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March 28, 2016 / Jett

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright Review

The Fire Emblem Fates series of games puts you at the heart of a conflict between two rival armies. On one side is the medieval-style Nohr army. On the other is the samurai-style Hoshido. If you buy Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright first, you’ll play most of the game from the side of the Hoshido clan.

With Fates essentially being three different Fire Emblem games launching at about the same time, this is easily the most ambitious effort. Based on my time with the Birthright edition, it’s also one of the best.

As with the other games in the franchise, this is a turn-based strategy title with role-playing elements. You’ll move from mission-to-mission, fending off enemy troops while improving your army in terms of size, skill and interpersonal bonds. At the centre of it all is Corrin, or whatever you choose to name your main character. Caught between two rival armies, he must make a choice that dramatically changes the rest of the experience for you.

When you buy Birthright, you automatically have the Hoshido side unlocked. However, if you own one version of the game and want to side with the other clan, you can simply buy the other campaign as DLC. That said, once you pick a side, you can’t change unless you start a new save.

Of the two games, Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright most resembles Fire Emblem: Awakening in terms of structure. In between main missions, you have a lot of opportunities play side missions to level up your group. In Conquest, you’re simply funneled down the main mission path with no extra missions to play through. In terms of difficulty, Birthright is also the easier of the two, so it’s probably best to start with this one. That being said, there are a host of difficulty and death options, allowing you to tune the game as you see fit.

One of the things that keeps me coming back to the Fire Emblem series is that the turn-based action is top-notch. Birthright is no exception to this. As you progress through the game, you get put in a number of interesting situations that can be solved in a myriad of ways based on the army you put out on the field.

My favourite change to the combat is that in Awakening, players could pair up their troops in ways that allowed them to fight their opponents in two-on-one scenarios. This time, your opponent can do the exact same thing, which does change the dynamic of how certain skirmishes are fought. It makes you a bit more mindful of their positioning, as their double-team can be much tougher to fight than their solo units.

It also continues to be a joy to watch your squad grow. Besides gaining new troops to your army, the troops you’ll watch them get stronger, gain new skills, fall in love and even conceive a child that will join you on the battlefield by the next level. Yeah…you’ll have to play the game to find out how that last part works.

Of the Fire Emblem games, Fates has the best start. I love the way that the game sets up the conflict between the two clans, which ultimately leads you to make the biggest choice you’ll ever make in a Fire Emblem game. After that, the story is a bit of a letdown. While it gets the job done of keeping you moving forward, I felt like Birthright leaned a bit too heavily on the same story tropes they’ve leveraged in the past. This isn’t just a fault I have with Birthright, as I’m finding this to be the same case in my Conquest playthrough.

There are a couple of changes they made to the periphery that I’m also not so hot on. While I like the fact that most weapons don’t break anymore, the game struggles to give you things to do with your money. Instead, money becomes a largely useless resource for most of the experience. I also find some of the base-building stuff to be needlessly frivolous.

Overall, Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is a strong entry in the series and the first of the Fates games you should play. It has the best story setup of any Fire Emblem game and the joy that comes with leading your army to victory will keep you engaged over the course of many playthroughs. I have some criticisms here and there, but they’re more than compensated by the sheer volume of game you’ll get between the two main campaigns and third DLC campaign. With so much to play, this game is going to be locked in my Nintendo 3DS for many months to come.

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