At one point during the course of “Final Fantasy XV,” Gladiolus, also known as “Gladio” and the bodyguard of Prince Noctis, leaves the party for a few chapters without explaining his reasons. While Gladio’s reasons for his temporary departure were never explained in FF XV, the recent DLC material of “Episode Gladiolus” yields an answer. While this offering allows you to take direct control of Gladio during his absence from the party, its execution leaves something to be desired.
Episode Gladiolus begins with the four-man band hanging out around the campfire with Prompto yapping his mouth and Noctis focusing on his phone. The friendship among these characters is one of Final Fantasy XV’s greatest benefits; sadly, things quickly change up so Gladio pairs up with Cor, a marshal loyal to Noctis. The main premise of this episode focuses on Gladio’s efforts to becoming the best retainer he can. Gladio’s path has him tackling the trail of Gilgamesh, a memorable character with several franchise appearances. Despite the heartening premise of tackling Gilgamesh, his “trial” is a series of linear corridors, broken up by combat sequences. While the Gilgamesh fight makes for a satisfying finish, the entire episode takes roughly 90 minutes to finish.
While FF XV’s combat has been relatively lackluster, the lack of access to Noctis’ teleportation and spellcasting abilities further diminishes that combat. Gladio’s combat boils down to spamming “attack” with an occasional dodge or shield-raise. The one unique way of attacking, using stone columns as improvised weaponry, quickly loses novelty.
Over the episode’s 90 minute running time, it never really satisfies narratively or mechanically. As if to further point out the distinction in protagonist, Episode Gladiolus shows up in a separate console window from FF XV and has you controlling a level 24 Gladio, regardless of your progress in FF XV. While there are a handful of parent game benefits after completing the episode, none are really notable except maybe shirtless Gladio. Overall, Episode Gladiolus is more of a mild chore than a lark whose main positives are a fight with Gilgamesh and a teaser for Prompto’s episode.