Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is the third entry into the Fate/Extra series by Type Moon. To attempt to explain the backstory here would 1, require me to fully understand it and 2, take far too long to explain what I do know. What I CAN tell you is that Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star (called XTELLA from here on out) is certainly fun to play and will scratch that musou-type itch while we wait for Fire Emblem Warriors to release on Switch.
So, where do we begin? Let’s start with the story and work down, shall we?
XTELLA makes plenty of reference to it’s predecessors that you’re able to get a enough of an idea of what happened and piece together the history. This is fantastic if, like me, you hadn’t played them before picking up XTELLA. Continuing from the point of winning the Holy Grail War, the game begins with a huge white figure attacking you and then fading to black. It’s quickly revealed that your presence has been split into 3 pieces, each carrying a piece of the Regalia that allows its bearer to control the Moon Cell by Royal Authority.
There are three main story arcs, each following a different fragment from their perspective of events as they unfold. Playing through each reveals secrets and aids in forming a complete picture of events as you’d expect. What’s interesting is how each one is different and seemingly tells a different story. For example in Saber’s arc she is successful in defeating the threat to SE.RA.PH, but in Caster’s arc Saber is defeated and Caster goes on to save the realm/system/digi-structed universe. How all three of these unique yet clearly linked stories intertwine is amazing and quite astounding.
What makes it painful however, is the cringe-inducing dialogue and awful characters. Without playing the side-stories none of the secondary characters are given much of anything in the way of characterisation, leaving you to rely upon the main characters themselves and… I wasn’t a fan. The romance sub-plot feels forced and quite out of place in my opinion, it distracts quite heavily from the story which is a real shame. What’s meant to establish some kind of connection between player and characters falls horribly short and more often than not leaves you skipping through what seems like endless dialogue to get to the next combat mission.
You have to pay at least a little attention however, in order to improve your character’s bond levels, allowing you to install more skills to aid you in battle, for example one that makes you deal more damage as your KO count increases. Horribly overpowered but it makes obliterating swarms of never ending enemies that little bit more entertaining.
Stages always start with you horribly disadvantaged and going against all odds in order to win. More often than not you begin in the jaws of defeat and really have to haul ass in order to snatch victory. This can prove quite frustrating but it lends an air of urgency to the levels, making you actively seek the objectives out quickly rather than grinding up your specials before progressing with the task at hand. You are given plenty of opportunity to build your special meters throughout the mission that it’s hardly necessary to waste time grinding the energy, I’m just that kind of guy though.
Like any good musou-style game, annihilating huge groups of enemies and cutting down anything that gets in your way is pretty satisfying. It sometimes can become a little repetitive and most combat can be solved by learning the most effective combos for building your EX meter and then unleashing the EX Maneuver on the zone’s Aggressors/Servant/Boss Servant. That being said the rinse-and-repeat style of gameplay works surprisingly well, losing yourself amongst the endless tides of enemies and watching your KO count soar as you wipe out army after army is almost therapeutic in a way (what does that say about my psyche…?).
Fate/EXTELLA is clearly very proud of its visual aesthetic and with good reason. Every part of this game looks absolutely gorgeous. The immaculately well done combo animations are brilliant and each level has a distinctly unique appearance, some of the standing texture designs leave a little to be desired but nothing is perfect. If you weren’t so pressed against the enemy forces during missions you could easily enjoy a good hour or so examining each stage and revelling in it’s architecture! Sadly what it boasts in visual design it lacks in audio aesthetic. The soundtrack is completely and utterly forgettable, which in some cases is a good thing, just not this one.
It’s disappointing that EXTELLA doesn’t sport a multiplayer or online feature as some of the levels do feel like you’re overly stretched in combating the entire enemy army alone from the get go. Introducing an expanded overworld/conquest kind of online mode would make an excellent addition to the game and allowing multiple players to engage in a full scale war.
Overall Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is good fun if you just want to kill some time hacking through mindless droves of enemies and not really have to engage your brain all that much. It’s visually fantastic in game and watching a whole swathe of the battlefield erupt in coloured gems from defeated enemies is always immensely satisfying. Breaking the story into three unique yet fundamentally linked arcs is brilliant and urges you to discover the full story, just don’t expect to engage with the characters tasked with telling it.
Except Archimedes. He was cool.