For those of you unfamiliar with the Fire Emblem titles, like the previous Fire Emblem: Awakening, the game focuses around a main character that you customize. I’ve always felt like this game did a great job of involving you in the story of the game because it’s not just filling someone else’s shoes or taking a pre-designed character.
The role of your character in the story is that of a Prince or Princess of the Kingdom of Nohr, where you have been sheltered for your whole life. All of your schooling and training was taught in the confines of your secluded fortress and would get occasional visits from your siblings. The king finally summons you out of your home for the first time and you travel to the Palace where your father, King Garon, gifts you with a sword to vanquish your enemies. You’re then sent on your first mission to recover an abandoned stronghold from the terrible clutches of the Hoshidan army.
When you arrive you find that the fort is actually in Hoshido territory, and it isn’t abandoned. Occupied with a small regiment, you fight your way through it and eventually get taken by the Hoshidan forces. After waking up from being knocked out you prepare for the worst as you’re taken to the Prince of Hoshido, and the general of the army you attacked. Expecting him to call for your execution, he welcomes you with open arms and reveals that you were kidnapped as a child and explains that you’re actually a Hoshidan Prince/Princess. All of your siblings and friends from childhood show up and you’re given complete freedom to explore the city as you please. Quickly it comes to view that Hoshido is actually a peace loving nation and are struggling to survive against the monsters sent by Nohr to take over their lands. During an invasive attack, all your siblings from Nohr come to rescue you and both of your families clash blades, expecting you to make your choice; Nohr or Hoshido.
This is the part where your game purchase takes over and you play your story line. One of the other reviewers of this site, Jeff, also picked up this game and we decided to review each side of the game. Please check out his review if you’re interested in the Birthright side of the game as well. This obviously means that I played the Conquest side of the Fates titles. A link to Jeff’s review of Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright can be found here.
The combat in the game, again for those unfamiliar with this series of games, is based around a tactical grid based RPG system. You move characters around the field of combat with different areas that can attribute positive and negative effects towards your units, each unit has different attack ranges and types, and your units level up from successful attacks and kills on enemy units. Your goal in each battle is to meet the victory conditions, like kill the boss or survive 11 turns, and progress through the story line while keeping your forces alive or your main character alive. As I’ve already pointed out the game series typically features a permanent death system for your units which means that if your unit falls in battle you have lost them for the rest of the game. This means every move you make in the game could be a potentially game breaking decision. Thankfully for people that aren’t quite as extreme and would still love to enjoy the game, there is a ‘casual’ game mode where dead units still fall and cannot be used for the remainder of the battle, but they are still available to use for the next mission. In summary, think Chess meets Dungeons and Dragons.
Conquest is the more difficult side of the story, going back to a focus on tactics and strategy against overwhelming numbers. Most of my fights I’ve fought have me against forces of enemies up to triple the amount of my own forces. As an example, I had a mission where I had to fight a force of 38 enemies with only 13 units. I’m not one for playing with the traditional perma-death system that the Fire Emblem games are known for either, and this half of the game was still especially challenging. Enemies are harder, resources are limited, and with no options of grinding experience you have limited time to build relationships between characters or get them to their appropriate advanced classes. Until the DLC missions released you had nothing but main missions to progress the story line and the occasional invasion mission and paralogue missions.
Despite the difficulty, I’ve enjoyed all of the systems getting a little bit more definition and depth. In previous titles you could pair up units and, the higher their relationship level, they could deflect attacks or even trigger an extra attack. In the Fates titles the guarding system is only available to paired units, and the extra attacks are no longer a chance to activate but is guaranteed as long as the units are simply next to each other. This forces you to adjust your tactics since pairing up is no longer the absolute best choice for you since it offered both the best offensive and defensive occurrences, and solely acts as a defensive measure. Units can also cause de-buffs and on-attack effects that trigger after an attack ends, such as swapping places or causing an extra amount of damage based on target health. With the few extra mechanics to the game combined with all the previous strategic elements, it’ll have you rethinking every single moving you make to keep your units in the battle that much longer. If you’re playing with perma-death then it’ll make each turn last that much longer making sure you never lose a single precious unit as each one represents hours of work levelling them from a limited experience gain pool.
Outside of combat, the game also has the usual StreetPass features by adding in a Castle Management system where you can place buildings, add shops, visit friend’s castles, and ultimately fight them for fun. They’ve managed to turn visiting towns and shops into a resource management mini-game of itself, but there’s very little penalty to making mistakes. If you choose not to invest time into developing your castle or visiting other castles, you aren’t missing out on anything as you get your shops at the very beginning of the development stage.
If you’re interested in a title where you get a bit more challenge, I definitely suggest trying out the Conquest side of the story where you’re sided with the Kingdom of Nohr. Though I am a bit biased, I started to really enjoy Strategy RPG titles back with Final Fantasy Tactics and try to get my hands on any titles that are similar. If you’re as much of a fan as I am for Final Fantasy Tactics then the closest title I’ve found in recent years has been the Fire Emblem games.