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Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright Review


See PixlBit's Review Policies On 03/14/2016 at 12:05 PM by Julian Titus

For Hoshido!
The Bottom Line: Fans of tactical RPGs with a hint of dating sim.

After three long years, Fire Emblem returns to the 3DS in the form of not one, not two, but three different versions. While the idea of “splitting” the game of Fire Emblem Fates into two retail releases (Birthright and Conquest) and a third downloadable title (Revelations) could be seen as a lazy cash grab from detractors, the execution is anything but. Each game packs in as much content as the 2013 Fire Emblem: Awakening, but gives players a choice in their playstyle preference. Birthright allows would-be tacticians to grind out levels in random battles, while the more challenging Conquest takes its cues from the older Fire Emblem games. This review is based on Birthright.

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is structured much like Awakening. After customizing your protagonist (also somewhat amnesiac, albeit not to the extent of Awakening’s Robin) you set out to do war on multiple battlefields. By chapter 6 you have a serious choice to make: side with your birth family (Birthright), or choose to stay with the family that raised you (Conquest). If you decide that you like the path of the game you didn’t choose you have the option to purchase it as DLC for an additional $20.

Birthright’s army is from Hoshido, and all of the units have a feudal Japanese flair; your ninjas and samurai will square off against the kingdom of Nohr’s knights and wizards. It serves as a nice style change, especially if you are at all interested in playing through both games. Sure, both armies have the same types of units, but they reflect the flavor of the country they come from. Nohr’s wizards cast spells from arcane tomes, while Hoshido employs diviners who bring forth spirit animals from ancient scrolls. Both classes provide the same services, but they are distinct to each army, which adds weight to the choice you are forced to make.

Sticking with your choices is a hallmark of the series, as permadeath is still a large part of Fire Emblem. You can opt to have your fallen comrades come back at the end of a battle, but I would say that part of Fire Emblem’s tactical charm is living with your strategic errors. It lends a sense of finality to every battle decision, and while it is true that you can just reload a save to get that unit back, at some point you may find yourself so close to winning a grueling battle that you have to accept the loss of a loyal soldier.

As introduced in Fire Emblem: Awakening, units that work together by standing next to each other during encounters will develop a support affinity. This has real benefits, as units with a higher relationship rating will add bonus stats that could mean the difference between life and permadeath. On a deeper level, characters can fall in love and have children, which can eventually join your army.

Unfortunately, the overall translation leaves something to be desired here. While the script and conversations in Fates are serviceable, it is lacking a lot of personality that I lauded so much in Awakening. While the conversations between my troops in the previous game was a high point for me, I find myself barely paying attention to a lot of the incidental text in Fates. It’s a disappointment for sure, but did little to detract from my love of the gameplay.

That’s because the battles in Fire Emblem are still fantastic. There are few things as satisfying as maneuvering my units to rout an enemy, or as exhilarating as seeing a character just barely survive death. I found Birthright to be quite a bit easier than Awakening, with some odd difficulty spikes towards the end. It was nothing that some extra grinding couldn’t overcome, but with so many battles being decidedly one sided I found it perplexing when things took a sudden turn in the late game.

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is a complete package, offering a good 20-30 hours of play depending on how much time you want to put into the extra challenge battles or invasions of your home castle. It is rare that a portable game can hold me, but just as in 2013 I have fallen deep into the Fire Emblem well, and I look forward to tackling Conquest and Revelations.

VERDICT
BUY

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Homelessrook

03/14/2016 at 12:58 PM

I'm having fun with Conquest right now. I hope to get Birthright for my BD.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

03/16/2016 at 08:19 PM

I am scared/looking forward to Conquest. I will probably wait a bit to play it, because Birthright kind of consumed me.

Homelessrook

03/16/2016 at 08:21 PM

I plan to get the DLC that is avalible right now, 5 bucks for both, hopefully something good comes out of it. I have been torn between it and The Division over here.

KnightDriver

03/18/2016 at 04:54 PM

Been playing Birthright a little at a time, very little at a time. I am maybe 7 hours into it. I think I like it, but I really need to find more time for it. So far it's been very easy and I haven't felt the need to change equipment (because I haven't picked up anything much) or to tweak much of anything except to feed my troops some fish and peaches. About all I do in combat is send Azura in behind an attacker to sing to him/her, giving him/her another move. I think if I spent more than a half hour at a time with this, I'd figure out more to do, but so far it's been pretty hands off.

I'm playing on Casual, the default setting, but maybe I should've played permadeath to make it more interesting.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

03/20/2016 at 03:06 PM

I lost Azura about halfway through, which definitely changed things quite a bit for me. My big gun is Setsuna the archer, but I have to keep her covered since she's squishy.

KnightDriver

03/22/2016 at 02:10 AM

I wanted to be an archer from the start but there's no weapons to switch to yet. Kind of disappointing. 

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