Fate/EXTRA is turned based role-playing game by Type-Moon and Image Epoch, which has been distributed in the UK by Ghostlight, and is based around Japanese visual novel Fate/Stay Night.
Fate/EXTRA takes place within a virtual reality world in which you are fighting in a tournament to gain control of a powerful artifact known as the Holy Grail. The central hub of the game is a high school called ‘Tsukumihara Academy’, where you will be spending a lot of time attending classes and interacting with the various students as you try to regain your lost memories and learn about upcoming tournaments opponents to give yourself an edge in the competition. As you enter this Holy Grail War, you’ll be accompanied by your choice of three loyal servants, each of which have different personalities.
Throughout your time at Tsukumihara Academy, there will be the opportunity to explore the school grounds, including the garden or archery range. Whilst it is nice to be able to wander around and explore, the majority of your time will be spent moving from classroom to classroom, seeing if anyone is in there, interacting with students, wandering corridors and generally have a good nose around. The actual playing area is relatively small and somewhat limited. There are a limited number of dungeons and the school itself to investigate.
The process of investigating and exploring to gain vital information from other students and such is extremely slow and drawn out. There is a lot of dialogue to work through and choices to be made which can lead to dead ends if chosen incorrectly, the consequences of which can be having to restart from a previous save. The game actually suggests that multiple saves are made as you progress through the game, allowing you to back track in required. But having to work through loads of dialogue again and again is frankly off-putting.
When you are not wandering or talking with the various NPCs that you come across, you will be indulging in some combat. The combat mechanic takes a simple rock/paper/scissors formula in which you assign your moves and try to correctly counter the opponents moves. The moves available are attack, guard and break, along with special moves, each of which is strong or weak against another. For example, attack beats break, break beats guard and guard prevents attack. The special moves only have limited uses. So, you have to try and predict your opponents moves and get the right combination, which seemed like a novelty at first, but quickly became repetitive and is based far too much on luck.
The story is quite interesting, but there is such a huge amount of dialogue to work through that the game just seemed excessively slow, preventing me from becoming engrossed in the story or making a personal connection with the characters. The gameplay is split across weeks, during which you have to complete various plot tasks and level your character. The game is linear so you find yourself pushed to wherever you need to go and given the information that you need without too much trouble, but the reality is that you investigate, battle and grind from one week to the next, without a lot of variation.
Fate/EXTRA has a wonderful anime-style to it, which can be appreciated, and the soundtrack is very involving and enjoyable. The story, with its virtual world which has been seen before in other games and popular media, is certainly interesting but suffers from too much dialogue and is far too long winded, with the ridiculously long prologue at the beginning only the tip of the iceberg. There is too much repetition in the conversations, the actions and even the combat. Also, the combat system is too simple and random, I would have preferred to feel in control of combat and my character, rather than have so much of it based on luck.
There may be something here for fans of the Fate/universe, but as the game is a stand-alone story with only the occasional nod towards the visual novel or the other games, the fan service is minimal. For most though, the unsatisfying battles, endless conversations and masses of reading will be too much of a strain. Fate/EXTRA is a dungeon crawler for those who want much more story than actual gameplay.