Back in 2013, NIS America released The Guided Fate Paradox, a strategy RPG that built on the publisher's previous games in the genre but added an overarching story to the mix. The game had a somewhat mixed reception as it got non-dungeon RPG fans to play a dungeon RPG, but due to that there wasn't as much of the hardcore challenge veterans of the genre have come to expect. The sequel, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, still keeps its newcomer friendliness but attempts to fix some of the issues people had with the original. Does it succeed? That fate isn't so certain.
One welcome change with the sequel is that the narrative feels much more mature and concise compared to the original game's more wavering overarching narrative. Unlike most of the games NIS America tends to release, the story in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum forgoes humor and zaniness being at the forefront in a trade for a more mature narrative.
The game still uses the completely oddball premise of a young man, this time a man named Shin, being chosen to become God, but the twist this time is that because he was revived by both an angel and a demon he shares traits of both sides within his reborn body. The developers didn't play this for humor like one would expect playing the first game, as the narrative employs some interesting twists depending upon your choices both inside and outside the dungeons.
The game hints at the outcome of your actions based off the responses you get from the angel Jupiel and the devil Ariael, as depending on your actions you will gain favor from one or the other. This plays into the "Ultimatum" portion of the game's namesake, as you'll be forced to choose between the two at one point in the narrative. It's a refreshing change to see something different coming out of a publisher most known for their wackiness in their game's narratives and is something I'd like to see in future games.
The gameplay should be very familiar to those who played The Guided Fate Paradox. Players trek through classic top-down style dungeons, travelling down through various floors to take down the enemies that lie within and acquire the various pieces of loot strewn its halls. The Awakened Fate Ultimatum differs from its predecessor in that it uses 3D models with a hand drawn-like flair instead of a sprite-based approach. This comes with its own pros and cons as it gives the characters and enemies more detail and makes the game overly more colorful than the last game, but on the other hand removes the intricate details that drew some players to the original game. I personally found the new approach better than the original, but hardcore fans of the original will likely find this a sticking point.
New to the sequel is a special ability that Shin can use called Deitize. As one would expect from that name, Shin can call either upon his latent angelic or devilish-based abilities and skills. Besides the general power boost, Shin either gets upgraded melee attacks as an angel or upgraded ranged abilities as a devil. Outside of those differences, the two modes become important as enemies can align with one of the two sides. This requires correctly using the right mode, as an angel-based attack will be nearly non-effective on an angel-aligned enemy and vice-versa for a devil-on-devil attack.
The major issue I had with this system is that the skills you can develop on either side for the most part are duplicates with different names and slightly different effects, so it's mainly used for the light-beats-dark or dark-beats-light mechanics more than anything. I would have liked to see more varied usage between the two, as it would have made replaying the game a bit more interesting. As it stands, it's really only necessary to do so if you want to experience the other side of the narrative. It almost felt like the developers wanted to have wide-branching decisions based off this system but stopped midway and tried simplifying things, when the audience who would actually buy this type of game would have wanted more of the former.
Most of NIS America's releases have featured the full original Japanese voices with a partial English dub. Generally most of their games do a decent job with a partial English dub, with the main scenes being voiced and the side segments unvoiced, but in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum there were segments where the characters would be voiced and the game switched to Shin's inner monologue which was unvoiced, but switched back to voiced characters right after within the span of a minute or two. One segment had Shin crying during his inner monologue and the voice that followed right after with none of the emotion present that one would expect from the previous line. I generally use the English voices exclusively in Japanese RPGs when available, but in this case I switched to the Japanese voices. Thankfully unlike most Japanese language tracks, the Japanese voice actors here aren't of the super high-pitched variety so those like me shouldn't have any issues switching over the voice track.
One other piece to note is that the music is similar to its predecessor that it's quite catchy, although sadly there isn't enough of it available so you'll notice some reuse of the musical tracks later in the game. None of them are grating, though, so it's not as noticeable as some other games might be in this situation.
As I played through The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, I felt like the developers were trying to surpass what they did in The Guided Fate Paradox but felt apprehensive about how the audience would react to the changes and dialed things back. It's a great game for those new to the dungeon RPG genre and come from a Japanese RPG background, but hardcore fans will find it annoying that things weren't improved enough from the mechanics that were found in the original. If you enjoyed the original you'll love the sequel, but it feels like the game awakened too early for its own good.
|The narrative feels much more mature compared to the original game.|
|The new non-sprite based graphical approach's positives outweighs its negatives.|
|Music retains that catchy quality from the original, although more variety would have been welcome.|
|The angel/devil abilities and their outcome on the narrative feel somewhat underdeveloped.|
|Some of the gameplay mechanics feel like the developers played things too safe.|
|The voice direction on the partial English dub feels disconnected from the text on the screen at times.|