Square Enix has really become that company alongside EA and Konami where they constantly try to get as much out of their fan base as they possibly could and nowhere as it more evidenced than with the Final Fantasy XV Universe which I have to say has to be the most milked entry in the Final Fantasy series next to XIII and XIV. Most people would know that Final Fantasy XV was released back in 2016 which didn't live up the long overdue hype and that it came out as an unfinished, disappointing mess, then they tried resolving the storyline of the XV Universe with Episodic DLC content alongside an anime and a featured length film. When it was getting to the point where Square Enix released an online multiplayer expansion which had all kinds of bugs and glitches and also a stupid VR fishing game as well as a Pocket Edition where it had ugly looking characters which belong on a Nintendo 64 game it was really starting to get ridiculous and my patience with the whole universe of XV was starting to wear thin and wanted it to just end. Now it is 2019 and we see the release of Episode Ardyn alongside the announcement that the director of the game Hajime Tabata has left Square Enix with plans of future DLC being cancelled and at this point I really don't care any more.
Final Fantasy XV Episode Ardyn is yet another story driven DLC which tries to fill in more of the picture of the XV Universe this time however throwing the player in the backstory of the game's main antagonist Ardyn cause we needed one where get to see what happened to Ardyn before the events unfolded right? Episode Ardyn is mostly just like some of the other DLC released before being at times just overly convoluted which still makes the storyline rather difficult to sit through from the two to three hours it takes to finish it.
In the beginning of the DLC the player is introduced to his backstory where in his life was enjoying himself with my finance Aera and he was going to become the next king of Lucis before things took a turn for the worse when his brother Somnus takes the throne for himself and kills Aera. Ardyn no longer willing to bide by the light instead vows vengeance on his brother and becomes tainted by darkness making him immortal by the power of the Starscourge. Episode Ardyn takes place before the events of the main game where Ardyn starts an attack on Insomnia during the Founder King's Festival and has to fight his way past the Royal Guard and destroy the Amplifiers protecting the castle in order to reach his brother Somnus and get his revenge. Some parts of the storyline aren't really all that bad especially some moments where Ardyn shows off his displeasures against the light, however like what it is with the Final Fantasy XV Universe the story falls apart when it tries to give an explanation about Somnus' reasoning for killing Aera, taking the throne for himself and leaving Ardyn in the demonic form that he is in. But it falls into that nonsensical phase where Somnus just does it all for his own purpose and later regrets alongside being Bahamut's calling meaning that everything that has happened from this point onward was all just part of Bahamut's doing? It just adds more confusion and it just becomes more difficult to wrap your head around it. Final Fantasy XV has had convoluted plot lines throughout and Episode Ardyn is a prime example of that. I also do not view Ardyn to be that interesting as a villain and yeah I get that he is immortal and he has a grudge against the Kings of Lucis but he doesn't really try anything that is worthy of him being a villain in the first place aside from just taking life's of others who try to get in his way but wastes several opportunities to deal. At least the dialogue and voice acting is half decent and Ardyn is at times humorous but you are not going to really get much of the storyline aside from the fact that the backstory is just there to try to build up towards the main story but without giving you any proper conclusion what so ever. It doesn't help that you spend the first hour of the DLC forced to watch the awful story portions and backstory sequences before the good stuff actually happens.
Once you make it past the backstory sequences you get to the main attraction where you actually get to explore Insomnia where the objective is to take out the Amplifiers that protect the king's castle before you can enter the castle to tackle the DLC's final boss. There are seven of them in total but three of them are necessary to take down before you can advance to the final showdown. There isn't any sidequests to speak off but instead you have plenty of signs, posts, speakers, statues and balloons that are scattered around the city that you can destroy which just give you points and you have plenty of treasure to find which are either healing items or just junk which can be sold off. Stores will either be vending machines which gives you healing and boosting items or Hat Stores where you can purchase hats which are just there for cosmetics.
