‘Fire Emblem Warriors’ features fun gameplay, but falls flat in storytelling
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of Fire Emblem Warriors.
Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series has had a remarkable few years, to say the least. At the start of the decade, it seemed the end was near for what amounted at the time to a tertiary title in Nintendo’s lineup of franchises. Seven years later, it’s an entirely different story: between a range of great 3DS games and a successful move into mobile gaming, the series is more popular than ever.
The mere existence of the new spin-off Fire Emblem Warriors goes some way toward proving that. It’s not the best spin-off game ever, but that doesn’t stop it from giving gamers a good time anyway.
The same game, yet not the same
The game serves basically the same purpose in the franchise as Hyrule Warriors did for the Legend of Zelda games a few years ago.
At first glance, the Warriors franchise and Fire Emblem seem at odds with each other. Where Fire Emblem focuses on turn-based strategy in its battles, Warriors games seem to be more focused on hacking and slashing and how many enemies the player can kill in one battle.
The resulting game combines the strategy of Fire Emblem and the button-mashing madness of Warriors, with a few mechanics from the former, such as the Weapon Triangle and permadeath, thrown in for good measure. It’s the sort of combination that shouldn’t work, but it does, and it leads to a surprising amount of fun. That’s even more the case when co-op mode (where two players can control two different characters at the same time) is added into the equation.
The developers have done a nice job of varying up the objectives in the main story mode enough to keep things interesting without getting too annoying. When story mode does get annoying, history mode (a sort of mission mode) provides a nice diversion from the main story while setting some nifty challenges based on past Fire Emblem games, such as killing as many enemies as you can in seven minutes or taking down a series of increasingly difficult opponents in the Arena.
Characters in crisis
As fun as the gameplay is, it unfortunately can’t save a fairly below-average plot in the story mode. The game goes to the trouble of introducing new characters (royal twin siblings Rowan and Lianna), but the problem is that they never really become much more than walking plot devices.
Of course something terrible happens to their home in the first half hour of the story mode! Of course one of the characters from the older games shows up at the last second to save the day for them right when it all seems hopeless! Of course they end up teaming up with newfound friends to save the world! The game never gives much reason to care about them in the plot context; they keep things moving along, but otherwise they’re just…there.
Even the points where the game tries to cater to Fire Emblem fans don’t quite work. The game is clearly trying to be a “Greatest Hits” of the series, but it’s still not exactly reassuring when scenes from the games are copied almost word for word. For all the work the developers apparently put into the game (which was in development for well over two years), that just reeks of laziness.
The story also suffers from the fact that a lot of characters don’t sound quite like they’re supposed to, thanks to being played by different voice actors than usual. This isn’t that much of a problem, though; the people who play the game for, well, the gameplay probably aren’t going to notice, and the casual Fire Emblem fans may not even care.
The hardcore fans, on the other hand, have gotten rather annoyed with not just the new voices, but also the character selection in general, which is admittedly kind of lacking in terms of balance. The character DLC that’s scheduled to come out over the course of the next six months or so will hopefully go some way toward fixing that concern.
Sounding (and looking) better than ever
Voice acting aside, the game is simply wonderful in terms of audiovisuals. The soundtrack features some wonderful takes on songs from the older games (and, in a nice move on Nintendo’s part, is also included in the game’s special edition).
The transition to a full 3D environment has been kind to the familiar environments and characters in the game. Everything looks great, which is a reassuring sign for the next Fire Emblem game that comes to the Switch.
The one downside of the game looking so good is that it’s a quick drain on batteries on the go. Thankfully, the developers saw fit to include a performance mode, but even that can only do so much.
That said, it’s only one of the smaller blots on a game that’s still quite nice in the end. It’s nowhere near perfect, but the game will still satisfy both Fire Emblem players wanting something a bit different from the norm and Warriors fans who are looking for a good twist on the genre.
Featured image from Nintendo
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