Dynasty Warriors anime is happening.
I come at this series from a different place than most—the world of figure collecting. There’s an endless variety of Saber figures and a smattering of her cohorts. I had never consumed any Fate-related media, though, so when an opportunity arose to learn more about the property, I volunteered. What I got was confusing anime nonsense in a game that’s essentially Dynasty Warriors with a new hat. There’s a better Dynasty Warriors game on Wii U and New 3DS—something involving Zelda—but if you’re itching to slay thousands of identical robots that don’t put up much of a fight, Fate/Extella’s got your number.
Surprisingly, this is actually a sequel to a PSP game called Fate/Extra. I imagine even hardcore fans of Fate/Extra might’ve forgotten some of the lore after this long, but for somebody wholly unfamiliar with SE.RA.PH and its Moon Cell Automaton, the story of Fate/Extella is best ignored. There’s not even a recap of Fate/Extra to get people up to speed. The noun-heavy word salad does eventually start to make sense, but good lord, it takes awhile. The short version: you and Saber are trying to win back SE.RA.PH territory from evil digital avatars (Servants). You’ll read pages upon pages of dialogue—much of which is fully voiced (in Japanese) as you struggle to decide whether or not to just skip to the gameplay. There’s at least one dialogue scene that’s all about A-Cup Angst, which I chuckled at, having just recorded a Connectivity podcast about Senran Kagura.
When gameplay does actually occur, it’s a cut-and-paste Warriors game. You traverse several small sectors, defeating enemies and winning territory while keeping an eye on your mini-map, which tells you what your priorities are. The writing makes things seem way more complicated than it really is: all you really need to do is kill enough enemies for Aggressors to appear, and then kill those Aggressors to win back that sector. Do this enough and a boss will appear. Rinse, repeat. Make “Plant” enemies your top priority, as they push new Aggressors to already-conquered sectors.
It’s all very fast-paced, but missions can last a little too long—I was averaging about 25 minutes—and as your performance is graded, there is some incentive to go back in to get a better reward. The combat is generally satisfying, you have a lot of attacks including a super move and a timed Mega Evolution-style enhancement. If you collect three Phantasm Circuits, you can use a hyper-powerful attack that can single-handedly defeat bosses (so save them up). There’s blocking, dashing and counters, too. Most missions come with a small checklist of goals like “kill 120 enemies while transformed” or “use six health items,” and doing so will increase your connection level with different characters.
There are also side-stories, which are just like normal missions except they’re locked to a specific character (it’s more than just Saber). The rewards are similar, although this is also where you unlock new costumes.
Outside of combat, you can craft different clothing to let your character access some secondary abilities like healing, swapping characters or deploying a decoy. You’ll constantly be collecting “skills” during missions which add buffs to characters. You get more skill slots as your connection level to a particular character increases, and there’s some strategy in how the skills are arranged (but not much). There’s a gallery where you can listen to music, look at character models, and read the game’s ever-expanding glossary.
As a Warriors game, Fate/Extella is a fun time, but I didn’t love everything about it. The cutscenes are poorly staged—usually just two or three characters standing there, talking to each other. The level design can be a little confusing, as some sectors just have really strange layouts, and it can be difficult to know, on the fly, where the exits are. Your relationship with Saber is weirdly romantic. Half the dialogue between you and Saber involves gazing longingly into each other’s eyes and wanting to tell the other how you feel and your heart is ready to explode out of your chest and it’s all very tween romance. Not my bag. Get a dating sim, you two.
Overall, Fate/Extella is a fairly simplistic Warriors-style game with a visual novel component and pretty enough graphics. I was impressed that there’s never any slowdown, either in tabletop mode or on the TV. As I said, there’s already a better Warriors game on the Wii U and 3DS, but so far this is the best one on Switch. If you like anime nonsense and slaughtering robots, you could do worse than Fate/Extella.