Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn Review

With a terrible plot and an unforgiving difficulty level, Radiant Dawn is best left alone by anyone but the most hardcore of strategists.

The Fire Emblem series of strategy role-playing games is best known for two things: deep, compelling stories and challenging tactical battles. War-devastated nations, subtle political machinations, and young heroes who rise to the occasion of defeating abject evil to save their people have all been hallmarks of the epic stories that take place, and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn attempts to follow this tried-and-true storytelling method but somehow gets mired along the way. This is despite the fact that it's a direct sequel to the GameCube's Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, which had one of the strongest stories of the series. The strong tactical-combat system is thankfully intact, but the difficulty has been bumped up so high that it at times becomes infuriating, and the end result is a game suited only to hardcore fans of the series or of strategy RPGs in general. If you haven't played a Fire Emblem before, this is not the game for you.

As previously mentioned, Radiant Dawn is a direct sequel to Path of Radiance. It takes place three years after a brutal war in which the nation of Daein and its mad king, Ashnard, attempted to throw the entire world into chaos to free an imprisoned dark god. Ironically, the game begins in the heart of Daein itself. You will take command of Micaiah, the so-called "silver-haired maiden" of the Dawn Brigade, a friendly band of Daeinish rabble-rousers who fight the oppressive Begnion Empire that now occupies their homeland. Throughout your journey, you will encounter many of the allies you met in Path of Radiance--most of whom will once again fight on your side--as well as a cast of entirely new ones. With your army, you will battle a series of villains that are for the most part so laughably one-dimensional that they might as well be cackling while tying young damsels to railroad tracks and twirling their handlebar mustaches. For a series known for its detailed backstories (particularly those of its villains), these knavish ruffians, who act like they're evil because it's the new black, are severely underwhelming and disappointing. To Radiant Dawn's credit, the story and quality of villainy do improve later in the game, but chances are you wouldn't give the story long enough to really develop if that's why you were playing it in the first place.

The gameplay interface is as familiar as ever.
The gameplay interface is as familiar as ever.

The game is divided into four parts, each of which provides a different perspective of the events unfolding--unlike the previous game, Radiant Dawn has no set main character, and it's not uncommon for you to have a different army with a different leader from chapter to chapter. Each chapter consists of a battle or series of battles, and it is in these fights that the vast majority of your time will be invested. Battles feature a variety of goals, such as "defeat all the enemies" or "survive for x turns." They even manage to put a new spin on traditional objectives, such as one mission where you must work alongside an artificial-intelligence-controlled ally and protect its units until they arrive at a specific spot. Like in many strategy RPGs, you will begin combat by selecting which of your units you wish to field onto a grid-based isometric arena, and then fight by taking turns moving and attacking your enemy.

However, unlike in other similar games, each of your units are unique characters that have their own stories and motivations, and they'll die permanently if not carefully guided. To this end, Fire Emblem continues to be more strategic than its peers because you're less likely to take risks that endanger your soldiers. That said, be prepared to restart often because your soldiers will die frequently: Radiant Dawn is easily the most difficult game in the series thus far. Where in previous games in the series the vast majority of your troops could easily take one or two blows and live to tell the tale, you will have no such luxury here as, particularly in the early parts of the game. Your soldiers are for the most part weaker than ever, and the slightest of miscalculations will end in tragedy, even on the easy setting.

Although some may see this as a boon, the difficulty ventures beyond the realm of challenging and into the bitter waters of maddening, and it will easily overwhelm even experienced tacticians. The ability to save in midbattle is a welcome new feature that helps to mitigate the punishing difficulty, but because you are essentially forced to rely on it all of the time, it cheapens the overall experience greatly--unless you like the idea of starting entire battles over again upward of seven times until you can complete them without losing precious allies. There are three difficulty settings, but as previously mentioned, even the easy setting is extremely tough.

As is standard, there are dozens of types of units that you will recruit into your ranks throughout the game, each of which has a different weapon specialty that fits into a rock-paper-scissors combat system: swords trump axes, which trump lances, which trump swords. Magic-wielding units work in a similar way. The laguz--beast-men that can shape-shift into full animal forms--make their return and are thankfully more useful than they were before, but they still play second-string to the various human warriors you will command. Between battles you will generally be able to buy and sell weapons and equipment, learn new important information, and award bonus experience earned in your missions to help level units. As in previous Fire Emblem games, you can pair up your units to earn stat bonuses when they are near one another. The big payoff has always been the often hilarious or backstory-developing conversations between support pairs, and these have unfortunately been reduced to mere battlefield chatter. But considering how uniformly awful the dialogue is, this can be seen as a mixed blessing.

In terms of presentation, if you played Path of Radiance, you've essentially seen everything Radiant Dawn has to offer. Though there are new and more detailed character animations, the overall quality of the game's graphics has had little to no improvement whatsoever. The infrequently seen cel-shaded 3D cutscenes are beautiful and incredibly well done, and it's a shame that the rest of the game didn't look more like them. The soundtrack is good but generally not memorable, and the sound effects are fitting and appropriate. One interesting feature is the ability to port over weapon levels and support relationships from a GameCube memory card that has a Path of Radiance save on it.

