The Awakened Fate Ultimatum (AFU) is a roguelike dungeon cralwer role-playing game (RPG), developed by Nippon Ichi Software. It tells the story of Shin Kamakazi, a high school student who is murdered by devils and saved by an angel named Jupiel. He is taken to Celestia, the angel home world, and resurrected by the scientist Ariael who implants the Fate Awakening Crystal in his chest. Shin soon learns he has become God, and is thrust into the centre of the war between angels and devils.
The characters you meet initially feel like anime archetypes. Shin is the reluctant hero, sulking about his fate and brimming with potential power. Jupiel is the dutiful and dainty warrior who takes her job of taking care of Shin as seriously as her stuffed animal collection. Ariael, by contrast, cares for Shin as simply a vessel through which she can continue her research of the Fate Awakening Crystal. Each character progresses wonderfully from these beginnings, growing faithfully to their respective personalities.
What caught me by surprise was where the story takes these characters, becoming a gut-wrenching tale of war. Death and sacrifice are plentiful, and as things unravel the true brutality of this conflict is explored in detail. You are placed at the centre of the story tasked with a number of tough choices. No decision seems right or wrong, yet all have consequences. Each character responds to the fallout believably, adding complex and emotional progression as they form ever stronger bonds of friendship and endure hardship together.
The story is delivered in the style of a visual novel with dialogue and sound effects accompanying character and scenery images which are static for the most part. I haven’t had too much experience with visual novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed what AFU had to offer. The bright and colourful art style delivers plenty of cheer, with dialogue wonderfully strengthening relationships of the main characters.
When you aren’t watching the story develop, you’ll be crawling your way through treacherous dungeons. Each one is procedurally generated and tasks you with blindly navigating corridors with the ultimate aim of progressing through each floor until you reach the exit. Items are littered throughout, including gear to arm Shin with and a variety of consumables for every conceivable situation.
But in order to get to these items, you also need to be able to defend yourself. AFU features a rather unique tweak on turn based combat connected to Shin’s Fate Awakening Crystal, allowing you to “Deitize” between Angel and Devil forms. If your enemy is a Devil, Angel form gives you a distinct advantage and vice versa.
However, you need to return to normal as SP (AFU’s version of magic) drains for every move made. I got in some narrow scrapes after letting it run out, meaning I couldn’t stand up to enemies the same efficiency. You also have a number of special abilities, though these drain SP all the quicker. As such, you have to carefully choose moments when they are necessary. Unfortunately this means combat can devolve into simple button taps that make combat feel thin no matter how fast and responsive landing hits is.
Any single creature is more than capable of sending you back to Celestia with nothing but wounded pride and an empty inventory.
Weapons, armour, and accessories add the ability to customise, with a handful of effects to make dealing damage more efficient and enduring hits more bearable. Weapons and armour are a little underwhelming, with no variety in play style despite the quantity of gear present. You can, however, improve the base stats of your favourite gear by using others as a material, and add gems for various abilities. Some of the more interesting gem abilities include allowance to attack enemies behind you with each strike or converting damage to currency. Accessories grant some cool bonuses like increased recovery, status immunity and my personal favourite, sneaking to avoid waking slumbering enemies.
Every dark and dreary corner hides a diverse assortment of weird and wonderful enemies to fight. Some particular highlights of AFU’s bestiary are vacuum cleaner inspired creatures that steal your items, vampires that can lower your level and swift-moving giant bats. Enemy creatures make a beeline for you on sight, with each able to deliver hefty blows. Getting surrounded was a death sentence in my time with the game, though any single creature is more than capable of sending you back to Celestia with nothing but wounded pride and an empty inventory.
This simple fact gives death a lot of weight. Being careless in a dungeon doesn’t simply mean you can begin again from a conveniently placed checkpoint. Rather, you need to begin from the start, except without all of that great gear that is now lost to the ether. There is a great feeling of tension to dungeons, with exploring to find better gear a risk that may not pay off. You also need to watch your AC gauge which drains with each action. A variety of trap tiles that can inflict status ailments, damage you, or curse your items add yet another layer of tension.
There were definitely times where I was getting ripped to pieces in the early moments of a dungeon, but a little level grinding made everything much more comfortable. In early sections while learning how to play, I felt AFU’s difficulty and lost my gear a couple of times. As I progressed, however, there were shades of punishing difficulty that were washed away after levelling. The prevalence and affordability of revive gems also means that there is no need to die and having some as a safety net leaves little to fear. This isn’t to say it is completely without difficulty, as death can still occur by getting overwhelmed or being caught cold without the resources to cope.
There is a healthy amount of content to bring you back after the end of the story. Perhaps most important to RPG fans is a series of three additional storylines that comprise the post-game, complete with dungeons more difficult than the main story. The option to start a new game plus is included, allowing you to replay the game with all of your end-game equipment.
The soundtrack rounds out the package supremely. It features a diverse selection of accompaniments that raise the emotive impact of every moment to greater heights. The theme that plays in dungeons and intense story moments is incredibly impactful, with a haunting choir setting you on edge. Quiet moments lay angelic strings alongside heart-warming dialogue, and the most chilling of moments are seasoned with an unsettling violin.
Despite some minor gripes, I enjoyed The Awakened Fate Ultimatum a great deal. It tells a gripping tale of budding friendship during wartime married perfectly to its fantasy world that had me hooked from the opening moments. While the gameplay can be a little simple, the fun of combat and exploration never suffers, leaving me eager to reach the next dungeon. As a complete package, AFU provides a multitude of reasons to return to your Playstation 3 for a satisfying and emotional adventure.