Fire Emblem Fates: Revelations (FEFR) is the third version of the recently released Fire Emblem game. Much like the other two versions, the first few chapters introduce you to the setting and world. Your custom made character (hereon referred to has Corrin, their canon name) is a member of royalty growing up in Nohr, a kingdom shrouded in darkness that is currently at war with the kingdom of Hoshido. After some altercations between the two groups, Corrin ends up with royalty from Hoshido, and learns that they were taken from that kingdom by the Nohrian king Garon at a very young age. After some important story events that I won’t spoil, Corrin is forced on the battlefield to make a decision. Do they team up with the kingdom they were taken from and join Hoshido? Do they remain in the place they’ve been all their life and join Nohr? Or do they take a third path and reject both of them in an effort to discover the real reason behind the war? FEFR is the game you get if you choose the third option. Corrin chooses to find the real reason behind the war, and sets out with Azura, a mysterious, appropriately blue themed singer, and Felicia, who has been Corrin’s maid since they were a child.
To say much more about the plot is to give a lot of the mystery of the entire trio that comprises the Fates storyline, so I won’t say too much. I will say that there are some issues. For one, Gamespot mentioned in their review that there’s a curse that kills whoever discusses the true threat. They stated in their review that this plot element is hackneyed and weak, and I’d have to agree. It comes across as an extremely convenient way to make the royal families not trust Corrin right away. Additionally, this game suffers from some of the same problems of that Birthright had, which is that a lot of the time the story feels like it is spinning its wheels. That is, the story mostly comprises of “Let’s convince this person to join us, some of the people join us and others don’t trust Corrin yet, also we get intercepted by enemies on our way to a destination.” This sucks some of the intensity out of the story, although it’s not all bad. There are some nice moments of emotion, ranging from distrust to happiness that are sprinkled throughout most of the story that make up for the weaker elements. Later on, the conflict with Corrin’s siblings comes to a head in a very satisfying way. The final act of the game also has some really powerful moments, especially within the final five or so chapters. Again, I’m deliberately being vague to avoid spoilers.
Much like the other two installments in the Fates mini trilogy, this game plays out like a game of Chess if the Chess pieces had character classes, stats and levels. You move units along a grid and can attack during your turn, and then the enemy will move their units on their turn to attack your army. There are several difficulty options to choose from, like Normal, Hard, and Lunatic mode, as well as the ability to turn off the series perma death feature and replace it with characters retreating or being revived the next turn. There’s a high customization factor thanks to the ability to choose who is what class, as well as the ability to choose the finer points of Corrin’s stats, which lets you mold them in any way you see fit (I chose to buff strength at the favor of magic, leading to a unit with ludicrously high damage output). You can still have two units marry by pairing them up in battle, which builds their Support with each other. This also opens entertaining conversations between the characters that flesh them out as individuals. Marriage still leads to children with inherited traits from their parents.
If this sounds familiar to the other two games, it’s because it is. Thankfully, this game has some elements that make this the definitive version of Fates. For one, the premise means that you’ll eventually get a complete roster of all the characters from both Birthright and Conquest. This leads to a lot of variety in abilities and units, as well as some really interesting support conversations between Nohrian and Hoshidan units. For instance, the Hoshidan Oboro is well known for having parents who were killed by Nohrian assassins. Well, her support conversation with Beruka, the Nohrian assassin, leads to some interesting facts not available in either of the previous versions. Much like the other games, as well as Awakening, the conversations run the gamut. Some are sweet, some are dramatic, but all of them are entertaining. One of my favorites I’ve come across is between the aforementioned Beruka and the Hoshidan ninja Saizo. The first entry in their support conversation is both of them saying nothing to each other. It gave me a good chuckle.
The customizable castle from the other two versions also returns, and in this game you get access to both Hoshidan and Nohrian structures, which leads to some interesting setups. I personally made one corner of my castle a shopping district, with the Hoshidan and Nohrian weapon and healing shops set up in a square, somewhat like a mall. I also had statues from each faction set up all over the place. It is entertaining to build this kind of varied castle since it gives you the most options. You’re more likely to actually run out of space in this one, which is a good point in my book. This flexibility carries over into streetpass battles since people will now have to contend with the stronger elements of both factions if you design your castle that way.
One of my biggest complaints about Awakening and Birthright is that the objectives very rarely if ever deviated from defeating all the enemies or defeating the boss of a map (as I understand it, Conquest has more variety). This leads me to the map design of FEFR. It is incredibly strong. After the initial six chapters, which are the same in each version, it becomes clear that the developers put a lot of effort into designing the maps of this version. For one, this game is quite challenging. Earlier I mentioned that only a trio of characters (Corrin, Azura, and Felicia) choose the neutral path. That carries over into the maps. For the first few chapters of FEFR, you only have a handful of units at your disposal, leading to some pretty tough battles. Of course, the further and further you get in the game, the more units you get, until eventually you have an almost overwhelming number of people to choose from.
What’s more, each map typically has its own unique gimmick or challenge. For instance, one early map has you fighting your way through dark hallways. The only way to illuminate them is to have a character wait at the edge of darkness. This means you have to be prepared to use your remaining characters to fight whatever comes out of the shadows. Another fun map has wind that activates every few turns and blows your characters (or the enemies) a few spaces. This can be used to your advantage thanks to the Dragon Veins set up around the map, which only members of royalty can access (Dragon Veins are very prominent in this version and are put to good use throughout the whole campaign). Later maps introduce lots of new ideas to the fray, including a very cool one that lets you win by either escaping or by defeating the boss. The catch is that, in order to fight the boss, you need to use a Dragon Vein to make copies of your team, because the actual map is two separate floating islands. Additionally, the difficulty curve is quite high here. The later maps are incredibly challenging, but that makes them more satisfying to beat.
Because you have access to all the playable units in the Fates storyline, you also have access to all the Paralogues. Paralogues are maps that come about from marriage. Basically, when two units get married and have a kid, you must play a map in order to get them. While the Paralogues were in the other games, not every one was available since Corrin only sided with Hoshido or Nohr. In this version, you have access to every single one, and these are some of the most stand out maps in the game. My personal favorite is one that involves some boats out at sea. Your units start out in a boat between two boats filled with enemies. At the end of each turn, one boat will separate from the middle, and the other will pull up alongside the middle one. It’s a very unique map and one that really challenges you to divide up your units. Most of the Paralogues are very well designed and fun to play through.
FEFR fixes most of the problems I had with Birthright and Awakening. The map design is very strong, with new strategic elements introduced at every chapter and a much wider variety in objectives. There is a huge roster of characters to select from thanks to the storyline of bringing Nohr and Hoshido together to confront the true evil. There are more customization options than ever before in both the castle and your units. Lastly, since every Paralogue is available in this game, it’s bursting at the seams with content. FEFR is worth purchasing even if you’ve played one or both of the other version of Fates since not only does it have the best resolution, but it offers the most options when it comes to its brand of turn based strategy.
+ Huge roster of characters to choose from that leads to entertaining interactions and customization
+ Extremely well designed and challenging maps with a wide variety of objectives that leads to a lot of gameplay variety
+ Huge amount of content between the story, the Paralogues, and the ability to grind on previously beaten maps
+ Lots of customization options for the personal castle
+ Story has some very strong moments…
- ...but certain elements hold the story back