The defining element of the Fire Emblem series isn’t its game world or its villains — it’s the fantastic turn-based strategy that each title offers. Fire Emblem Warriors is the latest Warriors series crossover, and ever since it was revealed, I thought that Fire Emblem was an odd choice. There would be a lot of potential in a crossover with Fire Emblem and the Warriors series, but I figured they’d simply copy and paste Fire Emblem characters and locations onto a Warriors game instead of going through the effort to make a really cool hack-and-slash with real-time strategy elements. Unfortunately, my expectations were pretty much spot-on.
Hyrule Warriors was one of my favorite games on Wii U. There were a ton of characters with vastly different play styles and costumes, awesome weapons, huge boss monsters from the Zelda series roaming maps, and a really neat adventure mode. That game didn’t even have an interesting twist on the Warriors formula outside of the adventure mode; what made Hyrule Warriors so excellent was its variety. Link, Darunia, and Agatha all played completely different. Even Link and Ganondorf — both of which use swords — played differently.
Fire Emblem Warriors, on the other hand, simply doesn’t have that variety. All of the locations look like generic medieval towns, castles, and battlegrounds. All of the characters play exactly the same across weapon types: all sword users feel like other sword users, all bow users feel like other bow users, and so on; characters with the same weapon type are essentially just costume swaps for one another. The only real variation here is with the mounted characters like Frederick, who rides a horse, or with Camilla, who rides a dragon. The combat itself is smooth and chaotic, it’s just a shame that there isn’t a whole lot of variation in the way you slice enemies up.
The most egregious example of the lack of creativity in Fire Emblem Warriors is with the weapons you pick up over the course of battle and the weapons that enemies use. Hyrule Warriors was chock-full of iconic weaponry from the Zelda series — even the Magical Sword from the The Legend of Zelda was in the game. Fire Emblem Warriors is filled with iconic Fire Emblem weapons like the, uh… bronze axe, which is green for some reason. Every enemy early on uses bronze weapons, so the battlefield is filled with these goofy-looking green blades. To be fair, Lucina’s Parallel Falchion looks great, but she’s the only character that can use it.
Your Basic Hack-and-Slash
No matter what mode you’re in, missions in Fire Emblem Warriors essentially boil down to the following: mash the Y and X buttons to slice enemies up, capture enemy forts, and then fight a couple bosses. There are a ton of enemies on-screen that just stand around waiting to be killed — just like every other Warriors game. The main function of the grunts is to be killed so that you can unleash sweet-looking combos and charge up your special attacks for later use.
The game also allows play at 60 frames-per-second at a lower resolution instead of 30 frames at a higher resolution. I would recommend playing in 60 frames — the game looks beautiful either way, and the action is faster and smoother at 60 frames-per-second.
The weapon triangle that’s a staple in the Fire Emblem series returns for Fire Emblem Warriors. In other Fire Emblem games, the triangle completely changes how you approach a situation: sword beats axe which beats lance which beats sword. Moving a sword-user into battle against a lance-user spells almost certain death in other Fire Emblem titles. The triangle, while present, is an afterthought while playing Fire Emblem Warriors. If you’re playing as a sword-user, like Lucina, you can still mow down an army of lance-users — including bosses — because all the triangle does here is make enemies more likely or less likely to guard. I never once had an issue taking down enemies and bosses I was supposed to be weak against, whereas in mainline Fire Emblem titles I would have been heavily penalized for doing the same.
Bosses, by the way, are kind of lame. Fort guards and outpost guards are just soldiers with bigger armor and swords, and main stage bosses are 1v1 fights. There are only a couple that match up to the huge bosses in Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes II.
I need to mention that the voice acting in Fire Emblem Warriors is atrocious. It’s anime dub quality at best. At worst, the voice-over that plays whenever you want to skip a cutscene sounds like a robot overcome with anxiety.
For all its blandness, Fire Emblem Warriors at least tries to use some elements from the mainline series — like the weapon triangle — but it doesn’t do any of them well. Tactics are in this game: open up the pause menu to view the map and you can give orders, like attack and guard, to your allies in battle. There’s so much potential here that’s wasted, though. The Fire Emblem series is the gold-standard for strategy RPGs, and all they could muster here was being able to tell your allies where to go. The worst part about it is that your allies will attack forts and bosses on their own, anyway — so the limited tactics in Fire Emblem Warriors don’t really serve a point.
Fighting alongside allies in battle will increase your character’s bond with them. You’re awarded with materials as bonds grow stronger, and those materials can be traded in for crests that make your characters stronger. You can also pair-up with allies in battle — this takes them off the battlefield, but adds their power to yours when using special moves. I like to pair any of the archers with Lucina only because the special they unleash together looks cool.
Permadeath is back for Fire Emblem Warriors if you choose to play in classic mode. Unfortunately, there’s so little challenge here that only one of my allies died throughout the course of the entire story mode. Permadeath could have been a really cool feature for a Warriors-style game if the tactics weren’t so simple.
Overall, the implementation of aspects from mainline Fire Emblem games is pretty weak, and doesn’t do nearly enough to establish itself from a basic Warriors game. For comparison’s sake, look at Dragon Quest Heroes II — that title is incredibly creative in the way it takes the Warriors formula and turns it into an open-world RPG within the charming world of Dragon Quest.
Adventure mode was my favorite part of Hyrule Warriors. The first adventure map took the overworld from The Legend of Zelda and turned it into a puzzle and hack-and-slash romp that could have easily been released as a standalone title.
Fire Emblem Warriors has its own version of adventure mode, and like so many other things with this game, it doesn’t do anything special. The mode, called History, takes iconic battles from the Fire Emblem series and displays them in the traditional top-down view. You can move your character to initiate a Warriors-style battle against enemy units, and… that’s about it. There’s no strategy involved because the enemy units don’t even move. It’s essentially a glorified battle-selection menu.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of the game for this review.