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January 20, 2023 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Fire Emblem Engage May Be The Meaty Tactical RPG Fans Are Hungry For [Kotaku] [Review Roundup] “Fire Emblem Three Houses was adored by many for its detailed characters, intricate relationship building, and consequential story choices. The series’ strategy combat was still there, but hardly the main attraction. Based on early reviews, it sounds like Fire Emblem Engage flips the tables, rewarding fans of the strategy series’ roots while at the same time curtailing the ambitious social elements introduced by its predecessor. Fire Emblem Engage sports VTuber-looking protagonists and a gameplay gimmick that lets players summon heroes from the series’ past to help them in battle. What it doesn’t necessarily have is a cast of fascinating warriors to befriend or a compelling conflict. There are a host of visual and quality-of-life improvements, but the game appears to be more of an homage to the series’ past than its next step forward.” [Overview Trailer]

• Fire Emblem Engage Sounds Like A Battle Over The Soul Of The Franchise [Kotaku]
“Some things are constant in the world. Death, taxes, and arguing about whether or not Fire Emblem is too casual nowadays. Previews for Fire Emblem Engage are out, and some critics say that with it, Nintendo’s tactical RPG series is shifting too much towards combat. Others say that Engage is a more casual game than older entries. I’m fascinated by how reviewers can’t seem to agree on what the new Fire Emblem means for the series.”
• Fire Emblem Engage: Propelling To The Future Using The Past [Game Informer]
“Engage’s combat is a return to form for the Fire Emblem series, bringing back the traditional rock-paper-scissors formula where lances beat swords, swords beat axes, and axes beat lances, while fisticuff fighters have an advantage over archers, mages, and thieves. It’s a simple fighting premise that works because it forces you to examine unit placement, movement, and strategy well in advance based on enemy positioning on a given map. And this formula is strengthened by a game that builds on the combat in virtually every sense; most everything you do ties back to what happens in battle, including the game’s namesake, Engage.”
• There’s little engaging about Fire Emblem Engage [The Verge]
“There’s something deeply seductive about Fire Emblem Engage’s combat. It’s the reason why I contentedly spent over 70 hours in a game that otherwise has little else to recommend it. As Fire Emblems go, it’s a great jumping-in point if you’ve never experienced Nintendo’s foundational tactical RPG series. But if you’re like me and desperate to feel the same emotions Three Houses or Fates made you feel, you’re simply better off playing those games again.”
• Fire Emblem Engage review: brilliantly meaty strategy RPG combat meets a less compelling world [VG247]
“So, yeah. I don’t hate the Fire Emblem Engage story, nor what it does when you’re outside of combat. Though it’s also fair to say that compared to Three Houses, that side of the game feels a touch inferior. Even though there’s more of everything thanks to that kitchen sink approach, not all of that quantity is as high quality – and that’s a shame. On the other hand, however, Fire Emblem Engage is certainly superior to Three Houses, and that’s as a strategy RPG. It’s probably a little easy on normal mode for those more experienced in the series or genre – but crank it up to hard and it’s a real blast and one of the most mechanically satisfying Fire Emblem games in many years.”
• Fire Emblem Engage Mixes Incredible Combat with Forgettable Characters [Inverse]
“As a strategy game, Fire Emblem Engage is great. Off the battlefield, its problems start to overwhelm. The Jades and Celicas fighting with you aren’t chess pieces. They’re meant to be characters with wants, needs, and crushes on each other. Most characters in Engage introduce themselves with a single unique quirk and never get more interesting. Etie likes to work out, so every conversation you have is about gains. Anna is a carefree kid who talks incessantly about money. So cute! I can’t wait to hear about it 60 more times. Emblems are even more poorly defined, each getting only a handful of vague dialogue lines throughout the entire game.”
• ‘Fire Emblem Engage’ Is a Tactically Brilliant Saturday Morning Cartoon [Waypoint]
“Fire Emblem Engage is obsessed with the series’ past. It builds itself around the protagonists of previous games, re-uses those game’s most memorable maps, and builds its narrative around referencing the beats of older, better told stories. If the next Fire Emblem game is like this, it will be a disappointment. Engage’s tactics, however, set a new standard for the series. IntelligentSystems managed to perfectly meld mechanics and tone, but the tone they picked was fun, but ultimately empty. If they could manage to apply these same principles to more interesting narrative ends, the next Fire Emblem game would be the series’ best.”
posted by Fizz (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Every time I hear about an RPG/RTS game with three factions I hiss "insidious House Ordos" to myself.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:50 AM on January 20 [6 favorites]

I'll play it eventually but I really do want a good story. Three Houses was great but I actually wished for a smaller cast of people I could spend more time with. I really liked Valkyria Chronicles for this reason - you had a core group that you kinda took through everything and a few extras, rather than all extras. Same with Xenoblade Chronicles 3.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:11 PM on January 20

I liked Three Houses well enough, but every review I've read makes me think Engage is going to be much closer to capturing the sort of on-the-battlefield storytelling that I loved about the older, more tactically engaging FE games. I played through Awakening, Fates (which is maybe the worst FE game I've played), and Three Houses hoping at some point to experience something as thrilling as Elincia's Gambit in Radiant Dawn.
posted by TheKaijuCommuter at 12:15 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

a gameplay gimmick that lets players summon heroes from the series’ past to help them in battle

This one is weird to me: for the current generation of gamers, aren't most of the past Fire Emblem games unavailable? unofficial emulation is an option, but I feel like that's less of a thing now, beyond the most hardcore. For Zelda, Mario and some other franchises there's official ports available for most games in the franchise, but I don't think that's the case for FE?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:15 PM on January 20

Like, is your average FE player deep into the lore?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:16 PM on January 20

Lentrohamsanin, I suspect they're banking on the idea that most of these faces will be recognizable because of the mobile game FE Heroes.
posted by TheKaijuCommuter at 12:18 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

I wish I like this sort of "classic" Fire Emblem but I just don't. I need long support scenes and good characters to make spending 40 hours playing a tactics game enjoyable. I started Engage and a couple of chapters in it hasn't gone beyond saturday morning cartoon levels of story and characters. It doesn't help that I have zero nostalgia for the older games so every new emblem is just a random dude with zero in-game characterization other than a couple of lines.

