Every month you can watch reviews and read our thoughts on the games we've been playing, old and new. This month we have two video reviews for you to watch. Lucky you.
Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ardyn
Believe it or not, Final Fantasy XV is still a going concern for folk like me. Even after my massive review of the supposed final version of the game, I knew there was still some more sweet sweet content coming my way, a big reward for a stupidly obsessed fan of this wonderful JRPG. Sadly, Square Enix decided to cancel most of the announced DLC, so what we have here, Episode Ardyn, represents the last we’ll see of Final Fantasy XV. And I’m afraid to say this particular saga ends with some good, some bad and some down right strange as well.
Let’s start with the good stuff. If you haven’t played Final Fantasy XV then spoiler alert, this guy’s a baddie. In Episode Ardyn we get to see his downfall from chosen healer of the people to demented demon and bringer of ruination. If you were left confused at all by the main game, which glossed over a lot of lore and world building to focus on the four main characters, Episode Ardyn tries to make it up by letting you explore a literal museum full of exhibits explaining the world of Eos. It’s like the developers knew this was their last chance to explain it all, and as weird as it is, I do like me a bit of lore so I appreciated it. Ardyn wakes up after 2000 years in prison, so it makes sense that he needs filled in on what’s been happening since he took his big nap.
Ardyn himself is a lot of fun to control; as the main boss in the whole Final Fantasy XV saga, his fighting style is overpowered, but that’s the whole point. He’s pretty much invincible, and his ability to ‘demonify’ his foes means you won’t have much trouble getting through even the bigger fights. Let loose a few combos and you get a prompt to finish off your prey in satisfying style, befitting of a final boss toying with his poor victims. If it all starts to feel a bit mindless and arcade-y, a quick trip to the menu screen reveals there is some slight role-playing do be done.
Where Noctis had his ascension board for levelling up and unlocking skills, Arden has the opposite; his earned EXP is spent of descending, unlocking more lethal and downright nasty skills and special moves, including that most evil of upgrades: a sniper rifle.
Probably the most fun to be had is with Ardyn’s big pal Ifrit. Final Fantasy XV’s main quest and side episodes all have team-mates that help you out, but Ardyn gets to command the fire god himself, letting loose with fire and brimstone when the mood takes him. It’s a great bit of fan-service.
Moving onto the less good, Episode Ardyn has a faint whiff of its funding being cut, with signs of a lack of polish all over.
Ardyn is given free reign to explore Insomnia, the city that so elusively remained outwith our grasp throughout the main game, but it all just feels a bit lifeless and disappointing. Maybe it’s the slightly flat lighting and texture work, or the fact that the city is conveniently empty. It’s a shame because I’ve been dying to explore Insomnia for years now, but all there is to do here is get in a few fights, destroy some billboards and buy a few hats for Ardyn to model. At least he gets to chill out on the park benches dotted about after all the excitement.
Navigating the city is fun at least. Arydn can pretty much float anywhere he wants. It’s different enough from Noctis’ warp abilities in the main game to be interesting, and it’s nice to be able to just go up to the rooftops at the press of a button. Not that there’s much to do up there.
The general cheapness carries over to some of the big climactic moments too. The clash between Ardyn and Regis, referencing one of the earliest and most iconic trailers for Final Fantasy Versus 13, is a bit disappointing. Regis’ character model feels unfinished and the lighting lacks the warmth and depth needed for such a big, important moment. It’s like something from Source Filmmaker. It’s not all this bad, it’s just inconsistent.
The truly weird stuff in Episode Ardyn is where the plot goes towards the end. I’m not going to spoil anything but there are clear signs that the cancelled DLC episodes were meant to follow on from some of the revelations here. The entire plot of Final Fantasy XV is given a new dimension, and to have the whole saga end here is bittersweet to say the least.
And that’s pretty much the perfect way to end this whole saga. Final Fantasy XV has been an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a tasty but slightly off tortilla for about a decade of my life now, so it’s fitting that my final flourish with this saga should be fun, frustrating and fascinating all at once.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
I’m up to the final boss and it’s an absolute baw ache. It’s got about a million moves and a fucking gun so I’ve retired from him until further notice. Overall though, the game is pretty much peerless and has been one of my highlights of the year.
Zone of the Enders 2: MARS
This is a perfect example of a completely tacked-on VR mode that nobody asked for… but oh my, it’s good. An exercise in teenage wish fulfilment, it feels amazing to pilot a massive mech in ZOE’s unique, balletic combat from inside the (literal) cockpit.
It’s no Witcher 3, but it’s charming and fun. Capcom don’t often (ever?) turn their hand to JRPGs so it’s a breath of fresh air compared to some of their better established competition. Early days for me so far, but I’m enjoying it.