By Joe Sigadel / January 17th, 2017
|Title||Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star|
|Release Date||January 17, 2017|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, PS Vita|
|Age Rating||T (Teen)|
The Fate universe and its various visual novel stories weave an intricate, complex world where Wizards and Servants battle for supremacy to gain that ultimate prize, the Holy Grail. As our protagonist found out at the end of Fate/Extra, that’s not quite what ended up happening upon being declared the winner of the battle. I’d elaborate, but it’s probably better to play it for yourself. In fact, it would probably help you understand a lot about what’s happening in this game, to provide a foundation for who these Heroic Spirits are, why they are fighting, and why in the world the protagonist ended up on the moon, of all places. If you’ve experienced Fate in any other medium, by reading the original visual novels, watching the anime series Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero, or Unlimited Blade Works, any of that will help, although some of the characters only appear in certain spinoffs. Fate’s been around for quite some time, so there’s a lot to take in.
What Marvelous is doing with Fate/Extella is fusing two genres together in one game, the visual novel and a very Dynasty Warriors-like action combat experience. I think it works, but this is one of those make or break situations where it helps if you like both types of games. I happen to, thankfully, and while I hate to bring it up, I enjoyed the gameplay of Extella much more than I did the Persona-lite virtual world setting of Extra, with combat that relied somewhat on RNG and frustrating dead ends that forced you to re-read the text if you got a game over. As someone who has played a lot of Musou games, I’m well within my comfort zone with Fate/Extella. For the visual novel players, you might get a kick out of experiencing the story from three different perspectives. There are some very touching and heartwarming moments that occur between you and your Servant, especially if you manage to get your rank high enough.
Your character, after claiming victory in the Moon Holy Grail War, has split into three versions of himself, the Mind, the Soul, and the Body, and as a consequence, all of them have amnesia. But that plot point is what allows you to fight for one of three factions: Saber Nero, Caster Tamamo, and Saber Altera. Initially, you’re fighting for territorial control of SE.RA.PH to halt the enemy forces, pitting your top servants against theirs and a bunch of faceless enemy AI hordes. Battles take place on large maps that are sectioned off into rooms, and controlling the most valuable rooms (the ones with the higher numbers) is the key to victory. But it’s not as simple as that. The enemy forces will constantly be putting pressure on you to take your rooms from you, too. Units called Plants produce Aggressors which invade and try to seize control by defeating all of your Aggressors. In addition to all of this, Fate/Extella encourages you to follow its mission structure, which is similar to a Warriors game (e.g. defeat Gilgamesh before he rains his Gate of Babylon on everything, lure Lu Bu into an allied room to stop him from rampaging everywhere, etc) to get you to play smart and get domination of the map as quickly as possible. However, there are only so many maps and tricks they can pull on you before it becomes routine, so you’ll get used to it after playing through Saber Nero’s story.
Fate/Extella also features individual character story modes for each of the servants, so you get to see events play out from their perspective. This allows fans and newcomers to get behind their favorite servant characters and get a feel for how they play in an action based game like this. Controlling your character involves chaining together combos with square and triangle in various ways, Extella Maneuvers, which are like using your Musou gauge, the Moon Crux, which is like Fury mode, and last but not least, your Noble Phantasm, a servant’s ultimate devastating attack. Activating your Noble Phantasm requires either the collection of 3 data chips on the map or interrupting an enemy servant’s Noble Phantasm before they can activate it and collecting a piece of theirs. Needless to say, every character plays differently. Saber Nero seems to strike fast, but not too hard, Tamamo no Mae benefits from using Extella Maneuvers but can’t take hits very well, and Altera seems to be the most balanced of the three main heroines, just to give you an idea. Oh, and using Gilgamesh’s Gate of Babylon is oh so satisfying, even though he’s a total jerk as always.
As Fate/Extella takes place in a digital realm, the environments in the stages take the form of a mix of digital and historical set pieces. For instance, in Saber’s Romanesque capital, there’s pillars, statues, fountains and ruins that are reminiscent of those times. Similarly, in Tamamo’s “city of lust”, there are cherry blossom trees, Japanese style buildings with tiered roofs, bridges, and lots of red colors. Altera doesn’t really have anything distinctive herself, but she isn’t in this battle for domination of SE.RA.PH — I’ll leave it at that and let you learn the rest of her motivations on your own. While the graphics aren’t the most impressive I’ve seen, they look good enough and the animations and the illustrations look very nice. I believe Arco Wada’s character designs have improved quite a bit since Fate/Extra. They definitely look more detailed and have more varied colors. I don’t think the music was really anything to write home about, but it has a pleasant ambiance in the visual novel scenes. There just weren’t any tracks that stood out to me, other than the theme where you power up using your Moon Crux.
Fate/Extella is a pretty good effort by Marvelous to take the Fate/Extra world and bring it to a Musou-like action game. Fans might be disappointed that the story isn’t as deep or as complex as they would like (although there is terminology that kind of went over my head at times), but what’s really going to affect your decision to get this is if you like both visual novels and the kind of hack and slash action gameplay that’s being offered. There is quite a lot of reading and dialogue, in XSEED’s own words, it’s “enough to fill a good-sized RPG”, but this should not be a problem for existing fans who are used to heavy lore and are familiar with the characters. For everyone else, it’s up to you. While Fate/Extra was not exactly my cup of tea, Fate/Extella offers the kind of game I’m much more comfortable and at home with. And I’m on Team Tamamo if anyone’s wondering. Fox wife for life! I spent around 30 hours playing around in the different modes of Fate/Extella. The game can be yours for $49 on PS4, and $39 on the PS Vita. The Noble Phantasm Editions retail for $20 more for their respective systems. If you’re importing, Marvelous Europe is offering the Moon Crux Edition on their store, which can be purchased here.
Review copy was provided by the publisher
ActionFateFate/EXTELLA: The Umbral StarFate/ExtraMarvelousMusouPS VitaPS4XSEED Games