Fate/Extella is a trilogy of games that seems to vary wildly jumping from one game to the next. One of the reasons why there is such a weird disparity between the various games is because of the different developers that end up working on it, but at its core, the series has managed to keep a sense of semblance with its plot, characters, and hack-and-slash gameplay.
Fate/Extella Link is the third chapter in the series that seems to tread on the same path of being a “musou” focused hack-and-slash game. You will be killing hundreds of enemies with a variety of characters across the game’s main story campaign while using their powerful moves and attacks to quickly get rid of any threat. It is a game that follows the formula of traditional Dynasty Warriors series but there are some notable changes in Fate/Extella Link that set it apart from others.
When I reviewed Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, I enjoyed it somewhat because of its story, characters, however, the gameplay was basically a Dynasty Warriors clone at best. Fate/Extella Link has brought back the hack-and-slash gameplay elements. The action now feels faster, battles flow more naturally, and there is some diversity in the mission design so it doesn’t feel as repetitive.
First, let’s talk about the story in Fate/Extella Link. If this is your first game in the Fate series, it is a lot confusing to grasp the story. The game basically throws a lot of buzzwords at the player without explaining most of it in detail so the first reaction will end up as confusing for most of the newcomers. If you take the time to read up on the lore of Fate/Extella, it is a curious world that has its own charm.
In Fate/Extella Link, you play the role of a human who lives his life in the virtual world of SE.RA.PH. If you have played Umbral Star then you might recognize some of the characters that are available in Link in addition to the 10 new ones that bump the total count for the character roster. In this world of SE.RA.PH, humans live along A.I programs called servants, some of which are reincarnations of historical figures known as the Heroic Spirits. There are a total of 26 such Heroic Spirits available in Fate/Extella Link.
The story takes place during a conflict in SE.RA.PH when a new threat appears in the form of a mysterious invader who has the power to control the servants. This threatens the fate of this virtual world and your character has to team up with a new servant named Charlemagne to prevent the end of it. In a typical musou-like fashion, your goal for most of the game is to customize and prepare your servants before taking them into battles, which start with a map that you move around to complete the various goals.
If you are still confused about some of the story abbreviations and keywords, there is a nice glossary in the game available to read any time that should help clear most of the confusion. However, it doesn’t help the story get any better as I felt it was quite weak. Most of the plot details resolve in a visual-novel style static scenes with character portraits and text on the screen. The story itself lacks any excitement and sense of development but thankfully the gameplay is quite good.
The new gameplay addition is given right in the title. It is the link command that lets you team up with your party members and unleash a deadly set of combos on them. Some nice quality of life changes improves the flow of battle like an easily accessible skills system called Active Skills that you can get access to at any point with a button shortcut. They tie to a cooldown system to prevent anyone from abusing them, but if used smartly, they can help keep the battle system fresh.
There are a lot of new playable characters to mess around with in combat, but this comes with a lack of distinct personality for them. You can enjoy playing with them but since they lack a proper narrative, it is hard to feel attached to them. Most of your interactions with these characters will happen at the main hub where you can customize then and have conversations as well. You can complete some side-objectives here to increase your bond with the servants, which in turn means more items, skills, or new types of conversations are unlocked.
Boss battles feel disappointing and don’t offer much variety, but the game does look nice, especially the character models. The environments lack variety though and this is a problem that Umbral Star also faced as well. There are some challenging side-goals that you can attempt during each story mission and while they are tough to complete, they can be finished with a bit of strategy. If you want to test out the gameplay further, there is a multiplayer mode available that only works as a concept. In its current state, it feels unbalanced and simply not as fun as the single-player mode.
Fate/Extella Link Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: History, legend, and sci-fi collide in the latest chapter of the Fate/EXTRA saga! Join 26 Heroic Spirits from all across time as they hack and slash their way across the battlefields of SE.RA.PH, a digital realm for the last survivors of Earth.
Final Score - 7.5/107.5/10
Despite carrying some nice improvements over its predecessor in the gameplay department, Fate/Extella Link offers a disappointing story. Overall though, the combat is fast, easy, and fun to grasp and leads to an enjoyable hack-and-slash game with some charming anime aesthetics.