There’s little engaging about Fire Emblem Engage

However nice fight and distinctive expertise make up for the flat, uninspiring characters and plot.

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Key art from Fire Emblem Engage featuring a collage of the game’s characters as two white and black dragons fight in the background

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From the primary second Nintendo surprise-revealed the existence of Fire Emblem Engage, I used to be hooked. I adored Three Houses and Fates and was anticipating this new entry to supply the identical sort of — forgive me — participating storytelling that might get me emotionally connected to the world and its characters. However Hearth Emblem Have interaction didn’t meet these expectations, giving me as a substitute a hollowed-out world with fairly however flat characters that I by some means nonetheless spent over 70 hours in.

Have interaction begins with Alear, a bicolor-haired protagonist initiating what appears to be a ultimate battle with a ghostly Marth — the hero of the primary Hearth Emblem — at their facet. One thousand years later, Alear wakes from a magical slumber greeted by their mom and their stewards, who’ve stored watch all these lengthy years. Alear learns that they’re a Divine Dragon who’s destined to defeat the evil Fell Dragons with the assistance of 12 magical Emblem Rings, every housing the spirit and energy of a hero from throughout Hearth Emblem’s 30-plus yr historical past. 

My largest downside with Have interaction is that there are not any stakes within the story. There are not any decisions to be made that may alter the course of the sport, only a single route for the toothpaste-haired protagonist to comply with. I felt pulled alongside, bouncing from story mission to story mission with nothing actually to latch onto emotionally. After I performed Three Homes, I used to be a Golden Deer by way of and thru, believing in Claude’s dream of an egalitarian Fódlan. In Fates, I used to be a daughter of Hoshido, devoted to defending the land of my delivery. However I simply couldn’t spend money on Have interaction the way in which I had in Three Homes or Fates. There was nothing there to spend money on. 

Have interaction simply feels so hole. Your companions, whereas visually attention-grabbing, seem to be mere placeholders. You don’t get to work together with them on the similar stage you probably did in Three Homes. There are not any chores to do collectively, no gardening to be performed. As an alternative, you’ll be able to have a meal with a few buddies or give them a shiny reward to extend their assist ranges for a lift in fight. You possibly can nonetheless type bonds and relationships along with your companions — Have interaction doesn’t lack for fairly individuals to drool over — however I by no means felt like every of them grew past a normal set of tropes assigned to them a la the burly warrior prince, the flirty rapscallion, or the serene princess.

Screenshot from Fire Emblem Engage featuring a man with long black hair and flowy garments reaching out to the camera

Screenshot from Fire Emblem Engage featuring a man with long black hair and flowy garments reaching out to the camera

a:hover]:text-black text-gray-13 darkish:text-gray-e9 darkish:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black darkish:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 darkish:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>I “romanced” the dancer Seadall as a result of he had the very best potential… and I’m a sucker for long-haired boys.
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Past the dearth of character improvement, Have interaction’s different programs don’t actually flesh out the sport both. Have interaction lets you may have conversations with any of the 12 Emblem heroes the identical manner you’ll be able to have assist conversations with different characters. However the place I assumed I’d have the chance to get to know the heroes of the Hearth Emblem video games I missed, what I obtained have been shallow one-sentence conversations that add completely nothing to the sport past permitting you to stage up your powers a bit extra. Worse than that, the Emblems don’t even speak to one another outdoors of few and much between Huge Plot Moments. 

It simply looks like such a waste. Even with the dearth of participant alternative, there was a lot that would have been performed between the Emblems and the characters that might have made for an — watch for it — participating expertise. Even the hub world you reside on, the Somniel, felt empty. There’s a power coaching mini-game that reinforces a stat or two for the following battle and a wyvern taking pictures gallery that earns you particular gadgets. However that’s it. You possibly can undertake pets from battlefields, however there’s nothing to do with them. You allow them to out within the Somniel’s pasture space, and past taking a look at your new pets, of which there isn’t a variety of selection, you simply watch for them to drop a shiny pebble, some greens to be used in your subsequent meal, or literal horse turds. It obtained to the purpose the place I ended scouring the sphere after a battle as a result of there was no level in choosing up the following cat or pigeon as a result of there was no materials distinction from the cats and pigeons I had at dwelling.

