Game Reviewby Richard Eisenbeis,
In a world where magic has all but died, the Moon Cell and the world within are humanity's last salvation. After many battles, the Holy Grail War waged within is over and peace has come to the Moon Cell. Inside, humans from earth, NPCs, and heroes from myth and legend known as “servants” inhabit the ever expanding lands within.
Yet, a new threat has appeared on the horizon--one with the power to turn any servant into an enemy. But just as this mysterious new enemy wages a surprise attack, a new servant comes to the aid of the Moon Cell's Master: the heroic knight Charlemagne. Together with allies new and old, the Master and Charlemagne must battle to save the Moon Cell or accept a fate worse than death.
Fate/Extella Link is set in the same general continuity as the past games in the Fate/Extra series--Fate/Extra, Fate/Extra CCC, and Fate Extella. However, despite this, it is not a direct sequel to the previous game, Fate/Extella--well, not exactly.
Extella Link is set in a timeline where some of the events of Extella took place--namely the discovery of the Umbral Star, the destruction of the Titan Altera, and the resurrection of Altera as a cute child. However, unlike in Extella, Archimedes played no part in those events--making for a more peaceful resulting timeline overall.
This disconnect from the epic adventure that came before in Extella means that, plot-wise, Extella Link feels more like a low-key side story than anything else. While the threat facing our heroes is tangentially related to the Umbral Star, it is in no way the direct cause.
Magnus Rex is a mysterious servant who has appeared as if from nowhere and has conquered the vast majority of SE.RA.PH before our heroes are even aware of his existence. Using his various Noble Phantasms, he is able to brainwash any servant he comes across. But even worse, it's not like he turns them into mindless dolls. Rather, they think and act exactly as before except that they now have absolute loyalty to Magnus Rex.
Facing an army of friends-turn-foes, it's up to Nero, Tamamo, and Nameless to battle across SE.RA.PH, protecting those who live in the virtual world from the invading army and rescuing any servants trapped behind enemy lines who have yet to be indoctrinated.
Taking place over the course of seven days--and thus seven battles--there are three routes through the story. Two of these are available from the start and either can be seen the first time through the story. The third route, is only available when you've already seen both of the other endings. Each route explains different things about the overall threat of Magnus Rex and shows the different ways our heroes work to counter him.
While the main story is somewhat lackluster compared to what has come before, it is still filled with all the fanservice that Extra fans are craving for: namely all the various character interactions. The playable cast is now at 26 (up from 16 in Extella) and each have many short conversations with the Master you can watch. These conversations are unlocked by bonding with the servant by completing their various missions in battle.
You are also able to take your currently partnered servant with you around base camp and talk to the other servants in your army. If the two servants have some previous relationship--like Cu Chulainn and Scathach or Charlemagne and Astolfo--you'll get a special conversation.
On the gameplay side of things, Fate/Extella Link is mind-numbingly easy on the default difficulty. In all my time playing, I never once got any ranking other than the best possible when graded at the end of each story mission. (I even got an Ex rank easily on a post game EX mission where the enemies were 42 levels stronger than me.)
There are more than a few reasons as to why the game is so easy. The first is the enemy AI. While there may be dozens of enemies on the screen at any time as you work through the Dynasty Warriors-style levels, the vast majority of the enemies never even attempt to attack. Only aggressors, shadow servants, and servants provide a threat--no matter how minor that threat is.
However, the fact of the matter is that even those types of enemies I just mentioned almost never get the chance to damage your character. This is because of the basic gameplay loop. Every time you enter an enemy-controlled area, you locate the first aggressor or servant and begins spamming skills. Each character has four skills equipped at any time and each skill takes a few seconds to use. As there is a cooldown of between 10 and 20 seconds--you're more or less able to use skills non-stop on most characters.
This is just the start of it. Killing enemies powers up your Moon Drive gauge. When the Moon Drive gauge is full, you use it--powering up your attacks for a few dozen seconds. But even here, you just continue the pattern from before: you continue to spam your skills. Though, instead of powering up your drive gauge, when the Moon Drive is active you power up your noble phantasm instead. You can also do a special attack by pressing the drive gauge button again before it completely depletes.
Yet as you play, the game only gets easier. After you beat the game once you are able to use any servant you have unlocked in the story--regardless of whether it make sense in the plot or not. This includes the stupidly powerful top servants for each glass. Scathach, Gigamesh, and Artoria have skills that tear through bosses and entire areas like they are nothing. Even hard mode isn't that much harder--it just feels like the enemies have more HP and hit a bit harder.
On a wider scale, the game does its best to keep the Dynasty Warriors-style gameplay as interesting as possible. Rather than simply go area to area, conquering at your own leisure, you are continuously confronted with mini-missions that have to be accomplished within a given time limit. It works well enough and does add a bit of tension to the gameplay: Do you have enough time to clear another unrelated area or do you need to clear the mini-mission and continue the level's story right away?
On top of this are the bond missions. To increase your bond with your servants (and see more of their conversation scenes) you have to complete their own randomly generated side missions in addition to everything the level throws at you normally. You'll have up to five of these to accomplish every level.
Bond levels also affect your servants' strength in battle. The higher the bond, the more stat-altering “install skills” you can equip. Likewise, servants with high bond can be equipped as support characters to come into battle on occasion to help the servant you're currently controlling.
But in the whole game, the single feature I am most thankful for is the “Money is Power System.” Money is awarded each time an area is liberated or defended and can be used to make new mystic codes which allow you to give your servant various temporary buffs in battle. However, you probably won't make many of these--you'll find one with the skills you like and keep with it.
The “Money is Power System” allows you to take that unused money and level up any servant to the level of your strongest servant. This makes it super easy to switch to any of the characters as soon as you unlock them with little in the way of downside. Not having to grind xp to continue with the plot with a newly unlocked character is a lifesaver--especially in a a game where a large part of the appeal is to play as your favorite servant.
My other favorite little touch is that if you equip the various unlockable costumes, your servants wear those costumes not only in battle but also in conversation scenes. Sure, it's not all that important in the scheme of things, but it sure does make me smile.
All in all, Fate/Extella Link is unquestionably a step down from Fate/Extella in terms of story. However, that doesn't mean its without its own charms. It has more characters, new conversation scenes, and lots of little quality of life improvements. It's a rather fast-paced Dynasty Warriors-style game that does its best to keep you on your toes with its constantly evolving battles and side missions. If you're looking for any kind of challenge, however, play on hard from the start (though even then you might be disappointed). If, on the other hand, you are just playing to get maximum “umu,” then you should have no problems skill spamming your way to victory on normal difficulty.
Overall : B-
Graphics : B-
Sound/Music : B+
Gameplay : C+
Presentation : B-
+ “Umu! Mikon! Bad Civilization!”
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