By Steve Baltimore / March 21st, 2019
|Developer||Marvelous’ First Studio|
|Release Date||March 19th, 2019|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Switch, Steam, Vita|
I’ve been a fan of the Fate series for many years. I remember when I watched the Fate/stay night anime many years ago, how it instantly drew me into this world of legendary heroes and magicians. When Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star launched back in 2017, it combined the series that I love with one of my favorite genres, Musou games. Needless to say, I’ve been stoked to get my hands on Fate/EXTELLA LINK ever since XSEED announced it was coming West. I finally got my chance to play through this, and now let’s see if my expectations were met!
Taking place shortly after the events of of Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, the realm of SE.RA.PH is once again in danger. A new threat of war has arisen and a hero, Charlemagne, has stepped to the forefront to combat this strife. The time has come for him, along with his allies, to push back against this evil, but as with all things in the Fate series, there is more than meets the eye here and plot twists are aplenty. Charlemagne is one of the best protagonists I’ve seen in a long time. It’s rare for me to relate with a male protagonist, but this man really inspired me.
Story mode is set up a lot differently this time around. The mission select screen looks much like a skills tree with branching paths. Each of these will not only change up the story, but you will unlock more servants and EX missions by completing all the different stages. There are a few different endings waiting for you as well depending on which path you choose to complete. I felt this really made the story flow better than last time, and this story feels right at home in this universe. If they turned this into an anime tomorrow, it would be a damn good one.
Graphically, Fate/EXTELLA LINK is a huge improvement over the last game. All of the character models look outstanding, and the costumes included in the game just kick them up a notch. The DLC swimsuits are quite nice as well if you want to shell out a little cash for them. Yes, I bought Nero and Elizabeth’s, I’m a weak man what can I say! Anyways, the stages all look fantastic as well. Each one is highly detailed and immerses you in this digital world. On the PS4, the game runs at a solid 60 FPS and I didn’t notice any major dips or studders. On Switch, the game runs at 30 FPS but it seems pretty solid as well.
The soundtrack in this game is one of the best I’ve heard all year. Each track is made with the utmost care and are perfectly placed to make the emotional scenes hit even harder. The ending theme is something to behold, especially in one of the endings. It hits you right in the feels. The hard rocking songs are perfect for slaying the 1000’s of foes you will face on the battlefield. I honestly don’t think they could’ve done anything to make this better, and I’m going to track down a “Fleeting Glory” Edition of this just to have this soundtrack. The Japanese voice cast we all know and love from the series all return to reprise their roles and do a wonderful job as always.
While the basic gameplay here is the same, there have been many improvements to make it smoother. First gone is taking sectors just to reach a certain number for the boss to appear. Now each mission will have objectives such as defeat X boss, escort servants to a certain sector and more. These conditions will change rapidly as you complete them on the stage. This really makes it feel like you’re in the middle of a huge battle and have to adapt to the enemy’s movements.
Combat has seen some tweaks as well. Servants will now have a set of active skills they can use to dispatch their enemies quickly. Each Servant can have up to four equipped to the face buttons on the controller. These are deployed by holding down the R bumper and tapping the button with the skill you want use. Each skill will have a cooldown time so you will have to wait a bit before using it again. These skills will become more powerful as you level up and you may even acquire some new ones along the way.
Another big change is in the way you execute a Noble Phantasm. In the last game you had to collect a series of three chips on each stage in order to pull this off, thankfully this has been replaced with something that makes more sense. Now you have a gauge, and this gauge will fill as you find the chips from the last game or if you defeat enemies while in the Moon Drive State. The Moon Drive State happens when you activate it once the gauge is full at the bottom of the screen. If you tap circle while in this mode, you will use a room clearing attack.
The last thing I want to discuss is your base. You will be here in between missions and like any hub, there is a variety of things you can access. In your room, Servants can be equipped with active skills and install skills. The install skills give them stats boosts and other buffs for combat. They come in the three different flavors – support, defense and attack. You equip these on nodes just like last time around and chaining like colors together will net you a bigger buff. You can also equip the various costumes you purchase or unlock during gameplay here. Last but not least, you can create and equip Mystic Codes for your character to use in combat. These have skills that provide your character with a wide range of support. This includes healing HP, offensive or defensive buffs. Using the right Code cast from these can really pull you out of tight situations.
In the dorm, you can converse with your Servants. Their conversations unlock as your bond increases with them. You increase your bonds with each servant by completing side missions. These range from defeating X number of foes, to using a certain number of Code casts. Not only will improving your bond let you get to know your Servants better, but it will also unlock better support skills to help you out in combat.
Fate/EXTELLA LINK proves that sometimes little tweaks can make a huge difference in a game. The combat here is so much better than in the previous game. It’s much faster and far more fluid. The new mission objectives make the stages feel alive and ever changing. Last but not least, the soundtrack here is one the best I’ve heard in a long time. At its $49.99 price tag, you get about 15 hours of story missions and a slew of extra missions that unlock while you’re progressing through the story. If you are a fan of the Fate series, this is a must own title. The characters and story alone are well worth the price of admission here. If you love Musou games, this might be the best of one of this generation. This game did what a good sequel should do, it improved on the first game in every way possible and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for this series down the line.
Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.
ActionFate SeriesFate/Extella LinkFirst StudioMarvelous GamesXSEED