Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest Review

  • First Released Feb 19, 2016
  • 3DS

All is fair in love and war

I went into Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest with the understanding that it was a more difficult strategy RPG than its counterpart, Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright. I vowed to challenge myself and play in Classic mode--where characters who die in battle are permanently disabled--and I told myself I wouldn't back down from the loss of a valuable comrade by resetting my 3DS and reloading an old save. It would be a mark of pride to finish the game under these conditions, whether everyone I commanded made it out alive or not.

Eventually I had to relent; by allowing a few too many people to die (three), I had doomed my little army to a massacre. If I had the chance to grind for more experience to bolster my party, I would have, but Conquest wouldn't allow it. Conquest is a forward march that offers little time for anything other than story missions, and while the challenge of playing under strict conditions led to tense battles and meaningful victories, I ultimately missed having the opportunity to take a step back and enjoy the long-game of raising an army.

Like all versions of Fates, Conquest is a turn-based strategy game where you spend most of your time in battles and a little bit of time back at your castle managing your party. Your role is that of a noble child caught between two families, and in Conquest, you side with your adopted family over blood relatives--the opposite is true in Birthright. Despite the caustic setup, Conquest's story is fairly middle-of-the-road, but it introduces a variety of genuinely charming characters that you ride into battle with. And if you're lucky, into bed. Fates allows you to form bonds between characters during combat, and back at base, and you can ultimately make two characters become best friends, or parents who give birth to future soldiers. Can love bloom on the battlefield? It can in Fire Emblem, and producing offspring is vital to your survival in Conquest if you chose to play in Classic mode with permadeath enabled.

Azura is not all she seems.
Azura is not all she seems.

Strategy is born from patiently scanning your enemies and comparing their stats and equipment against your own soldiers'. There are three categories of weapons and, in a rock-paper-scissors arrangement, each one outperforms the other. Before committing to an attack, you can compare yourself against the enemy by looking at the 3DS's lower screen, where the game predicts how much damage a character can give or receive, and how likely they are to hit their mark. Your army is comprised of social butterflies who are quick to grow attached, and the more two characters fight side by side, the faster they will bond and support one another during battle, either by helping you attack or deflecting an incoming blow.

Conquest features a variety of mission objectives that go beyond simply defeating every enemy, calling for new strategies and mixing up the moment-to-moment combat. Sneaking into a labyrinth to seize a key location, or to take out a boss, are two scenarios that force you to go on the offensive, while other missions challenge you to hold your ground against waves of incoming enemies for a set number of turns. You are regularly outnumbered, but in later missions, Conquest becomes even more difficult as new waves of enemies appear with each passing turn.

Now live with the consequences.
Now live with the consequences.

Back at your castle after a fight, you can use the connections forged on the battlefield to stir up conversations between characters, and each of these encounters will increase the pair's support level. The way Fire Emblem Fates intertwines relationship-building with combat is its defining characteristic. How you fight informs your ability to bond with others, and your bonds make you a better fighter. With each mission lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, it's incredibly refreshing to shift your focus to less stressful, more joyful pursuits for a while before jumping back into the fray. The game has a bit of a split-personality, but it works so well because its two halves balance each other out.

Conquest's demanding challenges force you to work hard as a strategist and a matchmaker, but it never lets you revel in either on your own terms. I do appreciate how hard combat is, and I get a lot out of the relationship building opportunities that arise, but I desperately wanted time with my army, on and off the battlefield. Every version of Fates has 28 chapters, but Birthright and Revelations give you the chance to go on scouting missions, where you can give the plot a break to train and get to know your soldiers on a more personal level. No such option exists in Conquest.

The omission of grinding made playing Classic mode in Conquest all the more difficult, but more importantly, it robbed me of gameplay that's readily available in the other versions of the game. For practical reasons, I yearned for the chance to raise my characters' stats before heading into a battle that I knew was too tough, but even when I wasn't facing impossible odds, I just wanted to fight for the sake of fighting without the unrelenting pressure of Conquest's story missions.

