Fire Emblem Engage, the latest installment in the iconic turn-based RPG and strategy series, is a nostalgic and quality-packed adventure that honours its 30-plus-year legacy. Play as Alear, the divine dragon who defeated Sombron, the Fallen Dragon, in a bloody war but now finds himself plunged into an ancient dream and facing Sombron’s return.
The storyline may be predictable and flat, but it’s the gameplay that shines. Engage offers a role-playing and turn-based strategy experience, with numerous battles to participate in. Move units across grid-divided maps to achieve mission objectives and defeat enemies. Classes are diverse, with each character possessing unique abilities and quirks, and the classic triangle of weapons returns. The terrain also plays a crucial role in battles, making every confrontation stimulating and fresh.
New features, such as the break mechanic, offer new tactics and strategies, making Engage one of the most stimulating, fresh, and fun titles in the series. The Emblems and rings system lets you invoke the power of past heroes, adding a unique twist to the gameplay. Despite its narrative shortcomings, Fire Emblem Engage delivers an enjoyable and tactical gaming experience that is sure to please fans of the franchise and turn-based RPGs.
The Threat of the Fallen Dragon
This time the story puts us in the shoes of Alear, a divine dragon who, in the past, defeated Sombron, the Fallen Dragon, in a bloody war that put the continent of Elyos and all its inhabitants in check. However, after winning the victory, our protagonist ends up plunged into an ancient dream from which he has just woken up, a fact that coincides with the apparent return of his mortal enemy, whose rebirth could once again plunge the world into darkness.
Even though Alear is unable to remember anything from his past after having slept for a thousand years, it will not take long for him to get involved in all kinds of problems, battles and adventures to prevent Sombron from coming back to life, which gives rise to a story that, honestly, has disappointed us greatly.
The script is flat, simple, and predictable and fails miserably when raising a moderately exciting conflict. In fact, at no time does it convey the sensation of being submerged in a great war, centring the plot on the fight of a series of heroes against a group of villains without any charisma whose motivations could not be more ridiculous, something that goes even further, in a delirious final stretch full of deus ex machina, crazy twists and moments so far gone that they have made us wonder if we were playing a Fire Emblem game.
Unfortunately, this also applies to the characters and background of Elyos itself. Most of the dialogues hardly provide information of interest; our units are pigeonholed in a series of clichés and obsessions around which almost all their conversations revolve, and neither their personalities nor their stories have managed to make us fall in love. There are a few exceptions among all this marabunta of pure filler warriors, who reveal interesting pasts and a series of striking internal conflicts. Still, they never go too deep into them, leaving us with the feeling of being very wasted.
The power of an entire legacy
The good news is that it’s purely playable; the game is so damn good that it can make up for its narrative shortcomings. Not surprisingly, this is one of the most stimulating, fresh, agile, varied and fun titles in the entire series. The base is based on the usual formula, offering us a role-playing and turn-based strategy adventure in which we will have to participate in numerous battles where we will have to move our units through maps divided into grids to meet the objectives of each mission and defeat enemies that stand in our way.
Of course, there are many different classes; each character has their abilities and quirks, and the classic triangle of weapons returns (swords have an advantage over axes, axes beat spears, and spears trump swords). The terrain has great importance in the future of the confrontations (either hindering us or giving us greater cover against the attacks of the rivals), and, in general, it plays exactly as you would expect from any main installment of the series.
This does not mean that the opportunity has not been taken to introduce a good number of new features that provide fresh air, forcing us to consider our tactics and strategies differently than we have been doing. An excellent example of this is the latest break mechanic. Thanks to it, we will be able to break the enemy’s guard if we attack with a weapon that has an advantage, thus preventing it from carrying out a counterattack or from reacting to any subsequent offensive that we carry out during that same turn, exponentially multiplying the usefulness of the triangle of attack: weapons and specific abilities.
Of course, we can also be victims of a rupture if we are not careful, which will force us to be much more cautious with the positioning of our units so as not to leave them exposed to rivals capable of crushing them but also wholly nullifying their options. To defend themselves, creating a very stimulating game dynamic on a tactical level.
But, without a doubt, the great novelty of Engage and the one that makes the difference is found in the Emblems and rings through which we can invoke the power of heroes from other worlds. These heroes are the protagonists of further installments of the saga, such as Marth, Celica, Micaiah, Ike or Lyn, so we can use their most iconic abilities and weapons to devastate the battlefield.
When we equip one of our characters with an Emblem, they will acquire their abilities and receive a bonus to their statistics, as well as be able to merge with them when their corresponding meter is filled. By joining, we will get much more vital for three turns, we will gain new properties, we will be able to unleash the emblem’s ultimate technique, and we will even be able to use its exclusive weapons, so it is a resource capable of turning a confrontation around if we use it wisely correctly and at the right time.
As you can guess, this allows us to make exciting combinations of classes and Emblems, such as a thief using staves to heal, a mage moving after attacking, or a swordsman teleporting to a faraway place on the map with a powerful spell. There are infinite possibilities for us to unleash our imagination and creativity, allowing us to design an incredible variety of strategies to adapt to the challenges that come our way, something that could hardly be more gratifying and satisfying.
Best of all, Emblems are not something to be used as a last resort, as to be victorious, we will need to use them frequently and build our tactics around them. Yes, it is still an element that we could classify as pure and straightforward fan service. Still, it is also a novelty that contributes a lot to the gameplay and enriches it, giving it a new level of depth that suits it wonderfully. In addition, the Emblems are entirely different from each other and perfectly capture the essence of the heroes they represent, introducing some very clever ideas that have surprised us both for what they imply when playing and honouring games. Past (If you don’t believe us, wait and see how Byleth’s or Eirika’s work).
