Fire Emblem Warriors
Koei Tecmo Games
Fire Emblem Warriors is the latest edition of Koei Tecmo applying their hack n slash Dynasty Warriors model to another franchise. We’ve seen Hyrule Warriors (a Legend of Zelda take), One Piece Warriors, Dragon Quest Warriors, and Dynasty Warriors: Gundam. There have even been Warriors games that are just a mashup of franchises like Warriors Orochi or Warriors All-Stars. Regardless the direction, the hack n slash action provided has always been about the same. While Fire Emblem Warriors largely follows that trend, there is a bit of effort to make this one stand out from the rest.
The Fire Emblem franchise is known for a few of things: a large roster of heroes, strategy on the battlefield, bonds between the characters, and weapon type vulnerabilities. As a franchise, each of these aspects have always been prominent as Fire Emblem is typically a turned based strategy game. Developers Omega Force and Team Ninja collaborated with Fire Emblem developer Intelligent System to bring Nintendo’s popular favorite to the wonderful world of hack n slash in a really impressive way. Oddly enough though, the ‘large’ roster is one that was paired down for some reason.
Storywise, you start off with a pair of generic anime twins on a mission to prevent the resurrection of an evil Chaos Dragon. The mission involves recruiting various heroes from different Fire Emblem games to join in the fight and save… well… everyone. Honestly, the whole thing is basically the same chestnut used in the confusing and roster heavy Warriors Orochi series. While this approach is fine for a typical Warriors game, die hard Fire Emblem fans may find the whole plot a bit simplistic and uninspired.
When you drill down to what Fire Emblem Warriors offers on the hack n slash side of things, Warriors fans will find just enough to sate their Nintendo Switch session desires. With missions that feel like the ‘Empires’ version of many Warriors games, Fire Emblem Warriors places a heavy emphasis on attacking and protecting various forts on the maps. This is done by attacking or protecting captains and other named heroes and villains that appear and move across the map. Missions and submissions pop up and are clearly explained and located as time moves on in every mission. The result is a feeling that even though your hero(s) are typically OP, they can’t be everywhere on the battlefield.
Fire Emblem Warriors forces the action throughout each battle with these missions and submissions making them time based. One moment you’ll be asked to defeat 3 different forts and then another moment you’ll be tasked with defeating a messenger or reinforcements that are racing across the map. The way that the action is pushed in Fire Emblem Warriors feels a bit more forceful and deliberate than most Dynasty and Samurai Warriors games. In a way the pacing feels more like the Samurai Warriors series which does focus the mission action in a similar way. The result forces the player to switch to control other heroes on the map and/or flip over to the pause menu to issue orders to heroes that you aren’t controlling. While this isn’t truly a deep tactical or strategic feature, there is enough here that the difficulty offers a bit of thought and planning.
As you switch between heroes and help and defend others, there are ‘bonds’ made between them that offer a bit of text-laden backstory and bonuses. While that doesn’t really do much, the in-mission ‘pairing system’ does however. Once the player’s hero is in the proximity of another playable hero, you are shown the button sequence that allows you to ‘pair’ the heroes. This means that the NPC hero the player is nearby will then defend the player’s hero. This also boosts the stats of the player’s hero. Lastly, the NPC hero will occasionally defend the player from certain attacks that would otherwise kill/injure them.
Speaking of injuries, that is where Fire Emblem’s ‘triangle’ of weapon vulnerabilities comes in. Swords are best against axes. Axes are best against polearms. Polearms are best against swords. There are other weapon types and they specialize against certain other types of units. All of this is utilized in a way where you must pay attention to the hero you are using and the unit captain you are attacking. As the missions get harder, these vulnerabilities will be exploited and huge critical hits can, and will, occur at just the wrong moment. Allowing this to happen to a player character or an NPC will lead to permadeath of the character if playing the ‘Classic’ mode of the story. While this permadeath feature can be turned off at any time, it does provide an interesting mechanic to a typically easy genre.
Fire Emblem Warriors will put Warriors veterans through their paces in an enjoyable way with respectable difficulty, but there are a few drawbacks.
The RPG system for the heroes is one where money and currency called ‘crests’ are used to upgrade each hero. Money is earned through smashing through legions of fodder on the battlefield as well as achieving objectives in missions. You will always feel like you don’t have enough gold as everything from forging and upgrading weapons to ‘blessing’ the next mission for better performance to strengthening your characters costs gold. The character upgrades even require specific types of ‘crests’ in addition to the gold in order to improve them which leads to a bit of the typical Warriors mission replay grind.
The leveling up notifications for the heroes is also done in a very distracting way as well. In the middle of a mission, whenever the player’s hero or an NPC hero levels up, the game pauses for a graphic to pop up and show you that character’s stat boost. This pulls you out of the action and can become really annoying while in battle. This could be easily done with a text overlay somewhere else on the screen that doesn’t require the action to stop for 2 or 3 seconds at a time.
Also, the battlefield fodder don’t seem to affect the battle much. With all the talk of morale and weapon types, the fodder don’t feel like they get their pot shots in much when compared to other Warriors games. Archers don’t pester you by breaking you out of your signature combo. Polearm troops don’t poke you at just the wrong moment as your heavy attack was about to land. Little things like that would provide just a bit of a feeling that there are more than just gold piñatas bouncing around on the map for you to burst.
In the end, Fire Emblem Warriors scratches that Warriors itch by providing mostly mindless hack n slash action with a bit of strategic flair. While many will probably wait for the next Hyrule Warriors to drop, Fire Emblem Warriors is a pretty good take on the strategy heavy franchise that could see an interesting return somewhere down the line.