Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star Part 2 – Is Extella Good Civilization?

hisui_icon_4040_round I really wanted to put out some sort of written review for Fate/Extella while people might have still been on the fence about buying the game the first few weeks it was out. But I don’t have either the time or desire to rush through the game ASAP to get out a total review. That would have either mean that I just rushed through the story to see the ending or cut out all my other free time activities. Since this is not a game review site there is no reason to force myself to do either. Also, I feel one of the appeals of this site when it comes to Type-Moon titles is I go a little more in-depth about the lore of the universe.

In that vein,  you can consider this more the review for people who have either played the game or just want to dive more into the meat of the story and characters. That means I consider no spoiler sacred past this point and will talk about everything and anything. If you just want a simple run down of the basic merits and flaws of the game you most certainly want the first part of this review which you can find here.

One item I should have mentioned last time: The cross-play mechanic. If you were unaware there is a PS4 and Vita version of the game. One of the most convenient features of this is that thanks to linked account between the console and portable systems you can pass the save between the two systems. That means at any time you can play Fate/Extella on the go and the upload your progress so your game on PS4 shares the same progress (and vice versa.) As someone with a daily commute, this is a godsend as it lets me grind away while I’m on the train and still be able to play the game on the big screen whenever I get home.

There are some slight differences between the PS4 and Vita version. As the Vita is naturally just less powerful than its console sibling the graphics are less ambitious and there are fewer enemies on the screen at any moment.  Thankfully that also means lots of the benchmarks for grades in missions also reduced. For example, the number of enemies you need to kill to get an EX rank on a level is lower when you play on the Vita than the PS4. Other than that the experience is pretty much unchanged. I could have really used this functionality in Hyrule Warriors.

I made one major mistake in the first part of the review. As I learned from Metal Caveman in the comments of Part 1 there is a lock on feature for Extella. The problem is on the Vita you have to touch the screen to lock on to a Servant. And only a Servant. While the rank and file minions are basically cannon fodder sometimes a lock on for some of the more dangerous Aggressors would have been handy. And that is not to mention the value in being able to lock-on to Plants.  So the feature is there. I just wish it was a little more useful. Overall it has helped me greatly with the Servants in harder difficulties so it works when it matters most but hopefully, it will be improved in the next game.

I feel I also need to mention one very important detail on the mechanics. I went into most of the gameplay in the first part. As I said game is serviceable but hardly amazing. But having beaten the main story I have seen something very important. There is a reason the main complaint is how repetitive the game is. It is the reason game has been getting positive if very lukewarm reviews from people who are not Type-Lunatics. Having played the game more I see what they are saying about the game being repetitive.

I’m come to accept the grind of Warriors styled games. They use the same maps and characters QUITE A BIT. There is a key reason people tend to so critical of the genre. The problem is that Extella also reuses the same missions a bit too often as well. You can use the same map and pool of characters but most of the time the missions will change the characters you fight or tweak the objectives so they at least feel a little different. The main campaign does that well. The problem is ALL of the side story missions are just repeats of the main campaign missions. They surrounding story is different but the combat scenarios are exactly the same. In a game with a good deal of potential grind that is sort of double grind hell. Plus those side story missions are really the few places the Servants who are not main heroines can shine. You need mission variety in a game like this.

Actually only Artoria gets unique maps and missions. Well if people were already up in arms about Saber getting more attention then they think she deserves then this is not anything that helps that impression. (The suggestion that Saber is the Void Shiki level counter-guardian of the Moon Cell is a super insult upon injury for Saber haters.)

I wanted to mention past this point that this post will have spoilers. I don’t feel in any way bad about this since there is a Part 1 to this review. While I have some new gameplay thoughts here I feel my general opinion still stands well enough for anyone thinking about buying the game. This is more for neck-deep Type-Moon fans who probably already bought the game long ago.

With that out-of-the-way let us get down to business. What about the story? That is what is going to keep anyone playing the game invested. In that regard, I was very happy with the game. It adds some major elements to the Fate/Extella universe. First of all, it throws in the cosmic threats from Notes that have been hinted at before but mostly ignored in any Fate timeline. Considering that the fact Fate/Grand Order really needs some heavy hitting bosses for its story I could easily see the Velber units as the final bosses of a Fate/Grand Order arc. Secondly, this really helps flesh out some key characters. For a signature character, Attila feels a little more like side character in Fate/Grand Order. She has a distinct following but overall she seems less evolved than someone like Arjuna or Ushiwakamaru who get major storylines in Grand Order and she is not tied to an established Servant like Darius III or Scáthach. I finally get a real sense of what her character is about beyond Good/Bad Civilization jokes.