During the exploration of the city Insomnia you are bound to get attacked by members of the Royal Guard which either patrol the city or attempt to ambush you which that is done by a quick time event prompt. Controlling Ardyn in combat is just as like controlling Noctis or the Customizable Glaive character in the series, you press a button to attack with the selected weapon and can block, parry, evade and counter attack with another button. Parrying allows you to perform counter attacks although for some reason parrying is moved to triangle on the PS4 version. Ardyn can use four different abilities at his disposal, he has the royal arms which acts as his main weapon but later gets his hands on Dark Tornado which is an offensive spell that can deal continuous damage on multiple enemies that is with in it's range, Spectral Charge which pours all of current MP into spectral energy making his main weapon deal more damage right away and lastly the Cerberus-0 which is a sniper rifle which is just borderline useless because it not only leaves you open to enemy attacks but also the controls for firing is once again assigned to R1 on the PS4 version instead of R2. Ardyn also has if you can pull off a 100 hit combo the Rising Phantom which is a powerful attack which can really deal massive damage to all enemies around it. The most useful ability Ardyn has is being able to daemonify enemies which is done by knocking the enemy down with regular attacks and pressing the triangle button as prompted to do it. Daemonifying enemies instantly kills them and deals massive damage to bosses plus it also easily fills up the spectral meter which when full deals more damage with the Royal Arms but also use the Royal Retribution which is another special attack where it deals quite a large amount of damage to multiple enemies nearby or massive damage to a single boss. Ardyn also has the fire astral Ifrit with him and can be summoned into battle by using a portion of the Tech Bar and then the astral will also fight alongside you which is cool. If you find yourself overwhelmed you have shadow slide which is done by holding down square plus the left analog stick and you can also escape from enemy attacks also with the Phantasmal Leap which is done by using the L2 button where Ardyn will leap to high ledges to escape danger as well as climb tall buildings to reach the Amplifiers.
This DLC has a system called Decension where like the main game you can spend AP you earn from daemonifing enemies on learning abilities like the aforementioned skills for Ardyn as well as giving abilities to Ifrit as well as boosting Ardyn's HP and MP. This system feels kind of tapped on and you can pretty much unlock everything in a single playthrough plus the increases aren't really all that impactful.
Many of the fights are very manageable and most of the bosses aren't too difficult, it is just that sometimes the game tends to throw tons of enemies at you and the camera once again can be a real problem when you are fighting big enemies and you can't see where some attacks are coming from causing you to take a ton of damage. It's been an issue with FFXV ever since the main game's release and it's a shame it still isn't resolved. This can at times force you to play a little defensively rather then all out offensively and it doesn't help that the Cerberus-0 is just a flat out useless weapon to have and most of the time you won't be bothered to use it at all. Sometimes you can't do much but try to evade till you can get the chance and blindside opponents while trying to avoid taking too much damage. When you take too much damage you guessed it you go into Danger State and have to use an item to recover out of it and prevent your max HP from reaching 0. However in Episode Ardyn they changed the rules for Danger State to suit Ardyn's immortal status called the Undying State. You can actually attack in this DLC's version of the Danger State and your attacks are boosted and your max HP never goes down by itself but only when enemies attack you while you are in that state plus potions now restore your max HP which I say is a massive improvement from the Danger State issues I had with the main game plus the other DLC. Using the Undying State does actually help with the difficulty of many bosses as well as areas where they throw many enemies in your face. Bosses have a pattern that can be exploited and as long as you are using your other skills and items wisely then you are not going to find them to hard on the Normal difficulty.
There are moments where the DLC really shines, the chapter where you rampage through the city of Insomnia fighting off hordes of the Royal Guard is really awesome as you watch Ifrit's Hellfire burn a part of the city to the ground and daemonifying helpless Royal Guard members just never gets old. Throughout all this you feel like this unstoppable badass villain unleashing terror throughout with your pal Ifrit helping you out in your mission of destruction but without seeing citizens terrified. It is worth mentioning that the soundtrack composed by Lotus Juice is really incredible, the track Condition of Hate fits the rampaging onslaught being brought to the Royal Guard really well complete with English Lyrics and Lotus Juice are known for the soundtrack for the Persona series so it's truly fantastic stuff.
After beating the DLC's main story which will take like I said two to three hours roughly you can replay it again to try and earn a high ranking or complete the trophies which is rather easy compared to the other DLC released. Lastly is the Kingly Clash mode where you take on Noctis and his companions and fighting them all together is much easier compared to the other DLC challenges as long as you are careful and fight with thought and patience as long as you can put up with the hit detection where you can't tell if the enemy is either is blocking or your attack just not hitting the enemy that is entirely in your face while it is just standing normally.
Lastly on the Internet there is an anime prologue which is supposed to explore more back story into Ardyn which explains how he ended up into how he is but really who cares about the storyline at this point. Like I said the storyline was a complete convoluted and confusing mess that it was very difficult to follow and really care for the characters. The previous Final Fantasy games up to X had truly emotional and enjoyable storyline elements where you really felt for the characters that travelled with you but however any of the newer games just tried to throw numerous plot holes which at times where just thrown together and everything just ends up making no entirely no sense what so ever. Yes Square Enix released patches, updates, the Royal Edition and Episodic DLC to try and fix up the storyline but imagine all you had was just the main game itself with just the storyline that was shown on it. You just get a storyline that tries to be for everyone but ends up being a complete waste and for a game that took about ten years to make the kind of treatment just isn't acceptable.
