The Fire Emblem series finally hits mobile devices. Can it possibly be Nintendo’s best cell phone game to date? Or is it just a big scam?
|Developer||Intelligent Systems, Nintendo EPD|
|Free Download (Android)||Download from Google Play Store.|
|Free Download (iOS)||Download from iTunes.|
So 2017 begins and this seems to be THE year for the Fire Emblem series. Ever since the popularity of Awakening and Fates for the Nintendo 3DS, the series had gotten a lot more due attention than it had before. During the last Nintendo Direct on 01/18/17, four games of the series have been announced. At the forefront of the new games is Fire Emblem Heroes. And following it, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia for the 3DS, Fire Emblem Warriors for the 3DS and Nintendo Switch, and an unidentified Fire Emblem title for the Switch in 2018.
We’re expecting a lot of great things from this series. This is a sign that Fire Emblem is here to stay for good and that Nintendo is going to make it the next great thing. Maybe up there with likes of Super Mario Bros., Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda. At least, that’s my wishful thinking anyway.
Up next, I’ll discuss some voting results. If you want to go ahead to see what the actual game is about, you can go ahead and skip this section.
Fire Emblem: Choose Your Legends
So, I actually placed my votes on the Choose Your Legends poll for Heroes. Basically, this is just a little event to determine which of your favorite Fire Emblem characters you want to see make a special appearance in the game as a unique unit. And the most popular characters worldwide will show up later on. I’m not terribly creative with my picks, but it’s nice to see that some of them actually end up becoming winners.
Sadly, the actual winners are both odd and disappointing.
For the record, I am glad that Ike and Lyn (who somehow upstaged the ever so popular Lucina) took the gold. But if I were to nitpick, this poll had some problems.
As you can see, Ike is listed on the heroes results twice. That is because he appeared as a main character in two different Fire Emblem titles. Marth is exactly the same. He appeared in two games (and two remakes) as a main character, and he is also listed twice. If anything, these votes should have been merged so that two different characters can make it into the heroes list.
Also, there seems to be a heavy Super Smash Bros. bias. In the actual Fire Emblem games, Roy is often considered to be one of the worst Lord characters in terms of character writing and usefulness as a unit. And I have to agree. He is just not that good. And he somehow made second place in the heroes list. Also due to the “Roy’s our boy!” meme that began with Super Smash Bros. Melee. So naturally, characters like Marth, Roy, Ike, Robin, Lucina and Corrin most likely got a ton of votes from the Super Smash Bros. fanbase. And there’s a good chance that many of the fans don’t know a single thing about these characters.
And of course, there is a heavy bias for Awakening and Fates characters, which is to be expected since both games caused the series’s popularity to skyrocket. I am glad that there are some winners from Path of Radiance, The Blazing Sword and The Sacred Stones (though I still don’t like Ephraim, Eirika or even Lute for that matter). But it seems like no one gave a shit about Gaiden or the Jugdral games (Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776). But since those games have never been released outside of Japan, this is also to be expected. I was honestly hoping that Sigurd from Genealogy, arguably the most badass Lord in the series, would at least make the list.
Also, everyone on each Top 10 list (minus Donnel, Tharja and Cordelia) is either a Lord character or a major character.
So what I’m saying is: beggars can’t be choosers. This is just a nerdy rant of a flawed poll. But considering this is a series where there is an absolutely overwhelming number of characters, it could have been worse.
Fire Emblem on the Go
Fire Emblem Heroes is a free mobile app for the Android and iOS. It is a spinoff title that functions as a crossover of various games of the series, bringing in many different characters to form your dream team. If you’re one of those people who have no idea what the series is about and would like to get a taste of it, this is your chance.
Think of this review as also a comprehensive guide to getting better at this game.
The game begins with a basic plot of two warring kingdoms: Askr and Embla. Princess Veronica of Embla (the blonde chick with the stupid-looking crown) has her sights set to conquer the world by shanghaiing legendary heroes from various worlds (including Marth, Xander, Roy and Chrom among others). Standing in her way are the Askran siblings, Prince Alfonse and Princess Sharena, and captain of the guard Anna. You have been summoned into this world to act as a tactician for the Askran kingdom, so it is your job to defeat Veronica’s captured heroes and bring peace to all of the worlds involved.
Fire Emblem Heroes borrows the basic gameplay elements of the series. During battle, your heroes are faced against an enemy group of soldiers.
During your turn, you can move each of your four heroes and attack the enemy soldiers. Attacking will open up a simulation screen where both your hero and the enemy soldier fight each other. Whoever loses all HP gets knocked out.
It is your job to defeat all of the soldiers in order to win. This requires both brute force and outsmarting your opponent. But in order to win the more difficult battles, it’s best that you learn the system and come up with some clever strategies.
One of the most basic strategies is taking advantage of the rock-paper-scissors system, the weapon triangle. Each character has a weapon (usually indicated by a small color icon next to them).
Swords/Red Magic > Axes/Green Magic > Lances/Blue Magic > Swords/Red Magic… and so on.
Or if you really want to be picky about elements, red = fire, green = wind, blue = lightning. And keep in mind that magic users can only attack from two tiles away or from a diagonal tile.
