Fire Emblem Warriors is a hack and slash action RPG made by the team best known for the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Due to the success found between Nintendo, Omega Force, and Team Ninja with Hyrule Warriors, it only made sense to take another Nintendo franchise and give it the Warriors treatment. I’m happy to say that its once again another pleasant experience but let’s find out why.
Release date: October 20, 2017
Approximate Size: 13.1 GB
Genre: Action RPG, Role-Playing
Developed by Omega Force, Team Ninja
Published by Nintendo
Reviewed Nintendo Switch; also available on New Nintendo 3DS.
The story of the game may be its weakest part. It isn’t a bad story it just isn’t anything remarkable to leave a lasting impression and, over time, it sort of gets lost and left on the back burner. It comes across as constructed generically for the sake of creating a reason to have all these Fire Emblem characters from different games to be able to coexist. The premise is that during a simple sparring session between the twins, Prince Rowan and Princess Lianna of the kingdom of Aytolis, and their friend of Gristonne, Prince Darios, they are all attacked by monsters who fall from portals created in the sky. During this attack, they are separated from the Queen, their mother, Yelena and attempt to save her. There is scene where the Queen’s fate is seemingly final and it was well constructed and well written to the point that I had my wife look over as I played and she commented how deep and kind of disturbing that played out. From here you escape the castle and this is where the real story and game unfolds.
The object of the story is for you to power up the Fire Emblem by obtaining Gleamstones gathered from these other Fire Emblem characters that have appeared from other worlds. This power will aid in the stopping the revival of the antagonist, brought on by a certain character’s father, and rid the world of this evil. As you can see its nothing new or exciting, it gets the job done and creates a reason to have all these characters join forces. As you progress, however, it all sort of takes a backseat and you may find yourself lost or not remembering what happened because the combat is so fun and engaging. I would have liked the story to have been more fulfilling and I would have liked to have seen the antagonist at the beginning to put a face on who I was meant to stop and have other antagonists of importance shown as obstacles to defeat, exactly how it was done in Hyrule Warriors. What does make this story great is the story told between characters as they learn to trust one another and the situations they are placed in.
The combat in this game is flashy, beyond impressive, and satisfying. You and a select group of characters are placed on a map with a series of objectives placed before you so that you can proceed forward. You feel liked an overpowered beast as you destroy hundreds of enemies at once with combos and special attacks. Everything moves with fluidity and function that impresses and makes a visually appealing game even more pleasant. To balance this out, the game implements a system known as the Weapons Triangle. The game takes the three main types of weaponry and shows how one is weaker than the other and what weapon type has the advantage over the other. This is a system mechanic brought over from the Fire Emblem series and it works like a charm here. You see, regular enemies you can get away with plowing through them with an ineffective weapon type, especially if your level is higher than theirs, but this will not be the case with boss fights. Boss fights require that you follow the triangle because, if you don’t, you’ll be in for a long fight. Your attacks with take forever to drain the enemy but they will dispatch you with relative ease. It’s a nice feature that adds some strategy to the combat and has the player decide which character to use for which scenario.
Speaking of characters, they are all wonderful and they all play different. However, characters on mounts do play similarly but have different special attacks and awakening skills. That is impressive in its own right because with this large cast of playable characters and all of them wielding medieval weaponry, there is a worry that they would all play similarly. That is not the case. Each character has their own combos, specials, and awakening skills. They are all a joy to play. You can take up to eight in battle but you can only switch between four to actually play. All of this can be done with a touch of a button and it is all a seamless action. Characters not being played with can be ordered and they can be set to attack or defend. This feature is a little hit and miss because I encountered some scenarios where they would be set to defend and that’s literally all they did. They didn’t attack any enemies and solely focused on healing themselves and me. Setting the A.I. to attack had the exact opposite effect where the characters would run into battle, regardless of how much of a disadvantage they were in, and fight in almost a kamikaze state of mind. My work around for this was to keep a defender and an attacker in close proximity of one another.
