10 Things We Learned Playing The New Fire Emblem Heroes
What you can expect when Fire Emblem goes free-to-play
Given the resurgence and growing interest in Fire Emblem games these last few years, it’s not surprising that the franchise is part of Nintendo’s recent foray into mobile. Fire Emblem Heroes comes out February 2, but we got an early look at this free to play, gacha-centric strategy RPG. Here are ten takeaways from our hands-on demo.
It retains many of the Fire Emblem fundamentals
In some respects, Fire Emblem Heroes is an effective gateway to Intelligent Systems’ long-running series and strategy RPG basics in general. That includes knowing how to attack an adjacent tile to trigger a melee attack as well as learning to create a one tile gap if you’re using an archer. You also need to move tactically depending on the locations of enemies and to consider any obstructions. There are support benefits between certain characters though not at the same level of depth as prior Fire Emblem games.
It looks and sounds like Fire Emblem
Beyond the grid layout and turn-by-turn gameplay, the vibrant colors and distinct anime-inspired character designs fit the Fire Emblem aesthetic. And there is no Fire Emblem music more welcoming than the level-up jingle.
Fire Emblem worlds collide
Its premise is reminiscent of the stories of Dragon Quest Heroes and Hyrule Warriors, both of which see members of their respective casts uniting for a common cause. For the many characters in Fire Emblem Heroes, the new world they’re saving is the Kingdom of Askr. The story isn't as deep and involved as Fire Emblem Fates, but you can expect exposition that helps explain how these heroes are brought together.
Learn about your enemy and act accordingly
Fire Emblem games often indicate what levels your characters should be to have a fighting chance at a given battle. Heroes takes things one step further by revealing the opponents’ individual strengths, allowing you to create a formidable foursome before you fight. It gives you a leg up but does not guarantee victory.
Clash of the character designers
While Kozaki Yosuke has been in the spotlight thanks to his stellar work on Fire Emblem Awakening and Fates, character art from older installments are also featured in Heroes. Rather than the labor-intensiveness of reimagining this new game’s entire roster with one artist, the mix of styles makes each world all the more recognizable.
New voices to old heroes
Fire Emblem had been around for 15 years before it had a game with voice acting. Heroes gives the franchises’ older characters voices for the first time. Perhaps these heroes’ new leases on life will generate interest in re-releases of the older games, like the upcoming Fire Emblem Gaiden.
Four versus four limit
Limiting match sizes to four versus four is easily the most drastic design change for Heroes. It’s disappointing, especially when it limits strategic depth and mid-match narrative developments; on the other hand, small squad sizes mean short play sessions for those looking for a quick fix.
Romancing and mating in Fire Emblem has been one of the series' most popular features in recent years, so the omission of relationships in Heroes is unfortunate. Still, it makes sense, given the undertaking of creating new offspring between characters from different worlds.
Replay incentives abound
Gacha games offer recurring reasons to come back and play, including daily, weekly, and monthly rewards. Fire Emblem Heroes is no exception--you’re rewarded for completing missions and participating in arena matches over a predetermined span of time.
Strong gacha appeal
27 years worth of Fire Emblem characters makes the franchise primed for the unpredictability of gacha-style character unlocks. Orbs that you earn through victories can be redeemed to expand your collection of heroes. The catch is that you don’t know what you’re going to get. Don’t worry about getting stuck with only common characters; the chances of getting rarer characters increases every time you end up with a lower ranking hero.