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With the PlayStation 4 having established itself on the market for over a year at this point, it’s rare for die-hard PlayStation 3 owners get exclusive new titles. Nippon Ichi’s latest game, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, is posed to deliver a fun dungeon-crawling rogue-like experience to fans who’ve not made the jump to new hardware. How does the sequel to 2013’s The Guided Fate Paradox hold up? Is it heavenly or should it be cast to the Netherworld?
You are high school student Shin Kamikaze. Your parents have long since passed away and you’ve grown weary of being handed off from one relative to another. As a result, you’ve become a loner by nature, content to pass time outside of classes by dozing on the school’s rooftop.
One fateful evening on your way home from school, you’re attacked in a back alley. After identifying themselves as devils, one of them stabs you in the chest. You feel your life fading, but not before witnessing a young lady step in to destroy your assailants.
When you wake up, you’re in an unfamiliar place. Two young ladies introduce themselves to you: the white clad Jupiel and the sable adorned Ariael. You discover that, through a wild course of events, you were brought to Celestia and resuscitated with a crystal that’s been embedded in your chest.
What may be even crazier, however, is the fact that you were revived for one sole purpose, which is to become the god of Celestia and lead the desperate, harrowed angelic forces to victory against the devils and their god.
The story is interesting and the dialogue is serviceable. Much to my surprise, a few characters actually had more than one dimension, too. While the story itself will likely feel sacrilegious to a Christian audience, the game and its narrative do a solid job making the player stop and consider the situations you’ll find yourself in.
Let’s go ahead and deal with the elephant in the room. When I first realized Shin was being set up as the “god” of this Celestia, I was immediately set on edge. Christians typically see it as sacrilegious to ever consider the idea of a human becoming a deity.
While it’s true that the story is geared toward a different audience, I believe there are some important parallels we Christians can make here. Shin is revived by a crystal, while Jesus rose after three days in the tomb. Shin was a human that was killed and sent to become god. Jesus Christ was God, and he willingly left that splendor to become a human so he could die for all mankind.
Beyond the spiritual implications of the game, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum has some other things to keep in mind. The characters regularly use profanity, including Shin who represents the God of Celestia. Several of the female characters are also portrayed with relatively revealing attire. Otherwise, the game features mature themes like death, forgiveness, and accepting the consequences of your actions.
Gameplay in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is set up across three basic phases. First, you’ll have the lead-up story to set up the mission. Second, you’ll actually work through the dungeon. Finally, you’ll have another set of story content. The last story section typically involves forcing the player to choose between a couple of angelic/demonic options. None of the decisions you make will ever be cut-and-dried, though. Many often come with some pretty serious effects and repercussions. Emotionally, you rarely get off lightly.
For the dungeon-crawling portion, if you’ve ever ventured into games like Nethack, Shiren the Wanderer, or Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, then you’ve got a pretty solid idea of how the engaging part of The Awakened Fate Ultimatum will play out.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the genre, you’ll start out each dungeon on the first floor. You’ll traverse the dungeon one space at a time, looking for the stairs to the next floor with the ultimate goal of reaching the bottom staircase. Along the way, you’ll find new gear and plenty of monsters to fight. For each panel you move or action you take, every creature on the floor will also get a turn. Killing monsters will earn experience to level up, granting you access to new skills.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, in terms of gameplay, is with Shin’s ability to swap his power set to angelic or demonic. This sets up an interesting sort of risk-reward mechanic that will have you juggling your skill set to best protect yourself.
Dungeon crawling is entertaining. You’ll have to plan each move, ensuring you don’t misstep at the wrong time and get harangued by a posse of enemies. Unlike other games in the genre, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum won’t completely shatter your progress when you die. You’ll lose everything in your inventory but that’s a beggar’s penance compared to complete loss of progress.
One design choice I feel like seriously hurts the overall experience of Ultimatum is its pacing. You’ll spend only a fraction of your time dungeon crawling and the rest will be spent listening to Jupiel, Ariael, and the others. The story has some interesting beats and the game is enjoyable when it’s hitting its stride. It just feels like you have to climb over a lot of narrative to get there.
Ultimatum gives players a good set of options for progressing through the its skill tree. The sense of power you gain from each node you access is palpable when facing down new foes. The game also shakes things up by throwing new enemies at you throughout the game, which helps keep things interesting.
The game’s presentation can be both enjoyable and staggering. The dunegon-crawling sections of the game have a fun, simple art style to them. This helps keep things lighthearted, even when the situation can be bleak. It feels like a lot more firepower could’ve been applied to the graphics here, though. Your dungeon-crawling also rarely reflects any aspect of the story.
The game’s extended narrative sequences are told using drawn anime figures that are essentially cardboard cutouts. When you’re sitting through hours of narrative, it can seriously hamper the experience. It’s a shame, too. A little animation could have gone a long way here.
To the game’s credit, the voice acting is great. Each character delivers their lines with appropriate inflection and emotion. The music is enough to get by, but there’s not really anything noteworthy on the soundtrack.
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is a solid dungeon crawler with a few issues. The game is weighed down by a slow narrative accentuated by un-animated storyboard visuals. Past that, however, Ultimatum has great voice work and fun dungeon crawling that will keep you busy for hours. While The Awakened Fate Ultimatum lacks the chops to score with the general populace, it will serve dunegon-crawling fans craving exposition well.
Review copy provided by NIS America.
The Bottom Line
A dungeon-crawler with a LOT of cardboard cut-out storytelling.