Final Fantasy XV is one of the few games that has been continuously coming out with post-game content since its release back in 2016. Episodes Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis gave players dedicated backstories into Noctis’ friends and provided some additional insight into key plot points that happen during the main story of the game. To firmly mark the end of Final Fantasy XV and the DLC content it added over the last few years is the recent release of Episode Ardyn.
Betrayed by his younger brother Somnus Lucis Caelum and witnessing the tragic death of his betrothed and beloved, the oracle Aera Mirus Fleuret, Episode Ardyn is the origin story of how the royal Lucian bloodline came to be and Ardyn’s path from healer to the bringer of death and destruction. Hellbent on getting revenge and destroying the legacy Somnus built with the Kingdom of Lucis, Ardyn allows the Starscourge residing within him to take over and uses his ability to daemonify anything he touches to control the God of Fire Ifrit to aid him on his dark quest.
Like the companion episodes before this one the player is in control of Ardyn, as he makes his way to the crown city during the reign of a young King Regis Lucis Caelum to exact his revenge. It’s in the second half of the episode that you’re able to roam freely and explore the city of Insomnia.
With Ardyn being the main villain in Final Fantasy XV, players are encouraged to channel their inner bad self. Property destruction and crushing the forces guarding Insomnia are among the mischief and mayhem Ardyn can do in around the city. His fighting style is similar to Noctis in his ability to use the power of kings, summoning the Royal Arms at will, along with Ardyn’s ability to daemonify opponents that dare to get in his way.
Combat in the game isn’t particularly difficult and the controls to land an attack or a finishing blow is as quick and as simple as two button presses. It especially gets ridiculously easy when you fill enough of the power gauge to summon Ifrit to finish off any bothersome enemies for you, or whittle enough of their health for Ardyn to do it himself. Players can easily breeze through each fight and mini-boss without much of a struggle, but it can be a bit tedious if you’re looking for something more varied in Ardyn’s control scheme.
One of the best things about Episode Ardyn is the chance to really admire and appreciate the city of Insomnia. While Noctis and his bros return to the city to reclaim the throne from Ardyn towards the end of Final Fantasy XV, at this point in the game, the city is in ruins and you’re restricted from exploring any part of Insomnia. Because Ardyn’s return happens during the time of the Founder King’s Festival, predating the events that happen in Final Fantasy XV, players are able to see the city in its full splendor. The episode is another reminder of how beautifully crafted this game and its world truly is.
Assuming the role as Ardyn in his solo episode, you truly sympathize with what happens to him and get a better understanding of why he hates the Lucian bloodline so much. The tragedy of his backstory is made even more poignant when you realize that Ardyn’s motivations and intentions are purely to help and heal his people from a plague spreading across his lands, not for power, glory, or a throne. Ardyn’s story is very Shakespearean when you think about it.
My only gripe with Episode Ardyn is how the story can get a little disjointed and convoluted at times. Prior to the episode’s release, an anime episode entitled Episode Ardyn: Prologue was released online in anticipation of this final DLC for the game. If I hadn’t watched the anime episode before Episode Ardyn came out, I may have been more confused than I already am. Episode Ardyn begins where the anime prologue leaves off. To get a clear picture of Ardyn’s past, I would say it’s impossible to play the DLC episode without watching the anime prologue first. I always acknowledge that Final Fantasy XV isn’t a perfect game, and there’s a lot the developers could have done differently. After playing and finishing Episode Ardyn, I really do hope the next Final Fantasy game will do away with using separate media to tell the story and instead keep every part of their plot intact in the game itself. It’s an experiment that doesn’t do the video game or the story any real favors.
An enigmatic and charming Final Fantasy villain, Episode Ardyn succeeds in unlocking some of the mystery behind the man and the monster, while unpacking the complicated history behind the founding of the Kingdom of Lucis. It may be difficult to really say goodbye to this game, now that the last of the scheduled DLC has been released, but it’ll always go down in my mind as one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
Reviewer Rating: 9.0/10