Well, this blog is already off to a fantastic start! I’m posting my first post about six weeks after starting the thing, and my first post is comparing two games barely anyone has even heard of, let alone played, in a match-up that is drastically one sided. To be fair, personal family affairs got in the way of me properly starting this blog and I just really wanted to write about these two games with the odd case of a sequel being vastly inferior to its predecessor.
Oh yeah, bit of a spoiler alert: The answer to the question asked is The Guided Fate Paradox is a much better game than the follow-up, but more on that later. Both games are roguelike dungeon crawlers (though Guided Fate is far closer to an authentic roguelike than Awakened Fate) with light stories that play out in visual novel fashion.
Both stories begin with a (painfully) ordinary high school student being selected by a group of angels to become God. Neither entry earns points for its protagonist, who in both cases is your typical blank-slate male avatar with a personality mostly dependent on the characters around them. And while both games are also filled with characters that nestle comfortably within established tropes, the way in which the characters are utilized for the plot is the first major disparity between the quality of the two games.
On the surface, it would seem The Awakened Fate Ultimatum has the more engaging plot. Where The Guided Fate Paradox is a simple story of “You hero, they villain, defeat villain,” its sequel is a story about the tragic decisions needed to be made during war, and the challenges in ending a war with a forgotten cause. However, the former fills that straightforward narrative with an intriguing backstory and characters with shifting motivations and stakes. The latter makes a few cheap attempts at plot twists and handles the whole affair with as much nuance as a sports movie about rising underdogs.
The gameplay is a little tougher to judge. My gut reaction was to accuse The Awakened Fate Ultimatum of cutting out everything that made the first game great. On careful reflection, it occurred to me that a lot of what was removed from The Guided Fate Paradox was needless complexity. In both games you navigate randomly generated dungeons of varying lengths in a turn-based system, collecting random equipment and items to help make it to the end. That’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Two things that made the gameplay in The Guided Fate Paradox great were the equipment system and the dungeon gimmicks. The main character and his angel partner of choice can don five pieces of equipment: Headgear, Left Hand, Right Hand, Back, and Legs. However, unlike your typical RPG with iron armor then steel armor etc., the equipment in this game is a miscellaneous assortment of so much random crap, like fish head, tank treads and jet packs. Better yet, it all paper-dolled to your character so you could be walking around the dungeon with a horse head mask, some bat wings, and spider-mech legs.
Then there were the dungeon gimmicks. After the first few dungeons, each dungeon came with its own special navigational twist that kept them feeling unique. In one dungeon, each floor was wrapped around a 3-dimensional cube, in another each floor was made of platforms that changed positions every few turns. This not only kept dungeon exploration fresh, but added special strategies and considerations for the boss at the end of each chapter.
Unfortunately, neither of these things can be found in The Awakened Fate Ultimatum. Equipment is an uninspired matter of weapon (sword, spear, or hammer), shield, and one ring with varying special effects. Dungeons are all basic random assortments of halls connecting various rooms, with nothing special to mix things up. The few bosses that are present in the game are a matter of sidling up to a large monster and hoping you have enough healing items to take more damage than they can deal out before succumbing to your own attacks.
Instead of abilities being granted from the wacky equipment, in Awakened Fate the small handful of abilities available were gained and upgraded from a wannabe sphere grid that didn’t even possess a proper name beyond “Character Customization.” Yet while this option may be a bit too simple, it was a bit more relaxing than it’s predecessor’s overly complicated Divinigram. The Divinigram is a character customization board that involves unlocking spaces by gaining levels in dungeons, placing stat-boosting tiles gained from leveling up equipment, and covering those tiles with character upgrade “icons.” It was a way of powering up your character as your level resets to 1 at the beginning of each dungeon–a common roguelike feature that isn’t present in the sequel.
So yes, in the end I had to concede that there are certain places where The Awakened Fate Ultimatum‘s streamlined nature is far more palatable than The Guided Fate Paradox‘s micro-managing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t excuse the many other changes that ruined a lot of what made Guided Fate fun to play. There is no doubt in my mind that The Guided Fate Paradox is the superior experience.