By using the effective counter weapon against an enemy, you can do more damage.
Characters with shurikens/throwing knifes can only attack from two squares away and can attack diagonally, but also have a secondary effect of weakening an opponent’s stats. The weapon color is gray, so its element is neutral to other weapons.
Characters with bows are similar, but have a secondary effect of doing extra damage against flying units (pegasus knights and wyvern riders). The weapon color is gray, so its element is neutral to other weapons.
Characters with rods are typically healers, but also come with a weak neutral attack.
Characters that can shapeshift into dragons can attack at close range or two spaces away (depending on the character), but tend to be quite powerful. Their element can also differ depending on the character (Tiki is red, Nowi is blue, etc.)
Another basic strategy is predicting where your enemies will be able to move and attack. You can do this by tapping the Danger Area button at the bottom of the screen, which will highlight individual grid squares on where your enemy can attack. You can also tap an individual enemy soldier to predict where he can move and where he can attack.
The rest, I’ll leave up to you. Fire Emblem Heroes is pretty easy to pick up on as long as you are dedicated to learning how it works.
The Battles Ahead
Battles are divided into five modes: Story Maps, Special Maps, Arena Duels, Training Tower, and some feature I have yet to unlock which I will explain later.
Story Maps mode is self-explanatory. Play through a story mode and defeat Princess Veronica’s forces. Keep in mind that you don’t recruit characters through this mode. It’s all for the story and experience points.
Special Maps mode features a specific character of the day and allows you to fight against that character in Normal or Hard difficulty. Defeating the enemy force will allow you to recruit the featured character (the Hard difficulty giving a more powerful version). Be careful, though. You will lose the entire battle if any one of your characters are defeated, but you can make a comeback by redeeming a Light’s Blessing (or an Orb if you don’t have one).
Arena Duels mode allows you to fight other player teams across the world. Keep in mind that this isn’t technically PvP. It just lets you fight other player teams controlled by computer AI. But to use this feature, you need to spend a specific type of currency called Dueling Swords, which you can get by using a Dueling Crest or an Orb. You can also wait a day for your default three Dueling Swords to replenish.
The point of this feature is to win duels to increase your score for a season. The higher your score is by the end of the season, the better rewards you will get. In this case, you can earn Hero Feathers which are required to unlock your characters’ potential.
Training Tower mode is a feature that allows you to grind for experience and collect special items called badges. Like Hero Feathers, badges are essential for unlocking your characters’ potential to make them into even better soldiers.
And as stated, I will find out what the final feature is so more on that later…
Managing Your Resources and Characters
Orbs function as the main currency in the game. You can get them by completing quests, clearing story maps, and logging in daily. You can use the orbs to summon new heroes for recruitment, upgrade your castle to multiply experience gain, and use them as a substitute for a Light’s Blessing or a Dueling Crest (if you run out of either one).
If you run out of Orbs, you can spend money on microtransactions to get more. Personally, I don’t partake in microtransactions and the game is just fine the way it is without them. Unless you REALLY want to get your favorite characters faster, it’s totally up to you.
The biggest feature of Fire Emblem Heroes is the ability to summon more heroes to recruit into your cause. You can spend 5 Orbs to summon one hero. But if you summon heroes in a consecutive batch, you can get a small discount. So in the long run, it would be better to save up your Orbs and summon a few heroes in one go. That way, you can always have some spare Orbs for later on.
You can summon from either one of two focuses: the Legendary Heroes focus and the Deep Devotion focus, which offer different heroes.
Ultimately, whichever hero you get and particular rating is all up to chance. There is no EASY way to get a 5★ character. For both focuses, these are the current appearance rates of summoning particular heroes:
Keep in mind the numbers will change over time.
Also, 5★ Focus is basically a promotional 5★ hero and Nintendo may hold regular events that will increase a particular hero’s chance of being summoned. I am assuming this is what the Choose Your Legends poll is for, so I would definitely keep an eye out for those special heroes.
And as I mentioned earlier, you CAN get new heroes by completing Special Maps daily. Typically though, the characters themselves are 1★ or 2★. And if any of your heroes in this challenge gets knocked out, you get a game over and will have to spend a Light’s Blessing or an Orb to continue where you left off. Whether you think this is worth the investment of Orbs and time is up to you.
However, if you are not satisfied with your character’s current star rating, you can always try unlocking his/her potential through the Advanced Growth feature. But to do this, you need to fulfill these requirements:
- Raise the character’s level to at least 20
- Gather the required no. of badges (which you can get from Training Tower mode)
- Gather the required no. of Hero Feathers (which you can get from Arena Duels mode)
The unfortunate side effect is that your character will lose levels and stat gains. However, he/she will start with better base stats and better stats growths. So as long as you spend time with leveling them up, it will become worthwhile in the end.
Every character has skills they can learn. But to actually learn them, they need to collect Skill Points (SP) and purchase them. Characters can gain SP from leveling up or from merging allies. After purchasing the skills, be sure to equip them or else they won’t work.
