The Awakened Fate Ultimatum PS3 Review

Hot off the heels of its breakout new franchise, NIS has brought us a sequel to The Guided Fate Paradox a little over a year after its release. NIS is best known for Disgaea and mixing things up from sequel to sequel to keep the gameplay fresh. Could the same be done for The Awakened Fate Ultimatum?

Awakened Fate Ultimatum PS3 screenshot

The story follows Shin Kamikaze, a high school student who you find brooding like Light Yagami from Death Note, philosophizing how bad humanity is. Soon after, he is killed and brought back to life as ‘God’ for Celestia in a guerilla war with the devils. The story attempts to continue the dark philosophy of its predecessor, but due to some issues explained later on in the review, it falls flat and disappoints.

When the game begins, you’re hit with a cool and energetic anime opening song, seen here. Consequently, I went into the game energized and expecting big things, especially considering I rated the previous game very highly. Sadly, the opening scene was the best thing about the game for me.

Combat is once again rougelike, tasking players to navigate a randomly generated mazelike dungeon. The first change that will be noticed is the leveling system is completely different from the first game, which will be a good or a bad thing for players depending on their taste. If the reset to level 1 system in GFP was fine to you, then you might not enjoy the switch back to a traditional leveling system. However, if you hated that previous system then this will feel more natural and at home.

Leveling system aside, the fun and perks from GFP have all been removed, and AFU’s experience feels like an empty shell. First up, you no longer have your angel partner in combat to help, thus having to face the legion of enemies alone. That in itself is not a bad thing, but it takes away from the charm and foundation established for the series.

The vast amounts of equipment and abilities that a player could use and level up are all gone as well. Players now only have a weapon, shield and an accessory. Gear does not feel as powerful when leveled up. Simply combine a weapon with another that has a +X and it is boosted. Yet when I was using the gear in combat I found I was doing less damage than unleveled weapons, despite their stats adding up to the same. There is a lot of confusion. A normal ax does 3 damage, as an example. An ax+3 still says it does 3 damage. When I equip them my attack doesn’t go up. That confusion ruins the fun of leveling gear because how do you know your time is being well spent?

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Skills are also relegated to being learned from leveling up, rather than from the equipment themselves. You’ll have a grid, like FFX, where you use points to move around and get stat boosts and skills. The grid is split into two, an angel and devil side. Each time you level up you get a point to use for either side. Certain story choices will give you a deity specific crystal, only able to be used on that branch. This does create some strategy in leveling. Do you go all-in as one deity, for example, or try and spread the love evenly? Devil bonuses do not work when deitized as an angel, and vice-versa.

The deity system allows you to, at will, transform into an angel or devil. It uses up special points (you have 100 max), but it gives massive benefits. This is also how you can use the skills that were mentioned above. The form also gives a damage and toughness buff to those of the alternate alignment, devil vs. angel. It does backfire if it is angel vs. angel, for example, and you’ll deal less damage and take more instead. This system inadvertently makes the gameplay more tedious than intended. There is no benefit to being in your normal form. Due to SP being used when moving in a deity form, you’ll be switching in and out of those forms all the time. See enemy, move into range, deitize, attack, undeitize, repeat.

NIS chose to add in English voice acting to the game, and sadly it is worse than the previous game. This is due to two issues. The first being how the story is designed for the player. It constantly switches from characters talking with each other to reading the main character’s thoughts and events happening in the scene like it was a novel. NIS chose to not voice act those novel parts which ruins the flow of the voice acting, as it constantly switches from voice to non-voice sections. The second part is the acting does not match up with previous events. For example, there is a part where Shin is crying. This part is simply read. We then hear him talking one button click later. No sniffing, or wiping tears, or gasped breathing that a person would be doing if they were crying seconds ago. This, coupled with the lack of emotion I felt from the voice actors, made me switch to the Japanese voice acting. Note: I prefer English voice acting if there is a choice, so to get me to switch is very bad. The switch also helped confirm to me that the English actors were mispronouncing the main character’s name throughout the game.

The translation of the game I have to call into question, which saddens me. I know that literal translations sometimes do not work. Concepts like jokes or references in Japan might not make any sense to Canadians, for example and vice-versa. Still, a good translation makes me forget that. This game doesn’t as I learned from playing with the Japanese voice acting on. Simple, basic translations were not matching up to what was being spoken.

Awakened PS3

The average person probably doesn’t care, and if so this part can be ignored. But for those like me, who enjoy a literal translation so we can get the full, authentic story, it begs the question what else that was more complicated to translate got changed? The story read haphazardly. Shin starts off sounding like he is going to be the next Light Yagami but quickly turns into a bi-polar character. Every scene he changes, from not doing what the angels tell him to do, to doing what they tell him to do. Complaining that he became what they wanted, and then asking what they want him to be.. There is no consistency with his character, unless that is what his character is supposed to be, in which case it made the story boring with voice acting and pacing problems. The story is the most important part of an RPG, so if the story is called into question then it loses its core.

Lastly, the musical score for the game is one of the worst I’ve heard. I don’t say that lightly. In combat, the soundtrack was looped. Very short loops. This normally should not be a problem, but the music to me was uninteresting, and felt sleepy. I wasn’t getting the same high-energy vibe as I was from the opening movie.

In my classroom I have a Korean promotional poster of this game on the wall. I found it at a local Sony store and have been hyped for it ever since. Sadly, the game is a shell of what it could have been. The Guided Fate Paradox set a wonderful foundation to a new franchise. NIS only needed to use the same formula and tweak it to make another good game. Alas, this will be one of those ‘could have been’ titles where something that was not broken got fixed in a bad way.

Score

4

The Final Word

A shell of its predecessor. All the fun mechanics from Guided Fate Paradox have been removed and changed, leaving a generic but tedious combat system. The story, while potentially interesting, has major pacing and voice acting issues that dull the experience. Only a diehard NIS fan will want to play this game.