The dark side is a difficult one.
I’ve been playing Fire Emblem games since the Game Boy Advance. Originally, I was a huge fan of Advance Wars and jumped onto Fire Emblem seeing as it was kind of like a fantasy version of Advance Wars. The series has had its ups and downs since then, with a major high point for me being the previous entry, Fire Emblem: Awakening. Fire Emblem Fates is actually split into three main campaigns – Birthright, Conquest, and Revelation. Each has their own story and characters in them. Jae Lee and I have split the games between us; I am reviewing Conquest and Jae is reviewing Birthright. We are giving our own takes on each experience and how things play out.
Both games begin with the same missions. At a certain point in the game, the player must make a choice: side with their blood related family or their adopted family, both of which are royal families that rule rivaling kingdoms. Conquest has players choosing to go along with their adopted family in the kingdom of Nohr. Almost immediately, I feel like I have chosen the dark side. The king of this kingdom, my adopted father, comes off as this evil dictator and ruler, which he is. It makes for an interesting story though, as we see my adopted brothers and sister begin to piece together how evil their father actually is. It ends up being a tale of espionage and betrayal, which I enjoyed a good amount.
Price I’d pay: $39.99
The new and the used.
Many mechanics from Awakening make a return here in Fates. The ability to pair up units for better defensive and offensive stats is here, as well as the helpful assist feature that occurs when units stand next to each other for both attacking and defending. This makes positioning the most important part of the battles in Fire Emblem. Utilizing class features like the Singer’s song to give a character an extra turn, or using a knight to hold off an advancing force with their high defense is only a few things each class can offer. On top of that, changing up classes using special items earned in game can upgrade characters even more.
A few new additions to the game play have been added, the first one being Dragon Veins. These are special places that show up on the battle map that can be interacted with using a unit with royal blood. The main character is one of them, and in certain missions other units can be used to activate them as well. The Dragon Veins will alter the battlefield in certain ways depending on the map. One may melt a frozen lake preventing units from crossing it for a certain amount of turns, or one may rain down acid rain that can damage units in the affected area. It adds more depth to an already deep strategy game, but it is a fun mechanic nonetheless.
The other new Godsend in Fates is the fact that weapons no longer degrade and break. This got on my last nerve in Awakening and now I don’t have to worry about having to purchase new weapons for my characters.
Hey, I like you, I’ll defend you.
The social interactions make a return as well, allowing players to experience a more detailed background of the player’s units they use in battle. There are some rather colorful and likeable characters fighting for the Nohr’s side. Talking with them and having them converse with other units will increase their compatibility with each other, which makes their assists and pair ups even stronger.
The character interactions all take place in a new hub world that the player can create, customize, and visit in between battles. This castle serves as a place to buy new weapons, as well as gather materials for other things like feeding a support character that helps when defending from online attackers. That’s the other aspect of this part of the game. I could go online, download a friend’s castle, visit it, buy things, or even fight his characters in the castle itself. This will not gain any experience points, but by winning, players can recruit their characters, or learn new abilities for their own characters. It was a nice way to upgrade my characters slightly considering how much grinding I couldn’t do in Conquest.
That brings me to my next point; Birthright and Conquest play very differently. Even at the screen where I made the choice of who to side with, the game told me Conquest is a much more difficult experience with fewer options for gaining experience and money to beef up my characters. They weren’t kidding. Unlike Birthright, very few optional missions would pop up in between story chapters, meaning the only real experience I could gain to level up my units was through doing difficult story missions. This makes Conquest a very strategic and caution heavy game that many may not have the patience for, and if you’re like me and are playing on Classic mode, where if a character dies in combat, they are dead forever, it makes the game downright tedious at times. In retrospect, I should have never chosen to play on Classic mode, but I am a Fire Emblem purist in that sense.
Fantasy has a great soundtrack.
The look has been upgraded and is much sharper now, along with many new animations that make it feel more cinematic. Combine all that with a rather amazing soundtrack and the presentation is top notch, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
At the end of the day, I feel that in order to get the most out of Fire Emblem Fates, players are going to want to play through at least one of the main campaigns as well as Revelation. After talking with Jae about his time with Birthright, it seems as though both Conquest and Birthright lead to one singular ending. We have not touched Revelation, but I get the feeling that may hold the true “ending.” Still, each game has its own full campaign and game length and for $20 for the other side, that’s not a bad deal.
As far as Conquest goes, this one is not for the Fire Emblem novice. This game suggests that you are familiar with many workings of the games and the new additions are explained once and then forgotten about a mission later, leaving you to your own devices. On top of that, no real way to grind for levels or earn money make this one of the most difficult Fire Emblem games I have ever played and at times one of the most tedious. At the same time, this series is one of the best strategy RPGs I have ever played and while not as enjoyable as Awakening, it’s still a great title and worthy of the Fire Emblem name.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.