I have to be totally honest to begin with – I’ve never actually seen anything in the ‘Fate’ series before Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star. I’ve heard of the games, but I’ve never actually played them. I came into the story blind but I still enjoyed it, even if a lot of it went over my head…
Basically there was a war that took place in the previous game that resulted in the heroes obtaining a Regalia which allowed them to rule over their enemies. Their success isn’t celebrated too long though thanks to the appearance of a new enemy that is also equipped with a Regalia – nightmare. This results in another war between three groups that each follow their own storyline. Oh, and there’s also the appearance of real-life historical figures too.
It’s a little baffling, sure, but it’s easy enough to appreciate the more you play the game. I was able to enjoy the story as it was and, despite not being a fan of the series, I liked the interactions between characters and the way you have an actual input in conversations. Still, it wasn’t something I got totally absorbed in and I think fans of the series will find a lot more to love here than complete newcomers like me.
So there’s an obvious game in which you can compare Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star to, with the musou style gameplay sharing a massive similarity to the popular ‘Dynasty Warriors’ series. If you like ‘Dynasty Warriors’ you’ll like this seeing as you’re essentially performing the same tasks of mowing down thousands of enemies in a constant battle that culminates in a boss encounter against a stronger foe. It’s fast, frantic, but undeniably fun – my very first combo alone amassed a hit count in the thousands. You’ll be constantly mashing together combos like it’s nothing and essentially feel like a one man army as you wipe out foes with ease.
You’ll mix together fairly simple combos of standard attacks by mashing buttons, whilst you’re also able to unleash a more powerful attack known as ‘Extella’ that finishes by taking out a section of enemies in the vicinity, amassing a combo in the hundreds whilst doing so. It’s an effective means to take out your foes and will certainly help you during some of the game’s trickier encounters. Similarly there’s the ‘Moon Crux’ ability that when activated transforms you with a new look and gives you a new set of moves to take out opponents with. It’s just a temporary boost, but a cool one nonetheless.
Ultimately though I found the most satisfying means to take out opponents was with standard attacks. Akin to the likes of ‘Devil May Cry’, there’s an incredibly stylish feel to the game as you smash at opponents, launch them in the air, keep slashing away, and eventually bring them back to the ground as you wipe them out below. The fact that you’re carrying out these assaults against multiple opponents at the same time only makes the whole thing a hell of a lot more satisfying. The game’s simply oozing with stylish hectic combat that empowers the player and actually makes you feel like you’re this unstoppable force on the battlefield.
Unlike the ‘Dynasty Warriors’ games, the map of Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is divided into sections that you need to take over or defend. Rather than just one huge open battlefield, you’ll continually traverse between these competitive sections to make your way around the map. You take over a section by beating enemies down and eventually defeating the Aggressor in that area (basically a more buffed enemy). Each time you take over a section the advantage in the overall battle would tip in your favour, though it doesn’t take too long for enemies to start trying to reclaim these sections so you have to be ready to defend any lead you build over your enemies.
This means there’s a lot of running back and forth between sections. If you’re not a fan of games where you have to defend territory as often as you fight for it you might start to get a little frustrated, though thankfully Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star’s slick combat means it is an enjoyable task to take down enemies – albeit a repetitive one.
I feel like I’m starting to repeat myself over and over here, but like ‘Dynasty Warriors’ Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star can start to feel a little repetitive after extended playtime with the game. It’s often the case in a musou title where the gameplay never really has an extended amount of depth to it and unfortunately it’s the same case here.
There are three main campaigns to play through and whilst it’s enjoyable to see each story unfold, there isn’t a whole lot of variety on offer from a gameplay perspective. Everything can feel samey, with mission objectives essentially the same each time and a limited amount of environments to fight across – it won’t take you long in the game before you realise you’re treading over the same ground over and over again. There just wasn’t enough variety to keep things invigorating. There are instances of side missions that involve other characters, but using a different character in a different circumstance doesn’t really change the fact that you’re just doing the same thing again.
The game does try to keep the player interested though with things like the rankings at the end of a level that challenge you to achieve the highest grade, whilst you’re also able to level up characters in order to unlock more powerful move sets. There are additional difficulty levels to try and take on too, which do add a little bit more excitement to the gameplay. However, these higher difficulties also emphasise how lacklustre your allies’ AI is. Bases are constantly under attack and with your companions providing little in the form of resistance, it’s often up to you to protect them. This can be a little difficult when you’re on the opposite end of a map or in the middle of taking over a section yourself, which could lead to a lot of frustrating mission failures. Thankfully it only really occurs on the harder difficulties though, so it’s nothing to worry about too much.
Whilst a lot of the game’s content could feel a little repetitive, the game deserves some credit for packing in so much to play through. Each of the three campaigns will last you around eight hours each, plus with so many side missions to complete there’s plenty here to keep you busy for awhile.
If you’re a fan of musou games you’ll find a lot to like about Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star. However, those who don’t enjoy the repetitive nature of the genre might find themselves getting bored pretty quickly.
Whilst I could appreciate what Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star offered (especially with the slick, enjoyable combat) I found myself getting bored fast. I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again – something that isn’t helped by the lack of variety within the game’s environments. It’s certainly not a bad game, but it’s not something I think I’ll be finding myself returning to too much in the future.
Release Date: 20/01/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Playstation Vita