I’m a massive fan of hack and slash games such as Devil May Cry 5, Warriors Orochi 4, and Dynasty Warriors 9, the representation of yourself as a major badass really appeals to me. You can turn on your console, boot up on of these games and then mindlessly slaughter literally thousands of enemies without even realising it – such fun! However, last year I was introduced to a game which I refer to as the best non-Musou; Musou game I own – Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star. Today see’s the launch of its direct sequel, Fate/EXTELLA LINK.
Although Fate/EXTELLA LINK is a direct sequel to the previous game, prior knowledge isn’t needed as it has its own self-contained story with occasional references, but nothing which will confuse you. So, will this latest game dethrone Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star from the top of my list of games to recommend to Musou lovers, or is it a cheap imitation? Let’s find out…
Above the ruined remains of Earth resides a realm known as SE.RA.PH, a virtual world which is controlled from the lunar supercomputer. This is the final refuge for the human race, yet it appears to be constantly under threat from rogue programs and various evil entities. As such, various ‘Masters’ are employed to combat the onslaught via the use of their ‘Servants’, digital representations of infamous warriors and heroes from the Earths history (both fact and fiction). Acting as a kind of ‘Pokemon Master’, our human hero summons these entities to head into battle and take on those who threaten the station and its inhabitants.
So, after peace was achieved in the previous game, there appears to be no time for rest as yet another threat has entered the realm and is out looking for trouble. In their attempt at starting a new war against all that is good, a few new digital companions are brought in to back you up, the first of which being the dashing Charlemagne, a knight who’ll stop at nothing to fulfil his mission. Together with the other servants, they must all work as one if they wish to set forth and put an end to this threat before it’s too late, within seven days.
That’s right, the game is set within a timeline of seven days, with each day after the first allowing you to pick how you respond/take action the following day. This doesn’t ultimately change the main story (until your third playthrough), but it does offer new battles and dialogue for you to experience based on which path you take. The 27 missions wont take you too long to work your way through, but if you’re trying to get the platinum then get ready for a lot of grinding and levelling up!
Let’s start with the obvious here – how is Fate/EXTELLA LINK similar to modern Musou games (Dynasty Warriors-style)? In terms of your attacks, you have a strong and light attack, jump, a more powerful attack which has to charge (like Musou), and you can hold down L1 in order to perform up to four customisable attacks by pushing the face buttons. This is almost identical to what we’ve seen in Dynasty Warriors 9 and Warriors Orochi 4. However, Fate/EXTELLA LINK feels a lot smoother and like the attacks have more weight and a bigger impact than some of the ones I’ve seen in the other series. Everything feels incredibly fluid with little to no slow down on the PS4 Pro.
The biggest difference between the two franchises is that, whereas the Dynasty Warriors series decided to go into the open world format, previously offering large open areas with missions popping up all over the place; Fate/EXTELLA LINK seems to operate like the older Dynasty Warrior games, like from DW 5 and earlier, and spin-offs like Gundam Warriors. The battlefield is split into segments which you warp to via portals that are shaped like doors. This is also seamless with no load time as you traverse from one segment to the next. As a helpful tool, you can press ‘Options’ and utilise one of three commands – restore all your energy and health bars, warp to any segment you own, or revive yourself. So, upon death, you can actually come back to life up to three times per mission or warp three times – or a combination of the two.
Having the smaller segments allows the game to do two things – increase performance and frustrate the hell out of you!
Think about it, if the game only has to render in a small segment at a time, the game has fewer resources being wasted on things you may not even be looking at. This means you rarely see enemies popping into existence (which they do, you just don’t notice it) and the action remains buttery smooth regardless of how many explosions or enemies are on the screen. Also, it’s not like the game is sacrificing enemies to keep the performance up as I have completed a few missions with over 5,000 enemies slaughtered – that’s a lot!
Another aspect, that you will have seen from the images, which will be contributing to the increased performance over the DW series, is the simplified visuals. I’m not saying they’re bad or low quality, because they aren’t, I’m just saying that you’re in a digital world so you won’t be seeing lush forests, reflective rivers, wildlife, or bright skies. Instead, you’ll be seeing a lot of futuristic neon lights and blocky structures. As such, this game reminded me a lot of Dynasty Warriors Gundam over the standard games, yet utilising the solid combat mechanics of the melee-based DW series.
Okay, frustrating may not be the correct word, but it sure can get annoying if you’re not at a high level when taking on the harder difficulties. Let’s rewind a little – each mission starts you off with a set amount of segments belonging to you and the rest belong to the enemy. You must enter these enemy-occupied areas and claim them as your own in order to stop the spawning of enemies and summoning of higher-level gits! This is where it’s very much like the older DW games, you slaughter all the cannon fodder minions with your standard attacks until the area bar is full. At this point, a number of higher-level enemies will appear. You must take out all of these in order to claim the area and turn it blue.
Now, the frustration sinks in when the enemy decides to invade your claimed areas and take over them whilst you’re on the other side of the map doing something else. Your CPU controlled minions are pretty bad, they couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag, so you end up having to multitask and constantly travel back in order to reclaim the area.
