Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star (PC) Review

By Sandy Wilson 04.06.2019 2

Review for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PC

The Fate Series is a massive, sprawling, impossible to untangle mix of alternate universes, side stories and canon vs non-canon stories. When Fate: Extra was released on the PSP it was met with mixed reviews from critics and fans, however it had somewhat unique gameplay, as well as an interesting story, and so settled into its niche. It was impossible to tell that it would eventually get a sequel, much less could fans have predict such a drastic shift of focus. While this game has now been re-released as Extella/Link here's another look at the original, on PC.

The story leaps in right after the Holy Grail war has ended (sorry, this is a spoiler for the original PSP instalment). The player character, who is both named, and has a gender picked for them by the player, awakens having lost a swathe of their memories. He or she is accompanied by Red Sabre (or Nero Sabre), who knows the player character, and has a deep bond with him/her - but the player character can't remember who he or she is. This setup is used to feed the first chapter where the tutorial leads the character through their skills and battle abilities before dropping in a much more convoluted plot line about world dominance, cyberspace, and split souls.

Screenshot for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PC

It is all very intriguing, if a bit hard to follow. Sadly the story is mostly presented in a static fashion, with very little animation, very text heavy, and often this is to the pacing's detriment, however. For players who want a new TypeMoon story, there is a lot to read, and it can be something that instead of taking away from the action is taken away from by the action. This critic believes that the story actually was worth more than the action with its unique brand of tension and cool heroes from history, many of which are gender swapped!

The structure is as most would expect from this style of game, like a pseudo visual novel and warriors title. For those who wonder what a "Warriors" title means, it's a hack 'n' slash title reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and even Hyrule Warriors. First, the game exposits story in an incredible and confounding amount of detail, then it drops players in the driving seat for battles. So how do these battles play out? Anyone who has played the aforementioned examples should feel pretty comfortable, at least, to begin with, as the maps are split into zones which are under control from either the allied or the enemy faction.

Screenshot for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PC

Each section is a tiny self-contained area of conflict, filled to the brim with tiny enemies for characters to smash around in the name of area liberation. Once a certain number of the smaller enemies go down the area boss will appear, and these bosses need to be defeated to liberate an area, but are usually standard type enemies as opposed to the hero enemies in, say, Hyrule Warriors. The most disappointing aspect of the gameplay is the disconnect between this and its prequel Fate: Extra. Its rock, paper, scissors battle system and Persona-lite school adventure elements lent the game a much more RPG-heavy base and a much more intriguing setting. Unfortunately, with Extella it does very little to distinguish itself from the crowd of games that share the same gameplay setup.

The level design and the events that play out feel enjoyable but the tedium of constantly struggling to hold areas and the extreme difficulty spikes when facing hero characters led to a great amount of frustration. Never before, during a hack and slash game in this style, had the game made itself so unlikeable, with mind numbing hacking, limited combos and visual flourishes, repetitive special attacks, and a baffling and inconsistent health and magic system. In all honesty, this was making it very hard to continue playing. Even several hours later the systems meanings and quirks are elusive…

Screenshot for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PC

Even the visuals, which are nice and sparkly and very... anime, have something that feels not quite right. It's the quality of the faces on the models which rely mostly on 2D textures instead of featuring modelled faces. It feels like a concession made to let the game be ported to the Vita and later the Nintendo Switch. It's a little disappointing because the clothing details are fantastic, and the textures are shiny and crisp, the outline styles are also cool, and give the characters a unique look. The animations are a bit stiff; characters move a bit like action figures, and accelerate at an awkward speed. It's, again, a real shame because the supporting artwork like portraits are amazing and have loads of character, but it would have been nice if characters had matched these more closely.

Needless to say, with as much perseverance as could be mustered the ending still never came into sight. The story was full of intrigue and the writing was really good, but the core gameplay was so off putting that yours truly had to stop. It's a crying shame that this is the case as it feels as though this should have met all criteria to be a blast. However, even with the weight of the Fate series behind it, the multitude of unlockable heroes and the tremendously interesting take on the Holy Grail war it just doesn't work.

Screenshot for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

A game dripping with cool intrigue and style marred heavily by bad level design, bland hordes of enemies and awkward systems. Fate/Extella will still appeal to many but in this case, it feels like failed potential. To have started with an awesome, stylish, uncommon RPG to being diluted into a simple hack and slash title. This "Warrior-ising" of franchises is slowly wearing down the existence of more unique games. Disappointing.

Developer

Marvelous

Publisher

Marvelous

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date None   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I thought the fox girl was called tamo or something

Dragon0085 said:
I thought the fox girl was called tamo or something

As far as I remember her name is only ever referred to as Tamamo, though I wouldn't be surprised if it was shortened to Tamo by her friends. Apparently her historic character was a court lady to retired Emperor Toba in the 1100's and her official title was Tamamo-no-Mae

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