Fate/Extra Review

Were it not for its great boss fights and fascinating story, repetitiveness and sparse exploration might have derailed Fate/Extra.

by

Fate/Extra is Type-Moon's latest role-playing game based on Fate/Stay Night, a Japanese visual novel. Like the visual novel, the game boasts an intriguing story that revolves around masters whose servants do their bidding, and also includes stellar boss fights that bring the story's central struggles to life. Unfortunately, poor exploration and repetitive combat undermine the adventure. The result is a game with more novelty than substance--and more plot than gameplay. You should approach this dungeon crawler with caution.

A handful of abilities help you decimate foes.

Fate/Extra's unique story entices you to keep playing despite some cliches. After 20 years of peace on Earth, an alien supercomputer hidden within the moon has invited you to fight through a tournament for the Holy Grail, a device that grants wishes. The catch is that it's a tournament to the death--and you're a hapless amnesiac. Together with your legendary soul, a magical servant that fights in your stead, you must defeat other masters in weekly elimination battles to survive. Events leading to these fights are particularly interesting, with each opponent challenging you in different ways. Interacting with your servants is also delightful, because you're given three servants to choose from, and each exudes a different personality. The varied dialogue trees also keep things entertaining, prompting key plot decisions that affect the game's ending.

Surviving in this cutthroat world is difficult enough for any participant, but your amnesia severely weakens your servant. If you want to win your elimination match, you have to level the playing field by unveiling your opponent's techniques during the week before the fight. This investigation period is both refreshing and critical: you can unlock enemy secrets in interesting ways, such as by sparring, snooping, or stealing items. Uncovering the enemy servant's identity also reveals part of its attack pattern, which can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

In addition to scouting your enemies, you must do some exploring, but this aspect is severely limited for a dungeon crawler. You're restricted to 14 simple mazes that are a breeze to plow through, and each incorporates dull item fetch quests. Outside the dungeon, the tournament grounds are reduced to a three-story high school, so you may feel disappointed (and claustrophobic) if you're hoping to investigate a big, bold world culled from the visual novel. Fortunately, a few minibosses prevent exploration from becoming completely mindless.

A rock-paper-scissors mechanic generates some strategy in combat. You're given three maneuvers--attack, guard, and break--and each is strong or weak against another. For example, a guard maneuver counters any attack, while a break cuts through a guard. Though simple, this system hides most of your enemy's maneuvers, so you have little idea what a monster is going to do and how to plan around it. You're also limited to six maneuvers per turn and can issue commands--including heal spells--only at the turn's start. These restrictions turn combat into a guessing game that encourages you to memorize enemy attack patterns. Your servant unlocks pieces of these patterns the more often you fight a monster, which prevents the task from growing too overwhelming.

Prayers go up, and blessings come down.

Unfortunately, several elements make combat frustrating, beginning with your need to slay the same monster a few dozen times to learn its attack pattern. These repetitive battles get tedious, and sparse enemy variety and easy mazes add to the boredom. A handful of skills apply status effects like reduced defense, and help freshen up combat, but you rarely need them outside of elimination fights. The game's restrictive save system is another downside. It prevents you from saving while you're inside a dungeon, which won't seem like a problem until you succumb to an enemy's lucky strike and need to reload. These deaths result from the sheer amount of guesswork involved in planning your actions around an enemy's unknown maneuvers, so they're almost inevitable. They're also highly vexing because they force you to replay dungeon floors due to no fault of your own.

Fate/Extra's most impressive element is its tough elimination matches. These boss battles pit you against an overpowered servant with a skilled master. Your investigation directly impacts these fights; learning everything you can about an opposing team reveals some of its maneuvers, which helps you plan your attacks. This information is useful for blocking your enemy's noble phantasm--a devastating special ability that only servants wield. As if that weren't challenging enough, elimination opponents possess much more health, drastically changing combat dynamics. If you play too conservatively, hoping to slowly peck away at your opponent's health, you die when you run out of healing items. Constantly attacking, however, leaves you open to harsh counterattacks when your enemy guards. The best way to win is to strategically guess at an opponent's unknown actions based on the maneuvers that you can see, although this admittedly involves some luck.

