Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is the latest game to take on the “Musou” style of gameplay made popular by Omega Force and Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors. There have been numerous anime franchises taking on this style as of late and some with mixed results if I’m honest. Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, however, has not been developed by Omega Force but, rather, in-house at Marvelous. How will this affect the final product given a lack of pedigree in the area? Well, we have full details in this review.
The game sees you take on the role of essentially a blank slate; you’re the master of Saber (Nero) and winner of the Holy Grail War. Upon winning you’re now the ruler of the Moon Cell Automaton computer on the moon known as SE.RA.PH. There is, however, an issue, as while you possess the Regalia ring which is proof of your kingship another servant Tamamo no Mae also possesses one as well as a copy of you for her own master and a war of territory ensues with the winner gaining the right to rule. There are three main storylines to follow here, each focusing on a particular servant beginning with Saber, Tamamo no Mae and a third that will become clear while playing through the first.
From what I can gather, Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is a continuation but not a sequel to the events of Fate/Extra and Fate/Extra CCC. The story itself takes a little while to get going and assuming (like me) you haven’t played these previous games some of these characters may be new to you. While the main storyline throughout the game is pretty interesting the fact your character is such a blank slate does let it down somewhat. There’s a reason for that though as, much like the Persona games, the main character is there to represent you and your choices within the game. These choices generally focus on some fairly lewd scenarios, something I felt quite uncomfortable with throughout. I get that Fate/ fans have their favourite waifu and all that jazz but Marvelous have been really heavy-handed on the fan-service in this game. A plus for a lot of fans out there I presume, but for me personally, that isn’t what I was looking for in this game.
The main draw of this game is in the Musou-styled gameplay and if you’ve ever played one of these games then you’ll know what to expect. Now while the combat and mission structure is largely the same as Omega Force’s work, it does have some slight differences. I personally felt that the combat actually works better in some places with some great special moves and modes available for you to use. There are also plenty of characters to use, once you have unlocked them that is, and outside of the main story missions there are a plethora of side stories for you to complete.
Missions work pretty much the same as any Musou game with a selection of different areas laid out on a map each controlled either by yourself or the enemy. It goes without saying that taking control of each area is the key to victory and I mean that literally. By defeating enemies and taking control of areas you’ll gain keys and when complete you’ve pretty much won. Here lies one of my main issues though; Marvelous have made this battle for territory a little more tedious than Omega Force normally do. While it’s simple to make your way through each area claiming it for your own, the amount of backtracking involved as these areas get continually retaken is annoying. Whether this was by design or poor AI on your side I don’t know but compared to other Musou games this was a little over the top.
When set to normal difficulty the missions aren’t particularly that hard but rather very time consuming given the issues I’ve just mentioned. For the most part, I actually find the game more enjoyable than a number of Omega Force titles just for the little tweaks that Marvelous have made to the Musou style. I do have to mention that while playing the game my PlayStation 4 has never screamed out in pain as much as it did with this game. You’d think that due to the hundreds of enemies on screen at any given time that this would be expected but this actually happens during the visual novel story elements of the game. No doubt this will be fixed at some point with a future patch or one would hope so, other than that the game runs perfectly where it matters.
While the visuals may not be perfect, the game certainly irradiates style and being a part of the Fate/ universe we wouldn’t expect any less. The 2D character models are stunning and the 3D models aren’t that far from great themselves. The visuals really shine when you’re in full swing and mowing down hundreds of enemies at a time. SE.RA.PH looks great as it combines traditional Japanese pagodas, medieval architecture and a futuristic vibrant neon aesthetic of the Moon Cell. I mentioned Persona earlier and I couldn’t help but notice how Persona-esque the menu system in the game is, which is a good thing I might add.
Not unexpected and most likely not a disappointment too many fans but Fate/EXTELLA comes fully voice in Japanese audio-only. The English subtitles will serve players well for the most part but some pieces of dialogue may be hard to follow during combat. The soundtrack is an enjoyable accompaniment to the game and features some really good tracks.
Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star even with the kinks is a really good foray into the Musou genre by Marvelous and what a great way to enter it than with the Fate/ series. I love the additions they have made to the Musou style making it their own and I look forward to future releases as they iron out the kinks of this initial outing.