Friday, 21 July 2017

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star Review - Nintendo Switch

Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star firmly lifts Dynasty Warrior's gameplay from Feudal China to a colourful, digital, sci-fi based world. If you're familiar with Dynasty Warriors titles, then the gameplay won't come as much of a surprise to you, here. But, if you're a fan of Fate/Stay Night, then you'll probably lap this up.

Set after the events in the previous game, Fate/Extra, it centres around three factions, who battle it out to decide who rules this vibrant world. Blending in anime visuals with bright, digital artwork, the factions are lead by representations of both historical and mythical characters. For instance - the first boss you face up against is the vampiric Elizabeth Bathory (have a Google, if you're not sure who this is), whilst you'll also meet the Greek physicist Archimedes, among many others. Of course, the characters are nothing like the real people they're representing, but it's fun to see the variations, regardless.

The game is divided up into three sections - the 'Main Story', 'Side Story', and 'Free Battle'. Essentially, you'll be playing the same game, whatever mode you decide to try out. Like the Dynasty Warriors games before it, The Umbral Star is a button-bashing base-claiming game. At the start, you'll get to customise your 'Master', who works together with spirits known as 'servants' to win each battle. You'll get to customise whether you're male or female, and add a name at the beginning.

She sort of looks like me, I suppose?

Once your master has been chosen, you'll gradually unlock more servants as the missions are completed. You'll get to customise them in your bedroom area of the game, which is where you'll also be able to equip any newly learned skills to strengthen your characters, too.

Revealing alternate outfits are a given.
Starting with the Main Story mode is probably a good idea, here, as the Side Story section's story makes a lot more sense then. The story is pretty simple - fighting to take over the world, but fans of the original games and the anime will appreciate this a lot more. For me, this is the first time I've ever ventured into this series. I wasn't sure who the characters were, and I didn't find the story all that interesting. Perhaps as a devoted fan, I would've thought differently. Speaking of the story, the game involves a lot of dialogue, which at times is fine, but there's often sections where you're stuck clicking through speech for quite some time. Luckily, discovering the skip button has it's advantages.

The Side Story mode delves into the servants roles in the battle. They're fun, albeit a little repetitive. The levels are often set at the same time as the main story, so the end bosses and objectives are pretty much the same. However, it's cool to switch things up and play as a different character, especially as each has different play-styles and special abilities. 

The Free Battle mode allows you to delve straight in on quick levels, where you'll get to pick from one of the characters you've unlocked to go against one of the game's bosses. This is a good way to level up your characters and unlock additional items. 

What Marvellous Games does so well here is to try to set this apart from the Koei Tecmo 'musou' games that the Western market is already pretty familiar with. Whilst the gameplay is still pretty samey - you'll find yourself smashing through thousands of enemies, build up your special ability then release it for total distruction, it's the way they've gone about it that feels great. Each area in the 'capture the bases' style gameplay is relatively small, and the gameplay feels fluid. It doesn't take too long to complete each level, and in all honesty, it's a nice 'switch off your brain' type game. If you just want to zone out and mash your way through hundreds of enemies, then The Umbral Star might be one for you. Playing this on Easy mode allows you to totally zone out and enjoy this, although if you're looking for a challenge, trying it on Medium, Hard, or Expert will have you thrust into peril quite considerably. It's also a lot more satisfying, when you're able to turn around a level you're destined to fail at the very last minute on the harder difficulties. 

Whilst for the first few hours this is all pretty fun, sadly like a lot the titles in this genre, the gameplay does get pretty stale. It's repetitive, and the blue-swamped, digital landscapes start to look very similar too. It definitely needed a little more variety, but like the Dynasty Warriors and Warriors Orochi games before this, this is just how they've came to be.

Also, it's hard to view the title as something more than a port, when it's already been out a year before on the PS4 and Vita. It's also worth mentioning that Nintendo Switch owners won't be missing out on the games DLC. This version comes loaded with 35 previously-released paid DLC costumes, along with an exclusive Unshackled Bride Outfit (scroll up for the screenshot of that one!).

A vibrant, faithful third addition into the 'Fate' series, Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star seems suited as a handheld title, so on the Nintendo Switch's handheld screen, this looks pretty gorgeous. Whilst it's fun for the first few hours, unfortunately, the game suffers from repetitive hack and slash gameplay, and the levels do start to blend into one another.

Packed with plenty of DLC add-ons, levels, galleries and customisable options, it'll work for anyone looking to switch off and button-bash until their heart's content...but perhaps it's smaller bursts that makes this more enjoyable. 

= 7/10
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