Although Fate/Extra's world seems fascinating, you ultimately experience very little of it. You spend most of your time running around a bland campus, with empty hallways serving as key investigation points. The dungeon is equally boring at the start, but the appearance of waterfalls and animals helps make later hours more vibrant. Character models feature colorful anime-style designs that fit the game's roots but are a bit rough around the edges. The soundtrack could also use some work; the game's saxophone-heavy background tunes are ultimately forgettable. Character voicing, which is in Japanese, relays minimal emotion. The game also fails to translate combat dialogue, so you miss out on your servant's witty battle remarks.

Use your noble phantasm to slaughter your opponent in elimination matches.

You spend roughly 40 hours battling your way through this tournament. You won't find much in the way of side quests or exploration, but additional playthroughs let you interact with new servants, and unraveling their secrets can be fun. A new-game-plus mode tries to boost replayability, but it falls short: only a few key items carry over to the next playthrough, making the feature moot.

Fate/Extra's gameplay faces some serious hurdles. Repetitive combat and an annoying save system test your patience, while lackluster dungeons add to the tedium. Great boss battles aside, there are simply better dungeon crawlers out there. This one may prove satisfying only for series fans.

The Good
Interesting plot
Great boss fights
Some strategic emphasis
The Bad
Primitive exploration
Highly repetitive
Annoying save system
Forgettable presentation
6
Fair
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15 comments
shindark
shindark

Only for hardcore gamers and series fan... just like me :)

darkvine
darkvine

@otanikun At the end of the day a game is a game. If they wanted to make it to tell a story it should have been a OVA. I understand their intent for the story, but if they can't understand a game of this nature needs to have deep combat and evolving gameplay they should still to telling stories in a none interactive setting..

CloudXentar
CloudXentar

This is, weather you like it or not, a fair review. Aside from great presentation and moe Caster, and my love for Fate series, this game is rather mediocre for it's combat and horrible repetitiveness. Not to mention the unfulfilling ending...

gigaman299
gigaman299

@otanikun making a game for the purpose of storytelling doesn't excuse it for having weak gameplay in its genre.. though i do admit that the score is a little low.

otanikun
otanikun

Talk about an unfair review, this game was made for storytelling and not much more, if you can't understand that then this game isn't for you. The battle system was something that took some time getting used to but it paid off when you kept landing combos and the further you got in the game it was challenging and fun. But leave it to GS to shoehorn a great game yet again, oh well, their loss.

Coolyfett
Coolyfett

Wow this game could have been so much better...but it was trouble.

AltoShadow13
AltoShadow13

too bad, I was looking at this at game stop but I think I may wait for one of my friends to get it and I'll just loan it off them.

trivolution
trivolution

Comments on reviews, now that's freedom of expression.

Ni6htSorrow
Ni6htSorrow

@soulless4now: I second that. I prefer the old GS where there's no comments in reviews.

soulless4now
soulless4now

Comments...on reviews? This isn't the GS I know. D:

Ultramarinus
Ultramarinus

I have to agree that combat is very repetitive and not fun at all due to rock-paper-scissors. Memorizing doesn't work when enemies begin using multiple patterns, you need to write them down or have a very keen memory to keep track of like six patterns on a floor and recognize it when you see a couple actions. I get bored instead and spam attack.

brian_13un
brian_13un

Wow this is something I mean the Comments on Reviews ;)

LinusBlue
LinusBlue

We can comment on reviews now...?

Rovelius
Rovelius

Wow, we can comment on reviews now? lol I think the main female protagonist looks too much like the Clerics in Ragnarok.

Fate/Extra

  • PSP
Fate/Extra is a game where you wake up in a strange virtual world with no recollection of the past as you try to figure out who you are.
ESRB
Teen
All Platforms
Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Sexual Themes
Check out even more info at the Fate/Extra Wiki on Giantbomb.com
Average Score See all 112 Player Reviews
7.9
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