3 years after putting out Fate Extella: The Umbral Star, Marvelous followed up with the sequel, Fate EXTELLA: Link.
And yes, it’s a sequel, taking place after the “true/actual ending” of The Umbral Star, where the protagonist and “child Altera” are suddendly approached by attack programs, only to be saved by a new Servant of the Saber class, identifiying itself as Charlemagne.
He then explains that within SE.RA.PH a new threat has arisen, with a self-dubbed “Conquering Emperor” that’s bent on controlling all the digital created world by a mind control/brain wash process he dubs “Oraclization”. The protagonist, with his/her Servants Nero Claudius and Tamamo are then helped further by this new ally, as Charlemagne gifts them a new flying fortress where to organize the counter-offensive and figure out how to stop the plans of this mysterious “Emperor”.
And no, it’s not Caligula. Gotta specify that, it’s Fate we’re talking about, that could have been a honestly sensible guess.
The story it’s a mixed bag, as at first it comes off more straightforward than Umbral Star, more fluid , moving at a faster pace without heaps and heaps of cutscenes and tons of narration, and this time it’s an unified single campaign with a single actual ending.
Well, three ending and then a proper “true ending” that does explain most of the questions. Guess that sticked.
But the convoluted eventually starts exposing himself, alongside stuff that makes you wonder if this is an actual sequel, as yes, the plot refers to events to events and plot points seen in the previous game, but some characters are reintroduced like it’s the first time we saw them at all, characters that actually died in that game come back, so you can guess where this leads in terms of explaining why the plot follows up the true ending of Umbral Star, keeps continuity for some things but not others.
Without going into actual spoiler, it’s basically a side story thingie to the previous game, and while the plot in that maybe have felt overstuffed convoluted at times, it had better writing able to juggle all the plot points and you eventually got answer to all the important stuff, here you have plot holes that can explained by fairly stupid implications, it’s just weaker in terms of story scope, narration and writing, with the feeling it being intended as a “side sequel” pretty much confirmed by the way the actual “true ending” leaves open possibilities/excuses for some characters to return later.
And since it was actually legit marketed as a sequel, it feels like a cop out.
That said, while the story it’s not as good, there are quite a number of improvements and additions in term of gameplay to be found. The more obvious it that now you have a hub base you can “explore”, it’s good to have it but it’s just for looks, as it’s a very small hub were you as the Master can walk, talk to the servants chilling there, or go organize the characters, talk to them in barracks to improve the bonds with them (to unlock some items, similar to tea parties and buffets worked in Warriors game).
You can also switch from third to first person here… just in case you wanna take some some photos of your favorite Servant chilling near a non-descript campfire or fountain. A bit odd, but whatever, since you can just do all the crafting and equipping n chatting via menus anyway if you wish.
Speaking of actual combat, now the special attack working more like a combination of Rage mode in Warriors titles where you can unleash a musou attack or keep the powered up state to collect more “juice” for the Noble Phantasm, aka the more powerful special move available, and while the movesets are mostly untouched and don’t grow overtime, you earn new special moves that you can equip and use action rpg style (one of the trigger shoulder button and a face button), in a similar fashion to what Omega Force was doing with its musou games at the time, down to some combo strings shortened but the cut attacks reworked as equippable “Active Skills” for the loadout.
You now fight as a single character, with two characters equippable as supports that can help by occasionally shielding your from a hit, joining a combo with a special support attack (and more if you deepen the bonds with them), and keeping with the stuff taken directly from Warriors games there are weapon clashes, and if you are near an ally character that’s linked via a circle you can do joint special attacks or the “rush attacks”, which are triggered by hitting an officer with special attacks that have said property.
Also some “Active Skill” have some Class specific properties, like Saber and Assassin enhacing close range skills, which are either tied to the character class or can be obtained/used while linking with another ally unit, that or by equipping a passive ability chip that grants that Class property.
In terms of map design, this one introduces the Master as a vital NPC that appears on the map and has to be defended, and expands the variety of objectives, again, picking liberally from Omega Force’s work, with a more precise use of locked doors, gatekeeper units, enemies masquerading as others or hiding in sector/territories, fast moving messengers that will summon more strong units, areas that buff officers/bosses.
It’s like a best of Warriors games, which is fair enough, and to be brutally honest this is still better balanced that some of the later entries in the Warriors franchise, like sure, eventually you’ll be able to exploit the systems and steamroll enemies, but still better balanced than Warriors Orochi 4.
