By Guy Rainey / March 13th, 2015
|Title||The Awakened Fate Ultimatum|
|Developer||Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.|
|Release Date||March 17, 2015|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
Coming to write The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, I’m not sure I’ve ever had such polar opposite feelings about a game. I love certain parts of it, and I was really apathetic to others. And yet, I never hated any part of the game. So, with that opening, I guess you want to know what I thought of the game. So, here we go.
The story starts with our hero, Shin Kamikaze, dying at the hands of demons. He’s whisked away to Celestia, the home of the angels, where he is resurrected by something called the Fate Awakening Crystal. He is then told that, because of this, he is now God. Not a god, mind you. He is actually called God. But, rather than giving him omnipotence, omnipresence or even omniscience, he gets the ability to essentially transform into an angel or a devil. Huh, not really much of a god, then, is he?
Blasphemous definitions aside, these abilities tie in really nicely with the gameplay. The gameplay is lifted directly from the Mystery Dungeon line of games. And I love Mystery Dungeon games, so that is a very good thing. For those that don’t know, Mystery Dungeon is a series of dungeon-crawler games that have a focus on resource management. Every movement is a turn. Every few turns, you’ll decrease some kind of resource, usually food; in this case the resource is called AC (still have no idea what that is an acronym for, but it doesn’t really matter). When you run out, you’ll take damage. If you die, you’ll lose all your items. This is the most forgiving of Mystery Dungeon type games I’ve seen, since, if you die, you’ll lose all your items, but you’ll keep all your experience and progress (some Mystery Dungeon games put you back at the very beginning at level one with no items). Honestly, though, it’s a moot point, since the game is so easy that I died only a handful of times, and I just restarted from my save file. Not that I mind. I still find the process of figuring out what loot to take, and what loot to leave a very interesting thought process.
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum’s addition to the formula is the angel/devil dichotomy. Every enemy has an affiliation with angels or devils, and you’ll gain an advantage by using the opposite. Don’t be too worried: it’s visually very clear. But when you use your powers, you’ll lose magic points. Lose all your magic points, and you’ll be easy pickings for the foes you’ll face, especially later on. And this is where the game’s world starts breaking down, and where my apathy begins.
Shin is brought in to be the God of Celestia, the home of the angels, embroiled in a war with the Netherworld, the home of the devils. OK, so why are there enemies with angelic affliction attacking Celestia? It’s not a huge deal on its own, but it’s a part of a larger concern: the story is really divorced from the gameplay. For instance, at one point in the game, Celestia is said to be under attack by the strongest parts of the devil’s armies. In the dungeon that follows, the more human-like devils are called “Mid-Level Devils.” Really breaking my immersion there, game.
The story is really dull. Not bad, just dull. Shin is a selfish loner at the start of the game. He initially doesn’t want any part of the war. Then, he sees all the devastation caused by the devils and realizes he can do something about it. He throws himself into the war and decides that he wants to save every single person. He gets lost in his newfound power and must learn how to use it without abusing it. A really, really dull plot. The only thing that surprised me about it was that they didn’t kill the side character during the “raise the stakes” portion of the plot; just put her in a coma for a while. It doesn’t help that the story is presented in a visual novel style that just highlights how dull the story is. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this style, but, if you want to go that route, you’d better make sure your writing is so good that it overcompensates for the lackluster way you’re presenting it. And this game simply doesn’t.
Not that The Awakened Fate Ultimatum doesn’t try to have an interesting story. In fact, it tries to have Mass Effect-style choices. And these aren’t just clear, black and white, good or evil choices. They’re more about idealism vs. realism. Do you go with the solution that will result in the most good and may fail or the one that will most certainly succeed, but will result in some casualties? Will going down the “good” path result in a more hardship, but definitively better ending? Will going down the “evil” path be popular at first, but backfire at some point? All these questions have fascinating potential that is supposed to inspire multiple playthroughs. But, unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that these decisions don’t affect the story in any meaningful fashion. The plot divergences are short, and plot convergences happen really fast. And, since this is presented as a visual novel, making story segments much cheaper to produce, I expected far more: not even more content, just more varied plotlines for each choice.
That, more or less, leads into a talk about the presentation. Overall, my impression is mixed. Visually, the graphics are simple, but they’re not bad. They’re clean, clear and display all the information you need. The music in this game is practically nonexistent. There are generic mood themes that play during the visual novel segments, and only one dungeon theme. Not only that, but there’s a lot of reused assets in this game. The story goes through really flimsy excuses to send you back to places you’ve already been, just to reuse the same tile sets. There are only two real bosses in this game, the Vile God of the Netherworld, set up as Shin’s opposite, and the final boss. It almost makes me wonder if there was a lot of cut content. Either way, I’m disappointed in the presentation.
So, in conclusion, I’m torn on this game. If you love Mystery Dungeon games, and can’t wait until Etrian Mystery Dungeon, you might get enough enjoyment out of this for the 20 or so hours it takes to complete. And the budget initial price of $39.99 helps me give it a bit more leniency. I guess my biggest issue is that it isn’t on handhelds. There is nothing in this game that couldn’t be done on the 3DS or Vita, and Mystery Dungeon games work much better a few minutes at a time. There’s nothing technically broken with this game as is, but it’s boring in many ways. And, yet, I love the basic game design, so take from that what you will.
Review copy provided by the publisher
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is available on Amazon:
Nippon Ichi SoftwareNIS AmericaNISAThe Awakened Fate Ultimatum