Final Fantasy has noticeably changed since its turn-based roots back in 1987. No other entry represents that change more than Final Fantasy XV in my mind. While I have many things I love about this entry in the longrunning series and many things I dislike, Episode Ardyn is the finale to this saga that began back in 2006 with Final Fantasy Versus XIII.
Episode Ardyn acts as a prologue to Final Fantasy XV, giving us a much-needed backstory covering the roots of the game’s main antagonist Ardyn. Completing this DLC episode will take you roughly two to three hours, or maybe more depending on whether or not you’re into completing everything the small map has to offer.
Whereas each of the previously released single-player DLC episodes would’ve worked better intertwined with the vanilla game’s original plot, Episode Ardyn feels fine as it really only gives the brutal context to Ardyn’s insanity. And his tale of revenge is certainly justifiable to an extent. It’ll definitely help to watch this DLC’s prologue anime to get right up to speed, as the game portion of this short story begins right where the anime left off.
Given Ardyn’s whimsical nature in the Final Fantasy XV storyline, it’s cool to see him take on a more serious tone in this story, one that he only took on in the last hours of XV. Ardyn begins his journey chained up after being sealed away by his brother, Somnus Lucis Caelum. He’s freed sometime after the end of the anime and with a whole new generation of the Lucis Caelum bloodline sitting upon the throne, Ardyn becomes hellbent on destroying everything his brother worked to build. There’s a reason for this need for revenge but I’d advise checking out the anime and playing the DLC for yourself.
As expected, there’s no shortage of enemies big and small to fight in Episode Ardyn. Honestly, it felt unusual jumping back into the combat of XV, which I’d say hasn’t aged the best. Ardyn is powerful though and it didn’t take much brain power to overcome any obstacle. I remember such was the case with Final Fantasy XV as well. Even with its lack of difficulty, the game is still brimming with a visual flair that definitely cannot be overlooked.
Ardyn’s movements are vastly different compared to that of Noctis. The Crown City of Insomnia acts as the open world playground Ardyn is able to explore. Players can teleport across rooftops and it all feels quite good. It’s certainly not the most freeform movement I’ve encountered, but it does its job at making the antagonist feel like a force to be reckoned with.
If anything, Final Fantasy XV’s soundtrack acts as one of its greatest triumphs and the same can be said here again in Episode Ardyn. There’s an emotional weight added to the overall narrative that made Ardyn’s tale as tragic as it is terrifying. It’s exactly what the story needs as this a tale of revenge, loss, family, and friendship. With so many conflicting themes, they come together exceptionally well in a way that only the greatest RPGs can capture.
Is Ardyn the best villain the series has to offer? In short, no. But he just might go up a few ranks for you by the end of this DLC. Given its short runtime, I think the overall package is compelling enough to warrant at least one playthrough. However, if you didn’t get much enjoyment out of the main game, you’d probably be better off avoiding Episode Ardyn.
While it’s bittersweet saying goodbye to Final Fantasy XV, I have to admit that I’m excited Square Enix can pour resources into the next batch of games that’ll inevitably come in the future. Hajime Tabata and Tetsuya Nomura should be proud of delivering a title that was 10 years in the making, as it’s certainly a large step for the series.
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