Xseed had quite an active booth at E3 2016. While games like The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity, Corpse Party, and Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns all had their place, it felt a lot like Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star was the true highlight of the booth. From booth art starring various Servants, to the stand-ups of Nero Claudius (Saber) and Tamamo-no-Mae (Caster), it felt like E3 was a celebration of the return of the Fate series to the west.
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is a frantic game. The level on display at E3 put players in the shoes of Saber (Nero Claudius) as she dashed around a map, attempting to hold ground while accomplishing specific objectives. It’s an experience very similar to Koei Tecmo’s Warriors/Musou series, though it felt quite different. Objectives come up as you play, but the level here wasn’t one where you could coast from the most immediate needs and win. It’s more of a balancing act.
At the top of the screen is a gauge indicating how much territory the Servant you’re controlling holds, compared to enemy Servants and their armies. Even if you’re doing everything right, it’s very easy for your own side to gradually fall under Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star’s constant assault. There are named soldiers on the field, various anomalies, and defeating them offers the same sort of benefits as challenging named enemies in a Dynasty Warriors game. However, at E3, it didn’t make enough of a difference to greatly influence the battle.
Time was best spent rushing to complete more major objectives. As an example, there were plants scattered across the field. These would spawn more enemies. Defeating one in a region would help bring it under your control. Given the need to control territory, another thing Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star has in common with Musou, dashing to areas with these plants to destroy them is critical.
So is defeating enemy Servants. There were two notable characters that appeared as opponents during E3’s demo. One was Lancer (Elizabeth Bathory) and the other was Archer (Gilgamesh). Both of these characters were more powerful than the typical named opponents who would appear on the field. They’d even get special introductory sequences leading into the fight with them.
There were even special attacks along the lines of each Warriors’ games’ characters. Once a gauge filled, it is possible to make Saber transform into a slightly more powerful version of herself with Form Change. This was exceptionally helpful against fights against other Servants, though it is also a good move to use when there are a large number of enemies on a field. Not only did she take on a more streamlined white and red outfit, but all of her attacks had fire attached to them.
With all these similarities, it may be difficult to see how Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is different. The difficulty is part of it. In Koei Tecmo’s similar beat’em ups, someone can have multiple warriors on their side and the ability to use these allies to complete challenges. Here, Saber was on her own. There was no one else to rely upon when things started to go south. She’d have to rush to an easier to accomplish objective to keep things going in her favor.
It also feels like there’s a bit more happening. Which may seem odd to say, since games in this genre are constantly throwing large numbers of enemies at players. In Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, it felt more overwhelming. The build at E3 didn’t offer a lot of guidance, which made things even more chaotic. It was up to an Xseed representative to provide helpful tips that would get a player successfully from one challenge to the next, conquering areas along the way.
I suppose I’m a bit concerned, though Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is at a very early stage. It seemed like a hectic experience with overwhelming odds and less information than one would expect from this sort of experience. Perhaps it’s because I’m more accustomed to Koei Tecmo’s games, with their more defined objectives and more noticeable gains for even more minor accomplishments.
But then, there’s plenty of time for Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star to find its footing. The game isn’t coming to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita until November 10, 2016 in Japan. There’s plenty of time to work out balance issues and put in the kind of additional information that will help someone better accomplish the kind of goals that will assure them supremacy in an area.
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star will come to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on November 10, 2016 in Japan. It will be released in North America in winter 2016.