Developer: Intelligent Systems
Review Context: I had known about Fire Emblem for a long time, but it wasn’t until I got a Nintendo 3DS and Fire Emblem Awakening that I realized how good Fire Emblem is. I have only played Fire Emblem Awakening previously to playing Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest.
Date of Playthrough: May 2016
Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is a turn by turn, grid based, strategy game with RPG elements. Part of a set of three, along with Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Fire Emblem Fates: Revelations; Fire Emblem Fates tells the story of a prince raised in the kingdom of Nohr, who learns that his true parents are those of the royal family of a rival nation called Hoshido. Faced with a choice, the young prince must choose to either help his foster family conquer Hoshido or join his birth family to defend against the invading Nohrian forces. Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest shows the result of the young prince choosing to side with the family that raised him in Nohr, and is also considered the hardest of the three, and for a good reason. Will the young prince be victorious or will his conviction falter? That is something that only fate and a brilliant tactician can decide.
Fire Emblem is a strategy game where the player is given a group of units each with their own abilities, classes, weapons, and personalities. They must defeat their opponents units while attempting to lose as few, if any, units of their own as possible. Unless you are playing on casual mode, once a unit dies, it is gone for good. Every unit can move once and attack once per turn, and once all units on a team have moved then the opposite team takes their turn. The attacking unit goes first, and unless they manage to kill the defending unit, then the defending unit retaliates. There is an advantage system called the weapon triangle, which gives some units advantages over others. Swords are good against axes, axes are good against spears, and spears are good against swords.
There are also bows which only attack from at-least two spaces away or at a diagonal. There is magic which can hit at bow range or melee range and is mitigated by a different defense stat. If a bow attacks a sword wielder, then the sword wielder will be unable to retaliate even if they survive the initial attack, but if a bowman attacks another bowman or a mage, then they will retaliate like normal. Its these situational differences that make the strategy interesting and its also where it gets its difficulty. Usually you would use your ‘tankier’ units to keep the enemy from being able to reach your more frail units, but let’s say you didn’t notice that one of the enemies was an archer; you end your turn by healing the tanky frontline unit because he did his job and took a hit the previous turn only for that unseen bowman to shoot right over your defense line during the enemy’s turn, tragically murdering your poor squishy healer and robbing you of not only a useful unit, but another source of interesting dialogue.
The game is quick to punish the player for not paying close enough attention to the battle at hand and not making sure that when they make a decision they are taking into account all possible outcomes. This where the strategy comes in. Since attacking often results in units taking damage on your turn that can now no longer move until next turn, if an attack on an enemy group doesn’t kill every one in range then its very likely that there is an exposed unit with very low health on your team. Don’t even think for a second that the computer will miss an opportunity like that. When attacking you have to make sure you can either kill all enemy units in range to attack on their turn, or make sure no one gets too low while attacking, and no one is out of position or exposed when your turn is over.
It all culminates in a system that is easy to understand and use, but also takes a while to master. There are so many different possible scenarios, and the level design does a great job of either giving you multiple ways of tackling an obstacle or forcing you to use a risky strategy you wouldn’t normally use. Like when the goal is to defeat a specific captain and units keep spawning in behind, you can’t just slowly and safely plod your way over like you would with most scenarios. You have to rush forward and take risks while making sure not to leave people behind and exposed.
I knew exactly what Fire Emblem was from a gameplay perspective for the longest time. It wasn’t until I finally tried one, that one being Fire Emblem Awakening, that I realized just how satisfying and engaging it truly is.
It’s hard to make a strategy game sound fun and exciting on paper, but Fire Emblem definitely is. That’s because in most strategy games, a lot of the strategy comes from not only combat, but also macro; what buildings to get, what units to get, how many, and when to move them and where. Not to say that this is bad, but it has just never interested me as much. Fire Emblem on the other hand does most of that for you and lets you focus on the actual strategy of combat, which makes it super easy to pick up and really hard to put down. Apart from being unique in that aspect, Fire Emblem also has a somewhat weird leveling system.
As units defeat enemies and land/survive successful hits they gain experience which raises their stats and can also unlock skills based on that unit’s class. Most units start at anywhere from level 1 to 5 and can go up to level 20. However once they reach level 10 it is possible to upgrade their class using an item called a “Master Seal.” This will upgrade their class into usually one of two possible advanced classes. There are also seals that allow you to not upgrade classes, but switch to a different class. This is done either to change a unit into a more desirable class, or more likely, so that they can learn a skill from a different class before switching back to their desired class.
Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is unique compared to its fate mates in one super important way. Traditionally, while the story mode progresses, there are random encounters that the player can participate in. These have no story significance and only serve to let the player grind experience if they need to. Say a key unit recently died and all the available replacement units are too low level to survive a story mission, these battles are exactly how you would remedy that situation. Conquest is considered the hardest of the three because there are none of these battles. It’s a straight track with no outside opportunities for XP, which means if you run into a fight that is too hard to beat without significant losses then tough toenails. You cant just grind until its easy; either figure out a more successful strategy or suffer the losses.
As well as gaining solo experience in combat, if a unit performs an action while adjacent to another friendly unit, then that other friendly unit will support the acting one, which raises that action’s effectiveness. Its even possible for the supporting unit to not only land an extra hit on the opponent, but entirely block hits from connecting with your main unit. Units that work together often can upgrade their relationship with eachother, which not only increases the stat buff and the chance of the support blocking/landing hits when working together, but it also unlocks support dialogues for the characters. Support dialogues are little chunks of conversations between the characters in question. Acting as a reward they help to further develop the characters, as well as provide fun stories and juicy romances.
Fire Emblem is known for its writing, not just because it knows how to tell a story, but because it is insanely good at endearing you to the characters on your team. Every unit has their own personality and story to go with them, which makes it all the more painful seeing them cut down on the battlefield. It’s how real Fire Emblem makes its characters feel that creates the tension in battle. Not only is losing a unit detrimental to your odds of beating the game, but it also means you will never hear from that character again. This is one of the main reasons why Fire Emblem games are so engaging.
Support bonuses between units go from C up to A, and then only if they are opposite sex and compatible, they can go up to S rank, which usually involves those two characters getting married. A unit can only achieve S rank with one other unit so choose wisely. Not only does this increase the bonus for working together on the field to its max, but it also creates a child which can be recruited from special encounter missions that appear after the S rank has been achieved. The child starts as one of the parent’s classes and takes one skill from each parent. In this way it is possible to strategically marry certain units together in order to produce children with the best possible skill combinations.
Fire Emblem Fates differs from previous titles in a few minor ways. The biggest way though is a change to the way weapons work. Before a weapon had a certain number of uses that were consumed when the weapon was used to attack. Once exhausted, the weapon would break requiring you to procure another. In Fire Emblem Fates however, weapons no longer break. Once you have a weapon, it’s yours for good, except for healing staves. Healing staves still break after a certain amount of uses. As a result, the weapons became more expensive to buy and also they added a smithy. At the smithy if you have two of the same weapon and a specific type of gem you can combine them to make an upgraded version. Not only does this permanently increase the effectiveness of whoever you give it to, but you get to name it something cool too. For Conquest specifically, since there are no extra missions, money is also something that you can’t just farm, so making frugal decisions when buy/upgrading weapons is recommended.
The smithy is part of a small castle building… game… thing. After each story mission points are awarded which can be spent on buildings to add to your castle. These do anything from sell equipment, to make food to boost your armies stats, and even act as a hot spring where you can relax and chat with some of your units. It isn’t terribly important to the story, except for the forge, smithy, and consumable stores, but there is also an online component. You can have teams built by other players sent to attack your castle. This is the only way in Conquest to farm XP, however it’s risky, as enemy units can destroy your buildings. This forces you to spend points rebuilding them, which slows down the whole process. You can also set up your own elite team and battle them against others online. Unfortunately, you can’t actually play against another player. You can only play against their team while the computer controls them.
The last thing to mention and something that a lot of people will give a fuss about is the apparent censoring of the NA release of the game. Apparently there is a mini-game you can participate in with the unit that your avatar character marries in which you be ‘lovey dovey’ with them. Specifically the game allowed you to pet your waifu. The was partially removed from the NA release, not due to it changing the game’s rating, but because its just not something that NA traditionally is interested in. You can still see remnants of it, as the game allows you to “bond” once a day with your waifu, which increases their support bonus slightly. To be honest I kind of like it as a sort of guilty pleasure thing, especially since I picked big busty Camilla as my partner, but it’s really not something to worry about. The game is not impacted by the censoring in any way, so unless your just one of those anti-censoring people then its not a big deal.
Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is an awesome and fun strategy game. It has enough depth to be challenging and difficult to master, but it’s streamlined and easy enough to understand that almost anyone can get into it. The thing that makes Fire Emblem stand out from all other strategy titles is the writing. It’s the ingenious idea of combining unit permadeath with endearing storytelling to make each and every character death neigh on heartbreaking, unless you found them annoying (cough cough Charlotte cough). That is why Fire Emblem has been such a long running franchise, and that is why I think Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is definitely worth your time.
Similar Games Liked:
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (PC)
The Banner Saga (PC)
Similar Games Disliked:
Heroes of Might and Magic 7 (PC)