Cutscenes like this are the game's graphical high points.
Cutscenes like this are the game's graphical high points.

The biggest problem with Radiant Dawn is that it proves just how firmly rooted Fire Emblem is in its ways; it makes absolutely no effort at all to adapt and change from its predecessors. Despite being a Wii game, it doesn't make any attempt to use any of the system's strengths, such as Mii support, online support, or motion controls and pointing, even though the advantages of such integration should be plainly obvious. There is almost no voice acting, save for the uncommon cutscenes and painfully terrible after-chapter narrations done by Captain Obvious, who repeats everything you just learned in a poorly imitated Movie Trailer Guy voice. Finally, the series' chosen storytelling method--putting sometimes-animated character art over a static background and bombarding you with text--comes across as played out as well. Without any way of tying one stationary backdrop into another (given that cutscenes are so rare), events often occur inexplicably, such as one case early in the game when Micaiah is in a forest one moment and in a prison the next.

Ultimately, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is a huge disappointment. It seems that nothing was learned from the making of Path of Radiance, and as a direct follow-up, Radiant Dawn can't even live up to its predecessor's epic story. The walls of text and unforgiving difficulty level will do nothing but alienate and discourage newcomers and even some veterans, which makes it a game purely for the hardcore crew who are dedicated to the series or the genre--anyone else need not apply.

The Good
Fantastic cel-shaded 3D cutscenes
Good variety of mission goals
Allows midbattle saving
Ability to port clear-game data from Path of Radiance
The Bad
Laughable plot
Frustrating difficulty will alienate newcomers
Doesn't even try to adapt and make use of the Wii
Little to no improvement graphically over its GameCube predecessor
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Avatar image for Shmiity

Hey, it's me again. 5 Years later. This review is absolutely terrible. How can you critique features that are not in the game? "Doesn't make use of motion controls". Thank god it doesn't. And how would you know it would make the game better? That does not make any sense.

Take this horrible review down.

Avatar image for sergeyg

This review is the worst that I have seen by far.

"Laughable plot"

Wait... what?

"Frustrating difficulty will alienate newcomers"

The game is not designated for newcomers in a first place, as it is sequel to Path of Radiance.
As someone whose this was a second Fire Emblem game, after playing Path of Radiance, the Normal difficulty is perfect, especially after playing Path of Radiance that was way too easy on Normal.
That was first time that I had actually to think and plan my next moves.
Everytime that I had to reload my savegame, I deserved it because of the mistakes that I had done and learnt from it. That why for my opinion the difficulty in the first chapters on Normal was just perfect.

"Doesn't even try to adapt and make use of the Wii"

What a joke. Who needs it in Fire Emblem games?

"Little to no improvement graphically over its GameCube predecessor"

It has mature, dark and realistic design which is way better in my opinion than recent Fire Emblem games with a cartoony style and FF old style 2d characters. That's why it's my favourite art style of all Fire Emblem games.

Avatar image for spidermonkey

What a terrible review. The only fair point is that it doesn't make use of motion control, and thank god. Can you imagine how that kind of thing would ruin a fire emblem game? They put a serious game on a party-game console. That's on Nintendo not IS.

"Unforgiving difficulty": Play on easy, and if you were and thought this was difficult, git gud. No, seriously, this entry is one of the easier ones. It's like knocking dark souls for being challenging.

"Laughable story": I don't know how you can praise Path of radiance's dark story line and call Radiant dawn's story laughable, they are in the same vein, except on a much larger and better translated scale. Very few areas are poorly translated, in my opinion.

It's sad to see a gem get such an uninformed professional review. Reviewers should have the experience within a genre to be able to make it through a game on easy mode without complaining about it being too hard.

Avatar image for Odyssey93

It breaks my heart to see such an awful review for such a wonderful game.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

I have just finished watching someone else's playthrough of this game (on New Game Plus), and I have to agree with Anderson here that the story is a piece of hole-filled shit. Path of Radiance was written so well, and then this sequel with its hodge-podge cheese-filled contrived story is the book-ender of the Tellius series - *urgh*.

Avatar image for spidermonkey

@Gelugon_baat: Thanks for letting everyone know you didn't actually play it through. Now we know not to take your comments seriously.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@spidermonkey: Yeah, sure, be an exclusivist. You aren't the first to say that, and you aren't the first to realize that there is not much more things that you would know from having first-hand experience these days.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

The lot of GameSpot users before me are fucking fanboys really. They swallow anything Fire Emblem and call it good.

Fortunately, most of them are gone now. Good fucking riddance - GameSpot, or any other game site for that matter, is better off with less fanboys.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

Having learned about the game, I have to agree with the reviewer here: this game is a piece of shit compared to Path of Radiance.

