At PAX East 2017, I sat down with Final Fantasy XV producer Haruyoshi Sawatari to discuss the upcoming Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus, Chapter 13, his favorite games, and so much more. Read on for the full interview.
Game Informer: How long does the DLC take to complete?
We’re kind of impressed that you actually got to that second boss fight in 30 minutes. Going back to your first question, we generally think a normal playthrough will be anywhere between an hour and a half to two hours, depending on player skill and how familiar they are with the basic mechanics.
There’s stuff in the trailer you probably weren’t able to see yet in your 30 minutes, but that’s about the rough playtime we’re expecting. So there are a lot of things within Episode Gladiolus for the players, and a lot of different enemies and stuff in the trailer that they’ll be able to play so, the hour and a half, two hours might go by really quickly for the fans, but there’s a lot we crammed in there.
And there’s actually additional modes that unlock after you do one full playthrough, so maybe that two hours is for that first playthrough, but the additional modes that unlock kind of offer more replay value for the players to challenge themselves with the different modes.
Are you familiar with the Dark Souls series at all? When I was playing it I got a big Dark Souls vibe with the enemies.
So, basically the main goal when designing Episode Gladiolus was designing gameplay that really brings out the character of Gladiolus – the muscle, the strength, the physicality. So it wasn’t something where we drew direct inspiration from any other title. But that being said, the development team are gamers; they’ll play the catalog of the games that are out there, so games like Dark Souls, For Honor, the dev team is very familiar with those. So there might be elements, you know, ideas, inspiration, but nothing directly drawn from any other title. It was more about, what does Gladiolus play like? What should he play like?
The thing that we kept in mind the most was the main game (Final Fantasy XV). The battle systems designed around Noctis was highly praised by a lot of our fan base, and kind of his style, his mobility, his ability to warp strike, use magic, and kind of dodge attacks, was something that people were really fond about. So we wanted to create something that was complimentary to that, but focused more on the character of Gladiolus, bringing it really into to the new gritty battle system, without the flashiness that Noctis has, but bringing it still on par in terms of quality that the main game was able to achieve.
So can the player unlock anything in the DLC that he can bring into the core game?
So there are things that carry over, whether it’s items or weapons. There are things for people to look forward to so after they do a normal play through or the additional modes that unlock, there are certain thresholds that they meet, and items will be carried over into their main game experience.
So I really enjoyed picking up the pillars and smashing them on enemies, what’s the coolest thing that Gladiolus can do in the DLC?
I personally love pulling the columns down and swinging them as well. The columns and the pillars are something that we put in, that only Gladio would be able to do out of those four main characters. But the thing that we think brings out the most of his character is…there’s something called a perfectly time block in the game. When he’s able to perform that, it opens the enemies up to a full counterattack, and those counterattacks are like stuff that you saw in the trailer, where he picks up enemies and swings them by the legs, or slams them into the ground. Those are, what we feel like represent the character of Gladio the most.
So with this DLC focusing on Gladio, can we expect to see DLCs for the other characters as well?
So, obviously Episode Gladiolus is on the 28th of this month. We do have plans for Episode Prompto and Episode Ignis.
Outside of XV, what’s your favorite Final Fantasy game and why?
I'd probably say FF X. At the time, for the visual standard that that game was able to achieve, being within the industry, but seeing that out there, was something I remember really fondly – the reaction that I had when I first saw it.
What’s your favorite monster from the series, and favorite boss from the series?
So it’s hard to pick a monster, because there are so many memorable ones. But if I had to pick a boss, I really like Ardyn from XV, in just kind of how easy it is to hate him, and what he stands for – the trickery and the deceit and all that. So Ardyn would probably be my choice for favorite boss, or favorite character in that sense.
More along this line of questioning, your favorite summon in the series?
The one that stands out is Titan from Final Fnatasy XV, and only because of that kind of visual impact. If Titan was designed in a current-gen, kind of realistic way, that’s exactly how he’d probably look like, and that’s how he turned out. So I think it left a mark in terms of what Titan should look like.
So going back to Final Fantasy XV, talk a little bit about the process of Chapter 13, and what’s going on with that.
So there is an update planned for this month that includes enhancements to chapter 13. So before, obviously, it was just Noctis by himself, kind of alone without the powers of his weapon summoning abilities. But what we’ve done for chapter 13, is we’ve added a separate route for Gladio and Ignis after they get split off from Noctis, so you actually get to play as Gladio, and see what happened from their side of things until they reunited with Noctis. You’ll see some additional cutscenes [that] just show you what took place while Noctis was kind of on his own. You’ll get some actual gameplay with the party of Gladio and Ignis together. You’ll see what happened to Emperor Aldercapt and Revis, and where they ended up being during the whole time. These are just the supplementary scenes that were added into chapter 13, and that’s just for chapter 13. But aside from that, we’re overhauling the ring magic, so the three spells that you could use with the Ring of the Lucii, those are completely powerful now, like super powerful now. So those are some other things to look forward to.
What’s your favorite game of all time, and you can’t pick a Final Fantasy.
So, maybe Bloodborne. The amount of times I died while playing that game left a memorable place in my heart.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
In my free time, I actually likes to watch a lot of movies. I'm a big movie buff, but I also enjoy sports, and I'm also on a soccer club.
Well now I have to ask what’s your favorite movie of all time?
Shawshank Redemption. Of the most recent movies, probably La La Land.
So what’s the absolute coolest thing about the DLC?
The thing that stands out the most about Episode Gladiolus is the battle system. That kind of balance between offense and defense, where by defending you raise your attack power, and by attacking you’re able to form the stronger glaive arts. But, it’s a simple offense-defense system, but that’s where the player skill comes into play, in terms of knowing when to guard, when to have your attack power multiplier at maximum. It just creates a lot of freedom for the player to try out different things, and that’s going to be the core of the secondary modes that unlock after you play the first playthrough. Because your performance is scored basically, and you see how well you perform in terms of doing, all the different actions you do are associated with a certain score, so you kind of have to see if you can get a better score than your friends and that kind of stuff.
But really it’s that design of that battle system being so open and flexible for anyone to enjoy, but also inserting the cutscenes at dramatic moments and giving that overall experience. But yeah, that battle system is probably the core of Episode Gladio.
Who’s your favorite character in Final Fantasy XV?
Maybe Prompto. He feels the most human out of the four. He’s the commoner; he’s the relatable one for all of us.