Things are Looking Better than Ever
I’ve reviewed my fair share of games either based on, or heavily tied in with, anime in the four or so years that I’ve been writing with Hey Poor Player. Some have been good, others have been not so good, and I’ve had a lot to say throughout each of those reviews. There’s one thing, however, that, regardless of what “anime game” I’m looking at, I always ask myself while I’m playing; “is this game good enough to make me want to watch the anime?” Sadly, the answer, more often than not, is “no”. However, every once in a while, a game will come along that hooks me so much that I just have to learn more about its universe. And, wouldn’t you know it, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star was one such game.
Yes, I’m fairly new to the Fate series. And yes, I am now more than aware of its (rather dubious) origins. Still, that didn’t change the fact that I hopped onto Netflix to watch Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero after getting through the first Extella (yep, I prefer dubs). I’m even planning on going back and playing Fate/Extra at some point. All it took was one quality game to pull me into an entire universe. So, I’m sure that you can only imagine how excited I was to demo Fate/Extella Link. Based on the little that I had seen of it in trailers, I was expecting it to be good. But, do you know what? It wasn’t actually as good as I had expected it to be. It was better.
Not your Base-ic Game
So, what exactly will Fate/Extella Link have in store for its players? Well, based on the level-long demo that I was able to play, the game seems to largely fall in line with its predecessor. During the demo, players were able to take control of one of three servants — Nero, Tamamo, or the Link-exclusive Charlemange — as they hacked and slashed their way through some familiar-looking scenery. As with Extella, Link‘s stages are once again divided into territories — with either the enemy or player controlling each territory (although I’m sure that certain stages will have neutral territories in the full game). Similarly, taking control of enemy territory is once again accomplished by defeating opponent generals. If you’ve played Fate/Extella, then all of this should sound incredibly familiar.
Extella fans shouldn’t get too comfortable, though. Despite touting the same basic Warriors-like premise, Link isn’t the all-out territory war that Extella was. All of that “Regime Matrix” stuff that was in the last game? Totally gone in the demo. And, based on what I was told by the oh-so-helpful XSEED staff member stationed at the Link demo (seriously, that guy was a real Fate series buff), it never shows up at all. Instead, victory conditions seem to be reliant upon the completion of missions. Not surprisingly, these missions are primarily linked (see what I did there?) to combat — with players needing to attack or protect certain territories or characters — and don’t end up being anything wildly different from what you were doing in Extella, but are still a lot of fun. It also, in my opinion, helps with the overall immersion.
Combat has also gotten a noticeable upgrade in Fate/Extella Link as well. Although still focused entirely on a “one-versus-many” (a la Warriors), hack-and-slash style fighting, the changes (of which there are surprisingly quite a few) greatly help to enhance combat. The biggest, and most noticeable, change made to combat was the re-working of skills. Those of you who played the first Fate/Extella may remember that, while each character had their own unique skills, they were all tied to combos — something which made it very tempting to resort solely to button-mashing. Fortunately, Link seems to have found a small workaround to that problem.
Rather than tying skills to combos, players are now able to set up to four different skills to use via button commands while out on the battlefield. This might not seem like a huge change to some of you out there, but I can assure you that it is. First, this means that you don’t have to worry about initial setup. If a boss is rushing toward you, there’s no need to start up a combo before they reach you — a simple push of a button is all that you need! Second, because each skill has a cooldown time (none of them seem to be very long, don’t worry), an extra degree of strategy is involved. Spamming every skill back-to-back can be tempting but, it leaves you somewhat vulnerable for a few seconds while you’re waiting for them to all charge back up. Being able to formulate unique combos and strategies in Link thanks to the ability to execute skills yourself is a change that is both helpful, and very much welcome.
Allies have been changed for the better as well. In addition to helping you out on the battlefield as they already have, players will now link together with nearby team members — thus boosting the abilities of the player’s Servant. Additionally, when a player performs a rush attack (which can be triggered by knocking back opponents via special attacks), linked allies will join in on the fun. Rush attacks seemed to be pretty formidable even on their own, but the extra damage output that came from linking made them even more so. Unfortunately, I was never able to pull off a linked rush attack with more than one other ally, but I can only imagine the ridiculous amounts of damage that you can do when you’ve got your entire party backing you up!
All things considered, each of the changes made to Link‘s combat mechanics were very solid. I’ll admit that I did find myself a little confused at certain points, however. Although nothing major was changed, there were a lot of minor changes. And, while I’m confident that all of these changes will benefit in the game in the long run, it made trying to detect every little change during the demo nigh impossible. Is this a bad thing? No, not at all. Like I said, I think that it will ultimately be beneficial. It’s still something to keep in mind, though. Even if you’re a total Extella expert, I wouldn’t walk into Link without thinking that there’s not going to be any kind of learning curve — no matter how slight it may be.
Fated for Greatness
Featuring new objectives, enhanced combat, and more, Fate/Extella Link doesn’t just tweak the original Fate/Extella formula; it vastly improves upon it. Recommending this game based on what I’ve experienced so far is a no-brainer, but I’d even go so far as to recommend it to those who are new to the series. After all, the first game pulled me in. What’s to say that this one won’t do the same for you when it comes out later this year?