Review: Fate/EXTELLA – The Umbral Star

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The Fate series is a strange one, with multiple anime adaptions, spin-off games and novels. And yet, even with many of said spin-offs being released in the west, the original visual novel that started the series has never been made available officially in English. Fate/Extella is the latest game in the long running franchise to make its way to the west, but does it live up to series fans’ expectations?

Fate/Extella takes place directly after the events of Fate/Extra, with the main character having won the Holy Grail War taking place on the moon. Before being able to claim their prize however, they are attacked by an unknown enemy. This leads into the new war on the moon with the protagonist and their “servant” (a powerful being based on a historical figure) Nero fighting to reclaim the moon from new enemies and familiar faces.

Many characters make their return from previous games in the series, plus a couple of new additions for Extella. Unfortunately, the overall story that features these characters is lacking compared to Extra. The initial intrigue from the opening gives way to boredom, as you’re forced to sit though long cutscenes which do little to keep things interesting. Extella’s biggest problem is giving the player a reason to care about what’s happening, and no amount of familiar faces can save this. After the excellent story in Fate/Extra, Extella just feels rushed in comparison.

At the very least, the returning characters are still interesting, with main Servant Nero being a particular standout. As mentioned earlier, the story overall does little to keep the player’s interest, but interacting with the various Fate series characters can still bring some joy for fans. Outside of the three main heroines however, the rest of the Servants have a relatively short time in the spotlight, even with various side chapters dedicated to each of them.

When not stuck in cutscenes, you’re either interacting and improving your servant in ‘My Room’, or fighting in the Moon Cell. The My Room system allows you to talk with your current servant, and increase your bond with them. Having a higher bond with your Servant allows you to equip more upgrade items, with certain upgrades giving bonuses depending on what combination you equip. It’s also possible to craft gear that gives you access to skills in battle, but this system is fairly bare-bones and the benefits to upgrading your gear are minimal.

Each chapter of Extella is split into 6 stages, with a battle taking place in each. Battlefields are split into various sectors that are occupied by ally or enemy forces. Each sector is a assigned a number of keys which are used to represent the value of that sector, with the total amount of keys you own shown at the top of the screen. The basic gameplay loop in each stage is to capture sectors and claim their keys, and with enough you are able to fight a boss Servant that must be beaten to progress to the next stage.

Capturing sectors is done by fighting through hundreds of basic enemies, before defeating the larger defenders of the sector. Gameplay is similar to Koei Tecmo’s Warrior/Musou games, with Servants having the power to take out large amounts of enemies in a few swings. Each Servant has light and heavy attacks, with different combinations of these unleashing various combo moves. Most attacks cover a large area, but you can quickly find one or two combos that are the best at dispatching enemies and just spam those for most of the game.

Other than your basic combos, you also have access to a block that likely won’t see much use, a dash,’Extella maneuvers’ and a transformation. Dashing is fairly self explanatory, but it also has the added bonus of allowing you to group up enemies and reset your combo. Transformations give your character a temporary boost in strength, which also giving access to flashier combos. Extella maneuvers are a fairly unique mechanic to the game. These are powerful AoE attacks that can be made more powerful by expending larger amounts of the Extella gauge. This is where gameplay balance issues come into play.

In theory this should have meant that longer and more expensive Extella maneuvers would be the way to go, but in practice this isn’t the case. If you activate an extella maneuver and don’t chose to extend it, the cost is low but you still do decent damage. This means that spamming low cost maneuvers is more efficient, and since you’re invincible for the duration of them you can easily take out even the toughest Servants without taking damage in the process. Furthermore, enemies drop a plentiful amount of restorative items, allowing you to keep up this tactic no matter what stage you’re on.

While you could choose to ignore this mechanic to increase the difficulty of fights, after a few stages of the first chapter it quickly becomes apparent that there is little variety on display here. Most sectors are functionally very similar, most just being a basic arena with a few objects thrown in seemingly at random. And outside of a few extra objectives, you’re mostly just mowing down weaker enemies until you can defeat the protectors of the sector and then move on. Rinse and repeat until the end of the stage. Servant battles do little to keep things interesting either, since they don’t really do much outside of blocking with the occasional attack thrown in.

Moving on to the graphical side of the game, Fate/Extella doesn’t look particularly great. This is mainly thanks to the low resolution 2D artwork and fairly poor character models. Adding to this is the general design of the Moon Cell and the enemies you fight. Basic enemies only come in a few variations and they’re all boring to look at and fight. Combat is flashy, but with enemies being so weak it feels like your attacks have little impact despite the effects happening on screen. Servant designs are also poor, with basic models and stiff animations during cutscenes. This is a shame, since the artwork in the game is nice and detailed, even with it looking relatively pixelated.

Both the PS4 and PC versions of Extella run smoothly and at a constant 60fps. This is mainly due to the general low detail on characters and environments. The PC version has a fairly limited amount of graphical options, but this is par for the course when it comes to late ports of PS4 games. There is the option to go above 1080p for users that have a setup that can handle it, but again Extella isn’t exactly the nicest looking game out there.

As a sequel to Fate/Extra, Fate/Extella is lacking in both good writing and interesting characters. And if all you want is a simple button masher with flashy animations, Dynasty Warriors would be a much better choice. Hopefully the next entry in the Fate that makes its way to the west is better than this lacklustre attempt.

Game Title: Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star

Genre: RPG

Release Date: 20.01.2017




We took the screenshots using the PS4 version. This game was provided by the publisher for review purposes, check our review policy for details.