Believe it or not, I have never played a Fire Emblem game. Nor have I ever played a game in the Dynasty Warriors series. Jumping into this blend of those two giants was a daunting prospect; games with such a rich history can be hugely overwhelming when you throw yourself headfirst into a newer series entry and this time I was tackling twice the normal amount. Thanks to this, though, this review should give anyone in a similar position all the advice that they need.
Fire Emblem Warriors has an awful lot going on. The main story is split into chapters, each of which sees you battling through waves of enemies with the aim of completing an ultimate goal. These goals change depending on the storyline but usually consist of defeating a particular opponent, reaching a specific area, taking control of every fort on the map, and so on. Each chapter is laid out beautifully across a map screen, allowing you to see the progress of the game’s story in a linear view. In between each of these chapters, the game’s huge cast of characters pop up to have conversations, essentially introducing the next part of the story. Fire Emblem’s signature ‘permadeath’ system (where if you lose a fighter they are lost forever) is an option in this campaign, but can be turned off if you prefer.
As well as this main story, you can also play through History Mode. This option allows you to play through classic battles from past Fire Emblem titles in the same style as the main game. This can serve as a nice break from the main story; at times the plot can get so bizarre that you’ll want to just step away and have some less intense battles to play through. This craziness in the main game’s plot is kind of necessary, though; the game features an incredibly large cast of Fire Emblem characters that span multiple different original games and, in theory, these characters shouldn’t be able to fight alongside each other. New characters arrive regularly and it quickly turns into a complete mess of children coming back from the future to fight alongside their young parents and random people arriving from alternate universes.
Despite this, though, the pure gameplay is good fun. Many people, myself included, look at a Warriors game and think that it appears to be made up entirely of mindless button-mashing with no real strategy to it. In a way, that is kind of correct; you can go a long way by simply hammering your (X) or (Y) buttons and, on Easy difficulty, you’ll be able to complete over half of the game by doing this alone. Ramp up the difficulty a little, though, and everything becomes rather different. The game still sees you rather humorously playing ‘keepy-ups’ with several tens of soldiers but there is method to the madness.
You enter each battle with other members of your ever-growing squad of allies and using them to their full potential is the key to success. The classic weapon triangle featured in the core Fire Emblem games plays a role in this game too; if you come up against a tough opponent who is using a sword-type weapon, you’ll need someone (either yourself or a squad member) with a lance-type weapon to have the best chance at defeating them. By pausing the game at any time, you can give commands to your comrades to attack particular enemies or aid specific allies – keeping an eye on the advantages and disadvantages that are in play for both you and your targets is essential on the harder challenges.
This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be done to aid you in battle; the game is full to the brim with stuff to learn. New characters are constantly being added to the roster – each of which has their own skill tree to develop, weapons to assign, levels to grow, and more; characters can perform better if their bonds grow with other allies (something that can be achieved by utilising the pairing up system during battles); there are special attacks that need to be charged in order to be used; and so much more that we simply don’t have the room to talk about. Even now, after playing the game for many hours, I know that I’m still not making use of everything that the game’s extensive menu options can provide for me and that my strategies aren’t nearly as refined as they could be. There is just so much to take in.
Fire Emblem Warriors looks great in both Handheld and TV modes. Interestingly, this is the first game on Switch that allows users to alter the performance of the game to suit their preferences. By choosing ‘Quality’ (which is the default), the game will display in 1080p when docked and run at 30fps; by selecting ‘Performance’ instead, the game will sacrifice some graphical power and drop to 720p, but ramp up the frame rate to 60fps. In all honesty, both modes work just fine; the differences are small enough that you won’t have any issues on either and the game runs beautifully whichever way you go. I would probably recommend going for the ‘Performance’ option, though, as in my opinion the smoothness of a game’s frame rate is almost always more important than graphical perfection and that’s definitely the case for a game like this.
My initial fears of being completely overwhelmed by Fire Emblem Warriors have strangely both come true, and been quashed in equal measure. The game has so much information to throw at you that, without a deep understanding of both franchises, you will likely be a little lost at times; the action is fun to play through, though, regardless. The story is a bit of a mess in truth and, whilst it is just another part of the Fire Emblem universe, the overly-dramatic seriousness that surrounds every small detail gets tiresome very quickly. The gameplay can feel repetitive too; your objectives are usually very similar to other chapters and it feels more like a level-based game than one that revolves around a story.
At its best though, Fire Emblem Warriors does provide an enjoyable fundamental experience that can be played through multiple times over. The incredible amount of fan-service in this title will likely win over any of the Fire Emblem ‘hardcore’ and the game does stand up in its own right. It isn’t perfect, but if you’re interested in what it has to offer there are much worse things you could spend your hard-earned cash on. One to definitely consider, then.