One thing to note – taking over every segment isn’t required to complete any of the missions, but it’s usually a criteria for a side-mission and an essential piece of criteria if you want to earn the Ex grade upon completion. That’s right, all of your work is graded and if just one aspect isn’t an Ex, you won’t get that award. Thankfully, ‘time’ isn’t a criteria, so you can take as long as you want within each level – you just need to kill over a certain amount of people, take all the segments over, not get too damaged, and obtain a high combo. So, if you’re patient then this won’t frustrate you, but I’m not a very patient person…
In your spare time
Fate/EXTELLA LINK has a few non-battle features for you to experiment with whilst you walk around the rather small base camp between levels. You can swap out your ‘Servant’ (the playable character), as well as talk to all of the ones you’ve obtained, change their equipped skills, change costumes if you’ve befriended them enough, and change their four L1 attacks. You can also synthesis abilities and D-pad functions (new functions will increase your attack or restore health, for example), sell unwanted items for currency, pay to increase other Servants’ levels to the same as the highest one you own, and a few other standard events.
It’s not a very in-depth mid-game waypoint but it has all the essential things you need in order to get ready for your next battle, speaking of which…
Once you’ve completed the main story, or if you want to try something new, you can try out the ‘Extra’ missions you unlock along the way. These are much harder than the standard missions with some of them being a difficult version of existing missions and some are brand new adventures on familiar maps. You can’t change the difficulty on these either, with a set ‘recommended’ level ranging from level 8 for the first one to over level 150 for the final one. I tried taking on the final mission but I’m only level 57 – needless to say, the enemies killed me in less than a minute.
If you’re looking to try and get the platinum in Fate/EXTELLA LINK then you’ll have to complete all of these missions (not to Ex level, just pass them without dying) – something which will most likely take a very, very long time to do.
Fate/EXTELLA LINK contains a multiplayer mode on the PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC – there is NO multiplayer on the PS Vita version. Each of the platforms which allows it will let you play with up to seven other people in some rather intense 4v4 battles which mimic the single player, with the segment takeovers, only with real humans in control. The Switch actually lets you have up to 8 players locally with local WiFi, as well as the online mode as with the other platforms.
My one issue
Okay, people who have read my reviews before will know that I like Japanese games, I play them all the time – so reading subtitles over Japanese audio doesn’t bother me (Fate/EXTELLA LINK is Japanese only for the audio). However, this game suffers from an issue I’ve seen in Warriors Orochi 4 and previous Dynasty Warrior games – your goal and target are constantly changing and you get a small text box translating the Japanese voice you hear every now and again. The issue here is that it’s very easy to miss and then become a little lost because you’re not 100% sure what your goal is.
Sure, the targets are now flashing green on the minimap and it puts a brief objective description at the top of the screen, but the whole reasoning of WHY you’re now going after this new target has been lost because you were busy defending yourself so couldn’t take your eyes off the action to read what it said. It seems a lot of games always do the opposite of what I like – Dynasty Warriors 9 was fully English yet the in-game audio was just one-liners praising you, yet Warriors Orochi 4 went all Japanese and started describing your mission mid-battle in Japanese (like in Fate/EXTELLA LINK).
This might just be me, but in games which changes the mission mid-battle, I feel they should be translated or have the announcement clearly placed on the screen so you don’t miss out on the exposition (for those who want it there).
Visually, I really love the art style of Fate/EXTELLA LINK. It’s like a Muse gig, with all the lights, crossed with Tron and a lot of hard drugs! It’s not as psychedelic as The Midnight Sanctuary, but it’s much more colourful! This is emphasised even more when you enter segments with a dancefloor that shines neon lights in the air and the multitude of colours and explosions coming off your various attacks. Outside of battle, the game opts for a Visual Novel-style look with anime-like avatars behind big text boxes for their dialogue.
One thing I thought was awesome was the adaptation to the costume I chose for the Servant. Okay, so picking a new costume meant that in-game, and in the 3D-rendered cutscenes, my character was wearing the new clothes – fair enough. Although, I noticed the 2D avatar representing my character had also now changed during the story segments. Not only that, the other characters I had changed (one of which I put into a skimpy policewoman outfit) was also now visually changed both in-game and in avatar form. For me, that’s something you don’t usually see as the avatar usually remains the default style, regardless of what costume you pick. It’s a small thing, but something I really enjoyed seeing.
I didn’t experience any slowdowns or obvious technical issues with the game, which is always nice to see pre-launch, and I even got a few bonus items for having owned and played the previous game on my PS4 before.
The voice acting is great, albeit in Japanese and not English, but the emotion is delivered through the tone and everyone sounds how they look!
Fate/EXTELLA LINK has taken the top spot on my list of non-Musou; Musou titles thanks to its fluid gameplay and interesting story. As you use each of the Servants your bond with them will grow, this leads to new conversations, costumes, and attacks which can be used in battle against the onslaught. With a total of 26 playable characters, there’s bound to be one for everyone out there as each one lies within one of the eight combat categories. The story isn’t as long as we’ve seen in previous games like Dynasty Warriors 9, but the timeline aspect with multiple choices is interesting and offers a new take on various situations.
If you’re a fan of Musou games and haven’t played the previous Fate/EXTELLA game then I can’t recommend these games enough, especially if you like the format of the older DW games. If you’ve played the previous game then you’ll already know if you’re going to pick up Fate/EXTELLA LINK or not as it’s more of the same only with more characters and content.
- - Fast-paced action with no technical slowdowns
- - Interesting story with comedic moments and avatars that adapt to your costume choice
- - Great music and voice acting (in Japanese)
- - Three endings with branching pathways
- - Lots of extra missions to work your way through
- - A lot of the in-game voices is exposition and instructions, so you have to constnatly read what is being said whilst also keeping an eye on the action
- - The story isn't as long as similar games
- - I never had a reason to change my initial choice of Servant. Forced choices on my initial playthrough, or clear advantages for using different characters would have been nice.