I have not played many games where the developers went to the extra length to give the villain even more backstory. Final Fantasy XV is just one and Episode Ardyn is its latest case. This is a brand new narrative expansion DLC that delves farther in Ardyn’s past. It is a ride that then ends with a huge battle in the Royal City of Insomnia and starts off great with a psychological narrative.
Episode Ardyn consistently feels like a love letter to the fans of Final Fantasy XV. A thank you is listed by the ending credits of this DLC for the fans for playing with it and this reveals what was the primary focus for the development group when making it. Episode Ardyn expands the lore of Final Fantasy XV in several ways, but it still creates a mistake by making some of the backstory. It essentially leads into the DLC and this prequel anime introduced and seems necessary to understand love interest, the motive, and hatred of Ardyn for his brother Somnus Lucis Caelum.
I have played all the DLC expansions released so far and I think Episode Ardyn is the most polished DLC released for the game. Gladio was the first effort by the team and it was pretty much a linear experience with a focus on the combat prowess of Gladio and little to no story elements. The second DLC felt like a better and more expanded one but it still falls short in the story department. Ignis was the first DLC which really ended on such a high note that it is the most memorable one for me so far, but it lacked gameplay and the world felt bland to explore in it.
Episode Ardyn solves both of these issues. The story this time is solid and explains a lot of the backstory for Ardyn and properly develops and morphs his character into the evil persona that you will meet in the full game. I wish I could explain the story properly here but it will spoil the magic of the DLC, but let’s just say that the ending does carry a twist that I felt was beautiful and bittersweet knowing how it all happened. The rivalry between Somus and Ardyn does culminate in an epic battle but despite that, once it ends you are left asking for more but that should continue in Final Fantasy XV itself.
This DLC feels like a love letter to fans due to the references to some of the missing cutscenes that were a part of the pre-release media. The gameplay is good and it was fun to play as Ardyn, who is super powerful and the developers did a good job of making it a balanced fight by including guardians into the combat system. Ardyn also teams up with Ifrit for this DLC which is pretty cool to see in action and you can use one of the three abilities of Ifrit to cause some serious damage in most battles. It did start to feel like repetition kicked in once you started to explore around, but the length of the DLC itself feels solid.
All said, it is sad to see the end of Final Fantasy XV as we know the rest of the episodic DLC are no longer being developed. If they had kept the same quality level, we could have seen some great character development and memorable moments, but alas, it is not going to happen. I am completely satisfied with how Episode Ardyn has closed the chapter for Final Fantasy XV and looking forward to what the development team is able to pull off in the future.