Screenshot from Fire Emblem Engage featuring a dark-skinned woman with a joyful expression on her face dressed in colorful balls

Screenshot from Fire Emblem Engage featuring a dark-skinned woman with a joyful expression on her face dressed in colorful balls

a:hover]:text-black text-gray-13 darkish:text-gray-e9 darkish:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black darkish:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 darkish:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>A dark-skinned Hearth Emblem character who’s not a villain? Signal me up!
a:hover]:text-gray-63 text-gray-63 darkish:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd darkish:text-gray-bd darkish:[&>a]:text-gray-bd [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black darkish:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray darkish:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray”>Picture: Nintendo

Fight was this recreation’s saving grace. I’ve been craving for a very good technique RPG since Triangle Technique left me wanting, and Have interaction scratches that itch properly. I spent 70 hours on this recreation — a very good 30 greater than I most likely wanted to to complete — as a result of I had such a ball constructing my armies, equipping them with Emblems, and formulating the methods I wanted to win fights in as few turns as doable. 

Have interaction’s fight is similar tactical technique fight as in different Hearth Emblems. The place it differs is with the addition of the Emblem heroes. There are 12 Emblem rings you equip to your items that enable them to summon warriors from previous Hearth Emblem video games, and every hero has distinctive powers that may flip the tide of battle. Sigurd has a robust cost assault that pierces by way of enemies grouped in a straight line. Lyn’s bow assault can hit enemies from throughout the map. I completely liked Corrin’s potential to change the map geography — including tiles that would both assist allies or harm enemies — and Ike’s huge smashing hammer assault that broken every part in a two-square radius round him. However my favourite potential belonged to Byleth, who may grant a second flip to allies with one sq. of him. I made it my objective each battle to rearrange my allies in the precise configuration to make the most of the second flip. It allowed me to unleash devastating assaults that worn out enemies with two and three bars of well being in a single flip. 

Screenshot from Fire Emblem Engage featuring the main character Alear, a person with red- and blue-colored hair and eyes holding up a clenched fist showing off their Engage ring.

Screenshot from Fire Emblem Engage featuring the main character Alear, a person with red- and blue-colored hair and eyes holding up a clenched fist showing off their Engage ring.

a:hover]:text-black text-gray-13 darkish:text-gray-e9 darkish:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black darkish:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 darkish:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>Have interaction with one of many 12 Emblem Rings to summon highly effective allies from Hearth Emblem’s previous.
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There are some points, although. Quite a lot of essential development programs are buried in menus that I didn’t discover till about 30 hours in. For instance, at a sure bond stage, you can begin inheriting an Emblem’s dizzying array of expertise. Nonetheless, so as to unlock the flexibility to inherit, it’s a must to have a bond dialog with the Emblem hero (much like character assist conversations). If it’s Alear, having bond conversations with Emblems is straightforward. The Emblem heroes populate the Somniel so that you can simply stroll up and have a dialog with them. It’s more durable when it’s one among your companions as a result of it’s a must to drill down a poorly named menu to provoke the dialog. Moreover, studying a ability doesn’t imply you’ll be able to instantly make the most of it; it’s a must to equip it first. It was about 35 hours and several other “why is that this so friggin’ laborious?” battles earlier than I figured that out. Thanks, Have interaction.

There’s one thing deeply seductive about Hearth Emblem Have interaction’s fight. It’s the rationale why I contentedly spent over 70 hours in a recreation that in any other case has little else to advocate it. As Hearth Emblems go, it’s an amazing jumping-in level when you’ve by no means skilled Nintendo’s foundational tactical RPG collection. However when you’re like me and determined to really feel the identical feelings Three Homes or Fates made you’re feeling, you’re merely higher off enjoying these video games once more.

Hearth Emblem Have interaction launches on January twentieth on Nintendo Swap.

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