A friend asked me a Fate/GO question about which I thought was worth writing a short post. “Do I want to do Ascension or Palingenesis?”
A quick lesson on FGO history, Palingenesis was not added to the Japanese version until the First Anniversary event, specifically on August 6, 2016. That means the key Palingenesis item, the Holy Grails, were just useless paperweights prior to this event, and there was a lot of speculation before then on what exactly the item would be used for.
Flash forward to the US version, where we know that they have implemented “all the quality of life improvements from the Japanese game at launch.” This includes, for some reason, Palingenesis, even though most people will be unable to use it for another few months when the ability to farm certain ascension items is opened.
EDIT: I previously wrote that Ushiwakamaru’s interlude was not appearing as an odd side effect of the game implementation. With some research, I found out that her interlude was released along with the Okeanos singularity, so this is not a bug or oversight. My apologies for any confusion caused or misinformation spread.
Anyway, as you can see from the screenshots, both activities seem to say they will increase the maximum level of the Servant, so it is understandable that the nuance between the descriptions could be lost on a new player. If you read my longer guide, you would know that Ascension is the primary enhancement you should be concerned about, and that should be reinforced by my history lesson about Palingenesis, seeing as it did not exist until 1 year after the game released.
To reiterate, all Servants can be ascended exactly 4 times, and each ascension increases the maximum level by 10 and can unlock new skills for use in battle. The first and third ascensions for non-event Servants also unlock new battle sprites and card art. For all Servants, the fourth ascension unlocks a unique card art as well. Ascension requires the Servant to be at its current maximum level, and unlocking the new skills is quite important, so it’s no exaggeration to say that Ascension is the primary enhancement goal for raising any Servant.
So now that we’ve covered details on Ascension, what exactly is Palingenesis? In very simplistic terms, it’s the ability to increase the rarity of a Servant. Specifically, it just raises the maximum level of a Servant. Unlike Ascension, there are no skills, art, or sprites that unlock. It also requires the Servant to be at max level, max ascension, so you won’t see many people, if at all, using Palingenesis on their Servants in the US version any time soon. The main possible exception is Jeanne d’Arc, who only needs Pieces and Monuments to ascend, which can be farmed at this stage in release.
Palingenesis can be used as many times as you have Holy Grails, until the Servant hits a maximum level of 100. If the Servant’s max level is less than 90, one use of Palingenesis increases the max level by 5; otherwise, it increases it by 2. So for 5*/SSR Servants, who cap at level 90, you would need to expend 5 Holy Grails to get the max level to 100. For 4*/SR Servants, which cap at level 80, you would need 7 Grails. Since the only advantage to raising the level cap is being able to raise HP/ATK, the most efficient use of Palingenesis is to improve the stats for Servants lower than 5*, since they gain 5 max levels per Palingenesis. Even if you raise a 1* Servant to level 90, they will not have stats anywhere near a natural 5*’s stats, but they will at least be competitive enough to be worth using on your team. However, given that Fate/Grand Order is not considered to be a terribly difficult game, most people believe Palingenesis is simply best used on your favorite Servants, to make your experience more enjoyable overall.
I hope this helps clear things up a little bit! To recap, Palingenesis can largely be ignored until you have fully ascended a Servant, then you can decide if you want to use it to boost a useful Servant to have better stats for your content-pushing teams, or if you just want to show off your favorite Servant at level 100. However, you’ll always want to Ascend all Servants you want to use.
Happy hunting in the world of Fate/Grand Order!