For the past two weeks, I've only played one game, and that's Fate/Samurai Remnant. Okay, that's not so unusual for a video game reviewer, but I like to have at least one other game on to play as a palate cleanser. But honestly, I didn't want to play anything else other than Fate/Samurai Remnant, which had me hooked from start to finish.
Developed by Koei Tecmo, Fate/Samurai Remnant is a musou title that takes place within the expansive and daunting Fate universe by Type-Moon. If you're a fan of Fate games, yes, this is an absolute must play. And if you're not a fan? You probably will become one after playing this.
Hacking and Slashing Your Way Through the Ritual in Fate/Samurai Remnant
As I described in my preview for Fate/Samurai Remnant last month, this is a musou game. It's more in the vein of Persona 5: Strikers in which encounters are much smaller, and you're not going around taking over enemy strongholds in large-scale battles. The restrained approach is my preferred musou variant, and this gameplay might just be the best the genre provides.
Players take control of Iori Miyamoto, the greatest disciple of legendary Japanese hero Miyamoto Musashi. He starts out capable enough at the start of Fate/Samurai Remnant, but the upgrade system in this musou really gives players a sense of progression and increased power. Iori can switch stances with his swords, each with its own skill set.
Essentially, Iori is multiple characters in one as his separate stances behave in different ways. Water Stance is more fast-paced and quickly slices through multiple enemies, while Wind Stance is a hybrid combining swordplay and magic -- this is more effective against Servants and monsters.
The feeling of switching stances on the fly is satisfying and seamless, so action is fluid. Despite smaller encounters -- you're not slaying hundreds of enemies at a time -- you're still fully engaged in tackling whatever foe Fate/Samurai Remnant throws at you.
While there aren't as many foes packed on screen as other musou games, it makes up for it with large and powerful foes. Fate/Samurai Remnant loves to pit players against monsters and Servants, but there's one particular aspect of these fights that make them a bit less engaging than I'd like. Stronger foes have what is called a Shell Gauge, this can be... tedious.
This gauge acts as some sort of super armor that makes enemies impervious to most normal attacks, with the exception of things like spells, riposte, and servant abilities. There are brief periods of vulnerability after attacks from these enemies, but if you're lacking resources to use spells or other abilities, it's a waiting game.
Your attacks will simply reflect off these enemies, making it quite a burden at times to whittle away the health of these beefier foes. It breaks the flow of combat a bit, and only after quite a bit of time upgrading Iori and my servants was I able to make these fights less of a hassle.
Servants, Side Objectives, and More in Fate/Samurai Remnant
Combat gets a bit more exciting when you switch over to a Servant. By filling a gauge, players can take control of Saber or Rogue Servants. These give you a limited taste of the sheer power of servants, and it's always fun to use them. If only I could play as a Servant the whole time; nonetheless, Iori is more than capable by the end.
Musou button-mashing comprises the bulk of Fate/Samurai Remnant's gameplay, but there are still a few more things that kept me engaged. Various optional side quests, objectives incentivizing exploration and interaction with Edo, and a few mini-games here and there breathe a bit more life into what could have been a repetitive experience.
At various points during the story, there's also a required turn-based mode where Iori and Saber tap into the leylines of Edo. I wish this was utilized a bit more as I'm a big tactics fan, and by the end, I feel like I didn't see this mode as much as I'd have liked. The full potential of it might be realized in future DLC, but we'll have to see.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is a Gripping Tale
In Fate/Samurai Remnant, heroes from history fight head-to-head in what is called the Waxing Moon Ritual, a pseudo-Holy Grail War akin to Fate/stay night. The more intricate details of the ritual are divulged through dialogue to get you up to speed, so whether you're new to the concept of Fate or a returning fan, the narrative serves as a fantastic primer.
There's a great deal of story to Fate/Samurai Remnant, to the point that reading might take up more time than actual combat. That's alright, though, because the narrative had me wanting more and more as I played. This is, in large part, due to the excellent cast of characters.
Iori Miyamoto and his summoned Servant, Saber, are the main duo of Fate/Samurai Remnant, and it's an absolute pleasure to see their relationship develop throughout the game. Saber is reluctant about Iori and often calls him "weak," but to see Saber's perception of Iori and other characters shift as the story progresses is wonderful.
As a main character, Iori is extremely headstrong and dedicated to his ideals. He's not incapable by any means and never wavers in his conviction. It's a fresh take on your typical anime protagonist, where tropes like to portray them as green behind the ears and foolish.
Though, of course, this is a Holy Grail War, so there are plenty of other participants. From the dedicated and righteous General Zheng Chenggong and his witty servant Archer, to the cunning Dorothea Coyett and her nefarious servant Assassin, each cutscene featuring these individuals highlighted new aspects of their personalities and overall character.
Multiple situations will arise where Master and Servant interact with each other, and as is often the case in Fate, these interactions involve multiple groups of individuals. The stakes ramp up, action ensues, and you start to learn just how high-stakes the Ritual is. The dialogue is nothing short of engrossing in Fate/Samurai Remnant.
Of course, I can't forget about the various Rogue Servants in Fate/Samurai Remnant. These masterless Servants are summoned from various periods of history and get involved in the Ritual in their own way. You'll see familiar faces like Ruler and Lancer from Fate/stay night, as well as others notably from Fate/Grand Order.
It's even better to see these Rogues interact with both the regular Servants as well as each other. There's definitely some fan service in Fate/Samurai Remnant, which is to say you'll probably find some of your favorite characters from the series interacting in new and exciting ways.
One Playthrough Isn't Enough in Fate/Samurai Remnant
The story for Fate/Samurai Remnant is, surprisingly, not a one-and-done kind of deal. There are a couple of clear instances where your choices impact the overall narrative of the story, which means there are at least several other endings I didn't see.
Indeed, Fate/Samurai Remnant is a game that merits at least an additional playthrough to experience all facets of the story. It's very evident that all story elements were not tied up at the end of my experience, and I can even recall one Servant I never learned the true name of.
But, even if you were to choose one path and one only, the ending was just satisfying enough for me to be happy with the result. If I were never to pick up Fate/Samurai Remnant again, I'd be fine. But I'm definitely going to play it again. There's more than a few characters I want to learn more about, so I'm itching to jump back in.
Thankfully, Koei Tecmo makes it easy to jump back into the fray with New Game Plus. You can carry over most progress, including side quests and all your abilities and gear. Dialogue you've read from your first playthrough is a different color so you can skip ahead to the newer content. Even better, you have the option to start closer to the first major, divergent choice.
Fate/Samurai Remnant Review | Final Thoughts
While I don't have many qualms with Fate/Samurai Remnant, the graphics certainly didn't leave a great impression on me. I love the art style of Fate and it demands bombastic, over-the-top visuals; for abilities such as Noble Phantasms, this title delivers on that.
For just about everything else -- mostly character models and environments -- the game looks quite dated. Some character models for your more basic enemies look like something from a PS2 game. I'd recommend looking past some of these and focusing on the story and gameplay, since that's clearly where Fate/Samurai Remnant excels.
Don't let a few flaws get in the way of what is, perhaps, the best musou spin-off. I love Persona 5: Strikers and Fire Emblem Three Hopes -- they're some of my favorite franchises in gaming -- but so many elements of Fate/Samurai Remnant make for an absolute blast for fans and newcomers alike.
Fate/Samurai Remnant was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 30 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Engaging Narrative Within the Fate Universe
- Great Sense of Power Progression
- Controlling Servants is Awesome
- A Lot of Content, Including Digressions and Endings
- Shell Guages Mess with the Pace of Combat
- Graphics Aren't Great