Fate/Extella – The Umbral Star Review

Newtitle

Fate/Extella is a Hack and Slash action video game set in the world of the somewhat popular Fate anime. While the series started as a visual novel type game in Japan, it mostly gained its western fans when the Fate/Zero anime was dubbed in English. It’s a funny coincidence that I got to review this game as I only watched Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works (yes, that is quite a mouthful) earlier this year.

Story

The basic story of the Fate series is the following: 7 Mages are competing for the Holy Grail, a powerful wish-granting artifact, which they can win by battling the other mages to the death. They are each granted a Servant, a powerful legendary warrior that gets summoned to obey their master’s command. In the anime they made it clear that there was a big tactical advantage in getting to know your opponent’s servant’s class and historical background. To give you and idea here are the servants from Fate/Zero:

Class Type Legenday Warrior
Saber Sword combat King Arthur (female)
Archer Ranged combat (summoning weapons) Gilgamesh
Lancer Spear wielder Diarmuid
Rider Vehicle/mounted fighter (Chariot) Alexander the great
Caster Magic Bluebeard
Berserker Brawler Lancelot
Assassin Stealth/speed focused League of assissins (multiple)

In the anime they focused a lot on gaining intelligence on your enemies and how it would be wise to take out the servants yours has a good matchup against. Some even tried to go straight for the masters in an undefended moment. In Fate/Extella however, they don’t talk about such tactics. The mainly one-vs-one combat of the source material is all but ignored here as this is more of Dynasty Warriors like game where you have to take over zones and keep yours defended. The story itself also has a big focus on this as the characters are mostly worried about losing part of their territory on the moon. The earth has been left pretty much uninhabitable you see, after the last Holy Grail War that took place in the previous game: Fate/Extra. In the first chapter, you and your Saber-type servant Nero (female) won that war and are now in control over the Moon Cell Computer, which also happens to be the Holy Grail.

holy grail

The game has a *LOT* of text to get through

Inside the Moon is SE.RA.PH, an artificial environment (think “The Matrix”) that is responsible for summoning the servants. You’ll discover later on that it split your character in three: Mind, Body and Soul each with its own Servant and Regealia (a magic ring). And… Have I lost you yet? You see, I tried to simplify the story but even now I realise I’m throwing a lot of new terms out there and I’m afraid I’m getting the details wrong. The game is a sequel to Fate/Extra and they assume a bit too much pre-existing knowledge of that game. They throw words at you in quick succession and it’s a bit off-putting for those who want a game with an interesting but easy to follow story.

The developers seem to be aware of this however, as there is an encyclopedia in the game that gradually fills. And they even have Fast Forward & Skip options for the dialogs. I’m ashamed to admit that I found myself skipping most of the conversations: they generally run too long and often have cringe-worthy lines like “The other me is so cool”. One shining bit of light however, were the conversations between you and your female servants , which felt a bit like a dating sim at times, albeit without your dialog choices making too much of a difference on the outcome. They also used these moments to offer some fan-service.

Fan Service bathscene

Quickly, we’re losing their focus! throw out the boobs!

Graphics

Visually, it’s not a stunning game but it gets the work done considering it’s a port from the PSP version. The character models look interesting enough but the world and environments are forgettable. The parts in the game where you’re only reading through text are again the least appealing. Half of it is told over mostly still images with character portraits or with simple animations. When you speak, as the player character, it’s even simple text on a colored background with no visual appeal at all. Nero and the other heroines get the most time in the spotlight though and they certainly are the most intersting to look at.

Fan Service

he’s falling asleep again! we need more boobs!

The opening scene of the game also mentioned how the world got destroyed and attacked by a giant being, but instead of showing this with in-game graphics or an anime cutscene, these are just scrolling images and text again. All in all I found the presentation of the story a bit lacking, but thankfully the combat looks a lot better, and it manages to show a lot of enemies onscreen at once without a drop in the framerate. (The game also isn’t very demanding, so you’ll be able to run it even if you don’t have the best of computers).

battle 1

The Japanese sure like their german references

Audio

The main piano & flute theme of the game is actually quite lovely to listen to, in fact I have it on in the background when writing this. But the majority of the tracks are nothing more than electronic loops of generic sounds. It surprised me that there was a Music Gallery where you could listen to them all as I would doubt anyone would be spending a lot of time with it. The voicework is Japanese only with English subtitles. Personally, as an anime fan I didn’t mind this at all but it could be that some people buying this would have preferred to have an English option as well. For the most part the voice actors did a great job, but expect a lot of overacting.

