Fate/Samurai Remnant is Historical Fantasy Done Right

Fate/Samurai Remnant Preview

Fate/Samurai Remnant is an action RPG spinoff of the massive Type-Moon universe. While it’s technically linked to the Fate series, in practice this game is doing its own thing. While returning fans will recognize a few things and new fans should be brought up to speed naturally. In short, this title is a great way to break into the Fate franchise, especially for alternate history fans.

In an alternate feudal Japan, a young swordsman is attacked by a towering blue warrior. Iori Miyamoto is only human. Despite his best efforts, he doesn’t stand a chance against a Servant–a mythological hero of ages past. But he cannot afford to die yet. His desperation calls forth Saber, one of humanity’s heroes, to stand at his side. And thus a deadly magical tournament begins in the early days of the Edo period–an already tense era.

The winners will be granted a single wish… and the losers will almost certainly die. Either way, there will be a hideous amount of collateral damage, and that Iori won’t allow. In the name of peace, he takes up his sword. This preview covers the beginning of his fight for survival.

The Fate franchise is no stranger to historical fiction, but this particular set-up is a treat. There is a treasure trove of references to Japanese history. Especially the social unrest and important figures of the Edo period. Iori is the former student of Musashi Miyamoto, a contender for Japan’s greatest swordsman. Although his teacher died before passing on the final lessons of his style, Iori is still a deadly swordsman. In a less peaceful time, he would surely become a legend. However, if there’s one thing Fate loves to remind us, it’s that heroes die.

A Surreal Alternate History

Iori lives during a time of great political turmoil. Japan has recently been unified and subsequently closed itself off from the outside world. Many great lords are losing their rank and leaving their samurai retainers to become heavily-armed and aimless wanderers. And the land’s professions have been set firmly in place as a kind of caste system with little room for class mobility.

Even the samurai, the most respected profession, find themselves in trouble. There are too many men with swords and not enough lords to hire them. In this turbulent era, 7 people and 15 ancient heroes prepare to kill each other in the name of the Waxing Moon Ritual.

Fate/Samurai Remnant screenshot of Musashi.

Unlike most previous Fate protagonists, Iori is a dangerous combatant in his own right. There’s something really refreshing about charging into battle yourself instead of by proxy with another Servant. Though you do also play as Iori’s Servant Saber, who does a lot more damage to Heroic Spirits. You can customize both their fighting styles.

Combat revolves around switching between Iori’s stances, managing massive numbers of opponents, and dueling difficult bosses. Fortunately, racking up combos is not difficult. There are some quick time events to manage, though. And ranged attacks are linked to consumables, which means I didn’t use them nearly as much as I’d like to.

Fate/Samurai Remnant is a Good Entry Point For the Franchise

The Fate franchise is a dense labyrinth at the best of times, but Fate/Samurai Remnant may actually be a good entry point. Not only is it largely detached from other entries in the series, it includes a thorough explanation of the setting’s mechanics. And Iori’s character arc resonates with the franchise’s core themes of heroism, identity, and the march of time while remaining distinct. Saber and Iori have an endearing dynamic right from the start. One is callous to the suffering of others, yet excitable and often naïve. The other is stoic and subdued, yet clinging desperately to an idealism that may lead him to his doom.

Fate/Samurai Remnant screenshot of Saber.

The art design for this game is really good. They’re a great mix of Fate’s iconic stylized fantasy and a surprisingly grounded take on feudal Japan. Most of the human characters are either real historical figures or linked to them. A white-haired anime pretty boy samurai can walk beside a towering mountain of armour. And Fate/Grand Order’s genderbent Musashi Miyamoto fits right in beside a high-class courtesan in her enormous kimono and towering hairdo. It’s the kind of surreal yet believable experience that I like in my urban fantasy JRPGs. And this game is very much an urban fantasy experience, even if the city in question is 1650’s Edo.

This preview appeared to only have Japanese voice-acting available. The voice-acting is very good, however.

I normally praise the use of anime-style character portraits to display emotion over in-game 3D models. Here’s the thing, though: Fate/Samurai Remnant has really good 3D models and really sketchy animated portraits. They would be better as static art.

Repetition and Strategy

Most of Fate/Samurai Remnant is spent either fighting or running around medieval Japanese locales. However, upgrading Iori’s workshop, completing optional missions, and petting animals adds some gameplay variety. There’s even a strategic element when conducting a campaign through the Spirit Font network. Possibly too much of a strategic element—this was easily the hardest part of the game for me.

Fate/Samurai Remnant screenshot Spirit Font map.

Battles tend to be fast-paced and short. This keeps them from overstaying their welcome. The strategic sections can lead to a parade of chained battles that stretch on far too long, though. I found healing items were the most important thing to manage in this preview. Getting swarmed by enemies was easy and bosses could be very hard to damage without leaving myself open. And while swapping to play as Saber was always fun, I wish it lasted longer. As soon as I’m getting used to Saber’s playstyle, the change runs out and I’m playing as Iori again. However, none of this is a deal breaker for me.

Did I have fun with this preview? Yes. Is it pretty to look at? Yes. Am I excited for the full release? Yes. Would I recommend this to people who haven’t been following the Fate franchise for a decade? I am genuinely shocked to say this, but yes.

Fate/Samurai Remnant screenshot of Saber's summoning.

Fate/Samurai Remnant is shaping to be a good time for everyone. If this preview is anything to go by, you owe it to yourself to play this game. And who knows, maybe it will get you interested in learning more about Japanese history.

***PC code provided by the publisher***