The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is a sequel to Awakened Fate Paradox and takes place directly after the events of that game, but its story doesn’t involve any of the previous characters or events. This game incorporates most of the gameplay elements from the first game, such as dungeon crawling and randomly-generated dungeons, presenting them in a much more polished form. Speaking of randomly-generated dungeons, random is the name of the game here, and while this type of RPG has become popular overseas, the inconsistent gameplay might not translate well.

Awakened Fate: Ultimatum follows main character Shin Kamikaze after he dies and is revived as God of Celestia in order to help the angels in their ongoing war against the devils of this world. The overarching plot is much more interesting than any of the characters or their relationships. Shin Kamikaze, is a whiny teenager who you’ll dislike the deeper you progress through the game. Shin will always have something negative to say about the choices you make throughout the game. When the characters in a game complain and chastise you about your choices in the story, it makes the player feel less involved and more like an outsider trying to direct the story. The rest of the cast are stereotypical JRPG characters, and anyone familiar with the tropes will instantly recognize the character types that present themselves.

As you may have guessed, the game is presented in an anime art style and cutscenes are done in a series of still images accompanied by dialogue. The art itself is very well done but you’ll see the same backgrounds and characters repeated throughout the game. Whether or not that makes the story enjoyable is up to the player’s tastes, but for the most part it makes the dialogue sections drag and the predictable character development isn’t doing the story any favors. One thing that should be said however is that the decision-making mechanic in this game, while nothing more than a simple “good or bad” choice in every chapter, affects more than just the immediate chapter and story. Dialogue scenes and character interactions change subtly in accordance to decisions you made multiple chapters ago, and that gives them weight where otherwise it would just feel like a tacked on mechanic.

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Even though there’s nothing new going on with this game’s narrative or characters, the gameplay keeps things fresh. It’s nice change of pace compared to the rest of the game, even though it does get frustrating. Chapters are divided by dungeons that must be traversed in order to progress. These dungeons, as well as the enemies, items, and traps found in them are randomly generated even though the amount of floors remains constant depending on the dungeon. Exploring feels very unique in this game, as it is tied into the combat system. Whenever you take a step or use your weapon, you’re taking a turn, and so are the enemies. This takes some getting used to since at first you’ll want to play it like an action RPG while exploring, but after a few enemy encounters it starts to make a lot more sense.

Speaking of enemies, the things you’ll fight in Awakened Fate range from annoying to downright unfair. Once you learn their movements and attack patterns, it becomes much more manageable, but the road to success in this game is paved with death. Dying is something you’ll really want to avoid in this game, as it carries a bit more weight than death in a normal RPG. Upon expiring, you’ll lose all of the items you have equipped and in your inventory, and have to start the dungeon over. You are given storage space to keep items you don’t want to lose or store surplus items, as well as the option to buy items and equipment between dungeons with currency acquired from defeating enemies, which you don’t lose upon death. This creates an interesting risk versus reward situation throughout the whole game. Do you bring your best weapons and items and risk losing them all if you happen to get cornered by multiple enemies? Should I risk finding a room full of powerful enemies in the hopes of finding items and better gear? These are questions you’ll frequently ask while playing Awakened Fate.

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While this makes for some very strategic gameplay, and successfully navigating any dungeon is very satisfying, it’s hard to keep up a consistent strategy with so much random chance every step of the way. The fact that there are random trap tiles that can heal you, lower your stats or even inflict status ailments doesn’t help either. Later dungeons and bosses, which are rare in this game, are especially unforgiving, and force you to revisit past dungeons to grind levels and upgrade your devil and/or angel forms. These forms boost your stats and are essential in combat, as they let you kill enemies of the opposite type easier, meaning that your angel form does more damage to enemies with a devil attribute and vice versa. Overall, dungeon crawling is fun and the combat is solid once you learn the ins and outs, but the amount of random chance thrown in only hinders the experience.

Ultimately, Awakened Fate: Ultimatum does provide a unique gameplay experience that caters to players seeking a challenge. The story is decent enough, but if you don’t enjoy the narrative tropes explored or used, it’ll be very hard to become invested in the world or characters. Awakened Fate: Ultimatum caters to fans of very challenging games, but provides little else in terms of characters or story, but is certainly not like many other RPGs out right now. Anyone looking for a fresh experience, albeit a very difficult one, will enjoy the mechanics presented here. The RNG, as well as the steep difficulty, raise the barrier for entry however, and will no doubt turn a lot of players away, with good reason

This review is based on a digital download of The Awakened Fate Ultimatum provided by the publisher for PlayStation 3.