Review: Fire Emblem Warriors (Nintendo Switch)
- Release Date (NA): October 20, 2017
- Release Date (EU): October 20, 2017
- Release Date (JP): September 28, 2017
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Koei-Tecmo/Omega-Force/Team Ninja
- Genres: Action
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
- Also For: Nintendo 3DS
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Musou and Me
I wouldn't call myself a huge Warriors fan. Musou games in general are a guilty pleasure, something I pick up during gaming calendar droughts. After thinking about it, over the years I've played quite a few titles from the series.
Starting with the original Dynasty Warriors back in 1997, then trying out Samurai Warriors, various titles from the Orochi series, then onto the licensed games – Gundam, and Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage - my personal favourite. I've also played Hyrule Warriors, Fate Extella, and most recently - Warriors All-Stars. You'd think that after playing all those titles I'd be some kind of expert on the genre, but the truth is I've never finished any of the games apart from Ken's Rage.
That's 20 years of mashing buttons and clearing battlefields, and now, with Fire Emblem Warriors on Switch, I think I've finally played Koei Tecmo's best Musou game.
Fire Emblem Warriors (FEW) is the latest game in the long-running Koei-Tecmo franchise, co-developed by Omega-Force, Team Ninja and Intelligent Systems. FEW blends staple gameplay elements from both series into what plays and feels like a perfect merger of both worlds.
A New World With Old Faces
FEW takes place in the Kingdom of Aytolis, an all-new world created just for this game, and it is here that we are introduced to the Royal family. Queen Yelena currently resides on the throne and has twin children, the game's main protagonists, Rowen the Prince and Lianna the Princess. The twin children are on the cusp of adulthood and need to decide which of them will take over the throne and become the new ruler of Aytolis.
We quickly learn that Rowen would rather become the kingdom's most powerful knight instead of a king, but his sister sees no reason why he can't be both.
While Rowen is sparring with Darios - a prince from the neighbouring Kingdom of Gristonne, a dark cloud appears above them and starts to engulf the entire world with a strange purple mist. This mist creates Outrealm portals throughout Aytolis, acting as doorways for monsters to spawn and wreak havoc upon the kingdom.
Darios, Rowen and Lianna help Queen Yelena to escape the castle before it's overthrown by the invading fiends, and as they retreat, the Queen entrusts the twins with the Shield of Flames - a magical relic that must be used in order to seal away the Chaos Dragon, a giant creature that will soon materialize in Aytolis if the darkness manages to overtake the kingdom.
Queen Yelena explains to the twins they must first head to the temple, and awaken the Shield of Flames by slotting it with Gleamstones that are carried by heroes from other worlds.
Well established Fire Emblem characters such as Marth, Chrom and Corrin all just start to show up in Aytolis. The reasoning behind it all is that when an Outrealm portal appears, it also summons a hero from another world to help out the kingdom that is under attack. It's all a bit silly, even acknowledged by some of the cast themselves, but it didn't bother me as I don't need much of a reason to get stuck into battle in a video game, and am not trying to understand why Marth is over a thousand years old in this universe.
The story is told through cutscenes that look crisp on Switch and bookend each of the 21 story chapters, but don't expect some grandeur adventure. It's a fair story, which I can't say any more about without getting into spoiler territory.
There are 20 heroes to choose from, spanning 5 games, but the majority are from Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates. Most of my time spent with the FE series comes from playing the Gameboy Advance games, The Sacred Stones and then Shadow Dragon on the DS, so I didn't really have any affinity for 90% of the roster in FEW. This makes sense from a marketing perspective, why add characters from games that are 15 years old when most of the audience is probably coming at this title straight from the 3DS instalments. However, it's also kind of questionable to see such glaring omissions from the roster. Where are Ike, Roy, Ephraim and my main man Sigurd? The cynic in me thinks probably right in Koei-Tecmo's HQ waiting to be put out as DLC packs.
With that said, it's worth noting that I like Fire Emblem as a strategy game, but I've never really followed it's stories and lore. So the appearance of a character from one game over another didn't do anything for me, and the story in FEW is a bit crazy featuring different heroes from various games and timelines all working together.
War in Aytolis
Warriors games have always been about large scale battles, filled with exuberant combat and over-the-top characters. Basically, war-filled battlefields where heroes will slay thousands of enemies using an array of combos and special Awakening techniques. If you can picture making a move on a Fire Emblem map; you move your character and a single animation plays out your choice of move for that turn. Now instead, imagine if you could actually take control of the selected unit and play out the fight fully in a 3D action game. Smashing through swathes of enemies, capturing towers and bases while battling, with and against classic Fire Emblem characters.
Even though Warriors games are combat action games, FEW also keeps the classic Fire Emblem gameplay by allowing the player to control their units on the overworld map. You can command anyone that is currently in your squad to any tile on the map, and then order them to attack a specific unit to take over that territory, or guard a tower you already control. But as this is a Warriors game, you can then close the map and instantly switch to any of the units in real-time as they are making their way across the battlefield, carrying out your orders or fighting of their own accord.
Even the famous Fire Emblem Weapon Triangle has been incorporated into Fire Emblem Warrior's gameplay, sword beats axe, axe beats lance and lance beats sword. This extra layer of strategy makes commanding your units on the mission map even deeper, as you will deal bonus damage by sending the correctly equipped hero to positions that are being held by enemy units brandishing the weaker weapons. It fits so well into a Musou game and genuinely made me plan my attacks with thought and precision. There is also a permadeath option before starting the campaign. If a hero dies on the battlefield then they are gone forever, to further give it that authentic Fire Emblem feel. I didn't turn it on though because I'm a big wuss! I don't think you would have much trouble with losing heroes to death in Normal mode as it's pretty easy, but possibly in Hard and the aptly named Lunatic modes.
