Publisher: XSEED, Marvelous, PQUBE
Platform: PS4, Switch, PC(Steam)
Price: $49,99 USD
Release Date: March 19th, 2019
I’ve been a fan of all things Fate for a very long time. It has been maybe a decade since I’ve first played the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel and since then I have probably played and watched almost every piece of Fate media released. Few franchises have expanded into so many genres and spin-off series with success, a testament to a very solid cast and universe.
However, it’s very easy to get lost within Kinoku Nasu’s multiverses and multiple routes. Understanding the Fate universe can be a difficult task at times but don’t worry, I’m here to help you out.
Fate Extella Link is a direct sequel to Fate Extella, released on the same platforms. It is a Musou genre game, an action combat where you control a character in a large battlefield against large hordes of enemies. Despite being a sequel, it’s possible to jump straight into the game without having played the previous one, as Extella Link will casually drop most information you need to know from the earlier installment. You will be spoiled, however. Previous knowledge of Fate universe characters helps too.
First of all, you need to understand that the Extella games are not part of the main Fate timeline. Rather, they are the latest chapters in the Extra spin-off timeline of the main Fate universe. This particular timeline begins with the PSP game Fate/Extra and has several key differences compared to the main series, mostly because every installment of this timeline takes place within a virtual world.
The gist of Extra timeline games is that there is an alien supercomputer on the Moon that has perpetually watched all events in the planet since its formation. Because it has accumulated so much knowledge it has gained the power to predict events and effectively grant miracles, replacing the role of the Holy Grail in this setting. Rather than Magus/Mages, Spirit Hackers inhabit the Moon Cell and participate in a Holy Grail War for the privilege of accessing the core and having their wishes granted.
Extella Link begins from the end of the previous game, the protagonist standing as the sole remaining master of the previous Grail War and many servants still living within the Moon Cell’s virtual world. This simulation, SE.RA.PH, has been converted into a living space for Humans, NPCs and Servants to inhabit freely as a replacement for Earth which is now uninhabitable.
Anybody who’s ever seen or played a Fate game knows that these are essentially character driven stories. Servants are the reincarnations of Heroic Spirits from history and legends, brought from both the Past and Future to fight for a chance of having their wishes fulfilled. Their complex motivations, personalities, relationships and burdens are the essence of these games.
In Extella Link, you will find a new enemies and allies, each with their own motivations. Don’t skip out from reading their stories and motivations in the Glossary and looking them up in the internet or else you will miss out on a lot of the text.
Gameplay consists of mission battles spread out over a branching arc format. The plot will unravel in a given way depending on which choices you make, also changing which missions and enemies you will face. Difficulty is selected before each mission.
For every battle, you must choose a servant to play as, the skills and installs you will equip, up to two support troops and 5 side missions. At the end, you will be rewarded currency, experience points, intimacy/relationship points and a new Code Cast equipment. Your performance is reliant on score and side-mission completion.
To my surprise, it turns out that support troops do more than just run around pretending to do something. While not nearly as effective as the player character, they can be counted on to defend sectors and even defeat certain enemies with no assistance. After raising their bond level beyond a certain point, they will also begin directly assisting you in battle, either by attacking together alongside you or interrupting enemy chain attacks that are hitting the player.
Other than clearing out enemies, you will occasionally be forced to do certain tasks such as clearing barriers or jammers, destroy objectives or interrupt enemy skills.
Extella Link’s soundtrack was lackluster. Fate/Extra had some of the best original music I’ve listened to in a RPG and perhaps that has skewed my expectations but I couldn’t get excited about the music in this game. Extras include a music player with tracks from the previous Extella game, as well as the untranslated Fate/Extra CCC. Talk about rubbing salt in the wounds.
The first thing I must say about graphics is that the performance was astonishing. I did not notice any framerate drops throughout the campaign at all. The PS4 version runs at 1080p 60FPS and dropping to 50FPS at worse while the Switch performs at 720p 30FPS and dropping to 25FPS during heavy load. A most impressive feat considering the number of enemies and effects on screen.
Better yet, the graphics themselves are gorgeous.
Great care was given to bring the Fate cast to life in this game, which is something I can really appreciate. The voice acting, the writing, their interactions and even the achievements reflect this.
Another feature to take notice are the portrait and model art styles. Masterful and detailed but also sharp and somewhat rough, it gives tons of soul and personality to the game. In particular, eyes look amazing in this style, a clear contrast against modern anime style art.
A cool feature I found was that, if you change a character’s clothes, their character portrait will also change. And finally, there’s a cool character viewer for appreciation.
There are some clear flaws with Extella Link, specially pertaining balance and progression. I started playing on Hard difficulty from the beginning and things were fine all the way up to the first ending. At that point, I went back and redid all my choices in order to see every scenario. However, at that point I had to do a bunch of missions while extremely overleveled.
You see, the game has a system where you can use currency in order to bring low level characters up to the level of your higher level character, effectively allowing you to level all your characters at the same pace. Perhaps the developers expected me to play with a different servant without upgrading it but doing so is just a waste of Experience Points. This ties into another balance issue: the game throws so much currency at you that makes it pointless, you never run out of QP for anything. The mechanic might as well not exist.
There is also the issue about difficulty. Even while taking on missions up to 5 levels above my own, the game is a breeze. Even if you make a mistake and lose a bunch of Health there’s tons of healing items on every sector and Code Casts can instantly heal you without any delays or limitations. Perhaps for this reason I was able to clear the entire game without blocking even once. Stun locking and dashing is just better in every situation.
The problem is backwards when you’re too underleveled, however. Taking on a mission over 5 or 6 levels above your current is pointlessly difficult because enemies take forever to die and hit like a truck. Extella Link could have surely benefitted from a few balance adjustments.
Finally, there’s also the issue with repetitiveness. Gameplay variety isn’t the forte of this genre but even still I started to roll my eyes a little after the 10th time I was pitted against a combination of Lancelot, Darius III, Francis Drake, Lu Bu and Gilles de Rais.
Musous are hardly my favorite genre. In fact, I have hardly ever played games of this type before. Despite this, I found myself unable to put down Extella Link. Even though it was extremely easy and somewhat repetitive I found myself, surprisingly, having tons of fun with it.
If the main campaign was all there was to it I would be inclined to say it was much too short. However, add to it the extra scenarios and the multiplayer online mode and it becomes an excellent value game. Would certainly recommend to any Fate series fans, old and new, who want to see their favorite characters in an actual video game. Much better than rolling mobage gacha, that much is certain.