If you’re a fan of the Fate series and have been following many of the games and anime for a while, then you’re probably going to enjoy Fate/Extella Link more than the average person. Fate/Extella Link brings together 16 heroes from Fate/Extella: The Umbra Star and adds new characters from throughout the Fate series. The lore of the Fate universe is also expanded upon, with new details that fans of the series will appreciate, but others not too familiar with Fate/stay night and The Umbra Star will be pretty lost. But can you still enjoy what’s here on Nintendo Switch if you aren’t immersed in the lore of the series? Yes, but not everything is as polished as it could be.
The story of Fate/Extella Link is divided into a number of mission branches, which have multiple endings and alternate paths as you progress. The story is full of fan service that will go over anybody’s head if they aren’t familiar with the rest of the series, as well as many plot details that seem a little out of nowhere. Knowing who the heroes and villains are is straight forward, but many of the nuance details can definitely get lost easily. You (as the Master) can select and avatar and lightly customize it for how it appears in-game, but there’s very little else story-wise that comes into play with it. The characters you actually control are called Servants, and they are the various heroes from the Fate series that aid you in battle.
Gameplay isn’t complex and mimics a lot of what you might find in the Dynasty Warriors games from Tecmo Koei. You battle through legions of enemies and occasionally fight a stronger opponent that appears in battle to stop you from capturing territory. Playing through the story mode is straight-forward and repetitive, especially when most missions require you to capture areas over and over again.
Some missions will mix things up by having you protect someone or fight one big boss, but these are few and far between over the course of three main playthroughs of the story. There are multiple endings you can unlock, but they can only be reached once you finish the game the first time and complete the subsequent missions related to them. This adds a lot of replayability, but don’t expect much to be different on your second and third playthroughs.
In-between missions, you can roam a small hub and navigate through some menus to customize your Servants and their equipped skills. There is a light sim-game element to this, which allows you to build relationships with your Servants and increase their effectiveness in battle. This only helps to open up new slots for equipping skills and having the computer protect you in battle when you’re using a different character. There are many playable Servants, each with their own combos and special abilities for combat, but they all primarily play similar.
Taking out hordes of enemies and defeating key baddies is what you’ll be doing with everyone every time you enter a mission, so the variant fighting styles doesn’t go very far here. There’s also a number of additional abilities you can equip your avatar called Mystic Codes, which are extra abilities to help boost or assist your Servants in battle. They’re limited to use, but can give an extra edge to tough situations.
The biggest issues in Fate/Extella Link come from the camera and the frame rate. As more enemies and crazier effects appear on screen, the camera can get obscured easily and the frame rate plummets very hard. Some missions will have you constantly struggling to get a good fix on the action while anticipation attacks from enemies around you. It doesn’t help either when the hit boxes for most attacks from enemies can look very off in most situations, leading to you taking damage. Things get pretty hectic and even bring the action to a screeching halt when you try the big special attacks Servants have access to.
When you build up enough meter from taking down smaller enemies, you can unleash a massive attack that obliterates most enemies on screen. However, you need to stop everything for a short cutscene showcasing the attack. Although this can be skipped each time you do it, it breaks the pacing of every mission and can make some sections with bosses feel like an absolute joke. Need to take out more than five tough enemies to capture a territory, using this attack practically gives it to you with little to no effort whatsoever.
After playing through the story, there are some extra modes to explore. Extra Battle lets you replay some missions with harder criteria and tougher enemies. You’ll need to reach the level requirements and complete the right missions before taking them on though, so most of them will be inaccessible until you finish the game at least once. Completing them only gives some rewards in the Gallery, so not everything is worth the effort unless you’re a completionist. The other mode is local and online multiplayer, which is a very big hit or miss. Playing locally allows you to connect with other Nintendo Switch consoles for multiplayer matches, while going online lets you match up with others over the internet.
Both modes are mediocre despite the variety in matches you can join. Connecting with other players online can be boring as you wait for at least one person to join a game, which ends up becoming you against AI bot characters when nobody joins. This can take up to a few minutes per match, especially if nobody is online, and just end up being as if you were playing one of the single player modes.
If you do manage to connect with others online for a match, there are a few variant game-types to play. But each match type has the same issues regardless of what you get thrown into, massive latency and camera problems when in battle. Most of the time, you’ll be getting hit by attacks that either seem invisible or connect out of your field of view, leading to many quick deaths and respawn wait times as you struggle to contribute to a match. Whether this is more of an issue with the connections of players or the hosts, matches online are not that fun.
Fate/Extella Link is an okay game for fans of the Fate universe. It has some good fan service in the story mode and many playable characters that will be recognizable from the series. Outside of this however, the experience is rather shallow and brought down by a number of camera problems, poor design choices, and bad online multiplayer. Those not into the Fate universe may want to look elsewhere for a fun time, but fans who have played the games up to this point may also struggle to look pass the many problems that occur.
This review was based on a digital review code of Fate/Extella Link for the Nintendo Switch, provided by XSeed Games.