Attila really has two versions. There is human sized Servant Altera and Giant White Titan Server Velber 02. Altera is pretty much the Attila everyone knows from Fate/Grand Order. Velber 02 is the more emotional and dare I say moe version of Attila. It gives her an interesting dynamic that is maybe not present in her original appearance. I’m curious how much they are going to play up the connection to the Umbral Star outside of Fate/Extra material. I have a feeling it will be nothing more than a passing reference but we shall see. Helena Blavatsky does have lots of connections to aliens and Mysterious Heroine X is now from SPACE! so there are established characters who can go on Haruhi Suzumiya styled quests around trying to find aliens, time travelers, and espers.

Attila’s story has some odd power dynamics in it. She starts off as this dominate possessive jailer. As time goes on cracks start to form in this facade and by the end, she becomes the one who is the captive of love. It almost feels like the classic taming the bad boy story line. While that trope of a relationship is a staple of shoujo romance even the biggest girls comics fans will usually admit that it is often a questionable setup, to say the least. It distinctly comes off as uncomfortable and while it is purposefully that way I think it can still easily turn a lot of people off.

Let me correct myself. There is technically three versions of Attila. There is also little girl Attila from the end of the True Path. I am sure this is not the last we have seen of Attila Lily. April 1st is not that far away and Fate/Grand Order always needs more Servants. Mamiko Noto will continue to have work via Type-Moon for some time.

When push comes to shove as much as I started with Attila this really is Nero’s story. She is unavoidably the main heroine. Tamamo-no-Mae gets relegated to the bottom of the heroine triangle because of this. While she gets her own path and is instrumental in the True Path she very quickly plays second fiddle to Nero and can’t rise above the attention paid to Attila. Now Nero and Tamamo-no-Mae have had two games where they were the stars of their own paths so the focus on Attila was needed as she is the newcomer. The thing is Tamamo-no-Mae is a dual protagonist that gets demoted to a mere supporting cast member. She is not as sidelined as Archer and Gilgamesh but she has gotten a demotion.

Nero’s story is fairly straight forward. If anything she is the vanilla path. Since she has always been the poster girl for the Extra series she has already gone through her character arcs. If anything they basically giving her a rest despite her being the main heroine so the other two women can stand out a bit more. That said she still is Nero. She cannot be a generic kindly wallflower or a Milquetoast self-insert character. Bisexual Girlgamesh is always operatic and bombastic. The woman’s whose soul creates Aestus Domus Aurea as a Noble Phantasm could not be anything but an Empresses in the center stage. If you’re looking for a major revelation about her your barking the wrong tree. She mainly is the hyper-confident whirlwind of roses that she has been in the last two games. Now she just gets Photon Ray and a Saber Venus form.

Random Note: The Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Arc anime comes out next year. The fact that Sakura Tange is both Nero and Sakura was already causing me an odd degree of cognitive dissidence. I now know her as Nero long enough that the major reintroduction of her as Sakura is only going to make things stranger for me.

Tamamo probably has the most interesting arc as she actually has one. I say this because like Nero she has had two games filled with character arcs. She spends most of the arc playing petty dictator of salacious and greedy desires. It is clear throughout the game that it is half her indulging in her darker tendencies but the other, and the more important half, is her making herself a villain as a way of protecting her heart as she is worried about your affection for Nero. Considering that the game clearly has a Nero bias it seems her feelings are not completely unwarranted.

I always felt like Tamamo was a character who would do well outside of just being in the Extra games and so far they have been slowly but surely working her outside of that. She has Fate/Extra CCC Fox Tail, some fun stories in Fate/Grand Order, and lots of omake material. So they clearly realize she has potential. While she has not gotten a starring role in a full-length anime or novel series that is probably more a matter of when than if. Stories like this show she has the potential to be more of a star. Much like Medea, she is a character who has a villainous story that clearly can have a more sympathetic interpretation. This allows Tamamo to explore some complex stories while keeping her a person you can root for.

If anything maybe the theme of Fate/Extella is tainted love and its possible remedies. Each of the three heroines has some sort of imbalance in their relationship with their beloved. Nero can be overbearing, possessive, and egotistical. Overall her flaws are the most minute but still notable. It says a lot that an overbearing, possessive, and egotistical lover is the healthiest of the trio.

Tamamo has an odd mixture of self-indulgence, self-sabotage, and self-delusion in order to prevent the pain of losing the protagonist. While she avoids hurting the protagonist which keeps it from being an abusive relationship she also is quite nasty to her underlings. Well, mostly she is nasty to Liz. All of her act is clearly a coping mechanism to avoid the main problems she refuses to face.

Attila, on the other hand, has a weird co-dependent mixture of controlling and submissive. At first seems the little Altera seems to be the abusive and controlling personality where as big Attila seems to be the giant moe girl who almost wants to be dominated. As the series goes on the division is far less clear as both of them begin to show traits of the other version. Some of it is forgivable because Velber 02 was never supposed to have human emotions let alone be good at them but the way this could be seen as a codependent abusive relationship is fairly obvious.

