Friday, April 3, 2015

Awakened Fate Ultimatum (PS3) Review

Awakened Fate Ultimatum is the successor to 2013's Guided Fate Paradox.  While this title is easier to say, and both titles make sense once you play the game... the names are still strange and can be hard to remember which was first.  While the first game had some really cool systems, the rogue-like elements wore on me.  Let's see how the (non-direct) sequel is.

Awakened Fate Ultimatum doesn't continue the story of the previous game, but it has a similar premise: you play as a special guy who is given godly power over fate, and able to shape people's destinies.  This time, you have choices to make and further drive the idea of you having the power over the destiny of others.  Well, at least they try to.  Each choice basically has an angel and a demon answers (not necessarily "good" or "evil"), and they correspond to the two companions you have in the game.  Each choice will also reward you with a skill point in that particular skill tree, which I'll discuss more in a bit.

The story does its best to blur the lines between who or what is evil and good, and for the most part it does it pretty well.  The characters do have some depth to them, and the main character frequently wrestles with the consequences of his (your) choices.  Some of the choices are difficult if you are invested in the story.  However, sometimes the choices don't seem to matter, as what happens seems the same no matter which choice you make.  That part is a little disappointing, but at least you get a free skill point out of it.  Even so, I enjoyed the story and the main characters.

The plot moves you along from dungeon to dungeon, and every floor of them is randomly generated.  Whenever you take an action, like attacking or moving, the enemies do as well.  There is no time limit between turns, so you are free to plan to your heart's content.  Your goal on each floor is to find the portal to the next floor.  After a few floors, there is usually a cut scene.  Thankfully they are spaced much better and shorter than the previous game.  I got sick of them in Guided, but not in Awakened.  The dungeons themselves do look different from each other, but they aren't the most interesting, and aren't even as varied as the previous game's.  The enemies are more varied, since there are two versions -and angel and devil- of most of them.

If you played the previous game, you might remember that every time you entered a dungeon, your level was reset to 1.  When you left, your level was added to your "total level", which affected your base stats.  For better or worse, that system is now gone.  Any levels you get are yours to keep when you leave the dungeon.  That means dungeons now have a level for them, and are a little easier to complete.  This feels a little more balanced, and it is much clearer to understand how to increase your stats, so I consider it an improvement.  It's not as unique this time around, but I prefer this system.

Equipment is also more streamlined...or cut down, depending on how you look at it.  Before, you could equip several pieces of equipment on different areas, and they would show on your character.  Now, you only get a weapon, shield and an accessory.  I preferred more equipment, but at least your character looks less silly than in Guided.  The trade-off for having less equipment pieces is that they no longer break.  While it was integral to the power-up system, I do not like equipment durability.  Nothing makes me want to use powerful stuff less than knowing it will eventually be useless.  You can still fuse like equipment to make it more powerful.  However, if you die in the dungeon, what you have with you, including your equipment, is gone.  Such is the nature of rogue-likes.

The new system that defines Awakened Fate Ultimatum is called "deitize".  It allows you to assume either devil or angel powers in battle.  It activates with a simple button press, and thankfully doesn't take a turn to do so.  It adds a little bit of strategy to fights, since you use angel to do more damage to devil, and vice-versa.  It takes SP to maintain the form and use skills, so you have to think carefully about how long you want, and if the cost of a skill is worth it.  Admittedly, it feels like it makes this type of game easier, but your overall low HP seems to even it out.  Plus, you no longer have a companion, as you did in the previous game, so you need something to help you in fights.

To me, the star of the previous game, Guided Fate Paradox, was the system to power-up your character.  Unfortunately, that great, unique and customizable system is gone.  What replaces it are two different skill trees, each one affecting the angel or demon deitize.  There are health, attack, and defense upgrades, as well as active skills you can use, such as an HP drain (a personal favorite), or a dash attack, to name a few.  These skills and upgrades only affect the corresponding form, so you won't notice much difference until you sink many points into them.  Also, they are fairly linear, with the only real choices being starting to the left or right, and which "feathers" you go down on the wings.  You can easily get all the skills quickly by going one direction, but it is much harder to skip active skills you may not want or use.  Not a bad system, but not near as enjoyable as the previous game's.

There are 14 chapters to the main story, although each doesn't take more than a few hours.  There are a few endings, a new game+ and post game content to give it some good replay value.  Plus, you can change the choices you made and see if it affects much.  Most of the trophies are standard too, but unfortunately, a lot of them are hidden.  Nothing seems to be missable, though, so I'm happy for that.

I like Awakened Fate Ultimatum, but I'm not sure if I like it more or the same than its spiritual predecessor, Guided Fate Paradox.  It has some good improvements, like the story, the choice system and deitize, but also some not as good changes, like the loss of the power-up system.  I do like the story Awakened tells, and the deitizing added some more strategy to battles and leveling up.  All in all, a worthy successor, so fans of the first or mystery dungeon RPGs in general, should try it out.

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