Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] is a game that ends up introducing more characters to the cast, people we have heard rumors of throughout the series. We have a vague idea of who they are and what they have done from other peoples’ adventures, but never really seen things through their eyes until now. One of the most notable of these is Erika Wagner. She is Licht Kreis’ Fourth Executioner, Crimson Knight and Flame Tyrant, know for her cruelty. And here, in both her Chronicle and Arcade mode, her occasionally petty and volatile nature is evident.
When we first meet Erika Wagner in Chronicle, we have no idea why she is there. Why? Because she does not know exactly why she was sent to Japan. Adelheid, leader of Licht Kreis, took her sword and shield and sent her there. All Adelheid said was to make contact with Orie, the Fifth Executioner, and speak with her. When she does, Orie suggests the trip is one designed to broaden Erika’s horizons and make her realize that a kill or be killed mentality could only damage both Wagner and Licht Kreis. She even has two Japanese agents, Murayama and Sakurai, watching over her and helping her with her day to day life.
What’s interesting is how Erika’s Arcade and Chronicle storylines portray her as a character. She is obviously exceptionally dangerous. When she comes across a Void and fights it with her bare hands in Chronicle, eventually ending up with her sword and shield again from Murayama, we see her ruthlessness towards those she deems deserving of extermination. When she experiences a flashback to a past fight with Orie, we see how her one-sided rivalry with the Fifth Executioner makes it seem more like only one can survive and be on top, rather than both work together for the greater good.
But there are also times where we see that she is just a teenager. When she first encounters Orie in the story mode, she is flustered. She seems embarrassed and leery of the young woman, even though she is of a higher rank. When at her temporary home in Japan, she talks about doing ordinary tasks and it is Murayama and Sakurai that have to bring up that they are friends, rather than just supporters ordered to be there. Of course, once the Hollow Night comes, she knows exactly what she needs to do in Japan and who her enemies are.
Once someone starts fighting as Wagner, any sense of uncertainty is gone. She is a character that gets into opponent’s faces. Her range with her sword and shield is very short. You really need to rush in and start slashing away at an enemy. While she does have a few kicks, just like Orie. In fact, the two can feel rather similar. It feels like Wagner deals more damage than Orie, but she still is about getting in close and quickly dealing multiple attacks. She has no ranged attacks, but instead you can put buffs on her attacks. The Lohenschneide and Lohengarde stances each improve her moves, with the former setting the sword ablaze and adding chip damage and latter letting her shield have an advantage against attacks.
What I especially appreciated is how well her fighting style connects to her personality. There is a point in Chronicle when Orie tells Wagner, “However, cutting down all that come across will only lead you to a burnt field.” Wagner’s entire moveset seems designed to pursue her opponent, continually moving forward toward them and using fire to wipe them out as quickly as possible. I felt like there was a sense of constant pressure when I was using Wagner correctly, as though she was determined to quickly snuff out anyone fighting against her. It provides an interesting contrast to Orie, who is also about going on the offensive and using her weapon and kicks to try and keep pressure on a foe.
Wagner is an interesting addition to the Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] cast. We get to see a young woman with a particular mentality struggle to find her place, then take what she has “learned” from her time in Japan and apply it to her time in the Hollow Night. We see how her attitude influences her fighting style, a sort that has you getting in close for constant attacks. Having here helps us better understand the events of the Hollow Night and Licht Kreis.
Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] will come to the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on February 9, 2018.