(This editorial was written shortly after the release for the Episode Gladio trailer. I have not since played the DLC, nor have I watched any of it. As a result, aspects of the editorial will be out of date.)
Move over Cloud and Lightning, Gilgamesh is the real Final Fantasy mascot. Unlike the series protagonists, Gilgamesh has appeared in numerous entries in the series, including multiple main line titles. And unlike his compatriot, Ultros (or Orthos), Gilgamesh represents the RPG sprit. His goal isn’t the seduction of women, but the collection of weapons and fighting to an energetic tune. Since Final Fantasy V, he has appeared in Final Fantasy VIII¸ IX, XII, XII-2, Type-0, Dissidia 012, World of Final Fantasy (additionally, he also has been an optional boss in several ports) and is to be the main antagonist in Episode Gladio in Final Fantasy XV’s first major DLC.
Gilgamesh is more consistent in his portrayal than Cid, in that his personality and appearance do not change much between entries. And unlike recurring species in the series, such as chocobos, tonberries, and cactuar, he has a recognizable voice. His bombastic declarations targeted at the party, his monomaniacal goal of attaining the greatest weapons in the realm, his neutral role in the greater conflicts of the world, and his invariable failure to be the most powerful warrior (often kneecapped by his own blade, Excalipoor). He is incompetent and bumbling, but we cannot help but love fighting him again and again anyway.
The new DLC fills in a gap in the story in which Gladio departs from Noctis and the others. When he comes back, his forehead has an ominous scar. This sets the tone for the forthcoming DLC, and has implications for the boss ahead.
In the trailer for Episode Gladio, he appears to be a far more mysterious and brooding figure than in recent entries. In lieu of his usual verbosity, this iteration of Gilgamesh only speaks once in the trailer, and it isn’t expository banter. His face, instead of being covered by his usual stark, white mask, wears a metallic one that obscures all by his bright, red eyes. His place in the world is not to act as comic relief, but as a sinister foe. The battlefield on which Gladiolus meets “The Blademaster” is not a big bridge, but a cliff littered with rusty swords; a graveyard that is presumably for those who traveled to face him, and failed to complete the trial of Gilgamesh. His collection, it seems, is not from him traveling the world, but for those expiring in pursuit of his title. Furthermore, Gilgamesh in some of his depictions or forms has as many as eight arms. In Final Fantasy XV he has only one.
From what we know, this Gilgamesh is the inverse of the others; pithy, stationary, and of haunting implication. He adapted to a new world and a different tone. Each Final Fantasy game tries to maintain its central feeling, a Final Fantasy-ness that is cohesive with the other titles, but also unique. This evolution of a beloved character is refreshing. The creators and designers and writers are still willing to play with the Final Fantasy formula, turn expectations on their head, use familiar concepts in new ways. This bodes well not only for Episode Gladio, but also Episode Prompto and Episode Ignis, and even future titles in the series.