As declared earlier, this time we don’t have three mini-campaign (plus a short final battle-episode), but the stages are presented in branching path fashion, with the options you choose the first time playing determining to what stage/s you will proceed, but still, it’s similar to the previous game in a way that you won’t really feel like you’re “beating” it by just getting the first obvious ending (obtained after a easier than it should boss battle even Charlemagne itself say it’s a “bit anti-climactic”, well said), and it’s designed to have you play the other stages after getting the various “endings” in order to unlock the final batch of levels leading to the true conclusion.
It will take you about 8/9 hours to see the actual ending/doing the real final battle on the standard difficulty, which seems a lot shorter until you remember the absolute motherload of cutscenes the first game had, the lenght it’s fine in itself, and thankfully this time there’s more actual extra content, with a decently sized pool of extra battles, 10 new playable characters (making for quite the good roster) which include both EX versions of story stages, what-if scenarios, side stories, and help serving as a better grind mode, since the latters stages/offerings of this mode expect you to have an incredibly huge level to even attempt then.
There could have been more, but unlike the first one there’s actually a decent amount of stuff to do, you don’t feel immediatly “done” after beating the campaign, even though it has the same issue, with with 90 % of the maps reused from Fate Extella, and just a couple new ones added, and it does the whole “redo the same boss battle because the story dictates it” (but at least the final boss itself it’s a bit more resilient each time), and while the new designs touches help, i don’t condone the obscene corner cutting and number of spin-offs games Koei milks out of Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors… at least they make more content with even the base/vanilla releases, usually.
At least, they used to. You can’t even expect Free Mode to be in the later ones.
Fate Extella Link does have it (it’s basically baked into the Story mode and can be toggled off if you so desire), and overall it’s a more rounded and less bony package overall since this time there’s multiplayer… not co-op nor offline, but a 4 v 4 affair, played on a regular map where each player competes to score more points than the others by capturing and keeping territories/areas, with some new specific stuff for this mode, like towers that can be accessed by a specific class of Servants and activated to buff your characters, which is interesting, but i wish systems like that were also used in some of the story or extra missions, because you can enjoy waiting and watching the connection symbol spin and spin until kingdom come.
You can’t even have bots to simulate a match, so it’s virtually pointless, and a shame, as both this and WO4 had decent idea for multiplayer modes… but forgot this is a niche as hell subgenre, so unless you organize with others first, you’re never EVER gonna play a quick match as the servers would be empty after the launch week, let’s be honest.
DLCs are worse this time around, as alongside the plethora of overpriced costumes there are DLC characters… kinda, there are “chibizied” versions of Altera, Tamamo and Nero as paid DLC.
YES, they were made free for the first weeks, but now they command 3 bucks each, and Young Altera cost 10 friggin bucks. Pure piss taking on display, TK would be proud.
There is an improvement on the technical side, with better cel shading, refined character models and improved performance (it runs pretty well even with a lot of enemies on screen), with the same good art style and character portraits, and overall better presentation. Still not a big budget production, but looks quite nice and it’s quite colorful, i’ve seen plenty worse in musou games.
One odd thing is that the PSN trophy list has them all in japanese, even in the PAL release. Yeah, i think they just forgot they had to translate the text for the darn things, and it wasn’t fixed in the small patch that followed (the only one the game ever got).
Overall, it’s an improvement in terms of gameplay over The Umbral Star, it adds more actual content and reduces the story “padding” the first one did to extend his actual longevity, it’s just better fleshed out overall… but the story it’s that kind of “sequel but kinda not” cop out, the narrative it’s not as interesting, and sadly it’s what i feared, a revision-update sold as an actual sequel more than a proper follow up.
Even so, this one is far easier to find for 20 bucks (it’s also on Switch and PC), and i’m glad Marvelous did these, as they stand as the rare musou offerings that aren’t from TK, aren’t a pile of shit or simply ignored for international releases, leaving one to import them (looking at you, Sengoku Basara 4).
Given they also sold decently and review arguably well, i would love Marvelous to make a new one, with more fresh content, more characters and new system, i mean, the Fate series it’s still a big moneymaker, especially if you factor the FGO iteration, i’m pretty sure the audience is there for more of this.
Come on Marvelous, you have something going with this series! 🙂