"What do you mean you played on permadeath?"

On one hand, the constant push forward ensures that Conquest will be challenging. On the other, you can also enable Phoenix or Casual mode to allow fallen comrades a second lease on life. Furthermore, Birthright can be made just as challenging as Conquest by raising the difficulty level and turning on Classic mode. Realizing this, I felt empty-handed by the lack of optional training missions. Conquest is a lesser game than its counterparts, and the omission of scouting missions isn't quite remedied by a slightly greater variety in mission objectives.

Disappointed as I was, I still enjoyed my time with Conquest. It's got a charming cast of characters that range from vulnerable, to overconfident, to hell-bent on silly pursuits like carb-loading and working out. I fought over two dozen difficult missions that pushed my army--and my brain--to its limit. Not counting numerous attempts to backpedal and keep my allies from dying in Classic mode, it took me 20 hours to beat the game, and I would have gladly spent another 20 grinding for experience and relationships alone, but I didn't have the choice. Conquest is a great game, and I fell for its hardcore lean at times, but when I was backed into a corner after a series of hard fights with no resolution but to lower the difficulty, I wished I was playing Birthright instead.

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The Good
Challenging strategy combat
Delightful cast of characters
Entertaining dating-sim elements
Intelligently blends interpersonal relationships and combat
The Bad
Unremarkable plot
Lacks optional missions found in other versions of Fire Emblem Fates
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Fire Emblem Fates

About the Author

Peter Brown completed most of his journey through Conquest on Classic mode, before dropping down to Casual when the body count climbed and he realized he wanted more time with his steamy love interest, Niles. Nintendo provided GameSpot with copies of the game for this review.
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Cash$pot once agains low balls a review score on a quality game due to it being too hard for them to play. Not everything has to be a pray n spray CoD fest to be enjoyable.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

I am brushing up on the history of the series by watching others' playthroughs and reading up on the wikis for the franchise.

Man, when Shouzou Kaga was around, the games' designs were all over the place - good changes came together with bad ones, fresh and wonderful game mechanisms came together with shitty, ill-conceived ones, and the likes.

For example, the lovey-dovey and next-generation stuff was introduced in Seiken no Keifu, but it also came with the unwelcome change of having inventory management being personalized to each individual named character. The former was great because it increased replayability, but the latter is awful because it is an unnecessary hassle with no appreciable compensation for the trouble which the player has to go through.

Worse still, this limitation is used to allow lovers to share money with each other, which just gives a terrible impression about what Kaga and colleagues think of the sharing aspect of love relationships at the time.

When Kaga left, the franchise's gameplay sort of stagnated, or if it did not, was recycled over and over. Yet, at least it didn't get package deals like the games that Kaga worked on.

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Voice acting...

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@doc-brown I'm here wondering if you'll take another look (for yourself, not review purposes) at Conquest in the light of the EXP DLC being released. That is, the infinitely grind-able Boo Camp. It's the only DLC for Conquest that provides EXP. It's a boring grind-fest if you want to actually grind in Conquest, so yeah, you've got to work for it, but that's kind of the idea. I assume they did it because, well, it's the EXP DLC, and if it didn't provide that to Conquest, then it'd be a completely useless DLC to Conquest players. Additionally, I hope that there's some things that were learned in this comments section. I didn't go through it all myself, but I hope people made recommendations on play style, things that people learn over playing numerous FE games, and strategies that make things easier.

If they've not, let me put in a few myself for those reading: Focus on the avatar in the first six chapters. Try to let them take most of the exp from enemies, with some of it going to Felicia/Jakob as necessary to make things easier at times. Ignore almost everybody else. The higher level a character is, the less exp they gain from each kill, this means higher levels need more kills to level up than lower levels. Over time this means your lower levels aren't leveling up, and you've got 2 or 3 powerful really high level characters, but you're raising an army, not a justice league, the more you have at "Pretty good" the better. Having 2-3 superheroes only gets you so far. Almost every other character that you'll have in the first six chapters is pre-promoted, meaning they're already level 21+. In chapter 6, most characters you have don't gain any exp at all at this point, so for optimal exp gain, ignore those with a - (hyphen) for EXP. Felicia/Jakob are the exception, they're internal level 1, despite already being promoted. This holds true even as you keep going. When you start to receive units who are pre-promoted, you'll notice their exp gain is terrible. They're there "just in case" you need their help. Don't rely on them too much, keep working on your other units who are still under level 20, raise a team, not a hero.

