Fate/Grand Order by Aniplex of America is a roleplay video game based on the Fate/stay night graphic novel series, and after enjoying an extremely popular reception in Japan, it was translated into English and released on June 25, 2017. In the game, your character works at a secret research agency called the Chaldea Security Organization, and you travel back in time in order to save the future of the human race. In my opinion, Fate/Grand Order has an interesting premise and an original concept, but the complicated storyline is extremely hard to follow and fails to engage the players’ attention. Moreover, the battles that offer a break from the narrative are too brief and monotonous to really maintain much momentum throughout the quest. I am admittedly unfamiliar with the Fate/stay night franchise, and I usually play more action-driven video games rather than passive role-playing ones. But I fully believe that a solid story is essential to any video game, and this particular one just fell short with the execution of its storytelling.
As mentioned previously, the game opens with your character arriving at Chaldea and learning about its mission: to observe mankind and protect it from any serious threats. Technology enables the agency to see one hundred years into the future and watch over the planet, guaranteeing the survival of humans for at least the next century. However, the most recent observations have revealed that civilization will abruptly end in the year 2018, and the cause of this can be traced to a singular event that occurred in the city of Fuyuki in the year 2004. Your mission (called Grand Order) is to investigate and eradicate this event, officially known as Singularity F, using time travel. Your character is a special type of agent called a “Master,” which is gifted in the magical arts and capable of summoning Heroic Spirits called Servants. These Servants are spiritual manifestations of famous historical heroes (Achilles, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.) and carry out your commands in battle.
Clearly, Fate/Grand Order does not lack a story. If this had all been explained to me when I first opened the game, I would have been hooked immediately. Instead, however, it is all revealed very slowly through a series of flashbacks, with a lot of unnecessary filler dialogue in between. This hindered the unfolding of the plot and had me confused and frustrated for the first several hours on the app. As far as the role-playing aspect of the game, I was occasionally able to choose my dialogue in response to other characters, but the most I could control was usually just the degree of attitude my character expressed. I was rarely able to make choices that seriously impacted the direction of the game, so that was somewhat disappointing.
When it comes to battles, the gameplay is more of a card game than a fist fight. You assemble your team of Servants and duel skeleton enemies, choosing three action cards from a random deck to launch a certain attack. Each card is assigned to a specific Servant, and if you pick three cards that all belong to the same character, you make what is called a Brave Chain, which unlocks an extra attack. The graphics are good, but I found the enemies to be cookie-cutter in appearance and generally not challenging to defeat. On the other hand, there is a huge selection of Servants that you can unlock and upgrade, each with individualized bios, physical features, and abilities. My younger brother says that this is one of the better, more refreshing aspects of the gameplay and prevents the battles from becoming too repetitive, and I wholeheartedly agree.
To sum up, Fate/Grand Order is not my cup of tea—it very well may be for many other gamers, but I simply could not sink into the rhythm of the narrative. Although I found the backstory of Chaldea fascinating and time travel intriguing, the inaction of the plot overshadowed the rest of the game. And the battles, while fun to watch, felt more like spectator’s sport than an engaging fight. I think the main reason why I was a bit underwhelmed with Fate/Grand Order was because I was expecting to get more direct interaction, and this app felt more like a graphic novel than a video game.