Over the Moon (Cell)
I remember being impressed with Fate/Extella Link all the way back at last year’s E3, when I had the chance to demo it. What I played felt like a proper sequel, while also managing to avoid being a simple copy/paste of its predecessors. My time with it was short, sure, but I didn’t need longto decide how I felt about it; I was pumped. Well, here we finally are. Nine months have passed, and I’ve finally gotten the chance hack and slash my way through Link in its entirety. A lot can happen in nine moths — both to a game’s development, and to a player’s expectations of it — and sometimes the end result can be a lot different from what you had expected originally. But, I’m happy to say, that wasn’t the case with this game at all. It was just as good as I had hoped.
As strange of a thing as it might sound to fixate on, I can’t get over the fact just how much Fate/Extella Link feels like a sequel. It doesn’t simply re-hash everything that it’s already presented to players in the first game, nor does it go out of its way to be wildly different. It keeps the basics of what the series had established in The Umbral Star, adding and tweaking whatever as necessary. I could tell that Marvelous was trying their hardest to make this game better than their last, and I appreciated the game all the more for that.
What Dreams May Come
Fate/Extella Link begins fairly close to the end of Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star. Nero Claudius and Tamamo no Mae are happily ruling over their own respective territories, Altera is getting to live out the childhood that she never had, and Hakuno Kishinami, the sole Master of SE.RA.PH, is making sure that his (or hers, depending on which character you picked) fellow Moon Cell dwellers are happy. There wouldn’t be much of a game, though, if things stayed peaceful, and soon enough Nero finds her beloved Rome under attack from an unknown force. Not having any time to prepare, Hakuno and what few Servants are hanging around rush out to defend themselves against the oncoming threat, and good old Kishinami soon finds himself surrounded by enemy Attack Programs. Just as he’s about to byte the dust (see what I did there?), he, quite fortunately, is rescued by a mysterious new Servant named Charlemagne. Explaining that the attack has come from an individual named Rex Magnus, Charlemagne insists on joining up with Hakuno in order to once again save SE.RA.PH — this time, hopefully, for good.
When it comes down to it, Fate/Extella Link‘s story feels… different from The Umbral Star‘s. Different in a subtle way, but different nonetheless. At first, I didn’t even realize it. And when I finally did, it took me a while to figure out what was going on. None of the characters seemed to be acting out of place, and the writing was just as good as it was in the last game. Eventually, however, it hit me. In terms of quality, nothing was actually different. It was the change in quantity that I was picking up on. The first Fate/Extella, perhaps due to its closer ties with Fate/Extra and Fate/Stay Night, was pretty text-heavy. Not so text-heavy that was ever overbearing, but I’d be lying if I said that a good chunk of the game’s story didn’t play out like a visual novel. Well, Link doesn’t really have that. Don’t get me wrong or anything, the game most definitely has an interesting story (especially near the end). But it does seriously cuts back on the exposition which makes the story easier to follow, but leaves it feeling a little barren in comparison to its predecessor as well.
While Fate/Extella Link‘s gameplay does still present itself in the same manner as its predecessor, featuring plenty of hard and fast Warriors-style action, it doesn’t take very long to realize just how many things have changed. Most notably, the game has shed its focus on territory battles (unless you’re going for that coveted EX Rank) — entirely doing away with The Umbral Star‘s Regalia Matrix — and instead places emphasis on missions. As the name implies, missions are specific tasks that the player is required to carry out as they progress through the level, ranging anywhere from escorting an ally to a specific area to protecting the Master (who now appears on-stage!). I won’t lie to you and say that each mission feels entirely different from one another, as you’re running around and killing things regardless, but they do add a new kind of strategy to the game that wasn’t previously there. Oh, and no need to worry about those tough-as-nails end-level boss battles disappearing. They didn’t (yay!).
Don’t you go thinking that levels are the only things that have changed. Link has gone out of its way to change the ways in which enemies are utilized in quite a few ways, as well. The biggest example of this comes into play with sector capturing. Because a lot of the missions that Link doles out require some degree of urgency, its levels don’t always give you as much time to run around as freely as The Umbral Star‘s did. As a result, most enemy sectors don’t require you to slay hordes of basic Attack Programs before Aggressors show up; they’re usually there from the start. Link also places less emphasis on Plants (which spawn Aggressors) in favor of Shadow and Facsimile Servants. Stronger and more mobile than Aggressors, but weaker than their real-deal counterparts, these two new enemy types are used liberally within each of the game’s levels, and have a huge effect on how levels play out due to their ability to allow the enemy to quickly, and easily attack multiple territories at once. Having so many enemies to deal with in the heat of battle can be challenging, but it’s the kind of challenge that you expect, and even want out of a game like this, and there’s no denying that these new units provide a huge boon to Link‘s quality of life.