Each battle plays out with a number of objectives and sub-missions that are triggered during the ensuing chaos, but it can be confusing to keep up with what is currently going on when you are killing a thousand guys every five minutes. Markers will flash all over the map while team-mates are relaying the current task info to you, or asking for help. Luckily it becomes manageable because of the ability to quickly switch to any of your squad on the fly.
To win a mission, you must overtake occupied red forts and bases, which act as spawn points for enemy troops until you commandeer them by defeating the enemy captain, turning the fort blue. It's a constant push back and forth between your team and the opposing forces. When all forts are captured, the boss room will open up - defeat whoever is in there and the map is won and the mission accomplished.
Combat is fast and fluid, attacking with long, light and heavy combo strings, one-shotting scrub enemies hundreds at a time. Each hit builds meter for the Awakening gauge, a powerful special move that will destroy pretty much every enemy within reach. At one point I killed 146 guys in a single combo, my personal best so far. Fighting can get a bit repetitive, but with so many characters to try out I just kept switching between them and trying out their different bonds.
Bonds are formed on the battlefield when you pair up with another hero and set them as your partner, one as a vanguard and the other as support. This gives you an extra special move where both of you can attack at the same time. The more you do this the stronger the bond becomes, creating even more damage, and charging up the partner special move faster. Pairing up also allows you to switch between the 2 paired heroes at will, which is great if you have more than one favourite character.
As you melt through the enemy forces, they will reward you by spurting out random materials, weapons and gold. Collecting these items and then heading to the Smithy between missions allows the player to buy, sell and reforge weapons. You can break down your spoils of war and select certain perks from it to add to your current weapons, like increased damage, more XP gain or higher grade loot drops. The customization is great and gives a reason to grind out missions on higher difficulties for better drops. And remember, you can do this for the entire roster's arsenal.
Another use for loot is to upgrade each character's skill set at the Crest Market. New combos, defense buffs and special moves can be unlocked by slotting the required crests into the skill tree. You can even evolve each character with a Master Seal crest, sometimes found in chests in the field or dropped as rare SSS rank mission rewards. By promoting a hero you receive a bump to base stats as well as a swanky new costume, and once again you can do all of this for every single character in the roster. Roster management is a huge part of preparing your team and I was constantly switching out weapons and levelling up my units to be as strong as possible before each new encounter, especially in History Mode.
History Mode offers even more content away from the main campaign. Iconic battle scenarios from classic Fire Emblem games are included for us to replay, but within the Warrior's engine. As you complete battles in each chapter, more enemies will appear on the map and new paths open up. Completing scenarios can unlock new story cutscenes, but with a Warrior's twist, altering what may have been considered canon in the source Fire Emblem material.
I found History mode to be more of a challenge than the main campaign and I haven't finished it yet due to some of the story chapters consisting of up to 20 battles each. Some are even like a horde arena mode where you just keep defeating enemy troops until the timer runs out. I left the entire History Mode until after I had completed the main campaign, but the way the battles are levelled, I think you are meant to play them alongside the campaign, as you get set unique loot drops for clears, that aren't found in the main story missions. Also, the first battle of the initial scenario is level 1, whereas the last one on the map is level 30. Then Post-Clear, level 61 battles appear and you just wouldn't hit that level without first finishing most, if not all of the main story campaign, or grinding earlier History Mode missions to level up.
It's a fantastic addition to the main campaign that I think Fire Emblem fans will really enjoy, giving them the chance to replay battles they have already won, from a completely different perspective.
Fire Emblem Warriors is a great package. I mean look at the teams involved with this thing, Koei-Tecmo, Omega-Force, Team-Ninja, Intelligent Systems and Nintendo. Too many cooks can spoil the broth, but in this case, they've concocted the perfect amalgamation of worlds, genres and gameplay. It just works very well. I'm not saying this is some revolutionary experience in gaming, but the addition of being able to command units does enhance the usual repetitive flow of the Warrior's format.
I was always levelling up characters and upgrading their skills, ranking up Bonds, reforging weapons and changing armour, earning badges, looting chests and searching for collectables. You can spend as much time in the menus as you do in combat, and that is what I really love about this game. I always felt like my toons were getting more powerful, and the grind is very addictive. I want to complete every objective, finish every sub-mission, SSS rank all maps and earn every reward.
If you love Fire Emblem you are probably already down for this game, and if you are a Warriors fan, this is so much more than just business as usual. It doesn't feel like another licensed, reskinned instalment of the series, but instead, like a lot of input and effort has been used to try and make this a more interesting Warriors title.
Fire Emblem Warriors Launch Trailer
+ Perfect merging of two big IPs
+ History mode
- Bad framerate in co-op mode
Fire Emblem Warriors looks great, it has way more polish than anything else I've played in the series. Bright colourful characters and worlds using the same aesthetic as Fire Emblem Fates.
Battles in Fire Emblem Warriors consist of fun fast paced action. Combat can get repetitive but the overall experience is great. Managing your hero's weapons and skills is a nice distraction outside of battle.
Story mode took me about 12 hours to complete, not counting a couple of failed missions. I'm still playing History mode and it has a LOT of content, maybe more than the main campaign. Maxing out every character will take a very long time.
out of 10
(not an average)
Fire Emblem Warriors turned out to be a genuine surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed. It's the best Warriors game yet.