Since its release, I’ve spent 66 hours exploring every nook and cranny of Elyos in Fire Emblem Engage. I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, have done that if it wasn’t a solid game.
However, I admit I started my play through with no memories of previous instalments, having never played the franchise before. In some respects, I wonder if this is the better way to play Fire Emblem Engage, so you haven’t been influenced by previous games?
Offering a substantial number of gaming hours, it’s a game that delivers what I’d hoped for coming into this as a novice: a story to sink my teeth into.
There was a sense of epic grandeur as I delved into its lore, even despite so many of its characters proving to be little more than fluff to be forgotten in short order.
Although I doubt it would have made the grade for Retro Dodo’s 15 Best Fire Emblem games of 2023, Fire Emblem Engage should be given credit where it’s due. No, it isn’t a masterpiece, but that doesn’t mean it should be disregarded so abruptly.
A Sense Of Belonging
From the moment I started playing Fire Emblem Engage, I felt like I belonged in the world it created; it felt familiar.
Players who’ve played previous titles likely gained that familiarity from seeing old characters return, like Anna and Marth. But for me, it came from the sheer level of detail the game crams in. Regardless of whether it falls short or not, its ambition and scope is commendable.
Do I believe it’s the greatest story ever told? No. Fire Emblem Engage’s story is a tried and tested regurgitation of good vs evil – we all know it, even the inevitable twists and turns. Yet that didn’t stop it from being a good retelling of a tale we know so well.
Even the World Map, which, although expansive, never reaches its full potential, held my interest because variety was delivered in spades. Elyos’ world is fully imagined, it just isn’t fully utilised.
Although its imagery is often breathtaking, that vibrancy I see in its graphics could have been enhanced by more Paralogues.
A higher volume of side quests woven into the main narrative would have allowed us to live, breathe, and experience Elyos’ people beyond simply needing to rescue them from The Corrupted.
Tactical Gameplay Anyone Can Learn
I’m an RPG fan, always have been, always will be. However, I’m not the best when it comes to tactical gameplay.
Whenever I’ve played RPGs before, I’ve rarely used tactics, choosing instead to rely on button mashing. It’s not pretty, but it works. So when I was first introduced to all the different components of Fire Emblem Engage’s battle system, I panicked – there was so much to learn!
Fortunately, the tutorials can be accessed time and again via the main menu, and, on Normal Difficulty, enemy attacks are more forgiving.
After the first couple of excursions, I found myself deeply invested in figuring out the right spot for each Unit, with the refinement of its game mechanics helping to ensure I could do that with ease.
Undeniably, the return of the Weapon Triangle is why the gameplay feels so seamless. It isn’t a foolproof system, but it’s a great aid that’ll help remind you of Unit strengths and weaknesses.
However, while I loved the intricacies of battle, it’s disappointing that Fire Emblem Engage doesn’t let you increase difficulty – if you start on Normal difficulty, you’re locked in for the entire game.
This lack of adaptability is incredibly frustrating, especially because it could be easily remedied. For anyone just starting out, make sure to read my guide on the 10 best Fire Emblem Engage tips for beginners, just so you don’t make fatal errors like the one above.
Too Much Emphasis on Quantity Not Quality
My biggest bug bear with Fire Emblem Engage is that it undercooks its characters, and overcooks its story.
There’s 35 characters who can join your team. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just too many options; you can’t possibly invest enough time in each one of your allies to create strong Support Bonds.
Moreover, most of the characters fail to escape the 2D backstory they’ve been given. There’s glimpses of good character development, but they fade as quickly as they appear.
I won’t pretend I didn’t fall in love with certain characters – I’m looking at you Louis – but I suspect that was down to me knowing his voice actor from my favourite anime. Remove that element and Louis is forgettable, much like the other characters, their personalities little more than stereotypes.
But there’s also the issue of the narrative as a whole, specifically its length. Fire Emblem Engage gives us 26 chapters, but the story could finish in 23; the last three chapters drag, with the story painfully drawn out for no good reason.
The Best Bit Of The Somniel Is Sommie
Sommie is the best bit of The Somniel – it’s just a fact. And while I’ll never be upset by cute characters, it’s a shame that The Somniel’s full potential is never reached.
Even after Nintendo Direct announced additional DLC, some of which is automatically included in a free Fire Emblem Engage update, it still lacks impact. As nice as it is to choose who swims in the pool, what’s the point if I can’t interact with them beyond that?
It’s the same with Fortune Telling or Cooking – neither activity gives the depth we long for, choosing instead to offer a half baked final product. Sadly, that seems to be the undercurrent of Fire Emblem engage as a whole.
Even my beloved Sommie isn’t as valuable an asset as he could be. The Somniel Guardian could have offered increased Stats, maybe even secret missions or tasks, but alas, he was little more than a glorified mascot. Sommie deserved better.
Retro Dodo’s Final Verdict
Fire Emblem Engage is a good game, but it’s not great.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys RPGs and JRPGs because it has so many positives. However, those positives aren’t enough to save it from the lack of finesse it sorely needs.
I wouldn’t say I’m now a Fire Emblem fanatic, but rather a casual observer who would happily enter the fray once more when the next game inevitably comes. Hopefully when that game arrives, it’ll be able to escape the unrelenting shadow of Fire Emblem Three Houses.
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Emma has loved video games ever since she first saw Alex Kidd platforming across her TV screen. Since then, the 32 year old has dedicated an obscene number of hours to playing as many games as possible. When she isn’t obsessing over games, she spends her time honing her vinyl collection.