Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is a third-person action game that revolves around large scale battles featuring hundreds of enemies at one time. Known as the Musou genre -a series of games primarily designed and originally created by Koei Tecmo - Fate/EXTELLA follows in the path of Dynasty Warriors offering players a similar experience on the Nintendo Switch.
The story of Fate/EXTELLA follows the events of the previous title in the series Fate/Extra. At the end of the last game, Nero and her Servant won the Holy Grail War and must now fight a new enemy. The plot is fairly convoluted and only fans of the series are likely to appreciate the title’s narrative.
The action is your fairly standard Musou affair; one button for light attacks, another for heavy. Players can mix the action up with a special ability and an overdrive move. It’s certainly not rewriting the rule books by any stretch of the imagination, but its familiarity encourages a pick-up-and-play mentality. Players spend most of their time attacking low level enemies, but each sector has one - or more - elite enemy that has a wider range of powerful attacks alongside an increased health pool.
Each level consists of several separate areas that you must fight for. Much like the Dynasty Warriors series, the aim of the game is to dominate as much of the battlefield as possible whilst trying to kill the rival army’s leader. It’s a system that adds a wider goal to the senseless hack-and-slash gameplay, forcing players to be more aware of the larger battle. Unfortunately, it can be a bit unclear at times which area of the map the enemy is telegraphing it will attack, even with the arrows showing their planned movement it can be easy to lose sectors due to no fault of the player.
There’s a lot to do outside of battles, as players have the option to customise their characters’ appearance and movesets. Players can also change their Servant, opting for one with a different class. The classes dictate the fighting style of characters, adding some variation to consequent playthroughs of the game.
The game’s presentation is one of its strongest assets, boasting slick visuals alongside a great score. The game’s visuals do sway into overtly sexual territory at times, but you can choose to dress your characters sensibly and skip any of the near-nudity that does crop up. Fate/EXTELLA runs excellently on the Nintendo Switch, with vibrant colours and dense fields of enemies I experienced no noticeable slowdown or frame drops.
One of my biggest issues with Fate/EXTELLA is the sheer amount of dialogue present in the title. Imagine being stuck between two people having a really long, boring conversation about something you aren’t invested in - that’s what playing Fate is like. Each cut scene drags on far longer than it should because the developers have over-complicated the narrative to the point of bloating. They must have realised this, as the game features a skip and fast-forward function. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so bland either, but the characters are poorly written and lacking any relatable motives.
What confuses me the most, is that the developers have gone into so much detail in the narrative. One of the reasons I enjoy the Musou genre so much, is that many of its defining titles are committed to creating large and believable battles built on top of engaging combat mechanics. Story has never been a necessity, but Fate goes against that mantra, forcing a sub-par narrative of confusing characters, locations and history upon players.
Fate/EXTELLA is an adequate Musou title that provides dynamic battles alongside a fun - slightly simplistic - combat system. The bloated and often confusing narrative might be a bit too much for those that aren’t already fans of the Fate series, but for those willing to brave the ridiculous amount of dialogue a satisfactory Musou game awaits them underneath.
Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
The bloated and often confusing narrative might be a bit too much for those that aren’t already fans of the Fate series, but for those willing to brave the ridiculous amount of dialogue a satisfactory Musou game awaits them underneath.