The pair-up mechanic has one character team up with the one your controlling, disappearing from the map, and all your stats get a boost. As you battle you fill up a gauge and once its full, you unleash a cooperative special attack that makes you feel even more powerful. It’s all stylized beautifully and they all are a wonder to behold. You can tell some creativity and love went into designing these amazing team up attacks. You can also use this almost like an assist feature found in the Capcom versus series as they can jump out and offer an attack or shield you from an attack. Better yet, you can swap characters at any moment and its understated how great that is because if you could not switch, it would be unfortunate. You can also use this mechanic with the nonplayable characters that join you but you still cannot play with them. You could, in theory, pair up all for playable characters with the four nonplayable ones and essentially have four super powered characters. I hadn’t tried this but I will now. As characters fight together they eventually form a bound and over time this bond will deepen allowing for unique and interesting conversations between them. These conversations are a highlight to the game but it’s a shame you can only truly relish in it when they are practically at max bond.
I mentioned the awakening skill earlier so let’s discuss what exactly this little gem of an ability is. The Awakening gauge is a bar that slowly fills as you engage in combat, once its full your character can go into an Awakening state. What this does is cause your character to become even more powerful and it renders the weapons triangle ineffective until it depletes and it ends with an extravagant special move. It also locks you out of switching characters until it depletes. One thing these games get right is gameplay and this is no exception. Casual players and those familiar with the Warriors franchise will find a rewarding experience with this games combat and mechanics.
The game provides a healthy assortment of customization to the characters available. You can change weapons, use currency and materials gathered to level characters up, you can unlock weapon combos, and you can change classes. Unlike fire emblem games, when you change a class you do not go back to level one. I took every opportunity to change a class because I found the boost in stats to be worth it. as you play through the game, you also can level up and characters you are not controlling level up as well. There also is a nice animation and display when characters level up and I enjoyed the attention to the Fire Emblem franchise. Whichever character is determined to be the most valuable in the level will receive even more experience points. The skill tree gives the player a reason to replay levels for more materials to further take that character to their highest potential. It’s not as grindy as I thought it would be and I actually found it more enjoyable that the grind I was enthralled in with Hyrule Warriors. There is a light weapon forge mechanic that allows you to transfer a skill a weapon has to a weapon you prefer at the expense of that weapon. Different weapons have different amounts of potential skills with some having none at all.
You can also play story mode cooperatively after at least completing chapter one alone. it does not matter which mode you play your Switch in (I.E. handheld, T.V., Tabletop). I recommend you do so in docked mode because there is a lot going on and the bigger screen will benefit both players. I did test it out in Tabletop mode and it was just as fun as docked but once we tried it docked, for co-op, there was no going back.
When you play story mode you get to options in terms of experience: Casual or Classic. Classic mode is exactly what you would imagine it is and its where I believed I would spend the majority of my time, until I discovered what Classic mode is. I am a self-aware masochist because once I found out that Classic mode allows a permadeath mechanic, well, there was no other option for me. As you play through the story and you lose characters, they are gone. Dead. Useless. This makes you play more cautiously because there are a lot of elements at play and losing a character you depend on, especially with the weapons triangle in play, could prove disastrous for you. This prolonged my playthrough of the story as I did all I could to keep everyone alive only to find out that you can eventually revive them at the cost of massive amounts of materials and currency. It feels as if they couldn’t commit fully to the permadeath mechanic and, so, they provided a sort of way out. I wish they would have just made it permadeath without being able to bring characters back but I can see why they did it and they made it costly to bring these characters back so I get it. Either way, it’s not like dead characters were only rendered unplayable and still appeared in cutscenes. Right?
History mode allows players to relive classic Fire Emblem moments in a way. Through a series of maps you engage in a series of battles with condition and objects that must be met to complete the stage. All of these are from the main Fire Emblem games represented in this game and collecting artwork from the NPC Anna will unlock more. It’s a more streamline focus than single player and it comes with its own ranking system. I spent more time in here than I thought I would and though it’s not as good as the one found in Hyrule Warriors, it’s still an enjoyable experience and in many ways its better than the story mode. It also has some character variants and new characters to unlock, providing a healthy goal for the player and gives you a reason to play through it. it’s smart to have arguably the best characters locked in this mode and it helps, as I said, that this mode is enjoyable.
