The Fate series is known for strong storytelling, and their mobile RPG entry Fate/Grand Order (FGO) continues the tradition. One of the game’s main draws is bringing together summonable servants (legendary historical figures) from all Fate series, from the ubiquitous Saber from Fate/Stay Night, to servants from spin off series like Archer of Red (Atalante) from Fate/Apocrypha, and even F/GO originals like Shielder (Mash Kyrielight). Even for those without sentiment towards Fate, the colorfully character centric gameplay make for a compelling single-player adventures.
Fate/Grand Order(FGO) has two main parts to its gameplay: Battles and Visual Novel segments.
Although the battle system may seem overwhelming for new players, it quickly becomes intuitive. Like many RPGs, battles are turn-based. Players command their three on-field servants at any time with a combination of activating skills and choosing basic “command card” attacks. Once servants fully charge their Noble Phantasm (NP) gauge in combat, they can unleash their NP to turn the tides of battle (or farm a wave of enemies). Even though the combat system is surface-wise simple, ardent min-maxers still have plenty of room for strategic depth with all the choices before and during battle.
For better or worse, there is no PvP or competition in F/GO. The biggest interaction with fellow players is using their friends’ support servants. As a result, the experience is mostly single-player driven. There is no “meta” to constantly chase for climbing PvP rankings, and power creep is kept to a minimum. Every servant has the potential to reach level 100, and many older servants are even buffed as well.
Reflecting on Fate’s roots, visual novel scenes deliver the vast majority of the game’s storytelling. Fate treats new players to lively interpretations of how their favorite heroes and legends interact with each other. Meanwhile, Fate veterans experience an expanded Nasuverse, with twists like befriending Fate/Stay Night’s Lancer Cu Chulainn as a Caster.
The main chapters of gameplay take place in “Singularities,” with a complete story for each singularity. Additionally, events will typically have their own stories as well, furthering the variety of stories available.
The elephant in FGO’s room is the infamously abysmal 1% SSR summon rate. SRs come at a 3% rate for a total of a 4% chance at pulling a golden servant, comparing poorly to games like Fire Emblem Heroes (FEH) which have a 6% base of pulling an SSR. The summoning pool is also diluted with Craft Essences (CE), equippable power-ups that also come in S, SR, and SSR rarities, with a combined 56% of obtaining a CE instead of a servant. At 57 cents/Saint Quartz (SQ) at best and 3 SQ per summon, whaling can get quite expensive.
On the bright side, common units are more than capable of clearing standard content, while some events will also gift free SR “welfare” servants as well. FGO is also decently generous with SQ, and gives out SQ and summoning tickets frequently throughout the quests, login bonuses, events, and campaigns. The only real difficulty is going for specific, popular, limited time SSR servants like Gilgamesh, whom cannot be summoned outside of special banners.
Similar to the SSR summon rate, in-game materials required to strengthen servants are another source of frustration for some players. Rare materials are often very difficult to obtain outside of events, leading to some players being “mat-locked” for periods of time. However, materials become less of a problem as players continue to play through events and develop their teams.
Another pain noted by many is the poor optimization of FGO. While most anyone with a flagship/recent enough android/iOS device can play FGO comfortably, the official listed minimum requirements may still struggle with certain special effects/NP animations. This may be a turnoff for those with lower-spec phones. Emulators were also banned as well, unfortunately reducing options to “getting a better phone”. This potentially adds another cost if the player does not already have a strong enough phone.
The FGO team has extremely high production values. Aside from Type-Moon Illustrators like Takashi Takeuchi and Wada Arco, famous illustrators like BUNBUN of Sword Art Online fame, or Komatsu Rui of Danganronpa renown have drawn servants and CEs for FGO.
The voice actor list is similarly star-studded. Not only do the original Fate/Stay Night voice actors reprise their roles (i.e. Ayako Kawasumi voicing Saber/all other Altria variants), but fellow legends like Miyuki Sawashiro (Saber of Red), Maaya Sakamoto (Ryougi Shiki), and Koyasu Takehito (Hans Christian Andersen, or Dio from the JoJo series) work with the illustrators to bring servants to life.
After the initial release, the standards for servant animations continually increases. Every new servant has fantastic unique attack animations, while the release servants have slowly been receiving animation updates as well. The general bar for Noble Phantasms is typically epic and awe-inspiring; servants like Gilgamesh even have their theme playing as well. At the current level in JP, a lot of the NP animations make players sit back and go, “Damn, that’s cool.”
Speaking of themes, the initial set of background music is unobtrusive but doesn’t have the same stylistic properties compared to the visual novel or a game like Fate/Extra. There also is a lot of repetitive/non-unique music use within the first few orders. Like with most issues, the music eventually becomes a lot more involved and notable. Sometimes they even feature remixes of themes from Fate/Extra and other series.
Also worth mentioning is the smooth UI. The menus are simple, clean and intuitive, without being obstructive as well. Buttons have good accessibility, and players need not worry about misclicks on smaller phone screens.
As mentioned earlier, FGO is decently generous. Collecting all the daily logins and doing the weekly missions yield 6 SQ and one ticket per week, with five tickets available per month in the shop for a nominal in-game material fee.
New content is consistently consecutive, be it story, event, or campaign. Events tend to run for two weeks at a time, allowing players to go through them at their leisure. Rarely will nothing be happening in FGO, and even then players can focus on strengthening their servants in preparation for the coming events. The reward curve is also pretty well paced: casual players can achieve the significant prizes of an event like welfare servants without a ridiculous time sink, while hardcore players can clear the entire shop for useful extra materials. The only downside is that farming can feel repetitive at times, with the charms of your servants to mitigate the feeling of tedium.
As noted earlier, the developers are continually pushing out new content at a good pace. They are very committed to improving the game, and despite already seeing many of the Quality-of-Life changes from JP on launch, NA will continue to see the improvements FGO has made since release. The game has been running strong for two years on the JP server, and the NA team has stated their commitment to making FGO "the central hub for TYPE-MOON projects” in North America.
Although FGO certainly isn’t a perfect game, the overall amount of care and heart put in certainly carries through to the players. With high production values and star studded servants, the depth of story behind each character is sure to delight Fate veterans and new players alike. Although the game is already pretty decent, NA players who stick around will see its evolution into the phenomenon it is today in Japan.
|Company||Aniplex of America|