DLC Review: Final Fantasy XV – Assassin’s Festival

July brought a new update to Final Fantasy XV and trailing just behind the update was a surprise bit of free downloadable content: The Assassin’s Festival! The festival is actually a special cross-over event with the Assassin’s Creed game franchise. It contains a full playable chapter complete with unlockable items that carry over to the main game.

Players who completed the previous Moogle/Chocobo festival were rewarded with a special “Dream Egg” item. Upon launching the Assassin’s Festival DLC, this item will hatch – unlocking a permanent costume for Noctis in the main game.  In case you missed the carnival event, SE has reactivated it for a limited time, to allow for the full “Holiday Pack” experience. So, this means you can partake in the carnival, get your egg, and then proceed right into the Assassin’s Festival event.  But be warned, this event is only active for a limited time. It ends on January 31st, 2018.

For me, this event seemed to come out of nowhere. It was released during my July-August hiatus from gaming, so perhaps I simply missed the announcement. Plus, it seems a bit odd to cross-over two completely unrelated game franchises like this, but – it actually works well! The DLC takes concepts from the Assassin’s Creed franchise and blends them perfectly into the main storyline of Final Fantasy XV. The gist of the event is simple;  in the world of FFXV, Assassin’s Creed is an extremely popular video game… But one that’s apparently rooted in “real life” mythology. So, every year they celebrate the Assassin’s Festival. Noctis and his crew arrive in town just in time for the festivities and must conceal themselves in costumes to sneak through town and thwart an imperial plot.  It sounds a bit strange, but to be honest it’s actually very well done. The scenarios and new gameplay mechanics are fun and for the pricetag of FREE, who can complain?

Aside from completing the quests included in the DLC, participating in the side content will provide you with medals that can be spent to purchase unlockables for the main game. (camera filters, frames, car decals, etc). So, there’s quite a bit replayability here.

Aside from the festival itself, the July Update also includes a number of other free downloadable costumes as well as some new features for the main game. This includes new quests, trophies and even a “chapter select” option from the main menu. All in all, this update/DLC pack is filled with goodies – all at no charge.  I suppose I’ll have to spent a few hours checking out some of the additions to the main game and seeing if I can manage to round out my trophy collection.

Overall Impression:  Free DLC is always good.  The amount of content included here is impressive. Even if shoehorning an advertisement for another game into Final Fantasy seems a bit awkward – the presentation is well done.

Value: Freebie! Aside from 800 MB of space you have nothing to lose!

Main Game:  Final Fantasy XV Review

DLC Review: Final Fantasy XV – Episode Prompto

The second batch of DLC goodness for Final Fantasy XV is finally here, Episode Prompto. Much like the previous downloadable chapter that focused on the character of Gladiolus, this entry shows you what happened with the character of Prompto during his hiatus from the main game.  Again, like the previous DLC, this entry is both a mix of familiar as well as new mechanics that help keep things interesting. Whereas Gladio’s DLC had a very melee/brawler feel to it, this chapter is reminiscent of a third-person shooter. In a lot of ways, it actually reminded me of the old FFVII spin-off Dirge of Cerberus.

Those that played through all of Final Fantasy XV may remember the scene in the game where Prompto falls from a moving train and is separated from his friends for a time. This chapter shows you what happened to him during that time away. In a nutshell, Prompto finds himself alone, wandering the frozen wastes. Finally, he collapses and is “rescued” by Imperials. It is during his captivity that the bulk of this DLC takes place. During this chapter, Prompto will learn the truth behind his origins as well as uncover the details behind the Empire’s true motive.

The main scenario of this entry can be cleared in about two hours. However, for players that wish to take their time and explore there’s actually quite a bit to do. This DLC also includes a handful of sidequests. The bulk of these involve scouring for materials that can used to upgrade a snowmobile that Prompto finds and uses to aid in his escape. But a few of them feature optional boss battles. Typically, I always try to complete optional content as a I go. But in the case of this DLC, I actually suggest completing the chapter first. Then, starting it over and exploring all of the nooks and crannies. I make this suggestion due to the large play-style learning curve of this DLC presented when compared to the main game. By the time you’ve actually played through Episode Prompto once, you’ll have your feet wet enough to tackle many of these optional challenges.