Fire Emblem Warriors gives the player options in terms of its graphical abilities. Similarly, to Team Ninja’s Nioh, players can choose between Quality and Performance. Quality will run the game at 1080p with 30 FPS while the Performance mode will give you the 60 FPS at the cost of 720p. What I found was that when I played in Quality mode the game was pretty much locked at 30 FPS with little to no dips and when I say little I’m talking about one to two frames dipping for a second or two. When I tried Performance mode, I found that the game did look better but it dipped more frequently than Quality ever did and it fell as low as 45 FPS. For me, personally, I rather have it nearly locked at 30FPS than it dropping as much as it did in Performance mode. Also, 720p looks rather unpleasant on a large 4K television. Now, you know from my reviews that I don’t hardly talk about framerates and resolution because I don’t really care, it’s not my thing, but it has to be talked about here because the developers have given the players the option to choose how they want to play. To be honest, I only found this setting because I was searching for the Japanese dialogue and stumbled across it. regardless of how you play, the game is fast and its fluid and its fun. I haven’t tried it yet but I’d have to imagine the ideal way would be to play Quality mode while docked and Performance when in handheld mode.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about how the game actually looks. I went ahead and popped Hyrule Warriors in for comparison and its instantly apparent how vastly better Fire Emblem Warriors is graphically. There is more attention to detail and textures are rendered with a higher resolution. Character models look better and are detailed, as well as faithfully, recreated from the games they came from. There are more enemies on screen than before and I encountered less enemy pop up as I ran around the map. It’s not going to win best graphics from any websites or magazines but it looks great and the art style fits in a more anime style than the gritty realism from the other Warriors games would have. One thing this game does great are the effects. Particles fly and different colors flash as you slice through hundreds of enemies. You know a game looks and runs well when you find yourself smiling like a buffoon, feeling like an overpowered demi-god, while you play. This game does that and it all feels so satisfying to the point that I found myself thinking I’d put it down after one more chapter. Yeah, no.
The music in the game is designed to be epic and grand, and it is well produced and did do those things for me, but it sort of drifted to the back of my mind as I focused on playing. This doesn’t mean the soundtrack is bad, actually its great with some sweet remixes in, but it happened because of how great the game plays and how focused I got into the battle system. Now, had the music been bad it would have broken me out of this state and ruined that focus. The music is like everything else in this game, its designed to be boisterous and epic, it does its job. When I wasn’t battling, I enjoyed it. Menu sounds, background music, it’s all done wonderfully. Impact all sounds satisfying and different weapons do have different forces as they collide with enemies. Steps make heavy characters feel heavy and characters on mounts pounded the floor to emphasis on your speed. Special attacks and animation triggers are sound well-constructed as they draw your attention in.
Voice acting in this game is a little more mixed to me. I played the first chapter in English and quickly changed it to Japanese after. The English dialogue isn’t bad but it also wasn’t great. They came across more as people reading lines than people actually experiencing the events around them. They lacked emotion and conviction it was off putting for me. Contrast that with the Japanese dialogue where everyone speaks with emotion and you can feel the character emotions. It’s a shame since Zelda had a great English dialogue earlier this year but I couldn’t bring myself to do it with this game. The only issue I had with the Japanese voices was when I was actually playing and I didn’t understand what they were saying I had to balance between looking at what I was doing and looking at the subtitles. Overall the game sounds great and there wasn’t anything that was off putting or ruined my experience, besides my nitpicking on the English dialogue.
Fire Emblem Warriors offers a plethora of content and the overall experience is fantastic. There are some aspects that fails to live up to what was done in Hyrule Warriors but there are also some mechanics that are better. This game does more right than wrong and the amount of fanservice for both the Fire Emblem fans and those who love the Warriors series shows that care and love went into the coding of this game. I do wish we would have gotten some more characters from older Fire Emblem games and I do wish the story had some deeper meaning and/or player connection but the characters available all are a fantastic to play with and they are all diverse in how they attack and how they play. In its debut year, the Switch has racked up a healthy list of games which many of them are must own. It makes me happy to be able to add this Fire Emblem Warriors game to that list. From the massive amounts of unlockables to its customization and to its deep combat, this may be Omega Force and Team Ninja’s best Warriors game to date and they should be applauded for being about to continue the innovation their franchise and avoid it from becoming stale.