Fate/Grand Order Is Fun, But Not For Beginners

Fate/Grand Order Is Fun, But Not For Beginners
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Fate/Grand Order is an RPG for Android and iOS platforms which lets players take on the role of a fledgling master on a quest to save time and space. It’s great fun, but with a few prerequisites.

Fate/stay night is a visual novel about a mystic battle with legendary heroes from across time for a Holy Grail. The game debuted in 2004 and thanks to its popularity has gone on to spawn sequels, manga and novels, a few anime series, and a new mobile game.

The story of Fate/Grand Order takes place in a distant future where you play the part of a young candidate in a research facility aimed at preserving humanity and that has developed a time travel technology that allows them to send people to various points in time. After an accident kills almost every other candidate, you are caught in the facility’s time travel device and sent to the Japanese city of Fuyuki in 2004.

Right off the bat, the game has a bit of an entry hurdle in that if you are unfamiliar with the Fate series, there are a lot of concepts and terms that, while the game does make a bit of an effort to explain, will be for the most part alien to newcomers. There are also several characters whose mere presence in the game is a spoiler for previously released games in the series. However, the hurdle isn’t insanely high for a dedicated otaku and watching a couple of pretty damn decent series should set you up with the necessary lore.

The game is labelled as an RPG, but it’s essentially an RPG in the way Final Fantasy Record Keeper or Mobius Final Fantasy are RPGs — i.e., lots and lots of combat. However, unlike the previously mentioned games, Fate/Grand Order is based on a property that started out as a visual novel, so there is a strong emphasis on story and plot development. In between battles, there are event scenes that can range in length from brief quips between characters to lengthy conversations with massive amounts of text. The game is also currently only available in Japanese so unless you understand enough to be able to navigate a fully Japanese visual novel, you may be in for an uphill battle.

While story is important, the meat of the game is the combat, and that’s where the game shines. Players create a deck of up to five servants with two serving as the main combat team and three in reserve. For a third member in your main combat team, you can select from friends or other random players — most of whom, at the initial stages of the game, will have servants frustratingly far more powerful than yours.

In combat, you are given a selection of five random command cards to choose from. The cards determine which character will attack and what kind of attack they will do. There are three kinds of attacks: Buster, Quick, and Arts. Buster is you aggressive attack that will do extra damage. Quick attacks are weaker, but drop critical stars which increase the chances for a critical hit the next turn. Arts is a normal attack that fills a servant’s Noble Phantasm (NP) gauge. When a servant’s NP gauge reaches 100% or more, they can execute powerful attacks that have various added effects. Selecting three of a kind of command gives an added bonus to whatever kind of command was selected. Selecting three commands all with the same character on them will give that character an extra attack.

Characters also have skills that can be used for beneficial effects as well as your own skills that can be used to aid your servants.

One of the biggest draws of the game are the various servants — famous, notorious, and infamous heroes from throughout time, assigned one of seven classes (although there are some exceptions). From characters from the original game like Hercules and Kojiro Sasaki, to original characters, part of the fun is seeing what historical figures will be assigned what classes, how powerful they are, and how they have been reimagined/redesigned for the game.

One somewhat difficult aspect of the game is that your servants do not gain experience from battles. Rather, you can obtain experience cards through various means that are used to level up your servants. What this means is that the servant you use all the time may not necessarily be the one that gets stronger. This somewhat manual method of levelling can seem a little awkward at first, but once you get used to it, it opens up another level of strategy in what daily side missions to pursue and also allow you to level up weaker servants you want to use later.

Currently, there are only three story chapters available — the 2004 prologue, the first chapter that takes place in the year 1431 A.D. in France, and the second chapter that takes place in the year 60 A.D. Rome — with more on the way. While it may not seem like much, considering the hefty amount of story dialogue, there is quite a lot to get through before you will run out of story missions. I started the game back in late August and I’ve only recently cleared the second chapter. Aside from the story, there are individual servant missions and daily missions, some of which require fairly high level servants to clear, which means a lot of levelling is necessary. Plus, you never know when you may get a servant that strikes your fancy that you’ll want to level up to have in your main combat team.

The game is free to play, which means there are payable elements. There are two tiers of summons, the second has a chance of drawing the really rare and powerful servants, but requires gems that you obtain at a very slow pace. There is also a stamina bar that limits how much you can play in a single sitting. It’s annoying, but that is essentially the price one pays for a freemium game.

From light-hearted but tactical gameplay to a story that is an entertaining romp in the Fate/stay night world, Fate/Grand Order sits in a rather peculiar spot in between your casual, time-killing kind of game and a solid engaging time-investment. It is definitely a game for fans. The combat is enjoyable but will probably be monotonous to people unfamiliar with the Fate series, while fans probably won’t be able to get enough of using their favourite servants to unleash cans of whoopass against enemies with their Noble Phantasms. While there is a hurdle for entry, if you’re willing to take the entry course or are already a fan, Fate/Grand Order is an enjoyable expansive chapter to the Fate world.

Fate/Grand Order is currently available for iOS and Android platforms in Japanese. The is currently no word on an English version.


