Hacking and slashing away at hundreds of enemies who rarely have the courage to actually fight back has provided hours of mindless fun over the years. However, does Fate/Extella have what it takes to stand out in such a crowded genre?
The Fate franchise consists of many visual novels, anime adaptations, manga, and the odd video game. Unfortunately, we haven't had the opportunity to play many of them in the west but this new spin-off is definitely a promising one. Fate/Extella (like most Fate stories) features a loveable cast of characters. You play as a generic dude who you can name whatever you wish. However, the game is played by infusing your essence into the characters as you try to guide them to success. I guess it's an analogy of the fact that you're controlling these characters just like your avatar is in-game. Strange premise aside, the characters range from noble warriors to quirky half-animals and they're all interesting to watch interact with each other. Some characters treat your avatar as an asset in battle while others will fall in love with you. These dynamics usually result in some cheeky scenes and it all adds up to a fun-filled tale full of memorable moments.
Fate/Extella's gameplay is similar to Omega Force's Dynasty Warriors. In fact, it's almost identical. You control your character to conquer rooms full of robotic enemies within large maps and eventually claim the entire stage by ridding it of your foes. I appreciate the fact that everything is so fast-paced. Each character is equipped with an arsenal of moves that makes quickly executing combos feel quite thrilling from time to time. There are over a dozen characters with classes such as Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Berserker, and Caster and each one has a different style that'll make you switch up your strategy. Performing special moves whenever their respective meters are full results in epic sequences as your character goes bananas slashing through foes on their own accord. Fun stuff!
Between battles, you can upgrade your character in many different ways. First, you can equip a Mystic Code that contains up to four helpful abilities (such as healing and elemental protection spells) that you can unleash mid-fight by tapping the directional buttons. Obtaining more of these requires you to purchase them through a shop with earned money and materials. Next, you'll uncover dozens of Install Skills by defeating large enemies that boost your base stats. Collecting repeats enhances their abilities so amassing a wealth of them is well worth the effort. Besides these, you can form bonds with characters that can grant you bonuses and use limited Command Seals whenever you're in a desperate situation. There are so many unlockables that are all very rewarding to acquire as you battle through each character's campaign. Oh, and there's a gallery full of various collectibles that'll surely keep perfectionists busy.
My main problem with Fate/Extella is the fact that the enemies are so painfully generic. You'll encounter different types such as flying ones, plants that spawn dangerous foes, and giants but they're all just robots with very little creativity in their designs. Of course, you battle other characters in boss fights but most of them don't feel much different to the robots. In all fairness, there are a couple of end-bosses that are quite cool. Also, the gameplay doesn't evolve much throughout which results in it getting very stale much sooner than you'd hope. Sure, there are various characters and abilities but you'll still mostly hack and slash your way through battles.
Finally, let's discuss Fate/Extella's modes. The Main Story contains four plotlines with a handful of stages in each while Side Story mode contains an extra 13 tales for additional characters. Lastly, Free Battle mode allows you to choose a character, opponent, and stage. I fail to see the point. Wouldn't fighting through the Main and Side Stories be more satisfying than playing random encounters? In the end, it's disappointing that all of these modes are basically the same thing. It would have been great to be able to play something that altered the basic gameplay formula in a unique way. Instead, it's all just repetitive battles within similar modes.
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is a capable Dynasty Warriors clone but its lack of imagination when it comes to enemies, gameplay, and modes holds it back from being a great game. That being said, if you're looking for a mostly enjoyable action game with a colourful cast of fun-filled characters set in a quirky anime world then this is a game that you should definitely check out.
- + Cast of charming characters with plenty of cheeky and memorable moments
- + Fun fast-paced Musou-inspired gameplay
- + Lots of satisfying unlockables
- - Generic enemies and lack of enjoyable boss battles (with a couple of exceptions)
- - Gameplay gets stale very fast
- - Every mode is basically the same