Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is available on the PS4 and PS Vita. For this review, the PS Vita version was used.
The “Fate” series of games are more commonly known as visual novels. Though there are visual novel aspects to Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, it is primarily an action game. More specifically, it is part of the ”Musou” genre (also known as a “Warriors” game – based off the Dynasty Warriors series). This consists of controlling a character against a large army, with aspects of beat’em up and hack-and-slash.
This part of the Type-Moon series, and is a sequel to Fate/Extra, set after the Holy Grail War on the Moon. If you are familiar with Fate/Stay Night, this takes part in an alternate universe, though you’ll recognise some faces. It’s preferable to play Fate/Extra first, though the game does make some attempt to make it accessible to those who haven’t. Before even starting a new game, a long list of entries is available in the log. This acts as a sort of dictionary, explaining the meaning of various terminology used in the game. There’s a lot to learn if you haven’t played previous entries though, and it might be best just to play through the game and learn along with your character, who is reminded of how things work in the world.
You can choose your main characters gender and name, but that’s the extent of the customisation. The story does not change dependant on gender – the servants treat you with the same levels of devotion regardless. You can then choose from a number of servants to play with. There are sixteen servants in total you can use in the game, which are separated into 8 classes: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Caster, Assassin, Rider, Berserker, and Extra Class. You’ll start the game with just one, a Saber class.
In regards to the gameplay, you’ll be faced with long chunks of visual novel, in which you interact with your servants and other characters, followed by large chunks of fighting. This does affect the game flow a bit, as it is quite segmented. However, this does allow for the combat to flow, with the few interruptions mainly being boss introductions.
The combat is typical of musou games, having to fight your way through large swathes of enemies. Fighting style depends largely on the class of servant you decide to use, with each having its own benefits. The combat system is a pretty good version of the musou system, though the game camera can be painfully bad at times, making the game more difficult than it should be. There’s also a lot to keep track of – not only do you need to take out enemies in whatever sector you’re in, you need to make sure enemies don’t take back any previously claimed sectors, and try to keep your AI team members in other areas alive.
The music is decent, fitting the environments well. Graphically the game stands up well, and has some cool animations. The dialogue is interesting, albeit quite strange at times. Some of the servants seem somewhat overzealous about the player character at times, possibly in part due to the “Fate” series having started as romance-based visual novels.
Those who want a dose of the “Fate” series may welcome Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star. It will suit fans of the series; but if you’re new to the series you may find yourself totally lost. Both the general plot and terminology will be hard to follow, and the characters interactions are just as confusing.
Even those who have been exposed to other parts of the “Fate” series before might find themselves confused. For example, if you’ve previously played any Fate/Stay Night games, or watched the anime, you might be left wondering why the characters you recognise are so different. Some characters will have the same appearance as those in Fate/Stay Night, but be completely different characters with different personalities. So if a playable version of Fate/Stay Night is what you’re looking for, don’t expect it to be the same.
One issue with musou games in general, which Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star suffers from is the repetitiveness of the gameplay. You’ll find yourself doing the same thing but in different locations and with different characters. The different combat styles of the servants can help to ease this repetitiveness, but it is still an underlying issue.
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star will appeal to two groups of consumers: “Fate” fans, and musou fans. If you fall into either category, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this game. “Fate” fans will likely enjoy the story being told in Fate/Extella, and musou fans will find this a pretty solid addition to the genre. To get the most of the game, you’ll really need to fit into both groups. If, on the other hand, neither category describes you, then Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star probably isn’t the game for you.
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