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Released in Japan on November 10th 2016, North America on January 17th 2017 and Europe on January 20th we have Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star. Developed by Marvelous and published by Marvelous in Japan and Europe with XSEED Games publishing in North America, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is a part of TYPE-MOON’s Fate universe. The game acts as a continuation of sorts to the 2010 PSP game Fate/Extra which saw a North American release in 2011 and a PAL release in 2012, as well as its companion game Fate/Extra CCC which was released in 2013 in Japan only. To fully understand Fate/Extella, it’s worth playing through Fate/Extra first. For transparency, I was given a copy of this game to review through a PR network.
The game takes place after the events of the Holy Grail War detailed in Fate/Extra. For those who aren’t familiar with Fate/Extra, the Holy Grail War was a battle royal of sorts where a Master and their Servant (the historical or mythical character) fought other Masters and Servants in a battle to the death in order to obtain the Holy Grail which provided the opportunity to grant one’s wish. Each servant is issued a class based on how they lived their lives, for example the Saber class is consisted of servants who are proficient with the sword such as the knight Sir Gawain and the Lancer class features heroes proficient in the spear such as Karna or Cu Chulainn.
In Fate/Extella you can play as a female or male master that you get to name. Alternatively, you can also stick to the default name of Hakuno Kishinami. Hakuno and his servant Saber (Nero Claudius) were the pair to win the Holy Grail War and as a result received control over the Moon Automaton Computer which has the power to grant a wish. As proof of their victory, they are also entrusted with the Regalia ring which also has the power to command servants they had previously met or fought. However, problems arise when they face an enemy who also happens to hold a Regalia ring. The game is told from the perspective of three factions. One led by Nero Claudius, another led by the Caster class servant Tamamo No Mae, and one led by the mysterious Saber class servant Altera. The game is a hack and slash, very much like Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors series. But, is the game any good? Let’s find out in…
One thing I quite liked about Fate/Extella was how hectic the battlefield could be. In order to complete a stage, your faction needs to hold a certain number of keys as well as beat the boss Servant of the level. These keys can be obtained by controlling and taking over areas held by the enemy. However, the enemy can also hold keys based on how many areas they control and taking over your areas. If the enemy reaches the number of keys needed, then it’s curtains for you. To keep you busy, special units called ‘Plants’ are spawned in enemy territory and if left unchecked, they will send enemy forces to areas you control. There were times I’ve escaped defeat by the skin of my teeth and eventually turned the tides of battle in my favour which is a very satisfying feeling, especially given that the enemy can have multiple plants attacking multiple areas as well as enemy servants invading your areas and mission objectives to really keep you on your toes.
The gameplay mechanics is another thing I really liked about the game. As you complete missions, you will be able to craft Mystic Codes which you can use to aid your servant and her allies on the field. These mystic codes allow you to do things such as recover health, protect against traps and switch characters to name a few. You will also gain instant skills which you can also use to power up your servant to make them even more formidable in battle. As you become closer to your servant, more skill slots will unlock and strategic placement of skills can enhance their effects. In order to get closer to your servant you will need to raise their bond level, which can be done by answering your main servant’s questions correctly or completing side missions issued before a battle. During battle you can attack enemies using an ability called an Extella Maneuver where your servant pinpoints a particular enemy and deals large amounts of damage to them and surrounding enemies. Servants have access to Moon Crux which will reduce damage and increase attack for a short period of time. Some servants such as Nero and Tamamo No Mae will physically change and gain a different set of moves while others such as the nameless Archer might have more subtle changes. Lastly, each servant also has an ultimate attack known as a Noble Phantasm and these can be activated by collecting Phantasm circuits found on the field, or by attacking enemy servants trying to use their own Noble Phantasm. Noble Phantasms are especially powerful attacks and are unique to each servant’s identity.
The number of Servants available to play as was also a welcome addition. While in the main story you play as Nero, Tamamo No Mae, and Altera respectively, as you progress through their stories, the servants they control will become available for Free Play in which you replay story missions using any character as well as having their own side stories dedicated to them. Each servant has their own playstyle and while the button combinations remain similar between servants, the movesets I felt were different and really gives each servant a unique identity. With the exception of one character, as I mentioned earlier, each Servant is based off a historical or mythical character and you have quite the colourful cast ranging from the world’s oldest hero Gilgamesh, to Jeanne D’Arc, Lu Bu, Sir Gawain and Elizabeth Bathory to name a few. In story mode, depending on the item you are equipped with, you can also change with a certain servant in the middle of battle. Nero has the nameless Archer (whose identity is featured in TYPE-MOON’s Fate/Stay Night), Tamamo No Mae has the Indian hero Karna, and Altera has Gilgamesh. Being able to play as all these extra servants was certainly a lot of fun and their playstyles keep the game fresh.
Without going too much into spoilers, the story is another thing I liked about the game. While you have to play through each faction in a particular order, the story mode of each faction fills in gaps and answers questions that the story of the previous faction presented as well as justifies them. You can certainly understand why Nero, Tamamo and Altera act the way they do and as you play the game you can also spend time with them between chapters and battles and share some light-hearted moments with them. Each of the three heads of their faction also view and interact with Hakuno in different ways and this is quite evident in how Hakuno is addressed by them. Each faction also views and deals with the opposing factions in different ways as well, which I thought was quite good as you gain a little bit of insight to how the Servants fight and receive their power which is then reflected by the mission objectives. However, the game isn’t perfect and to compliment the good, we also have…
The biggest gripes I had with the game was its camera and lock on system. While you’re running around destroying thousands of enemies, the camera doesn’t always want to go where you want it to. Or it zooms right in if you happen to dash into a corner while attacking enemies. This was more frustrating as if you’re setting up combos or trying to fulfil a side mission, this can potentially ruin your chances of completing it. The lock on feature I didn’t like since the only enemy you can lock on to were enemy servants. In order to capture an area, you must also rid the area of enemy aggressors and I found it was a real pain sometimes trying to keep them on screen while dashing around and dealing with the camera so being able to lock onto them as well as servants would have been nice.
Some of the side missions I can’t say I’m a huge fan of. Especially the ones that only give you a certain amount of time to complete such as kill 500 enemies, rack up an 1800 hit combo, or capture 3 areas. The amount of time isn’t specified and the game won’t tell you that time is up or that you’ve failed the side mission unless you either pause the game and check or when the battle ends. But that’s a minor issue I had. Asides from that, there wasn’t anything else I particularly disliked about the game so it’s now time for…
I had a lot of fun with Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star. I’m a personal fan of TYPE-MOON and that combined with hack and slash gameplay makes for an addictive and enjoyable game. As I mentioned earlier, to fully understand and enjoy Fate/Extella, I would highly recommend playing Fate/Extra on the PSP first as it provides information on a number of characters featured in the game, especially Nero and Tamamo No Mae. While the basic formula of Dynasty Warriors is certainly there, the other gameplay mechanics and the story in my opinion makes Fate/Extella stand out and Marvelous has done an excellent job on it. The game’s music complimented it very well and I would highly recommend this game if you enjoy hack and slash, or if you’re a fan of the Fate series, since the game also features characters from Fate/Stay Night, Fate Zero and other related materials. The hours I spent on the game was well worth it and I’d definitely say go and pick it up.