In the Fate/ series, connections are important. The bond between a Magus and Servant can be critical when it comes to winning battles and the war. While this would seem like a difficult property to properly address in Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, a beat’em up involving characters from the series, the game actually attempts to go over this relationship. People are able to interact with their Servants and, while the character development isn’t as complex as it is in either Fate/stay Night or Fate/Extra, it tries to show there’s some sort of connection.
This is most evident in Fate/Extella’s visual novel segments. Between battles, you’re able to visit with the current Servant in their room. There, you can talk with one another. These conversations let you learn more about them, see different event scenes tied to your current bond level and feel like they’re more than some tool you’re using to complete missions. Taking these moments to meet with them, as well as completing specific side missions during the course of a standard mission, is the game’s equivalent of taking an interest in their lives.
The bond levels act as rewards for such interactions. Normally, relationship building isn’t exactly a big deal in beat’em ups. If it exists, it comes across as fanservice. This is absolutely true in Fate/Extella, but here the bonds are more beneficial than knowing a virtual character likes you. Leveling up bonds means you can have more install skills. This means the character you’re using will be stronger. It’s a more tangible form of relationship growth. We’re getting along better, which could mean we’re a more capable team.
While our representative isn’t always present, we’re even given an in-battle option that suggests a level of concern for characters. We’re present in battles, even though our avatar isn’t actually there. The Mystic Codes allow us to have certain program actions that can be used from within the Regalia ring on Servants’ fingers. It shows that there’s a partnership between our virtual representative and his or her companion. With all of the buffs available, it shows a level of concern and desire to work with the Servant to complement their own capabilities.
There is a downside to all this. Fate/Extella does attempt to open our hearts a bit, but it doesn’t really have any negative consequences. All characters’ bond levels can reach 10, even if you’re making all the wrong choices in the segments. Watching seen events in the gallery and choosing different answers shows the Servants will always adore you. This can be unrealistic and a little less fulfilling, but then this is a game where your characters are supposed to be unconditionally loyal and devoted to you. Perhaps it’s fitting that, regardless of your answers, you can enjoy varying degrees of positive responses.
Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star tries to show the unique relationship between a Servant and a Magus. It’s one that could be difficult to understand outside of a game conducive to the bonding experience. While there’s no possibility to really ruin your relationships with bad behavior or wrong answers here, the game does its best to show growth between these characters and ourselves. How well it does depends on how much time you put into the game.