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Friday, November 11, 2011

Fate/Extra - First Impressions

Inverseman and Laevatein over at moar powah! happen to be people I know outside of the internet and it seems that we all pre-ordered and started Fate/Extra with different characters. So as a result, Inverseman suggested we do a collab first impressions of the game as it will be different from each perspective. I personally don't know what's entailed in a "first impression" but I'm guessing that it's just a few paragraphs rather than an 8 page long review. This probably also means that I'm going to have to be very terse and skim over parts like how the game's music was great but the volume balance was bad without being specific....I'll give a full proper review once I finish the game.

Being a huge fan of Type-Moon's "Fate" series, I preordered Fate/Extra the moment I heard about its license in the States. I first heard about this game when it was announced in Japan and cursed my fate that I was still not proficient enough in Japanese to be able to play it without aid. As you know, story means a lot to me and while gameplay is easy to figure out, it's the Type-Moon narration that draws me to this game. 

Fate/Extra's story is as follows. You are a student who attends Tsukimura Acadamy who realizes that your entire life so far has been fake. It was all a pre-screening process to decide who was eligible to participate in the Holy Grail War that was about to start in the world you've been "living" in. The war consists of "Masters" and "Servants." Masters are the main competitors who have the ability to summon a Servant, the soul of a legend, who are catagorized into 7 Classes: Saber, Archer Lancer, Rider, Beserker, Caster, and Assassin. Forming a team, they will compete against other Master/Servant teams to come out on top.

I started this game with a few facts in mind: The main character's gender could be chosen (as it seems popular with all the games nowadays) and there was a choice of 1 of 3 Servants to use throughout the game. Saber, Archer and Caster. Coincidentally, that is also the game's projected difficulty level from easy to hard respectively. Not only having a thing for fox-girls, I also have a general mindset that games should be played on the highest difficulty as the challenge is what makes a game enjoyable but the satisfaction of playing a game using as much skill as possible is what makes it "fun" for me, with the exception of Cheating AI, so I decided to choose Caster and wow, what a difference that made....

Player commands on top. Enemy command list on bottom

Battle consists of simultaneous turns that are broken down into 6 moves. Each side submits a move order and then the battle commences depending on what both sides submitted. Basically, there are one of three commands you can submit per move: Attack, Guard, and Break. In a rock, paper, scissors fashion, Attack beats Break which beats Guard which Beats Attack. If the same command was submitted on a move, two things can happen. Both sides take damage or both sides cancel each other out resulting in no damage. If one side successfully manages to land the superior move 3 times in a row, that side deals an extra blow separate from the turn.

Here is where difficulty comes into play. First off, the player is unaware of what the enemy pattern is. Usually at first encounters, only one move is revealed, which means for a while the player has to guess the other moves. As the battles with the same monster repeat, there's a chance upon victory of having an additional move revealed slowly making battles easier. But what does this mean for Caster?

Most of the battles a physical punch fests. Caster being a magic type follows the general archetype of being weak regarding physical attributes, which mean that this can only spell disaster. Without a doubt, I felt the difficulty of my class rushing at me quite quickly. Having absolutely no information, I basically had to wing it and hope that I took minimal damage during the opening turns. Then by using deduction, I had to memorize my enemies patterns. Basically, by seeing which attacks went through and which attacks clashed or failed, I was able to learn what the opponent used during that move. Early on, weak inductive reasoning worked fairly well because each enemy had very few patterns so revealing key moves allowed me to assume certain patterns. Needless to say, this slowly got harder as I progressed on but luckily monsters of the same type but different tier seem to retain some of the patterns of the previous tier making it less dangerous.


Which is great, except when I mess up because when I do... I'm dead. Literally. If I didn't memorize patterns immediately or figure out which pattern was weighted more early on, I'd be taking hits that remove significant chunks of my HP. One poor turn literally kills me and it's game over. It also doesn't help that when I improve the stats of caster, it makes minimal difference. It also didn't help that early on my caster would do such insignificant damage that battles with normal monsters would last around 5 turns.

When you're getting your ass handed to you by what appears to be two halves of a mechanical cube barely connected together by what appears to be some form of Dark Matter and named "MOONDUST", you've just hit a new low in player humiliation....

According to Laevatein, one of his friends pumped only magic into Caster which I can't say I'm supportive of considering how many battles I'm going to be in with normal monsters. Since Caster has limited MP, and it's much harder to recover MP than HP it would be better for me to balance my stats a bit.

No really, why are you SO weak?
WELL. If you got these kinds of scores on a test, you think you'd be doing well? You know that guy in the background? He's really plotting to kill you.

Still though, this is the kind of difficulty I don't mind. It's a nice challenge and mildly fun knowing that I have to concentrate constantly or else. I will admit though, I have simply ragequitted a few times after nearly clearing an entire dungeon only to be killed by a rare pattern that I didn't take into account for, but it's always temporary. The story is also very interesting and I'm loving Caster's personality and side comments which seems to every so often hint at who she really is, as well as her true wish and reason for being in this war.

Besides that

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