Fate/Samurai Remnant is the latest title in the expansive Fate franchise. Boasting a story supervised by Kinoko Nasu, this Action RPG developed by Omega Force and published by Koei Tecmo is a somewhat challenging but rewarding experience.
The Waxing Moon Ritual Begins
Set in Edo, Japan, back in 1651 during a time when samurai were still in the service of their lords, Fate/Samurai Remnant follows a masterless swordsman who gets unexpectedly dragged into a supernatural war.
The protagonist Iori is attacked by a mysterious figure with unbelievable strength. A moment away from death, a seal with three points appears on his hand and a warrior with a sword appears before him, saving his life. Not long after, another enemy appears and the fight gets so out of hand that part of the town is blown away.
The warrior with the sword, Saber, explains that Iori was chosen to participate in a ritual. Seven masters will fight to the death using summoned servants with the souls of great heroes. The one who survives is said to be granted a wish. Saber was summoned to fight on his behalf.
Iori isn’t particularly interested in the wish itself but realizes that if the servants fight then many bystanders will be killed. An ongoing theme throughout Fate/Samurai Remnant is how Iori is comparatively weak, and seeing the town blown away while Iori is just a skilled swordsman was a great way to emphasize that weakness and his determination despite the odds he’s up against.
Odd Alliances and Unusual Deaths
I’ll say upfront that while Fate/Samurai Remnant certainly doesn’t get anywhere near as dark as titles such as Fate Stay/Night, this is a death game and some sensitive topics do come up.
Over the 32-hour runtime of the initial completion of the story, we see Iori struggling to survive. He’s more focused on doing good and protecting the people than winning the wish, but most of the other masters choose to be involved in this war. Even when running about beating up some local ruffians or doing small tasks to stay fed, there’s always the threat in the background of an ambush or an attack on Iori’s family that keeps the tension up. That said, it works well to balance some very serious events with lighthearted comedic moments.
While it never went too in-depth, there was some politicking and unexpected alliances going on in the background. There were quite a few interesting twists too. The story started quite slowly, but by the midway point, it felt like it kept speeding up, throwing in reveal after reveal until an exciting finale. Alongside that, it kept teasing and adding hints for one of the mysteries; Saber’s true identity. I couldn’t put it down for the last 10 hours and finished the last couple of chapters in one sitting.
Despite all of the other masters needing Iori to die, quite often they were actually very accommodating in explaining things to him and some were even friendly. It worked well to explain a lot of the lore involved, but it often happened even before talk of temporary alliances, so felt odd at times.
Masters and Servants
One of the things that makes Fate/Samurai Remnant worth playing is the characters and their relationships.
Iori and Saber take center stage here. Iori is a somewhat serious young man, while Saber is prone to being more outspoken and following her impulses. This makes for some great comedic interactions at times with Iori trying to reign Saber in or having to put up with her. Saber does have her more introspective and emotional moments though, and isn’t exactly approving of Iori at first. Watching their friendship and her belief in him grow is a treat.
Six other masters and their servants appear too, many having their own interesting moments. Each has a distinct personality and a reason for wanting the wish, though some are better than others. Takao Dayu, a courtesan, and her servant Berserker, who happens to have a connection to Iori, are two of the more interesting ones, with Dayu shown in a sympathetic light. The villains feel notably less fleshed out and their motivations flimsier.
Alongside the regular servants, a number of ‘rogue servants’ appear as well bringing the total of servants up to 15. While less powerful, the masters try to sway them over to their side. Some of these are versions of fan favorites from the other titles. Amusingly, it even brings in a certain arrogant king and places him in the role of a shopkeeper.
I was surprised at just how well Fate/Samurai Remnant explored the motivations and feelings of many of these characters. It is worth noting though that quite a lot of this is done through optional quests.
Choices, Options, and New Game+
Note that I said the initial completion of the story above. During those first 32 hours, I played all of the quests with optional story segments that I had access to and there were quite a lot of them. Many of the characters had several quests, sometimes showing events from the point of view of and letting you play as that character, or just sometimes as simple as just fighting them and getting to know them a little better. I didn’t skimp on exploration during this first run either, talking to every NPC I saw, looking around every corner for items, and petting every cat and dog I came across.
