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"Fate: Grand Order" Game Review

Jeremy enjoys gaming when not helping manage the college he graduated from.

Saber in FGO

Saber in FGO

What Is Fate: Grand Order?

Most fans first experience the Fate series via visual novel or anime, but Fate Grand Order (FGO) expands it into the mobile gaming genre. Utilizing strategic turn-based combat alongside the infamous toy-vendor "gacha" system (where you gradually unlock characters at random from a large pool), the game offers a vastly different Fate experience—does it deserve your attention? Find out as we explore the pros and cons of Fate/Grand Order!

Pros of Fate: Grand Order

Here are things the game does right.

1. It's Free to Play

First and foremost, the game's free to download and play. Now, like all gacha games, you'll unlock resources and characters much faster if you shell out some actual money, but you can technically obtain all content without spending a penny, meaning there's virtually zero risk in giving the title a shot.

Mash is the plot's heroic spirit

Mash is the plot's heroic spirit

2. Impressive Story Mode

FGO's story isn't Shakespeare or anything (although he does appear in it), but it's a fun romp throughout multiple time eras where you get to meet dozens of servants, both callbacks to previous warriors and new fighters. Considering many gacha games don't offer a true single-player campaign, it's a respectable tale with engaging characters and humor to keep your attention.

Arts chain in FGO

Arts chain in FGO

3. Character Availability and Combat

FGO includes pretty much every servant previously seen in Fate, plus dozens more, so you'll have tons of customization options. Well, that is once you unlock them, as many of the most exciting require Saint Quartz (a special resource free-to-players obtain at a slow crawl), but all-in-all, it's nice that you can eventually team up your favorites.

Combat impresses too; after creating a party of five (using three at a time) and adding a guest servant from a friend, you engage in turn-based battles, selecting three attacks per round. Servants have various skills and noble phantasms to employ, and you'll have to decide between quick attacks (good at scoring critical hits), arts (raising your NP gauge), and buster (dealing the most damage).

Sherlock Holmes, obtainable via a special event

Sherlock Holmes, obtainable via a special event

4. Special Events

Even once you've beaten the story, you'll still have several battles to enjoy thanks to a wealth of limited-time events. These offer postgame challenges and unique characters, so they're definitely worth your time, not to mention the daily missions you'll find in any gacha game.

I also appreciate that every day, you get 10 free summons. That said, they're of the weaker variety (level 3 and lower rarity), but it's still a fun daily event, especially when you're starting off.

5. No Ads

Many free-to-play titles earn money by showing ads periodically, but FGO is surprisingly ad-free without having to shell out actual dough. This helps speed up the gameplay, though sadly it's counteracted by…

Noble phantasms are fun, but lengthy attacks

Noble phantasms are fun, but lengthy attacks

Cons of Fate: Grand Order

Here's where the game needs improvement.

1. No Auto-Battle or Animation Skips

To an extent, I'm willing to accept that gachas require grinding for resources, but most offer auto-battles or other ways to skip easier missions, saving the actual combat for challenging levels that demand your attention.

FGO simply doesn't have an equivalent feature, so it doesn't matter if you're packing level 80s that will curb-stomp the level-20 daily missions, you have to sit down and complete them manually.

To add to the hassle, you can't skip the lengthy noble phantasm mini-scenes. Sure, everyone's ultimate attack is fun to see at first, but after you've used one 10+times, it's a chore to wait the 20 or so seconds it takes for each.

There is a feature that slightly speeds up the battle speed, which you'll immediately turn on and never go back, but the distinct lack of auto-battles and skill/phantasm skipping makes the daily grind just that.

Saint quartz, the game's premium resource

Saint quartz, the game's premium resource

2. Grinding Required

To be fair, you'll find grinding in every gacha game, so it's not really unique to FGO, but understand that if you aren't going to invest any money, you're in for a heck of a grind. You need certain resources to level up, others to improve skills, and still others to summon the highest-rank heroes.

This is made worse by problem 1, because at least if there was auto-battling, we could largely skip the grind, but as is, it's a painful slog. I understand the developers need to make money somehow, and this is the tradeoff for free-to-play titles, but it's something to keep in mind with basically every gacha game.

Boss fight in FGO

Boss fight in FGO

3. No PVP

For as much single-player content as the game offers, there's no real PVP (player vs player) modes, you're always fighting computer-controlled enemies, who you'll almost certainly beat if you've grinded your levels and skills high enough.

Some players argue that PVP wouldn't work because area-of-effect noble phantasms could potentially wipe the board on turn one, but I'm sure there's workarounds, like offering advantages to the player going second or such. Plus, there's ways to ensure you're facing opponents of comparable strength, so it wouldn't be hard to keep matches relatively even.

Servants in FGO

Servants in FGO

4. No English Voices/Subtitles

Usually, I'll watch an anime's sub when available, as their quality tends to be better than English dubs. But, like most overseas anime fans, I don't actually speak Japanese, so if you're like me, you won't understand any of what FGO's servants are saying in battle since there aren't any subtitles (except during noble phantasms) or dubbing options.

Now, the menus and story cutscenes have all been translated, so you'll navigate the game just fine, but it's sad that we miss out on everyone's unique quips. I understand dubbing every character could be expensive for the developers, but if finances were the issue, at least make optional subtitles available.

Fate: Grand Order Rating

Despite some gripes, I did enjoy my time with FGO, ranking it about a 7 or 8 out of 10. If they ever implement auto-battles/PVP, it'll jump higher, but as is, it's an interactive albeit flawed way to experience the Fate world.

As of this writing, the game's still receiving support, so we'll see where future updates take it, but for now, share your thoughts on Fate Grand Order and I'll see you at our next gaming review!

© 2021 Jeremy Gill