The Fate multimedia franchise is a gargantuan entity where simply choosing a series/title to start with can be a daunting and overwhelming experience. Fate/Samurai Remnant is the newest entry to the franchise. It’s an action RPG that immediately stands out for its Edo Japan setting — an “old” timeline that most Fate universes won’t touch — and features a main character who is a ronin and the adopted son of the legendary Musashi Miyamoto.
I am a long-time fan of Miyamoto’s martial arts philosophy and am also a retired Fate/Grand Order player, so I was more than intrigued by the game’s premise. Actually, I was so ecstatic to swipe this preview build away from my fellow staff members that I would’ve turned into a feral beast if they hadn’t relinquished it to me.
While I did have initial concerns about whether Fate/Samurai Remnant would stand out from the sea of Fate titles in terms of story and characters, my five or so hours with the action RPG allowed me to see its appeal and how it’s much more than just another Fate title. It’s also a really fun game to play.
Almost all Fate stories involve some variation of the same concept — seven Masters are chosen to participate in a battle royale-style ritual called the Holy Grail War in pursuit of a wish granting device, and they must summon seven historical spirits known as Servants to battle alongside them. Fate/Samurai Remnant begins almost the same way, where you control the ronin, Master Iori Miyamoto, and his Saber-class Servant to battle against other Master and Servant pairings. However, there are some deviations like the Waxing Moon Ritual and the addition of masterless Rogue Servants, such as Ruler Gilgamesh and Rider Tamamo, that may assist or fight you throughout the game.
The Waxing Moon Ritual is hinted to be a foreign ritual brought from the West by the elusive Tsuchimikado family, who are allegedly descendants of the famous onmyodo sorcerer Abe-no-Seimei. While this plot point is interesting at first, it feels too predictable since it sets up the Tsuchimikado as textbook antagonists who simply want vengeance or to sow chaos in Edo.
As a result, I was more interested in Iori’s personal story, especially when he encounters a Berserker Servant who happens to be Musashi Miyamoto, albeit a younger, female version from a separate timeline. Although it might be a bizarre plot point for non-Fate fans, I found it quite heartwarming to see them interact. Despite being her enemy, the ronin smiles a bit more than he’s used to. Berserker is a dynamic, battle-loving warrior who lives in the moment compared to the old, decrepit, and foreboding mentor from Iori’s memories. He chuckles to Musashi’s familiar antics and lounges more comfortably in the presence of another Master and Servant pairing.
Aside from his interactions with Berserker, Iori’s relationship with Saber is also endearing. Saber is a bit of an old soul who knows little of the current Edo period, but they are adventurous and curious about everything. Oftentimes, Saber runs across the map when something catches their eye — like a food stall selling barbequed meats or a festival that they want to participate in — and you have to press the sprint button to catch up with them. Iori plays the older brother role in this case where he occasionally chastises them for running off or reluctantly lectures them about the ways of the current world, but he never patronizes their eagerness and calmly watches over them. In the heat of battle, they stand as equals in terms of strategy, communicate with callouts, and often compliment each other after a battle, which strengthens their bond as Master and Servant.
Some Fate fans might see Saber as a carbon copy of Artoria Saber from Fate/Stay Night, especially with their tendency to be voracious. However, Saber in Fate/Samurai Remnant has a more carefree attitude that complements their Master’s more withdrawn and serious demeanor, as opposed to Artoria, who still remains aloof and dignified in front of her Master and others.
Like other Omega Force and Koei Tecmo games, Fate/Samurai Remnant features hack-and-slash gameplay against waves of enemies. You primarily play as Iori, who utilizes a variety of sword stances and fire-based magecraft. Weaving sword combos to build up gauges for an Ultimate is Koei Tecmo’s signature mechanic, and Fate/Samurai Remnant implements that via Iori’s Valor gauge. When the Valor gauge is full, Iori unleashes a powerful attack that decimates enemies, with the animation sequence changing depending on his stance.
Since he’s just a human, Iori is mechanically “weaker” than a Servant, but his fighting style features some neat historical inspirations. The early parts of the game feature the Earth and Water stances, which are inspired by some of the scrolls from Musashi’s martial art and philosophy memoir The Book of Five Rings. The Earth Scroll discusses martial art principles and basic weapon usage, while the Water Scroll specifically focuses on Musashi’s dual-sword Niten Ichiryu style.
When you weave combos using the Earth Stance, Iori uses basic kenjutsu techniques with his long katana that has a block-and-parry function and deals heavy-solo attacks. Meanwhile, combos from the Water Stance have Iori using both his katana and washizaki to unleash AOE attacks that deal less damage but are ideal for crowd mitigation. The variety had me excited to unlock new stances and experiment with combos. Fittingly, the real Musashi would’ve expected his pupils to switch things up rather than rely on a single sword style or training method.
Meanwhile, Saber mostly serves as an A.I. companion to Iori, clearing mobs and occasionally hitting the boss with basic attacks. However, it’s ideal to switch perspectives with them once you’ve built enough of the Affinity Gauge to unleash a torrent of water-based techniques or perform Link Strikes with Iori for a combo attack. As fun as it is to spam Saber’s skills to break an enemy’s guard, the Servant can only be played for limited periods of time. This pushes players to continue honing Iori’s sword styles and not rely on Saber’s might.
With The Book of Five Rings in mind, it’s easy to predict what the remaining stances will be. The Wind and Void Scrolls are good contenders, while the Fire Scroll — which is rooted in battlefield strategy and tactics like crossing a ford or stomping down on a sword — seems to be represented by Iori’s magecraft, referred to as katon spells, instead. These spells rely on jewel fragments that can be picked up after striking down a series of enemies and can be used to execute fireball attacks or self-heal. It’s slightly difficult to integrate katon spells during the game’s prologue since it is riddled with cutscenes, and the enemies don’t drop that many jewel fragments either. Later, katon becomes easier to use when you accumulate jewel fragments through random brawls and fight against yokai-inspired monsters.
Eventually, all of the skills learned between Iori and Saber come to a head when you have the opportunity to play as none other than Berserker at the end of the preview. With the fully developed Niten Ichiryu style and the magical prowess that comes with being a Servant, Berserker embodies parts of Iori’s melee spams, and the Valor Gauge is switched out for her Noble Phantasm, the “Six Paths, Five Rings: Kurikara Divine Blade” that manifests into a gigantic god-like avatar that deals massive damage. You feel incredibly powerful fighting as Berserker, and I can only begin to imagine what it’d be like if Iori and Saber have to face Berserker in the end.
The second part of Fate/Samurai Remnant’s gameplay is more unique and ties directly to Fate’s lore regarding Bounded Fields and Ley Lines. At certain points in the story, Iori and Saber encounter magically warded areas called Bounded Fields that they cannot physically barge through. Instead, they must take detours across Edo by connecting to the local Ley Lines and either circumvent the Bounded Fields or weaken it enough to pass through.
This operates like Girls’ Frontline where Iori and Saber have chessboard like placements across a crisscrossing grid landscape to recapture the points in a set number of moves. Each individual point in the Ley Lines is known as a Spirit Font, with both Major and Minor Fonts as key objectives to capture. At times, Iori and Saber may clash with enemy units, request help from Rogue Servants that they’ve allied with, or use a Support Codex spell to send Saber across the map to defend your homebase.
Once the Bounded Fields have been dismantled, Iori is able to disconnect from the Ley Lines and freely explore other regions that would’ve otherwise been locked. This adds the element of exploration and doing side content, such as exploring the smaller neighborhoods around Asakusa and Yoshiwara, indulging Saber when they stop somewhere to inspect something, buy and sell goods to gather materials for your mage workshop, or pet the various cats and dogs to regain HP. Although the game is not open-world, the maps for each district are quite expansive, and you can spend some hours just meandering through and admiring the hyper-detailed surroundings that stem from Toshiharu Suzuki’s careful art direction.
My favorite place to explore was the Torikoe Shrine, an otherwise inaccessible Minor Spirit Font that appears near the end of the demo. Unlike most of the local shrines in the busy neighborhoods, Torikoe is set in a wooded landscape filled with large stone markers, quaint prayer corners and stone lanterns, and a corded off temple. There are some monsters to fight there, but it’s otherwise a serene location to do simple side quests and relax in between battles.
However, the crown jewel of side quests in Fate/Samurai Remnant is the interaction with the odd wholesaler who opens up a shop in Asakusa. Concerned that a Rogue Servant is settling on their territory, Iori and Saber immediately check them out. They are met with an eccentric Ruler-class Gilgamesh who dons a gaudy golden haori and preaches how he is unconcerned about the Waxing Moon Ritual and is simply here to share his “wealth” with the commoners through his shop, Babyloni-ya. A pair of children suddenly appear to badger him, to which Gilgamesh responds with “Lo, the unblemished clarity of my eyes! Lo, the sculpted perfection of my abdomen!” before presenting some candied goods sculpted in his image to the children.
For all of Fate/Samurai Remnant’s seriousness towards the Waxing Moon Ritual, this side quest is so hilarious and accurate to Gilgamesh’s absurd nature in other series that I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Forming relationships and bonds is an integral part of the Fate franchise, and Fate/Samurai Remnant nails that by allowing all the characters to develop fully through these side quests that would otherwise not have room in the main storyline.
Overall, Fate/Samurai Remnant has so far proven to be a solid action RPG with battle systems that fluidly translate Fate’s core concepts and is accompanied by amazing visuals and character writing. There is a small learning curve to take in for gamers unfamiliar with Koei Tecmo’s hack-and-slash gameplay and for non-Fate fans who find themselves lore-dumped by the game. However, the game’s mechanics are compelling with its variety of attack combinations that should keep battles feeling fresh throughout the full game’s 50 hours of playtime, and all the lore and mission objectives are featured in the game’s extra materials, rather than being dumped on your head in-game. After this five-hour sample, I cannot wait to experience the full product and fall right back in love with Fate.