Fire Emblem Engage

Fire Emblem Engage

released on Jan 20, 2023

Fire Emblem Engage

released on Jan 20, 2023

Become the Divine Dragon and save the continent of Elyos! Summon valiant heroes like Marth & Celica alongside a new cast of characters and engage in turn-based, tactical combat against a great evil in this new Fire Emblem story.


Also in series

Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem Warriors
Fire Emblem Warriors
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Fire Emblem Heroes
Fire Emblem Heroes
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

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I feel like the general discourse on this game being “gameplay good, story bad”, while somewhat true, often becomes extremely reductionist and dismissive of all the complex things (both good and bad) going on that make the game.

The story is built on false motivations, convoluted plots, and predictable twists, but it also has really interesting underlying themes which could have made it incredible with the right execution. Thematically the story deals with progeny being forced to respond to their parent’s actions (good or bad), which makes it a distinctively Fire Emblem story. There is even a hint of an interesting discussion to be had about a seemingly false dichotomy between Divine Dragons and Fell Dragons or the nature of the Emblems. The problem arises when these ideas of child abuse and manipulation, found family, children being forced to take over their kingdoms too soon etc. meets the happy-go-lucky tone of the characters and the thoughtless plot. So many of the serious moments are immediately undercut by abhorrently quirky characters like Hortensia or Griss acting like they do. There is always tonal dissonance between what is going on in the main story and the character interactions and gameplay you have in the Somniel. This isn’t a new problem in FE (even Three Houses had this to a lesser extent in the second half of the story), but the over-the-top nature of both the story (being too dramatic) and the characters (being too wacky) in different directions amplifies the problem. Engage’s greatest sin isn’t that it’s story is “simple” or “cheesy” or “cliched”, it is that a lot of different smaller things combine to make an absolute mess. A convoluted time travel element, muddling villain motivations, contrivances, multiple death scenes without actual consequences, being forced to fight the same villains (Four Hounds) multiple times, flimsy attempts to sympathize with all the villains - all of this contributes to maybe the worst FE story that otherwise had at least some potential.

It’s jarring how much I like and dislike the characters at the same time. These are without a doubt my least favorite character designs in the series. The designs are either over the top like Pannette and Hortensia, or seem too derivative like Alfred and Fogado. There’s definitely many things to like in this cast and some of the Support conversations are really good (Ivy and Alcryst, Framme and Diamant, all of the conversations between siblings, all of Anna's or Yunaka's supports), but so much of their personalities and dialogues are often one-note and way too cartoonish for a Fire Emblem story. When so many of the support conversations are based entirely on a character’s quirk, that means there are too many supports that should have been reduced. This is obviously not a unique problem to Engage, but again is more egregious than other games like Awakening. The fact that the Emblems themselves have extremely watered down personalities and only brief conversations, though understandable, doesn’t help either.

Alear in isolation have a pretty okay personality, and ironically it’s either the plot or the other characters that drag Alear’s character down. The amount of pandering to Alear is the most egregious I’ve seen in the series so far (even Kris is FE 12 wasn’t as bad, and that’s saying something). I have no inherent problem with a self-insert character, for example Robin is a really great character who feels like they belong in the world of Awakening. I don’t even have an inherent problem with the story revolving around Alear rather than a lord. But when every fucking character worships you quite literally and when a minigame involves you waking up to all the characters in love with you, that becomes an issue. It would have been so much more interesting if Alear would have experienced a burden from everyone’s expectations, or found it hard to relate to their status as a deity, but all they do is laugh it off seemingly humbly but continue to invoke their own importance when the plot requires. And because the story is so focused on Alear, it means that the lords from Firene, Solm, Brodia, and Elusia are not afforded time to shine or any sort of character development.

But even with the worst story and mediocre characters, this game is redeemed by everything else being near-perfect. The core gameplay of a Fire Emblem game is maybe the most fun and balanced I have experienced. The art and animation presentation are gorgeous. The soundtrack and voice acting are generally great. The contrast of strategic complexity between Engage and Three Houses is night and day. Engage makes up for everything Three Houses lacked - interesting maps with good side objectives, diverse chapters, unique skills in the form of class skills and Emblems that make every member of your army distinct, the weapon triangle. Customization more than ever offers replayability and not just game-breaking builds.

Combat is initiative focused which is always a good thing for FE games. But it is also incredibly supportive of reactionary playstyles with Emblem abilities like Eirika’s skills, or Lyn’s Doubles, or Ike’s Great Aether, or using Corrin’s Veil of Fog with thieves. Engage allows every class and Emblem combination you can think of to be viable and fun to use, much more than other games like Awakening or Three Houses which heavily prefer some classes over others. Thankfully Alear is not an overpowered avatar who invalidates all other unit functions. Additions like Chain Attacks and Chain Doubles or the Break mechanic add to the strategic complexity in positioning and overall gameplay, without being game-breaking like Awakening’s Pair Up mechanic. And since these mechanics are available to enemies as well (including Emblems in a lot of chapters), this means that these mechanics never feel overpowered but you feel rewarded when your tactics intelligently use them. Knives are a welcome addition that make thieves a combat viable class, Chain Guarding does similar improvements to the healer class, and the variety of staves combined with Micaiah’s Emblem, makes it really fun to use support staff strategies that are not just warp-skipping. Usually subpar classes like Armored Knights and Archers receive massive glow ups and increased utility with Emblems.

The resources are also generally restricted without being prohibitive, which is always a good indicator for me in an FE game being balanced and encouraging resource management. There is no dearth of character experience to be gained even if you only play the main story, but if you want to overlevel in skirmishes their levels scale with you to provide a challenge. Unit additions are trickled to you throughout the story (which I prefer much more than the outright availability like in Three Houses) and a smaller cast means characters are never redundant. Even the removal of weapon durability, which I thought I would hate, is balanced by gold and forging materials being limited so that you can’t equip everyone with fully forged silver weapons in spades. If you want to completely break the resource economy you can, just like any other FE game since Sacred Stones, but you really don’t need to nor are encouraged to by the game.

There’s definitely things about general gameplay I don’t like - the gacha mechanics of getting Bond Rings, the activities in Somniel (though they are at least reduced in playtime and are largely optional as compared to Three Houses), the options interface and battle prep interface being kind of bad etc. I still don’t agree with the inclusion of a rewind mechanic, but again it's up to you to use it how you want. All these are generally nitpicks to what is overall an immensely satisfying core gameplay.

In general, Fire Emblem Engage offers more of a storytelling platform through its gameplay rather than its actual plot. You will find more satisfaction in discovering a unique combination of Emblems with different units, or remember how you perfectly set up a chain attack to defeat a boss. For this reason Chapter 11 has become one of my favorite chapters in the entire series for its integration of gameplay and storytelling. But this sort of cohesion is very hard to find in the rest of the game, which if the story was even half as good as its gameplay would have made Engage the best game in the series.

Best gameplay in the series. Once you accept that the game is meant to be goofy and cartoonish, you also enjoy the characters. The story isn’t good but it’s sure entertaining to laugh at. Also the Sommiel sucks, but it’s still better than the Monastery.

they made three houses but took away all of the fun

GooeyScale: 65/100

I think I enjoyed this game because I completely didn't care about it. I just went to my game store, picked the game because I was like "Ooh fire emblem, never played". And I feel like we don't do that anymore.

Spits on the floor
"Great gameplay" ruined by a horrbily mediocre story, awful character designs and horrible (just horrible) character interactions. What is this? A saturday morning cartoon? Why is everybody wacky and weird? What is with these outrageous designs?
I tried loving this game as an FE fan. I just could NOT stomach this.