When I played The Guided Fate Paradox towards the end of 2013, I was pleasantly surprised. It was an outstanding roguelike, complete with an entertaining and interesting storyline, unique features, and even a respectable postgame to round out the package. It took an old genre and made it new again, and I went so far as to describe it as a new standard for roguelikes. When I got the press release about The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, I knew I’d have to play it, and I looked forward to another innovative and unique roguelike. What I got instead was a game that felt more like prequel than sequel. The vast majority of advances that The Guided Fate Paradox made for the genre are conspicuously absent from The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, and the end result is still a decent game, but also a significant step in the wrong direction for the series.
In The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, a young man named Shin Kamikaze is chosen by angels of Celestia to become a weapon in their endless war against the devils of the Netherworld. Being a normal high school student/cliché male anime protagonist, this comes as quite a surprise to Shin. Nevertheless, it isn’t long before he finds himself battling devils all over Celestia, the Netherworld, and everywhere in between.
Throughout the game, Shin—and thus, the player—must make decisions, called Ultimate Choices, which have significant consequences. The choices are presented in a way that suggests whether the choice might be good or evil—though calling either choice good or evil isn’t really fair in a game that so intentionally blurs the line between them. These decisions are probably the strongest aspect of The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, as they really have great and immediate repercussions that are likely to leave the player eager to see what might have happened had they chosen the other fork in the road. I don’t want to spoil much about the storyline, as it does have some really great twists and turns, but suffice it to say that if you’re the kind of player that picks a side and sticks with it, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum will have you questioning your methods.
Sadly, despite how great and impactful these choices are in the short term, in the long term, they become somewhat insignificant. This becomes very obvious when playing through the game a second time and making the opposite choices from your first playthrough. Yes, there will be blocks of storyline that are drastically different, but no matter how seemingly opposed the choices may seem, once you’ve seen the result of the choice, the game manages to get right back onto the exact same track (unless you find yourself in a “bad end”). If a character gets injured as a result of one choice, they will likely also get injured as the result of the other choice. In a game about decision making, it’s unfortunate that despite all of your choices, you basically get to choose ending A, B or C when you get to that last big decision. Nevertheless, the story remains one of the stronger aspects of The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, and the game succeeds in providing choices to the player which at the very least feel extremely important.
When the choices are made and the seemingly endless dialogue finally reaches a pausing point, it’s time to head into the roguelike dungeons that make up the bulk of gameplay in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum. Like in The Guided Fate Paradox, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum keeps its dungeons relatively short. The majority of storyline dungeons in the game are 10 floors deep, with a few shorter ones towards the beginning and longer ones towards the end. Considering roguelikes commonly include 50 and 100 floor dungeons, these mini dungeons are a lot more digestible to a casual gamer, or someone new to the genre. The game also makes the “exit” item available in shops for cheap so that players can escape from the dungeons without losing all of their items if things get too hairy.
Finally, Shin never loses his experience levels, unlike in most roguelikes which drop the characters down to level 1 every time they enter a dungeon. Instead, the game steadily increases the strength of the enemies throughout the campaign, and provides a couple ways for Shin to gain in strength outside of traditional leveling. Weapons and armor found in dungeons and sold in stores can be improved by combining two pieces of gear, though this only works if the gear has bonus levels on it. For example, if you want to improve your Dagger +1, and you have a Sword +2, you can combine them and end up with a Dagger +3. The other way to make Shin stronger is through Crystal Customization, a watered down “sphere grid” style system which increases his stats and teaches and/or improves his skills.
I suppose if this were the first game in a franchise, that would all be fine, but as the sequel to The Guided Fate Paradox, the character development in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is very disappointing. Since Shin cannot lose his levels, the whole stored level system from the previous game is gone. So is Body Modification, a complicated and rewarding system that was replaced by the simplistic Crystal Customization feature. Yes, combining gear is still in, but you no longer have to use gear for a while to make it eligible for synthesis. And the Summoned Set feature is gone too, so you can’t leave your favorite items safely at the storage room and summon them temporarily into combat anymore. They even got rid of companion characters, so don’t expect the company of an angel on your journeys, despite the constant presence of Jupiel Soraumi, Shin’s exclusively assigned angel, or Ariael Agarie, the scientist who made it possible for Shin to battle the devils.
And that’s just the beginning of the list of cut features. The dungeons of The Guided Fate Paradox had multiple levels of depth per floor, whereas The Awakened Fate Ultimatum has the old, flat, single plane dungeons of yesteryear. Where there was once a huge variety of bizarre pieces of equipment to combine into absurd and hilarious outfits with unique abilities, there are now simple swords, spears and shields, and only around a dozen abilities in the entire game. Before, Celestia could be explored on foot, and a variety of characters could be sought out and interacted with; but now, there’s merely a menu of choices. Back then there was a plethora of end-game features, including ways to make the enemies stronger, 100 floor dungeons, a hardcore survival mode and much more; now there’s just 3 short end game scenarios—the longest of which is 30 floors, with no boss—and that’s pretty much it for the end game as far as I could tell.
What do we get in exchange for all of this lost treasure? Ikaruga. Well, not literally… but it’s got that same polarity mechanic. Enemies appear to be either good or evil, so Shin is supposed to use his angelic skills to fight the evil enemies and his devil skills to fight the good enemies… never mind why both factions are attacking you at all times, regardless of the state of the storyline. Sigh.
To put it simply, The Guided Fate Paradox felt like a Nippon Ichi title packed full of features along the lines of Disgaea, whereas The Awakened Fate Ultimate feels more like a bare bones RPG that is worth a quick playthrough, but isn’t meant to last beyond a trip or two through the main story. Nearly everything about the game feels like a step backwards compared to its predecessor. Even the storyline, which has some great moments in the early chapters, falls apart in the second half as the entire basis of the setup is entirely disregarded in order to facilitate the need to destroy a new enemy for the rest of the game. I suppose if there were a 3rd act that got things back on track after that enemy was destroyed, the overall story could have been stronger, but as it stands, the ending comes too soon and leaves the vast majority of the game’s conflicts unresolved. It feels incomplete.
In fact, “incomplete” is the word I would use to summarize The Awakened Fate Ultimatum as a whole. Nearly every aspect of the game is lacking in some way. It’s as though the game’s development was just getting to the good stuff when someone decided to cut the allocated time for development in half to meet some arbitrary release date deadline. They did manage to tie up their loose ends, but without more substance, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum feels like a sparse and uninspired sequel. It would make a lot more sense if The Guided Fate Paradox was the sequel instead! It’s really a shame. If another sequel is made, I hope Nippon Ichi takes their time with it to develop a title that is a worthy follow up to The Guided Fate Paradox and Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman. The Awakened Fate Ultimatum isn’t it.
Ari completed The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, including all post-game content, before reviewing the game. He received a copy of the game for review purposes.
Available on: PlayStation 3
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3