Geek Review: Fire Emblem Heroes

Ever wondered what a distilled version of a Fire Emblem game looks like? Look no further than this strategy role-playing mobile offering from Nintendo and Intelligent Systems. Combine the strategy role-playing game flair of a series known more for its many anime waifus with the intricacies and mechanics of a mobile Japanese RPG, and you get Fire Emblem Heroes.

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The gist of FEH’s story is that you’re a great hero who has been summoned by a bunch of resistance guys who are combating the evil Emblian Empire. You wield a relic of a bow that shoots out Heroes ie: the people you’re going to need for your party and the brunt of the game’s microtransaction. You’ll need to do the hero thing and help out the resistance; the empire is happily summoning heroes from other Fire Emblem universes to combat you. Not exactly the best story around given the series’ lineage, but that’s not really the highlight here.

As with all Fire Emblem games, it’s the familiar turn-based strategy RPG action that makes it great. The game plays out really fast and intuitively, with a charming aesthetic and feel to it. You tap and flick on the screen to move your heroes around the map, defeating all opposing forces to win and level up. In a mobile game, the quick pacing matters since these pocket-sized experiences are suppose to last less than 5 minutes per round. FEH gets it right in making the experience compact and quick.

Apart from the single-player campaign dubbed as Story Maps mode, there are Training Towers which let you level up your characters, Special Maps which net you a free character upon completion, and Arena Duels which let you fight against other players in asymmetrical turn-based combat. All of them are healthy diversions and add a bit more replay value to a title with long-term plans.

Fire Emblem’s weapon triangle system also comes into play here: axe beats spear, spear beats sword, sword beats axe, while red beats green, green beats blue, and blue beats red. Your units will deal more damage to enemies of the opposing weapon and color. Additionally, flying units are weak against archers while riders are weak to spellcasters. There’s also obstacles like breakable walls, forests, and mountains to consider: ranged units can fire over these while flyers can just go over them to cover more ground.

Your heroes level up a lot more if they deliver the killing blow to enemies. As they level up, they get SP points which you can use to unlock new abilities like a buff for allies or being able to attack twice if they initiate combat. Simple stuff, really.

Not Quite A Blade Of Light…

Calling FEH a full-fledged Fire Emblem game is quite a disservice to the brand; it completely lacks the cerebral approach and challenge in level design, enemy placements, and tactics. Once you have one or two 4-5 star heroes leveled up via grinding, you can just power on through most of the game and the enemies it waylays you with. Sure, there are obstacles and map layouts to factor into the challenge, but you can conquer them if you’ve at least played through a proper Fire Emblem game or two.

Still, its presentation and intuitiveness is welcome in a series known for punishing newbies who aren’t quick on the strategy RPG uptake. This IS after all a free mobile game with microtransaction elements and an energy bar cooldown system (ie: run out of Stamina to play maps, either wait half-an-hour or use up a potion). Speaking of which, the de facto currency is Orbs, which you use to buy Heroes. Orbs can either be earned for free by completing main story missions or purchased with real money; one Orb goes for S$2.77 while a bundle of 48 goes for S$37.03.

You can summon one hero for 5 Orbs, but you can choose to summon a set of 5 for a discount of 20 Orbs total. Personally, the payment system is fair and the early rewards are pretty generous. After completing most of the story missions, I have enough Orbs to do 15 hero rolls and get a good decent amount of fan favorites like Tiki, Camilla, and Corrin. Heck, even I’m using characters from past FE games I don’t care about because they help deal with maps with two particular weapon types or colors. Your luck will vary though, but you’ll have enough 3 and 4 star heroes on average to plough through the game.Though if you feel like you want to reroll better characters, there are simple methods to do so.

But since this game is going for the long haul, free Orbs are going to be scarce and the aforementioned Stamina potions even moreso. Given the series’ cast of colorful characters and harder difficulty levels with more Stamina requirements, you will eventually pay money for the game in the far future and it ain’t going to look good for your wallet.

Thankfully, FEH isn’t obnoxious with its F2P methods. At this point in time, there aren’t any prompts and push notifications to get you to pay for Orbs and no sign of an ad to interrupt your gameplay. It’s also really cool that the Fire Emblem series will get a larger exposure to a casual mobile market: a spoiled audience that demands their games to be free and be given a heckaton of in-game rewards and daily loot for the sake of business and retention to fuel corporate mobile gaming greed.

It sounds funny saying this, but trust publisher Nintendo and developer Intelligent Systems to let its audience decide whether or not to shell out their money for Orbs.

…But Possibly A Radiant Dawn For Mobile Gaming

Fire Emblem Heroes is a nice little diversion that’s tailor-made for your mobile devices. It’s got enough gameplay, characters, and freebies to justify paying money for when needed. It also isn’t greedy and annoying with its F2P elements unlike other titles in the same JRPG category with similar gacha mechanics. Still, you are going to hit a paywall a few hours down the line. Be prepared to drop a lot of money getting Orbs for a full 5-star team unless you’re super-patient.

All in all, you’ll still get a lot of fun out of the game as a free player. Treat this as a gateway title that will hook you up with the majestic Game Boy Advance, DS, and 3DS entries.

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