  • I’m really loving this game as well, the best thing is definitely the abundance of servants along with the interlude missions that come with them, as well as any of the old favourites (Arturia for example) have the same va’s as in the anime. The japanese only is a barrier for a while, but you begin to understand what each thing means intuitively and its fine. If anyone is looking for a guide on how to play here is a helpful one; http://kairosity.tumblr.com/post/125576872324/fategrand-order-how-to-play
    And there is an ongoing translation project that plays though like a visual novel here:http://fgo-story.byethost18.com/
    to actually play the game, due to region locking, use something like QooApp or Bluestacks 🙂

  • Question for enfranchised fans of the Fate series: If one wanted to experience all, or at least most of the main story, is it possible to do so with anime alone? Maybe manga? Or do you really need to play some of the visual novels not to miss important stuff?

    • I would probably start with Fate/Zero and the new Fate/Stay Night UBW anime (don’t bother with the old one and the movie).

    • I agree with Poribo in that you should start with fate/zero and then watch UBW if just for the fact that they are spectacular shows with great stories, Fate/Zero more so in terms of plot. But there is a ridiculous amount of Fate content out there, spread over a huge amount of platforms and this can make engagement difficult for Fate/GO, for example you might wonder why the hell *spoilers maybe* there is a dark saber in the first stage (fuyuki) if you hadn’t played through the heaven’s feel route of Fate/SN. tbh to know who all of the people who pop up are you do really to have read/played/watched quite a bit, at the moment probably these; Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night (all three routes), Fate/Apocrypha, Fate/Extra, Fate/Extra CCC, Fate/Hollow Ataraxia and maybe? Fate/strange fake. So yeah, an absolute shit ton, imo watch zero and ubw and then maybe go through the heavens feel route in SN and you’ll be fine, you learn as you go anyway 🙂

    • Not just with anime, at least not at the moment. You can get a good amount of it and at least understand the setting, but not all the details.

      Fate/Zero and then Unlimited Blade Works will get you a good chunk of the meat of it, but there are some big details around Saber that aren’t discussed in Unlimited Blade Works (which is Rin’s story arc, after all, so they’re basically just not relevant). There’s also a whole lot more background around things which isn’t revealed in UBW (though some of it is in Fate/Zero) which will be part of the film series that utotable are working on, adapting the final arc of the visual novel (Heaven’s Feel) but that’s a while off yet. You could get some of the details from the old Deen Fate/Stay Night anime, but it was really badly done compared to the way ufotable have handled the series and I wouldn’t recommend it.

      There’s also a sequel / fan-disk visual novel, Hollow Ataraxia, which adds some extra characters and has its own plotline. Introduces some characters who have become Fate franchise mainstays (Bazett, Lancer’s original master, and Caren) and also adds a different servant type to the mix (Avenger) which has implications for the other stuff.

      Several of the characters added to Hollow Ataraxia turn up in Fate/Kaleid Liner, but you don’t need to watch that show unless you want to. It’s a dumb, sometimes mildly creepy spinoff pardoy where Ilya is a Magical Girl.

      It’s never explicitly stated, but all of Type-Moon’s stuff are supposed to be part of a shared universe. But only Kara no Kyoukai has been animated (the Tsukihime anime does not exist). While it’s different, it’s also very good so it’s a solid recommend especially if you like the feel of Fate/Zero / UBW. Probably not strictly needed to enjoy the setting though.

      I think the only other thing you could do to supplement the anime so far would be to try the games. Fate/Extra shouldn’t be that hard to get hold of (it should be on PSN for PSP, Vita compatible) though we never got the sequel to that in English.

      Honestly the whole franchise is a bit of a mess. The question is really whether you want to get caught up with it all. I don’t think you’re missing out if you just stick to the anime.

      • I actually have watched the series of films of Kara no Kyoukai, so it’s good to hear that Ufotable is also making Fate movies, perhaps I’ll just watch Zero and UBW and wait for those movies.

        Also I could swear there was an anime of Tsukihime…

        • There isn’t a Tsukihime anime. It doesn’t exist, my therapist said so.

          I actually didn’t mind it at the time but that was before I knew better. It’s really bad if you read the visual novel it’s based off.

          One thing I didn’t mention is Carnival Phantasm. If you’re into Type-Moon stuff at all it’s very amusing. Basically a series of self-parodies with the extended cast of all their games and stuff. Some claim that it’s actually canon and the other settings are spinoffs.

          And yeah, you could definitely do a lot worse than just sticking to ufotable’s shows. I don’t think there’s much info on the Heaven’s Feel stuff yet. Saw some rumors that it might be more than one film – there’s certainly enough material for it. Probably looking at late 2016 before it’s available in English though. Going to be amazing to see what they can do with a movie level budget though. Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works were astoundingly high budget shows. Extremely high quality integration of digital effects with traditional animation. Ufotable are probably the best in the industry at that.

    • Yes, and there is no news as of yet for an English release, although quite a lot of the menus have the english equivalent underneath the japanese, so you’re not completely lost

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