Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is the type of game that will only appeal to a select group of people; those who are really into Japanese culture, anime, and the Fate series. As someone who enjoys games like Dynasty Warriors, I was so eager to finally begin my adventure with Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, but I didn’t expect to feel so lost throughout my time with the game.
This a game strictly for fans of the popular franchise. I had no knowledge of the Fate series before The Umbral Star and it made for a confusing experience. There is so much lore, existing history, and terminology that will make newcomers feel as if they are unwelcome to play the game. After my 15 hours playing the action title, I was able to identify all of the characters and their motivations, but I still felt perplexed because it was easy to tell that this game wasn’t aimed at me; it was made for the people who invested plenty of time with the series.
In terms of story, there are a variety of campaigns that you unlock through natural progression. In the main narrative, you control “Master”, alongside Nero, a reincarnated version of the Roman emperor, who recently won the Holy Grail War. After this, Nero has become the ruler, with your character by her side. She abides in the Moon cell and tries to conquer all the territories within a land called SE.RA.PH.
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is a hack/slash game that will make fans of the Dynasty Warriors franchise feel right at home. Players control their character and must capture different points on the map. Blue zones are under your control while red zones are owned by enemies. In order to complete a level, you must reach the allotted amount of points so that the tides of war turn in your favor. Every zone is a worth a certain number of points. After capturing a zone, it’s possible for enemies to try and take it back. Trying to gain control of the overall battlefield can oftentimes be stressful, but I found that it only enhanced the overall experience. Each zone is separated by a warp point. Some zones have multiple warp points so there is some strategy when it comes to running around the battlefield.
Upon starting the game, players can choose their gender. I decided to play as a female character, but it ended up making my narrative sound weird. Nero constantly calls “Master” her husband which seemed out of place since my character was female. Plenty of plot elements are given to the player before starting a mission. These moments take place in Nero’s bedroom where the player can increase their bond, craft items, and equip skills.
Combat is fast-paced, responsive and intense. My character sliced her way through hordes of normal enemies, zone guardians (aggressors) and brutal bosses. The square button executes a light attack while triangle does a heavy move. Circle can use a special move while the L2 button(when the special meter is maxed out) transforms your character into an ultimate form. Leveling up rewards you with more combos to use in battle. Every new maneuver I learned felt satisfying when executed in battle. My favorite aspect of Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is definitely the combat. At times, when my hit count exceeded 5,000, I felt like the ultimate badass.
After the main story, you unlock another campaign from a different character’s perspective. There are also a wide variety of side-stories that focus on the various servants that your characters interact with throughout the campaigns. With each level lasting around 30-40 minutes, there is A LOT of content to experience.
Visually, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star looks fantastic. The anime styled visuals are excellent and the flashy effects during special moves are a treat. Every level looked great and the characters models were all unique and distinct. The sound effects were also excellent. While I would’ve preferred to have some English dialogue, the Japanese voice acting was top-notch.
Fate/Extella also runs smoothly. With hundreds of enemies on screen at the same time, it’s commendable that the development team created a game that didn’t feature a single frame-rate drop or technical issue. *Disclaimer* I played this on a PS4 Pro so I don’t know how it runs on a regular PS4. Honestly, there was nothing wrong with the game. My only problem was that I couldn’t follow much of what was going on and that is because I did not have any knowledge of the source material. Besides that, Fate/Extella is a great game.
After my time with Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, I craved more. I wanted to watch the anime and read the manga. I even wanted to go and play the other games. The universe found in Fate/Extella is rich and engaging. It not only has excellent characters, but the narrative is engaging, twisted, and mesmerizing. As a fan of the genre, I was instantly sucked into the gameplay and had a blast. While people who don’t know what the Fate series is will have a tough time understanding what is going on, fans will have a blast taking control of some of their favorite characters. Fate/Extella:The Umbral Star may be confusing, but it captivated me from beginning to end.
*THE SWITCH DIFFERENCE*
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is a very interesting game on Nintendo Switch. Aside from more than 30 paid DLC costumes and the exclusive “Unshackled Bride” outfit, this port is basically identical to its PlayStation 4 and PS Vita counterpart. I played extensively using both the handheld and docked modes and thoroughly enjoyed my time with both formats. While the use of the pro controller made playing in the significantly easier, the handheld mode became my preferred way to play. As someone who uses public transportation quite often, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is a wonderful game to take on the go. Each mission will take anywhere from 20-30 minutes to complete, which makes it the perfect portable experience.
Although I didn’t find much wrong with the Switch version, the camera angles became unbearable at times. In the video review, you can see that I had trouble maneuvering the camera when the action became too hectic. During situations where there are a lot of enemies on screen (including bosses), Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star becomes slightly infuriating because it’s to tell enemies apart. While not everybody will have this problem, I often couldn’t see an enemy’s health meter because of the camera’s position.
Using handheld mode with high brightness settings allowed for around three hours of playtime. As a huge fan of Dynasty Warriors, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is an exceptional video game. Although the graphics on the PlayStation 4 version of the game are superior to that of the Nintendo Switch, this port feels like the definitive version of the game. Fans of action games and Nintendo Switch owners should go out and buy Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star. It’s one of the best third party games currently on the console. I’ll definitely be playing this for the foreseeable future.