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Fate/Grand Order (Japanese)

Around five months ago, I picked up Fate/Grand Order on iOS after many months of hesitating and deliberating. I was certain that the mobile game would receive an English version, which it actually did a month or two ago. But my lack of patience meant that I ended up downloading the Japanese one instead. I posted my first impressions back in February and I'm more than happy to report that the game is still on my phone and now, it takes up even more of my free time. The deceptively simple combat system, engaging story and fascinating list of Servants are several reasons why I'm far from done with this app, despite the language barrier. Heck, Fate/Grand Order even helped me pick up Katakana along the way. Now, if only there was a simple way to learn Hiragana.

Fate/Grand Order's premise is easy enough to understand. You're a detective of sorts, travelling through time to locate and destroy anomalies that threaten the existence of humanity. Naturally, you're not alone in this fight. Historical and mythological figures; also known as Servants, are enlisted to aid you in your quest. For fans of the original Fate/Stay Night, you'll see old favourites like Gilgamesh and Artoria return. For diehard enthusiasts of the whole franchise, Fate/Grand Order is your dream come true. Expect to see servants from Fate/Extra, Fate/Apocrypha and even Fate/Strange Fake. If you're concerned about the story, Kinoko Nasu and the Type-Moon team play a bigger role later on in chapters such as Camelot and Babylonia, so expect the writing to get better over time and the plot to have the same amount of depth as the studio's visual novels.

Combat, like I mentioned above, is deceptively simple. It is turn-based and your Servants attack via the use of Quick, Arts or Buster cards. They also have a Noble Phantasm card which can be used once their NP bar hits 100% at least. Think of it as your Servant's ultimate move. Noble Phantasms vary from Servant to Servant, just like their skills. Some deal heavy damage to the enemy team and some provide buffs for your team instead. To mix things up even more, your Servants have access to skills that they can use before selecting which cards to attack with. You're also given a set of three skills, depending on which Mystic Code you have equipped. The standard white Chaldea uniform gives you a targetable heal, attack buff and dodge. There are many more Mystic Codes to be earned and each one has their own pros and cons. Each Servant also has a unique set of skills and there are no clones, despite the game having a smorgasbord of heroes to choose from.

Servants can also be equipped with a Craft Essence card. It is akin to an equipped item and further boosts their HP, attack or both. To make things even more interesting, the Craft Essence card grants an additional effect, be it increasing the effectiveness of the Servant's Quick, Arts or Buster cards or increasing the damage of their Noble Phantasm. These are just a few effects out of the many out there. Craft Essences also tend to dictate how you might deploy a Servant, be it one who doles out his/her Noble Phantasm turn after turn or a healer who keeps the team alive instead.

Although this might be a turnoff for more competitive players, I'm happy that Fate/Grand Order has no PvP system and no PvP-style events so far. On the contrary, there are events that have featured a raid boss, requiring players to work together in order to take it down. Think MMORPGs but in a mobile setting. Delightworks has also discouraged players from spending obsessively on the game, especially in early levels, via the implementation of a cost limit for teams. Each Servant and Craft Essence has a cost attached to them. Servants and Craft Essences' rarity are usually proportionate to their costs so lose the thought of assembling a five-star team kitted out with equally powerful Craft Essences at level 1. I'm at Level 126 and my cost limit is still far from putting together that powerhouse team that will swat away any boss with ease.

It's rare to see a free-to-play mobile game that has this level of depth. What's more shocking is that the game offers little incentive to purchase the premium currency. You receive a steady amount every month from completing quests, events and via the daily giveaways but more importantly, the Bronze and Silver tier Servants are no pushovers. They have powerful skills and are only limited by their levels, which can be remedied through the use of Holy Grails, which you receive upon completing an event's story or a chapter of the game's story mode.

I foresee myself playing Fate/Grand Order for a long time and the few five-star Servants I've summoned provide added motivation. Seeing how frequently the game celebrates a new player or download milestone, I'm also sure Delightworks and Type-Moon have more than a few aces up their sleeves in the coming months and years.

Written by ET

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