I was really looking forward to this game. The Guided Fate Paradox is one of my favourite titles to be released by Nippon Ichi Software, so looking forward to the sequel was a matter of course. Sadly, however, if you’re interested in this game because you liked that game or Z.H.P. and want more, this isn’t the game for you.
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is a roguelike where you play as a boy named Shin Kamikaze who’s given up on the world. He’s murdered by devils, then saved by an angel. He is then revived, forced to become Celestia’s new god so he can aid them in winning their war with the devils. Contrary to how I usually do things, I’ll leave my explanation of the story further down, since I have a lot to say about that.
Gameplay first. It’s extremely simple, to the point where most of the systems from the previous game are cut completely. For starters, your level does not reset to 1 for each new dungeon. This isn’t about making your base self stronger. The game uses a more traditional levelling system, where it’s as simple as gaining a level makes you stronger, period. Furthermore, you no longer have an angel partner with you whenever you enter a level.
Your stats are simply HP, attack and defense, and your equipment is simply a weapon and shield (both with gem slots for extra abilities) and an accessory. The whole Burst system that acted as a durability/strengthening mechanic has been scrapped for a simple system where you merge two items that have “+X” and “+Y” in their names to make a stronger one that’s “+(X+Y)”. Getting wacky skills themed to your equipment is also a thing that no longer happens.
The system here is simple. You traverse dungeons of no less than 5, but no more than 15 randomly-generated floors (with the true ending having 20). While doing so, you must watch three gauges – HP, SP and AC. Your HP will vary, but the cap on SP and AC is always 100 (unless you use a temporary boosting item). HP is self-explanatory, but SP is used for skills and to maintain your forms (see below) while AC is your hunger meter.
For some inexplicable reason, despite you currently being in a war against devils, there are both angelic and demonic versions of each generic enemy (except the actual devil troop enemies). However, since you were made a god using half of an angel’s soul and half of a devil’s soul, you have temporary forms corresponding to each. You can use them at any time, and switching forms comes at no cost and does not take up your turn. However, maintaining this form will cost 2 SP per turn you spend in the form.
This cost is warranted, however. Using the angelic form, you take less damage and deal more damage to demonic enemies, and vice-versa. In the wrong form, however, you take more damage and deal less. Furthermore, you can only use skills when in one of these forms, with each one having 6 skills (which you unlock on a fairly rudimentary grid outside of dungeons). Each form also grants a stat boost, so your base form is notably weaker than either transformation.
If you take the same paths on the aforementioned grid system for both forms, you will find HP gains to be identical, but the attack and defense boosts to be reversed. The angelic form is more focused on power while the demonic form is more about defense. Their skills reflect this as well, with the angelic form having pure power, attacking all surrounding spaces on the grid, and things of that nature, while the demonic form has an HP-draining move, an emergency teleportation move, and things of that nature.
As a result, you will find yourself running around the floors avoiding traps while trying to find the way to the next floor. On the way, as you come across enemies, you will transform into the proper form and probably panic when you’re flanked by one demonic and one angelic enemy at the same time. You may then, occasionally, find a boss at the end. It happens far less often than you might think.
Note that I made no mention of dungeon gimmicks. Unlike the two predecessors I mentioned at the beginning, there are no dungeon gimmicks. All of the dungeons are, gameplay-wise, identical, down to how the ghost-like enemies are treated (you can’t attack them if they’re in a wall of floating above an inaccessible location, regardless of logic). This game’s predecessors, however, had dungeons that each played very differently to keep you interested.
Now that the gameplay’s out of the way, let’s talk story. Unlike its predecessors, you only get story every 2-3 floors if at all before the end with some option story points appearing on some floors sometimes. Its predecessors played a cutscene after each floor, which was a sore-spot for some. As for the content of the story itself… to put it in the words of the light novel/anime series My Mental Choices are Completely Interfering with my School Romantic Comedy:
- Leave immediately to avoid spoilers for chapters 1-3 and the very end of the game. I don’t spoil all the info, just the choices and the effects I saw. (For reference, there are 15 chapters.)
- Proceed anyway, but your “The Path to Being a Philosopher” folder will be deleted.
Made your decision? Well, that’s what the story of this game is allegedly about: choices. All of the choices are sadistic in nature, with few exceptions. That said, the issue is that most of the choices are absolutely meaningless. I’ll explain by example, using the decisions I personally made. In chapter 1, Shin feels the war going on has nothing to do with him, but that changes when Celestia is attacked and he sees dying angels all over the place. The angel who saved him, Jupiel, has gone off to fight their commander. A devil scientist named Ariael who’s helping Celestia (and revived you) is telling you to go fight the commander and ignore the dying angels.
