Overall score 90

Thanks to the success of Fire Emblem Awakening, the Fire Emblem series is seeing new life and heading into interesting directions. The latest release in the series, Fire Emblem Fates, looks to continue that momentum by further building upon what FEA brought to the table, while also still trying out new things. The most interesting thing Fates is bringing to the table is that it’s actually two game release instead of one. Similar to the route of the Pokemon games. A different approach for the series and one that feels warranted rather than some quick cash grab. Making Fire Emblem Fates a great new addition to the franchise and one all SRPG fans should check out.

For those not in the know, Fire Emblem is a strategy RPG franchise of games. Gameplay is mainly centered about a field map with your units and enemy units. You move your around until confrontations occur with the enemy and a battle begins. Things like the level of the characters involved and what weapons they’re equipped are some of the things that factor in to determine which unit has the advantage over the other. Basically, it’s a tactical RPG but with it’s own set of unique features that help it stand out.

Fire Emblem Fates is made up of two games: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest. While many will get the idea of the Pokemon games with the two versions of one title, Fates actually does more to make the two versions differ from each other. While the cast and overall mechanics are similar, each game focuses on a different story and perspective. Even offering slight differences in features.

The Good: One of the things I appreciated about Fates is that it offers two different stories (even a third path via DLC) across the two games. The main story features your created character as the main character of the game. So the story revolved around a key decision you make early on in the game. The two games are the same up til that major decision. Based on the decision you make will determine the path you follow, and actual game you’ll be playing.

The two sides you must choose between are Hoshido and Nohr. Hoshido represents Birthright, while Nohr is Conquest. While the cast of character are similar across both titles, which set of characters you have in your control will differ based on the game. The stories and levels you come across are also different.

Another key difference is the ability to scout, which was a feature introduced in Awakening that allowed you to summon a group of enemies in order to grind out some extra experience without progressing the story. This feature is present in Birthright, but non-existent in Conquest. This different cause Conquest to be the more difficult between the two since your main supply of experience is through story missions, which is similar to the classic Fire Emblem titles.

Other than the introduction of two versions, Fates does change things up as a whole. One such thing is how unit pair ups work. In Awakening, you could pair up units in order to boost the stats of a specific unit. That still remains in Fates, but has been expanded upon. When you pair up units, you’ll still get the stat boost. However, unlike in Awakening where there was a chance the side unit would block an incoming attack or provide a follow-up attack, Fates has a system in place to help you determine when the block or follow-up attack will happen. Basically, a meter will fill up every time your unit engages in battle. For a paired unit it’s a guard meter, and once it’s filled, the side unit will guard the next incoming enemy attack. For offense, an attack meter will get filled and once filled the side will provide a follow up attack. For follow-up attack though, units will need to be side-by-side instead of paired up. It’s a nice change and adds an extra layer of strategy, since you can pair and unpair units in order to build up shield or follow up meters.

Another neat thing I liked with the two games/stories setup is that you now have a bigger cast of characters to work with. While that might sound overwhelming, I actually enjoyed it. One of my favorite things about Awakening was the Support Conversations, which are special side conversations that occur between certain characters if paired up enough together in battle. They really helped build up characters, especially side characters who don’t get too much time in the main story. So getting the chance to discover more of these conversations with the bigger cast of characters of Fates was something I looked forward to.

There are small changes and additions made to the game that it would make things lengthy if I listed them all. So in summary I would just say that all the additions and changes made in certain features certainly helped the overall experience. They add in those extra layers to strategy that not only limit your thinking to on the battlefield but also in how you want to develop your army.

The Bad: I guess one thing I often found myself struggling with was fully understanding how certain features worked. The game usually does a nice explanation when new mechanics are introduced, but sometimes that explanation might blow over and you end up not fully understanding it. I’m not sure what the reasons were in my case, but there were times where I felt confused about a certain feature and had no clear idea on what was going on. There are quite a few systems in place in Fates that it can feel overwhelming at times. Even in battle, there are a few things you need to be kept aware of. Kind of gave me that feeling like they maybe did too much. Fortunately, once you get into a groove with the game and finally gain that understanding, things go much smoother. There is certainly that learning curve though if you really want to dig deep into the complex mechanics present. However, even when I didn’t fully understand certain things, I still managed to complete the game without much trouble.

Overall Thoughts: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest are two great additions to the Fire Emblem series. The strategy elements are even more deep, and the story and cast of characters are interesting enough to keep you going. It may look odd for a strategy RPG to have two versions, but Fates does a good job in actually validating the two versions. These really do feel like two separate experiences, and I actually recommend getting both games. They are different, but they also accompany each other. It is totally alright to pick one game though, and you don’t really lose too much for going that route. If you could only get one game then I would recommend Birthright for those new to Fire Emblem or were a huge fan of Awakening. While those who enjoy a more difficult experience that’s reminiscent of the classic FE titles should get Conquest. Whichever path you do decide to take, you’re getting a great game.

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