Before we get into this review, I’ll confess that I have never gotten into the Fate anime or manga. So I went into this game having no pre-existing knowledge of the lore or story. Luckily, I was able to pick up on the basic premise of this ongoing series from the start, as the game did a pretty good job of explaining what exactly was going on in this world. I will be honest and say it is interesting to say the least. Fate/Extella takes place after the Holy Grail War from the last title in the series, Fate/Extra. You will take over the role of different servants for each faction, with each faction working to take over every aspect of the Moon Cell Automation computer. Each faction has their version of this item called the Regalia, which lets them rule over servants. While the lore is interesting and unique enough to keep you interested, the whole game is bogged down by repetitive and frustrating gameplay.
While the combat is fast and fluid, that’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s issues. I will admit when the game first started and I was cutting down hundreds of enemies at a time and I felt like a unstoppable force. Hacking and slashing my way through all the enemies felt awesome…at first. Once I entered the first full mission, it became apparent that this was all I would do the majority of the time. You’d think taking on hundreds of enemies would be so much fun, but it became repetitive after just a few hours. This was due in part to the paper thin feel of the hundreds of enemies. I could not feel the weight of my attacks, and that’s disappointing when you can hit up to about 40 enemies at a time. My slashes felt more like slashing through snow than actually fighting through enemies. This clearly shows that more is not always better. I would prefer 10 tough enemies that require strategy than 200 bad guys where pressing the attack button is all that is required.
Each mission is structured like a power struggle. In order to complete the mission, you must try and take over different sectors, which makes sense from a narrative standpoint. Each sector gives you a certain amount of keys, with each faction trying to reach a certain number of keys. The enemy team is able to take back a sector though and it’s your job to take it back and gain those keys. This is where the frustration kicks in. In order to take over the sector, you must kill all the aggressors. Certain sectors are made up large areas, and it then becomes a game of finding the aggressors between hundreds of smaller enemies. To add onto that, all the aggressors are just larger versions of the basic enemies. This leads to my biggest complaint about Fate/Extella: the game is just too easy.
While everyone’s goal in a video game is to get the enemy’s and boss’s health bar down to 0, however, we at least need to see the enemy as a threat. Rarely did I ever feel challenged by the enemies. I felt challenged during certain parts of the game, but for all the wrong reasons. Finding aggressors to kill or even waiting for them to spawn became increasingly frustrating, especially when the game wants you to be fast and take over sectors as quickly as you can. Another huge challenge is the sense of direction. The map for each level does not move with the player, so it became confusing on which exit to take. While that may seem like something that the player just needs to get used to, it becomes annoying when you’re playing on harder difficulties and your sectors are constantly being taken over due to your AI companions not being able to hold it down. You want to move as fast as you can to get that sector back, but you’re having a hard time just figuring out which direction to move in. You’ll start running, then look at your map and figure out whether or not you’re supposed to go left or right, up or down, etc. In a game all about speed, it’s an unnecessary obstacle.
Luckily for the gameplay, Fate/Extella at least has some visually epic boss fights which are all diverse. Each boss has their own move sets and force you change up your playstyle from what you’ve been used to that whole level. The bosses are where combat truly can become difficult, but that’s also not saying much either. Some of the bosses can really bring your health bar down and cause you to have to flee, but a lot of them are easily dominated. As stated about the aggressors, it’s just grinding to get their health bar down, while not seeing them as too much of a threat as they should be.
When it comes to sound, Fate/Extella does do it right. The sound effects always synced perfectly with each attack and movement. Considering how fast and fluid the game is, this shouldn’t go unnoticed. Each sound felt satisfying with each hit. The sound of unleashing your super attack never got old as you’ll hear and feel the impact. As this is a game based on an anime series, the sound of each slash and dash your characters makes is usually at a higher pitch, which captures the over the top and frenetic gameplay perfectly.
As for the music, it’s all over the place. I’m using this as a positive though because the style and setting of this series is just that. Each level had it’s different style of music, but always matched the aesthetic of that level. This could range from electronic style music, to some somber orchestras that matched the dark and gloomy areas. One level in particular was extremely vibrant and colorful, and the music captured the tone perfectly with some weird and poppy music, but unique nonetheles. To make it even more unusual though, the music you hear is from the person whom you will face as a boss at the end of that level. It’s something I would see straight out of Scott Pilgrim and I applaud them for that.
Visually, Fate/Extella is gorgeous. The game looks as well as you’d expect from a game based on an anime series. Fate/Extella utilizes extremely vibrant color palettes. Each level is given a triad color scheme that creates a rich aesthetic for each mission. Within the first mission, you are constantly travelling between sector to sector, which each one having unique architecture that uses a wide range of colors. With the exception of a few levels, no two sectors really felt copied and pasted to the other. Considering all the gameplay takes place only on these sectors, they would have no excuse. While each level is similar in terms of mechanics and direction, the color schemes makes each mission feel different from the others.
This is a game where you are literally taking on hundreds of enemies at a time, but yet the framerate always stayed steady at 30 fps. It was consistently fluid throughout each combat encounter, which would always became more ridiculous than the last. As the gameplay requires constant movement, the player is jumping from sector to sector in order to take over the entire level. It’s quite the exhilarating experience to press X and jump to the next sector on the fly. With each sector looking unique from the other, its impressive how well the game runs with each transport.
Now while I did say you take on hundreds of enemies at a time, that doesn’t mean that each enemies is truly unique. Apart from the bosses, the enormous amount of enemies you fight look exactly the same. While the pawn enemies may look so similar, each specific character looks just as good as their anime counterparts. All of their features that give them their identity is thrown in. For example, when playing as Sabre, it’s impressive to see her dress move swirl around constantly with the player as they are traversing each area.
Fate/Extella offers a surprisingly huge amount of content. There are three different stories to play, each offering a better perspective from each faction. On top of three smaller campaigns, there is also the game’s free mode which lets you play over the same levels again, but with different characters that you’ve unlocked as the story progressed. Each character has their own specific move sets to level up and upgrade, so that alone is enough to keep you busy. I chose to play a lot with the Nameless archer, because I’m just a complete sucker for any person with a bow and arrow. There are side stories for many of the playable characters as well, which offer even more narrative perspective. You can easily bust out around 50 hours of gameplay if you wanted to, but that’s also if you’re willing to get past the game’s design flaws.
Overall, Fate/Extella offers tons of content, but it’s often frustrating content nonetheless. I would have to say that this game is truly not for everyone. Fans of the series will have plenty of fan service to sink their teeth into, but I tried to looking at it from a gaming perspective, and it really could not grab me. It’s not really a flaw to say something isn’t for everyone, because the developers set out to cater to a specific audience. This shows in the long and slow and “cutscenes,” which I put in the quotations as they are just 10-20 minute scenes of dialogue. If you are not a fan of the series as a whole, you’ll find yourself bored trying to keep up with the story. This causes a dissonance between gameplay and story. You’ll spend a long time on one level, moving from sector to sector and slashing your way through hundreds of enemies, and then right after you’ll sit through the long story sections. With all that being said, I’d like to point out that the developers did, in fact, set out what they wanted to do, which is further expand the lore of this universe for it’s fans.