The Fate/ series can be overwhelming. There are different storylines to follow, even though certain characters may appear in multiple installments and timelines. Fate/Extella has attempted to be one of the more accessible spin-offs, at least in gameplay, if not story, and now Fate/Extella Link is here to continue the story that began in Fate/Extra. Fortunately for both newcomers and returning fans, this entry both fixes problems from Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star and tries to help people wade into the depths of its lore.
Fate/Extella Link picks up not long after Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star left off. Your avatar, who won the Holy Grail War in Fate/Extra, is finally enjoying some hard-earned peace. The conflict from the previous game has ended, with the Velber threat gone, the player ruling the Moon Cell and SE.RA.PH, and Nero, Tamamo, and Altera all living peacefully together in a virtual version of Rome. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last. An unknown threat has surrounded the city, Oraclized (brainwashed) versions of new and old Servants are leading the attack, Altera has been "summoned" somewhere, and Rex Magnus is attempting to have a potentially devastating wish granted.
Fate/Extella Link has an interesting tale to tell, and it is one that benefits from not being as mysterious as Fate/Extella‘s and having a recent prequel to point to.
It is a lot to take in, especially since Fate/Extra CCC was not released and it has been almost a decade since Fate/Extra appeared. Fortunately, this installment handles recent events in such a way that players are encouraged to not sweat the small stuff and a new Saber class Servant, Charlemagne, acts as a guide to current events. It pretty much establishes at the outset that people should know things are originally a-okay. You’re ruling this virtual world, filled with NPCs who look to you for safety. These Servants are adaptations of historical and legendary figures and are 100% devoted to you, their master. But now, an incredibly powerful bad dude is here and in need of a curb-stomping.
Not to make it seem like the story is unimportant. Fate/Extella Link has an interesting tale to tell, and it is one that benefits from not being as mysterious as Fate/Extella‘s and having a recent prequel to point to. However, it comes across as more straightforward since there isn’t the burden of getting people up to speed that the previous game had to shoulder. We can jump in, play, and enjoy, something that suits a Musou-style beat’em up very well. (The Extra Battles, supplemental one-off missions, are also great for getting in and playing quickly in a no muss, no fuss situation.)
The basic gameplay remains largely the same. You start by selecting a mission and its difficulty level. In each one, players are dropped onto a map and directly control one Servant, though others appear alongside as AI-controlled allies. Servants have standard light and heavy attacks, as well as various special attacks that can be more devastating. However, lots of quality of life changes make the cycle of fighting through missions, enjoying some exposition, interacting with Servants and repeating more entertaining. For example, the major Noble Phantasm attacks don’t need Phantasm Circuits. You just need to beat a lot of enemies up. More Active and Install Skills are available, allowing allies to enjoy support and your avatar to be more useful in a fight. In fact, the Code Casts your avatar can use to aid a Servant even makes that fighter like you more.
These changes mean Fate/Extella Link is more interesting tactically. Environments offer more variety, instead of all having a sort of sameness to them. In the previous game, your avatar was sort of around during a fight, thanks to a Regalia Ring the Servant would wear. Now, "you" are on the map, however as a sort of sitting duck in one of the map’s sectors. A Servant in that area’s skills will have a lower cooldown rate, but your avatar is defenseless and will cause a Game Over if they die. This means you have to be aware of enemy movements, to make sure Oraclized Servants aren’t heading there to attack. There are also now supplemental missions that can come up during a mission that could require you to do something like wipe out specific enemies. This means winning isn’t as simple as taking control of all areas in a stage. Travel even can be a little more convenient, since a Command Spell can let you teleport your Servant to a specific area for a quick save. It all feels a little more thoughtful.
Speaking of thoughtful, a lot more care has gone into offering people more diverse and meaningful Servant encounters in Fate/Extella Link.
Speaking of thoughtful, a lot more care has gone into offering people more diverse and meaningful Servant encounters in Fate/Extella Link. There are now 26 different Servants to choose from, with more men and women available to control in a fight and get to know. When the game begins, you can start interacting with Nero, Tamamo and Charlemagne. This is a big deal, since the original Fate/Extella only had three women as the initial servants. When you aren’t fighting, you have an actual hub space to explore, where these Servants hang out. You can choose who follows you around there, visit an apartment complex where all of your accumulated Servants will eventually live and be ready to socialize, and hang out with your favorite Servant to talk in your room. It is very much Fate/ fanservice, but feels like it isn’t as blatant as before, given a little more natural relationship progression through both conversations and in-battle actions and opportunities to talk in your safe space.
Equally considerate is the inclusion of multiplayer. Yes, you can actually play with other people this time around! This is generally a necessity in beat’em up games, but somehow was absent in Fate/Extella. Fate/Extella Link has four on four matches where you go online and face off against other players to take and maintain control. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this ahead of launch, so I can’t speak to how well it is handled, but the fact that it is there at all is very much appreciated. People interested in King of the Hill style matches may want to give it a try, especially since it seems there are spaces for two more sorts of maps.
In a way, you could look at Fate/Extella Link and see it as being what Fate/Extella should have been at launch. Battles are less repetitive, due to their variety, additional objectives, and better pacing. There are more Servants available, which leads to new fighting styles to use and relationships to explore. The story is easier to digest, thanks to less of a need for explanations and more chances to live in the moment. Plus, having the multiplayer option may end up adding more longevity to the game. There are a lot of improvements to appreciate here.