As you may know, on June 25, 2017, Fate/Grand Order was released on the US iTunes store and Google Play store. If you’re looking in the right places, it’s easy to find various resources on the game, like Twelve Upcoming Servants You Should Save Up for in Fate/Grand Order or Frequently Asked Questions: A newbie’s guide to FGO USA 07/18/17 (for how much Crunchyroll covers new content in the Japanese game, I’m surprised they haven’t published anything yet for the US version). However, most of these guides make a few presumptions that do not necessarily apply to everyone interested in the game, but mainly: You are familiar with Japanese-style mobile RPG games.
So, this guide is intended to be a true newbie’s guide to Fate/Grand Order. Maybe you watched one of the recent animes (Fate/Unlimited Blade Works, or maybe Fate/Grand Order: First Order, or Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Ilya) or played the Fate/Extella game and thought you’d give it a shot. Maybe your friend convinced you to download it and you’re kind of lost. So, I will go over the basics, covering stuff that some people might take for granted, especially if they came from other similar mobile games.
First off, what kind of game is Fate/Grand Order?
As I alluded to earlier, Fate/Grand Order (hereby abbreviated as FGO) is a Japanese-style mobile RPG game. Similar games include Puzzle & Dragons, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Terra Battle, to name some of the bigger names over the past few years. This style of game generally has the following features:
- Instead of starting with a fixed party and recruiting members as you progress, you basically crank a capsule toy machine (or gumball machine; you should know what I mean, they’re called “gashapon” or “gacha” in Japan) and get random units, called Servants in FGO. This costs premium currency (Saint Quartz), which can be collected within the game slowly or bought with real money. It is completely random what you get.
- A concept that a lot of console/PC gamers hate, players have a resource called AP that is required to start quests and refills over time. This means, unlike typical console RPGs, you cannot play as long as you want, you either have to stop after spending all your AP, or you can use in-game resources (apples or Saint Quartz) to restore your AP.
- Your Servants do not automatically get stronger as you progress, you need to use dropped items to upgrade their levels, skills, and Noble Phantasm. These items are rare, or required in large quantities, or both, especially the stronger your Servants get. In other words, you will find yourself grinding, spending a lot of time doing the same quests over and over, in order to get the items you need to improve your Servants.
- Progression is not measured in hours, or even days; it can take weeks or months of steady play to achieve various goals. FGO in particular is following the Japanese release schedule, so it will take about 16 months to release the entirety of the first part of the story.
So, the above is how FGO is different from a typical RPG. For reference, a typical RPG (role-playing game) is simply a real-life simulator, where characters are given number values to represent real-life attributes – in FGO, HP, or health points, represent overall vitality, whereas ATK (attack) represents overall strength or power. There are some other hidden statistics, but I’ll skip those for now. When a Servant attacks, it deals damage modified by its ATK stat, and the damage is subtracted from the defending Servant’s HP. So, higher ATK is good because you will defeat enemies faster, and higher HP is good because you can take more damage without being defeated yourself.
FGO is a story-based RPG – one of the biggest draws of the game is the extensive story. Every map has 10+ chapters with up to 5 parts per chapter, which are comprised of conversations between characters in the game. All the events also have a story associated with it. While the gameplay is fairly solid as well, the main draw of FGO, and the biggest reason English-speaking fans have been excited for the US version, is for the translated story. Currently, the US version only has the prologue and chapters 1 and 2 available; new chapters are released every few months. The so-called Arc 1 has 9 chapters in it, and the JP version is currently on chapter 2 of Arc 1.5, which is a connecting story arc between Arc 1 and Arc 2.
What about the gameplay?
Obviously, since this is a RPG, you don’t just get to read the story for free, you have to work a bit for it :) you gather a team of Servants and use them to defeat enemies and ultimately complete the quest. As you progress in the main story, you unlock more locations in the map; when you complete a full chapter, you unlock a new map. Story quests can only be completed once, but you can return to previously unlocked locations to fight enemies there for a small chance at items, depending on the enemies at that location.
Progressing through the story also necessitates that the enemies you fight become more and more sophisticated in addition to their base stats improving. If you don’t also improve your own Servants, you might find yourself unable to clear a quest. This brings us to two common mobile RPG concepts: grinding and enhancing. Grinding is, again, the act of completing specific quests over and over again in order to obtain certain item drops from the enemies. Revisiting old story locations, you can obtain reagent items such as bones and fangs and whatnot, but there is also a special quest area called the Chaldea Gate, where you can find Daily Quests.
Daily quests fall into 3 categories: experience, items, and money. The experience quests, called “Ember Gathering,” gives you experience cards. These cards are consumed during Servant enhancement to give them experience and thus raising their levels. The “Duel” and “Monster Hunt” quests both drop items, though different types of items. Duels drop silver “Pieces” and gold “Monuments” for Servant classes. These items are used primarily to ascend your Servants, or raise their level limits. Ascending can also unlock new skills for the Servant. Monster Hunts drop skill gems, and also reagents (bones/fangs/etc.), but they’re somewhat unreliable since the enemies you encounter are random, so, beyond the low drop rates, you could also just not face any enemies that drop the item you want. However, for some items you just may not have any better options given the limit on released story chapters. Last, money quests drop QP, or Quest Points, which are needed to enhance, ascend, and skill-up your Servants.
Enhancing is pretty self-explanatory, and the game provides help text on this as well. Servants can be enhanced in 4 ways: level (which increases HP and ATK), skill (increases skill effectiveness and reduces cooldown), ascension (raises the Servant’s maximum level), and Noble Phantasm. As discussed above, raising levels requires experience cards. Skills are enhanced by using up skill gems, though higher levels will additionally require general reagents. The maximum skill level is 10. Ascension requires a max level Servant in addition to Pieces or Monuments and, for certain ascensions, reagents. All Servants can be ascended a maximum of 4 times; each ascension increases the maximum level by 10. A Servant’s Noble Phantasm is a special attack and/or support spell that can be used when the NP gauge is at or over 100%. NPs start at level 1 and can be upgraded to level 5, but only by consuming an extra copy of the same Servant. Since you cannot use extra copies of the same Servant in your party, this is basically a way to give some value to a “bad” roll in the gacha.
There are two more gameplay features I have not discussed yet: Craft Essences (CEs) and Mystic Codes. CEs are basically equipment, or weapons and armor, as might be seen in a typical RPG. Each Servant can have 1 CE equipped in a given party. CEs have levels, HP, and ATK, in addition to a special effect, all of which improves the Servant holding it. CEs can only be enhanced by consuming other CEs. Mystic Codes are the outfit that the Master, which is you, the player, wears, and determines what Master Skills you have in battle. Mystic Codes gain experience the same way the player does, by completing quests. Leveling up Mystic Codes, same as leveling up Servant skills, increases the effectiveness and lowers the cooldown of all 3 Master Skills. There is currently only 1 Mystic Code in the game, the default outfit, but more will be added with the chapter 4 release and with various events and product tie-ins.
Well, that about wraps up this introductory look into Fate/Grand Order. This should be a sufficiently detailed overview to set a complete beginner on the right track as far as making progress on your party to strengthen your overall ability to tackle quests. Honestly, the in-game tutorial is fine, so pay attention to it the first time. More specific information can be found on the unofficial English wiki and the English subreddit. I’ll probably blog about the events as they come out too, but for now this has been your complete beginner’s guide to Fate/Grand Order!