The Awakened Fate Ultimatum
The PlayStation 3’s salad days have been a haven for fantastic gaming experiences that are flying under the radar. It’s been a haven for JRPGs and fighting games, and The Awakened Fate Ultimatum keeps the former tradition alive nicely. It’s a dungeon-crawler with a far greater emphasis on plot than any other entry in the genre that I’ve played. It’s a compelling and fun game that gives you a good mix of action with some strategy and a ton of plot built into things as well.
Our adventure begins with the enigmatic Shin being awakened by Eri, who he describes as a loner and an outcast – like himself. She tells him to leave their school’s rooftop before getting locked in. He leaves and is ambushed by a sword-brandishing group of devils who slay him with a sword through the chest. However, he’s saved by a blonde angel who slices them up quickly. In a fairly amusing bit, he describes all of the symptoms he’s having while dying – a bit like Monty Burns after being crushed by a slow-moving robot in a Halloween special and making sure to note a slight headache. She takes him to Celestia and is told that her name is Jupiel, while the “Lab Coat Woman” who greets him upon entering Celestia is named Ariael. He was killed by the attack, but they resurrected him and he’s left bewildered by everything. They leave him to his own devices and he battles enemies in the dream world.
Jupiel helps him after his battles and explains that she was summoned to take him to Celestia since the devils saw potential in him. Ariael tells him that she’s a scientist and her job is to evaluate whether or not Shin is capable of becoming God. Oh, and thanks to the Awakening Fate crystal she implanted in him, HE IS NOW GOD. Devils invade Celestia and he’s clued into the fact that over half of the angel population has been massacred by the devils and they need him to not only save their world, but Earth as well. This game moves at a super-brisk pace, so if the concept of a slow-moving dungeon-crawler has you iffy about checking this out, don’t let it.
The plot moves along nicely and the characters all go through changes that give them real depth. Often-times, you get surface-level shifts in characters that don’t do anything to make you care. Here, the pre-, post-, and even mid-dungeon cutscenes build up the characters. While in theory, the angelic character and devil characters would be white and black, they aren’t – each has a shade of grey as does every other character you meet. Some seem like hardasses and you’re opposed to them, and then time passes and you start to understand their motivations. Plot portions of the game are quite long, but they do serve to make you care about the characters and give you breaks from dungeons. Throughout the game, you’re given difficult choices – one will earn more XP for the angel side and the other more on the devil side, but each can be used to reflect how you want to treat Shin. If you want a harsher tale, then have him side with the devils, while siding with the angels can make things a bit trickier when dealing with devils. While the angel/devil concept may seem religious, it’s more of a morality tale than anything else.
Combat is pretty action-oriented for a dungeon-crawler. You can avoid some enemies, and combat involves hitting X to attack and alternating between your angel and devil forms depending on the alignment of your enemies. Jupiel controls the angel side, while Ariael controls the devil side and talking to each gets you bonuses. If you’re fighting an angel, then devil form does more damage to them than your basic human form and the opposite holds true for being in angel form and fighting a devil. You’ve got a wide variety of stats to keep track of and using a form does wear down one of them, so there are times when you’ll have to go without your form and rebuild it one square at a time in the dungeon.
The dungeons generally have a long way and a short way, with the former allowing you to gain more XP, items, and weapons but also greatly increasing your chances of death. Generally, the first time you go through, you’ll want to go the shortest path possible and then go through the long way afterwards to really run through the competition. Grinding is something you will be doing A LOT OF. There are vacuum enemies who can steal your weapons and while lower-end weapons can be found through exploration sometimes, you can’t rely on that or think that the store will have it or something higher-up in stock.
Generally, you’ll want to do about three or four playthroughs of a prior dungeon to make sure you don’t get killed and be sure to save after every really good run – it can save you a ton of time later on and allow you to keep a good item stash before demolishing an easier dungeon to farm XP and money. The combat system is fun and very easy to learn even with things like the devil/angel alignment to keep track of. The hail-mary item pickups and one-time attack with R3 come in handy when you’re in dire straits and that will happen. In a heartbreaking effort, I was TWO SQUARES away from the exit portal and got killed. I couldn’t believe, but decided to focus on leveling up instead of just trying to tackle the next dungeon immediately.
Visually, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is a nice game to look at. The story scenes have sharp anime-inspired art that allows pretty much every character to stand out visually, and you’ll even see wear and tear on them depending on the scene. In dungeons, you get a super-deformed look that would theoretically be jarring, but isn’t in execution. Animations are smooth enough, yet also fast enough to where you can predict every movement in advance during one-on-one combat – giving you a bit of an edge over your enemies at times.
Awakened Fate isn’t just a feast on the eyes, it’s also easy on the ears. The music is epic with a lot of chanting that really gets your blood pumping. The voice work is also outstanding. Everyone plays their parts with conviction and no one treats anything like a farce. As a result, it’s very easy to take the storyline seriously and do the same for the characters. Everything about the presentation is impressive, and it’s refreshing to see so much effort being put into localizing the game at this stage in the PS3’s lifespan. As a bonus, you can unlock songs and all of the cinematics as you play, so you partake in those whenever you want – they’re a great way to pass the time when you just want to relax a bit.
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is an absolute must-buy for anyone who enjoys dungeon-crawlers. It’s a fast-paced entry in that particular genre with a lot of plot and the best part is that it’s all very compelling. Every major character has a lot of depth and you wind up caring about most of the side characters too since even they get some backstory and time to shine. It’s pleasing to look at and hear, with excellent voice acting and a great soundtrack. It’s a great gateway game for dungeon-crawlers with its fairly brisk pacing, but the plot-heavy nature of things definitely won’t be for everyone.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: NIS America
This review is based on a digital copy of The Awakened Fate Ultimatum for the PlayStation 3 provided by NIS America.