Got extra characters that you don’t really want? No problem! Just use the Merge Allies function through the Advanced Growth feature. By merging two allies with the same star rating (or one with a higher star rating as a sacrifice), the enhanced ally will gain extra stats and SP. Otherwise, the enhanced ally will only gain SP.
Finally, let’s talk about manually leveling up a character. While completing quests and playing through story mode, you may earn some shards and crystals of various colors. You can spend them to level up your characters without having to play through a map.
This is actually a nice feature if you want weaker allies to gain levels fast or if you want to bring an ally to level 20 before unlocking his/her potential.
A Closer Look into the Game
Alright, so I have explained how Fire Emblem Heroes plays. However, I have yet to talk about what I actually THINK about the game.
Honestly, I think Fire Emblem Heroes is really good, especially for a free mobile app. Not only is it highly accessible to the public, there’s enough fan service to satisfy even old fans of the series.
While the main gameplay is a simplified version of what you ought to expect from the Fire Emblem series, it captures the basics really well. I’m rather surprised that Heroes still manages to maintain the deep game mechanics of its predecessors, and that alone is well worth getting the game.
The CG artwork, character sprites and environments are well done. It never feels like the overall presentation is off in some way. I especially enjoyed seeing the updated looks of old Fire Emblem characters that we haven’t seen in a LONG time. And it’s a joy that they also got their own voice actors.
The soundtrack is an assortment of remixed familiar tunes and new tunes. Some familiar stuff we got:
- “Beyond the Distant Skies” – Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade
- “The Time to Act” – Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
- “Prelude” – Fire Emblem Awakening
- “Far Dawn” – Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright
- “Dusk Falls” – Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest
Now, let’s go over the “meh.”
The story is basic good vs. evil, though this IS a mobile game after all. The storylines of the Fire Emblem series tend to vary in quality, with the best written ones coming out later in the cycle. And this one is pretty much in the “meh” territory, but passable for something you play on the go rather than spend a long time on.
There is also a lack of support conversations—which is one of the most popular features in the series. However, I can see why they couldn’t be included in Heroes. There are WAY too many characters to account for and the game is rather too small to call for support bonuses. So if you’re looking to learn more about the characters of the series, you’re not going to find much here. It’s better to think of Heroes as a gateway to playing those other games.
The maps are also pretty small and featureless. While there are some terrain obstacles, unit movement is highly restricted—to the point where foot soldiers can’t even move past someone before them. So naturally, you would have to move your units across uncomfortably small spaces. This easily makes cavalry and flying units among the biggest threats on the map.
Mages are pretty overpowered as well. Most units you get will have a low Resistance stat and will have a hard time improving it. Mages also tend to be pretty fast, so they can deliver a very powerful attack twice in a row. Combined with the ability to attack from two tiles away, it’s very easy for a mage to get a safe vantage point without any retaliation from the enemy.
While I like the summon feature, it is expensive. The first hero you summon is worth 5 Orbs, which you can get from completing 5 story maps without any other aid. Combined with the low percentages of 4★ and 5★ summons, this makes it much more difficult to get your favorite characters quickly. And this is easily the motivation that would get you spending real money for more Orbs.
And finally, missing characters. As far as I know, Fire Emblem Heroes does not have characters from Fire Emblem Gaiden, Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War and Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. To be fair, these games were only released in Japan and they were some of the most obscure entries to the series. Only the most diehard Fire Emblem fans usually play them. But since the announcement of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, this would actually be a good time to introduce characters from Gaiden—since Echoes is its remake. This would give us a chance to learn about the main characters, Alm and Celica, before the actual game’s release. I personally think this would be a nice way to promote Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia since it’s coming out in May 2017.
Overall, I’m actually surprised by how fun Fire Emblem Heroes is. Even though it is a freemium title, it captured the spirit of the series really well and this is a great way to introduce the series to anyone who doesn’t own a Nintendo 3DS yet. Heroes is probably the closest thing to a “dream match” crossover Fire Emblem title we’ll ever get and it’s given us some interesting matchups.
TIME PARADOX! TIME PARADOX!
So if you want to get a taste of what the series is about or want to experience some nostalgia, I recommend downloading this game onto your mobile device. But if you’re one of those people who don’t enjoy turn-based strategy games, then Fire Emblem Heroes is probably not for you.
So on that note, I’ll conclude the review with some beginner tips. Have fun.
Tips for Fire Emblem Heroes
- Make sure to create a Nintendo account. In the event that your phone/tablet gets damaged and will no longer work, a Nintendo account will keep your save file nice and safe. That way, you can pick up from where you left off on a new phone/tablet.
- Log into the game EVERY DAY. You will receive free Orbs. Go to the Home area and tap the owl to collect them.
- If you have a My Nintendo account, you can log in to claim 10 Orbs for free. You can only do this once. You can use your My Nintendo points to purchase in-game items, such as Dueling Swords and Light’s Blessing.
- Check the Home area every now and then. If a character has hearts next to him/her, tap the character to receive items.
- You can check your Quests in the Home area by tapping the bird statue. If you have completed a Quest, be sure to collect your rewards by checking the quest list.
