Sometimes, less is just less.
I was taken by surprise when I played “The Guided Fate Paradox”, the predecessor to this title.
It had a rather unique premise, as an ordinary young man was forced to play the role of “God” to defeat the devils and save the angels from extinction.
It featured a deep rogue-like system where death was severely punished, and the randomized dungeons were filled with great mystery and bounty.
In fact, I enjoyed the title so much that I scored it an “8.5”, awarding it an editor’s choice award.
So, naturally when I heard there was a sequel in the works, I looked forward to it with great expectations.
However, now that I’ve played it, I’m sad to report that it doesn’t do the original justice.
Voice Acting Selection: JPN/ENG
Played: 15~ hours
The story begins with a boy named “Ichigo Kurosaki”, erm, I mean, “Shin Kamikaze” who is more or less an ordinary boy who gets caught up in something he has no idea about and gets killed.
He is subsequently revived and imbued with special powers and forced to fight for a cause he doesn’t really believe in at the start.
He meets the angle Jupiel and devil Ariael on the road to becoming a true “God” who would put an end to the war between the Angels and Devils one way or another.
While the premise is more or less identical to the original, there’s a strong emphasis on making choices in the game, whether it’s something simple like who to talk to or more extreme like whether or not he should execute a prisoner of war.
There are situations that play out nearly the same regardless of the choices made for the sake of proper character development, but many of the choices were difficult to make, as I was often tasked with picking from lesser evils without a clear indicator on what might be the best solution.
I can certainly appreciate moral ambiguity in the choices in video games, as I’ve grown rather weary of choosing from two options that amount to drowning a bag of kittens or curing cancer.
The two lead ladies, Jupiel and Ariael were both well realized in the world outside of a few typical character traits, and I quite enjoyed my interactions with them both, enough to be torn on who to choose between them when push came to shove.
Even though many of the concepts that are touched upon here have certainly been done before, it’s executed fairly well, and I would say that the characters and plot are easily the strongest part of this title.
If I were to go into detail about all the mechanics in the combat/dungeon exploration of “The Guided Fate Paradox”, it would be the length of another review just by itself.
However, in Ultimatum, the mechanics have been dumbed down to the bare minimum.
Gone are the elaborate weapons and armor, replaced by boring equipment that look different on the surface but function more or less identically to all the others.
Gone is the incredibly deep customization system mini-game that awarded clever positioning on a large board to gain a variety of beneficial effects.
Gone are the multiple tag-along AI characters and intricate weapon/armor upgrade system.
What’s left is a series of mechanics that are much simpler in their functionality and infinitely less interesting to use.
For example, the upgrading of the character is done through a FFX style grid system that awards with skills and stat boosts that offers very little customization on outside of just “slightly more powerful” with each point allocated.
The dungeons were also a series of randomly generated rooms and corridors littered with deadly traps and uninteresting items, since the weapons/armor there were at best maybe slightly better than what I was using already.
The endless stream of enemies that I vanquished were taken out just by the process of attack -> get hit -> attack -> get hit -> attack and so on, with very little strategy involved outside of using the correct form (angel/devil) to increase efficiency
There was also serious lack of bosses, and when they did show themselves, I would be forced to face tank them most of the time without any other viable strategy in sight.
The random nature of the dungeons also meant that I was put into situations from time to time of no fault of my own where I would have to escape the dungeon or lose all of my items.
There was an instance where I stepped on a trap (which are invisible normally) that summoned a bunch of enemies on top of me. Then, I moved up trying to get into the corridor so I could funnel them in and ended up stepping on a confusion trap that made me move in random directions where I was trapped and killed.
Given there are no checkpoints or saving between floors or even before boss encounters, dying meant I had to do all of that again while only keeping my level.
Add to that the ability of attacks to miss or hit whenever they feel like and I found myself yelling, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME” at least a few times.
I’ve talked before about how more isn’t always better, and that sometimes less is more.
However, in the case of “The Awakened Fate Ultimatum”, it feels as though much of what made the original compelling and unique has been ripped out, leaving a hollow shell behind.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.