Final Fantasy XV’s new episode is like a brief, thrilling action movie

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If you think of the main cast of Final Fantasy XV as a prototypical boy band, blond gunslinger Prompto fits snuggly into the cute, goofy archetype. He jokes constantly throughout the game, hums tunes in the middle of battle, and never misses a chance to take a selfie. In a lot of ways, he’s the heart of the game, the lovable character who helps round out the rest of the crew. But in “Episode Prompto,” the second major add-on for FFXV, we get to see a different side, a more serious action experience with Prompto at its center. It’s a great chance to jump back into the vibrant world of FFXV — and delve into a brief chapter that feels like nothing else in the rest of the game.

Warning: this review includes light spoilers for Final Fantasy XV and “Episode Prompto.

“Episode Prompto” takes place during the events of FFXV, when Prompto finds himself thrown from a moving train into a desolate, frozen tundra. Separated from his companions, he trudges through the snow, and eventually comes across an Empire facility that uses a powerful substance known as magitek to create its army of soldiers and monsters. As you’d probably expect, the episode follows Prompto as he attempts to find his way out of the factory, while uncovering various Empire secrets along the way.

Whereas the core of FFXV takes the form of a fantasy role-playing game, “Episode Prompto” feels more like an escape sequence from a blockbuster action movie. Much of this has to do with Prompto’s choice of weaponry. Instead of using swords and magic spells, he has a variety of firearms at his disposal. Initially it both looks and feels strange, almost like you’re not playing a Final Fantasy game at all. But the gunplay fits surprisingly well with FFXV’s combat; it still has the strategy inherent to RPG combat, as you’re chaining together different types of attacks, but with a unique twist that comes from having to aim and fight large waves of enemies. It probably wouldn’t be satisfying enough to prop up an entire game, but it works well enough in this short burst of an experience. The episode also includes perhaps my favorite boss fight in all of FFXV, a tough battle against a cyborg monkey.

Like “Episode Gladiolus” before it, Prompto’s new chapter is on the short side. I managed to play through the experience in just under two hours. But it packs a lot into that small package. There are multiple challenging set piece battles to fight through, a very fun chase sequence on a snowmobile, and some revelations both about the world of Eos and Prompto himself. (I highly recommend watching the second episode of Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV before playing, as it provides some very helpful context about Prompto’s backstory.) Without getting into heavy spoilers, the new episode explains just why Prompto has a barcode tattoo, and how he fits into the Niflheim empire.

More important than tying together some narrative threads, though, the new chapter shows a very different side of Prompto. He’s still as insecure as always, but he rarely hides it behind that aloof attitude that can make him so lovable at times. Instead, this is a serious and alienated Prompto, struggling to find his place. And it’s done in a way that feels natural, without getting away from the core of the character; you’ll still hear a few of Prompto’s awkward jokes, and one of his special attacks involves taking a selfie in the midst of battle. But, as a standalone add-on aimed at adding depth to the character, “Episode Prompto” does an admirable job.

It’s also a refreshing release following the disappointing slog that was “Episode Gladiolus,” and provides some hope for the third and final chapter, “Episode Ignis,” which launches in December. Prompto’s new adventure is an ideal way to hop back into FFXV — even if it’s just for an evening.

“Episode Prompto” is available as downloadable content now on both Xbox One and PS4.

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