Fate/Samurai Remnant Impression
The engaging character interactions are the most enjoyable part of the game so far, but Saber’s excitability definitely stands out.
Although never perhaps breaking into the mainstream, Type-Moon’s Fate franchise has enjoyed decent sustained success over the years. Original visual novel Fate/stay night has spawned numerous successful animated adaptations, as well as both a prequel and sequel. Various spin-off games have also come, including Fate/Extra and Fate/Extella, as well as the highly popular Fate/Grand Order mobile title. Now the series is the recipient of action RPG Fate/Samurai Remnant, developed by Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force, famed for its Musou titles and more recent adaptations of its brand of action into other franchises. Ahead of Fate/Samurai Remnant’s worldwide release next month, RPGamer was able to play through the game’s prologue and first chapter on a PC build, covering around four hours of gameplay.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is set in a version of historical Japan in the 4th year of the Keian Era (1651 CE), with players controlling swordsman Miyamoto Iori. The adopted son of Miyamoto Musashi, he lives in the Asakusa district of the capital Edo, eking out a living doing various odd jobs for the people. The game throws players into some action straight away, as players fend off shadowy attackers, introducing them to the basic control scheme, before leaping back a few hours in time to show the events leading up to the attack, the most important of which is a mark appearing on Iori’s right hand. After being overpowered and about to be killed by his assailant, a mysterious young woman appears to block the strike and unleash her own powerful attacks on the foe, resulting in some widespread destruction but saving Iori as the attackers flee.
As Iori comes to grips with events he learns that the swordswoman, who refers to herself as Saber, is a Servant while he himself is a Master in the Waxing Moon Ritual. A version of the Holy Grail Wars shown in other titles, the ritual sees seven Masters selected and each assigned a Servant — heroic spirits from the past — who fight it out to emerge victorious, with the prize at the end being the granting of a wish. It’s a familiar setup for the series, with the early stages of Fate/Samurai Remnant offering some clear references to other timelines and worlds as well as other notable aspects of the series. For example, Miyamoto Musashi’s Servant form is clearly noted as being a female version from another world, having memories of that world’s Iori but retaining fondness for the version of this world. The game also introduces the concept of Rogue Servants, additional Servants summoned without a Master who can lend their aid to those they wish and who get their own sidestories. The game states all of its premises plainly so newcomers won’t be lost by anything going on, but there are lots of references and hints to other titles for veterans, particularly when some of the Rogue Servants reveal themselves.
Fate/Samurai Remnant’s narrative has strong potential with the historical setting blending well with the supernatural elements, while the cast of characters is nicely varied and has plenty to make them interesting. There are times it feels like players are getting dragged along as the characters often jump to conclusions about what to do and where to go next, so any potential early senses of dread are quickly resolved. This at least means the story moves along at a decent pace, and allows Saber’s general enthusiasm to go out and about and her excitability at seeing advancements and changes in Japan since her time to become infectious. The Japanese voice acting is strong and does a good job working with the engaging character interactions that are the most enjoyable part of the game so far, but Saber’s excitability definitely stands out.
The story is progressed by wandering around the various districts of Edo. The direction to the next plot point is very clearly marked, though players are rewarded for exploring. Each area has its own set of optional tasks, such as defeating enemies found in certain locations or petting all of the dogs and cats, which convey rewards such as additional skill points, and stores that stock restorative food or crafting items. The game’s graphical style is well done and does a great job making each district look different to others, though the areas shown early on are often lacking in memorable landmarks and there are a very limited number of enemy models. The build runs nicely on Steam Deck provided it’s kept on graphical mode, as performance mode results in significant slowdowns, especially during combat.
Combat is clearly drawn from Omega Force’s Musou base, with basic combos of regular attacks usually ended with a heavy attack, and features three difficulty settings that can be swapped between. However, there’s a greater focus on taking on specific enemies and avoiding their attacks rather than straight out racking up combos and simply overpowering them. While players will often encounter groups of mooks, the meatier encounters involve one or a few strong enemies to focus on. Players control Iori, while Saber fights primarily independently. Thanks to the talking grimoire he somehow has for an ally, Iori has access to magic spells that can used by picking up gems dropped by enemies, as well as plenty of options to team up with Saber in combat. Saber can use special attacks provided the relevant gauge is sufficiently charged from actions in and outside of combat, as well as occasionally prompting team-up attacks activated by pressing a button when in a certain area. Another gauge also allows players to take direct control of Saber in a powered up state and inflict significant damage for a short while.
Iori starts with access to two sword styles, a single-blade and a dual-blade style. Players can switch between these on the fly, but the game encourages players when to switch as after a certain amount of time, switching styles conveys a passive bonus. There are also opportunities to control other characters, with one battle in the first chapter letting players control Miyamoto Musashi, though how much this might extend into the game is currently unclear. There is also a significant gap between the challenge of different battles. Many of the regular battles will cause little trouble, however boss fights are a massive step up and players will need to identify attack patterns and tells while making full use of their array of abilities. Extended combat missions also involve taking on a strategic mini-game, where Iori will advance through leylines to spirit fonts around Tokyo, trying to reach a certain area while using the spirit fonts and leylines. The cases in the preview build act as a tutorial, guiding players through the correct path to take to complete them, which makes it hard to judge how effectively they’ll work in the rest of the game, but they have the potential to provide interesting strategic dichotomy with the regular action.
Sometimes mook enemies will unleash heavy attacks, shown by them glowing red shortly before, which can be countered with a heavy attack, but it can easy to miss the signal when focusing on other foes. The game feels like it glides through combat rather than providing any visceral feedback; there are some visual indicators for attacking, such as enemies glowing after unleashing their attack to signify a good opportunity to strike, but outside of post-special or shield-breaking stuns, there’s very rarely a sense that an attack is having any effect. Getting or dodging regular attacks is also a bit lacking in player urgency, a perfectly timed dodge will allow a counter and heavy attacks will knock Iori over, but it’s also easy to lose a good amount of health without him breaking his stride. There’s also a lot going on the control side of things plus the various gauges related to combat, and it takes a little while to get used to the process unleashing special attacks or switching styles, which requires holding down the shoulder buttons and pressing the relevant face or direction button.
Fate Samurai/Remnant features a traditional experience-based level up system, which automatically boosts base stats, as well as skill upgrade trees. Both Iori and Saber have their own skill trees to work through with individual sets of skill points. Stats can be further upgraded by customising the mountings on Iori’s blades, which also provide some additional passive bonuses as well as being appreciably noted on his character model, changing the sheaths, grips, guard, and decorations. Other bonuses and rewards can be obtained by upgrading Iori’s base using money and items found while exploring and in combat, as well as fulfilling combat related requests from certain townspeople, while a sword polishing mini-game conveys additional experience boosts. While there’s nothing that is staggeringly novel or deep in itself, it all works together well enough to give players the sense of earning something for their time.
First impressions might not light the world on fire, but Fate/Samurai Remnant’s opening section has enough to keep me interested in what lies ahead. The gameplay from the opening portions grants decent entertainment value, though it remains to be seen if it will hold up for an extended time. The early parts of the story certainly did enough get me invested in the full game, thanks largely to the engaging use of its setting and had engaging cast with enjoyable interactions. RPGamers will have the opportunity to uncover what the game holds for themselves on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch at the end of September.
Disclosure: This article is based on a build of the game provided by the publisher.