Ryu’s Musings: Fate/Extella – The Umbral Star

Posted on January 20th, 2017 by Ryu Sheng |

Language: Audio: Japanese / Subs: English
Developer: Marvelous
Publisher: Marvelous
Format: PS Vita, PS4
Type: VN/Musou hybride
Demo Box: PS4 (Old)
Synopsis: The famous FATE series is reborn in an astonishing new game, Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star! Hyper-fast hack and slash action featuring fan-favorite characters, facing off against dense enemy swarms in large-scale battlefields! Enjoy yet another deep storyline that the Fate series is known for, and sharpen your skills in some of the most intense combat the series has ever seen!

 

So I have to admit that this game for me was one I was eagerly looking forward to, and was a bit miffed when it was delayed. While not a fan of Dynasty Warrior, I was a huge fan of Samurai Warriors and played the first two games to death. So when this was announced, I knew my life would be dominated by it, much like Samurai Warriors 2 did in its past.

Sadly though it didn’t really live up to my expectations fully, but I have to admit that this doesn’t make it a bad game. In fact I would still say this is game worth picking up, if you like musou styled game, or are just interested in them.

Graphically the game is okay, I feel as though graphically it was held back by the Vita, a console I love, but not one well suited for games like this. However as a reward for the lack of graphical prowess the game runs flawlessly. My PS4 is one of the old ones, (haven’t picked up my Pro yet) and even after a few hours of playing there were no noticeable hitches of FPS drops, something very noticeable in games like this.

Yet, I have to admit the graphics do have their own charm to them, and the more I played the game the more they grew on me.

What I will say though is that the character designs for this game are gawd damn awesome! Marvelous needs to keep them around to do designs for their other games! The characters themselves ranged from the age old well known and loved, to some new ones. This mix makes for a refreshing breath of air at times. Though I did find my eyebrow raising at some of the design choices, (half dragon idol who can’t sing….)  Yet despite some odd choices I found I loved the characters and as soon as one was unlocked I’d have to swap to free play to try them out!

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The music is pretty ‘meh’ I have to admit that most game music these days is pretty grim, and the ones that do seem to have good music don’t have a lot of it. So a lot of the time I resort to playing OST’s from anime, or playlists on spotify. In this case I had OST’s from various Fate anime that I had on in the background!

If you read the blurb at the top you’ll have noticed the VN in the type section, and that’s because this IS a visual novel. It’s an interesting take, having a visual novel playing out and then for the combat resolution moving onto musou killing thousands of enemies.

This does surprisingly work well and makes for a good combo. However I found the story to be a bit lacking, especially from a Fate story. Fate has been a franchise that has generally put out consistently good stories, here however we have an average story. For me it was because the story didn’t really make a lot of sense, even after everything was ‘sorted’ I was still left rather unsatisfied with the ending, and even the whole story. Despite that though I wouldn’t call this a bad story, just not a good one in the scope of the Fate franchise.

There’s also a ‘Bond’ system in place. The longer you use a character, or swap to them in combat, answer dialogue right etc etc, the bond rank goes up. This is used to unlock accessory slots, and hidden dialogue in the game.

There are several characters I liked, but Altera is by far my favourite, when she crops up I got more interested, and when she became playable I pretty much abandoned the story and just went free combat and had a blast with her. There were a number of characters that made me want to play them as well, such as  Jeanne d’Arc (Ruler Class) and Medusa (Rider Class), as well as a couple of others.

This is one of the great things about Musou style games, they have such a diversity of characters that no matter what play style you want to go by, there’s a character for you. And this one is the same, so long as you can persevere for a while, it is worth it.

One of the big issues I have with the game is character availability. You start of with just Nero Claudius, a character I personally find nauseating. In part due to me being so used to Saber (Artoria Pendragon) being Saber, Nero is just to far a delineation from the Artoria, while looking exactly like her, for me. The others in your team are unlocked fairly quickly, but I would have liked to have seen more characters from the outset. For me this is my Samurai Warriors heritage showing through, since you start off there with a load of characters right from the get go.