To all this, we have to add a considerable number of minor life improvements, such as the possibility of restarting a battle from the menu or being able to change the weapon of our units from the map without selecting them or entering the attack screen, among many others that they make the gaming experience smoother and more bearable. Of course, all the usual options remain, such as the ability to skip enemies’ turns, manually speed up animations, or rewind actions a limited number of times to fix bugs. And yes, there are also several difficulty levels and a novice mode with no permadeath.
Nor can we forget how much the interface and controls have been improved, showing us all the information we need in an elegant and very visual way, which applies to the management menus and what we see during battles. In addition, now, when selecting units, they will give us direct control over them, being able to make the relevant movements through their area of activity without having to set a route using a cursor, something that, in turn, allows us to more quickly check the possible results of the encounters that we can have with the enemies that are within our reach.
Exquisitely designed battles
To top off all this paragon of virtues, the title surprises us with a spectacular level design whose greatest virtue lies in how varied its maps are. Not only do they offer us battles studied to the millimetre and capable of testing ourselves in very different ways, but there are no two combats that are ever alike. The game is a torrent of ideas in the purest Nintendo style that never stops bombarding us with new mechanics, objectives and situations to which we must adapt, forcing us to rethink our tactics and how we play constantly. And be careful, since this is the case from the beginning to the end. As we advance through a village in the dark, fight on a coast where the water level rises and falls, or explore ruins full of miasma to purify and doors to unlock, we always want to play to see the new challenges that lie ahead.
In addition, it is very appreciated that on most levels they do not let us take things easy, since all kinds of tricks are used to pressure us and force us to finish the mission as soon as possible, either through the arrival of lots of enemy reinforcements at the most inopportune moments or due to the peculiarities of the maps.
Although the phases of the main story are impeccable and demonstrate the mastery that the studio has acquired with the genre in these three decades, we have to make a special mention of the Detours, a series of optional missions that will lead us to relive some of the most iconic and essential battles from previous installments of the saga. They have been redesigned and tweaked to fit the new Engage mechanics., in addition to introducing some of most surprises, which results in some very stimulating confrontations that are quite a feast for the fans and that have made our hair stand on end on more than one occasion, recalling many of our favourite moments of the Serie. The best? They have even made new versions of the musical themes they displayed in their original games. In addition, we assure you that the rewards for completing these Diversions are very worthwhile.
Something that we have to highlight is that the structure of the title is very similar to that of Fire Emblem: Awakening, with a beautiful world map through which we can move to select our next mission and where enemies appear randomly to indicate that we can participate. In skirmishes, thus allowing us to train as much as we want in case we see it necessary.
Additionally, a base of operations called Somniel has been added to help us take a breather between combats. We can participate in bland mini-games, access various shops and services, collect materials, carry out procedures and talk with our comrades in arms. The list of tasks and activities grows as we progress through the story, but we’d be lying if we told you that our desire to spend time here between missions didn’t decrease rapidly as the hours passed. In the end, we only went through this place to forge and improve our weapons, manage our emblems, use the training room and little else, so it is content that you can tiptoe through if it does not convince you or you think that it breaks the rhythm of the adventure.
As a curiosity, from the Somniel, you can access three extra modes. On the one hand, in the Storm, they challenge us to overcome several maps consecutively. In contrast, in the relay challenges, we will have to play a series of turns in a battle so that, later, other players over the Internet can resume the game and try to finish it. Finally, allochthonous challenges will be able to face another player’s army on custom maps, although the AI controls this, so there is no real competitive multiplayer content. Participating in these modalities rewards us with some materials we will need to improve the legendary weapons of the Emblems. However, we can assure you that it is a function we have not had to resort to throughout the game.
Playing on Hard, going through all the Deflections, engaging in various skirmishes, and spending a lot of time in Support conversations and discovering all that the Somniel has to offer, it took us 70 hours to complete the entire game. Still, if you’re going to cut to the chase, you don’t waste too much time on tasks, and you play in Normal, the figure should oscillate between 40 and 50 hours.
The most colourful and spectacular Fire Emblem
What has surprised us very positively is its graphic section, which is far superior to what we saw in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The models, the animations, the settings, the textures, the stability of the image rate per second… Everything is at a much higher level that makes us find ourselves before a beautiful and very colourful game that enters directly through the eyes and that puts very spectacular moments on the screen, either during the animations of the final techniques of the Emblems, in the execution of critical hits or with the very careful video sequences that exist, something applicable both to those that are made with the engine of the I play like CGI.
Removing the presence of some popping and clipping, the title looks and performs like a fable both on the desktop and on the laptop. The only thing that will create a certain division of opinion lies in its character design, with a much more exaggerated and extravagant anime style. This has been common in the series, reinforced by the multiple poses they usually perform when fighting and some clothing that, of course, does not make us think that they are people who are risking their lives in a war. Of course, we liked the redesign of the classic characters of the saga a lot.
The final icing on the cake is the sound, thanks to a powerful, extensive and varied soundtrack full of great songs that behave dynamically and set everything we see in a beautiful setting, something to which we must add some recognizable and high-quality effects and top-notch dubbing in both English and Japanese.
Fire Emblem Engage is a great game no fan of the series or turn-based tactical RPG will want to miss. It is a pity that neither the story nor the characters are up to the task, some shortcomings that, luckily, it knows how to more than compensate on the battlefield thanks to fantastic gameplay, a magnificent interface, the introduction of a series of mechanics fresh and that contributes a lot to the usual formula, and some very varied maps designed with great care. Without a doubt, a fantastic tribute to the more than 30 years of one of Nintendo’s oldest and most important sagas that have reminded us why it is still so relevant and respected today.
We prepared this review with a digital review copy provided by Nintendo.