When I said that this DLC had a third-person shooter element to it, I meant it. Most of the combat in Episode Prompto is ranged melee. Prompto will rely on various guns as well as duck and cover behind obstacles when engaged in combat. His arsenal ranges from a handgun, to an SMG, Sniper Rifle, Grenades and even a Bazooka. Most of the combat takes place on foot, but some portions of the game even find him shooting from a moving snowmobile or even from the back of a motorcycle. It’s a whole different world when compared to the main Final Fantasy XV game.

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that a lot of it is really clumsy feeling. The weapons run out of ammo pretty quickly, and when they do you’ll be left scouring your surroundings to find a new gun to grab and use (usually while enemies are firing on you). The targeting is pretty terrible, but after a while you manage to get the hang of it, so it’s ultimately bearable. Despite the iffy playcontrol, the shooter aspect is a nice change of pace when compared to the original game. So in it’s own way, it a bit refreshing.

All in all, the best part about this DLC are the story elements. Even though Prompto’s backstory is covered in both the main Final Fantasy XV game as well as the Brotherhood anime, this DLC scenario sheds even more light on his origins. It also includes several welcome cameos by some fan-favorite characters. Completing the DLC unlocks both a weapon and clothing set for Prompto in the main game. It also unlocks a special timed-trial mode and an “Intensive Training” mode of play. The downloadable chapter is included in the season pass of available for $5.00 on PSN.

Overall Impression:  Another short but sweet add-on to Final Fantasy XV. Players who enjoyed Episode Gladiolus are also likely to enjoy this one. That being said, players who didn’t enjoy the last DLC release are also likely to enjoy this one due to different pacing and the inclusion of some open-world elements. It seems that SE is listening to their fans and modifying the DLC to meet the expectations of their players. Personally, I’ve enjoyed both.

Value: Again, like the Gladio DLC, this chapter is very short. But for a price of $5.00, I find it hard to complain. The new side-quests and optional challenges also give fans a little more bang for their buck.

Main Game:  Final Fantasy XV Review

 

DLC Review: Final Fantasy XV – Episode Gladiolus

Final Fantasy XV fans, the first proper DLC release has arrived! It’s time to dust off your copy of XV and dive into Episode Gladiolus! That’s just what I did, and I’m here to provide you with all the details.

For those that may not know, Episode Gladiolus is the first chapter of Paid DLC content for Final Fantasy XV. It is included with the Season Pass for the game, or is available for about $5.00 on it’s own. The chapter focuses on the character of Gladiolus and takes place about half-way through the main XV storyline. (There’s a part of the main game where Gladiolus departs the company of the other heroes to attend to some “personal business”  – This DLC is that business.)

The story here focuses on Gladio as he undertakes a special set of trials with his mentor, Cor. The actual content itself is rather short, providing players with maybe an hour’s worth of busy work. Essentially, you control Gladio as he ventures into a secret Kingsglaive Proving Ground to do battle with the mysterious “Blade Master”.  Is he is able to defeat the Blade Master in combat, he will have proved himself worthy to hold the title “Shield of the King”.

Despite being rather short, and as some have criticized, “pointless”, I found the DLC to be overall entertaining. The backstory was interesting enough and being able to experience combat from Gladio’s point of view was an interesting change of pace. For the most part, this chapter controls just like the main game, with the exception the combat mechanics. Gladio’s combat is very “hack and slash” based. When controlling Gladiolus, you have three main moves; Strike, Block or Dodge. Each of these will, over time, fill a “rage meter”. Once full, Gladio can execute special attacks, dealing massive damage. The trick to the whole thing is learning how to effectively parry attacks and strike your opponent while they are vulnerable – then getting out of the way before they can counter attack.

