There’s a lot going on in Fate/Samurai Remnant, and in the opening chapters there’s a lot to take in, whether it’s the elaborate story, various techniques and skills to familiarise yourself with, or the countless items you’ll end up collecting. If you manage to stick with it and get used to the plethora of attacks and endless text conversations, Koei Tecmo’s action-RPG is a thrilling mix of swinging blades and magical bombardments that continually mix up combat in this Musou with a difference.
The story focuses on Miyamoto Iori, someone who has been thrust into an unfamiliar ritual called the Waxing Moon. Now a master, he must fight alongside Saber, his headstrong and guarded servant, defeating a mix of powerful characters who are aided by their Heroic Spirits to claim the grand prize. This is the story in its most simplified manner, however, there’re many details that flow through it, involving a lot of characters each with their own reasons for being a part of the Waxing Moon Ritual, and it takes a while until you gain a firm grasp of everyone’s involvement.
It doesn’t help that their are a lot of conversations for you to scroll through/listen to, and if you aren’t paying full attention you might miss some important information. There are times when the story is gripping enough that you’ll eat up every word, but there’s also a lot of filler and like other ARPGs like Persona 5 Strikers, a lot of unimportant and arbitrary dialogue needs to be filtered through to get to the good stuff. That’s not to say the story isn’t interesting – far from it. There are some incredibly cutscenes, fascinating characters all with dynamics that introduce you to relationships that are well-realised.
When it comes to the combat, Fate/Samurai Remnant is wonderful. As Iori, you can switch between various stances, and depending on the situation, each one of the five can lead to a range of different outcomes. My favourite, the Wind Stance, utilised magic in your attacks, and mixing up the light and heavy attacks can lead to some cool combos. By successfully defeating enemies, you’ll earn gems which can be used to activate Magecraft Spells, and new ones are constantly being unlocked. One might use a fire spell, while another might increase affinity or health regeneration. Another ability at Iori’s disposal is the Valor strike, and once the gauge is full, you’ll be able to activate a quick yet deadly attack.
You also have access to Saber’s abilities, namely her Affinity Techniques. These are powerful water attacks that can turn the tide of battle, but they also break down tougher enemy’s Shell Gauge, allowing Iori to jump in and do damage. Link attacks can be used to fire off water abilities fluidly with your own, and there’s also the opportunity to jump in as Saber and take control for a short while. She’s amazing, both in combat and as a character, but getting to play as her makes battles diverse. Choosing when to use your affinity adds a strategic element to combat, as you never know if a new wave is incoming, or a tougher boss is going to be rearing its head.
Playing as both Iori and Saber is great, but Fate/Samurai Remnant also offers you the chance to play as many different characters. This can happen naturally during the story, or certain side missions called Digressions allow you to play out a short back story or such that lets you temporarily try out other masters and servants. Servants are pretty damn awesome anyway, but they have an ability which shares some link to their past. Not to get too deep into the lore, but servants were once important figures through history, now brought back to fight via a ritual.
These are activated when their gauge is full (like the Valor Gauge), and can pull of God-like abilities that are not only extremely powerful, but look insane. No matter who you’re playing as, combat is well-layered and despite it feeling somewhat repetitive at times – more so when you’re playing as Iori and Saber – Koei Tecmo are always finding ways to mix it up. Enemies are tough, and the challenge comes from knowing when to attack and dodge. When an enemy turns red, you have to hit them with a strong attack to interrupt it, and if they turn white, you need to strike to fill up your Affinity gauge. There’s a lot going on, but it’s always challenging.
Most battles take place throughout story missions, and a huge part of this is the Spirit Fonts. These play out on a game board layered on top of your world map. You get a set number of turns to make your way to the destination, and along the way you must defeat enemies and bosses while earning telluric energy to help deal more damage. By travelling across leylines, you’ll have to capture these spirit fonts and severe the leylines to stop supplies of enemy attacks and power. It becomes further complicating when force fields need to be broken down, enemies break your own leylines, and your turns dwindle, causing you to start over from the last checkpoint. There’re even more aspects to these Spirit Font conflicts, and while I appreciate the added mechanic, it can be confusing for some time until it eventually clicks.
Outside of the Fate/Samurai Remnant story, you can take on Trials and Commissions that reward you with new items and coin to spend on health, gear, and buffs, and the already mentioned Digressions give you more to do. Another aspect of your progression comes from upgrading your home by using the workshop. There’re a lot of resources for you to gather which can then be used to improve a whole host of abilities, unlock new stances, and more. Carving Buddha statues increase your XP, and sword maintenance will boost its power in a handful of upcoming fights. New gear and weapons, clothing, and skills can all be unlocked, meaning the RPG elements are always present and important to you becoming a better fighter.
Fate/Samurai Remnant is an accomplished ARPG with some fantastic combat that is consistently being mixed up to avoid the occasional repetition. The story is complex at times, but as you meet more characters and are further immersed in the lore, there’s a clever and entertaining story at its heart. The cutscenes are impressive, and some of the Masters and Servants look cool as hell, especially my favourites the Berserker, Musashi and Chiemon.
Combat is occasionally repetitive
A lot to take in at first
Spirit Fonts are confusing
A lot of dialogue