I have long held the belief that the Fate series would do well in the “Musou” genre, and right off the bat Fate/Extella has proven that it can, and does, work in this format. For those unaware, the general story in the Fate series is that heroes from history (both real and characters from works of fiction) get summoned into the current day to do battle as servants. While the Musou genre is known for being a cut and paste genre, in recent years many anime series have taken the genre in a new direction and Fate/Extella feels a step above the other contenders.
The Umbral Star’s story is split into 3 campaigns with only one available at the start. You unlock the other campaigns by beating the story mode with the previous character. Each campaign shares a similar story, but is told through the eyes of different versions of the protagonist and their accompanying servant. Every campaign mixes things up by changing key events that take place with the different servants. Although there are a lot of anime cliches, the story is quite enjoyable, if not a bit dragging at times.
At its core, Extella’s gameplay is admittedly pretty standard for the genre, but excels in making each of the playable characters feel unique, something most Musou games fail to do. Take for example the first character you get to play as, Saber, she is a warrior who moves swiftly but hits hard and fast. While someone like Caster the mage is weak but has many area of attack spells to make up for her weakness. Each character feels different and it’s a joy to try all of them out. Characters are unlocked by progressing through the 3 main stories, so you won’t be able to jump in and play with everyone right away.
The main goal of a majority of stages involve attacking each of the enemy’s strongholds to accumulate special “Regime Keys” so you can complete the “Regime Matrix” which summons the stages boss for you to fight. Different sectors have differing key amounts for taking them, so often it’s best to aim for the biggest areas rather than just take them one by one. Taking a sector consists of fighting regular enemies which fills up bars on the lower right of the screen, as these bars fill up “Aggressors” will show up. Aggressors are stronger variations of the regular foes and beating them all will earn you the territory. This admittedly gets a bit repetitive and some stages will shake this up by having another task to perform, but it essentially still boils down to taking enough territories to get enough keys.
Unfortunately Fate/Extella is severely lacking in content, consisting of only 3 modes and a gallery. Fate’s main mode is the story, which contains the campaigns for each of the 3 playable characters. Each campaign holds 5 stages with a special boss stage at the end. Although the dialog and events in between battles helps pad out this modes duration, I don’t feel it contains the right amount of content. Extella’s second mode are side stories, which focus on the soldiers from each main characters army. The side stories aren’t as padded out as the main ones, but do give insight into what some of the characters are doing during the main story.
Free battle is the third mode, in which you can choose any character and play through any stage from the main campaigns. This mode feels unnecessary though as the stage selection pool is quite small and most of the stages overlap on the main campaign mode anyway. The game has a standard leveling system as well as a “Bond Level” which is raised by performing specific tasks for each of the characters. All leveling up your bond allows you to do is to equip more accessories. Seeing as most of the accessories are useless in the grand scheme of things, you may find yourself not going out of your way to level these up.
Overall Fate/Extella is brilliant and its graphics are quite good considering it was developed for the Vita as well as the Playstation 4. This game really brings forth the magic of the animated series, and it seems the Musou genre was a nice fit for Fate. I would love to see more games in the series done in this style. Extella’s only real problems are an uninteresting soundtrack and lack of variety in the stages and mission objectives. Fate/Extella as a whole is a fun experience that I would gladly recommend to any fan of the Musou genre or the Fate series.
Release Date - Janurary 17, 2017
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star was purchased for review purposes