- One thing I have yet to mention is the Stamina meter. As you play through the story mode, you have to spend Stamina in order to play a map. Each map spends a different amount of Stamina. If you’re out of Stamina, you have to wait some time for it to replenish. You can use a Stamina Potion if you have some in your inventory, if you don’t want to wait. As for whether Orbs can be used as a substitute, I have no idea…
- Learn the weapon triangle. This is a simple rock-paper-scissors system to help you gain the advantage over your enemies. In Heroes, it determines your unit’s damage output.
- If you want characters to be fundamentally better, use the Arena Duels and Training Tower modes to collect badges and Hero Feathers. You need them to unlock your characters’ potential.
- To gain a higher score in Arena Duels, try to maintain a win streak and use the season’s bonus heroes. The higher your score, the more Hero Feathers you earn by the time the season ends.
- If you have completed a chapter in Story Maps mode, you can replay it in Hard and Lunatic difficulty. Beware the massive level spikes…
- Spend some time creating teams as you unlock more characters. Be sure to select the correct team that you want to take to battle with you before playing a map.
- Don’t forget to spend SP to gain skills. Also don’t forget to equip the skills.
- Spend some Orbs to improve your castle. This will help increase how much experience points you gain in normal gameplay.
- If you have reached the maximum number of 200 recruited allies, you can spend an orb to expand the size of the barracks and increase the cap by 5.
- If you want to level up your characters quickly, check to see if you have collected shards and crystals and spend them.
- Try not to spend your Orbs to summon heroes too early. If you summon multiple heroes in the same session, you can save orbs. I recommend saving up to 20 Orbs before summoning, so you can get 5 heroes. It’s like buying heroes in bulk.
- Be sure to complete the daily Special Maps to receive a featured unlockable character.
- If you have multiple versions of the same character, consider merging them together to get stats boosts and SP.
Boons and Banes – Update 02/23/17
So I managed to beat all of the Story Maps, all the way up to the last chapter of Lunatic difficulty. I also completed the new Paralogue chapter featuring Eirika and Ephraim from The Sacred Stones and Seliph and Julia from Genealogy of the Holy War. Wow. I’m surprised that anyone from Genealogy made it in at all. Good work, Intelligent Systems.
Regarding Orbs, aside from the daily login rewards and the quest rewards (which don’t give much), I have no other way to obtain Orbs, which is a real annoyance. And for those who suggest I should just buy Orbs with real money… well, I did try to check the price of Orbs to see if they’re worth getting. However, I kept getting this particular error.
A communication error has occurred.
Support Code: 803-3003
Right now, it’s no big deal since I’m in no real hurry to try my hand at rare Fire Emblem characters. Still, it would be nice to see a fix for this come soon. I did search the Internet for a fix, but to no avail. So I made a post at the Nintendo Support forums to see if a moderator may answer my question.
Alright, so I have a little more to say about the game since I had more time figuring out its strengths and weaknesses. So here they are.
First, let’s talk about the actual gameplay mathematics. I don’t know about you but I feel like the weapon triangle works way too favorably here. There are multiple instances where I had strong characters getting outdone by weaker characters with the weapon advantage, just because they win in the weapon triangle.
I’m dead serious. I could have a sword user pitted against a blue mage. The sword user would do little damage (6 damage against a 25-HP mage), but the blue mage could inflict 26 damage, twice, immediately KO’ing my sword user. They’re about the same levels and the sword user is a higher star rating.
Normally, the weapon triangle in Fire Emblem isn’t THIS advantageous. This makes battles in Fire Emblem Heroes one-sided most of the time. And the losing side is likely the one with mismatched weapon types.
Now, let’s talk about the Summon Heroes feature. As clarified earlier, it’s pretty much a gacha system where you spend Orbs to get random heroes. Standard fare.
Now, here’s one of my issues. Getting a 5★ character is purely luck-based, of course. So far, I only got two: Fae from The Binding Blade and Eirika from The Sacred Stones. But in Arena Duels, I keep facing these full 5★ character teams, often with Takumi from Fates (who, by the way, is overpowered with his Fujin Yumi). How is it that these players are getting these 5★ characters so easily? Are they emptying their wallets for a shit ton of Orbs or are there people exploiting the system for easy 5★ characters?
When you get to the summon screen, you can spend up to 20 Orbs consecutively for five heroes and save yourself 5 Orbs. However, the problem is the seemingly random colors you get for which heroes you get. For nearly every summon screen I have, I get at least three red summons and I very rarely get green summons. This easily puts me in a shortage of axe users and green tome users. It just feels like something is off here.
Next, let’s get to the Unlock Potential feature. For any character you have that is not a 5★, you can unlock their potential and gain an extra star after the character reaches level 20. However, there is a serious flaw.
GETTING A 4★ UP TO 5★ IS TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE!
Seriously. You need to get 20,000 Hero Feathers and 20 Great Badges of a corresponding color to achieve this. If you managed to get up to the Eighth Stratum or higher in Training Tower, you can manage to get the Great Badges—with some difficulty.
However, getting 20,000 Hero Feathers is just dumb. Your main source of getting feathers is to play the Arena Duels feature and try to get the highest possible score during a season. Each season usually lasts a few days and rewards you Hero Feathers after your score is calculated and the season ends.