Whilst talking to my friends we really begun to question Square Enix and the way they treat their most popular IPs. It seems that whenever they do not release a Final Fantasy something somewhat good comes out from them but whenever they do decide to do another Final Fantasy game in the modern era to try and do something it shouldn't it usually ends up in utter disappointment. If they can make a glorious return to form with Dragon Quest XI, The World Ends With You Remix and Octopath Traveller then it would be possible to have a good Final Fantasy game again after Final Fantasy X but at the moment I wouldn't get your hopes up.
I will be honest though I am actually glad that the storyline of Final Fantasy XV has come to an end and all of the planned DLC has been CANCELLED even though it's kind of a very sad conclusion and I say that in the most literal sense because I couldn't imagine how worse the DLC storyline where going to get. By the time they were already working on a so called Pocket Edition after making Multiplayer Expansion Comrades, the VR Fishing Game as well as making the Royal Edition everyone was starting to get really sick of Final Fantasy XV and the storyline just like me and simply wanted the story to just end. Who would want an Episode Aranea who she was one of the most forgettable characters in the game? Who would want an Episode Lunafreya? and lastly Who in the right mind would ever want an Episode Noctis when you play the whole entire main game as him? I'd rather an Episodic DLC appear content for Persona 5 or Tales of Berseria like I would rather have an Episode Laphicet, Episode Eleanor, Episode Eizen, Episode Artorius or perhaps an Episode Velvet just for the fun of it or how about an Episode Patty or Episode Flynn for Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition. Going back to the combat system of XV also after playing other Action RPGs was also hard for me to get back to simply because the combat can be overwhelming, the controls can be at times stiff and the AI party members aren't really all that useful.
Let's be really honest now with Final Fantasy XV was it really worth the long 10 year wait? No, no it wasn't because the game has so many issues with the storyline and plenty of small things wrong with the combat system that it can kind of be difficult to play again. Anyone can say that they want with the combat system from any of the games from the Tales series and criticize it for being a button masher but their systems in reality have more depth to them then what most critics and casuals make them out to be. You were always felt like you were really engaged with your companions and you didn't spend more time in combat getting demolished by tough monsters unless you were playing on harder difficulties. The combat in Tales of Zestiria may have had it's camera problems during battles but I don't think it is anywhere near as bad as the camera in Final Fantasy XV which is why Tales combat systems are more developed then any of the newer Final Fantasy combat systems plus the storylines in the Tales games are really some enjoyable and emotional moments which brought out a lot of the characters.
Look I think I have gone of track for long enough now but look Final Fantasy XV Episode Ardyn is just another DLC Episodic Storyline for Final Fantasy XV and it provides just as much story as with other Final Fantasy XV content. Destroying pieces of Insomnia while fighting off waves of the Royal Guard and also fighting Noctis is enjoyable even with the same issues that plague the combat system. Like all of the DLC character episodes it is very short and everything can be beaten in just over three to four hours but this time the DLC charges you £7.99 which is a little considering the content on it. At least with this we can finally end the whole Final Fantasy XV and return to reality at least till a good Final Fantasy game comes out. You know the saying from Batman Dark Knight Rises you know “You either die a hero or live longer to see yourself become the villain.” That phrase easily sums up the more recent Final Fantasy games as a whole and while the old games in the series minus II and VIII always be some of the top rated games of all time the newer games just continue to struggle against other popular and amazing JRPGs that come out. I think it's time for Final Fantasy to actually face reality with what they did wrong and return the series back to it's roots otherwise this once amazing franchise will end up shimmering its last light and end up falling to darkness just like this DLC which gives this disappointing long overhyped game its final conclusion.
Game Score: 5.7/10
Game Title: Final Fantasy XV Episode Ardyn
Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Action Role Playing
Age Rating: PEGI: 16+
Release Date: 26th March 2019
The Good Points:
1. Rampaging through Insomnia destroying pieces and killing Royal Guard members alongside fighting Noctis and his buddies is great fun
2. The soundtrack Condition of Hate by Lotus Juice is really incredible and sets of mood of attacking Insomnia
The Bad Points:
1. Camera can still be a problem in some fights and some fights can still be overwhelming at times
2. The Cerberus-0 gun is really useless and the controls for using it are terrible
3. The storyline including the backstory cutscenes are convoluted, confusing to follow or care
4. Ardyn doesn't do anything that is truly worthy of being a villain
5. The Decension system feels tapped on, everything can be unlocked in a single playthrough and the increases lack any impact
Reviewed by: Anthony Hayball (AQWBlaZer91)