As you progress through the story, there a number of unique boss battles. Each boss has their own strength and weaknesses. But the real challenge here is survival. Gladiolus has a limited number of health restoratives at his disposal. New ones can be found by exploring every nook and cranny of the dungeon, but even then – the number of potions are finite. So, you will have to learn to use them sparingly or you risk facing the final boss with very little to help you .

Upon defeating the Blade Master, Gladio will receive a special weapon and skill that carry over to the main game. Also, two additional features of the DLC will also become accessible. The first, is something called Score Attack. This is essentially a timed version of Episode Gladiolus. The point here is play through the scenario again and see how many points you can rack up before either the timer runs out or you complete the scenario…  rather pointless,  but maybe that’s your sort of thing. Whatever.  If you can manage to rack up a score of 500,000 points, you will unlock a special costume for Gladio in the main game.

Next up, is something called the Final Trial. This is an optional sparring battle between Gladiolus and Cor and certainly the most challenging battle in this DLC package. I pride myself on being able to defeat nearly every optional boss or challenge in the Final Fantasy series,  but so far I have not managed to best Cor in battle.  But… this content is still fresh – and I haven’t given up!

Finally, one other thing worthy of note is that this DLC was released alongside the FFXV patch 1.07. This patch also includes the long awaited “Final Fantasy XV – Chapter 12 verse 2”.  A short optional addition to the game that provides more information behind the infamous 13th chapter of the main title. This add-on ties in nicely with Episode Gladiolus as it also allows players to control him, and see the events of the game’s 13th chapter from his perspective. Not to mention, it fills in a number of plot points that have left players confused since the game’s original release.

Overall Impression:  A short but sweet add-on to Final Fantasy XV. This DLC provides exactly what was advertised, a story focusing on the character of Gladiolus. It integrates well with the main game, and provides a few optional challenges of it’s own.  Casual fans may not get much out of it, but those who are dedicated to XV should find enough here to hold them over.

Value: Yes. This DLC is very short. But for a price of $5.00, I find it hard to complain. For that amount you get about an hour of single player content, as well as some optional challenges to keep you occupied.

Main Game:  Final Fantasy XV Review

DLC Review: Final Fantasy XV – Holiday Pack

With the release of the Moogle Chocobo Carnival, the full contents of the Holiday DLC pack are now available to owners of Final Fantasy XV. So here, is the first of what will be many DLC reviews for FFXV.

This chunk of downloadable content is a bit odd and not really what I expected to see from XV’s first optional update.  First, let’s talk about the two different versions of this add-on, then we can dive into the contents. To start, there’s both a free version and a paid version (available to season pass owners). Both versions come with a handful of useful/game enhancing items, a vanity costume and a pass to a new special gameplay mode: The Moogle Chocobo Carnival.

The paid version includes several more DLC items, a second vanity costume, and some exclusive photo frames for Prompto’s pictures.

The add-on items are nice, but include nothing that really change the way the game is played. The real meat of this update is the Moogle Chocobo Carnival.

The Carnival is actually a new mode of gameplay that is accessible from the “Special” option on the main menu. It is essentially a solo mini-chapter. During this mode, you play as Noctis as he explores the fun filled streets of Altissia during the festival. Basically, the goal here is to collect “mog-medallions” that can be exchanged for prizes. These prizes range from exclusive vanity items (car decals, etc) to useful consumables. Medallions are earned by participating the carnival activities and doing various festival-related quests. Anything earned here will carry over to the main game.

This makes the carnival into a useful tool for players who have not yet completed the game, but it seems rather pointless for players that have already finished the main scenario. Perhaps, my opinion on this will change once we see how other DLC plans pan out. One big question remaining, is the inclusion of a special key item called the “Dream Egg”. This item is obtainable if you manage to collect enough Mog Medallions and attend a special fireworks session at the end of the carnival. Popular opinion with fans is that this egg may play a larger role in future DLC.

