I recently finished playing Fire Emblem Awakening so now I am going to write about my experience with it. Turn based tactical strategy RPGs are a rare breed. When they are done they tend to be good. Joan of Arc, Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem series, Tactics Ogre; all of these series that are renowned but in comparison to other genres there are not nearly as many series or games.
I had cut my teeth in the genre in Joan of Arc on the PSP. After playing Fire Emblem Heroes I became interested in playing Awakening because of the good things I had heard about it from my friends. I am glad I made that decision. I forgot how much I love this genre as it had been years since I had played Joan of Arc.
The gameplay of the series is damn good. I was overall unimpressed until the pairing up system was introduced. It is one of my favorite mechanics in a game like this because it both serves to simply how many moves you need to make per turn, and it allows for tactical decisions in terms of what characters to pair up and how you can attack. Pair up a sword user with a magic user and you can switch between them for advantage. Facing an armoured unit use the magic user, facing an axe user swap in the sword user. I love too how it works in conjunction with the support system. It also allows for great teamwork where you have two characters working together with clutch defense for no damage, and great combo attacks that allow for the combat to feel more dynamic where it is multiple characters working together on a battlefield. I derived a lot of joy from watching the characters fight together pulling off clutch kills and saving each other from certain death.
The maps were varied with many different routes, ways of approaching it, and stresses. Some maps after much thought you must rush or be overwhelmed. The final maps I finished in three turns because if I didn’t I would have 20 enemy units swarming me. Others you take methodically so that you can protect or recruit units.
My only disappointment in regards to the maps is the lack of variety in terms of win conditions. All the maps required you to either kill the enemy general, or kill all enemies. While some maps had additional objectives such as protecting NPCs. Only one map caused me to change up how I position units. The map had enemies trying to kill a single NPC but unlike other maps this one was a simple defense map, but the twist was the enemies would ignore all my units unless they had no other option but to attack. The first time I did the map I failed miserably. The second time I unpaired my units to form a defensive square around the NPC and simply had to weather tons of attacks. If a unit fell I needed to make hard decisions on how to fill that hole in the line as a single mistake would mean the NPC I needed to protect would die. I would have liked to see more maps that cause that changeup of tactics like that.
Now saying that I played the game on easy-casual so I am sure that if I played on a higher difficulty with permanent unit death my experience with the maps would be quite different as I would be way more careful, and play them in different ways.
The story is good in the same way I find well-executed anime tropes fun. The game is very anime in it’s design, story, and interpersonal character conversations and relationships. The story itself I found starts off strong with act 1 being damn good. Act 2 is good introducing new characters, and a strong new conflict but suffers from only being tangibly related to the main plot.
Act 3 is both better and worse than act two in different ways. There is a bit of a forced I am your father type thing going which after more plot details made more sense but the initial introduction left quite a bit to be desired for me.
The final three to four chapters go back to being some of the best in the game with great story bits, and answers to many of the story questions. The gameplay and maps get intense with even maxed out characters having to play safe.
I liked the pair up system a lot because of how it also served the story. Now this is especially relevant in my play through because I had my Female Avatar marry Chrom. This meant that Lucina was my daughter. Chrom and my avatar worked really well together on the battlefield and then this translated into romance between the two.
Lucina being my daughter made the scene where she wants to kill my character to save the future so much more emotional and heartbreaking. When I chose the option that I would be fine with sacrificing my avatar to save the future the dialogue was on point and did a lot to make the scene one of the highlights of my play through.
The gameplay serving the character which serves the story is one thing the game did well. This was especially true when I faced the final boss. I had paired up my avatar with Chrom and they faced down the boss and with double crits my pairing killed the final boss and then I made the final decision choosing sacrifice. All the decisions regarding Chrom, Lucina, and my avatar were so much better because of my own emotional attachment to all three characters.
I thought it was nice that they offered the player choices at certain points in the story but I was disappointed that other than different dialogue and a different ending there was no other real differences. It would have been nice to have choice be a bigger part of the narrative.
The game has a good bit of replayability due to different difficulty settings that change how you play and the different support conversations, as well as genders of certain characters changing depending on if your avatar is female or male.
The mechanics of the game are pretty deep. I have only scratched the surface in my play through but the child mechanic as much as it can be used as a fun story or for shipping or it can be used on higher difficulties as a eugenics simulator. You have certain parents change into different classes to get skills. If you change your class the character still keeps the skills from that class. This allows you to with enough time create really strong characters. You have the parents gain skills to pass to the children allowing them to become incredibly powerful.
Between the DLC, the characters, the story, the skill system, and the solid gameplay this game is a phenomenal package.
Overall I really enjoyed the game and am looking forward to playing through it again.