During my Fate Extella The Umbral Star Review, I found it to be a competent Warriors clone. Take control of a Fate series hero/heroine and cleave through thousands of enemies until victory is yours. The power trip of Omega Force’s “musou” games is replicated well by Marvelous here.
Perhaps a little too well.
There’s a load of content to consume, assuming you don’t mind hours of mindless repetition. The story is drawn out for an uncomfortably long time, making the Side Stories and Free Battles the more enjoyable aspects of Fate Extella.
That aside, the gameplay is good for a Musou-like, but enjoyment of the product may be limited to hardcore Fate series fans or Warriors game fanatics.
Look and Feel
The characters of the “Fate” franchise are represented well enough here. The game’s visuals are a whole heap of anime and mediocre fidelity. That said, the amount of generic soldiers it can generate on-screen at once is impressive. On the other hand, the map designs can be frustrating. For every spoon of sugar, there’s a few spoons of salt to be had.
The environments aren’t much to look at. As the game takes place on the Moon under a digital projection of life, expect a lot of tech-meets-art done to a minimal fashion. For example, though you can see the digital out-lines of Saber’s chambers, her Roman roots as Nero inspire the red and gold flourishes. Still, for all the strokes of inspiration, the game is far from being beautiful. Though the visuals can be varied, most of the structures only serve to get in the way of the gameplay. Couple that with the need to reach each sector to assist your army quickly, there’s not a lot of time to appreciate anything around you.
For all of my complaints, the game performs well technically and it accomplishes its intended goal. Movement is smooth and combat techniques are simple to pull off. It’s just nothing to marvel at. I suppose if you enjoy shiny, doll-like anime women, there might be something in it for you. Just a tiny bit more.
Right. Things get a little tricky here. The story is nonsense, but it has its moments that might be worth reaching if you’re REALLY in to the Fate characters.
As the hero of the Moon’s Holy Grail War, your player character (male or female) is seemingly torn apart by a dark entity that infiltrates the Moon Cell core. When you awaken, Saber is by your side (the blonde Saber most commonly referred to in the Fate series) and you’re apparently her lover. It seems you’re at war with Caster and supremacy is determined by the wearer of the “Regalia” ring: proof of the Moon Cell’s authority. To their surprise, Caster too has a Regalia…. and an exact clone of your character.
Ultimately, the Moon and all of existence is under threat by an unidentified entity and, for some reason, there are clones of the player character making pacts with other servants. As they all end up being women, I dub this game “Waifu Wars: Fate Edition”. The story is drawn out across four main campaigns and features full Japanese voice-acting.
Where it disappoints me is in its limited animation and backdrops, as well as how long-winded conversations can be with no auto-play function. It feels like it takes forever to get to the next between between story beats, and the story’s not good enough to warrant dedicating as much time as it demands.
If you’ve played a Dynasty Warriors game before, there’s not much to say. If not, here are the basics.
Controlling one of sixteen characters (total), players will hack and slash their way to completion. Each stage has a sectioned mini-map that indicates whether or not that area belongs to you or the enemy. Each also has a “key” number – unique to Fate Extella – that contributes to calling down the final boss of the stage. By defeating the boss, you win. Players are rated based on several factors: combo count, kills, damage taken etc, and rewards are given out as a result.
That’s the gist of the moment-to-moment gameplay. There are special moves, combos that extend as you level up from defeating enemies, spells to cast as the Master to support the Servant and a myriad of other familiar mechanics.
Main Stories, Side Stories and Free Battle
There are three main campaigns wherein you’ll play the main story and unlock the other characters. A fourth campaign opens up after completion of the previous three to wrap up the story.
During the campaigns, you’ll spend time with Saber, Caster or Altera and strengthen your bond with them through conversations and battle. Strengthening bonds leads to awkward, “secret” moments with your digital waifus during which most imply that you’re having sex, want to have sex with or eventually will have sex with them. Honestly. That’s kind of how it goes. Everybody loves you. You’re the “Master”.
Side Stories are shorter campaigns (preferable, actually) unlocked in the main stories. They feature the various servants that you’ve met and detail their own motivations a little more. The gameplay remains the same.
Free Battle is exactly as it states: freedom to choose your character and choose a campaign you’ve completed to beat again. This is useful for powering up specific characters without the nonsense of the story getting in your way.
Bonds, Side Missions and Crafting
Bonds can be formed with every playable servant. They can be increased by using “Code Casts” in battle as well as completing Side Missions. Code Casts are support abilities governed by whatever crafted robe the Master is wearing. Anything from healing, increased offense and protection against ailments can be applied. The Code Casts have limited stock per battle, so choosing when to use them can be the difference between life and death.
Side Missions are goals set to achieve in a battle. For example, Saber might ask you to defeat 4,000 enemies in a single battle. Easily done, and that’s a bond rank up. Five side missions can be taken per battle. They’re automatically chosen but you can manually fiddle with them at the stage select. If a character is unlocked, they will have a side mission for you in Free Battle. In the other modes, the characters need to be on your “side” of the conflict to improve their bonds.
Increasing your bond opens up slots to place upgrades in to. The upgrades are the main source of strength in the game. Leveling up may increase stats slightly, but adding an upgrade modifier does much more. Upgrades are earned from subduing “Aggressors” that protect area segments before you can claim them. Basically, upgrades will be earned naturally through gameplay and they’ll upgrade themselves as you earn more of the same.
Fate Extella is my least favourite type of Musou-like: a slow build over a steep curve of power. Low level characters are a chore to play and leveling can be a grind. Once you’re in the 50’s, however (with a high bond) you can steam-roll the game with your preferred character.
Personally, I think the game needs to implement an auto-play function for the story so I’m not sat with the pad pressing X forever. It also needs to be more generous with the stat boosts for strictly leveling up. Relying heavily on the Bond system without having a fast way to upgrade it makes playing as fresh characters less appealing.
That’s it. The story is goofy. The characters can be fun though. It’s filled with voice-acting. It’s an odd bit of wish fulfillment for Fate fans, which isn’t my cup of tea. But if you ever wanted Saber or Caster to love you, here it is.
Fate Extella is an enjoyable Musou-clone, but it’s confined by those two points. It goes further with the Musou gameplay than Senran Kagura (also by Marvelous) but reigns in the sexual references (at least a bit).
Fans of the Fate series and/or Dynasty Warriors games might find something to love, but I couldn’t recommend it outside of those circles. If you fall in to that venn diagram, there’s a lot to engage with, even if it’s largely the same.
Check out my scores below and drop me a comment if you’re picking this one up.
About This Fate Extella The Umbral Star Review
Game Reviewed: Fate Extella: The Umbral Star Digital Edition