That said, it’s not actually possible to see everything during one completion of Fate/Samurai Remnant. There are decision points, three different endings and moments not unlockable on the first run of the game. You need to play New Game+ if you want a full completion of all story content. Luckily, once you’ve beaten the game once, it gives you a handy percentage chart telling you what’s remains incomplete in which chapter.
While it lets you restart from chapter two and carry over most things, my feelings are mixed on this. It’s a good way to give meaning to replaying the game and they even unlock an extra difficulty mode to do so. But it’s a lot of time spent revisiting old ground to see another ending and more content, even if those additions do include some very significant story moments, more information about Iori’s thoughts and interesting optional views from point of view of some of the enemies. It did help that it can go by much faster due to being powerful and being able to skip already completed optional quests, while still throwing in the odd challenge like more powerful giant monsters though. It also gives access to all of the previously recruited servants earlier.
I spent another 8 hours replaying it from chapter 2 with all the now unlocked content to get the second and third ending. I saved near the end of chapter five which is when you get a choice between two endings and replayed to experience both. This gave me 99% story completion (including the main and optional story), with that 1% remaining located somewhere in one of the endings. I’m wondering if I may need to do a third new game+ to unlock a single short scene or something along those lines…
Do I Need to Know Fate?
One concern that may come up is whether you need to have experienced the other Fate games, visual novels, or anime to understand Fate/Samurai Remnant. The answer is no. Everything is understandable even for newcomers.
Admittedly though, those who are familiar with the franchise will certainly benefit. If you’ve played or watched the other titles, you may recognize several characters whose identities are kept secret until later in the game. Some topics are also brought up, but only explained on a surface level, like what the Clock Tower is. It’s always enough that it makes sense, but having that background information might give further context.
There are also several references, including insults to a character based on the lore that isn’t mentioned in Fate/Samurai Remnant itself, an unexplained reason why two characters dislike each other, or even moments that might just give Fate/Stay Night fans a chuckle like the topic of ‘Mana Transfer’ to a servant coming up.
On more of a negative, knowing the series might let you predict some of the events too easily. Some previous themes are reused in Fate/Samurai Remnant.
Moving onto actual gameplay, you’ll spend much of your time walking around various towns with NPCs dotted around. As you follow the story, you’ll often be directed to go speak to one person or the other, find some herbs in the mountain, defeat enemies causing trouble in a certain place, destroy a magic seal to unlock the path, and so on.
Each town is small but quite full. You might come across people having a brawl that you can mediate, animals to pet, items hidden away, quests to complete, or dangerous places where enemies are known to appear. Even if I just intended to go to the store, I ended up getting sidetracked quite often with something silly like going to eat at all the restaurants for a quest.
Most places look quite distinct too which I appreciated. Ueno has a completely different feeling to Asakusa, even if what’s inside is about the same.
Slaying Servants and Murdering Monsters
In terms of the combat, I should emphasize this; Fate/Samurai Remnant is not a musou game despite some similarities. It’s an action RPG with hack-and-slash combat that needs careful consideration. Rather than blowing away dozens of enemies with one hit, it’s more about timing, looking for and creating openings, learning enemy patterns, dodging, blocking, choosing the right attack, and chipping away the enemy’s health. Getting hit hurts and you can’t just spam light attack until the enemies die. You’ll die, no matter the difficulty level. It keeps enemy numbers relatively limited too with a closed battleground for each encounter and groups of 10 to 50 with 1 or 2 strong enemies in the mix as a norm.
Fate/Samurai Remnant comes with three (later four) difficulty modes that you can change as needed and even the easy mode is more difficult than a lot of games.
Iori is comparatively weak and this comes across well in the gameplay. That said, he’s always growing and this is shown well too.
He starts with two sword styles, water and earth. Initially, it just feels like fast and wide versus slow and defensive, but they feel more distinct as more skills are unlocked. Water later turns into being more about evading, wider reach, and knockback of groups, while earth turns into blocking strong single enemies, and counter-attacking to knock them off balance. Three more styles are added later, each with their own specialties.
