We donít usually review ports, but the Switch is so energising for even the most familiar of games, and what could be more familiar than a Warriors-style action game? Indeed, Marvelous has served up a Switch port of Fate/Extella, throwing in all previously released DLC to boot. Itís also landing on PC via Steam within the same week.
First things first: Mark has already reviewed the original PS4 release, so head over here
for a detailed rundown regarding the gameís narrative and how it fits in following on from PSP game Fate/Extra.
Done? Okay, well, the gist of how Fate/Extella plays is simple: Think of it like a Fate-flavoured take on Omega Forceís own Warriors games, where it uses its disassociation with that series to do enough to take it beyond its setting within the Fate universe.
Beyond the expectedly rhythmic but button mashing combat, Extella is a Warriors game that focuses more on territorial control. Each battlefield is divided into sectors: Claim enough land before your enemy does and you get a stab at battling their Servant commander.
Itís within these higher-level proceedings that the real battles are waged, as you constantly need to ensure that youíre not putting all your eggs in one basket and attacking one sector for too long.
Reclaiming a sector takes time Ė to claim back land you must wipe out a few Aggressors first, who are basically big baddies that happen to also be damage sponges. Meanwhile in faraway sectors youíll often notice that ďPlantsĒ Ė enemies with the capability of spawning more Aggressors Ė constantly try and undo your progress, sending the foes to sectors youíve reclaimed, and those where your own fighters are struggling.
Do you spend a few more minutes reclaiming this one sector or should you drop everything to rush to a sector where a Plant is sending more enemies elsewhere?
Itís in moments like these, when Extella constantly ups the anxiety and throws you into situations where you never feel quite so comfortable taking on cannon fodder, where the game is at its best. Youíll often need to adapt and find an optimal route to travel around the map too, as later stages pile on the pressure by introducing enemy ambushes in some sectors, leaving you with no choice but to waste a few minutes cleaning up before youíre allowed to advance.
Despite placing a large emphasis on territorial control and continuous travel, itís hard not to feel disappointed by Extellaís rather safe and uninspired level designs that reside within each battleground. While thereís a pleasing amount of variety and scale to the backdrops, each sector feels disconnected from surrounding ones.
As a result you almost have to depend on the minimap just to get simple bearings, as scenery and structures are repeated so often that everything quickly looks the same. While the game is still playable like this itís evident that something has been lost. Youíre almost too disconnected from the action that youíre orchestrating, and the battles themselves would certainly come off as more engaging and memorable if each map was designed to feel like an actual place, rather than a series of small, identikit areas.
Still, the way Fate/Extellaís fights flow from a higher level provides enough fun in spite of the gameís shallow combat, and it does a lot to compensate for its shallow combat. Each playable Servant has an ever-expanding combo tree, but new attacks rarely feel like substantial game-changers compared with their level and equipped skills. Specials, while satisfying to use, reveal all their tricks far too quickly. It bears to be repeated: The lower-level proceedings lack depth.
The technical chops behind the Switch port lie somewhere between what Marvelous originally delivered for Vita and what was upgraded for PS4. When the Switch is docked, instead of opting for a significantly higher rendering resolution over the handheld's display, the differences are more subtle: Characters gain cel-shaded outlines and thereís noticeably better edge smoothing (antialiasing). There is, however, a drop in framerate from the game's PS4 cousin to a locked 30 frames per second. While the Switch has no trouble hitting this target consistently, making everything more than playable, it's hard to shake the feeling that the gameís fast-paced combat isnít as deliciously fluid as it could have been.
Meanwhile, Marvelousí inclusion of all DLC (plus one exclusive item) grants access to a few dozen character costumes, each with their own accompanying character portraits. As with the lore-heavy narrative and story, Fate fans will probably find a lot more to appreciate there. The PC version does not include any DLC but itís worth noting itís slightly cheaper to compensate.
Fate/Extella is a game of two halves. On one side it plays a rather satisfying game of territorial control Ė if this is what you like about Warriors-style games youíll probably get a lot out of it, even if youíre not well versed in all things Fate. On the other hand, the combat is shallow, and the gameís ties with the Fate universe are more entrenched than they were with the PSPís Fate/Extra. While Fate/Extella can easily seen as a love letter to Fate fans, itís also more inviting to the uninitiated than you might expect.