The Fate franchise spans a wide range of mediums, including manga, light novels, anime, and video games. I’m almost entirely new to the series, with my only prior interaction with the Fate franchise being the Fate/Zero light novel I discovered after seeing it referenced in Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Three Worlds Collide. This hardly felt like a problem at all in Fate/Samurai Remnant.
Samurai Remnant is the latest game in the Fate series, and Omega Force is serving as the developer with some assistance from Type-Moon and Aniplex. It’s an open-world game which features action gameplay and liberally borrows from history, and while it does extend the Fate universe, the story is still mostly self-contained. It didn’t take long before I was fully immersed in Miyamoto Iori’s story and the sometimes depressing but always captivating world of Fate/Samurai Remnant.
Fate/Samurai Remnant (Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5 [reviewed])
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Released: September 29, 2023
A world worth getting lost in
The story takes place in 17th-century Japan during the Keian Uprising. A battle is brewing, brought on by the Masters and their Servant spirits. You take the role of Miyamoto Iori, who is the apprentice of the swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Iori has an innocent face which matches his gentle personality, making it more emotionally impactful when you witness him dragged into conflict as he goes on a quest for the Waxing Moon Vessel.
While it may appear complicated at first, the game does an adequate job of explaining all the elements of its world, so it’s never difficult to keep track of the story. Fate/Samurai Remnant’s tale unfolds in Edo, which feels alive thanks to the busy villagers walking the streets and the vendors selling their wares. You can chat with some of them, and you’ll occasionally discover side quests dubbed “Digressions.”
Every location feels authentic to the period, and the vibrant anime art style makes it a pleasure to simply wander through the streets without any goals in mind. You’re also treated to a calm soundtrack featuring wood instruments and a Japanese flair.
During many parts, the game feels like an interactive anime series thanks in part to the beautiful cutscenes. Be prepared to sit through quite a few of these, and to do a lot of reading. Fortunately, the writing is great and doesn’t falter, even when tackling some of the game’s heavier themes, such as grief and death.
Not long after the beginning, you’re joined by Saber, who’ll be at your side for most of the game. She’s a great companion, both on a gameplay and narrative level. There are so many moments that leave you grateful to have Saber around during exploration, as she helps you overcome obstacles by passing through walls or boosting you onto a roof, for example.
Simply running through the streets with Saber is great fun, especially when she directs you toward Digressions where you help NPCs and score useful rewards. It’s worthwhile to complete these Digressions, as they give you a chance to brush up on your combat and level up. You should also note that some are missable and if you progress with the main story, you’ll be unable to return to them.
Become a samurai
Battles have you taking on hordes of enemies who you chop down with your trusty katanas, and you also have magic spells at your disposal. The combat is shockingly engaging. I often found myself picking up the game with the intention of playing for a few minutes, only to wind up glued for hours.
You have different stances you can switch between, and they have their unique advantages. For instance, the Water Stance prepares you for multiple enemies, while the Earth Stance is for defence. Landing attacks against enemies feels good, dodging is smooth, and there are plenty of cool moments during the bigger boss battles.
The combat is satisfyingly flashy, especially once you learn some fancy combos. If you aren’t a fan of action games and are primarily interested in the story, you should turn the difficulty down to “Sword Novice.” You’ll still have to pay attention when up against enemies, but you won’t be breaking a sweat.
For folks looking for a challenging experience, “Sword Fighter” or the hardest difficulty “Sword Expert” will do the trick. Either way, you have an engaging combat system at your disposal which allows you to chain combos, perform a riposte when you dodge at the right moment, and synergize with your Servant.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is also good on a technical level. I enjoyed a solid 60 FPS with no dips on PS5. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as the game isn’t particularly demanding, but it is still appreciated. The only negative worth mentioning is that combat can get repetitive. This is somewhat unavoidable in a game that’ll have you spending 40+ hours on it, no matter how varied the enemies are and how deep the combat system is.
My advice is to take things slow and don’t be tempted to rush. Instead, enjoy the Digressions as well as the mini-games you’ll find when doing side activities such as sharpening your blade or carving statues. There’s enough variety punctuating the combat to ensure you don’t get burned out if you pace yourself.
Servants and Leylines
When the going gets tough, you can lean on your Servants, who have been well-implemented. They have various techniques that can be used in battle to land devastating blows on enemies, which is especially handy when you’re trying to penetrate thick armor. As you defeat enemies, you’ll accumulate points which you can spend on skills. Your Servants also have their own skill trees, so don’t forget to upgrade their skills now and again.
Outside of the Servants, my favorite aspect of gameplay is the Leylines that pass through the Spiritual Lands. This is a turn-based mini-game which has you going up against enemies to connect Leylines and eventually take over their Spirit Font. Cross paths with an enemy and it’s battle time. The Leylines are a nice break from regular exploration, and you get help from friends along the way.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is the whole package
Plenty of games feature side adventures and exploration that are supposed to be immersive but end up feeling like busywork merely there to pad your playtime. Fate/Samurai Remnant manages to avoid this, which is impressive considering its length. Venturing off the beaten path to complete side activities, talk to villagers, or just pet a dog, almost always yields rewards.
Sometimes, you’ll learn more about the villagers and the tragedies they’re facing. Considering how much death is seen, it feels satisfying to be able to positively impact people. Other times you’ll find items that’ll help you during battles or can be sold.
With Fate/Samurai Remnant, what you put in is what you get out. Engage with its many systems, and you’ll discover a game that demands strategization while not distracting you from the central plot. Crank the difficulty down, and you’ll find yourself with a captivating story that occasionally requires you to slash some monsters up.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is easy to recommend to Fate newcomers who will have no problem jumping into the game. Series fans will also enjoy it, as they’ll be able to appreciate the references on a different level. In a year that is filled with major releases seemingly every week, Fate/Samurai Remnant manages to be worth your time from its opening scene to its last hours.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]