Fire Emblem Fates: A Little Bit of Everything
After playing upwards of 300 hours of Fire Emblem Awakening since the fall of 2014, I was very much looking forward to the next Fire Emblem game. Patiently waiting for almost a year after the Japanese versions were released, I could not help but read every article and watch every clip I could find about the new games, especially once February began. Needless to say, I was slightly obsessed. When both Birthright and Conquest appeared at my doorstep on February 19th, I literally jumped for joy (thanks Amazon!).
I am writing this article now, after completing Birthright and being more than halfway through Conquest, for two main reasons:
- In case it is not already clear, I am quite passionate about this series (though I’ve only played Awakening and Fates), and I feel the need to share my experiences/opinions with others
- I want to influence others to become as excited about Fire Emblem as the rest of us, because it's a fun, tactical RPG that has a little bit of everything.
Oh, and I’ll try not to give anything away, but there may be a few spoilers that slip out… just so you know.
It’s Hard to Awaken to Your Fate
To begin, I want to talk about the differences between Awakening and Fates. Yes, I know that articles have been written about such things, but I still feel the need to state what I’ve observed.
First, the basics: Fates is three separate games, while Awakening was one complete game. I recommend starting with Birthright, no matter what your level of play is, because it contains the most basic story and does not reveal too much outside of its plot (whereas Conquest builds on what Birthright gives you, and adds a taste of where the Revelation arc goes). Also, even for the more experienced Fire Emblem players, Birthright is a good place to start, because you have more chances to acclimate to the battle system changes.
For the most part, battles are similar to Awakening -- pick and outfit your fighters for each map and use your brain to move your fighters appropriately and win the mission (which is mostly “rout the enemy”). In Birthright, you are given plenty of chances to level up outside of the maps related to the story, with challenges that pop up (like in Awakening) and with the “scout” mode, which allows you to find challenges (if none appear) for some gold (which you’ll have plenty of).
In Conquest, you don’t get that option. You also don’t acquire as much gold, but the maps are more challenging (and more diverse in their objectives), so it’s a lot of fun to play after Birthright. And for those of you who (like me) enjoy unlocking all support conversations, you are 100% more likely to succeed with only two playthroughs in Birthright than in Conquest.
King of the Castle
A new feature that Fates introduces is the “My Castle” area. It’s the place you get sent in between battles where you can buy/forge new weapons, chat with characters, feed your pet squirrelfish, and battle other players online. I can’t speak to the online portion, because I’m anti-social and never like playing online with others. But, I can tell you about the other features of “My Castle”.
Unlike Awakening, where you have to run from town to town while looking for that Beaststone or Masterseal, in Fates you can find it all conveniently located in your castle area. That you build. To your liking. Though there aren’t many customization features, you can at least arrange the buildings how you want to so that your inner zen can flow freely. You can battle for more items in the Arena or farm/mine for the basic two items that they give you, and with these items you can buy accessories (that your characters actually wear in battle), feed your pet squirrelfish, and forge new weapons.
While I don’t dislike the “My Castle” feature, I also think that it is a bit too basic for a new game addition. As I mentioned, there aren’t too many customization options, and all you really can do there is talk to characters, gather items, and buy things. And even then, you can only do most of those things once per visit. But maybe I'm just not delving deep enough and am ignoring the unknown possibilities "My Castle" holds...maybe.
Channel Your Inner Owain
Fates has eliminated the weapon frailty that Awakening had (except for rods and staves, of course), and, instead, increased the interest and need to forge weapons. I must admit: I never once forged a weapon in Awakening (I know! How terrible of me!). However, in Fates, I constantly forge weapons to better my fighters. Plus, it’s fun to name them once they are forged (thanks Owain!).
Another weapon change Fates made is, I believe, more in line with traditional RPGs: there are a range of weapons, and each weapon has a pro and con to it. For instance, you may find yourself trying to decide between a more powerful weapon that has less of a chance of hitting the enemy, and a faster, but less powerful one. Many weapons have status effects or even +/- effects on your fighter’s stats. Fates definitely focuses on weapons more so than Awakening. At least the triangle of weapons hasn’t changed much: lance beats sword, sword beats axe, axe beats lance (though they did add a few others into the mix, like tomes/scrolls, and shuriken).
To Pair, or not to Pair?
