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July 24, 2017 | by  | in Games |
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Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star

Developer: Marvelous

Publisher: Marvelous/Xseed Games

Platform: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)

Review copy supplied by publisher.

 

Oh great, another obscure Japanese franchise that only nerds like me have even heard of! Be warned — deep lore and pointless fanservice lies ahead…

The Fate series began in 2004 with the visual novel Fate/stay night, and has since branched out into every medium that an otaku can conceivably obsess over. The basic premise of the series is fairly consistent: in a ritual called the Heaven’s Feel, the spirits of heroic historical figures are assigned a human Master, a class based on their abilities (Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Berserker, and Assassin), and a Noble Phantasm, an ability and/or armament that personifies their legend. They are then made to compete in a battle royale for the Holy Grail, which will grant the winner a single wish.

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is set in the aftermath of the RPG Fate/Extra, where the Holy Grail War was fought in the virtual world of SE.RA.PH and won by the player-character and their Servant, Saber Nero (based on the infamous Roman emperor, except female). The player-character’s being has been split between their Mind, Body, and Soul, each with a physical form and a respective female Servant wrestling for control of SE.RA.PH. Starting with Nero, you’ll guide the Servants through battle while getting to know them intimately outside of it.

And how do they tell of such an epic tale? By combining visual novel-style storytelling with the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors, of course!

Let’s be perfectly clear — this is not a game for casuals. If you want to get any sort of enjoyment out of Fate/Extella, then you need to be truly dedicated to either the Fate franchise or to the Omega Force style of game design, because you’ll simply be confused otherwise. While massive interconnected universes have become quite popular in modern entertainment thanks to Marvel, they can only really work if individual parts can stand on their own merits. If one entry only works in service of the wider universe, it is that much harder to appreciate. While I’m largely aware of the workings of the Fate universe, few others are, and even then I still had to keep looking up terms on the series’ wiki.

If you do manage to grasp onto the story, you’ll likely be drawn in by the connections you form with the Servants. While the prose isn’t exactly masterful, it can be entertaining when it’s not bogged down by the lore. Romance is a key ingredient in many visual novels, this one included, and I’m glad to see the dialogue doesn’t drastically change whether you pick the male or female character model. The anime-style character designs are well detailed but unfortunately don’t look the best in 3D, the whole game being somewhat lacking graphically; it doesn’t help that I’m playing the Switch version.

In addition, as a Warriors clone, it’s honestly not that bad. The emphasis during battle is on taking territory by hacking and slashing your way through hundreds of enemies at a time, with a strategic component being prevalent as well. Each sector is worth a certain number of keys needed to fill a Regime Matrix, so choosing which sectors to tackle is important; it’s not always a matter of taking the biggest or toughest areas immediately. While I’m a fan of the Warriors style, it is rather repetitive and doesn’t always offer a substantial challenge, which is typical of the style and what holds it back.

If you can get over any of the aforementioned issues, you might just find Fate/Extella a compelling experience, if only for a short while. With three six-hour campaigns, 17 characters to play as, and a litany of extras, it certainly isn’t lacking for content, but you may just risk being called a weeaboo for the rest of your life.

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