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Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star Review

Virtual insanity.

Game: Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star
Developer: Marvelous
Publisher: Marvelous
Reviewed on:  Nintendo Switch (Review code/copy provided)

Despite the fairly recent – and justifiable – increase in demand for equality in videogames, I’ve never felt the need to begin a review by calling out that the game in question has a severely misaligned view about how women should be treated. Take Fate/EXTELLA for example, which is a game that allows the player to adopt the role of “Master,” a generic, uninteresting husk of a man over which one of the main female characters, Nero (known in game as a “Servant”) gushes continually. I could probably live with that alone, but it’s hardly the only thing worthy of note. Two of the key interactions with Nero (who is supposed to be the central character in the first story within the game) include talking to her in her bedroom (tee-hee) whilst she praises your awesomeness, or changing her outfits. How do you think she should go into battle? Evening attire? Lingerie? A skirt so short that even the graphics engine doesn’t know what to do with it?

Anyway, forget all that. Let’s move on to the fully animated boobs that zip around as if they are 18 pound cannonballs trapped inside a vest made from the worlds stretchiest material. Oh no, wait. That’s not relevant to reviewing this game. Just remember this – if I feel uncomfortable about how women are being depicted on screen, then you should too. I can’t really be arsed to come up with some mitigating factors against my own argument such as “but the Master can also be a woman” or “despite all the subservient stuff she says, Nero is the real hero” or “but it all happens in virtual reality” because none of that matters. Anyway, on with the review!

So, what is Fate/EXTELLA? Well, basically, it’s a Dynasty Warriors game set in some kind of virtual reality space dimension. The story is pure hocus-pocus, and the game uses utterly ridiculous dialogue to add further bewilderment. Take Nero, the first Servant we meet. She’s not just a Servant, she’s also the King. Why? Because she wears The Regalia. Right. The King of what? Of The Moon, obviously! What’s the problem then? Well, the problem is that some other nutcase (apparently from a previous Fate game) also has a Regalia, and has already proclaimed herself (and her Master) as the rulers of about half the Kingdom that Nero thought was hers. The indignity!

So what does Nero do? Clearly, she does the only thing that she reasonably can. She dons her finest red heels and her shortest skirt, tapes her independently animated boobs to her tiny corset, and she prepares to kick some arse. What follows is a good looking but ultimately mind-numbing button masher in which first Nero, and then two other key Servants, play through independent stories that culminate with a detailed exposition about what is really going on in Fate/EXTELLA.

Gameplay consists of hacking your way through literally thousands of generic, largely defenceless enemies using just light and heavy attacks, plus special Extella attacks that eviscerate the surrounding forces. You can create combos by chaining light and heavy attacks in different sequences, but no matter what you do, you’ll be smashing enemies all over the place. In each of the five arenas that the game consists of, you’ll want to defeat enemies until some marginally more aggressive Guardian enemies appear, and once you defeat them, you’ll get some Regime Keys. These add to the Regime Matrix, which is a little bar at the top that shows the balance of the current battle. Fill it and a boss will appear for you to have a chat with and then beat up.

In addition to three main campaigns based around key Servants, Fate/EXTELLA also features several side stories which usually consist of playing through a single level as a Servant in a lesser role. Unfortunately, there really are only five arenas and (no matter how you describe it) the objective of defeating 3, 4, or 5000 bad guys is hardly compelling. This is partly because the range of enemies is incredibly dull, and those that do feature are almost completely passive. There were times when I actually fell asleep playing Fate/EXTELLA for a few seconds, and when I woke up, I was surrounded by enemies, but nonetheless untouched.

Now, outwardly mobile boobs aside, Fate/EXTELLA actually looks pretty good on Nintendo Switch. The graphics are incredibly bright, and crystal clear. Considering there can be hundreds of moving (yet identical) enemies on screen at once, there is absolutely no drop in frame rather either, whether the Switch is docked or not. The sound is equally well done, and no matter if it is to your taste or not, it suits the game well. The music is energetic and uplifting, whilst the sound of various special effects matches the outlandish visual display on screen.

I suppose if you can get your head around the subject matter, then Fate/EXTELLA does provide a fair amount of good quality anime content. Beyond that, if Musou style games are your thing, then there are better options elsewhere, but not currently on Switch. As a fan of early versions of the Dynasty Warriors series, I was generally disappointed by the number of arenas, the poor variety of enemies, the repetition across boss fights and a few other factors within Fate/EXTELLA, but it is by no means terrible, just a bit average.

VERDICT

Fans of anime, of Musou games and of simplistic action games should consider Fate/EXTELLA as a possible purchase. It is bright and bold, with a personality all of its own. I did find it a little misogynistic to say the least, but I’m kind of poking fun at it, because I know it means no harm. There is loads and loads to do, but it is all kind of simplistic and certainly repetitive, so with the portability of Switch, that might suit you, or it might not. My advice is, no matter where you think you sit on it, you should try a demo before you invest big bucks in it.

6/10

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