Review: The Awakened Fate Ultimatum – Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum arrived as a PS3 exclusive sequel to 2013’s JRPG The Guided Fate Paradox, although the premises seem mostly unrelated.
The game serves as a great jump off point for anyone new to the rogue-like genre and totes some interesting ideas, but how far does it go to keep the beast that is the PS3 alive?
The player takes control of Shin Kamikaze, a depressed antisocial protagonist who initially isn’t a very interesting or pleasant individual. On his way home from school one day he is attacked by a group of otherworldly beings — shortly thereafter revealed as demons — and ultimately killed.
He is then resurrected by a group of angels and their demonic prisoner in heaven, where he learns he has received the Fate Awakening Crystal. This is a very powerful item, created by that demonic prisoner, that basically imbues the vessel with the ability to become God himself.
It is also intended to turn the tides in an ongoing war between heaven and hell, in which heaven isn’t quite holding its own. The main character starts off indifferent towards the events taking place around him and is pretty difficult to like in general.
This dynamic between heaven and hell is a major component of the game. The player will often need to make choices; one of the earliest is a choice between whether you should go after a group of demons that have infiltrated the angelic base, or to go tend to the angels that the group has already razed.
The choices seem to result in unique enough scenarios that, if you enjoyed the game, would definitely be worthwhile to see the various outcomes from each choice. These choices basically make way for good or evil paths, so perhaps a bit more nuance here would have been warranted.
Like virtually all NIS games, there is a good helping of comical fan service mixed in to keep things light.
Technically the game fails to impress. Players will watch sharp but alarmingly static anime portraits converse in visual novel style dialogue scenes whenever they aren’t dungeon crawling. A lack of full motion anime scenes and even a lack of varied artwork hold the game back, making several scenes look too similar or boring.
The game does feature the original Japanese audio and English subtitles. The soundtrack mixes orchestral classical sounding music for the dialogue or non-dungeon segments and switches to a more generic video game rock sound for the dungeons and battles.
Shin’s character model is rather boring and the costume doesn’t really change, although you can see certain items you’ve equipped. In general the title just doesn’t present itself in a very polished or impressive way. I could see it running just as well on the PS Vita or maybe even the PS2.
Looks of course aren’t everything — I’d wager they’re less important to me than to most modern gamers. What matters more are the gameplay chops. Lacking meaningful experience with the rogue-like genre, I went in open-minded, not knowing what to expect.
Players control one character and one character only, proceeding through similar looking floors at a slower pace. It may look at first like some sort of real-time system, but you’ll quickly notice that you and the enemies are just taking brief turns with every action you take.
Swinging a sword at an enemy, moving a space, using an item and so on all consume a turn, and the turns happen simultaneously rather than one after the other.
Initially combat is very bare and boring but later becomes more exciting as you unlock various abilities for Shin’s angel and demon forms. Most of the enemies you encounter fall into the angel or demon category, and you deal additional damage if you take the form opposite to your enemies.
Eventually players will be faced with a variety of enemies with a variety of types and abilities. The game is on the simplistic side of things at first, but later once you’re being ganged up on this changes considerably.
In addition, you’ll need to monitor different resources as you progress through the dungeon, which adds a since of urgency the game definitely benefits from.
While dungeon crawling, dungeons floors that should consist of unique designs actually don’t and many of the enemy designs are equally banal.
The dungeons are, however, spiced up with surprise spaces; stepping on a certain space may poison you or give you a brief attack boost. This didn’t do a tremendous amount to break up the monotony but it was something. As you defeat enemies they will likewise drop equipment and items.
In traditional genre fashion, if you’re defeated in a dungeon, you lose all of the goodies you had in your inventory at the time. Of course you have access to storage outside of the dungeon for the stuff you don’t want to lose.
Equipment can be strengthened in a number of ways. You can combine two of the same item to produce a stronger version and you can give equipment various properties by installing gems. There seems to be some considerable depth here, but it also demands a considerable time investment.
As mentioned before, Shin has both angel and demon forms and they must be separately developed. Whenever you make a choice between good and evil, you’ll receive a point in that alignment. The points are used to unlock abilities and attributes on a large grid separated between devil abilities and angel abilities.
You also get lots of neutral crystal points by leveling up Shin, so you can choose to go whole hog with either side or to progress in a balanced way, gradually unlocking angel and demon abilities.
My issues with The Awakened Fate Ultimatum are that it is simply not a very compelling title. None of the characters emerged as particularly interesting to me, especially the protagonist Shin and his journey into remotely likable individual.
The conflict between heaven and hell overall feels just too broad and vague to really compel players to see what happens next.
Gameplay lacks flair and variety; if you aren’t shuffling through menus, equipping gear or adding points, you’re either crawling through the uninspired floors of one of the dungeons or viewing a long-winded dialogue scene with static portraits.
In addition, the inability to freely explore any city or non-dungeon area quickly takes its toll. You can’t talk to NPCs, roam fields, visit shops or do anything else you can in a more fully realized RPG. There is fun to be had by building your character and customizing items for peak efficiency in the dungeons, but these mechanics are not strong enough to carry the game on its own.
If you aren’t genuinely enamored with the choice-based story about playing God in a war between angels and demons, then I’m afraid The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is a hard sell. Trite anime characters and designs, low production values, a monotonous core game and a general lack of variety and depth combine into a title that could only ever appeal to a very small niche.
Even within that niche, though, there will still be more meaningful, higher quality entries than this. If this title isn’t screaming “must have” to you, then you should probably pass it up.