Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star Review (Nintendo Switch)

Full Disclaimer here, I have no idea what the Fate series is. As a complete non-anime fan, it’s with some trepidation that I enter games like this, fully aware that I’m not going to be getting everything out of it that other people would be, so if you’re a fan of the series, try to find a review by another fan of the series. This is really just for people who are into games and are thinking about giving this a shot on the Switch.

Fate/Extella is basically Dynasty Warriors sped up in an anime world. It’s much brighter, much faster, and somehow more ridiculous than Dynasty Warriors, but once the novelty of all of that wears off, you’ll find it’s very much the same game. You roam around a map made up of different shaped arenas joined by corridors fighting off hordes of enemies (and I really do mean hordes), trying to win each zone over for your sides until you have enough to take on the boss.

In between all of this there’s plenty of different characters, weapons, loot, special items and skills to find, but loot definitely isn’t the focus of this as it is in something like Earth Defence Force, instead your focus is purely on killing as much as possible as quickly as possible.

The enemies frequently number in the hundreds are for the most part look absolutely identical to each other within a level, other than the mini bosses and bosses. So you unleash all hell on these legions of identikit troops through a flurry of spins, swipes, and magic, until you’re ready/able to take on the bigger enemies.

Frustratingly there’s no lock on for the smaller bosses so the speed actually works against you, but for the most part you are a vaguely controlled whirling dervish slicing through enemies while only pressing two buttons. At first it feels like you’re not really in control at all – there’s a spectacle to be sure as you slice you way through enemies, getting combos into the early hundreds without knowing what’s going on, but on the harder difficulties you do need to get to grips with which moves to use when, usually boiling down to do you want to restore health, get away, or cause damage. That risk/reward strategy is engaging, but only really present on the harder difficulties. On lower difficulties every fight plays out the same, simply tapping buttons to kill enough troops until you’re done and can get on with the story.

The story is told like a visual novel, with lots of static images and text and the occasional choice thrown in to spice things up a bit. This is where I was hopelessly out of my depth. I had no idea what was going on and quickly resorted to skipping everything that I could (which, thankfully, is pretty much everything). Looking up the series online, it looks like it started off as an erotic anime, which isn’t surprisingly considering some of the costumes you can wear, but also doesn’t bode well for the quality of the storytelling.

After a while I realised I was rushing through the fights to progress with the story, then skipping the story to get back to the fights. Everything is so repetitive it’s hard to work out exactly where the fun is. The levels aren’t even that quick so it’s not like you can quickly plough through one when you’ve got 5 minutes with your Switch.

If you’re into the anime, I’m sure there’s a lot to like here, and if you’re into Dynasty Warriors but want something quicker and more colourful, this is exactly that – but for the average gamer, there’s nothing that’s going to impress you or change your mind about this sort of game. It’s a crazy Japanese grindfest with character designs that will put you off playing this in public.

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