Game Review: Fire Emblem Warriors – Formulaic, Tedious, but Serviceable

Photo courtesy of Koei Tecmo

The Nintendo Switch has finally gotten a Fire Emblem game… sort of. Well, okay, not really. Fire Emblem Warriors is actually a game in the long running Dynasty Warriors franchise, known for large scale conflicts and the ridiculously powerful fighters that wade through entire companies of soldiers like they’re a gentle rolling stream. Dynasty Warriors, a hack and slash action spin-off of the extremely long running Romance of the Three Kingdoms series,  has co-opted many different franchises to reskin their games. From Gundam to Legend of Zelda, there have been multiple franchises that donned the Dynasty Warriors gameplay.

Photo Courtesy of Koei Tecmo

Fire Emblem is traditionally a squad sized turn-based strategy game with an emphasis on story and interpersonal relationships. Another longstanding theme in the Fire Emblem series is perma-death – once you lose a party member, they were gone for good.  Despite the completely disparate gameplay, Fire Emblem fits perfectly into the Dynasty Warriors formula and takes a few of its quirks with it. The same partially animated, mostly static anime style cutscenes exist. Members of your squad that fight together grow bonds which make them more effective. Perma-death exists, but as with most Fire Emblem games, it can be turned off. Many of the RPG elements from Fire Emblem made it over to its Warriors counterpart, including crafting, inventory management, and character levels. The weapon triangle used in many Fire Emblem games comes into play, which is probably the biggest gameplay modifier to the Dynasty Warriors formula – axe units are stronger versus lance units, but weak versus swords, etc. That’s mostly it for the Fire Emblem elements. Sure, the story is all Fire Emblem with recent franchise staples like Robin, Chrom, Frederick and company all making appearances, but it is held up by an indisputably Dynasty Warriors framework.

Photo Courtesy of Koei Tecmo

Most of the gameplay is identical to the majority of Dynasty Warriors games – for good or for bad. There is a certain catharsis in the power you wield as a character in a Dynasty Warrior game. It is not uncommon to leave a battlefield after slaying over one thousand soldiers, and battles usually last no more than 15 minutes. The hordes of common foot soldiers are at best fodder, and at worst just an obstacle to run around – or through. There are bases to capture and defend, depending on the mission. Enemy reinforcements and more powerful named characters dynamically enter and leave battles depending on the situation. You can order units to attack or defend, or move to assist you in tougher battles, but their AI is not nearly as aggressive as if a player was controlling them.

Photo Courtesy of Koei Tecmo

This all sounds great on paper: powerful player controlled characters that can toss around hundreds of enemies at once like they’re no more than a pile of feathers. And it can be fun the first few game you play. But this same Dynasty Warriors formula has existed in almost the exact same form it’s in now since Dynasty Warriors leapt from fighting game to war game 17 years ago. Even if you aren’t burnt out from the Dynasty Warriors formula, being a crazy-powerful being loses its charm after a while. You aren’t exactly invincible and Fire Emblem Warriors can be somewhat difficult at times – there is just an amount of tedium involved.

Photo Courtesy of Koei Tecmo

There is no online multiplayer functionality, but there is split-screen multiplayer. The Dynasty Warriors series has traditionally been more fun with a friend sharing the action, and Fire Emblem Warriors has the extra benefit of portability, an inherent benefit to any Nintendo Switch game. Split-screen multiplayer does have some framerate issues, but it is still fun and completely playable. My biggest gripe with split-screen is that the mini-map can be somewhat hard to read during split-screen play. There is no shared mini-map, so they both also take up valuable screen space that could have been avoided if they were just shared. This is a problem common in Dynasty Warriors and not limited to Fire Emblem Warriors.

If you really must play a Fire Emblem game, and don’t mind if that game is just a Dynasty Warriors game dressed up as Fire Emblem, this could work for you. If you’re a Dynasty Warriors fan who hasn’t tired of the formula, Fire Emblem translates perfectly to the Warriors format. If you’re a fan of both, this is a no-brainer. Otherwise, there really isn’t anything that Fire Emblem Warriors offers anyone else besides the chance at semi-tedious, portable, split screen co-op.  Fire Emblem Warriors is available now on Nintendo Switch.

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