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Review

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

Plat­forms:

Deve­lo­per:

Publisher:


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

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