However, the highest reward you can get for offense in Arena Duels is 1,600 Hero Feathers. This is still not enough to promote a 3★ to a 4★ (which needs 2,000 Hero Feathers) and absolutely unreasonable to get a 4★ to 5★.
Let’s say you start with 0 Hero Feathers and you want to save up 20,000 Hero Feathers. So you use Arena Duels and get the highest possible number of Feathers during each season (1,600). So how many seasons do you need to play through to get enough?
13. 13 seasons. And a season lasts about a week, so we’re talking about 13 weeks of saving up Hero Feathers, without ever spending them.
Now… there are ways to get more Hero Feathers. If you become Friends with people through Arena Duels, you can get daily Hero Feathers from the Home screen. How many do you get? 5.
And yes, you can get more Hero Feathers from completing these repeatable quests. But hopefully, you saved up a shitload of Dueling Swords because you need to win 40 battles for these quests to reset. All that trouble for 2,000 feathers max for each repeat. Let me tell you. Not worth the extra grind.
More feathers? Why, yes. There is another way.
In Arena Duels, try getting the highest win streak/score as possible for a season. You earn bonus feathers for falling into within the top 100,000 high scores… WORLDWIDE. And the highest you can get is 5,000 Hero Feathers. So combined with getting a score of at least 3,000 in Arena Duels, you can get 6,600 Hero Feathers for one season. NOW REPEAT THAT THREE MORE TIMES AND YOU WILL GET ENOUGH HERO FEATHERS.
I noticed that after I reached over a score of 3,000, the score will NOT increase any higher. However, my rank in Arena Duels is high enough to get a bonus 1,000 Hero Feathers. So maybe these rank gains are more to do with your tier rank during a season. Right now, I have a Sable Knight (Tier 4) rank, so maybe that alone is restricting me from getting a higher score.
Imagine how many Dueling Swords you need to even reach that point.
I also noticed there’s a score range for “defense,” but I have no idea how you get anything from this. The game doesn’t bother explaining it aside from:
These rewards are based on the score your team has earned for defense.
WOW. NO SHIT. I WOULD HAVE NEVER FIGURED THAT ONE OUT.
The rewards are little but it’s still a nice opportunity to get more Hero Feathers. Now, I did try being on the defensive for Arena Duels, but I never seem to get any points for letting enemies attack me. So I have no idea how the hell this system even works.
And yes, I am aware of that little Twitter campaign where 10,000 retweets of Fire Emblem Heroes will give everyone 10,000 Hero Feathers for free. So that reduces the number of Arena Duel campaigns to 7 to get 20,000 feathers. Still a long way…
All in all, getting enough Hero Feathers to make your own 5★ characters is poorly thought out. Getting a single 5★ character through unlocking potential would take at least 3 months of saving feathers without ever spending them. I do hope at some point that Intelligent Systems will lower the requirement (to something more manageable like 5,000 – 10,000 feathers) so that we don’t have to waste so much time and effort into getting a single 5★ character.
And just in case you’re wondering, YES. A 5★ character makes a greater difference than a 4★, due to better stats and access to the most powerful skills in the game.
Next up, let’s talk about the event Special Maps. So far, we had two: one for Narcian from The Binding Blade and one for female Robin from Awakening. Unlike the daily Special Maps you get, these in particular have two challenges: a level 25 team for a 2★ character and a level 35 team for a 3★ character.
But let me tell you. These maps are designed specifically to be death traps. They put you in a bad spot where, no matter where you go, you will be attacked by at least three enemies. It’s designed to be unfair.
So the only thing you can do here is send in a bait character who can take a few hits (preferably, someone who can hit two tiles away), use other characters to buff the bait character’s defense/resistance, and hope the bait character doesn’t die. In this case, a manakete who can counter from two tiles away would be an ideal candidate. But if you don’t have these types of characters, well SUCKS TO BE YOU THEN. BETTER COUGH UP SOME MONEY FOR ORBS!
If ANY character dies, you get a Game Over. You can’t use a Light’s Blessing. You can’t use an Orb. You have to restart the map all over again. This is the only time the game does this.
It took me a few tries just to beat level 25 Narcian, with a level 35 team. I am dead fucking serious about that. There is no balance to these maps.
So the challenge of the event Special Maps is not playing by the game’s rules. But rather putting you into this Kaizo-esque situation where you hope you have the right characters with you. And the penalty for loss: losing 10 stamina for the level 25 map and losing 15 stamina for the level 35 map. I’m sorry, but that is just bad design.
If you can at least beat the level 25 map, unlocking the new character’s potential (2★ to 3★) is worth only 200 Hero Feathers. So not really worth the aggravation to go through the level 35 map.
Because of these flaws I discovered while investing more time into Fire Emblem Heroes, I decided to lower my rating of the game. It’s still a fun experience, but there are times when this game can get unfair. Certainly not Thracia 776 unfair, but the game’s mechanics simply working against you and the nature of the pay-to-win system. I’m still looking forward to future updates of this game and I hope Intelligent Systems will consider these points in the near future.
