Review: Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star

Fate EXTELLA The Umbral Star Logo

It is fair to say I never played a game like this before. I never played a game from the Fate series, and I never really played a “musou” style game. Since this may be the case for you, the reader, as well, let’s first elaborate a bit on what Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is all about.

Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is the third game in the Fate/Extra universe, which in turn is based on the visual novel Fate/stay night. The game takes place after events in Fate/Extra, a game which not released on a Nintendo platform (but was a game for the PSP).

I won’t delve too far in the plot, since it is rather complicated at first, especially if you never played Fate/Extra and don’t know the characters background. Put shortly, you are the master of Servants (digital copies  based on ancient heroes who exist in the world of SE.RA.PH, a virtual environment on the moon which stores the memories from Earth). A threat is however trying to take over SE.RA.PH and it is up to you to claim back your territory with the help of your Servants. It becomes quite an intriguing story after the plot unfolds.

But what type of game is Fate/EXTELLA exactly? Although officially listed as an action game, I think the term tactical hack and slash is more accurate (these are often called musou games, named after Dynasty Warriors’ Musou Mode which started the genre). If you have ever played a game in the Dynasty Warriors series you know the concept. In essence you need to fight your way trough endless hordes of enemies, while completing several objectives on the map.

FateExtellaImage1Enemies! Endless and endless waves of enemies!

That the game is based on the Fate/ visual novels becomes apparent in between your battles. There are plenty of dialogues to dig out the story and to elaborate on the bond between you and your Servants. Most dialogues are voice acted (in Japanese only but well executed), except for your own train of thoughts.

Often the dialogue goes on a bit too long, even though it occasionally gives you choices to steer the conversation. Picking a right answer even is rewarding since it strengthens your bond with the Servant. Some lines are very poetic, and humour is all over the place. Overall the plot is well written, although it can be a little incomprehensive at first when you don't know all the details yet. However, there is also a lot of fanservice going on. Meaning, a lot of the talk is about pleasing you, complimenting you and well, just straight out making indecent proposals to you. Given the fact that most of the lead characters are well-shaped females (with some uhm, very unpractical clothing), just makes it all the more obvious what that’s all about. Yes boys and girls, it is that sort of game as well. I personally could see the tongue-in-cheek humour of it, but I’m not sure if funny was what the developers were shooting for with this! And after a while it becomes a bit too much.

FateExtellaImage2Not suited for work. Or kids. Or physicists who would argue that the water should be transparent.

Luckily, the other part of the game is about fighting against a massive amount of enemies As said before the game is a tactical hack and slash game. You are thrown in a map with several areas, which all have a number of keys assigned to them. It is your task to claim enough areas, so you have enough keys to summon the Boss into the fray for the final fight.

Areas are claimed by taking down all enemy Aggressors in it. These appear after you have taken down a number of the endlessly appearing normal enemies. However, your enemy is also busy stealing back areas from you, sometimes assisted by a stronger sub-boss. This is where the tactical part kicks in. Do you first block your enemy, or will you first take over a number of areas to be in the safe zone and pick up some powering up items? It adds just enough tactics in the mix to keep the battles interesting.

Because the battling part can become a bit repetitive. You can perform a number of combos with light, heavy and in-air attacks. While levelling up you learn longer combos, but it mostly comes down to mashing buttons. You can block and dash, but that’s about it. If you really want to throw down you can collect 3 pieces to unlock your Noble Phantasm attack, an all-out and over the top move (with some very snazzy cutscenes) which can really help you turn the tide of the battle.

While the cutscenes look really good, the rest of the game looks just okay. In normal battles there is not much detail to for example your endless enemies. The environments look good, although they are not aplenty (about 6 or 7 different maps can be found in the game). But the game runs smooth, both in docked and handheld mode which is a big plus in a game like this. We can all remember that Hyrule Warriors suffered from occasional framedrops. Fate/EXTELLA however keeps it steady.

Those Noble Phantasm attacks sure look pretty!

The game features a number of Story Modes with a different Servant as your main companion. Additionally, you can unlock Side Stories from additional characters and you can play in Free Battle with any unlocked character versus any unlocked opponent. These latter two modes are nice to explore since the side characters actually have some different moves than the main Servants. This adds some beef to the game, although the repetitive nature probably makes you not play it non-stop. More likely, after finishing the Stories you will pick it up occasionally and play some Free Battles in between other games. It is addictive to play, but not for very long sessions.

This brings me to a very practical question. Should you buy this game? Since there are not many games out in this genre, and none yet on the Switch, the answer would be “yes” (and praise to the developer to release such a niche game in the West!). But, and this is a big but, we will also see Fire Emblem Warriors on the Switch this year, another musou title which will play similar to Fate/EXTELLA. No doubt this will be the better game, as Koei Tecmo already proved with the amazing Hyrule Warriors. And in a setting which will appeal to more users, given the popularity of Fire Emblem at the moment.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star is an interesting game because of its mix of hack and slash, tactics and storytelling. The setting is original and the dialogues are mostly good. The fanservice part however is a bit too present, and the sexual references feel cheap. Although a bit repetitive, the fighting part is worked out well, and it runs smooth in both Switch modes. However, with that other big musou title coming up in the autumn, I can only recommend this game if you really love the Fate/ series and characters, or love the musou genre, or really have a loathing for Fire Emblem. It is not a bad game however. But in this niche genre I think the competition is deadly.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan3
Final Score



Intriguing story
Hack and slash combined with tactics works well
No framedrops


Can become repetitive

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