Finally, it is important to note that the Moogle Chocobo Carnival content is only available for a limited time. After 2/20/2017, this playable content will be removed from the game. It is unclear if there are plans to bring this back in the future, so players may wish to jump on this content before its  gone and earn that egg!

The Holiday Pack does not include any new trophies or achievements.

All in all, this DLC seems to add little to the overall game at large, but it can be a fun distraction and does feature some welcome items and enhancements. SE’s decision to make the majority of this content available for free is a big plus as well.

Overall Impression:  A curious choice for a first DLC release. The vanity and practical items are welcome. The carnival is quirky, but fun. Unclear how this will fit into the game at large. It’s unclear why SE decided to make a large portion of this DLC into a time-sensitive feature. It seems counter-productive to spend the time developing something like this carnival only to remove it from the game 30-days later.

Value: This DLC comes with both a paid a free option. Having it included with the season pass makes this a no-brainer. Non season pass holders can also enjoy the free version of the holiday pack.

Main Game:  Final Fantasy XV Review

DLC Review: Baldur’s Gate (Siege of Dragonspear)

A few months ago, I posted a review of the PC classic Baldur’s Gate. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here. I owned the original game back in the old days, but for my review I dove into the new Enhanced Edition.  Baldur’s Gate was so popular that it spawned a sequel. This has also recently been given the “enhanced” treatment and I plan on playing and reviewing it soon. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today, instead I’m going to look at a special DLC add-on to the original Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition; Siege of Dragonspear.

You see, there’s a bit of gap between Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II. Siege of Dragonspear was designed to fill that gap and bridge both games together. Dragonspear picks up right where the first game left off. It is very much integrated into the main scenario. Not as well as the official “Tales of the Sword Coast” expansion – meaning it’s not built into the main game itself. Instead, you start the Dragonspear scenario as an option from the main menu. But I suppose there were some limits to what the Beamdog Studios team was able to do when it came to the original game.

The storyline here builds on the aftermath of the original game. As the city of Baldur’s Gate recovers from the events of the first scenario, a new potential threat emerges in the form of a religious fanatic who is marching her armies towards the border. Her full intentions are unclear, but her actions have been deemed hostile and the hero of Baldur’s Gate is sent to investigate and resolve the issue. – For fans of the legacy games, I will tell you that this scenario makes perfectly clear EXACTLY what happens between BG and BGII.  Dragonspear ends immediately before the beginning of the Baldur’s Gate II.  So If you’ve always wondered just what occurred between the two original games, this DLC has your answers.

All in all, the storyline found in Siege of Dragonspear is nothing short of wonderful. It’s classic D&D at it’s best. The dungeons and puzzles are all perfect. Several classic D&D monsters can be found tucked away in the new game world, and for an old grognard like me, stumbling across them brought a big smile to my face. However, despite scoring big points in nostalgia, Siege of Dragonspear is not without its faults.

My biggest issue with this DLC is that it’s absolutely riddled with bugs. There are UI issues, sound issues, the game has a tendency to crash if there are too many characters on the screen at one time (and in some areas of the game, there are A LOT of on-screen characters). Oftentimes, Dragonspear has the feel of a fan-made mod and not that of an official release. Even with all it’s problems, I find it hard to complain too loudly. Beamdog Studios did a pretty decent job of borrowing elements from both Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II to help build the perfect tie-in.

Bugs aside, my only other gripe with the game has to be the price. Siege of Dragonspear is marketed as an add-on chapter for Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition. Yet, they are charging a premium price of $20. I suppose considering the amount of content found in this DLC that’s a fair price, but considering everything, it still feels a little too steep for me.  Even with the new areas and characters that this chapter adds to the game, I feel like a $10 or even a $15 price tag would be a bit better.

Overall Impression:  A solid, but buggy add-on scenario for Baldur’s Gate.  True to the original game. A must have for hardcore D&D and Baldur’s Gate fans.

Value: A little on the pricey side. But, it is nearly a full game’s worth of content. You’ll have to be the judge here.