Boons and Banes – Update 06/22/17
It’s been a while since I wrote this review. But so much has happened since then, so I would like to discuss the new changes of Fire Emblem Heroes since my observations back in February 2017. So here they are.
So just for the hell of it, I did manage to purchase Orbs for $39.99 (using a different device, by the way). Guess what? Not a single 5★! Seeing as how Fire Emblem Heroes is a full game and the Orbs are just the extra meat, I’m not that mad about spending what is the price of a new 3DS game. I think it’s fair that the money at least pays for the game itself. But that will be the only time I’ll spend any money on this game for sure. Because let me tell you… those Orbs were not worth it. It’s better to be patient and collect Orbs slowly while having little expectations for the Summon feature.
But eventually, I did get my own little 5★ army. Some were promoted through the Unlock Potential feature (which still requires 20,000 Feathers). Some were lucky draws from the Summon feature. Needless to say, I’m pretty happy to even get this many in the first place.
I also like how when you reach level 40 for 5★ heroes, they get a special little monologue when you look at the home base. This goes true for underwritten characters for the series, who don’t get that many chances to shine as true characters. You know, instead of just being expendable soldiers.
Whoa, man! I know how you felt about Ike, but I don’t swing that way.
If you’re still curious about the rarity for certain heroes… heh. Nothing’s changed. You’re still going to draw way too many Awakening and Fates characters you probably don’t care to use. Good luck with that, tee-hee-hee.
With that said, let’s go over the changes to late June.
So instead of the usual “rout the enemy” goal, there are now maps where you have to survive for a set number of times. But this also means that the map will come with enemy reinforcements, one of the most annoying features of the Fire Emblem series. Luckily, there is a new terrain tile that functions similarly to forts in past games. So, those standing in those tiles will take less damage. This is a welcome change in otherwise bland map design.
Let’s discuss Arena Duels again. While not much changed, you can potentially earn more Feathers from scoring even higher. I remember the score cap was 3,000 to get the highest reward, but now it’s around 4,000. So if you work a little harder, you can get even more Feathers. That’s cool.
Also, I found out what the Defense score range was for. So basically, you need to use your FIRST TEAM in Arena Duels and you would automatically gain Defense points—which is stupidly specific, but whatever. So make sure your Team #1 is your Arena Duels team. Score more Feathers for virtually nothing. Cool, I guess…
Next, Stamina meter. From a crappy 50 max to 99 max. It’s wonderful. And Stamina Potions are a little more abundant. Excellent.
Next up, the Inherit Skill feature, which is under the Advanced Growth window. Basically, you can sacrifice one of your characters so that another character of yours can take that person’s abilities (up to three at a time). This gives you the opportunity to customize your characters with some unusual skills, which is pretty nice—but can seriously be broken.
So guys, remember when Takumi used to terrorize Arena Duels with his general OP-ness? Well, everyone, let me introduce you to Hector from the GBA Fire Emblem, also known as Blazing Sword. As much as I like Hector’s character (I mean, he’s a real badass), he is SO BROKEN in this game. I am not fucking with you. So this guy can counterattack regardless of distance. He’s also a heavy hitter and can take a lot of damage on his own. Now he can inherit the ability Vantage, which allows him to attack first when his health is low. This makes him into a nearly unstoppable juggernaut with very few counter options. Expect to see this kind of Hector A LOT in Arena Duels. And don’t expect it to stop anytime soon.
I know Hector was already a strong and popular option for Arena Duels, but Vantage is seriously broken with him. Same with Takumi.
Next, the ability to equip Sacred Seals. By completing specific quests, you can earn Seals—which are just freely interchangeable abilities. Think of them like basic Magicite from Final Fantasy VII. You can give them to characters to how you see fit, but you can easily give it to someone else who you think needs it more. Again, a nice feature. But so far, underutilized.
Then, oh-ho-ho… the Voting Gauntlet. Previously the fifth unknown game mode on the battle screen, the Voting Gauntlet is another way to gain a lot of Feathers. Every month, there’s a team-based tournament where you must pick a Fire Emblem character you want to support. And you must stick with that character, until your team loses. If that happens, you must choose another character to support until the end of the tournament.
You can collect Flags from log-in bonuses and quests, which are basically score multipliers for the gauntlet.
Here’s the problem though: it’s not skill-based. It’s a popularity contest.
The first tournament had royalty as the theme. Guess who won? Fan favorite Lucina. The second tournament focused on fliers. Guess who won? Fan favorite Camilla. The third tournament focused on mages. Guess who won? Fan favorite Tharja, in an admittedly close battle against male Robin.
Might as well call this the Waifu Gauntlet. Know what I mean?
I’m sorry, but the Voting Gauntlet is just a dumb idea. Sure, it’s a nice way to get extra Feathers. But there’s really no point in choosing a character you liked over others, when the most popular ones are going to win anyway. If we get a theme like a swordsman/swordswoman tournament, my prediction would be that Ike would win. Guess why? Because Ike is so popular!
Though it would be most certainly interesting to see an Ike vs. Lyn matchup… Cuz hey. Lyn is top waifu.