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@jaline: what he said:

boo camp is really all you need in Conquest to get powered up.

I personally like the characters in Conquest better than Birthright. I also feel like Birthright is too much like, "we're the good guys!!! Yay!!!" Where Conquest has the big bad of course, but your companions are in more on the conflict involved with thier dad being an ass.

Plus, bewbs...besides Kagero, Birthright can't compete, fan-service wise, with Conquest.

Uuuugh, can March 10th hurry up and get here? I want to play Revelations noooooooooow!!!

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@doc-brown i really wish your colleague Alexa had reviewed this game. even many top gaming sites gave it an overall 9, you know. i looked it up on the web that only Gamespot gave it 7, and now i'm starting to lose faith with this site when it comes to reviews .

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

I am watching someone else's playthrough of the very first Fire Emblem, and I will say this: the series has come a long, long way, because the very first game is a piece of shit that didn't age well.

For one, Clerics and their advanced classes get EXP by getting attacked in that game - that was utter bullshit, because dudes should be getting EXP for doing what they do best, not for doing (or suffering) what they do worst. In case you are doubting this, here it is - it was a deliberate game design.

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the first (and 2nd) on GBA and the NGC and Wii FEs have the best "gameplay"... , FE 3DS is not that well balanced (the pairing up ruins it a bit), even if the characters and character interactions are best on the 3DS.. hope Fates goes back to the roots a bit more gameplaywise..

never played it on the NES (or SNES??), but the GBA had great gamplay (imo best on NGC and Wii), better than Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@ninboxstation: If what I have seen is the "roots" of the series, I don't want it to go back.

Also, if you call yourself a Fire Emblem fan, you should have known about the NES/Famicom originals.

Personally, I am going through the series right from the very first. I don't want my perception of the series to be coloured by starting with the later entries like you had.

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Conquest was announced to be the "harder" version.. mostly meant for players who finished Birthright or are (hardcore) FF lovers (always playing FFs with permadeath and playing most FFs straight on hard, since FF normal = like easy..)

they got the wrong reviewer for this game (or has no patience resp. has the reviewer curse, needing to get to the review deadline...)

eitherway, I recommend to play Birthright first (perma death / classic). then play Conquest (perma death / classic)... , def play both, but Birthright first..

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With all the controversy between the two versions, the difficulty, the story, and this review, something tells me that I am going to LOVE Conquest.

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Should not have broken up the game into three pieces to begin with!

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@advocacy: The game was never broken up to begin with. It was always intended to be 3 games with 3 different development teams, focuses and stories.

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@thedarkhero: there is a master version or w/e its called. That has all 3 games on one. It may not be intended but it doesn't look like something couldn't do and have already done.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@thedarkhero: Not everyone buys that excuse.

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@Gelugon_baat: then why is the game design so different?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@thedarkhero: I am aware of the developer's efforts to differentiate the gameplay experience, so as to cater to different audiences.

I understand their intentions, but understanding is not the same as acceptance.

The three versions of the game could have been mashed together into the same package. I am saying this, because I remember a time when there were strategy game titles with different campaigns in the same package.

It was more than a decade ago of course, so you could argue that times change. Yet, I doubt that you would disagree that one single large package would have been of more value to a consumer than three separate pieces with their own price tags.

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games today take longer to make and balance.. thats also a part of the reason why they do this.. (same goes for SFV..), sure there's the "Pokemon red/blue" marketing aspect too, but not only

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@ninboxstation: I understand the reasons, but I will also add that I know the devil's details behind the reasons: they have to flesh out the story-telling and aesthetic stuff, two aspects of game designs that add to the cost of the game.

