The next instalment of the Fire Emblem series, Fire Emblem Awakening, is now available for owners of Nintendo’s 3DS. The series has always had a passion for strategy and story coinciding with one another to bring a new and different experience to gamers. This title is poised to bring out your inner strategist and unleash the warrior within. So, does the game do just that or does it leave you as a commoner tending to the fields? It’s time to un-sheath our blades and find out.
First off let’s cover the story around Fire Emblem Awakening. You awaken from a deep slumber, with no memory of how you feel asleep, and get helped back up to your feet by the prince of Ylisse, Crom. The prince, alongside his band of warriors known as Shepherds, brings you into the ranks as the shepherds wage war against the oncoming storm of Naga, the Divine Dragon and the Fell Dragon, Grima. The story is really well written and will keep players entranced throughout the entire game. One of the best parts of the story is that it directly immerses you, the player, to take the lead role. You may not see at first how useful and how important you are to the plot, but you will soon realise that without you the world cannot be saved. As well as the main storyline to keep you busy, there are also optional quests that open up new branches for the story. This can be anything from saving a village from raiders, saving a lone warrior from imminent doom or helping out in a currently ongoing battle.
Now let’s tackle the gameplay, man is it fun. For the longest time I have been waiting for a true strategic experience. XCOM-Enemy Unknown filled up the tank but it just didn’t last, after a time it felt like strategy was just dwindled down to blind luck. However Fire Emblem fills the tank and then just keeps on filling it. It has a great incentive on strategy where if you make a bad decision you will suffer for your mistake. Keeping your teammates together and making sure that your mages are away from fights can make the difference between winning and losing a battle. As well as the strategic aspect being emphasised in the game, the challenge is there as well. Every difficulty level brings more challenge to the table, with Lunatic mode being so crazy that one false move can kill your entire team. On top of the difficulty levels you also have the two different game modes, Normal and Classic. Normal mode will just let you play the game normally, simple and easy, whilst classic mode brings back an old Fire Emblem trait, Permadeath.
If you have played a Fire Emblem game before then you know what Permadeath brings to the table. For those that don’t know, Permadeath occurs when one of your playable characters dies in a battle. When they die they do not come back, they do not retreat and they don’t sit out of battle for a few days, they die and are gone forever. This means that you get to be more intimate with your characters, you want them to get stronger and create ties with other characters so that they have a better chance of surviving. This generally creates a much better gaming experience as you are thrown deeper into the narrative and into the battles that await you so that you can see what happens to these people and the others they are tied to.
On top of the gameplay there is also DLC and boy is this DLC worth getting. The first set of DLC gives players the chance to explore some of the past Fire Emblems and team up with classic Fire Emblem characters such as Marth, Ike and Roy. If you complete these missions you can also unlock these characters for your team in the main campaign, however they do not have the ability to create relationship bonds with your other characters. As well as this DLC there is also an array of other situations available such as EXP and Gold grabbing quests, epic battles of history and seemingly unbeatable odds that truly test your inner strategist.
Now you’re probably reading this and at this point thinking, “Is there anything wrong with the game”? Well yes, there is. Although the combat is rewarding for people that love strategy, it can get repetitive. Especially if you decide to go into battle with your favourite and strongest characters rather than choose to level up the new guys. You could also be spending half of your time pairing up guys on your team so that they can build their relationships with one another faster and make them much better overall. Some players will see these as negatives whilst others will see these as necessary in order to continue the storyline and see what happens next.
The graphical style for the game makes it stand out from the crowd. If you’re a fan of a more stylistic world rather than a realistic world then this is definitely pleasing to your eye. Combining both anime-style 2D drawn characters with 3D animated warriors, the game truly shows itself off to the fullest. The animations when it comes to the fighting are brilliant. You won’t be seeing a combination made with two of the same sword strike, you will see the battle flow as naturally as a battle with blades should. Even magic users cast their spells in different ways, all with differing particle effects with the different spells. The best thing about this is that you get the feeling of power when you see your character pull off these weapon strikes and magic casts. You can see how damaging it is and heck even sometimes feel it. When your full health swordsman gets taken down by one swift lance to the chest, you know it hurt.
The last thing to bring up is the sound of the game. When you play the music from this game and just close your eyes it truly puts you straight into the fantasy world that the game is based on. It is majestic when you are travelling in the over world map and it is truly awesome when you get into combat. The voice actors also deserve great praise as there are so many characters here to play with. All of them are voiced differently, have their own flare and their own personality to bring into the game. It makes the experience stronger and although there is not a lot of voice acting in the game except for important lines or cutscenes, or even Legend of Zelda style ‘ugh’s and ‘ah’s, when you hear your characters you know the voice actors were chosen perfectly.
Overall the game is a magnificent experience for any strategy gamers out there. Everything from the world to the characters truly immerse you and keep you enthralled. Although some people will find the core gameplay to be somewhat repetitive with a lack of serious voice acting, as you have to read a lot of text, the game does provide a great challenge to the player. Bringing back Permadeath and even the classic Fire Emblem characters in the DLC is a big plus. A truly must-have game for anyone that adores strategy and worth a try for anyone with a 3DS looking for something new.
So there you have it, Fire Emblem in a nutshell, but what do you think about the game? Do you feel like a mighty strategist or are you nothing more than your commanders shoe shine boy? Let us know about your thoughts on the game in the comments and be sure to get your hands on Fire Emblem Awakening today on 3DS.