There is no concept of balance to this feature whatsoever. While there is no real consequence to sticking with the losing team, you can get bonus Feathers from being on the winning team. So in this case, going with the most popular character in the tournament is going to score you the most Feathers. Even if you’re not pulling your weight at all, you can still win Feathers from doing literally nothing. You just had to put in an entry for the tournament. That’s all!
And the Flags are just useless. Just out of curiosity, I spent the second tournament saving up as many Flags as possible so I can use them all during the final round on Camilla’s team. Even after using them all up and trying to get the highest score possible, I somehow placed behind more than 5,000 other players.
I am not fucking with you here. This is seriously how much I got from using every one of my Flags for the second Gauntlet.
I have no idea how the hell they managed to do that, but yeah. Either I’m dealing with some really crazy players and I’m not utilizing my time as well. Or I just suck at this, somehow. But seeing as how I do have a life outside of this game and I do need sleep, this would be impossible for me to achieve.
I did know you gain some bonus points for bringing your own version of the supported character to battle. But because I don’t have Camilla, I can’t get those bonus points. So maybe that’s why I fell behind so many players.
I did have Tharja for the next tournament. Guess how many bonus points you get for using her when in Team Tharja? 10. Yeah, 10. Pretty shitty.
And even more new features.
We get a sixth game mode known as Tempest Trials, which is pretty much a survival mode for Fire Emblem Heroes. Much like Arena Duels and Voting Gauntlet, this is a feature that grants rewards based on your score and will reset after a certain amount of time has passed. You enter your best possible teams here and score as much as possible. The rewards can be anything from experience crystals, Orbs, Feathers, Seals and even unique characters (such as Lucina in her Marth disguise).
Basically, you have to pick a challenge and complete several battles in a row. Your current team will not be healed (unless you have a healer on your team, which finally gives them better use than before). If your team loses, you can use another team to continue the challenge. If you use up the max number of teams, your challenge ends. Whether you beat the entire challenge or lose, you still earn points. But because the rewards need big scores, you need to do as well as possible. A 4★ masked Lucina needed a score of 6,000 just to unlock her. You can even get a 5★ version of her with a score of 30,000.
And keep in mind all of the available challenges require 20 stamina per run. That is fucking insane. Imagine how much stamina you have to use to even reach just 4★ masked Lucina.
As far as new characters go, we’ve been getting quite a lot. A ton of villain and anti-heroes through difficult Special Maps, some representation from Gaiden/Echoes (just as a I predicted before the release of Echoes: Shadows of Valentia), some representation from Mystery of the Emblem (and its remake), some representation from Genealogy of the Holy War, more characters from Blazing Sword, and some representation from Path of Radiance. We also got alternate event characters: Easter-themed and marriage-themed.
Oh my god. They found a way to make Chrom more femmy than Marth.
The Easter-themed characters included Chrom, Lucina (who looked really cute with bunny ears and a leotard), Xander (who looked ultra fabulous), and Camilla (whose Playboy bunny outfit was strangely less revealing than her usual combat outfit).
The marriage-themed characters included Caeda, Lyn, Charlotte (her first appearance in this game), and Cordelia. All in wedding dresses. Literal WAIFU WARS.
Sadly, I wasn’t lucky enough to get any of these special-themed characters. But I can at least say their existence alone was amusing.
The only games that haven’t gotten any representation are Thracia 776 and Radiant Dawn, both games that are infamous for their difficulty in the series. I don’t think most people know (or even care to know) who Leif is, but I know Micaiah from Radiant Dawn has some fans. Not wildly popular but I’m sure some people out there might appreciate her addition.
I have to admit, my interest with Fire Emblem Heroes is sporadic over the months. But leaning more towards waning. In fact, I’ve done very little this month and missed out on masked Lucina as a reward from Tempest Trials. While the latest updates added more ways to get Feathers (making 5★ promotions much less tedious and time-consuming), the game’s balance is all over the damn place.
Seriously, what is this bullshit.
I believe I implied this before, but the damage calculation is terrible in this game. If your character’s attack stat is too low, he/she is pretty much useless. Subaki, a lance wielder, can’t bring down Hinata, a sword wielder. That’s because Subaki’s attack stat is too low and Hinata’s defense stat is higher. My Subaki had a 4★ rating. That Hinata had a 3★ rating. For a game that gives a massive advantage to the winners of the Weapon Triangle, this is unacceptable.
I feel like Intelligent Systems needs to slow down with the new features and add more polish to the current gameplay. Because as of now, a large percentage of the characters (especially the ones you keep drawing during Summons) are mediocre or worse. The damage calculation can be absurd at times, leading to some unfair matchups that make no sense.
Ever since the Inherit Skill feature was added, Arena Duels are more difficult to win because of Hector and Takumi being given the Vantage ability. If you don’t kill them off fast enough, they’re going to wipe the floor with you. The Voting Gauntlet does not result in fair competition since you can pick any team you want. Furthermore, the overall difficulty of enemy AI is growing more remarkably cheap.
Recently, we learned of a difficulty beyond Lunatic called Infernal.
