Fate/Samurai Remnant gives the Fate series a number of novel twists. Set in the peaceful do period, the events depicted in the game involve a proto-Holy Grail War known as the Waxing Moon Ritual. During this event, seven Masters and Servants will fight to determine who will have the power to make their wish come true.
Developed by Musou veterans Omega Force, the game is a single player RPG which utilises a musou (real time, many enemies) format, in which you engage mulptiple antagonists on the battlefield with weapons and magic. It's a popular game style in Japan, where the mechanics have been used in everything from Zelda to Gundam, but an acquired taste elsewhere.
You take on the role of a poor masterless samurai called Miyamoto Iori, son of the late sword-master Miyamoto Musashi. Keeping the peace in the local town, he is thrust into the centre of events as a bruise on his hand proves to be the seal needed to summon a servant, a heroic spirit of past ages that can be called upon to fight in the war. Seven Masters will summon seven servants in a bloody battle for supremacy.
Iori and Saber
When in combat, you can switch between stances which determine your fighting style. Water is best for multiple foes, while Earth is a stronger stance used to fell single enemies. You'll have skill trees to pursue in order to power up yourself and your servant, add stances and moves, all of which will make you stronger for the battles ahead.
This is managed by a system called the Spirit Font, wherein an interconnected series of nodes will appear overlaid on the world map - capturing each of these will unlock new stat increases. Nodes can be attacked by enemies and rogue servants can be utilised in their defense and capture. This allows the player to work with a wider number of servants, granting variety and excitement to proceedings. It's a fun way to manage your progression and spice up the main narrative with genuine rewards for your efforts.
Following the story, the real mystery is the true identity of the servants that have been called to fight. They each conform to a class - Saber, Rider etc - but their real names remain a mystery. As the game unfolds, this is revealed via some beautifully drawn animation that creates a compelling narrative.
Bosses, when they arrive, are often challenging and enormous fun. While I'm not personally a huge fan of Musou games due to the way enemies are usually irritating swarms with little character, even I have to admit that it works well here, especially given all the extra mechanics at play. The stance system allows for some strategy, magic usage provides some spectacle, and battles feel (mostly) fair and a test of genuine skill rather than button bashing aided by constant levelling.
Boss battles are spectacular
Even better, you're able to use the other servants in battle, allowing you to utilise their devastating attacks for your own benefit - this is enormously satisfying!
Beyond the narrative and the fighting, Fate's biggest pull is the imaginative and often beautiful character designs. In this the game doesn't disappoint, providing some fantastic new characters and even a few old favourites. Fans of the series should be very happy with the characters and extra outfits on offer, and doubtless Figma's designers are working overtime to create some new figures based on the game. The portraits used alongside text boxes for the game's dialogue are absolutely gorgeous, and hopefully we'll be getting a full fledged artbook somewhere down the line.
In-game, the environments are solid and nicely detailed, the Edo-period decor allowing for a unique feel for a Fate game. Character models are a great mix of 3D and anime aesthetics, though we aren't quite at the point where we have 3D models that are as beautiful as the 2D art - Samurai Remnant does feel like a step in that direction though. We have the PS5 version for review, so I can't comment on any downscaling or performance issues on the much weaker Switch hardware, so perhaps find a Nintendo review if you're planning to go down that route. With games relying on more CPU muscle to run smoothly, it's starting to become a real problem for Nintendo, as the recent Mortal Kombat 1 has proven. As a Switch owner myself, I can only hope the game runs smoothly.
Outside of potential hardware issues, there are a few gameplay niggles. One of these is the sheer amount of grinding you have to do in order to progress the story, making your away across the map to reveal enemy locations can be tiresome and this stalls the story while you meander around trying to find the next point in the story. It's not frustrating to the point of tedium, but it can come close at times, especially given how strong the story actually is.
Secondly, bosses have shells (basically shields) that deflect normal attacks and can really draw out battles as you can only really hurt them with magic and servant attacks which are limited in supply. A little fine-tuning here would have drastically improved the pacing of battles and it's something an online update could probably fix pretty easily.
Those relatively minor points aside, I was greatly impressed with Fate/Samurai Remnant, far more than I was expecting given my general distaste for Musou games. There's enough variety, heart and compelling narrative here to make the game keep its allure even during the most frustrating battles. A genuine page-turner of a storyline, gorgeous designs and fun gameplay mechanics coalesce into a solid whole that should appeal to fans and newcomers of the franchise equally.
An intriguing plot coupled with smart gameplay mechanics make this a superior musou game that might just win a few new fans to the genre.