By Benny Carrillo / June 28th, 2016
Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is probably the game that impressed me the most during E3. Which is a bit strange when you consider that I know pretty much nothing of the Fate franchise outside of the first two seasons of Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA. As such, I really didn’t know what to expect when I saw it on the show floor and was worried about not being able to understand anything going on. Thankfully that is not the case and the game is well worth looking at for both newcomers to the franchise and veterans, from what I’ve been told. But let’s get to why this game is going to be compared to Dynasty Warriors by everyone.
I love the Dynasty Warriors franchise and Dynasty Warriors Gundam is in fact the reason I bought an Xbox 360. So for me, the best praise I can give this game is that fact that I kept looking for Koei Tecmo branding on the booth or game. Instead, I was amazed to learn this was done in house at Marvelous. They have made one of the only games that I’ve seen able to go toe-to-toe with the Warriors franchise in look, style, and feel. And that’s not to say the game outright copies the formula, it improves on it arguably. It’s a game that certainly fits right in with the Warriors franchise legendary hack and slash combat, but also comes into its own by adding its own tweaks. First though, let’s go over the basics.
Like many games of the genre, you’ll be controlling one character who will take on an army of thousands. And I do mean thousands. I actually saw a kill count that went beyond 10,000 while watching someone else play the game. The fact the PS4’s hardware was able to keep up with just how many enemies are on the screen is astounding. I never noticed any frame drops or slowdown. Now on the other hand, you may think that means this game is far too easy if you can rack up kills left and right, but as any Warriors veteran will tell you, just crank up the difficulty and watch those foot soldiers become a massive threat. While I didn’t get a chance to play with the difficulty during the demo, I think it’s safe to say there will be an option to do so. With that covered let’s talk combat.
Attacks also very much follow the Warriors style with your regular attack being one button and then being able to press a different button to activate your strong attack, which changes based on after which regular attack you use. In addition, you’ll have access to a special attack which will consume squares under your health meter. How long your special goes for depends on how many of those squares you want to spend, with each successive move costing one additional one. So for example I could use all three parts of Nero’s special, but it would cost a total of six squares (1 + 2 + 3). Also each character will have access to a transformation that drains using a gauge above your health bar. I used the transformation against the stage boss, so I didn’t get a ton of use out of it, but it was rather helpful and seems perfect for getting out of a tight spot. Finally, there’s the Noble Phantasm. I did not get a chance to use this ability as it requires you to find three pieces of a circuit. These pieces are hidden throughout the stage, though for the demo the boss had one piece as well. You need to prevent the boss from using her own Noble Phantasm in order to get that piece, which wasn’t too difficult. From what I’ve been told however, this is pretty much the strongest thing in your arsenal and is best saved for the stage boss. Speaking of stages, let’s talk about the battlefield itself.
The battlefield is connected by digital circuits which allow you to move from area to area. This actually cuts travel time down quite a bit and keeps the action quick. Be careful though as some areas can house traps. In my case, I got caught in a “Servant Slammer” and if I didn’t get out fast enough, I would have lost the mission. Your success or failure is determined by a meter at the top of the screen consisting of several flags. These indicate how close you are to conquering the map. If you can fill your side, a portal to the boss chamber will appear. If the enemy fills their side though, you lose. You fill your meter by taking over areas of the map, but this isn’t as simple as just wailing on enemy troops. In addition to the mini-bosses which will be guarding each area, you have “Plants”. Plants are basically mobile enemy spawners and should be your first priority. These things will constantly spawn troops whose only goal is to take over your areas. This can spell disaster if you let too many of these things live and the enemy starts taking over too much of the map. It’s a careful game of offense and defense which gives a good feeling of tension that sometimes can be missing from these types of games. You can’t just simply waltz through the enemy; you need to do some thinking as to the best way to proceed. With that said let me close this out.
Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star was a very pleasant surprise and really just a joy to play. If you’re a fan of hack-and-slash games, then be sure to pick this one up. And if you know nothing about the Fate franchise, don’t worry. I’ve been told this game requires no previous knowledge and will tell its own story. I’ll be looking forward to learning more about this when the game launches, but until then I should probably go watch the third season of PRISMA☆ILLYA in anticipation.
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