AND BOY, DOES IT SHOW. 75 HP, 57 ATTACK, 42 SPEED. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU.
That above screenshot is the hardest map for the Legion event Special Map, which is one of those maps where you have to survive for a set number of turns while enemy reinforcements constantly harass you. Any ONE of your teammates falls, and you lose. No Light’s Blessing revival. No Orb revival either. FUCK. THAT.
This is the kind of “difficulty” that shows in Lunatic maps too. The AI receives impossibly high stats while you get jackshit. Even if you have used the Merge Allies feature for 5★ units, they’re NEVER going to be that strong. This is not a change of tactics or anything. It’s cheap bullshit.
This is getting more common with Story Mode maps, Special Maps, and even in Tempest Trials. The idea here seems to be making you play hours upon hours of this game, eventually tempting you to spend real money for more Orbs in hopes you get better 5★ heroes. I won’t bother, though. Because I’m already pissed off by this game’s lack of fair challenge.
And if anyone cares at all about the story of Fire Emblem Heroes, let me summarize it for you:
- Alfonse, Sharena, Anna, and you (the Summoner) have to stop Princess Veronica’s latest plan in forcibly getting heroes to fight for her. This essentially turns into a “character of the day” formula. Or in this case, “characters of the chapter.” You’re literally only going to know them for five minutes before the chapter ends.
- Alfonse is the usual goodie-goodie warrior prince with good looks and great charisma. And no personality.
- Sharena, cute as a button she may be, is always going to be that annoying optimist. Even going as far as trusting someone 100% after knowing them for five minutes, only to get stabbed in the back in the next five minutes—YES, THIS SERIOUSLY FUCKING HAPPENED. WHY MAKE HER THIS STUPID!?
- Princess Veronica is a wangsty Villain Sue who will eventually turn into a Sympathetic Sue, She’s incredibly powerful and can pull off all sorts of ass pulls because she’s the villain. But as the chapters go on, it becomes painfully clear that she’s just some pawn in another evil entity’s plans. And the story somehow wants to make you feel sorry for her boring character.
- Every new downloadable chapter is pretty much going to be the same thing, with some occasional “oh look, Veronica somehow made things even worse” plot twist.
- Special event chapters, like the Easter and marriage ones, are pretty much silly chapters meant to serve as distractions. In other words, filler.
- We’re probably going to get the same exact ending twist from The Sacred Stones regarding Princess Veronica, which was honestly pretty lame in the original game too.
I don’t know, guys. I find myself at a loss for words sometimes with this game. It’s like when Intelligent Systems adds more features to extend the game’s lifespan, the game gets progressively more broken and unbalanced. It’s slowly becoming less fun to play as a result. With all these new features, the game demands even more of your time if you want to git gud.
I feel like it’s only a matter of time before Fire Emblem Heroes loses much of its player base, similar to what happened to Pokémon Go. While Pokémon Go is still running and has a dedicated fanbase, it lost much of its momentum and not many people talk about it anymore. Not that I’m comparing the popularity of the two apps, but I feel like Fire Emblem Heroes had already met a similar fate. I can’t tell if the game is getting better or worse with its updates.
Oh, and for those wondering what I think about Pokémon Go…
IT’S SHIT. UTTER SHIT. LIKE, I CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO MAKE A FULL REVIEW OF IT. I JUST DON’T HAVE THE PATIENCE TO GO OVER EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG WITH IT. SORRY, THAT’S MY OPINION. I’M BIASED, SO SCREW YOU. MOVING ON…
So will I talk more about Fire Emblem Heroes in the future? I honestly don’t know. I mean, it’s still not a bad game and I don’t see it ever going bad. But my initial opinion of the game changed quite a bit since its launch. It feels less fun to play to the point where I don’t even collect some of my log-in bonuses.
Thank you for summarizing my thoughts there, Waifu Number Si—I mean, dearest Cordelia…
While Intelligent Systems did a good job in amending some of the game’s issues, it felt like they’re introducing more problems into it as the development cycle continues. Maybe we’re still in an experimental phase of the game, but I would like to see some more polish into it now. I don’t find it as engaging as before, and now the game demands even more of my time to waste into leveling up characters and try to collect rewards with absurdly lofty requirements. Hehe… sorry, I’m just not feeling it anymore.
Fire Emblem HeroesFree
- The gameplay is fundamentally the same as the main series games, making this app a good introduction to the Fire Emblem series.
- A lot of different gameplay modes prevent this game from getting stale too fast.
- Being able to create your dream Fire Emblem team through the summoning feature.
- The visuals are fantastic for a mobile game.
- The soundtrack is a remix of old Fire Emblem tunes and some decent original tunes.
- What are you waiting for, fool? It's FREE! GO GET IT NOW!
- Story is pretty basic and doesn't necessarily represent the typical writing of the series.
- The stamina meter may limit your gameplay time.
- Maps can be difficult to traverse due to small amount of space and short character movements.
- Summoning heroes is expensive and Orbs needed for them are difficult to collect in large numbers without resorting to microtransactions.
- You can never get enough Hero Feathers without a huge amount of patience.
- The event special maps aren't very well thought out.