I enjoyed Fire Emblem: Awakening enough to buy both Fire Emblem Fates titles, Birthright and Conquest, blind. I was content with gameplay loop in Awakening and was convinced they couldn’t muck it up. And since Birthright was supposed to follow the Awakening formula, I thought it was a good idea to play that first.
I was in over my head when I played Awakening. It was my first Fire Emblem game and I wandered in on hard difficulty and with permanent death on which resulted in me save scumming my way through the game. I thought: “I went into the deep end of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, how hard can this game be?”. It was difficult and I told myself that the next Fire Emblem game, I was going to play it on normal difficulty.
I didn’t learn my lesson.
I repeated the same process with Birthright but this time, I didn’t waste time banging my head against the final battle and lowered the difficulty so I could wrap the game up. I was nearing the 50 hour mark and the core gameplay wasn’t holding up against the torrent of grating thematic annoyances.
Birthright’s gameplay gimmick enabled dragon blooded characters to alter the battlefield at specific squares. The alterations swung between toggling passage ways and environmental hazards. I thought they underutilized these abilities because it never felt integral to the fabric of the game; they were integral to certain maps and missions but I was hoping to have more agency with this ability. It would have been interesting if I was given the ability to dynamically create a body of water, bridge or a wall of rock.
I was fed up with the relationship system, the base building and how the predictable narrative was unfolding. The increasingly straight forward battles didn’t do much to separate themselves from the random Challenge missions that I was grinding my characters through either. I wasn’t grinding for levels though. I paired my soldiers together in an effort to produce offspring. I didn’t dabble in the offspring aspect of Awakening so I decided to change that with Birthright. The first trio of children were interesting but it quickly became a time consuming chore and I was increasingly frustrated with how poorly they handled the accelerated growth of the offspring.
Every parent in the Birthright neglected their children and, unsurprisingly, their children found themselves in some kind of danger. They either escaped their time accelerated nursery (dubbed the “Deep Realm”) or enemies somehow found their way in. In the end, it was up to their parent and my avatar in this game, Elena (canonically named Corrin) to save them. Despite the ill conceived circumstances surrounding these rescue missions, their design and setups were often more interesting than every other mission in the game.
The awkward handling of offspring may have been present in Awakening but since I largely ignored that aspect of the game then, it was a non-factor. I tabbed through my share of conversations between characters in Awakening but I don’t recall them being so pandering — in fact, I felt Birthright was filled with creepy anime tropes.
I had weird face to face exchanges of one liners with characters that were all inexplicably flustered. I was asked to blow into the mic to cool off my significant other. I was asked to poke them in order to wake them up. I met a furry half breed which I thought was a big fat joke because I just witnessed one of many unsettling — and borderline incestuous — conversations between the main character’ and their adopted sister.
It didn’t matter where I looked, there was some kind of trope being played out. On one hand, they’re trying to make this war between Hoshido and Nohr a major ordeal but at the same time, they were undermining the gravity of the situation with anime bullshit.
I really hope the tone in Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is dramatically different from Birthright but I doubt it. I expect more pandering and I don’t think I can stomach anymore of it. I don’t know when I will get around to playing Conquest but I think I’m done with this franchise for the foreseeable future.
I don’t like it