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Review: Fire Emblem Engage

Written by Danielacorn

After 1000 years of slumber, it's time to awaken. Save the world by gathering the 12 Emblem Rings, before the Fell Dragon gathers them first…

Each Fire Emblem title is generally its own self-contained fantasy tale, thus affording newcomers to the franchise the ability to dive straight into a game without having to worry about not having played previous titles. I’m relatively new to the series, having only completed Awakening on Nintendo 3DS, but I loaded up Fire Emblem Engage for the first time and became completely absorbed in its unique universe for countless hours. 

Fire Emblem Engage deviates from franchise norms by pulling in characters from other games in the series via the medium of 12 Emblem Rings, which house the glowing blue spectres of heroes from historical Fire Emblem titles. But the newbies among us don't need to know much about these heroes. In fact, all we need to know is that they're here to form bonds - via Emblem Rings - with a bunch of characters and provide special skills in battle.

The focus of Fire Emblem Engage is primarily on battles, rather than social interactions. The familiar tactical movement across a grid-based environment gameplay is here. A plethora of characters and 12 powerful spectres means plenty of strategic possibilities. Though, you're treated to just the right dosage of story: I was deeply moved by chapter 3 and I'm not usually one to 'engage' with characters in games much. 

I simply can't emphasise enough just how much battle there is across the vast continent of Elyos. From battles to advance the story, to skirmishes for gold, to the online challenges in The Tower Of Trials, to epic battles provided by the Expansion Pass which grants you access to some powerful Emblems and characters. If you relish the delights of tactical warfare, there’s a veritable ocean of it for you to immerse yourself in here. 

I think what's glanced over by many is the fact that battle in Fire Emblem is what the player makes of it. Engage offers a near-infinite level of depth and complexity, so you can dip your toes in at the shallow end of the pool before diving in the deep, or vice versa. You can walk through the game with ease or set the game to 'Maddening' difficulty, should you prefer. Conversely, you can opt to play in "Casual style" where units are revived at the end of battle, or "Classic style", where units are permanently lost if defeated. I find that the game is most rewarding when you're playing at the very edge of your comfort zone, just enough to cause your pulse rate to go up, but not so much that you're too anxious to turn on your Nintendo Switch ever again. For those who find the scope of tactical complexity on offer daunting, worry not! I was initially overwhelmed by the list of character stats and attributes, but it all sinks in as you put in the hours, especially when you discover that you can press 'X' in the menu and have each stat explained to you!

As you get accustomed to the game, you might get the urge to experiment with different approaches to battle. Maybe you usually sort out each character's inventory before each incursion, but now you want to let the game 'optimise' the inventories for you instead. Done. Perhaps you want to be highly involved in every battle, or maybe want to simply 'Auto-Battle' and see the results. Sorted. It could be that you want to shake things up a bit and see what would happen if you put an Emblem ring on a different character. Cool. Who knows what amazing synergy you might discover! Player agency is everything in this game. 

Let's dive into the actual mechanics of battle. The most important thing to note here is the Weapon Triangle. In order to prevent enemies from attacking you when you initiate combat - which is known as 'Breaking' your enemy -  you need to know that swords have an advantage over axes, axes over lances, and lances over swords. Physical arts have an advantage over bows, tomes and knives. Well, I said that you need to 'know' this, but we live in the 21st century, a time when we can outsource our brain power to technology. To be honest, I still haven't learned the Weapon Triangle, so I simply rely on the game to tell me what weapon is effective before my character initiates combat. Again, battle in Fire Emblem is what the player makes of it. The game can think for you, or you can adjust the settings and think for yourself. Whatever puts you at the edge of your comfort zone is best. 

When you want to step back from the edge and take a breather, why not visit The Somniel? The Somniel is your home base, an area to interact with allies, build Support and Bond relationships,  and prepare for your next battle. This floating island houses your bedroom, Café Terrace, Ring Chamber, Arena, Armory, Item Shop, Smithy, Boutique, Farmyard, and Tower of Trials, and there's probably many other things I haven't mentioned or unlocked yet! 

All seem like a bit much? Don't worry. You're granted access to locations in the Somniel gradually as the game progresses, allowing everything to sink in. This process is much akin to the way you're introduced to the vast roster of characters as you work your way across the World Map. Building Support relationships with your allies isn't merely about socialising, it results in stat bonuses when the allies in question are adjacent to each other on the battlefield. Increasing your Bond level with an Emblem provides units with better stats and grants new abilities. Ordering a meal at the café isn't decadent gluttony, sharing the meal with your allies will increase support levels and provide buffs for your next battle. One of the only aspects of the Somniel which you could argue isn’t tied to battles is the Boutique, which provides clothing and accessories for your allies. That said, some of us are more vain than others.

Can we take a moment here to admire the Support and Bond conversations? Nobody is mute. Every interaction is fully voice-acted, this is insane considering the sheer number of characters and the fact that every character can interact with multiple others and every Emblem. My mind is truly blown by this, and I really respect the blood and sweat that's been poured into this game. 

Next up, let’s discuss this game’s visuals. I can't begin to imagine how many hours were poured into the character designs. From the start-up art to the end credits, the game is like a shimmering stained glass window. My favourite visuals are, of course, the combat animations. They're really intricate and detailed. The fact that every character can wear any Emblem Ring and that 'Engage' attacks while wearing these rings have special visuals and animations means that there's absolutely tons of beautiful animations that the player might never see. Bittersweet, don't you think? 

Impressively, the story has a clear focus despite the countless characters involved. You're often introduced to characters at the start and during battle, so each battle feels like a fresh and exciting advancement of the plot, as well as a chance to meet new faces. For example, a new recruitable character might demonstrate their nervous disposition at the start of the 'Player Phase'. Or they might seem particularly eager to join the fray. When an ally defeats an enemy, they might say something which provides us with an insight into their personality. Vander, for instance, sometimes says 'For the Divine Dragon' after slaying a foe, demonstrating his loyalty to the protagonist. 

When I stopped focusing on other things and tuned-in to the music, I initially thought it was slightly unassertive. Then I realised that the reason I barely noticed it was because it was subtly enhancing the atmosphere of unfolding events. The soundtrack runs parallel to the plot, so that you aren't quite sure whether it's the music that's affecting your mood or the story. Everything in this game works in harmony together, and It's truly a work of art. 


There's so much more to say about Fire Emblem Engage. It's infinitely epic, and I initially didn't think it would be. To take from Bilbo Baggins, the moment I saw the army of characters on the title screen , I thought Intelligent Systems had 'scraped butter over too much bread', but perish the thought. Intelligent Systems has scraped a lot of butter over a lot of bread. Admittedly, this review sounds like an advertisement, but I can't help but praise this game to high heaven. Engage is unbelievably rewarding and I consider it perfect on many levels. The only criticism I can think of is that the game may be a bit overwhelming for newcomers. That said, everything is explained in the 'System' section of the menu, so players of all kinds should feel supported and capable. 

I'm eager for others to experience this game, and with the Expansion Pass, there's just that little bit more to explore.

Where to Buy




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Written by Daniel Oakes

Edited by Mark McAllister, Jen Griffiths and Paul L. Russell

Graphic by Paul L. Russell