- Heal the angels nearby. Jupiel’s sure to hold the commander off long enough without your assistance.
- Leave these angels to die. Go fight the commander to prevent more deaths.
I chose A. In doing so, Shin saved 5 angels, but then Jupiel appears all beat-up from trying to fight the commander. After defeating him, the chapter ends. Chapter 2 reveals that he killed 14 angels while I was off healing them. However, this has no effect afterwards other than that line, and I had to fight the commander regardless. My choice had no tangible impact. Similarly, in chapter 2, after said commander has been interrogated, Shin is given the order to execute him.
- Kill him.
- “I can’t…”
Leaving the guy alive would just result in more deaths, so I chose to kill him. But Shin refuses to do so anyway and he escapes, murdering another angel on the way out. I never saw the commander again, regardless.
In the next chapter, you’re sent to liberate allies from a Netherworld prison. The first prisoners you find are 8 child soldiers. You then find a mountain of adult angel corpses, under which there are 10 who’re still breathing. You get the child soldiers to help you lift these bodies, since the only character with Shin other than them is Jupiel. But the enemy seems to be mobilizing to trap you.
- Save all 10 adult angels. Seeing as 8 of the people who’ll be doing the carrying are children, they will likely be so slow you’re caught in the trap.
- Have the kids double-up, 2 per adult, saving 6 adults (since Shin and Jupiel can carry one adult each), and leaving a random 4 to die.
The game clearly wanted me to be a cynic at this point, so I chose to save 6. This let me escape without dealing with the trap, but one of the child soldiers blew themselves up to hold the enemy off, the other 7 immediately accept a dangerous mission and are never heard from again, and you never hear about the adults you saved again, except in an option story point where you can return to the dungeon and see one of their vengeful spirits being angry about it in a cutscene. I have a strong feeling they’d have just all died if I picked to save all of them, which would have had no lasting effects.
The only choice in the game aside from the final one that seemed to matter was one where I could choose to save a certain character who was innocently dragged into things. I chose to save them, and, unsurprisingly, the story seems to barely even use the character after that point. With the way things go, however, it feels as if the character would have been saved regardless of my decision.
Let’s skip to the end. The final decision is one that was advertised with the game – who dies, Jupiel or Ariael? You can only save one. However, all this changes is who the penultimate boss of the game is (the one you didn’t save), as well as the final cutscene and the background for the credits. In addition, if you load a cleared save file, it will put you back here to pick the other choice. There’s no weight to it at all.
On a subject other than choices, the final boss doesn’t really carry the story weight to be a final boss. You’re supposed to be winning the war, then the final boss appears, you get a temporary ceasefire so you can defeat said final boss, and then the game ends afterwards. At least The Guided Fate Paradox, despite not ending the war, was building up to the final confrontation for the whole story. Here, it just didn’t feel complete.
As far as I’m concerned, this game fails to deliver, but I’m not the one this is written for, it’s written for you, the reader. So…
- Buy this game.
- Wait for a sale.
- Don’t buy this game.
Food for thought:
1. I actually spotted a glitch involving stat-boosting accessories. When you leave a dungeon, the stat boost from your accessory disappears, even if it’s still equipped. You need to re-equip it to get the stat boost back. Once I realized this, I stopped using stat-boosting accessories. The SP-usage-lowering one is far superior anyway.
2. I like that each individual devil soldier enemy has different equipment on their model. Even though their stats are all the same, you may see a Low-Class Devil enemy with Shield A and Sword B while the next one you see has Shield C and Sword F, for example.
3. If an NPC’s eyes are not visible in their character portrait, they’ll die the same chapter they’re introduced. Just an observation, since that happens all over the place.
4. Shana, Haruhi, and a few returning angels from The Guided Fate Paradox are supposed to be in this game, but I couldn’t find them at first. It turns out you need to get the “true” ending for the advertised cameos.
5. There’s clearly a much lower budget here than for The Guided Fate Paradox, which is unsurprising, given the poor sales of that game. Not only are there few enemy models (with slight alterations and colour changes), but the opening animation here consists of static images as opposed to the properly animated opening of The Guided Fate Paradox.
6. Don’t go into this expecting a happy story. It’s a string of unfortunate events after another early on, which is only minimized somewhat near the end. The body count is also quite high, but you know what they say about a million being a statistic.