Fire Emblem Fates game exceeds expectations

Chris Miller, Reporter

“Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest” masterfully blends both rewarding challenge and engaging gameplay in a way that is so addicting, it’s hard not to call it Game of The Year already.

Similarly to how new Pokemon games always debut in pairs, “Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest” came out recently along with its counterpart, “Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright.” Both Fire Emblem Fates games tell a different side of the struggle between two warring nations set in the fictional Fire Emblem universe.

Fire Emblem games are a turn-based Real-Time Strategy Role-Playing Game, or RTS RPG, similar to “Halo Wars”, “Age of Empires”, or “Advanced Wars”. Gameplay consists of moving character units in a grid-like map using a multitude of weapon and class types to attack enemy units in a variety of different war scenarios. The gameplay requires a lot of careful strategy and thinking ahead, because certain units are either weak or strong to other unit types, and one wrong move may mean the death of a playable unit, or even the end of the game.

Conquest retains the core gameplay formula set by its predecessors while adding new mechanics that make this the freshest entry yet, which says a lot considering that Fire Emblem Awakening is the game that completely revived the underselling franchise in the first place.

One of the reasons Conquest feels so fresh are the battles. For the first time in franchise history, the player can manipulate the map using a new mechanic called the Dragon Vein. Certain maps allow for the use of the Dragon Vein ability and it is up to the player to decide when and if to ever use it. This ability to manipulate the map adds an extra layer of depth to the battles and can completely change the tides of the battle.

The map designs in Conquest are extremely varied and robust. Each chapter introduces a new gimmick to learn which makes each new level fresh and unlike the ones before it. This is something previous Fire Emblem games have failed to do in the past, which makes it even more impressive considering how many chapters are in the game.

Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest also retains the character relationship-building mechanic established in the previous game. This mechanic allows units to build up relationships with each other and, in most cases, result in the characters getting married and having children, which become playable characters themselves later on in the game. What’s different this time around is both Conquest and Birthright added same-sex marriage as an option between some of the characters, a decision Nintendo made to appeal to a wider audience of players.

The relationship building mechanic serves not only as a way to get newer and stronger characters, it’s also one of the reasons to play the game. The dialogue between the characters as their relationships develop are hilarious and encourage multiple playthroughs to see all of the different interactions.

Fire Emblem Fates added a new feature to both of the games called the My Castle. My Castle, as the name implies, is a castle which the player is able to customize completely and serves as a central hub in-between battles. This feature is more than just some gimmick to pass the time. Players can either visit or attack other players’ castles, which encourages strategic base building in order to not get invaded so easily. The My Castle feature is literally a game all by itself and players can spend almost as much time there as they will be playing the main game.

Conquest tells the story of the invading kingdom of Nohr and the struggle of the main character’s decision to ally with his or her’s adopted family instead of his or her’s blood related family all the while defying a tyrannical king hellbent on destruction in an effort to bring peace to both nations. Suffice it to say, the story in Conquest is as complicated as its counterpart, Birthright, but it has a far darker undertone.

For those confused, both Conquest and Birthright have the exact same setting but are a sort of “what if” scenario should the main character decide to ally with one nation over the other. Both of the games start out the same but after chapter six, become drastically different after the main character’s decision. This major decision on who to side with is locked to whichever version of the game the player is playing. So, for example, in Conquest the player is stuck with siding with the nation of Nohr while Birthright forces the player to side with the nation of Hoshido.

That’s the one big issue with the story, however. It all leads up to this major plot point in the game where the main character chooses to side with one nation or the other, but this decision isn’t made by the player because it’s set in stone which side the player allies with depending on which game the players has.

The story in Conquest is slow at first but eventually gets rather dark when playable characters end up dying. Unfortunately, that dark undertone doesn’t help the plot speed up much and it isn’t as emotional as the plot in Birthright.

Another thing that can be viewed as a negative is the difficulty in Conquest. Conquest is exceptionally harder than Birthright. Chapter 10, for instance, is soul-crushingly brutal on the harder difficulties to the point where some people will have to turn down the difficulty setting just to pass. To makes matters worse, there’s no real way to grind levels in Conquest, unlike in Birthright, which makes the game even more challenging.

Thankfully, bar chapter 10, the difficulty never seems unfair. The difficulty of this game is what makes it worth playing. The challenge comes from well thought out level design versus just making enemies hit harder like what most modern games do to increase the difficulty.

Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest may suffer in the story department versus its companion game, Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, but it makes up for that with superior level design and non-repetitive gameplay that keeps the player completely engaged until the very end.  (Five Stars)