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Hands-on Final Fantasy 15: Episode Gladiolus

A guided tour from the producer, just days before launch

Square Enix
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Final Fantasy 15’s first proper piece of DLC, called Episode Gladiolus, drops on March 28. Polygon had a chance to sit down with producer Haruyoshi Sawatari for a guided tour of a near-final build fresh from the Square Enix studio in Japan.

Gladiolus takes its inspiration from the events in Final Fantasy 15. Players will remember a flashback that takes place early in the game where a character named Ravus gets the better of the king’s shield. That battle creates a crisis for Gladiolus, and for a time he breaks away from the main party in order to face his demons.

Sawatari, speaking through a translator at this year’s PAX East in Boston, told us that Episode Gladiolus would be about one and a half to two hours in length. Once completed, multiple new game modes will open up, including a score attack mode where players will work to get the highest score and unlock additional rewards.

And yes, there are things that can be earned by succeeding in the DLC, but for now Sawatari is being tight-lipped about what they are.

Episode Gladiolus will take place inside a single set of ruins within the world of Final Fantasy 15.
Square Enix

Gladiolus, whom players will be able to control directly for the first time, behaves very differently compared with Noctis. A strong melee fighter, we were able to buff his attacks with a series of successfully timed blocks, which built up his rage meter. When that meter reaches a certain point, Gladiolus can pull off some amazing moves. We were able to pick up enemies and slam them into the ground like a professional wrestler, and Sawatari told us that Gladiolus will even be able to rip massive stones out of the environment and use them as weapons.

“The dev team is always playing all the games out there, so there are games that we probably draw some inspiration from here and there.” Sawatari said. “For Honor, Dark Souls, those are games that the dev team has played and experienced. The main focus was to determine what Gladio’s fighting style was like, and also designing it so that it fits inside of Final Fantasy 15 as a whole so that it’s not a departure from that, but instead a complimentary part of the whole experience.”

The DLC covers the period of time in the main game when Gladiolus was on his own. It tells the story of how he faced his fears, and explains how he received the vicious scar on his forehead during a battle with the blademaster, Gilgamesh.

Gladiolus’ companion in the DLC will be his mentor, Cor Leonis.
Square Enix

“He has kind of this self reflection moment where he thinks, ‘I’m not strong enough. I’m not good enough,’” Sawatari said. “There’s this ruin that was discovered about 30 years prior to the main story, where previous Crownguards and shields of the king undergo this trial. And he decided that he needed to go through this to get the power he needed to be the rightful protector of the chosen king.”

So much of the narrative tension in Final Fantasy 15 centers on the friendships among the team of four companions, Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto. But each of Square Enix’s four planned DLC packs will focus on a single character and explore a side story for them. We asked Sawatari about the danger of splitting up the party.

“Yes, splitting the party, from the tabletop perspective, is a dangerous thing,” Sawatari said. “What we gain from this, however, is that Gladio does leave for a short period of time. But after he comes back, once he is done with this trial, the party as a whole is stronger than it was before. They all have this better understanding and this better reflection of who they are and where they are and what they need to do. That’s how it all kind of comes together.”

The next DLC will be Episode Prompto, and is currently expected around June. Players who reach the end of Episode Gladiolus will see a special teaser trailer. Beyond that, Sawatari was unable to give us any more details.

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