Would you sacrifice the lives of the few to save the lives of the many? That’s just one of the many moral dilemmas presented to the player across the course of The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, Nippon Ichi’s latest dungeon crawler RPG. As a proper sequel to 2013’s Guided Fate Paradox, the developer has returned with a new outing that builds upon the original while introducing a few new features to the mix in a game that requires a lot more strategy and forward thinking than it initially lets on.
The outset of The Awakened Fate Ultimatum begins with you, the main character. Or rather you take the role of a young man known as Shin Kamikaze – orphaned when he was a child, and a person who has a rather pessimistic outlook on the world. The truth is, he has a hard time trusting people because of his past and cements himself as a very a-typical JRPG protagonist.
You are Already Dead
Following a strange dream one day, Shin heads home from school only to be attacked by a mysterious flying force, revealed to you to be devils. Before Shin can be saved by an equally mysterious woman, however, he is pierced through the chest with a sword and dies. Soon after he discovers he’s been revived and taken to an otherworldly realm known as Celestia, the heavenly home of the angels of legend. Unable to comprehend his situation — or that things such as angels and devils even exist — Shin rejects the reality of his situation at first. You see, he wasn’t just revived for the simple sake of it — he’s been embedded with a special crystal allowing him to become God and a decider of fates and key figure in deciding the war between the devils and angels.
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum Review - Double Vision (PS3) - PlayStation LifeStyle
As God it is now up to Shin — or you, rather — to make the hard decisions and some of them aren’t necessarily black and white. The choices in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum guide the path of the story, often challenging the line between what is perceived as right or wrong. Will you save your injured allies? Or leave them to die as you stop the greater threat that approaches. It’s these types of decisions that challenge the mind because whichever path you choose, the one you don’t will reflect its consequences making you wonder if the choice you decided was truly the right one. What’s done is done; you can’t go back and change it. Each choice is presented in a way meant to gain favor with either of the two female heroines in the game — an angel named Jupiel and a would-be devil named Ariael.
The Ultimate Choice is Yours
Ultimately — and perhaps the true “ultimatum” the game takes its namesake from — comes to a head when you’re forced to choose between the two. The little hints to this happen early on, when Shin is playing favor to one of the two through choices that impact his well-being. Who will you stay with? How will you respond? Whichever you choose affords you trust depending on the action and Crystal Points used to boost Shin’s abilities for the dungeon adventure parts.
The story, although set several years after the events of Guided Fate Paradox, stands on its own. It’s not necessary to know what happened in that game but the impact for those that have can be seen in dialogue and other story situations as Shin is thrown into the fray — against his will — right from the start. The story is fairly basic — drawing a lot on well-worn anime tropes and stereotypes you might find in a typical dating sim environment with the main character getting doted on by two different female characters. It’s not necessarily deep in that sense, but the moral choice system was interesting enough to keep me guessing about “what if.”
Into the Dungeons
In the interest of these choices Shin must take part in dungeon skirmishes. The visuals have been improved from the game’s predecessor, rendering classic-style dungeons now in 3D. Players will be spending a bulk of the “RPG” battle portion in these locations, consisting of several floors per area. Inside these dungeons lurk a variety of enemies, such as the devils you’re trying so hard to protect Celestia from. Dungeons also house item rewards, which can be equipped on the spot for use in the game’s turn-based battle system.
New to The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is a special ability Shin can used called Deitize. As the name suggests, Shin can call upon godly powers with the touch of a trigger button to invoke either devil or angel-like powers and skills. In this form Shin gains a bit of a power boost with the angel side offering upgraded melee attacks while the devil side focuses on ranged abilities. As enemies are also allied with “good” or “evil” the appropriate opposite forms can be used to counter them more effectively. Using these abilities come in handy against tougher enemies and even though you can use them whenever you wish, the Deitize forms consume SP which continually depletes when it’s equipped.
Gameplay in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is surprisingly challenging given the overall presentation and simple button attack layout. The game’s rouge-like design is simple, however, one wrong move on the battlefield and it’s over. The punishment for death is a big one. Should Shin die, he’s sent back to the game’s menu screen where you can select the dungeon and start over again. The caveat to all this, however, is that you lose all of the equipment and items you probably collected along the way — even the items you once had equipped.
Dying Again is Sometimes an Option
As you can expect, this mechanic can be extremely frustrating especially if you’ve traveled deep into the dungeon. After this happened to me a few times I learned that it was smarter to take it slow — move through the dungeon at a cautious pace to plan ahead for enemies and if I found a cool item, I had to book it out of there as soon as possible to store it for later. Being able to offload your items is a godsend and if you’re not taking advantage of those features you’re in for a bit of heartache should you accidentally get done in by a dungeon enemy.
While collecting items will aid you though your adventure, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum also allows you to customize Shin’s abilities. Through Crystal Customization you can customize the Deitized forms by spending Crystal Points on either the angel or devil side of a grid-like skill map. Here you can learn new skills and abilities as well as raise stats like defense and attack qualities. The way you customize your skills is up to you and is another facet of the game’s theme of choice.
Even with these systems at your disposal, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum isn’t exactly easy. Once you clear the tutorial the game sort of throws you into the mix, letting you get the feel of things on your own rather than guiding you along at every step. Of course, every action you take will be monitored by Jupiel or Ariael so you can take comfort in knowing your actions are being logged properly should you want to go back and try something differently. Chances are you might have to repeat a dungeon a few times just to get the hang of things, so be sure to pay attention to your surroundings as not to be cornered by hard-hitting enemies.
On the visual front, the game is pleasing to look at. Brightly colored backgrounds are populated by anime-style portraits in a consistent, clean presentation. The 3D style of the dungeons is equally fun, offering up a super-deformed character art style to represent Shin and on-screen enemies. What surprised me the most, however, was the music. The music in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is oftentimes coated with that feeling of an epic drama, peppered with vocals and sweeping tunes even during the game’s menu selection. All things considered I didn’t really expect it. The English voice acting is serviceable but all too familiar when you realize NISA keeps pulling from the same small pool of talent.
The Fated Awakening
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is an interesting game. While, yes, it’s steeped in typical Nippon Ichi stereotypes and an over-reliance on its anime presentation, the choice system provides an interesting departure from their typical norm. The gameplay — while not perfect, is appropriately difficult and makes you think about your actions even if I wasn’t exactly a fan of having to redo dungeons due to simple mistakes. I can appreciate that the developers have tried to instill a sense of replayability here where other games remain satisfied hand-holding players to an ultimate reward.
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