Previewed: Fate/Extella Link
Gamers know that games, gaming technology and the industry they support have much to do with control. We have known this to be true ever since someone lost the first game of Pong. What began as a skirmish in the plains escalated into a full-blown mountain melee between titans like Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. The battle rages so constantly that it's easy to forget its basic mechanics: the controller, a screen, and your attention - welcome to Fate/Extella Link.
It's a game where there's going to be some wild stuff going on. Kinoku Nasu, one of the OG creators of the Fate/Extella series, returns to the helm as the master of the game's storyline. A bare-bones synopsis might look something like: Servant kidnapped, reasons unclear, go explore. It's yet another instance where gaming complexity develops beautifully from simplicity. When you factor in the Suggestive Themes and Fantasy Violence, you get the makings of a shelfer.
We're posting this mainly as a preview for those of us who are unfamiliar with the Fate/Extella patois and plotline. Have you played a game in this series? If not, there's a lot of background material to cover. If you have, be apprised there's so much new material that the creators of Link put a glossary in the menu. It's a nice touch for players intrigued by lore. Foxy shrine maiden means exactly what you think it does, and anyone can search the glossary to look up some of the more vexing terms.
The gameplay, story, and lore operate at a delightfully absurd juncture combining elements from anime, European history, magic, and technology. The game is set in a medieval cathedral suspended in the sky, similar to the idea behind Hyrule Temple. For the first time in the series, players can rove around base camps with three main areas: My Room (for customization), the Strategy Room (for battle preparation and side missions), and the Barracks (to fight!). We like the side missions in particular because they enable you to bond with Servants, each of which carries a backstory worthy of main characters in other titles.
The game's story moves according to the same sort of dream logic which keeps the church afloat. To give you an idea of how this works, imagine playing a version of Super Smash Bros. where you proceed through many levels in the same fight. In the space of one scene, the setting around you might morph from an Apple store to a clifftop to a disco dungeon. It's nice how this aspect of the game freshens what could have been a return to the enemy appears-enemy dies formula that's common to practically every musou.
Fate/Extella pros will recognize the ten legendary heroes added to the cast of 16 holdovers from the series previous installment. Culled from the series history, these heroes range in sophistication from a lady pirate named after a famous explorer to an alter ego of a real-life Hungarian serial killer. The plot revolves around a Servant named Charlemagne who rescues fellow Servant Altera Larva, which latter is a mainstay from previous games in the series (the arcs nicely overlap in case you play this game and want to travel backwards through the lore).
If the characters and their stories are the substance, the gameplay and visuals ooze style. Each hero comes equipped with her own set of special moves you combine to protect certain allies and capture enemy bases. The dazzling scenic variety we mentioned earlier finds its ready compliment in the battle mechanics. Certain attacks can be coordinated between heroes and Servants. These attacks, referred to by such names as Moon Drives, Drive Skills and Chain Phantasms, can be used to rush stronger opponents under opportune conditions. So if you're clever, you'll save what amount to power-ups and keep an eye on the icons which denote them.
As a gameplayer you get the familiar strings of light/heavy attacks, but these strings connect shortly and successively, making for smooth move sequencing. Depending on your preference at the time, you may vanquish one enemy with a combination of finesse attacks or send them into the stratosphere with sheer brute force. It's another giant leap forward for a series that actually began as a visual novel on PC (and is now closer to VR).
With any sequel, there's the chance that we're seeing something similar to how the DC and Marvel comics kept releasing blockbusters. At some point, the block is busted and we're left with plain old profit grab. Not so with Fate/Extella. The sheer complexity of the game's script, its terminology, and the lore these elements build upon mean there's something new for everyone, even if it's your first time around. It's almost like we need a new category for evaluating this game - replay value doesn't do it justice.
So - why should you care? Because it's fun! The slapdash mixture of characters is offset nicely by the smooth battle mechanics, an effect which delivers a surprisingly balanced experience. The game is something of a time investment and it's one we think is worth immersion. If you know what a Servant is in the context of Fate/Extella, you'll find this game a return to the glory the series first captured with its jump to platform gaming. If you're still clueless but followed this synopsis, then the game should pose no problems of interpretation. And if you want to see just how far gaming has climbed, Fate/Extella has something to say.
You can get Fate/Extella cheap in our price comparison.