Fate/Extra is Type-Moon's latest role-playing game based on Fate/Stay Night, a Japanese visual novel. Like the visual novel, the game boasts an intriguing story that revolves around masters whose servants do their bidding, and also includes stellar boss fights that bring the story's central struggles to life. Unfortunately, poor exploration and repetitive combat undermine the adventure. The result is a game with more novelty than substance--and more plot than gameplay. You should approach this dungeon crawler with caution.
A handful of abilities help you decimate foes.
Fate/Extra's unique story entices you to keep playing despite some cliches. After 20 years of peace on Earth, an alien supercomputer hidden within the moon has invited you to fight through a tournament for the Holy Grail, a device that grants wishes. The catch is that it's a tournament to the death--and you're a hapless amnesiac. Together with your legendary soul, a magical servant that fights in your stead, you must defeat other masters in weekly elimination battles to survive. Events leading to these fights are particularly interesting, with each opponent challenging you in different ways. Interacting with your servants is also delightful, because you're given three servants to choose from, and each exudes a different personality. The varied dialogue trees also keep things entertaining, prompting key plot decisions that affect the game's ending.
Surviving in this cutthroat world is difficult enough for any participant, but your amnesia severely weakens your servant. If you want to win your elimination match, you have to level the playing field by unveiling your opponent's techniques during the week before the fight. This investigation period is both refreshing and critical: you can unlock enemy secrets in interesting ways, such as by sparring, snooping, or stealing items. Uncovering the enemy servant's identity also reveals part of its attack pattern, which can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
In addition to scouting your enemies, you must do some exploring, but this aspect is severely limited for a dungeon crawler. You're restricted to 14 simple mazes that are a breeze to plow through, and each incorporates dull item fetch quests. Outside the dungeon, the tournament grounds are reduced to a three-story high school, so you may feel disappointed (and claustrophobic) if you're hoping to investigate a big, bold world culled from the visual novel. Fortunately, a few minibosses prevent exploration from becoming completely mindless.
A rock-paper-scissors mechanic generates some strategy in combat. You're given three maneuvers--attack, guard, and break--and each is strong or weak against another. For example, a guard maneuver counters any attack, while a break cuts through a guard. Though simple, this system hides most of your enemy's maneuvers, so you have little idea what a monster is going to do and how to plan around it. You're also limited to six maneuvers per turn and can issue commands--including heal spells--only at the turn's start. These restrictions turn combat into a guessing game that encourages you to memorize enemy attack patterns. Your servant unlocks pieces of these patterns the more often you fight a monster, which prevents the task from growing too overwhelming.
Prayers go up, and blessings come down.