While most of them are fairly short the side story missions as the only place a lot of the supporting characters get to really express themselves. While most of the other Servants appear several times in each path they often just get a few lines to develop their stories even when they are the boss of a stage. So if they get any chance to explore a hidden story or a greater depth of character it is in these segments. Some Servants fare better than others.

The character who has the biggest reveal is probably Archer. While he plays his normal enigmatic anti-hero role when you learn what his complete story is it becomes clear that he has more going on that most of the side Servants. He is able to slide between timelines just nowhere as effectively as Archimedes. It just so happens he is from a universe with the worst possible timeline where his master is killed and things go to heck from there. In a way, it feels like a tip of the hat that he used to be one of the playable characters but was sadly demoted in this game. Hopefully, he will get bumped back up to being a main character in the next game.

Medusa’s Story has her being a mysterious agent much like Archer but her plot line mostly involves her stealing the protagonist away from Tamamo. Technically she is also trying to be something like a Ruler of the Mooncell but all anyone is going to remember is the NTR angle.

Li Shuwen story is a super-linear “I’m looking for someone to give me a proper challenge story.” While that is a very classic martial arts story it also does not add much to his previous characterization. It almost seems like a placeholder plot that sets up something far more interesting in the next game. Random Note: Does anyone know who the woman at the end of Li Shuwen’s story was? She sort of looks like Gray with guns.

Karna’s story seems extremely in media res you start off in the middle and it ends before there is a proper conclusion. That is a shame because the more I have researched Karna the more interested I am in him. I wish I had played CCC since that is where he really gets a chance to show off his skills as the Hero of Charity.

Cu Chulainn has the same problem as Karna in that you mostly seem like you are only getting half of his story. The story just ends with him going to fight Gilgamesh. There is some good interaction between him and Medusa, which never really happened in Fate/Stay Night, but that is about it. I did like that Medb came quite a bit. She is another character that would do really well if she were to have her own story. Then again, from what I have heard Nasu has really taken a shine to her so we will probably see more of Medb in the future.

Gawain mostly spends his time chasing after the shadow of Saber. They also mention Leonardo B. Harwey which is a solid nod the last two games but they were already doing that in the main game.

Lu Bu’s side story really reminds me of the Hercules storyline in Fate/Tiger Colosseum. You get a comical insight into the mental landscape of a character you usually only see howling with rage. You get to see he truly is the meat-headed backstabbing bastard everyone knows and loves from Romance of the Three Kingdoms. He is constantly plotting to take down Tamamo-no-Mae throughout his story. I am intrigued that they revealed the presence of Chen Gong at the end of the Lu Bu story. While he is mostly just a blink and you miss it cameo that does mean he now has a character design even if it means he mostly is just a gender swapped Rani VIII. Fans have been clamoring for more Romance of the Three Kingdoms characters in Grand Order so this could be a valuable first step.

Atilla’s trio actually gets some of the best side stories. Jeanne d’Arc’s story goes a long way to explaining why she is fighting alongside Atilla in the first place. Of the three she is the one that most people would never assume to ally herself with Atilla. Gilgamesh and Iskandar are eccentric enough that them teaming up with another person is just as likely as them fighting against them. They mostly just go where the action is. When you learn that Jeanne d’Arc is trying to cultivate the human she senses in Atilla which makes much more sense with her established character.

Iskandar has a fairly good story about an old dog learning new tricks. When he jumps into the Holy Grail War in Fate/Zero he is hyper-competent and Waver Velvet is clearly in over his head. So it is interesting to see the King of Conquers have to get his groove back as a fish out of water in the Moon Cell. They touch upon the idea in the main game but like Jeanne d’Arc it is greatly expanded in his side story.

Gilgamesh mostly just ends up as a Saber chaser because he always has to has his unhealthy obsession with Artoria. It is interesting that this is probably the story line that most directly references CCC. While Fate/Extra gets a ton of shout outs CCC is mostly ignored. In many ways, CCC is deliberately supposed to be a self-contained story it is nice to see it get some sort of a tip of the hat.

The last two Servants are the two main villains. Liz’s story mostly continues her role as a comedic villain. As the name of the trophy for completing her quest implies it is fairly simple to realize that her story is clearly not happening. My only question was her story a dream or a delusion. Then again with Liz, those might end up being the same thing. Archimedes story was much more disappointing. When I saw that it was a prequel story I expected some interesting insights into the story. Overall it felt more like a summary of what we already knew of what happened in one story arc. If there were any surprising reveals I completely missed them. I also hate that trench run mission so having to play that with Archimedes instead of Nero did not help mitigate my disappointment. I’m not exactly sure what I expedited out of Archimedes’ story but I know I was underwhelmed. He is probably the Servant who go the most screen time outside of the heroines so he gets more story than say all off Nero’s Servants combined but being the only 100% original character I did want a little more from him when he was doing his solo story.

