Fire Emblem Warriors Review (Switch)
Fire Emblem Warriors combines the world(s) of Fire Emblem with the mechanics of Dynasty Warriors. The Warriors series is kind of like the Japanese equivalent of LEGO games at this point; the same base reworked with stylings of another franchise. In this case, Fire Emblem Warriors features a host of characters and locations from the Fire Emblem series and incorporates some of its mechanics in ways that complement the gameplay of the Warriors series. My only point of reference for the Warriors series previous to this was Hyrule Warriors, a Legend of Zelda crossover, but given that they’re both Nintendo-themed Warriors spin-offs I feel it’s a fair comparison. The Zelda influence allowed Hyrule Warriors to have some fun aesthetics and gimmicks, while Fire Emblem has given Warriors some more interesting developments to the gameplay that enhance the strategic aspects of it. Overall I’ve enjoyed Fire Emblem Warriors much more than Hyrule Warriors despite being a bigger fan of Zelda than Fire Emblem, though it is lacking the kind of fanservice that a crossover like this should be flaunting.
Fire Emblem Warriors creates a new world in the Fire Emblem multiverse where the rise of an evil dragon has opened portals to the worlds of Fire Emblem: Awakening, Fire Emblem: Fates and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, bringing them all together. These three games are where the bulk of the game’s content comes from but there are a few original creations and minor inclusions from other games in the series. You’ll take characters from these games hacking and slashing through key locations, taking out thousands of enemies in a single battle. On the surface the game is just a shallow power fantasy but there’s more strategic layers you’ll need to unravel to make your way through the challenging content you’ll encounter later on, especially when you take into consideration some of the new mechanics brought over from Fire Emblem.
Each battlefield has a large and intimidating army belonging to your enemies and a, uh… less impressive one led by you. You’ll never have the same numbers as your opponents so you have to make do by utilising your powerful figurehead characters taken from different Fire Emblem games. You’ll have up to four under your control in each mission who you can switch between at will to make use of their different capabilities, and sometimes you’ll get some bonus characters who you can give orders to despite not being able to directly control. Characters have sets of moves that can be unlocked over time, each with their own properties. Triggering moves is simple so you’re spending less time memorising complex combos and more time memorising the properties of your moves and learning how to link them together for maximum effectiveness. Characters’ movesets are generally less extravagant than those in Hyrule Warriors which is to be expected given the source material. There’s a lot of sword-slashing as opposed to weirder things like bugs of light flying around or fish people calling in tidal waves, but that’s not to say that the movesets are dull. There’s a few characters who are hysterical to play as, like Frederick – he’s a mounted axeman who speeds around on his horse barrelling enemies over and then flinging them around like ragdolls.
Something weird about the character roster is that some of the characters confirmed to be DLC already appear in the game, but aren’t playable. They play roles in the storyline and will appear as enemies in the game’s different modes, you just can’t play as them. It’s unknown whether they’re actually completed ahead of the DLC’s release, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth seeing things you’ll have to pay extra for being flaunted in front of you. One of the especially egregious cases of this is Oboro – she is a lance-wielding footsoldier, which is a playstyle currently unrepresented in the game. Another flaw with the roster is that there’s a lot of clones (characters that are effectively the same outside of appearances). While recycling movesets means more characters get represented, it means that the cloned characters lose some of their individuality while not adding much new to the game. As a fan of some of these characters it’s disappointing to go through the hassle of unlocking them only to find that they’re the same as a character you already have.
In battles, the generic soldiers forming the bulk of each army stick to their own little areas and you can mow them down quickly and effortlessly; you’ll use them as fodder to feed your special move gauges. Among them are tougher characters who are more aggressive and pose more of a threat – they’ll hunt your characters down and take your forts from under your control. Sometimes these can even be main characters, the toughest enemies of all. Against enemies like these you won’t get by with just basic attacks and will need to make use of more tools. Units can be paired up like in Awakening and Fates, which allows the back-up character to be summoned to block attacks or launch their own attacks. When both characters have their special move gauges filled you’ll be able to unleash an even stronger special move by expending both gauges.
Another mechanic making its way over from the main series of games is the weapon triangle. Different weapons have an advantage over certain other weapon types, allowing you to deal more damage and stun your enemies. Or if you’ve got a bad matchup, it’ll allow you to have a real bad time. You need to plan out your team before a battle begins so that you have characters equipped to take on the enemies on that map, and you have the ability to order around characters you’re not currently controlling. This is much more useful than it was in Hyrule Warriors because the AI-controlled characters actually do what you ask of them. While they struggle against some more difficult opponents it’s great being able to send troops around to defeat specific enemies or protect your forts that are under attack while you’re occupied elsewhere. It means you get to play the role of both a footsoldier in the heat of the action and a commander plotting out strategies, each providing a different kind of gameplay that complements the other really well. The game is also playable in splitscreen co-op, so you can co-ordinate your efforts with a friend as well.
