Wonder twin powers, activate
It took other publishers a long while to get on Koei Tecmo’s Warriors train. While their studio Omega Force was pumping out hit after hit, no one really dared to ask “hey, can we collaborate?” for a number of years. Now it’s hard to imagine a series that wouldn’t work with the current crown prince of console hack and slash. Because Zelda ended up being one of their absolute best, the sky is the limit.
Fire Emblem Warriors brings the whole idea back to Earth.
Fire Emblem Warriors (New 3DS, Switch [reviewed])
Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja
Released: September 28, 2017 (JP), October 20, 2017 (WW)
MSRP: $59.99 (Switch), $29.99 (New 3DS)
Although we’ve gotten plenty of meaningless character vignettes and curated demos leading up to the release of Fire Emblem Warriors, I really didn’t know what the game was about until I actually got my hands on it — that is to say, relative to the rest of the series. In reality, it borrows a bit from Hyrule with its very similar postgame and leveling systems, but with a less interesting hook centered around an uninteresting pair of twins.
While any given Warriors‘ flow tends to fluctuate from game to game, this one eschews the whole “one versus a thousand” concept and centers around squads. You can order NPCs around to help you out, and even level them up in tandem with your main character of choice or combine them into one unit — all various Warriors mechanics, but peppered in at the discretion of Omega Force. As a result, the game feels more like a team effort, which includes support for local drop-in multiplayer (man, this is a basic thing that’s sorely missing from some many recent Warriors games).
This spread across an army rather than an individual works because of how many different playstyles there are. Much like the variety found in Arslan‘s roster, riding a wyvern into battle or going at it with a ranged archetype just feels right. Archetypes, mind, that can be directed in 720p60FPS, a far cry from the severe framerate drops of recent Warriors titles, and I’m not just talking about Hyrule or the Wii U.
Yet, once you cycle through the several wholly unique cast members, you’ll start to get a little roster fatigue. Although we knew they weren’t coming, not even by way of DLC, no Roy or Ike is just strange, especially given their Smash presence — and several other warriors feel more like clones than Omega Force’s previous efforts in Hyrule, where everyone had their chance to shine. I don’t need a gigantic swath of choices, just one or two, but it is a bothersome aspect given the downgrade.
No, the main annoyance with Fire Emblem Warriors despite how well it plays is the campaign. The writing just isn’t witty enough during the comedy relief bits, nor is it interesting during the more stoic moments. Generic demon enemies that pop up all too often also lend credence to the “too much fodder” critics often levy at Warriors games. If you’re the kind of person who can completely ignore story beats (and you very easily can here, with a skip cutscenes options right at the start), you’ll be fine, especially since the difficulty curve does its job. Normal is balanced out of the gate, hard is a bit more taxing as one might expect, and Lunatic is as advertised. Oh, and a permadeath mode (called “Classic,” which can be swapped off but not back on) is a nice Fire Emblem-ey touch.
History Mode replaces maps (adventure) from Hyrule Warriors, and is a welcome distraction to assist veterans in grinding past the campaign. Specific challenges make things more interesting, and the chance to unlock new abilities with an ever-changing set of goal posts does too. A retro setup with the top-down sprites that morphs into a Fire Emblem Warriors skirmish is also a nice touch. Yep, this is your postgame (as well as the free play that’s incorporated into the campaign after you finish a stage), the strong structure that DLC will build upon. It’s a juice you’ll need to squeeze to drink (read: getting through the narrative), but it’s where the real joy lies.
With the power to pick up the Switch tablet and storm through History on the go, Fire Emblem Warriors is still going to get some play in my house despite its issues. It follows a set formula with very little in the way of risk-taking, but so long as you can stomach the idea of warring kingdoms with very little at stake other than your level-up bar, it’ll probably delight you too. With some DLC meat on these bones it’ll likely be a long, wild ride.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]