Let’s also talk about the further setup. Archimedes and Dark Liz are still running around with the ability to jump timelines like they were Zelretch the Wizard Marshall. While Liz is a mostly a silly villain Archimedes is a real deal threat. Velber 01 and Velber 03 are still out there and are easily the hooks for a sequel in their own right. Archimedes already hinted that he was going to wake up the other two Velbers in order to get his revenge.

The game also mentions that there is a newly discovered Norse area of the Moon Cell. That could easily be a hook for a new batch of Servants. That could mean Brynhildr as a new heroine. She seems fairly popular so it is hardly outside of the realm of possibility.

Nero, Tamamo, and Lily Attila are now united under the protagonist. I assume that any following games will be a little more straightforward sequels so these three will be more of a unit going forward. They will most probably the main “team” with other Servants being the leaders of the other groups. Now considering how Nero and Tamamo get along it is not out of the question for the tentative alliance to fall apart but I assume that will be more of temp digression. But that is more of a guess of what is going to happen than a proclamation of the future.

I will readily admit that Fate/Extella is far from a perfect game. It is clearly the flawed first iteration of a new stage of the Fate/Extra part of the franchise. But I got a PS Vita just to play this game and in that regard, I am completely satisfied. I got to spend some time with some characters in a part of the Type-Moon Universe that I had just assumed had reached an unfortunate dead-end. With the success of this game in Japan, I expect to see more Fate/Extella in the future. I look forward to the sequels improving on what came here while still keeping what made me like this game in the first place.

So I think I will end with what I would like to see in the next game. First of all, there will be new Servants. One of the great rules of Warriors styled games is the playable character pool grows with each subsequent iteration. Therefore I will pick two Servants from each class I would love to see in the next game. I’m not putting any Alter versions on the list as they seem a bit of a lazy pick.

  • Saber: Rama and Bedivere
    One could argue that there are more than enough Saber class Servants as it is but these two are not horrible choices as they are a little different from what is already out. Rama is a nice addition to the Indian hero roster and with his search for to see Sita again as a great narrative hook.
    Bedivere is a solid round table addition who feels a bit different from the Arthurian characters who we already have.
    I would select Mordred but we might already have too many Saberfaces in Extella.
  • ArcherArjuna and Robin Hood
    With Karna already in the game, it would be almost a crime not to add Arjuna. Plus he could have some good interactions with Rama.
    Robin Hood was supposed to be in the game and just got cut for time. As one of the original Fate/Extra characters, is seems mean not to bring him back. I also want to see his flirting with Medusa.
    I would LOVE James Moriarty but he seems a bit too new.
  • LancerScathach and Enkidu
    If these two are not in the next game there might be riots. I think I saw people hoping that they would add Scathach more than any other character. Plus people love to see her interacting with Cu Chulainn.
    The same thing goes for Enkidu. Since Grand Order seems dead set on not having Gilgamesh and Enkidu interact that much the fans should get some sort of relief with Extella 2.
    (Unless they are both in the game and continue to cruelly not have them cross paths)
  • CasterHans Christian Andersen and Charles Babbage
    I’m a little surprised that Hans Christian Andersen was not in the game already but I’m sure his popularity in Grand Order will finally open his path here.
    While there are some great choices for a second Caster I just think the idea of seeing a giant steampunk mech like Babbage on the battlefield really trumps everything else.
  • RiderFrancis Drake and Medb
    Like Hans Christian Andersen Drake  is one of the few originals that was left behind. Also, her dual pistols would add some nice ranged attacks.
    I love Medb and so does Nasu. With all the hooks she has to other characters I expect to see the CSB in the next game.
  • AssassinShuten Douji and King Hassan
    This duo is the yin and yang of choices. Shuten Douji is sexy, decadent, and sneaky.  King Hassan frank, virtuous, and chaste. They would make great opponents or and interesting odd couple duo. 
  • BerserkerFlorence Nightingale and Sakata Kintoki
    Since Florence Nightingale was supposed to be in the game she is another simple pick. I also think a bloody combat medic would be a great way to add a healer to the lineup.
    Sakata Kintoki is one of the more popular male characters and his gold motif could put him in a bit of a rivalry with Gilgamesh.
  • Extra ClassesThe Count of Monte Cristo and Saint Martha
    As much as people love to love to make fun of Edmond Dantès he has following. He is also probably the most interesting of the established Avengers. It would also let people make the Edgelord jokes they so love to tell.
    Saint Martha is a great Ruler. There are not that many Rulers and this is the more interesting class to add her into as opposed to the more crowded Rider class. Plus her repressed sukeban personality would make her a hysterical character who could still be serious when needed.

I look forward to the announcement of Fate/Extella 2 to see if any of these guesses are correct.

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