Reviews// Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star

Posted 20 Jan 2017 13:41 by
Oh, boy. I have limited exposure to the Fate/ franchise, mostly through the various anime series. They all follow a set of rules - A war for the Holy Grail, magicians who can summon and command beings loosely based on historical figures to fight for them, a fairly decent story and some of the best fight sequences in anime thanks to Studio Ufotable.

So where did it go wrong for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star?

Let's start with the good, or at least not outright terrible. The combat in Marvelous' latest goes for a simplified rehash of what we normally get from a Dynasty Warriors game. There is a map of connected arenas, in each arena you fight against hordes of enemies until special enemies (called Aggressors) spawn, kill the required number of these to claim the arena and add some points to a swinging gauge at the top of the screen. Fill the gauge and win the stage. The rank and file enemy designs are dull as ditch water, but they are fun to pummel in massive numbers and because of how simple the control scheme is you can zone out whilst cruising through each arena and generally feel like a badass.

Fate/Extella is available on both PS4 and Vita and it shows visually. The low-detail character models and stiff animation feel like they would be passable on the Vita's small screen, but on a large screen through the PS4 they feel dated. Worse still is the way the story is told with just text from your avatar's perspective and the rudimentary character art (which again probably looks good on a much smaller screen) used to let you know who is talking to you. Japanese voice acting is present and is serviceably generic.

The story takes place after the war for the Holy Grail has been won. You play the victor and his/her Servant, but something isn't quite right. Turns out that whilst you claimed the grail you were split into your mind, soul and body and the part of you that you play as is the mind - even if you are the blandest possible character design imaginable. Each of your other constituent parts is hanging out with other Servants who also believe they won the right to rule.

Oh yeah, your prize for winning the war was to rule... something. The grail creates lands for you to dominate and bring in to your empire. The problem with this is everything looks like an Early Learning My First Matrix playset. As far as I can tell you have no subjects besides the mindless programs you slaughter during gameplay. You learn virtually nothing from the other NPCs in the game because most of their dialogue is inane babble or innuendo.

I expect fan service and innuendo from any game published by Marvelous, it is their stock in trade, but it is usually far superior to what's on show in this game. I think the amount of empty waffling threw me off because of the expectation I brought from watching Fate/Zero and /Stay Night, both of which are excellent shows with a good mix of action, story and romance, especially /Stay Night.

Just as I ran out of steam trying to power my way through Fate/Extella I am also running down on this review so I'll wrap up by saying that this would have been better remaining as a handheld title. Its flaws show up far too easily on the larger screen. If you were a fan of the previous material in the /Extra universe you might enjoy it. The combat was fun, if repetitive because of a lack in enemy unity variety, and it is a shame the game tried its hardest to keep me from playing the game because the NPCs wanted to waffle at me.

Pros:
+ Simple, mindless fun combat

Cons:
- Story and dialogue are dull
- Despite the bright colours the environments are remarkably unremarkable
- Looks incredible dated on PS4

SPOnG Score: 5/10

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