On the up side you can unlock the Artoria version of Saber, here’s a quick vid on how:

So, what about the meat of the game; the fighting? Does it live up to the Musou heritage, or does it fall flat on its face like some of the others in the genre. Actually, it’s surprisingly really well done and manages to hold my attention for hours at a time, even when it shouldn’t!

While the combat of Musou games isn’t exactly rocket science, it is a rather hard one to get right. It’s got to have a decent variety of manoeuvres, as well as satisfying and kinetic feeling. When I whack a enemy I want to see it flying for miles along with all it’s friends. When I pull of special moves I want to feel like I’m a God descending from the heavens to unleash righteous fury on the peasants. Guess what, this game achieves that spectacularly!

Wading into the 100’s of enemies that spawns at any one time you get to feel like you’re a warrior of yore. You against 3000 and only a fool would bet on the 3000! Kicking ass all over the place until you’re ready and then BAM down comes you’re special the screen explodes and you’re left with a “holy shit I want to do that again!” moment.

So yes, the combat is hella satisfying and surprisingly made me stop playing Samurai Warrior 2 for a while.

Sadly it’s not all good news, there are three areas that I found painfully lacking. Thankfully these are all areas that can (and I hope will) be altered post release with some DLC. Firstly, we have environments, the arenas you’re fighting in. There seemed to bad around five main environments, and even the maps themselves didn’t look that diverse. What this means is that after a while, you’ve pretty much seen all the game has to offer in this area, and it starts to get a bit stale. After a while you end up praying for something new, but it never comes.

Secondly is the monster diversity, again not a lot of variety. Though admittedly this is something that all Musou games struggle with. It would be great to see one of these break the routine and do something new and interesting with their mobs.

Finally the side stories, and this is going to be harder to remedy I feel. The first one I did was great, really enjoyed it. However I’d made the mistake of stock piling the missions for a while, so when I came to running them I had a couple of characters in the queue. The problem here is that they have the same missions, which leads to a lot of boredom and repetition.

Now, as I said these can all be fixed with some DLC, if Marvelous choose to, and I hope they do. Hell I’d even be happy to pay for it!

Now, lets talk the DLC…..*sigh* Marvelous, I love you, I really do. But seriously what were you thinking when you decided to do this DLC??

So, all of the DLC (thats been announced so far at least) are cosmetic in nature. Essentially they’re skimpy outfits for your toons to wear while running around in combat. Now I generally don’t have an issue with this, because most companies add some diversity to the mix. Weapon packs, mission packs, new modes etc etc. Sadly Marvelous announced that the DLC for the game would be released in weekly bundles for five weeks, and it’s ALL cosmetic. What’s more the price of these is £12 for the complete weekly pack, which has a total of nine outfits in it. Or you can buy them individually for £1.69 each….

I also personally found the DLC to be meaningless, given the amount of fan service in the game already. Which at times does feel a bit over board.

On this point I have to say DON’T BUY THE DLC. As it stands right now it’s not worth it and given the price, £60 if you buy all 5 weekly bundles, it’s actually going to cost you more than what you paid for the game. For DLC that is adding nothing of real value to the game, it’s not worth it.

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Now, if they were to mix it up and do a DLC pack with say new characters for free combat, or a new mode, something like the Endless Tower from Samurai Warriors 2, I’d say throw your money at them.

For now though, don’t bother, chances are you’re only going to want one or two of the costumes for you’re characters. In that case it’s better value to buy them individually.

After all that, what’s my final conclusion on this game? Well, after around 30 hours in it I’m still leaning to saying go buy it. The story is meh, but the characters you unlock are great in the free combat mode. And honestly, thats where most of my time is spent these days. I’ll have a bit of free time so I’ll hope on for 20 mins to have mobs flying through the air and getting rid of some stress. It’s highly satisfying, and well worth it’s price.

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