Omega Force must be the most prolific game development studio in the entire world. Every time gaming turns a corner, Koei Tecmo is promoting yet another “Warriors” game coming out that either uses original characters or, more frequently these days, borrows some from anime’s or gaming’s most iconic franchises.
Fire Emblem Warriors marks the second time that the studio has been allowed to bring its light-hearted action and battlefield layout to the legendary Nintendo library, and once again, Fire Emblem is proving it can hang with the big boys. Already this year, Fire Emblem Heroes emerged as a ringer as a bigger free-to-play hit than Super Mario Run, and now, Fire Emblem Warriors shows how its series’ mechanics make a far more satisfying Warriors game than The Legend of Zelda did in Hyrule Warriors.
There’s just something about Fire Emblem…
And to think that Nintendo came this close to killing it off, too!
The formula remains the same
On the surface, Fire Emblem Warriors doesn’t mess too much with the overarching mechanics and feel of Omega Force’s Warriors games. Very little separates the core of this one from the dozens or so that have come before it, and if you’ve played any of these Warriors games before, you know what to expect.
In a normal level of Fire Emblem Warriors, players will take control of one to four Fire Emblem characters and wage a battle in which being outnumbered means absolutely nothing. As usual, your characters will be able to slaughter enemy units by the dozens, wipe out entire squadrons with a well-placed special attack, and emerge as beautiful and as clean as when they entered the fray. All that violence and so little bloodshed…
Warriors games are known for having generally simple combat, allowing for impressive, flashy moves with very little input on the controller.
That holds true here, but the return of the “battlefield” approach means that no matter how successful you are in individual combat, failed objectives and the loss of the “flow” of battle can still force you to lose. Luckily, more like Dragon Quest Heroes and less like Hyrule Warriors, less emphasis is put on the bigger picture in this game and the “flow” of battle doesn’t particularly matter in the long haul. The occasional rescue is the area that might trip you up.
Like other Warriors games, Fire Emblem Warriors tells an original story, while at the same time, briefly recapping the stories of different Fire Emblem games as well. Sorry to fans of the Game Boy Advance series though, Fire Emblem Warriors focuses almost entirely on Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates because, let’s face it, those are the popular ones. Older Fire Emblem characters from the pre-3DS days will be joining the game through future DLC, similar to how Hyrule Warriors played out.
And yes, Lyndis from The Blazing Blade does eventually turn up. The roster is SAFE!
The story is nothing really to care about. It follows the lives of two insipid blonde twins and their attempts to reclaim their kingdom and rescue their mother. One is a brash young lad, and the other is a humble princess… yawn. These two royal softies employ the aid of other Fire Emblem heroes such as Chrom and Marth, and over the course of the game, learn the meaning of friendship and dimension-crossing bonds.
Omega Force never really is able to break away from this theme of “making friends,” but you can’t really blame the writers. Bringing all these characters from different games together is a canonical nightmare, and besides, the story is the least motivating point of the game to stick around anyway.
That Fire Emblem touch
As stated before, Fire Emblem makes a nice shell for all of these familiar tropes to unfold in. The Legend of Zelda, bless its soul, never really provided much material for Hyrule Warriors to work with. At their core, most Zelda games are exploration and puzzle-based based adventures, elements that don’t really translate into an action game where time is of the essence. Zelda games also rely more on tools, which has never been an emphasis of Warriors games either.
Fire Emblem brings to the Warriors formula three decades of hard RPG statistics, plenty of deep mechanics to build a combat system around, and multiple ways to approach character advancement and selection. Most of the time in Warriors games, ideas borrowed from the series being paid tribute feels tacked on and gimmicky, but not here. Fire Emblem’s contributions make this feel like an honest to goodness deep, fleshed out RPG.
Just to cut to the chase, here is all that Fire Emblem Warriors employs from the main series:
- Weapon Triangle – Fire Emblem’s traditional weapon triangle is a must for this game. Sword beats axe, axe beats spear, spear beats sword. On the battlefield, you won’t want to send a swordsman headstrong into a group of spear-wielders because they’ll get torn apart, just like in a normal Fire Emblem game. However, if you send a swordsman into a group of axe wielders, whoa… the slaughter… This forces players to choose their fighters appropriately
- Leveling-up – Just like in a real Fire Emblem game, a level up will grant you boosted stats in certain areas, seemingly at random but generally pushing characters into an offensive or defensive direction. This mechanics falls in line perfectly here, and it’s even represented to look like a real Fire Emblem game. Those “Ding ding dings” are just as fulfilling. Characters also can be customized further in the menu between battles, making them more powerful than just the sum of their numbers.
- Character bonds – Fire Emblem has always put a focus on relationships formed on the battlefield, and that’s no different here. Partnering up with different characters improves relationships with one another, which only makes their bonds and attacks stronger.
- Permadeath – While I am glad most of Fire Emblem’s staples have returned to this game, this most infamous one doesn’t have much place here. Thankfully, you can turn it off. Those looking for the challenge of classic Fire Emblem have a best friend here.
- Tactics – Yeah, deep down, Warriors games rely on light tactics and controlling units on a battlefield. While not as in-depth as a main Fire Emblem game, you’ll be able to assign different characters to different points on the map, waging war on different fronts and speeding up the process of battle.
- Job advancement – This game has Master Seals, meaning you’ll be able to upgrade your characters into stronger versions of themselves. Do so, and do so liberally.
- Weapon customization – Each character can equip classic weapons found in the main series, and this one adds a little bit to it by introducing a blacksmith. No more fragile weapons!
I’ve never been too big on Omega Force’s games, and I usually feel like they come off as shallow or gimmicky in regards to the series they are paying tribute to. Never was this stronger than in Hyrule Warriors.
However, I gotta say that Fire Emblem Warriors is a step above the rest. Nintendo’s classic strategy franchise provides plenty of meat for Omega Force to chew on, especially with its deep RPG mechanics, and in the end, the studio created a game that feels more fleshed out than its usual outings. Fire Emblem’s legacy as a blistering RPG series gives it the weight it needs to be something worth returning to, and the usual Omega Force culprits keep it flowing.
Shallow story, pretty character models, flashy attacks. That’s really what you’re getting here.
Fire Emblem Warriors isn’t perfect though. It can be just as repetitive as a normal Warriors game at times, and its battles can drag on for far longer than necessary. Depending on how much repetition your stomach can handle, you might be able to make it to the end of this one without feeling the normal grind of most Warriors games, which is the truest praise I can give to a game from Omega Force.
As it stands, it’s a nice tribute to the series and does Fire Emblem’s mechanics justice be putting them in a shallow, effective action game shell. Fire Emblem fans will like it, especially recent fans who dig the 3DS games. Give it a snag at full price.
I might even recommend this for someone who just needs an action game on the Switch. It breaks free from Omega Force’s legacy and usual offerings just enough to stand alone as an above average action game that casual fans will enjoy. This is no substitute for Super Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild, but at a discounted price, it will hold you over until the next Nintendo masterpiece.