I like to go into games without expectations – I find that it allows me to more holistically enjoy the unique experience that particular team of developers crafted for me. I’ve been burned enough times to know that preconceived notions do little more than set you up for disappointment, so it’s best to avoid them if at all possible. Luckily, that mindset was the best form of preparation I could do for a game like The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, as it’s unlike anything I really would have predicted in both good and bad ways.
This is no more apparent than it is during the games opening scenes. Our hero, one Shin Kamikaze, awakes (get it?) from a strange dream in the opening moments, as a lot of JRPG protagonists tend to do. It was a dream all about his fate and his destiny and other buzzwords often seen in “Chosen One” fiction. After getting mugged by some thugs with wings, an angle revives you and takes you to see her demonic/angelic/red-and-black-themed-instead-of-blue-and-white-themed friend. Turns out, you’re literally God. Or something.
Typically this sort of stuff would just be background noise – the type of quest text you skim to just get back to the action – but that’s not really possible in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum. Sure, you can technically skip all of the dialogue if you want, but at that point you’ll just be mashing X for the majority of the game. The voice acting is, in a word, awkward, and the writing itself wasn’t exactly doing it any favors. I say this as a person that has an affinity for Japanese games and media – something constantly feels off about the interactions and makes me cringe in the same way Time and Eternity once did.
Luckily though, the game doesn’t entirely take place in dialogue boxes – although the lengthy introduction could fool you into assuming so. Once you’re out exploring dungeons and sifting through treasure chests, things start to pick up a bit. Everything is mapped out on a grid, so you make every movement one tile at a time. Enemies in the environment operate the same way, so you’ll find yourself in some really troubling situations if you get surrounded. While you’re playing, you’ll also come across situations that require you to make decisions that have effects on your player’s progression in terms of not just narrative implications, but gameplay implications as well.
Whether or not this game is worth dusting off your PlayStation 3 for is an entirely subjective question. If you played and loved this game’s predecessor, The Guided Fate Paradox, then there is a decent chance that you’ll find some pleasure in revisiting this world. However, in most regards, it feels like a rushed sequel with a watered down approach to all aspects of the experience. With that being said, it does have that trademark NIS America feel, so if you typically enjoy their brand of Japenese gaming, this could be up your alley.
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum isn’t really a bad game, but it’s far from great. On the one hand, it’s a refreshingly challenging dungeon crawler with unique gameplay elements that don’t feel overdone in recent years, but on the other hand the sloppy and awkward narrative often gets in the way of what could have been an otherwise interesting adventure. More than anything, I sense the potential that resides at the heart of this game, and it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t more fully realized.
This review is based on a digitally downloaded copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by NIS America.