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Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star
Score: 82%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Marvelous Entertainment Inc.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is the latest in the Fate series. If you have played some of the previous iterations, you will recognize several characters. The story will stand on its own though (albeit confusing), so donít worry if you are new to the series.

If youíre looking for the most beautiful graphics out there, you will be disappointed. The visuals are good, but theyíre not the greatest I have seen. It looks more like youíre on a PS3 than a PS4. Still though, the characters are beautifully drawn, full of color and personality. The sectors where you fight are a bit hard to navigate at times, simply because it was either too much light or too dark to see well. I found myself relying on the map and the arrows to figure out how to get where I needed to go.

All the characters in The Umbral Star speak in Japanese with English subtitles. Outside of battle, this isnít a problem since you have plenty of time to read it, but inside of battle, I found I missed a lot of things. It was difficult to keep fighting while trying to read the words on the bottom of the screen. You can pause the battle and hit (Square) to pull up the backlog to see what instructions you missed. Itís just more of a pain than being able to understand them spoken out loud.


Gameplay:
When you first launch Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, you will be given the option of your characterís gender and the game difficulty. Donít feel like you are stuck with your choices. You can change the gender at any time in the options and you can choose difficulty before each battle. After that, you get to the Main Menu, which only has Main Story and Gallery unlocked at the beginning. You will need to play the Main Story to unlock Side Story and Free Battle. Next, you will need to choose a Servant. You only have one, Saber from the Flame Poem Arc, unlocked to start with. You will unlock the second Servant story after you complete the first and the third after you complete the second. They are very similar stories, just told from a different point of view.

To start the backstory, in 12,000 BC, a comet strikes the Earth, setting it on fire and wiping out everything. Youíll find out later that itís not really the comet that is the problem; it is the planet Velber riding beside the comet. Flash-forward to present day where you are a part of the Moon Cell, Champion of the Moon Cell Automaton. At least that is what you are told. You really donít remember anything, even your Saber class Servant Nero Cladius. I donít know why you call her Saber because that is her class, not her name, but you do. Saber explains that you (or rather your life force) are on the moon. In 2032 AD, the Holy Grail, an object that can give you anything you wish, was discovered on the moon and it created the Servants. You are a Wizard and your body is back on Earth. Wizards can summon Servants. Apparently, you were the one winner of the Holy Grail, so you possess it on the moon. Everything there is (and is still going on) created by SE.RA.PH in this virtual world. Since the land is continually expanding, you will need to continually conquer new lands and keep control of the current ones. To do this, Saber hires Servants to work under her. Cu Chulainn, Li Shuwen, Gawain, and the mysterious Nameless (really, that is his name) are Servants that she has hired to summon as well. You will have competition with Tamamo, who is a Servant to a duplicate of you. Tamamo even has a Regalia ring, just like Saberís. Of course, with that kind of power at hand, you will run into other Servants who want the Regalia ring too! Once Altera enters the picture, things get even weirder. The stories in Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star are a bit confusing.

After you beat the first story, the second will unlock. This time, your previous enemies will be your loyal Servants and your previous Servants will be your enemies. Itís a bit strange to get used to, but this does mean Lu Bu is on your side in the second story (heís always difficult to beat, no matter the game!). Once you beat the second story, the third will unlock. Youíll figure out your characters soon enough. Even though the stories are similar, the Servants are so wildly different that nothing feels like a repeat.

To beat the stories, you will need to conquer lands to try and unite the SE.RA.PH. To conquer lands, you will need to take over sectors. To do that, you need to find the Regime Keys by defeating Aggressors. They will appear after you have beaten enough normal enemies. Itíll be obvious when you take a sector as all the enemies will disappear and you will get the final key needed. Itíll also change colors on the map. You can tell how strong a sector is for one side or the other by looking at the gauge. If itís already close to belonging to your side, it will be easier to take. You will also have to beat the boss characters that will appear in various places. There will be many other things that you will have to do, but just keep on going. The chapters/stories arenít horribly long. There is a lot of talking that you will have to do between battles though!

After beating some chapters, you will unlock Side Stories. These are the stories of your loyal (and not so loyal) Servants. I highly recommend playing them as you can level up your Servants and you can find out more about what is going on. Plus, you will unlock some neat things, collect items, and generally find stuff to help you out.


Difficulty:
When you start up Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star, you will choose a difficulty from Easy, Normal, or Hard. You can unlock Very Hard as well, but youíre not stuck on those levels. You can choose to change the difficulty and it even asks at the beginning of each battle which you want. It will even tell you what level is recommended for you to fight for each difficulty and what level you are at, but I donít find it particularly correct. I have noticed that the Easy and Normal recommended levels are the same. If you fight on Normal at that level, you will probably find it a bit of a challenge. If you choose Easy, you can fight when you are several levels below what it "recommends." Basically, youíll have to see for yourself what you think. I found there to be a huge gap between Easy and Normal. Hard and Very Hard seem about right to me.

You need to kill Plants. They can warp Aggressors to different sectors, leaving your safe zones vulnerable if you donít kill them. Phantasm Circuits will let you unlock a strong power for your Servants, so collect them if you can. You will see them on the map as an orange ticket-like thing. Itís often hard to collect them all though, as some are in sectors you just donít have time to get to. Explore the Instant Skills that you can set up for your Servants. The higher your bond gets, the more skills you can set. You can craft items that will make your life much easier and all of these things will help keep you alive. If your Servant dies in battle, you can use a command seal to revive them, which is pretty handy at times! If you fail on a mission, it will just take you back to your room and you can try it again. You will get to keep any money that you picked up, even if you failed. You can always set it to a lower difficulty if you are having trouble passing one.

One of my complaints about The Umbral Star are the Neutral Sectors. Taking a Neutral Sector is a pain in the rear, harder than taking one from your enemy in my opinion. You basically have to wander around fighting thin air to find the distortion area. Even after you find it, you can spend minutes trying to find the specific area to attack to make the Lost Matrix appear. You have to collect however many lost matrixes are in that sector to take it. I really hate those sectors!


Game Mechanics:
For the most part, the controls in Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star are pretty easy to use. (X) is jump, (O) is the Extella Maneuver, (Square) is for Attack, (Triangle) is for heavy attack, and (L1) is for dash. The D-pad functions are set based on your item that you have equipped. The one control that I had trouble triggering at times is the change of forms. (L2) + (X) changes forms to Moon Crux for Saber and Moon Drive for the rest. Itís like overdrive mode, with increased stats. Itís really handy, but for some reason, Iíd have to hit the buttons several times sometimes to get it to turn on. It will turn off when the bar runs out.

If you have played any of the Warriors games, you will see a familiar game. The Umbral Star feels like Dynasty Warriors in cyberspace. Instead of taking over bases, you take sectors. But still itís a hack ní slash with very similar layouts and almost the exact same controls. Even though I have enjoyed The Umbral Star, I canít see myself going back after it is beaten. The story is very weird and complex, so I want to know what happens at the end, but it doesnít feel like a game that I will keep going back to. Still, itís a decent length game if you want to get all the Side Stories completed, so it will definitely keep you entertained for a while.


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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