(I would have extended that statement to mission designs too, but having looked at the Birthright chapters, their missions seemed rather simplistic to me, especially when compared to Conquest's.)

With that said, I will concur that the lengths of the campaigns in Fire Emblem Fates are much, much longer than the campaigns in the strategy games of yore which I referred to, and their storytelling is more complex. It would have been costly to make such campaigns.

Yet, I will insist on this: if the game had come in just one package, Fire Emblem Fates would have been a helluva high-value game. That would have been much more awesome than the game being split into three separate products with their own price tags.

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@Gelugon_baat: its because you havent played it. The story and way you play the game drastically changes in each title and quite early on might I add.

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@Sound_Demon: Yeah, I didn't play it - but you know, video games being a medium of sights and sounds, I could just watch somebody else play it, and just read the wikis if I want to know about the gameplay. I already know the three endings and the development of the overarching plots of all three versions, and I also know about the level set-ups.

With that said, do think twice before you imply that first-hand experience with a game somehow makes your argument better. In this age, other people can know what you know about a game quite easily.

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@Gelugon_baat: FILM is a medium of sights and sounds. Gaming is a medium of sight sound and effort. You cannot judge a game if you did not put any effort into it because it is not a passive medium like film. so you can read everything you want off of a wiki will never truly get the idea until you play.

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@thedarkhero: You have made that statement without making any elaboration about what constitutes "effort", and how putting "effort" into a game would make a first-hand experience better than a second-hand one.

The only advantage that I will acknowledge is that first-hand experience grants a person better judgement of the controls of the game. Anything else can be learned through other ways.

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I disagree with the reviewers opinion but I'm not going to throw a bitch-fit over how he plays "easy" games. Reviews are someone elses opinion, keep that in mind.

Avatar image for thequickshooter

conquest is the bad version of fates honestly

If any of you guys wondered what the original script for fates was:

"In Fire Emblem If : Byakuya Oukoku you play as this prince of the glory seeking kingdom of Nohr who is sent out to fight a war against the neighboring peace loving kingdom of Hoshido, but then he gets captured by the Hoshido only to get enamored by their lifestyle, potentially falls in love with this blue haired dancer chick with a nice ass, and then decides to switch sides, joining their cause against the kingdom of Nohr that he was once a part of!"

so originally it was supposed to be a linear game with story that branched out to a turnout point, but they just realized it would be better (and more profitable)

to split the game to 3 choices to give the player any sense of replay-ability

so to honor the original script i'll be going with birthright and then going revelation

completely skipping conquest and saving myself 20$

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@thequickshooter: Dude, all of the scripts are original. They were all made in the drama writer's free time when he was pitched the opportunity.

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@doc-brown I have a quick question. Have you played any FE games from before FE Awakening? Because if you had then you would understand that Conquest is supposed to extremely hard, it is classic Fire Emblem. To those of who are older FE players, it is real Fire Emblem. Awakening did wonderful things for the series, it saved it from dying off, but in the context of the rest of the series it was incredibly easy. Fire Emblem aren't just "kill the boss/rout the enemy" affairs that Birthright/Awakening/Revelation are, they are full of varied mission objectives that force you to change up your strategy from mission to mission. I can't agree with a review that rates a game poorly because it was too hard, especially when the rest of the series (outside of one or two games) is incredibly difficult. I am getting shades of the mixed reviews on Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn with this one.

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@JacketsNest101: To be fair, Radiant Dawn's default "Normal" difficulty was actually the Japansese version's "Hard" difficulty. It was certainly difficult, but still very doable if you payed attention and were careful.