The tactics game itself seems better though, or at least it's harder than FE3H, so I guess that's something, but I'm not sure if I'll keep playing.
posted by simmering octagon at 12:30 PM on January 20

Like, is your average FE player deep into the lore?

There are also a fair number of spin-off games set in this same universe, the aforementioned mobile game Fire Emblem: Heroes as well as: Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE#, Fire Emblem Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes.

Most of these games have heroes/characters that have popped up within the last 10 years of FE. And while many of them are games from the DS/3DS era, I still think that there is a lot of love for these heroes. Nintendo has also brought a few of these characters into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Also, I think its not super necessary to know who these characters are, they're referenced as 'heroes of the past' and its a great entry point into this series.
posted by Fizz at 12:31 PM on January 20

For Zelda, Mario and some other franchises there's official ports available for most games in the franchise, but I don't think that's the case for FE?

Teeeeeeechnically you can still access some of the games. Blazing Blade and Sacred Stones and Shadow Dragon (the DS remake of the first game) are still available via the Wii U Virtual Console, the 3DS games are still available via the 3DS eShop, and if you managed to snag a copy for the 6 months it was made available (??!?!?WHY NINTENDO), an English version of the first game was ported to the Switch.

But you're mostly right still. All of the Wii U and 3DS games are about to fall into the memory hole, as the eShops close down for good in March. That would leave Three Houses and Engage as the only games you can still purchase easily without paying for a long out-of-print physical copy.

Aside from what TheKaijuCommuter said, I also suspect they're betting on people who've been exposed to Fire Emblem via its marginally popular spin-off game franchise full of Fire Emblem sword-wielders, Super Smash Bros. (THIS IS A JOKE PLEASE DON'T COME AFTER ME)

I'm a bit torn about Engage, because I very much liked the political intrigue of Three Houses, but it also felt like to get the most out of that game you had to play it at least three times, one for each house you could lead (and there's a fourth path as well to take!). Meanwhile, another one of my favourite Fire Emblems is Fates: Conquest, which is a great game to play, but also has the worst characters and story of the ones I've played (basically everything from Awakenings onward except Valencia). If Engage can at least do better than that, there's a chance I'll be satisfied.
posted by chrominance at 12:36 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

for the current generation of gamers, aren't most of the past Fire Emblem games unavailable?

I assume the typical FE player is 35+. Sure kids may buy a few copies but I think it's a mistake to think that games—especially like this— are targeted toward teens when they know damn well lots of older people play and have a lot more disposable income.
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:37 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]

I'm only about a half-hour into Engage but I'm already loving it. This new entry injects some fresh energy into the series, something that I felt was missing from Three Houses. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE Three Houses. But I am just loving the vibes of this new game. :-)
posted by Fizz at 12:39 PM on January 20

Chrominance, I should probably clarify that I played Fates: Birthright rather than Conquest. It has the same bad characters and story as Conquest, but, by all accounts, far worse gameplay, so that's on me.
posted by TheKaijuCommuter at 12:42 PM on January 20

I played all three of the Fates games (protip: don't feel like you need to bother with Revelation, it's definitely the worst of the three routes) and I'd say Birthright is basically Awakenings-lite in every way including narrative, which I didn't think was bad but in hindsight wasn't all that memorable either. Conquest's story is absolutely worse that Birthright. It literally makes no sense after a while.
posted by chrominance at 2:00 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

I'm literally begging for an FE4 remake.

Or even just a legitimate way to play the original in English.
posted by Reyturner at 9:39 PM on January 20

I guess this means I need to start playing the other two routes of Three Houses, so I'll be ready when this goes on discount. But instead I'm grinding other narrative paths in NG+ in Triangle Strategy, having just finished the endgame boss in Octopath. And I have the post game content / other paths from Tactics Ogre to chew on, ahead of the FFT remaster rumored to be forthcoming. And at some point I should wrap up Wargroove, which has like, a ton of fan made maps and campaigns.

So I'm kinda full up on sRPGs at the moment, no room for what sounds like a gacha game with "what if we just settled the Roy vs Marth debate by smashing them together" protagonist. Maybe in a year or five 🫠
posted by pwnguin at 12:20 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]

I loved the last game on the Switch. It was my first experience with the franchise. Would I love this one too?

On a related note, the recent Marvel game 'Midnight Suns', is kind of like a Fire Emblem game if you replaced the different houses with one monastery and filled it with A, B and C tier Marvel characters. Lots of social interaction, side missions related to upping friendship scores, etc.
posted by Werod at 10:37 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

I loved the last game on the Switch. It was my first experience with the franchise. Would I love this one too?

I think so, but just know that this game is not trying to do all the story and world-building that Three Houses did. Which is not to say that Engage is just ignoring all of that. I just think its focused its priorities more on the tactics and trying to really just push you into the game part of the game. It feels faster and more focused than 3H.
posted by Fizz at 6:57 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]

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