One of my guilty pleasures is the Dynasty Warriors games. They’re fun, engaging, somewhat mindless hack-and-slash games. However, they are not without their faults. There comes a point where you’ve put the Yellow Turban Rebellion down enough times that you just can’t play through it anymore. Thus the appeal of the other takes on the concept from within Koei and without. Such is the case with Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star.
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is a sequel to Fate/Extra. However, the game does a pretty good job of onboarding players who hadn’t played the first game. You play as the same protagonist of Fate/Extra, who is somewhat generic. You are able to choose the gender of your character, but you’re otherwise unable to customize them.
The story also picks up directly after the conclusion of Fate/Extra, after some dialog explaining that game’s events. Your protagonist was a Master in a Grail War contained within a magic computer system on the moon. You had teamed up with Saber – Nero Claudius, Caster – Tamamo no Mae, and Archer – EMIYA. After the end of that Grail War and at the start of this game, something happens that splits the protagonist into three. Each person contains either the Body, Mind, or Soul of the Protagonist.
The Mind ends up with Nero, the Soul ends up with Tamamo-no-Mae, and the Body ends up with a new character – Altera, a Servant of the Saber class. These three servants set up three of the game’s four routes. The fourth route unlocks after those three have been beaten, and leads to the True Ending.
Because this game was designed for both the PlayStation Vita and the PS4, rather than having wide-open maps, the game chops the levels up into nodes. This actually makes the game a little more manageable. Part of the tedium of the Dynasty Warriors games is traversing those large maps, and the node system speeds navigation up considerably.
Additionally, the story works better for me. There is a stronger sense of narrative here than I’ve felt with Dynasty Warriors. The story, written by Fate/Stay Night creator Kinoko Nasu, isn’t bound by existing events. This gives the story a sense of unpredictability that a lot of other Dynasty Warriors games lacks. Further, the framework of the Fate series lets the story incorporate Servants from earlier works, while still having the weight a “Dream Match” game would otherwise lack.
That motivated me to play through all 4 routes – but only that much. The game has side campaigns for each of the servants you can play with. These send you through levels from earlier in the campaign, with less story content.
This leads to my one complaint with the game. While I appreciate and enjoy some of the combat of the Dynasty Warriors games, what hooks me into games is the story. Consequently, once I’ve beaten the very meaty main story of Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, the narrative of the side stories isn’t enough to get me to play through those as well
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is available from Amazon.com for the PS4, Vita, and Switch. I played the PS4 version for this review.