After Episode Gladiolus and Episode Prompto, I wasn’t really sure if Final Fantasy XV‘s post-release scenario DLCs could hit the story mark. Solid gameplay and great soundtracks, but Episode Gladiolus didn’t offer much to its titular character and even less to the overall story.
Episode Prompto flailed in another direction, burying exploration of his insecurities under a slew of important-sounding but actually-irrelevant plot twists. I felt it was emblematic, in a way, of the mothership game’s storytelling stumbles. The multi-player expansion Comrades, which seemed to entirely forget the timespan it was set in, and offered virtually nothing when it comes to the ordeals of the Kingsglaive and Lucian subjects living through a world shrouded in darkness during Noctis’s ten year absence.
My expectations were pretty low on the story front going into Episode Ignis, but I want to revisit its focal character’s issues in the base game first.
Of the four Final Fantasy XV heroes, I felt like Ignis has been snubbed by the story. I was left with a lot of unresolved questions. What circumstances did Ignis face that led him to swear an oath to his king to protect the prince? What does Ignis’s friendship mean to Noctis other than the butler dude who makes him avocado toast in the middle of the night? A lot of the relationship is implied, and that’s fine, it was effective to an extent. It’d be just as easy to bumble it up by throwing thirty flashback cutscenes into the story — saturating us with more information than we really need. (Imagine all the Gladio training montages…)
Still, even with all the banter and lines of camaraderie, the guys felt a bit empty wading through their lines. Often, this criticism gets swept under the rug as “it’s Noctis’s story”, and yes, it very much is, but the friendships he has forged are the foundation it is based on. If the foundation is weak, so is the rest.
Episode Ignis didn’t hit its story notes perfectly (some of Ardyn’s actions are still inexplicable given what he wants to achieve, and are merely played up for the theatrics of mustachioed villainy), but it takes place at a pivotal point near the end of the story’s second act, and runs congruently with it — inheriting its agency. It feels important, urging you to keep playing.
There’s some playful exploration here too in the form of an alternate ending that I found interesting mostly because it felt character-driven. The granular questions I had about what path led Ignis to his duty took a backseat to the scenes where — spoken or otherwise — the depth of Noctis and Ignis’s friendship becomes clearer. Again, I feel that this is the bedrock of Final Fantasy XV’s story, and it was nice to see that it was finally given some worthwhile attention.
Shifting to gameplay, Ignis is an enjoyable to control in this outing. He’s able to imbue spelldaggers with elemental magic — each type is proficient in different situations. Fire magic for one-on-one fights, ice magic for tight groups of enemies, and lightning magic for wide groups of enemies where moving about is more important. The situational awareness his ability set demands of the player lends to his role as the party’s thinker, and I really like to see when gameplay elements fit nicely with a character’s personality.
Ignis also makes use of a grappling hook to move over Altissia’s rooftops which was a neat twist on Noctis’s warp moves. I did run into an issue in subsequent playthroughs where I needed to reload after crashing through the map twice. A character you are supposed to follow through the map at one point got stuck on several occasions, preventing progression until a rest at camp un-stuck him.
Episode Ignis took me a little more than hour to sweep the main path, and Extra Verse (the alternate ending) offers an additional half hour or so. There’s an additional encounter where Noctis and Ignis have a sparring match, as well as a leaderboard where you can submit your score after completing the story. Like the other scenario DLC, there’s a good several to be had here if you want to play around with everything.
To sum it up, Episode Ignis feels like the strongest of Square Enix’s post-launch DLC offerings. A more interesting approach to the story, an enjoyable Ignis-themed twist on combat, a gorgeous soundtrack from Yasunori Mitsuda (who I could listen to for hours upon hours) all come together pretty well. Square Enix has more planned for Final Fantasy XV as we head into 2018, including new scenario DLC — the first of which will be Episode Ardyn, so hopefully the approach taken with Episode Ignis will come through there.
Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ignis is available for download on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It requires Final Fantasy XV to play. Those who have purchased the season pass will be able to download this DLC for free — otherwise it is $4.99 standalone.
- + Story feels important to the larger tale, more coherent character-driven scenes is what FFXV needed.
+ Combat is enjoyable through Ignis’s ability set, setpieces are cool.
+ Great soundtrack composed by Yasunori Mitsuda.
- – Ran into some play-stopping bugs with the grappling hook and NPC pathing.