When Hyrule Warriors released a few years back, I was entertained with the thought of Link and Zelda going god mode on hapless beings. That’s what the Dynasty Warriors series does well. When I heard that Fire Emblem would be given the Warriors treatment next, I’ll admit I was skeptical. How does a tactical RPG translate to a hack-n-slash? Turns out it’s a great match up of two different series.
Fire Emblem Warriors takes place in the kingdom of Aytolis. Two new playable characters to the franchise, the royal twins Rowan and Lianna, witness mysterious portals opening up from which monsters begin to attack. In the attack, the twins are separated from their mother, Queen Yelena, who gives the twins the Shield of Flames before being captured.
Prince Darios of Gristonne, a friend to the twins, reveals that his father is plotting to revive the Shadow Dragon Velezark. The Shield of Flames, which is energized by the Gleamstones created by the power of other Fire Emblem heroes, is the only way to stop the Chaos Dragon’s return.
That’s the plot device that brings several familiar faces together, but it’s largely forgettable when you’re hacking down thousands of grunts on the battlefield. That being said, Fire Emblem Warriors takes characters mostly from Fire Emblem games such as Shadow Dragon, Awakening, and Fates.
The flow of the story follows a familiar pattern. Fire Emblem characters mysteriously begin to appear in the kingdom of Aytolis. They mistake you for being a villain, or vice versa, and you’re off to do battle with them. Defeating them in battle adds them to your roster of playable characters and then it’s off to the next mission.
While the formula of battle grows rather predictable, it’s still fun to go up against, or even fight alongside, many familiar faces from Fire Emblem games past. You have characters like Lucina and Chrom from Fates. Corrin, Robin, Ryoma, and Camilla from Awakening. In fact, there’s a roster of 25 playable characters, with more planned as DLC.
Something I admire about Fire Emblem Warriors is its variety with the playable characters. There are plenty of swordsmen that can run on-foot but, true to classic Fire Emblem games, there are other different playable classes such as the Pegasus Knights, Wyvern Riders, Cavaliers, Clerics, Mages, and Great Knights. There’s a play style for everyone and that’s something that Fire Emblem Warriors does very well. Not to mention keep things fresh and entertaining.
Fire Emblem Warriors’ greatest strength is how much Fire Emblem they put into a Warriors style game. Prior to battle, you can strategize over the layout of the map and dictate where you want members of your party to move and whether they should attack or defend. This element of strategy can also be amended in the heat of battle. Various sub-missions will begin to pop up during the action. Enemy reinforcements can show up, or an unforeseen circumstance may require your immediate attention. You’re better off pausing the game to pull up the map, because the minimap is painfully small to make anything out.
The Weapon Triangle is a cornerstone of Fire Emblem, and it’s an important aspect in Fire Emblem Warriors. Sword beats axe. Axe beats lance. Lance beats sword. By that token, tome beats bow. Bow beats dragonstone. And dragonstone beats tome. The game does a great job of teaching you how to use your resources wisely. For instance, a fort captain may specialize in a weapon my character is weak against. I learned to live to fight another day. I retreated and opened the map to see where my axe-wielding cleric could do the most damage, assigned them to that spot, and immediately switched to a character with an advantage on that fort captain. I can’t tell you how many times I turned the tide of battle by taking advantage of Fire Emblem logic. Even the series’ own Permadeath feature can be enabled if you so desire.
Combat is fast-paced and entirely frantic. Hordes of enemies will be unleashed upon you so don’t be surprised to see the kill count exceed 1,000 within the first five minutes. It’s a button masher’s paradise. You have both light and heavy attack buttons, but I feel no matter what combination of buttons you use, it amounts to largely the same outcome. It can get quite repetitive, but the action onscreen always pleases the eyes. Each character has a special gauge that, once filled, can unleash a devastating and flashy attack. Additionally, there is an Awakening gauge that, when activated, nullifies the effects of the Weapon Triangle, boosts your attack power, and ends with a huge, finishing blow.
Players can also pair characters together as seen in Fire Emblem Awakening and Fates. Novice players, for example, can pair up with the team’s cleric to heal in critical moments. It’s a risk/reward system that has its benefits. While paired up, the non-playable character will not be available to assist in capturing forts or taking down enemy outposts, but there’s always the added power or healing that makes it even. On top of that, paired characters can dish out a tag-team special attack.
Leveling up is paramount in Fire Emblem Warriors, and you’re sure to do it very quickly, perhaps even several times during a battle. While great in the main series, level up notifications are more intrusive in Fire Emblem Warriors due to the faster pace of a hack-n-slash game. I’d be concentrating on securing a fort, or defeating a crucial enemy, when all of a sudden the level up fanfare sounds off and shows me my newly acquired experience points. Not only does this happen for the character you play as, but for every character on your team. It really takes you out of the element, but I understand why it appears in the heat of battle. That’s what happens in your typical Fire Emblem game that’s more slow-paced. The problem is, Fire Emblem Warriors is very fast-paced and I wish the level up sequence could’ve been saved for the end-of-battle report instead.
Material acquired during a battle can be applied to each character to grant buffs to their attack power and defense via a skill tree. Additionally, weapons can gain new attributes and become more powerful by breaking down weaker weapons for parts. Abilities can also be unlocked for each character, such as lowering an enemy’s base defense. Each character can also be promoted to a new class by use of Master Seals, which act as Fire Emblem Warriors’ greatest commodity. Master Seals require a bit of extra work to obtain, but it’s worth the power it imparts on the game’s characters. They’ll receive a significant boost in their overall strength and power, and also acquire alternate outfits. With 25 playable characters for leveling up, there’s a lot of incentive to keep going back to grind for more resources. Normally, grinding would be exhausting, but Fire Emblem Warriors truly builds you from the ground up.
When the story is over, there’s still History Mode to look forward to, which is made up of classic Fire Emblem maps and scenarios with notable series villains to take down. There are time trials to complete and more Master Seals to obtain. Arena Mode is similar to a horde mode, in which you must defeat as many waves of enemies as you can in exchange for gold and experience. Anna, a traveling merchant, who appears on the map after meeting certain conditions in battle, can sell you murals. Finally, Free Mode allows you to replay any story campaigns with whatever characters you’d like.
Topping the package is Fire Emblem Warriors’ soundtrack that takes familiar Fire Emblem melodies and imbues them with a hard rock edge. In addition, the series’ signature 2D art style evolves perfectly into a 3D perspective. No doubt, there’s classic Fire Emblem character conversations that use 2D avatars, and those sequences are entirely faithful to the series. When the characters of Fire Emblem step into the third-dimension, they just look even better.
Fire Emblem Warriors is a great amalgamation of two diverse gaming franchises that manages to make its own identity. I thought the tactical and RPG side of Fire Emblem would have taken a backseat to action, but I was happily proven wrong. There are a few technical blunders that weigh it down a bit, but the game remains a strong entry in the Nintendo-Warriors hybrid of games. Fire Emblem Warriors should please both Fire Emblem and Warriors fans, and is worth taking a stab at.