A Noble Pursuit
If you thought that combat in Fate/Extella Link could emerge unscathed as well, then boy are you ever wrong. And by “unscathed”, I mean “improved” (those two words are pretty close in meaning, right?). Rather than re-working combat mechanics, Link simply adds onto the already existing formula. That might sound a little sloppy at first, but trust me when I say that it’s anything but. Active Skills are the biggest thing that comes into play this regard. Rather than delegating all of your skills to button combinations, as did The Umbral Star, Link gives players the ability perform skills special skills on command. Mostly playing an offensive role (although there are a handful of defensive ones as well!), Active Skills are incredibly powerful, with most of them boasting enormous strength and reach, and can give the player a major advantage in battle. Of course, this requires some proper utilization on the player’s part as well. While the game doesn’t have any kind of MP bar, each Active Skill has a cooldown time, ensuring that players can’t simply spam the same skill over and over. You might not think that the ability to perform a few measly skills on command would do much to break up the tedium that comes with Warriors-style games, but it really, really does. In fact, I’m not sure why more games don’t do this.
Wondering where the “Link” part of Fate/Extella Link comes from? Well, it comes from the link mechanic introduced in the game! Whenever the player and an allied NPC are fighting within the same territory, they will automatically link with one another. Illustrated by a blue line connecting the player’s Servant with each allied NPC, links provide a number of beneficial effects to players, including powered-up Active Skills based upon each character’s class, and chance for linked allies to perform offensive and defensive support maneuvers. Now, the link mechanic in and of itself is really cool, but there’s one thing that ended up being off-putting; the fact that it doesn’t occur very often. With it being in the name of the game and all you would think that links would be a prominent feature, or would at least occur somewhat frequently, but they don’t. The need to spread out during stages is usually necessary, as NPC allies can hold their own a lot of the time, so more often than not you’re flying solo. No allies means no links. So, while there’s nothing wrong with the link mechanic itself, it feels strangely utilized, and I’m not sure how it managed to make its way into the game’s title.
At Your Service
Last, but not least, there are the Servants themselves. Adding an impressive 10 extra usable Servants to the roster and maxing out at just under 30, Fate/Extella Link has no shortage of ways to play. Servants are, as always, separated into one of a number of categories which dictates their abilities and overall combat prowess, but Link goes the extra mile to make sure that the differences don’t stop there. While a Servant’s class may dictate the basics of how they fight, the many flourishes of combat are left up to the Servant themselves and, in tandem with varying Active Skills, means that Link almost definitely has at least one character whose fighting style will suit your fancy. Or you could just use your favorite. That works, too.
When you aren’t fighting, you can also hang out with your entourage of enigmas if you so choose. Thanks to a little bit of legwork on Charlemagne’s part, Hakuno & co. are given a literal flying fortress as their base of operations. Storyline-wise this fortress plays a very important role due to the strategically defensive ways in which it can be employed. But, between you and me, you know what the coolest part about it is? The fact that you can walk around in it! The only point in the entire Fate/Extella series in which you can actively control your Master, Charlemagne’s home-away-from-home allows players to mingle amongst their Servants and chat it up whenever they please (as well as access each of the game’s facilities). Truthfully, it isn’t much, but, seeing as how the last game didn’t even have this at all, it’s definitely a step up.
Fated for Greatness
No matter how you look at it, Fate/Extella Link is a true example of what a proper sequel should be. Despite it taking a slight hit when it comes to the depth of its story — something which I’m not even sure that everyone will mind — Link has managed to improve upon what it had previously established in nearly every way. I’m not sure if there’s going to be a Fate/Extella 3, but Fate/Extella Link has certainly put the series in an excellent place to keep pushing forward.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC ; Publisher: XSEED Games ; Developer: Marvelous ; Players: 1 – 8 ; Released: March 19, 2019 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Fate/Extella Link given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.