A game with branching storylines is not unusual these days. But Fire Emblem Fates: Special Edition (known as Fire Emblem if in Japan) takes the idea a step further, with three distinctly separate routes that follow their own plot lines. The three routes are named Birthright, Conquest, and Revelation. Each of these starts off the same, with your customisable protagonist being torn between two countries and two families. The story diverges at Chapter 6, where you have to make a choice as to which side you will support.
Combat and conflict are the main aspects driving both the story and gameplay of Fire Emblem Fates, with each chapter and side-story a set battle map, so it’s very important it has a good combat system. Luckily, it does. Fire Emblem Fates, as previous titles in the series, uses turn-based strategy. It’s a tried-and-true system which works very well with Fire Emblem’s specific quirks keeping the combat style interesting. With over 50 classes available across the routes, different weapon types with different attributes, and lots of characters to use, there are plenty of options for customisation to build your army just how you want it.
A popular game mechanic that allows you to further build your army, which has returned from Fire Emblem Awakening, the previous title in the series, is children. Relationships can be formed between various characters, primarily by fighting together during battles, and many pairings can produce children which you can then recruit as another character for your army. Building these relationships is a fun aspect of the game, and the support conversations you are privy to as these relationships progress are sometimes the most touching and amusing parts of the game.
A new feature to the series is My Castle. Acting as your base, this is where you have access to shops, item gathering, various interactions with characters, and a host of buildings you can unlock as you go along, such as the arena and the lottery. My Castle also incorporates Multiplayer. Both local wireless and online multiplayer are possible, and players encountered via StreetpassTM also appear in your My Castle. You can visit others’ My Castles, fight their teams, exchange accessories and more. If you have enough interactions with another player, this can even give ‘birth’ to a new character you can use in your army.
The game has a wide appeal; as a tactical RPG, it suits both RPG and Strategy fans. Even those who do not normally dabble in these genres should get something out of it, as the thought-provoking story, colourful cast of characters, and lovely music tie together to make a well-crafted game. With the more relaxed Phoenix and Causal modes (death is temporary for one turn, or the end of the battle, respectively) to compliment the harder Classic mode (permadeath), the game has options for both causal and hardcore gamers alike.
So you want to give Fire Emblem Fates a go, the question is, which version? If you want to experience all three paths, it’s not as easy as popping in your cartridge and away you go, unless you were one of the lucky few who picked up the Limited Edition with all three routes. Both Birthright and Conquest are available as physical copies or digitally, whereas Revelation is available only digitally as DLC, aside from the aforementioned Limited Edition.
Birthright is set in Hoshido, a country with more Eastern influences, with classes such as Ninja and Diviner being standard. Conquest is set in the more Western Nohr, where classes like Knight and Cavalier are more common. Conquest has a darker look about it, seen in the games main artwork, compared to Birthright’s lighter palette.
The easier route is no doubt Birthright. For those who played the very enjoyable Fire Emblem Awakening, you’ll find Birthright the most similar. This is due to Birthright having opportunities to battle outside of the main story chapters, meaning you have more access to gold and experience to develop your units. If you are new to the Fire Emblem series, or Strategy games in general, this would be my recommendation to start out.
Conquest is the more difficult path, as your experience and gold are almost solely limited to what you can gain in the main story chapters. With limited experience points to share between your units, if you want to create a strong, balanced army you have to plan carefully, making Conquest the more difficult experience. This is best suited to those who like more of a challenge, or prefer the systems used by the older Fire Emblem games.
However, it’s worth considering that the DLC for the games is now released, allowing more freedom in both games for those who pick up said DLC, through map packs which give access to more gold, EXP and items. So don’t feel limited to a specific route, if you prefer the look of the Nohrian army and story, but don’t like much of a challenge, you can always put it on an easier mode and use the extra map packs.
Once you’ve acquired either Birthright or Conquest, you’ll be able to pick up Revelation. The game itself recommends you to leave Revelation until last, as it contains spoilers for the first two paths. If you want to play all three paths, it’s recommended that you don’t purchase both Birthright and Conquest as physical copies, as you can get the second of these routes at a discounted price digitally (this also prevents you from having to buy DLC more than once, and unlocks some extra class items in-game for having multiple routes). It’s a little complicated, but you shouldn’t let it put you off. Fire Emblem Fates, whichever version you choose, is well worth your time.
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