Source: NintendoWorldReport Forums
Now I shall address the most annoying (in my opinion) change to the battlefield: pairing. To pair or not to pair? That is the question. It's more helpful not to pair, yet my Awakening senses tell me to do so. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me ‘splain: In Awakening, it was advantageous to pair units with each other on the battlefield. Once paired, the C-A/S support system would kick in, and you would find your characters fighting with many boons, like +10 critical, +10 avoid, and +10 hit. What you would also discover is that paired units not only defended each other, but also joint attacked.
This is NOT the case in Fates. I’m sad to say that, in Fates, you can choose to either pair up (in the same space) with someone and every few turns get them to defend you, or you can set your characters next to each other and get them to support attack for you. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. There are still bonuses to dodge and hit when fighting with another character of a support rank, but they aren’t as great as Awakening.
This leads me to my next point, which is the whole support aspect of Fates. In Awakening, it was obvious that getting characters to high level support ranks with one another was the thing worth spending hours doing. The support conversations were fun, and the battle bonuses were great. In Fates, they spent the time, energy, effort, and money to make the support aspect more dating sim like with animated 2D models, but the question is: WHY? If you are going to destroy the whole point of unlocking support ranks (well, at least half of the point – the battling part), why make them more special?
I must admit that I’ve played a few dating sim games, so I was kind of looking forward to that whole aspect of Fates. BUT, when I actually played through the game, I found that I was, surprisingly, disinterested in that aspect of it. To me, it makes no sense in the game (besides as a sort of fan-service), especially now that having a high support with someone doesn’t give you much -- except kids.
From the Deeprealms They Spawn
Speaking of kids, there’s not too much different from Awakening in that aspect. You get an S support rank with another character, they have a kid, and, magically, the kid is suddenly old enough to help you fight. Wee! The big difference in Fates is that the male characters are the ones who determine the child, not the females.
A lot of the kids (and adult characters, actually) have VERY similar looks and/or personalities to those of Awakening. For instance: Saizo’s kid is basically Gaius, and one of Camilla’s retainers is basically Severa. It’s actually kind of fun to see those characters again (especially when they reference those characters' conversations from Awakening in the Fates support conversations). But at the same time I kind of wish they hadn’t made so many replicas…it’s like they cheated.
Now where was I? Ah, yes, my overall opinion of the game. As excited as I was to get the games, I pre-ordered them both. Not realizing until after I popped Birthright into my 3DS that getting both was a dumb idea, because you are supposed to download the other versions onto your DS AFTER playing through whichever you chose to start with. Le sigh. It’s cheaper and the only way to get all of the content to exist together (and to get the bonus items for downloading the other two versions).
Overall, I like Fire Emblem Fates. It’s no Awakening, but I’ve come to terms with that fact and have accepted Fates as the not-as-awesome-but-still-fun game that it is. So far, I am liking Conquest better than Birthright (though I thought the opposite would be true), mostly because of the characters. Personally, I only liked a handful of Birthright characters (even after playing through the whole game). Most of them seemed too weird or too whiney for my taste -- and OMG Takumi is so annoying.
I decided to marry Ryoma for my first Birthright play through (no, it’s not incestuous… you’ll find out why when you play), because I thought it would be similar to being with Chrom in Awakening and make the story more awesome. Not true. I regret my decision and should have chosen Kaze instead.
Anyways, my point is that the characters in Conquest are more likeable than the ones in Birthright, even though Nohr is the ‘evil’ kingdom and Hoshido is the ‘good’ one. Each version echos and contrasts the other beautifully though, and I really liked how distinct each kingdom is. I will admit that both versions have their depressing points, but I am looking forward to playing Revelation (the third version) and hoping that it is more uplifting. I mean, it really pulls on the old heartstings when you have to choose between the family that raised you and the family that you’re related to.
All in all, good job Fire Emblem devs. You made a pretty good game to follow that super awesome one that was your last-ditch effort to save the series. Congratulations! For those of you currently playing the game: do it, to it Lars! For those of you still deciding which to buy: it doesn’t matter. Pick one to have a hard copy of and then download the others. But I would start with Birthright first.
And, finally, for those of you who think you have no interest in this game: I’m surprised that you’re reading this article, but the fact that you are means that you have a slight interest in this game, which means you should go buy one NOW and start playing, because it’s a lot of fun and you won’t regret it.