December 2, 2019 at 7:27 PM #1063
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star
Rating: 2.5 – Playable
Fate/Repeat would have been a more accurate name
Ever heard the joke, "Pete and Repeat were on a boat, Pete fell off the boat, who was still on the boat?"?
Well, the Fate series in general deals with loops where some changes in each loop, so it is not unusual to see repeating events in a Fate game; however, this game may have taken it too far to the point that the joke comes to mind.
When it comes to gameplay, we can easily see that games have a tendency of being repetitive. Even the best games tend to be doing the same thing over and over again, but with some changes each time. Yet, the key in making the gameplay fun is that you hide the fact that you are repeating the same actions. Unfortunately, this game does little in that regard.
This game plays in the manner of a Musou game. That said, it plays as if they decided to take the worst aspects of a Musou game and make an example of what not to do. The best attack is the same for every character, a rapidly charging large area of effect skill that can either be unleashed as using a large amount of charges or spammed using few charges. Unfortunately, that skill is usually more useful spammed and each usage can take several seconds to work, This comes in a form of tackling a target, slowing down time while it figures out who is in range, then stopping time while you go through a long sequence of attacks with a prompt between each sequence to allow for continued attacks. This means that a mission that could have taken 20 minutes to complete without the time stops actually ends up taking closer to an hour.
Even worse is that even outside of the strongest skill, most characters have some move that slows down time in order to display a cutscene for the player to watch. Even more unfortunately, the skills with these miniature cutscenes are usually the strongest for the character. This means that once again, a mission that could have taken very little time actually ends up taking much more time – far more than may be revealed on the results screen due to the continuous time slowdowns.
Those two aspects combined alone are enough to make the game feel repetitive as you see the same actions over and over again.
And if that wasn’t enough to make the game feel repetitive, each time you clear a stage, any cutscenes related to the stage repeats, including the boss summoning cutscene. While other games have made efforts to avoid that feeling repetitive by placing viewed cutscenes elsewhere and not repeating those cutscenes unnecessarily, this game has opted to not only have you view the cutscenes every time, but also to place the cutscenes elsewhere to view on their own – if you even need to after seeing the same cutscenes so many times.
And just in case that wasn’t already repetitive, they decided to make every Stage a repetition of the exact same actions. Start the stage, reach the goals to get an EX score, complete your Side Missions, which are generally a repetition of the same actions over and over, capture all the areas while running back and forth to protect your captured sectors, and finally defeat the boss. Even the special events and objectives are simply asking you to do those repetitions in a different order.
While other Musou games have decent officer units that can do a bit of work, here your officer units are generally helpless and are barely better than generic units-usually resulting in little damage to the enemy team when attacked and only lasting slightly longer than a generic unit would. On occasion, they may move to attack the enemy, do damage, or even win when scripted to do so, but as those scripted events are the abnormality, it lies on the player to do all the work, which becomes tedious after enough repetitions. The only time that your officers are ever useful are when you are on the same sector as them and even then, they are still far weaker than the enemy.
Even when it comes to customization options, there is little variety. Only a small set of equipment are particularly useful and for stat customization, the same bonuses are good for all characters and the same bonuses are useless for all characters. This simply results in a lack of variety even when it comes to customization as generally the variety ends up being repeats of the same sets of customization options with only a small amount of changes per character.
Even considering in the story, which the game effectively tries to shove down your throat, it is sub-par for a game that focuses so much on story and definitely sub-par for a Fate game. It uses a rather basic premise of being a hero and going off to fight your enemies, but the story is rather bland for a game with so many story scenes. Not even considering in the issues of repetition, which the story is filled with, as if the gameplay wasn’t enough repetition, the story lacks the engagement of previous Fate games, even only counting in the Extra series that had more gameplay elements than previous Fate games.
While there is the looping aspect that is so common in Fate games, these loops feel bland in comparison. Each main character has a similar story and each ending has similar results. While the final character’s ending is slightly better in some regards, the only real difference is the lack of a to be continued feeling.
If we were to throw in graphics, there is a decent improvement. The game has many visuals that have the beautiful hand-drawn appearance. The characters are all designed so that they appear rather unique overall and many characters have beautiful attack animations-which is unfortunately a huge source of the repetitive feeling. Each character has at least one costume that is unlockable even without DLC and generally is rendered in cutscenes differently, allowing for a slight change of pace when repeating the same Stages, but even that is not enough to be a truly redeeming feature.
While the maps are fairly detailed, the same textures are repeated in many Sectors of each map type and many maps are simply derivatives of similar maps, opening a few Sectors and closing a few Sectors to change the shape of the map. That said, in reality, there are only about 5 normal maps plus 3 boss map layouts which are all similar to each other. These maps are then cut up to form the 26 maps of the game plus the 40 alternative versions of those maps. This results in stages feeling like deja vu, depreciating the beauty that the maps could have captured.
Thankfully, one almost redeeming factor is is the beauty of sound. While it can be repetitive hearing the same songs over and over as there are only 32 unlockable tracks, one which is heard almost every stage and several that will be heard repetitively due to the lack of stage variety, the game does have some beautiful music. Unfortunately, one of the most beautiful music tracks, the opening song, cannot be unlocked and can only be heard by replaying a lengthy cutscene. Fortunately, we have our epic music from previous games that bring to mind nostalgic epic battles.
Also fortunately, the voices are beautifully rendered, making your first time through each Stage a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, it can be expected that you will hear those same voices saying the same lines over and over. This game really tests your fanaticism for the voice actors as it tries to drive your love for those voice actors into hatred and fear by having you hear repetition until you are sick of hearing those voices. While it may not cause you to actually hate or fear those voices, it is very possible to become tired of hearing those same words by the same voice actor.
Is the game replayable? One can argue that each Stage is a replay of previous stages. So yes, the game is replayable in that sense. Though due to the nature of the game, it is very easy to get sick of playing the game, much less replaying it. Fortunately, those that wish to replay the game will find it rather simple to do so. While there is no New Game Plus, the player can easily restart the story or play specific stages. Many stages can even be replayed with different characters in the Free Battle mode. Unfortunately, this also means there is no easy way to reduce your level to increase the difficulty.
With all that said, this game simply lacks what should make the game fun. While it is fun to play in short bursts, lengthy gameplay will tend towards tedium. Play a Stage or maybe a few Stages in one go, but take a break after. That will break some of the monotony. While it may not be something worth going out of the way to obtain, it can be an enjoyable experience when you get a chance as long as you play it with serious moderation. If nothing else, fans of the Fate series can still enjoy the game for the added lore.
2/5 for non-fans of the series
3/5 for fans of the series.
Overall Score: 2.5/5
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