Fire Emblem engagement
January 20, 2023
Fire Emblem is one of those series where if you asked five people what their favorite entry was, you’d likely get five different answers. From the moment it was announced, Fire Emblem Engage has been similarly divisive, with some expressing concern about the game’s loud aesthetic and seemingly reliance on nostalgia, while others expressing optimism about the return of some old-school mechanics and the connectivity again of social elements. that have dominated recent entries in the series.
Are the fans right to be skeptical, or is it all hype about nothing? Will Fire Emblem Engage become some people’s new favorite, or has the series made a serious strategic misstep? It’s time to see how attractive this person really is.
Fire Emblem Engage takes place on the continent of Elyos, which consists of four countries surrounding the Holy Land of Lythos. Players take on the role of a “Divine Dragon” in human form (called Alear, though you can choose your name and gender). After sleeping for a thousand years, you wake up with amnesia, and can’t remember your doting mother (also the Divine Dragon). Sadly, you don’t have much time to catch up over the past millennium as the mysterious country of Elusia launches a chain attack, killing your mother and making off with several Emblem Rings. You see, Elusia has awakened the Fell Dragon Sombron and they plan to steal the 12 Emblem Rings in order to restore it to its full destructive power. Now on the defensive, it’s up to you and your rag army to try and collect the rings before your enemies do.
If you have any familiarity with JRPGs, the story premise I just presented will likely sound more than a little familiar. Amnesia, Dragons, and Do-Fathers gather to avert the end of the world. Much of Fire Emblem Engage’s writing seems solid and pointless, with most characters easily reduced to one descriptor (loyal, hungry, likes to exercise, etc.) Granted, as the game progresses you’ll meet some characters in a bit more depth, but in cases where you don’t In which the backstories are a single note, they often slip into the realm of melodrama. The Engage story offers some twists that turn the status quo on its head, but most of them are clearly telegraphed, or if they aren’t, don’t make much sense. While I’m sure some will enjoy Engage’s lively story, it doesn’t feel like much more than a JRPG trope.
The social elements return, as you can visit your home base, a floating island called Somniel, between battles. Here you can engage in many quirky side activities, including fishing, playing sports, and building a farm full of fuzzy friends. Unfortunately, the awkward writing that gets in the way of Fire Emblem Engage’s main story also hurts this part of the game. Any hints of romance are vague and open to interpretation, with most conversations being more supportive than interesting. Characters will talk about how they get the pleasure of watching others in secret or their bizarre food obsessions (a whole series of support squabbles involve two characters trying to find and eat a grilled eel sandwich) and it’s not clear that’s all it’s supposed to be witchy or spooky. It appears that these support credits were written by an AI that wasn’t given even particularly good prompts.
At least it all looks very nice. Fire Emblem Engage’s preset scenes are impressive, while the battle animations are dynamic and impactful. The character designs aren’t bad per se, I like some of them in isolation; They are just inconsistent. Engage’s characters feel like they’ve been put together from six different games, particularly the game’s villains, who look like outcasts from some over-sexed fighting game rather than tough or intimidating warriors.
Fortunately, Fire Emblem Engage is very much a return to classic form once you hit the battlefield. You and the enemy take turns moving all available units on different grid-based maps in tactical battles, with strengths, weaknesses, and individual personalities rather than just random grunts. After phasing out Fire Emblem: Three Houses, various rock-paper-scissors-style systems, and most notably the classic weapon triangle (swords beat axes, axes, and spears beat swords), it’s back and you’ll need to keep it in mind if you want to win the day. While I’d like to see the series eventually include some more modern elements from other popular tactical games, I have to admit that it’s nice to bring Fire Emblem back from the old school.
However, Fire Emblem Engage isn’t exactly retro, as the new Engage system adds a great twist to the action. Every Emblem Rings collection contains the spirit of a classic Fire Emblem character, from classics like Marth and Roy to newer faces like Corrin and Byleth. There is a fair amount of freedom inherent in the system, as these rings can be equipped to any unit, at which point that unit will accompany the spirit of the ring into battle. This allows you to create impromptu tag teams, where the tag spirit grants the unit which is attached to various passive bonuses. You can also ‘engage’, fusing the unit’s spirit and crest into one unit, which boosts stats even further and gives you access to powerful weapons and special attacks. You can only stay busy for three turns, after which you’ll have to wait for the power meter to refill before you can do it again.
Each logo has a specialty, and combining them with specific units can create some interesting possibilities. Sigurd offers movement bonuses, including the ability to move twice per turn, so I paired him up with a medic to create a unit that can pop in and out of battle to heal allies. Celica is all about magical attacks, so I gave her ring to one of my buffs in order to create a spell tank. The Engage system gives you more opportunities to make your team feel like yours, especially once you delve into this game’s new upgrade mechanics.
Units can inherit skills and weapon proficiencies from Emblems, allowing you to create unique hybrids by swapping out the rings you hold. You can also craft Bond rings (using a simple, no-tap gacha system) to boost crest stats, boost special weapons per crest and more. While I wasn’t interested in Engage’s social elements, I found myself quite drawn in by the character-building mechanics, often finding myself happy to tinker away for up to an hour between fights.
The other area where Fire Emblem Engage really shines is in map design. While the early battles are relatively straightforward, taking place in your standard castle and village settings, after a certain point, you’ll find that almost every map has its own unique gimmick. You’ll have to make your way through the darkness by lighting lanterns, navigate a series of rising and falling tidal pools, avoid avalanches and exploding lava balls, and more. While Fire Emblem Engage starts off on a relatively forgiving note, make no mistake, this game gets tough. Even on “Classic” difficulty, later battles can become real struggles. The game offers a few ways to mitigate this challenge, including the ability to save at any time and take turns back if you make a mistake, but even then your strategizing skills will be put to the test.
Fire Emblem Engage battles are not only difficult, but can also be long. While the 26 core story missions may seem a little weak, it took me over 40 hours to complete the game’s somewhat focused gameplay. And there’s a lot to tackle outside of the main campaign, including an impressive array of “Paralogue” side missions, single-player Tempest, and multiplayer Outlast experiences. If Fire Emblem Engage sparks something, it should keep burning for a long time.
This review was based on a copy of Fire Emblem Engage provided by publisher Nintendo.
Products mentioned in this post
Fire Emblem Engage’s story is JRPG-derived nonsense and its social elements are skippable, but the game’s battlefield tournaments largely make up for its shortcomings. Classic Fire Emblem’s combat mechanics make a welcome return here and are scaled up nicely by the new Engage system and a slate of surprisingly diverse and challenging maps. Fire Emblem Engage won’t be everyone’s favorite entry in the series, but it should be a critical success with many veteran generals.
- A technically strong show
- The return of classic Fire Emblem mechanics
- Engaging refreshing addition system
- Almost every map looks unique
- He will kick your ass
- Tons of content
- Personal designs from a mixed bag
- Ho-hum JRPG story
- You see the social elements
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