Honestly, I'm not sure why I didn't write about this sooner. Just under a month ago the App game Fate/Grand Order was released in the US with an official English translation! (Yes, I live in the UK but if you're on Android there are ways.)
I've never written about a game on here before so I'm going to change up the system a bit.
Why did I start playing it?
I was so excited! I've been playing the Japanese version on and off but I can't read Japanese so honestly I wasn't sure what was going on and some of the menus were a bit of a mystery to me but now I can understand everything, characters are coming to life, now I know what they're saying and it's wonderful!
What is it?
Fate/Grand Order is a mobile game for iOS and Android available in the US. Without knowledge of the basics of the fate universe, I'm not sure how confusing this could be. You start as a recruit for the organisation Chaldea, a group that makes sure that humanity continues by travelling through time and fixing anomalies that could threaten history. They can track the continued existence for the next 100 years but suddenly humanities potential vanishes. In 2018 humanity will disappear and it is up to you to summon servants, to travel through time, correct anomalies and stop this from happening.
What's the gameplay like?
Grand Order is an app game, the gameplay is simple but has a lot of layers to it. Just to explain a bit about the fate universe before we continue. In every series, masters summon servants to fight for them. Masters are mages that supply servants, magical familiars, with mana to exist and fight. The servants are summoned from something called the throne of heroes that holds information on any and all prominent figures from legend and history. Servants are these figures of legend and history, summoned with their powers greatly increased into (most of the time) one of seven categories Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Assassin and Berserker which gives you a good idea of what they can do.
I could go into a lot more detail but then I'd take up the entire post. For now, it's easier to say most of the summonable servants have recognisable names in history, literature or legend. Ceaser, Boudica, Jekel and Robin Hood are among some of the servants available in the US version at the moment.
But anyway, back to the gameplay. Grand Order is technically a card game. Each servant has I think, 5 attack cards. You have three servants on the field at once and all of their attack cards are pulled together and randomised. Every turn the player is given a hand of 5 of these attack cards. The player picks three of these to dictate the attacks for that round. There are three types of cards, one that does more damage, one that ups critical rate and one that adds to the special attack bar. The cards are the core of the gameplay.
Why I was saying that it has layers to it is that each servant also has skills that can be used in battle to give them temporary buffs, debuff the enemy or heal which adds one layer. On top of that, as a master, the player also has a set of skills to do the same. Then on top of that, there are things called craft cards that can be equipped on a servant before battle that will add to their strength and health as well as adding some kind of ability. And the last layer is that each class of servant has its strengths and weaknesses. Sabers are good against Lancers but weak against Archers. There's a handy dandy chart to help you before you go into a battle but this leads to having to have a good variety of strong servants in order to be able to make the best party for the battle.
Trying to fit the right craft card to help the right servant, trying to remember to use your skills at the right time on the right servant makes battle engaging and strategic.
The art style is...disjointed. The art is pretty, beautiful in some cases. The art comes from many prominent artists in Japan but because of the variety cutscenes can look a bit strange when two different art style sprites are talking to each other.
In battle at least all the sprites are done in the same art style which can be funny at times because characters can suddenly look a lot cuter when forced into the anime style when they look pretty scary and imposing on their actual servant card.
Backgrounds are reused a lot too, I mean when an area is being reused I don't mind so much but when a French 1431 castle looks the same as Nero's Roman palace I have a few issues....
This is an app game so normally I have the sound off but when I have it on I'm never disappointed. The cutscenes are very good at getting the right music for the right mood but the best bit about the music is something I mainly love as a fate fan. There is a character called Emiya, One of fate's few original servants. He has a particular theme song whenever he uses his special move 'Unlimited Blade Works' and I was so happy they put it in Grand Order too. I was surprised they went to that length, since most of the others don't have a special song or anything. And for those familiar with it and curious, no he doesn't do the whole chant though I'm glad of that 'cause if I had to sit through it every time I used his special I think I would die.
I can't say how it would be going into this game without any prior fate knowledge but for me, I love the story. Admittedly sometimes it feels like a roulette of characters, enemy servants popping in and out, declaring themselves only to get killed quickly. Some ally servants suffer from the same but the ones you do get a good amount of time with are great characters to get to know. I particularly enjoyed Marie Antoinette, she was an amazing character.
The game has two places where you can get a bit of story. There is the main campaign where you battle to sort out history and Interludes which are personal quests for each servant, a chance for their character to shine and it's wonderful getting to spend that extra time with them.
There maybe a few mistakes in translation in the game but overall the writing is wonderful.
Would you recommend?
Yes, if you like a game with a bit of strategy and looks good I'd say go for it. The story might be confusing for fate newbies but I played it skipping the cutscenes when I played the Japanese version so I can say it's still pretty fun.