Welcome to EXPlay, (Explain & Play) the review series where we care not for scores but tell it how it is when it comes to every game we get our hands on, whilst also taking the time to include some lengthy gameplay, to give you the reader, the chance to shape your own impressions and views whilst watching and reading. In this installment, we’re covering Fire Emblem Engage by developer Intelligent Systems.
Fire Emblem Engage: (The Explanation)
Fire Emblem Engage is the newest entry in the Fire Emblem Series that doubles as a celebration to the franchise. It features a colorful cast of characters both new and old including a number of series favorites like Marth, Lucina, Ike, Roy, Lyn, Leif and many more.
The game’s story follows a Divine Dragon called Alear, who fell into a deep slumber after vanquishing the evil Fell Dragon with the help of powerful Emblems, heroes from faraway worlds. Upon waking up 1,000 years later, Alear has no recollection of their past, however, their awakening is not by random chance as it seems that a familiar evil has risen once again and is looking to collect all 12 of the Emblem Rings and bring destruction to the world of Elyos. It is up to Alear and their new friends as well as old comrades to put a stop to the Fell once and for all.
Much like other instalments in the franchise, Fire Emblem Engage is a turn-based strategy game where you must tactfully utilize your units to wipe out the enemy. Combat takes place on a grid and each unit can move a select number of spaces. Each unit can only move once per turn and can either attack, use an item, or wait. The type of attack they use depends on their class and the weapons they have in their possession. Archers can attack enemies one space away or adjacent to the enemy while sword fighters, axe wielders, and lance carriers attack enemies directly next to them.
When an attack on a foe is administered, the unit will attack the enemy who may follow up in retaliation. However, if you use a unit that is effective against the enemy’s class, you may be able to break them so they are unable to retaliate. To do this, the weapon triangle comes into effect. Swords are effective against axes; axes are effective against lances, and lances are effective against swords. There are also advantages with other classes with magic users being effective against armored enemies, archers being good against flying units and brawlers being effective against magic and archers.
Once all your units have moved and/or attacked during the player phase, it is then the enemy’s turn to attack (enemy phase). After they have taken their turn, it then returns to you and you continue taking it in turns until you are victorious (or are defeated). Each battle has its set of victory conditions and defeat conditions. These can be anything like defeat the enemy commander, defeat all enemies, don’t let Alear fall in battle, and reach the highlighted area.
A new feature to Fire Emblem Engage is the Engage feature. Units who are in possession of an Emblem ring can call upon the hero inside the ring to help them in battle. Such heroes include the likes of Marth, Sigurd, Celica, Lucina, Roy, Ike, and Byleth who bring their special skills to the battlefield. Players can use a hero’s skills to bring extra pain onto an enemy or to protect an ally, depending on the hero aligned with the unit. You can only engage with a unit once per battle unless you stand on the emblem pools that will regenerate their power.
When you first start a new game, you will be given a number of options to cater for your particular play style. The first is to choose which version of Alear, you wish to play as; male or female. You will then be able to choose a name and give them a birthday. After that, you can choose which difficulty mode you wish to play on and whether you want to play “Classic” style where units that fall in battle will no longer be playable or “casual” where all units will return even if they were defeated in battle.
When not engaged in battle, players can freely roam parts of the world of Elyos. This includes The Somniel a floating island safe from harm which serves as a base for Alear and their comrades to recuperate between battles. Players will also be able to move freely on certain maps after battles to talk with friendlies, acquire resources like materials and ingredients and also adopt animals. Adopting animals will allow you to find more resources when visiting The Somniel. As for the materials and ingredients, materials can be used to forge or strengthen weapons and cook meals to give your units boosted stats for their next fight. The Somniel also provides a selection of minigames like fishing, training, and Wyvern riding that can be a nice break from the constant fighting.
Players can travel between story chapters and paralogue events on the world map. skirmishes can also appear in places you have fought before and provide the opportunity to earn gold that can be used to buy better equipment and accessories, as well as be used for donations to increase the types of resources you can collect in each of the four regions of Elyos.
A series staple that returns is support conversations between units. by having them fight alongside one another, they can develop bonds that will make them stronger and help each other more in battles. You can also develop support between units by sharing a meal on the Somniel and having them train against one another in the arena. You can also increase bonds between units and Emblems in the Arena which will grant them skills and proficiencies that are needed to promote your unit to a better class. However, simply learning proficiencies is not enough to promote a unit, you will also need to acquire and use Master Seals that you can sometimes obtain in battle.
Another feature that players may recognize from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, is the amiibo Gazebo. This area in the garden of The Somniel allows you to scan up to five amiibo a day which will net you rewards. Fire Emblem amiibo and Fire Emblem characters in the Smash Bros amiibo series will net you Fashion Tickets and Music tickets that you can use to redeem outfits and music based on the Emblems in the game. You can change the outfits of your characters at the boutique though not all characters can wear the Emblem outfits. The music on the other hand, can be listened to in Alear’s bedroom or selected to play during Player Phase and Enemy Phase during skirmishes and paralogue battles (not Story missions).
To sum up Fire Emblem Engage certainly lives up to its name of being engaging with its masterfully crafted strategic combat and colorfully charming characters brimming with personality. The story itself may be a little well used (an old evil reawakens to destroy the world and it is up to a hero and their friends to stop it), but the cast is what makes the story feel more interesting because they are a part of it. Even though the likes of series favourites like Marth, Celica, Roy, and Ike are probably what will entice you into to get this game in the first place, the new characters more than hold their own as each is bursting with personality and charm. Oh, and the turn-based gameplay is still just as stimulating and engaging as ever.
Fire Emblem Engage: (The Gameplay)
Developer: Intelligent Systemes
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Role-Playing, Strategy
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: January 20, 2023 (EU & NA)
File Size: 15 GB