My servant kept pushing herself against me, longing for my embrace, but no…we must restrain ourselves. We must finish the task at hand before we perform the sensual act of coitus. Oh, but she looks at me so sweetly. And she keeps talking about how much she wants to be alone with me. With Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, the majority of any conversation your character has is a series of sexual advances that always result in little more than a tease. Interrupted by repetitive, Musou-style action gameplay, Fate/Extella is all about fostering relationships with your servants and uncovering the secrets of The Umbral Star. Unfortunately, everything feels so minuscule in impact that it feels like you’re playing the status quo at all times. Which is a shame when the story is so grandiose.
Split into three different story arcs, you create your own character who plays a Master to several servants. You can name him or her whatever you want, but besides that and picking the gender, there isn’t really any customization for your avatar. You are also the only character that doesn’t talk in the whole game (the localized version still features Japanese voice overs, but fully English-translated subtitles), despite there not really being any justification other than “Hey, you might not identify with that voice”. It’s a bit much when your character’s speech bubble takes up the whole screen, plus you never know if it’s an internal monologue or he’s talking to another character.
But that being said, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star begins with a sense of mystery and fills in the blanks through a somewhat effective split-narrative. After the events of the Holy Grail War, the Regalia ring has been split into two, creating a divide that the players must try to mend. Things are more than meets the eye though, as the story unfolds and becomes more and more complicated. It’s kind of endearing to see this level of ambition in its cyber-fantasy world, especially when you’re rewarded for viewing the story through different perspectives because of the different arcs. There’s even some additional story when you complete the game’s three arcs that is interesting because your character is aware of everything at that point.
Despite its intriguing narrative, Fate/Extella is kind of a bummer in the minutiae of its storytelling. Information is told redundantly, decisions that players occasionally can make feel inconsequential, and it just feels like the only movement the story ever has is through the action of completing Regime Matrices. This is the main gameplay that players will be forced to engage with, involving collecting Regime Keys until you have enough to unlock the final boss of the arena and then defeat them. This is where the obvious Dynasty Warriors comparisons come from as the actual action is a series of combos and special attacks that are familiar from the Musou franchises, and the act of collecting Regime Keys is through taking over territories.
To create the smallest amount of variety, there is occasionally an objective that needs to be completed during battles. Those range from defeating Plants that are around the area so they don’t keep releasing enemies to defeat, or luring a Servant to a specific area so that they can be ambushed. Battles are fought by whoever the main Servant is in the Main Story or Side Story, as well as one additional Servant. Though, you are only able to change characters if you have that ability equipped, so you might play through an entire arc with just one Servant. It doesn’t really matter though as the differences between classes is pretty minimal. An archer class will obviously shoot a bow and arrow, but you’re still doing similar button combos to any other class with the only difference being that you may do less moves but with more impact. Or perhaps you have more range. Regardless, I almost always played a Saber class if given the opportunity because you can cover lots of ground and kill lots of enemies quickly.
The combat is pretty cathartic despite its mundane nature. It’s flashy and has just enough nuance that you feel like you’re actively doing something to achieve those 4000-KO counts. It also helps to have moves like Extella Maneuvers which can be used multiple times and create an insane amount of kills quickly while dealing significant damage. The Moon Drive can be used to activate enhanced attacks that allow for more critical damage too. On top of this, before every battle you can install new skills that allow for elemental damage, quicker KOs, more Extella Maneuvers, and various other enhancements. The Code Cast are the extra abilities you will have when in combat, including the ability to heal, change characters, cure ailments, resist elements, etc. It’s all just enough to make the combat less boring and combined with the different goals, there is enough to do in an arena. But then you’ll get to the next arena and realize how little everything changes.
Even with the occasional dialogue choices in the story, most of the story moves without you anyways. Despite having a bond level with characters, none of it really matters in the grand scheme of things. I unlocked two separate events with two different servants that just further emphasized Fate/Extella‘s desire for titillation and not much else. I mean that in both the sexual sense as well as its desires to give players the bare minimum to play through the game, but not ever enough to feel like you’re doing anything substantial. Even boss battles are uninteresting because the only one that plays differently than the rest is done in every single character arc. Sometimes it makes no sense for that to be the case.
For those who want to just play through a game with a reasonably compelling story and consistently decent gameplay, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star offers players the chance for a decent way to spend their time. You’ll find more to get out of the characters than you will out of the story as that doesn’t really go anywhere particularly satisfying. Though I think the story manages to justify its split-narrative, it also hardly justifies its repetition. I just wish the game was willing to take things a little further instead of resting in a safe spot. Just like the relationships formed in the game, everything feels like it isn’t moving forward at all despite doing everything right.
A Playstation 4 Review Code for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star was provided by XSEED Games for the Purpose of this Review