The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum on PS3
“All gods are pretty half-assed, no matter which world they’re from,” Ariael brays at me while eating a cup of instant noodles – her favorite food. As she continues slurping what I assume to be a cup of Super Spicy Flame noodles – her favorite flavor, probably – hapless protagonist Shin Kamikaze can’t help but wonder what exactly he’s supposed to do while trapped in a base filled with angels who despise him and a devil who only sees him as a research subject.
The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum delivers a story about a teenage boy-turned-god who is just as half-assed as Ariael describes all gods to be. As a boy who’s always been bullied and left largely friendless in school, Shin Kamikaze’s life turns upside-down when a legion of flying devils swoop down on him one day and impale him with a spear. Our sympathetic protagonist finds himself dead and quickly resurrected as a god of Celestia within the first 15 minutes of the game.
If anything, this speedy opening sequence should be an indication of how briskly the plot progresses. The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum wastes no time in transforming Shin from a pitiful high schooler to a similarly pitiful god with powers beyond his understanding. The first act of the game hits all the right beats of a typical JRPG: the hero gets thrust into an unfamiliar environment, he is faced with the unenviable task of saving the world, he questions the logic behind why he’s the chosen one, and then we’re on our way.
Each chapter progresses in a rather formulaic fashion; you click through several text boxes of fully voiced dialogue, and then you unlock the next dungeon. Though the art style of the character models has been very beautifully rendered, it was a little disappointing that most of the cutscenes simply comprised of the character sprites standing side by side against static backgrounds. Given the detail that went into designing these characters, it seemed like a missed opportunity not to feature them prominently in animated sequences.
When you’re in a dungeon, Shin takes on a chibi form of himself as he goes around hitting enemies with his sword. The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum introduces a rather unique combat system where the units will move around the dungeon in a grid-like fashion. Enemies make their moves at the same time as Shin, meaning you’ll have to be mindful of where you go and what you do as the game doesn’t allow you to undo any actions. During the early stages of the game, you’ll be able to get by with just attacking normally, but you’ll soon find yourself relying heavily on your angel and devil forms as well as the various items you have in your arsenal.
Shin has the ability to “deitize” into either an angel or devil form when dealing with enemies. Your angel form will deal more damage to devil-type enemies and vice-versa. To increase your angel and devil powers, players will have to pour Crystal Points (CP) into powering up their skills, and this is where the game truly shines.
The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum introduces a very expansive skill tree divided between your angel and devil powers. You gain 1 CP each time you level up and these can be spent on ordinary stat boosts for your hit points, attack, and defense. However, new skills can only be unlocked with Angel and Devil CP. You get these special CP as a result of the morality choices you make throughout the game. Striking a good balance between Shin’s deity forms is important to doing well in the dungeons because you never know what types of enemies you’ll be facing next.
As soon as you reach the game’s third dungeon though, you’ll find that the game can be pretty unforgiving. The difficulty level ramps up quite a bit as you’ll start encountering much more powerful enemies, and this could be exacerbated if you were concentrating all your points on only one half of your skill tree. Like I said, balance is key. Dying in a dungeon without a Revive Gem means that you’ll lose your equipment and all items you had on you at the time, though this is easily remedied if you’ve been storing your spare equipment in the storehouse for item fusion.
There’s no checkpoint system in the dungeons either; if you die or choose to exit early, you’ll have to go through all the floors again. This means that you need to clear the dungeon in one go in order to progress the story. The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum is not an easy game, and it forces players to use whatever items they have on them to survive. Of course, you could always level grind. But where’s the fun in that?
As the newly created god of Celestia, Shin enjoys the company of two rather attractive females, namely the angel Jupiel and the devil Ariael. As god, you’ll be expected to make choices that affect the fate of everyone around you. The decision-making system is somewhat similar to the Paragon and Renegade dynamic from Mass Effect. However, choosing the ‘good’ option doesn’t always lead to an ideal outcome. You might think it’s the right thing to do to try to save everyone even if the odds aren’t in your favor, but you might end up getting everyone killed. Instead, it might be wiser to save only a select few and abandon the rest. Even if it means leaving a few people behind, at least you’ll be able to rescue some of them.
The game is full of these little moral dilemmas and the real joy lies in trying to figure out which decision will lead to the best possible outcome. The choices presented to you are never easy and if you’re not careful, a slight misstep or an error in judgment could leave you with a bad ending.
There’s no room for half-assed decisions here, as Ariael would have you know. Tying all of these things together is your protagonist, Shin Kamikaze. Brought to life by the outstanding voice work of Johnny Yong Bosch, Shin starts off as a rather dislikable hero who acts like he just wants to live in a hole where no one can find him. And that’s perfectly understandable – as someone who’s been bullied for a good portion of his childhood, being thrust into a life or death situation where his actions affect the lives of all the angels isn’t exactly ideal.
Shin is therefore the very embodiment of the “half-assed god” concept that Ariael brings up so early in the game. Players can make their decisions on Shin’s behalf, but there are still special story-related incidents where Shin can override that decision based on the state of his conscience. The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum raises many questions about the morality spectrum between angels and devils. Are all devils inherently bad? What is a god, really, other than a tool meant for uniting one faction against another? Is a god with unrivaled power any different from a monster? By humanizing the realms of the Netherworld and the holy ark of Celestia, the game is surprisingly meta in how it attempts to question religious foundations with some degree of success.
While the story is laced with plenty of trademark NIS humor, I appreciated the subtle darker undertones that the game came with as well. The game is a bit on the shorter side for a JRPG (I clocked in 25 hours for my initial run), but the story is well paced and its combat system expertly executed.
The Awakened Fate: Ultimatum deftly avoids the common JRPG pitfall of overwhelming players with too much text, and instead throws you headfirst into a world where gods are more of tools than instigators.