Fire Emblem: Awakening Review
I have been an avid Nintendo fan since the days of the 64, so I have played almost every Nintendo franchise. But there has been one series I have been avoiding like the plague and that series is fire Emblem. The brutal difficulty and complexity of the series has always frightened me. The concept permanent death sends shivers down my spine. Ashamedly, I have to admit that I am still a Fire Emblem virgin, maybe I should reword that. I was a Fire Emblem Virgin. Not anymore. Head held up high. Smile on my face. Yes! I lost my Fire Emblem virginity. I completed Fire Emblem Awakening. And by golly it was amazing.
Evil Creatures are scattered around the realm. Neighbouring countries are threatening to invade. What shall a ruler do? In Fire Emblem Awakening, you follow an honourable Ylisse prince known as Chrom and his loyal Shephards as they venture to protect his lands and people from evil mysticism and invasion. It is a well composed story providing a suitable backdrop for battles and providing a necessary drive for players to continue in the story mode. I will not spoil the story for those who have not finished the game, but the final chapters are well setup, making the story an enjoyable experience. I love how all the pieces of a puzzle come together. Who is that mysterious swordsmen wearing that mask? Why did my avatar lose his memory? Why are the Plegian’s and Risens suddenly invading Ylisse? All the mystery is answered brilliantly in the final hours of the game.
Much of the exposition is told through text and simple animations. However, on occasion beautifully animated cut scenes are utilized. Complete with voice acting. It is such a shame that these superbly created cut scenes are underutilized in Fire Emblem Awakening. A minor quibble to say the least.
Following in line with previous Turn based strategy games like tactic ogres, the goal of Fire Emblem is to eliminate all the enemy units. The backbone of Fire Emblem’s Awakenings strategy is a rock-paper-scissor concept. So sword beats axe, axe beats lance and lance beats sword. This is the heart of fire emblems strategy. This is the tip of the iceberg. The icing on the cake. The first layer of the onion. It is an ogre of a game – it has many layers donkey! Fire Emblem has many intricacies that make it a deep and rewarding turn-based strategy RPG.
Where do I begin? For starters, let’s go with classes. Fire Emblem Awakening has a diverse range of classes from lords, tactician, great knights, wyvern riders, Pegasus knights, clerics, mages and archers. Obviously, each class has certain perks and advantageous. For example, Pegasus have the extraordinary ability to traverse long distances and over difficult terrain. Great knights are a balanced class of offence and defence but have difficulty moving in sandy maps. Mages and Archers can attack from a distance but have poor defences against physical attacks. Vital to winning a battle in fire Emblem Awakening is bringing a variety of skillsets in your army. Strategy can compensate for smaller numbers. If the enemies forces contains a large number of wyvern riders, then taking an adept archer would be tremendously helpful. Having trouble with armoured knights? No Problem, cast elfire with your powerful mage to melt the steel.
Leveling up is addictive in Fire Emblem. Unlike other RPG’s, your characters are not limited to a single class. Base classes can be upgraded into stronger forms with a master seal. It may sound unusual –, but I thoroughly enjoyed grinding my characters into a high enough level to upgrade them with a master seal. Imagine Pokémon but with warriors.
Like in the real world, relationships are an important facet of Fire Emblem. No! I am not talking about lovey dovey stuff (although characters can get married). Units can support each other in battle if they are in adjacent squares or paired. Support can come in the form of temporary stat boosts, assistance in blocking enemy attacks or dual strikes. The better the relationship – the greater the stat boost, the greater probability of a block, the greater damage dealt by attacks. Relationship can be improved in battles, through support dialogues and barracks events. Good relationship is vital to your team’s synergy and could be the difference between life and death. In my playthrough, I had developed many good relationships. I paired up Cordelia and Frederick, for a strong offensive combination that could move easily across the maps. I had Chrom follow Anna, for a four sword pronged attack combination.
All these intricacies are meshed together to create an addictive and complex turned based strategy rpg. It is like a game of chess. It is a game for the mind. A game, not for the dumb witted. Each turn carefully thought out. Each position calculated. There is a constant desire to be one move ahead of the enemy. Being strategic is the vital. Does the match up bode well for my unit? Does the surrounding enemy unit pose a threat to my units? Are there ally’s adjacent to my units to reap the benefits of support? Are my unit’s position well to avoid being flanked and overrun? This is a thoughtful game. By that, I mean the player needs to put a lot of thought into the game. Entering a battle without utilizing decent strategy is not a brilliant idea. Units will be lost. Battles become unnecessarily long. At the end of the day, you will not enjoy the full potential of Fire Emblem Awakening.
What ties Fire Emblem Awakening together is the brutal difficulty, that is, if you have permanent death on. If your character dies in battle, it is permanent, never to be used again. There is a high level of risk in the game. Units that you have trained can be taken away in a blink of an eye. All the hard work can go down the sh#tters because of a stupid mistake in unit positioning. If this sounds a bit too much for you, do not fret, there is an option to turn off permanent death. Personally, I had permanent death off. But, I played the game as if permanent death was on. I love this option. New players can enjoy Fire Emblem without being daunted by the brutal difficulty. Veterans will still find that this is the same Fire Emblem they have loved for many years.
Fire Emblem Awakening is a super turn based strategy RPG. Awakening should be lauded for its exceptional complexity and dept. Perhaps, the greatest step for the series in Awakening, is making the game more accessibility to newcomers. This is the first Fire Emblem game, I have beaten, and I loved every moment. I for one, cannot wait for the next game in the series.