The weapon triangle system falls a bit flat, however, because of imbalances in representation in the roster. There’s a lot of sword-wielding characters while the other two main weapon types aren’t used by as many characters. This is especially true of lances – there’s three lance users amongst the 23 character roster, and each of them have a near-identical moveset. They’re all pegasus riders who play almost entirely the same as each other, which means that if you’re in need of some lances then you have no variety of choice. While a 1:1 parity amongst weapons would likely feel forced, there should at least be more variety amongst them. When a mechanic like this is so key to the strategy of the game you can’t just ignore it and pick whoever you want to play as, you’ve got to think about the weapon relationships or else be majorly disadvantaged. So to not have some leeway in your selections because there’s a lack of moveset variety weakens the appeal.
Your first port of call in Fire Emblem Warriors will be the Story Mode, which you’ll need to play through in order to unlock other aspects of the game. In this mode you’ll play through a series of battles following the story of two original characters who set out to defeat the evil dragon messing everything up. Narratively it’s not much more than an excuse to have everyone fight each other, and it relies way too much on tired tropes to force this conflict, but mechanically it gets quite interesting thanks to the different scenarios you’ll be thrust into. Each mission will have its own main objective, like defeating a specific enemy, but you’ll need to complete a series of sub-objectives along the way like taking over enemy forts or defeating a mage conjuring a barrier protecting a boss. Some of these get really interesting, like one mission where you need to calm down two opposing armies so they’ll stop fighting. You need to take out each of their forts to weaken their morale but if you don’t keep the armies equal then the weaker army’s leader will eventually be killed. While all this is going on, optional missions can pop up mid-battle demanding different things of you like rescuing a character before they’re defeated or stopping an enemy captain from calling for reinforcements. These keep you on your toes and force you to adopt new tactics as the fight goes on. There’s a nice variety in level design and objectives that keeps things fresh all throughout the game.
While the game supposedly focuses on three games, it’s more like an Awakening entree to a Fates buffet with some Shadow Dragon rushed out onto the plate that was almost forgotten about. The world of Awakening makes up the bulk of the game’s prologue and tutorial, and you’ll play through a very abridged version of that game’s plot. Moving on from that there’s an extended Fire Emblem Fates sequence where the two main factions from that game each get their own introductory storylines before the two come together for some more levels. And then, finally, the Shadow Dragon characters are dumped on you during a segment focusing on original characters and are promptly forgotten about – they’re basically not even present in the plot. Longtime series fans are sure to be disappointed because Fire Emblem Warriors definitely prioritises the 3DS games over all else. This narrow focus affects the amount of fanservice, which is disappointing in a crossover game like this. You don’t get to see many cool interactions between heroes from different games or fun ‘what-if’ scenarios. A lot of the interplay is between characters we’ve already seen interacting together, but there’s still a few fun conversations to see.
Once you’re done with Story Mode you’ll have History Mode to complete. This is similar to Hyrule Warriors’ Adventure Mode and presents you with groups of increasingly difficult challenges to face. There’s five maps in History Mode, each based off of an iconic map from the series; one from Awakening, one from Fates and three from Shadow Dragon. As you play through each of these maps you’ll witness conversations that recount a key plot event from a game, like the battle against Validar in Fire Emblem Awakening. Maps are adorned with enemies, each representing a different mission. Selecting a character begins that mission, and winning will defeat that character and earn you rewards. Defeating certain characters will advance the plot, granting access to more of the map and unlocking more challenges. There’s hours and hours of content here and despite the fact you’ll encounter the same characters and locations throughout it, it doesn’t get old. There’s a variety of different objectives and restrictions that makes battles feel unique from each other, and with the core gameplay being so satisfying. History Mode is a huge improvement over Adventure Mode because it streamlines the process by removing the grinding required. It lets you just enjoy the gameplay over and over in a variety of scenarios, experiencing bite-sized chunks of voice-acted storyline as you do so.
The amiibo usage of Fire Emblem Warriors is similar to that of Hyrule Warriors, but not as interesting. The new Chrom and Tiki amiibo will unlock a new weapon for their respective characters, but these become outclassed rather quickly and don’t provide entirely new playstyles like the Spinner did in Hyrule Warriors. You can use other amiibo to get weapons and crafting materials each day, with figures of Fire Emblem characters giving better quality rewards. You can read more about the amiibo functions of the game in our Fire Emblem Warriors amiibo guide.
While Fire Emblem Warriors isn’t likely to win you over if you’re not into Warriors games it does have a lot of quality-of-life and mechanical improvements to make it a satisfying experience. There’s not as much series fanservice as you would expect from a game like this, but fans of Awakening and Fates will have a lot to love here. The game features a staggering amount of content, but the engaging mechanics and scenarios mean that you’ll enjoy all of the many hours you’ll be putting into it. While it’s releasing at an incredibly crowded time of the year Fire Emblem Warriors is a game that’s definitely worth giving a shot.
This review was written based off a game or game content provided by the publisher. We don’t assign review scores to game reviews.