Gameplay

I may have come across a bit negative in the previous sections of the review but rest assured, I still found it a worthwhile experience thanks to the gameplay. This game will let you play as 17 different servants total. Each servant has a unique  look, background and techniques but ultimately they don’t differ that much in playstyle. You have a basic attack that you can chain into heavy attacks, which increase in combo-potential as you level up. You’ll also get access to your Extella Maneuver from the start, a powerfull move that lets you attack multiple enemies at once while dealing focused damage to your first target.

massive attack

*Pop* go the enemies

While this move looks awesome and is fun to perform, the bar that is required to use it fills rather fast so you’ll be spamming this a lot. By the end of one story you may have gotten tired of seeing it over and over again. This can be remedied by keeping an equipment on that lets you switch to a sub-servant at any time and although you’ll be stuck with the same one for each story, at least you get to do half of it with a different moveset. Later you’ll also unlock an even more visually appealing move that lets you transform and deal out buffed damage for a while.

Transformation

She went Full Sailor Moon. Never go Full Sailor Moon!

Other elements from the anime that are used here are your ability to use command seals to temporarily increase your attack even further. You can use this only once on each stage so they are best left for the fight against the main boss servant, alternativelt you can use them one at a time to prevent you from dying but the game is easy enough that this won’t happen a lot. Even more rare are the Noble Phantasms: each Servant has their own unique legendary weapon or skill that deals major damage but to use these you have to gather 3 items hidden on the stage or you could get one for fighting another Servant.

Noble phantasm

Nero summons a golden colloseum – girl likes herself an audience

My major gripe with the combat however is that you’re almost always doing the same thing: you clear out a sector of hundreds of enemies; which spawns a bigger version of them, called an aggressor. Defeating a certain amount in a sector gets you more control over the current stage and you also have to make sure you keep defending sectors you’ve already captured. To make your life more difficult the game will sometimes throw “plants” in the mix, which are enemies that can generate aggressors in any zone. This can be a bit frustrating if you have to run through several sectors to go and defeat the plant, but it’s nothing you won’t be used to if you’ve already played a game of this nature before. (Dynasty Warriors, Hyrule Warriors, Dragon Quest Heroes…).

Once you fill the bar at the top with the required amount of captured sectors, you get to go fight the Boss servant. These move around a bit more and can use more damaging attacks, but even on harder difficulties they can be kept at bay by defending when necessary and spamming attacks for the remaining 95% of the time.  Fate/Extella also has multiple difficulty settings in case you’re looking for a challenge. I’d avoid the Easy setting altogether unless you want to rush through. Normal seems the way to go as Hard mode is available from the beginning, but all it really does is require you to level up before tackling the next stage lest your attacks won’t be damaging enough to quickly gain control of the required sectors. There is also a score given at the end of each battle to motivate you to do better on a next attempt.

Ranking

EX? Gonna give it to ya!

There is enough content here that you don’t need to go and replay stages over and over however. The main story is divided in 4 chapters with 28 stages total (and lots of talking in between) to play through,  and you’ll also unlock 13 side stories and a Free Battle mode as you play.

Final Word

It’s a fun game if you play in small sessions as otherwise the combat may get too repetitive. The story has a lot of faults and one could probably make a case for skipping the story altogether and getting the better experience out of it. Fans of the Fate Series will want to try this out however as it’s fun to be able to control your favorite characters from the previous games and anime shows and dish out damage by the thousands. There is also enough content here to keep you busy for about 20-30 hours (story included)

Still haven’t decided if it’s for you? You can check some gameplay videos HERE.

Fate/Extella

$49,99
Fate/Extella
7

Pros

  • A lot of content
  • 16 playable characters
  • Fan Service

Cons

  • Boring and difficult narrative
  • Story lacks presentation
  • Repetitive combat
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Robby Bisschop
Belgian, male, born in 1987
I love videogames (mostly RPGs), anime, movies and Magic The Gathering.
About the author

Robby Bisschop

Belgian, male, born in 1987 I love videogames (mostly RPGs), anime, movies and Magic The Gathering.