Fate/Samurai Remnant preview: Tellings of a great anime story with mixed gameplay
Going into a Fate/Samurai Remnant preview, it’s important to first know a quick history of its developer, Omega Force. Although best known for the Dynasty Warriors series, one of the biggest early names in pushing forward the hack-and-slash genre, the Koei-Tecmo-owned studio has also been adding over the years its own spin to games based on other franchises - such as Hyrule Warriors based on The Legend of Zelda and most recently, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes.
A video game entry into the long-running collection of Fate visual novels and anime, Fate/Samurai Remnant is a new spin on the epic battles of the Holy Grail War, this time in 17th-century Japan.
Although this is nowhere near the first Fate game, Samurai/Remant already looks by far to be the biggest in quality and scope. Despite this latest take on a visual novel IP to video game form isn’t perfect, both the Fate franchise’s and Omega Force’s greatest strengths shine through even in just this five-to-seven-hour preview, showing nothing but good things to come.
What is Fate/Samurai Remnant about?
Even for Fate consumers old and new, knowing at least the essential exposition is key for being up to speed on a Fate/Samurai Remnant preview - since there’s a lot of it. Although instead of being called the Waxing Moon Ritual, the Holy Grail War that is the plot of Fate/Samurai Remnant is essentially the same as other titles fans will be familiar with.
In 1651, seven mage masters each summon a servant of differing warrior classes; Saber, Lancer, Berserker, Caster, Rider, Archer, and Assassin; each a fictionalised heroic spirit version of figures known throughout real-world history equipped with legendary strengths and powers. In a war to the death across Edo, 17th Century Tokyo, the last pair or man standing will be granted a wish of their choosing.
Following Miyamoto Iori, a young swordsman who inadvertently summons a heroic spirit of the Saber class, the two must figure out the intricacies of the Wax Moon Ritual, work through their personal issues to overcome the terrifying enemies they face, and hack and slash their way to victory across a war for territory with Edo as the open-world battleground.
Looks good, plays well
With the franchise entries regarded for incredible action and animation quality, especially in anime series like Ufotable’s Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, veterans should be delighted to see that Samurai/Remnant has kept up the standard - likely in part thanks to visual novel IP owner, TYPE-MOON, supervising the project.
Even without the jaw-dropping animated opening animation by CloverWorks, elegant artwork, and enthralling theme song, Zanya Gensou (feat. LICCA and Spiral Radder), Samurai Remnant still boasts epic Fate-level cutscenes that are iconic to the franchise but still stands on their own with stunning visuals and heavy climatic action.
Exploring in the game can also be visually striking in a delightful way, with even some of the colourfully neutral locales having efforts made to make towns colourfully vivid and bustling with life.
The same can be said even more so for the combat, where Fate and Omega Force game fans will surely agree together in unison.
Starting with Iori’s multiple samurai stances of varied uses - those which Ghost of Tsushima players will be quickly familiar with - Samurai Remnant quickly throws a plethora of combat mechanics your way; Earth Stance which is better for single enemies, Water Stance for multiple, Deadly Attacks used by foes, special “Affinity Technique” abilities for Saber, Valor Strikes, Duels, Magecraft spells, breaking enemy gauges, “Link Strike” combo attacks, Noble Phantasm attacks, or the Substitution Gauge to switch out with Saber are all elements of just the combat you’ll need to get used to in the first few hours.
It can feel like a lot at first whilst you’re taking on numerous waves of enemies, including some singular big bosses - with the occasionally clunky camera and finicky target lock feeling like an additional enemy to deal with at the same time.
Nevertheless, even the most basic sword-slashing elements are satisfyingly fast and snappy, with even the lowest-level combos generating awesome anime-style finishing moves to make you feel like a super-powered samurai. As you master the other mechanics and pull off even more stylish combinations with even bigger flourishes; whether as Iori, Saber, or as one or two surprise reveals allow; you’ll feel even more god-like.
Great leads for an Edo Holy Grail War
Interweaving the drama, strategy, and societal intricacies around each Holy Grail War and its era, the Fate franchise usually excels at balancing the three together. During this first look deep dive, Fate/Samurai Remnant is certainly setting the stage to do so again albeit with a couple of drawbacks unique to its medium.
Fate fans will quickly get to grips with the significance of mentioned key names and tropes they’ll have heard and seen before, but amongst these opening hours’ frequent and heavy exposition drops, the essential info that newcomers would need to understand what’s going on doesn’t come in until at least a few hours in - likely making some narratively lost in the meantime.
Needing to introduce additional RPG exploration and gameplay mechanics as well only adds to that padding. Be that as it may, watching the early unfoldings of the story between Iori, Saber, and its other characters is more than engaging enough to keep you going in the meantime.
As the straight-man to bounce off the charismatically larger-than-life characters, especially Saber’s brash but wide-eyed enthusiasm for a new world as a woman out of time, Iori looks to serve as a typical no-nonsense protagonist who’ll be better to watch as he develops throughout the story’s unfolding.
All the while their charming back-and-forth light comedy is blended into exploration to further liven up the treks from one checkpoint to the other, Saber’s own beginnings to her arc in the game are already charming to watch - made even better by the high-quality Japanese voice-acting.
In moments where you can gain more health and skill points by interacting with her to optionally sate her curiosity about a new era which is modern to her, you won’t hesitate to watch every extra lovable cutscene unfold.
Not fond of Spirit Fonts
An action-heavy open-world RPG, Fate/Samurai Remnant has also appeared to have put just as much emphasis on the latter as the former, with pros and cons that can typically come with standard additions to the genre depending on the player’s perspective.
In addition to upgrading your skills for boosting stats, gaining new skills, and unlocking new spells, and side missions, there’s a load of added systems for you to consider. For example, each area has Local Trials by earning rewards for certain requirements such as performing combat feats or simply petting cats and dogs around town.
Grinding for money and crafting materials through the many side activities can then go towards other areas like upgrading your katanas or your home base, although the steps to do so can feel like busywork depending on your preferences.
However, like the mini-game around sword maintenance that can boost your EXP gains, a lot of the supplemental content is entirely optional - making proceeding through the campaign less of a chore if that’s how you see them.
Nonetheless, one that couldn’t seem to be avoided and is a drawback is the Spirit Font system: a tactical turn-based map game with its own mechanics that not only pits you against more monsters to fight and boosts your stats but has been essential for proceeding through the story so far.
Turn-based RPG lovers could adore this system, but many who will just want to come for thrilling action and want to see where the plot goes, this is just one step too forward in making the gameplay over-complicated.
By the time you can actually get back to the far more enjoyable combat or interesting cutscenes, it might take you a while to get back into the groove after an overload of being thrown Spirit Font mechanics at you.
As first impressions go, Fate/Samurai Remant has already captured the best of both its series and the niche prowess of the developer behind it. A combination of exhilarating combat and entertaining anime storytelling, Omega Force’s turn with the Fate franchise looks to only get better as we move past the opening hours we’ve seen so far.
Although an arguable excess of added RPG gameplay tropes hasn’t entirely been for its betterment, it’s still hard to not be excited to see where the rest of the story-driven hack-and-slasher goes next in its following chapters.
Previewed on PC