied, there is a rhythm to taking out the waves of goons that does begin to click, though only really comes into its own in the final enemy room in the game.
The sidequests themselves are somewhat nice (though very basic) diversions.
There’s a small, open snow area after you get out of the first magitek production facility. This mostly serves as a short diversion as you make your way across the snow field to the next magitek production facility. Both facilities are mostly just corridors and similar feeling rooms. The first of the two final boss fights feels like a small challenge though it goes on a bit too long, and then the final boss is just an on-rails section.
You traverse the open area on a snow mobile, reaching it via a fairly bland and not fun to control downhill section. The snowmobile can be upgraded by completing sidequests, but they don’t carry over, and you don’t really need to go around the snow area very much, so it feels a bit pointless. Getting hit while on the snowmobile will cause you to fall off instantly. The sidequests themselves are somewhat nice (though very basic) detours, but again, as you don’t level up (you’re at a fixed, default level for the DLC), it doesn’t feel like there’s much point to it.
There’s something to be said about some of the individual components making up Episode Prompto.
There’s something to be said about some of the individual components making up Episode Prompto. The snowmobile is passable, and a bit more fun than the on-rails Regalia (though it has since been off-road patched). The gunplay, while very by the numbers, doesn’t work too badly and does make the game feel more mechanically as it should for Prompto. The story is somewhat interesting to have divulged in more detail, though not all that necessary retrospectively.
Episode Prompto is a mess of ideas that almost hit home.
It’s a bunch of passable bits that don’t have enough time to shine, but are wrapped up in a package that feels like it’s wasting your time more often than not. Episode Gladiolus was hardly substantial, but in a way it was at least more tightly focused.
So far, the DLC stories haven’t been playing up to the strengths of the main game. It’s a nice side-story for Prompto fans, but Episode Prompto is a mess of ideas that almost hit home, but never quite manages to tightly hammer anything in enough to feel satisfying.