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Review: Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star

Simply put, 2017 is the year of Fate. With the unprecedented announcement of five anime series and three games (counting FGO Season 2), there should surely be something to please even the most critical of Fate fans in 2017. The first game to be released this year (and the only confirmed for US) is Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star.

Following the events of Fate/EXTRA, Fate/EXTELLA follows the victors of the Moon Cell Holy Grail War. With Warriors-inspired gameplay, Marvelous hopes to please Fate/EXTRA veterans and newcomers alike. But is this war stuff of legends, or little more than a false prophet?

Story: 7/10

Fate/EXTELLA starts soon after the events of Fate/EXTRA. Having won the Moon Cell Holy Grail War and claimed its prize, Saber-class Nero Claudius and her master, Hakuno Kishinami Gregory Britton, find themselves declared rulers within a new (virtual) space. Armed with the ring-like Regalia to signify her winning the Grail War, Nero wastes no time at all to start building her new Roman Empire. That’s easier said than done, however, as her Gregory’s former Caster sub-Servant, Tamamo-no-Mae, appears complete with a second Regalia. Accompanied by what looks to be a Gregory of her own, Mae declares war on Nero and her new Rome. As the two attempt to prove themselves aa the one true king, a third Servant appears from the shadows. Known only as “Altera,” this Saber asserts her dominance with a single swing of her sword. Faced with a new opposition, Nero (or in her own route, Mae) sets out to conquer her lost territory and defeat her latest nemesis.

Coming from a Fate fan, Fate/EXTELLA has one of the weakest stories in the series. Perhaps the biggest weakness is its uncertain place in the series’s multiple timelines. Proceeding its release, the game was described as the sequel to Fate/EXTRA that could stand as its own standalone scenario. Somehow neither is true. Unfortunately, the game appears to follow the events of Fate/EXTRA CCC as opposed to the original game. Considering the fact that said game was never released outside of Japan, it sets players up for some confusion.

Despite the confusion, the scenario of Fate/EXTELLA was developed with Fate/EXTRA veterans in mind. The earliest portions of both Nero’s and Mae’s routes play out more like fan service than actual plot developments. While it is certainly great to see Nero again (this reviewer’s favorite Servant), additional developments alluding to or in addition to Fate/EXTRA could have gone a long way. Once the plot gets going, however, it is full of the twists and turns that Fate is known for.

Something that Fate/EXTRA, and now Fate/EXTELLA, has always strived in is the honesty of its Servants. Throughout a majority of the original Fate/stay night, series’ mainstays Arthur Artoria and Emiya spend their time questioning themselves and hating their past lives. The same can be said about a majority of the Servants that have appeared in the series. When it comes to Nero and Mae however, everything is open. Nero is aware of her infamy of the Whore of Babylon and accepts it. Just because she burned down Rome in a past life, doesn’t mean she can’t find love in this one. Mae is in the same boat. Even still seeing herself as an anti-hero, she only hopes to create a modern paradise for her husband and herself.

Design: 7.5/10

During development Fate/EXTELLA was designed with both PlayStation 4 and Vita in mind. While this made the game more accessible for players, it also somewhat limited the game’s potential. Regardless of its console, Fate/EXTELLA undoubtedly looks like a PS Vita game. While this is by no means a deal breaker, it is disappointing that players can’t see truly high-definition servants. Where the game truly shines, however, is its stylized design.

Something players have come to expect from any Warriors game or spiritual sequel is its flashy attacks. Fate/EXTELLA meets expectations by doing just that. Inspired by each of their previous appearances, every Servant features their trademark attacks. From Artoria’s Excalibur to Iskander’s Ionioi Hetairoi, each weapon, attack, and Noble Phantasm are beautifully recreated in this new field of battle. The attacks are easily the best-looking aspects of the game. Considering how iconic the Gates of Babylon and its succeeding weapons are, it makes sense that they grab the player’s attention more than anything else on the screen.

Gameplay: 9/10

At its core, Fate/EXTELLA feels just as much of a Warriors game as Hyrule Warriors or Dragon Quest Heroes. Considering the fact that Fate/EXTELLA wasn’t actually developed by Koei Tecmo’s ω-Force, that’s impressive, to say the least. For the first time in the series thus far, players take direct control over their chosen servant. As per Warriors fashion, Servants must take down legions of enemies with a plethora of attack types. As for the basics, players may string normal and strong attacks to unleash devastating combos. An addition to the traditional gameplay method is Extella Maneuvers. These fast paced attacks target an individual but attack the whole room on activation. Precise timing can be the difference between victory and defeat. Fate/EXTELLA is chaotic for sure, but it rarely feels too over the top. During boss fights, for example, the game takes from Hyrule Warriors‘ enhanced camera to lock on to enemy Servants. This ensures that any decisive attack should land on its target. The battle system feels familiar without ever feeling like a rehash of other games. Rather it takes great aspects from previous games and mixes them in a truly original twist.

Fate/EXTELLA changes things up from the usual Warriors game with clearer and more consistent victory conditions. The battlefield is broken up in a series of sectors, each with their own value. These values are represented by Keys. When a sector is won or lost, that army will gain or lose Keys respectively. This makes the importance of each sector clear from the get-go, allowing the player to better get their priorities straight. It doesn’t take away from the challenge though as the enemy too knows which bases to hit. Once 15 Keys have been claimed by the player, the Mission Boss will appear. It is only by defeating them that Servants may truly seize the day.

Sound: 8/10

As with most, if not all, Fate works, the entire main cast reprises their roles. From Artoria to Iskander, the battle cries of each Servant are music to the ears. It should be noted however that the game only features Japanese audio. While these are easily the most recognizable voices for each heroic spirit, the lack of English voices may discourage some players. Players used to watching the subbed versions of Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night should feel right at home.

The Fate series as a whole has always had some great soundtracks. There might not be a single track from Fate/Zero that doesn’t get this Master’s blood pumping. The soundtrack of Fate/EXTELLA, however, is a bit hit and miss. While the tracks aren’t bad, most fail to capture the emotions of the anime or the original games. Interestingly, the tracks that stand out most are those reused from previous games. These are mostly reserved Nobel Phantasm activations as a Servant lays waste to their opponents. Another honorable mention is “AKOGARE~TION,” a vocal track sung in-game by Elizabeth Bathory. This catchy pop song somehow perfectly fits the battlefield. It’s just too bad about the infrequently of it being played.

Overall…

Overall Fate/EXTELLA is one of the best Musou-style games not developed by Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force themselves. The game’s simple controls make it easy for beginners, while the hard difficulty can excite even veteran samurai warriors. With a total of 16ish playable servants, including many fan favorites, this is a must play for fans of the games, anime, or novels.

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gives Fate/EXTELLA 8 “umu” out of 10!

A Fateful Encounter

Pros: Great roster of playable servants, smooth hack-and slash action, flashy Noble Phantasm attacks. Cons: Outdated character models, lack of proper character development, Gilgamesh.

8
Story:
7
Design:
8
Gameplay:
9
Sound:
8

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