Unlike some similar titles, each style felt useful and I needed to switch between them multiple times mid-battle. I might take down a crowd with water while dodging out of reach, use void to break a powerful enemy’s shell (magical shield), and then change to fire to knock down its health. Changing is also incentivized by awarding a buff for doing so after being in one style for some time. The basic combat here is excellent.
Specials and Servants
It’s added to by a variety of special attacks, but many of these can’t be used often.
Iori knows magecraft and can cast some basic spells with the use of gems. Unfortunately, gaining gems is an absolute pain until near the endgame. Ten hours in, I’d unlocked the ability to buy and craft them, but the cost was just too high. It made me save them for the tough bosses, and use them sparingly even then. Considering how difficult they were to obtain the resources for, I was surprised to find that they weren’t too useful.
His other special move is a powerful sword slash that can be unleashed by building up a gauge. It might sound similar to a musou attack, but the gauge on this builds so slowly that I had to think very carefully about when to use it and save it for the bosses.
Luckily, Iori usually isn’t fighting by himself but has a servant (or two) to help out. Affinity attacks come from the servant and Iori together and can be triggered much more often. Sometimes Saber even generated a circle on the battlefield that could activate a bonus affinity attack if we got to it in time.
Less often, it’s possible to spend a gauge to temporarily switch to a servant and control a much more powerful fighter. Saber is there from the start, but along the way, you can recruit several more, and they all fight in very different ways. It helps to mix things up quite a bit to change to a long-distance fighter or a brawler.
The specials add perfectly to the basic combat in Fate/Samurai Remnant. The combat as a whole needs careful thought, fast reflexes, and never gets boring due to so many elements being combined so well.
Training Your Skills
Fate/Samurai Remnant comes with a standard skill tree with unlockable skills, but the implementation is a little different than most. Firstly, a lot of the skill points seem to come from side quests, non-story-related content, finding items on the ground, and so on. If you don’t engage with the optional content here, you’ll find yourself a lot weaker. Some of the skills are completely locked behind this too.
Speaking of locked skills, one pain is that Saber and each rogue servant who can join you has their own skill tree. This is great, except that some of Iori’s skills require ‘x amount of a servant’s skills unlocked’. But certain servants can leave your party for a long while and even permanently, making it impossible at points to unlock certain skills for Iori. This also blocks skills further down that branch of the tree. More normal conditions to unlock skills are along the lines of defeating 100 enemies in a certain way or just spending the skill points alone.
The skills on offer are certainly good though. Basic stat upgrades and new special attacks are the ones that leap out, but lots of small upgrades to the sword styles are what really make them feel distinct from each other.
Beyond the skill tree, there’s equipment that you can upgrade in your workshop, workshop upgrades, and so on. There’s even a small strategy minigame that has you and servants taking positions on a map to cut off enemies and receive an upgrade to your stats in return.
Fate/Samurai Remnant looks amazing for the most part. The 3D models look great, the environments are beautiful, and the occasional CG artwork stands out. The sprites and 3D models both are animated with lip flaps when talking, which helps to bring scenes to life a bit more.
While it’s certainly great overall, not everything is perfect. Yoshiwara is a particular joy to wander around with its background of cherry blossom trees, but I noticed frame drops there and in Shinigawa while running around. Occasionally in battle too, when lots of effects are flying around. For context, I’m playing the Playstation 5 version, so I can’t comment on how it might be on the less powerful consoles. There’s also the occasional minor detail, like birds being dotted around the environment and just being pushed out of the way when running into them rather than flying off.
More positively, the action is a highlight here. There are some great cinematic moments in battles, both in gameplay and in movies that are part of the story.
The voice acting is certainly well done too, with a cast of experienced anime voice actors, perhaps most notably Aya Hirano who plays one of the masters. Nothing stood out to me too much, but each played their part well. There is no English dub option.
The music underpinned the dramatic moments well, with what seems like a full orchestra taking part. Even The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo was involved in making the music. That’s not to say that the more relaxed moments weren’t good too though.
Fate/Samurai Remnant combines the masterful storytelling of the Fate universe with Koei Tecmo’s expertise in creating excellent hack-and-slash games. It’s certainly worth picking up, as long as you’re up for the rather challenging action RPG gameplay.
FATE/SAMURAI REMNANT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Koei Tecmo for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.