Monday, 18 February 2013

Review: Fire Emblem - Awakening (3DS)

Fire Emblem is a series that unfortunately is not nearly as popular as it should be. It’s extremely well known among the hardcore fans of role-playing strategy. Though the series dates back to the 1990's, it's still perceived as a niche title for those that love a challenge.

Fire Emblem is well known for its perma-death aspect. If you make the wrong move, the game isn't afraid to slap the player and you’ll lose characters for the entirety of your game. This promotes careful decision making, and really enforces the tactical aspect of the gameplay.

The latest 3DS title, Awakening, brilliantly includes an option to help ease newcomers into the series with a “Casual Mode.” This features units simply being incapacitated, instead of outright killed. It also enables saving at any time. It’s less punishing to the player and will go a long way in helping get rid of one of the biggest stigmas with the Fire Emblem series: brutal difficulty.

Fire Emblem: Awakening offers a sense of RPG style gameplay, with players able to level and eventually promote them into different classes, allowing for a very high amount of customization within your army. There is also the Seal System that allows you to change a units’ class as well, bringing more tactical options into the fray.

As your units fight alongside one another, they build a sense of camaraderie and can eventually partake in support conversations. These provide buffs for each unit, and give them extra damage, a higher chance to land a critical strike, or an increased evasion rate!

Awakening takes this long standing feature one step further by giving you the chance to marry off two units that have bonded enough, allowing them to both pass certain skills they acquire onto their child. Marriage only becomes accessible to your two characters once they achieve an S Rank in their support, and you can only do it once. You can also pair up units, and it is recommended to arrange them in a way that addresses their weaknesses and compliments their strengths. Knights go well with ranged units; Cavaliers work well with heavy units like Fighters. While a cleric and a mage might have a lot to say to one another, they both tend to be rather squishy, becoming more of a risk to build a bond between them.

Awakening also introduces one other feature: optional paid DLC.

With the DLC you gain access to challenge maps that can be replayed endlessly, providing an effective means to level up your weaker units and get them caught up. They also bring fan favourites from other fire emblem titles in as potential recruits, helping you build your burgeoning army.

The DLC maps aren't extravagantly priced by any means, and as of writing, you can guarantee yourself access to three maps and three characters for only four dollars. There is plenty of DLC in the pipeline as well, with the Japanese version of the game having received over 15 characters and maps with plans for more. You can also attain free characters via the Spotpass feature, giving you a ton of options, as well as replay value. You will also face Random Encounters that can serve as a means to get extra experience, and you can purchase an item in game that spawns these random encounters, giving the player no excuse to not get the most out of their units.

Despite the games high difficulty at times, it's a "must have" title for the 3DS, especially if you are a fan of Strategy games. Fire Emblem won’t disappoint, and goes on step further in making it memorable with a well-rounded cast of characters, great music and a bevy of customization options.

- Scott Sullivan

The Good:

- Satisfying strategic gameplay
- Extremely deep, plenty of customization
- Well written, enjoyable story and strong Characterization.
- Reasonably lengthy campaign, clocking in at around 30 hours

The Bad:
- Paid DLC will be a turn off to some
- Permadeath can be unattractive to new players
- Game can get a bit grindy at times

Score: 9.0 / 10