Koei Tecmo’s classic Warriors franchise has been a genre-defining action title for several console generations now. Traditionally, these games focused on ancient China, but in recent years we’ve seen a shift away from historical settings to other IPs. Games like Hyrule Warriors and Arslan: Warriors of Legend have helped to shake up the army-slaying formula and keep the franchise feeling fresh, and other companies have seen the success of these titles and decided to throw down as well.
We’ve got another take on the Warriors formula today as XSEED and Marvelous get into the act with Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, henceforth referred to as Extella to spare my precious keyboard some pain.
Extella takes place after the Fate/Extra series of RPGs, resulting in a plot that’s largely incomprehensible if you aren’t already familiar with the series. This game doesn’t really go out of its way to lay everything out for you, so you’ll probably need to bust out Fandom By Wikia to really get a handle on things. Here’s a desperate attempt at a sorta-summary of what’s going on: having won the Holy Grail War, a battle between Masters (who control Servants, personifications of historical or legendary Heroic Spirits) that occurred in the previous games, you have won the right to an extensive domain. As ruler, it’s your job to keep your new holdings safe from incursion as well as expanding to claim more territory, but there are others who want the same territory and will gladly fight to take it from you.
This also all takes place in a computer or something, so there are Tron undertones, and the relationship between your character and their Servant can be a little complicated, and all that largely refers to the first story of several…yeah, you’ll definitely want to go the Wikia route here. This is absolutely not a game that you’ll want to play without paying attention to the plot. While Extella’s more traditional gameplay segments are similar in style to the Warriors titles, a significant portion of your time is spent reading through visual novel-style dialogue and plot exposition. It’s all very well written and localized so there’s no big issues there, but if all you want is murder, you might be put off.
As for said murder, as mentioned it plays out a lot like the Warriors games. You’ve got massive hordes of foes to chop through, you’ll level up as you do it, there are “Extella Actions” that serve the same purpose as the classic Musou Attack and so on. Further power-ups are available as well, such as the mighty Noble Phantasm that serves as the ultimate expression of each Servant’s power. Extella shakes things up a bit by incorporating aspects of that territory domination thing I mentioned earlier; your goal is typically to gain control over a map by clearing it of steadily more powerful foes. Upon doing so, you’ll usually have to take on a boss in the form of an enemy Servant, and defeating this boss is how you’ll claim victory.
There’s a fair amount of nuance here; if you’re familiar with the Fate series, for instance, you’ll likely recognize the numerous Servants with varying abilities and weapons that are available as playable characters. Progressing through the plot and completing side stories will unlock more to choose from. Characters you’d expect, like Nero, Cu Chulainn, Medusa and Gilgamesh are all present and accounted for; there’s even a holdout from other Fate series that shows up late in the game. Meanwhile, there’s a light crafting and gear system that provides stat boosts and additional support actions to take in combat.
The various playable characters’ styles vary as expected and you’re bound to find someone you enjoy, but one thing that doesn’t change is the game’s frenetic pace. Extella feels like it runs at about twice the speed of your average Warriors-style game; this, combined with the flashy graphics, means that it’s seizure city as soon as the action starts to pick up. Whether this is a good or bad thing is likely to depend on the player; personally, I found it made clearing out hordes a lot more enjoyable, but battles against powerful single enemies like other Servants were difficult to control and felt a little off.
Extella looks and sounds fantastic in action; the game’s performance supports its twitchy, high-speed gameplay, and it’s always great to meet new Servants and check out their more powerful attacks. I played the PS4 version for this review and had no issues with the visuals, which are bright and clear. The game does stumble a bit when it comes to voice clips, though, as they’re often repeated – characters don’t have excessively large attack repertoires and will end up saying the same thing over and over as you spam their best moves.
Either way, Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star feels like a game that you’d play more out of appreciation for the plot than for the nitty-gritty of the combat system. Long-time Fate fans probably already have a copy. Newbies and Warriors fans, on the other hand, wouldn’t be entirely amiss in checking this one out; you’ll definitely want to do some background research to make any sense of the plot, but despite its hyperactive nature the fighting engine isn’t the worst and the game runs at a nice and smooth framerate. There’s also a fair amount of content here between visual novel and combat segments. If that’s a combination that you might find appealing, then check Fate/Extella out.