Firstly, the difficulty curve is all over the place. For example, the starting soldiers and brigands are push-overs, but the archers would wreck the party if they are not attacked in melee, thus necessitating strategies that revolve around drawing away their screening compatriots - in other words, cheesy tactics that take advantage of the otherwise idiotic computer-controlled opponent are necessary. As another example of poor balance, the player gets the Thani tome rather early on (from a flipping chest no less), turning Micaiah into a glass cannon. Afterwards, the second and third parts of the game are there to show how stupid powerful returning characters have become, i.e. they are straight fan-service.

Secondly, the writing is just crap compared to Path of Radiance's. For example, most of the characters in Path of Radiance has some character development, but many in this one doesn't, like Laura, Sothe and Aran; they are just one-note characters, just as lazily done as Ilyana. Also, there is an unseemly dependency on deux ex machina plot tropes worked into the story, namely the powerful yet laughably fragile Blood Pacts. Furthermore, the sequel dropped the Support Conversation system, which provided so much supplementary story-telling in the previous game.

(The only thing that made Sothe more complex as a character is his friendship with Tormod, Micaiah being practically his mother and him looking up to Ike - and even so his value as a character came from other far better-developed characters.)

Thirdly, whoever designed the game has some shitty conception of what "hard" means. Some hard mode "features" remove gameplay designs that are meant for user-friendliness, such as the visual indicators for how far characters can move. This omission just makes a playthrough more tedious and it is not a genuine challenge in my eyes.

Finally, the shifting perspectives may seem rather unique for a Fire Emblem game, but its consequences with regards to the gameplay become apparent as soon as the first battle of one group of player characters against the other happens; if the player has been powering up one group, that group becomes a severe threat against the other. Furthermore, the player's current group can have characters die permanently, while the other group somehow has its members spared from death because they can somehow retreat - it's a glaring disparity, one that turns the player's earlier successes against the player himself/herself. This will not be fun for everyone.

The review up there should have included these, in addition to the relatively pettier things that it did mention.

Avatar image for YoshiYogurt

This review is still a joke. Easily one of the best Fire Emblem games.

Avatar image for Oil_Rope_Bombs

I haven't logged into this site for ages, but reading this review compelled me to do so. Let me tell you, this is quite possibly one of the worst reviews on this site, maybe even the entire internet.

Avatar image for Shmiity

Take this review down. This might be the worst review on Gamespot. "It doesnt make use of Wii motion". Why are we critiquing things that are not in the game? This is awful.

Avatar image for Nintendo_ltd

Should i get one what will be: Path of Radiance or Radiant Dawn?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@Nintendo_ltd: Path of Radiance.

Avatar image for spidermonkey

@Gelugon_baat: You know Path of Radiance costs around 310USD right now.

Avatar image for Shmiity

Wow, this review is f*cking horrendous. This guy says "THE GAME IS UNFORGIVINGLY DIFFICULT". You can save EVERY TURN (which is also stated?). This review is trash, and in no way reflects the qualities of this game. "It doesnt make use of the wii motion"? What a joke. This is embarrassing.

Avatar image for B_K_RaNDoN

<< LINK REMOVED >> The only dumb ass here is you.

Avatar image for david60639

Take this trash review down!

Avatar image for D3dr0_0

Get the hell out of here this game is good.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Both of you can't take different opinions on games that you like, can you? That said, you are going to say the same thing about other sites when they give you reviews that you don't like.

Avatar image for Rod90

This review was a joke when it was written. I still remember the "lack of Mii support" that was displayed in the "The Bad" section.

Avatar image for mirrorcle9

<< LINK REMOVED >> It really was/is a joke. The negatives are just insane...the game has an easy mode that is just fine for newcomers to the series(it was my first game in the series actually), taking advantage of Wii features is not neccessarily a good idea for this type of game and not doing it is certainly better than forcing you to use these features(Hello, Zelda TP Wii Version!) and the graphics are just fine. They are not state-of-the-art but most certainly good enough for the game.

Avatar image for Nintendo_ltd

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I just have played TP and the controls are good to great, only bad thing is the lack of the 360 camera that i used all the time on WW with the c-stick

Avatar image for Rod90

<< LINK REMOVED >> I agree with everything in your post, except the part about Zelda TP, cause I think the wii controls were great.

Avatar image for zeron95

<< LINK REMOVED >> It still is a joke. I switched to IGN after this review came out and when I decided to give them another chance, I saw their Skyward Sword review and said "Screw it."

Avatar image for Nintendo_ltd

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> screw tom mac ari

Avatar image for Rod90

<< LINK REMOVED >> Yeah, I kinda agree. GameSpot has the best community, but I don't trust their reviews anymore.

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn More Info

  • First Released Nov 5, 2007
    • Wii
    Command the Dawn Brigade as you struggle to end oppession in the country of Daein.
    Average Rating2237 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
    Developed by:
    Intelligent Systems
    Published by:
    Strategy, Turn-Based
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Fantasy Violence, Mild Language