From the start, Final Fantasy XV's development team was seemingly uncertain what to do with Prompto—the blonde-haired photographer who follows Noctis and his crew like a hyperactive puppy dog throughout their adventure.
Noticing that Prompto had come in dead last in Episode Duscae's popularity contest, the development team tried to come up with ways to make him popular. One solution was to give him camera, which helped to bring him closer to the players.
But that didn't fix Prompto's broader problem, namely that he simply didn't have much to do in Final Fantasy XV's main story. After mostly serving as the group's comic relief, his big revelation was shoved into the final hours, making it feel wholly unearned.
Episode Prompto makes amends by putting the spotlight squarely on Final Fantasy XV's poor little Scrappy. The story picks up shortly after he is separated from his friends, leaving him to wander the frozen wastes alone. Upon awakening in a mysterious research laboratory, he learns a bit about his past, and begins to have an identity crisis.
Prompto's subsequent journey of self-discovery takes him through the bulk of the DLC's story, comprising a tidy little arc that sees appearances by the mysterious Ardyn and Aranea Highwind—the fan-favorite dragoon who is alternately a friend and foe of Noctis and company. Here Aranea is a friend, and she winds up teaming up with Prompto as he first escapes the research facility, then seeks to put an end to its experiments once and for all.
Aranea and Prompto's partnership is unquestionably the high point of Episode Prompto, her hardened street smarts making for a nice counterpoint to Prompto's insecurity. In battle, she can combine with Prompto for a number of powerful attacks, including a special diving Dragoon strike called—you guessed—the Highwind.
Prompto, meanwhile, wields a number of guns, which serves to make Episode Prompto a hybrid of Final Fantasy's combat system and a third-person shooter. Prompto's handgun functions like a normal weapon—you just hold down fire and try to get behind foes, which will automatically trigger critical hits. But when you equip an SMG, bazooka, or sniper rifle, Final Fantasy XV turns into bonafide shooter, which works... sort of.
Obviously, Final Fantasy XV is not a traditional shooter, which is evident in the encounter design as well as the clunky transition into the third-person mode. Enemies tend to swarm you, and there aren't many placese to hide. It didn't begin to click for me until I realized that the shooting aspect was secondary to the more traditional combat—a long-ranged alternative to the close-ranged battles of the core game. From there it all kind of made sense, and I had considerably more fun with Episode Prompto's gunplay, even if it wasn't exactly Gears of War.
After opening in a drab series of corridors reminiscent of the infamous Chapter 13, Episode Prompto expands its focus somewhat and introduces a sandbox. Cruising around on a snowmobile, you can take on a very small number of sidequests, hunt for a few items, or simply launch off ramps. It recalls the single best part of Final Fantasy XV—the open world—and includes some truly lovely snow-covered vistas, making it probably the game's most attractive area to date.
From here it finishes strong as Prompto and Aranea fight a pair of bosses and get into a snowmobile chase, capping off an adventure that feels oddly reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid, of all things. Like the rest of the game, it feels a little rough in parts, and it arguably tries to go too big with its setpieces, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do—fleshing out Prompto.
In that, Episode Prompto is considerably more successful than Episode Gladiolus, which is more of a one-note boss rush.
Truthfully, I don't know that anyone was really asking for the untold story of Prompto; but now that we have it, I find that I like him a lot more than I did. And of course, more Aranea is always welcome. If you're not already sick of Final Fantasy XV, it's a very fun two hours for $4.99.