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are you sure., cause normal felt very easy.. switched to hard

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A lot of people are saying that all three games should have been reviewed by the same person which I totally disagree with. Revelations should be reviewed by someone who played Birthright or Conquest because of story elements and even Nintendo strongly recommends that as well. But Conquest and Birthright ARE stand alone games. Well supposedly according to Nintendo...I'm still not totally convinced that they both deserve a $40 retail price but thats another matter. Birthright and Conquest are release in different boxes on our shelves and the average player is not going to play all three games (with the discount that is still $80 for a complete experience for a 3ds game). Stand alone games should get stand alone reviews, but in this case only highlight the differences to inform the reader. If you think otherwise than you are saying a player's impression of one game should be some how affect by the other game. And if that the case then they should not be stand alone games.

In summary if they truly are stand alone games anyone should be able to pick it up and play without owning the other game and that goes the same for the reviews and who reviews them.

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It's a very bad idea to have different people review different parts of the same game.

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yep.. espeically if you're ment to play birthright first, get the hang of it all then play the harder conquest.. (and not start with conquest then whine about how hard it is...)

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After reading this review (and the other two too) I beleive I feel like I will when I have to take the alliance desition, torn. Is not that I hate the review I find that @doc-brown overall did it fairly (obviously I haven't played the game yet so this is only my opinion based on playing many FE before and reading many previews and a couple other reviews). He states the core mechanichs diferencing it to Birthright perfectly, something that is amazingly important to know before you choose which game to play, also he clarifies on the difficulty, important for many new people and people who started with Awakening or didn't enjoy the ones before. He gives an unbiased view on characters and story which is everything I expect and all of this is great.

Yet there is something I think he obvied: Conquest is one third of a game that Nintendo seems to have designed for all the fans and new people to enjoy. Awakening was a great game that came in an inflection point for Nintendo and Inteligent Systems, they needed to bring back many players along with new ones so the series could continue, so they tryed a new formula more easier and it resulted! I loved that game, yet I felt something lacked, I got (a bit) bored of always the same two victory conditions, I yearned for having to survive waves of enemies and escaping a battle you can't win. All because different kinds of confitions make you adapt and learn more as well as refresh the gameplay. Now Nintendo and IS decided to make three games, I beleive for two reasons 1) Conquest and Birthrigh so before Awakening-style players and after Awakening-style players could both enjoy the versions they love 2) Revelation so they could see the response of both targets to an option in between.

Conclusion: Fates seems it is all the better if you find the version that's for you, maybe Peter is more Birthright style, which is perfect, maybe you're more Conquest or Revelation, I've always hoped to play Conquest first of all since I read the first info about the three options. Anyway the important thing is this seem to be a great game no matter the version and tha Peter surely gave his best to give us this review so thanks man, for your opinion.

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Considering the extent of the development effort that went into Fates/If, I can see why Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. was such a let-down. That game was given the side-project treatment even though it was hyped up as a core product.

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I have to agree with the notion of some of the commenters here: the reviewer should have been Corriea, since the other two packages are reviewed by her.

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How anyone could think that this is a worse game than Birthright is beyond me. Having played through both games in their entirety (imports, obviously), I can say that Conquest is, without question, the better game.

Why? By virtue of better strategy gameplay. And it's really not even close. Birthright is like Awakening in that it's essentially just "defeat the boss" for virtually every mission. You just brute force your way to the goal in essentially the same way in every mission. Though thankfully, Birthright enemies don't reinforce at the end of the player turn like they did in Awakening.

Conquests significantly more variable mission objectives and design lends itself to far better gameplay, and at the end of the day, these are video games, and that's what matters. It's not "missing" content, it's different by design, and its design is flat-out better than Birthright's.

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Why was this title reviewed by a different staff member? Shouldn't the trilogy be reviewed by the same individual?

Fire Emblem Fates More Info

  • First Released Feb 19, 2016
    • 3DS
    Two kingdoms at war – the peace-loving Hoshido and the glory-seeking Nohr – It’s up to the player to decide which side to take. As the prince/princess of Hoshido, who was raised by Nohr royal family, you will be torn between two families you love. Whichever path you take, you will face different types of challenges.
    Average Rating43 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Fire Emblem Fates
    Developed by:
    Intelligent Systems
    Published by:
    Turn-Based, Strategy
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes