You have to really be in the know to realize this, but The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is actually a followup to 2013’s The Guided Fate Paradox, which itself was a spiritual sequel to Z.H.P. on the PSP. Phew. It really makes you wonder why there couldn’t be a consistent naming convention, doesn’t it? Yet, this title is so far removed from its predecessors in terms of general tone and gameplay that it actually makes a lot of sense.
If you missed out on it, The Guided Fate Paradox was about a high school kid named Renya who becomes God after winning the lottery at his local mall. It examined what it would be like to be a teenage deity in a humorous way, while throwing in randomly generated floors and heaps of customization. The Awakened Fate Ultimatum, by comparison, is still very much a story about a high school kid who becomes God, except with a much darker and serious tone and gameplay that’s reduced to its simplest form. It’s such a 180 that it’s hardly recognizable, but this is good news if you didn’t particularly care for series before.
The protagonist this time is Shin Kamikaze, a teenage loner on a normal walk home from school when he gets ambushed by a squadron of winged devils. A beautiful angel named Jupiel swoops in to his rescue and fends off the attack, but not before he takes a mortal wound to the chest. He later wakes up in Celestia to find that he’s been revived with the aid of the devil Ariael and the Fate Awakening Crystal. Not only that, but he’s now God, created with the sole purpose of waging war with the Netherworld. Now he’s saddled with the responsibility of maintaining balance and ensuring the safety of humans and angels alike. What’s a teen to do?
Unlike the lighthearted nature of the previous game, this particular title is rather dark in its tone. There are a few moments of humor sprinkled throughout, but for the most part you play witness to Shin’s immaturity as he learns how to make difficult choices with his newfound power. Of course, many of the choices are left up to the player, and you get to see first hand how most of them play out (badly). The decisions you make are framed in a paragon/renegade sort of way (akin to Mass Effect), except the “good” option isn’t always the best. There were several occasions where choosing to save everybody led to saving none as they all died anyway. The result is surprisingly profound, and I found myself enjoying it much more than its predecessor, especially with the improved pacing.
The basic flow goes a little something like this: you’ll get introduced to a chapter, maybe watch a few cutscenes, and then head into a dungeon. During your trek you’ll maybe get interrupted with some dialogue once or twice, but for the most part you’re free to enjoy your exploration until you finish. Then it may conclude with a choice and/or a boss fight. Pretty standard stuff, but far more preferable than the one cutscene per floor system it had going before.
It’s not just the story that feels more brisk, the core of the game flows much more quickly as well. A lot of it has to do with much of the fat trimming that comes with preparing for your next dungeon crawling venture. Shin has a level that measures his strength, though it does not reset back to one after leaving a dungeon; it continues to grow as the game progresses. As a result, the Divinigram system has gotten the axe completely. In its place is a system for boosting stats for Shin’s different forms (more on that later) using Crystal Points, or CP. These points are earned from level ups or by making certain decisions that fall into either the Angel or Devil camp and determine what you can do with those points. The only thing you lose as a result of death are the items you’re carrying, including your equipment which is limited to a weapon, a shield, and an accessory. Replacing them is not difficult though, as you can fuse items together to make more powerful ones that inherit bonuses.
Other aspects of the game remain faithful, including the familiar mechanic of performing any action using up a turn, whether it be moving or attacking. And any enemies you see adhere to this rule as well. The floors you encounter are randomly generated and you must find the entrance to the next floor. There are no checkpoints this time around though; you have to get through each chapter’s dungeon in one go and the only means of escape is through death or an item (you can create a suspend save if you must). Despite that, the game is much easier than The Guided Fate Paradox ever was, so those looking for a hardcore challenge beware. It does ramp up in difficulty, but not until you’re at least halfway through the game.
Shin goes into dungeons alone, though the enemies he faces fall into two affinities: Angel or Devil. He can “deitize” into an Angel or Devil form himself in order to deal the most damage to whichever one he’s facing. Transforming costs Special Points to perform actions and allowing these to deplete to 0 will revert him back to human. Each form also has special abilities that consume SP, including hard hitting attacks and stat buffs. Doing any kind of action at all depletes your Action Points and without food to restore them, Shin goes hungry and starts to lose HP.
In between events you have access to loads of stuff, including a storehouse to place your items when you’re away, a shop to buy new stuff, and various options for listening to the soundtrack or viewing previous events. The game doesn’t do much with sprites this time around, so much of your interactions will be with full color stills and text boxes. And while the artwork is well done, it’s a bit disappointing that the only character models besides the enemies are Shin and his fat head. This means no more customizing your characters with Prinny hats and tank treads, though given the more serious nature of this release, it’s at least thematically appropriate. Just keep in mind you may be a bit visually underwhelmed.
The voice acting is really solid though, with Johnny Young Bosch filling the role of the lead character. Michelle Ruff does very well as Ariael, though some of the other supporting characters are not as impressive (Jupiel). As with other NISA releases, you have the option to switch on the Japanese dialogue if mood strikes, so you’re not locked into the English dub if you don’t want to be. The soundtrack fits the atmosphere well, which is good considering how much time you spend in dungeons.
At the end of the day, The Awakened Fate Ultimatum attempts to rope in more potential roguelike fans by streamlining the mechanics of its predecessor in the simplest way possible: by dropping them altogether. All you have to worry about is increasing your level, fusing some good gear, and you can be on your way. There’s not even boatloads of dialogue to interrupt your dungeon crawling. I actually found myself enjoying their “less is more” mentality. The storytelling is better thought out, the pacing is better, and there are less mechanics that I have to contend with mastering. It makes the game super easy as a result, but roguelike fans turned away by the ease of the previous game likely won’t care anyway.
Short Attention Span Summary
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is the followup to Nippon Ichi’s 2013 roguelike title, The Guided Fate Paradox. It has undergone a drastic shift in tone, a simplified interface, and much better pacing, leaving an experience that is hardly recognizable from its previous form. That being said, I found myself enjoying it much more than the previous game, as it felt like trimming the fat away left an adventure that was far more respectful of my time. While it does ramp up the difficulty about midway through, genre fans should keep in mind that this is a much easier ride than what they’re probably used to. With that in mind, I can think of no better introduction to the genre for newcomers. If I had to repeat the choice about whether to play this game or not, I’d definitely give it another go.