I’ve never been a huge fan of the Fire Emblem series despite playing most of them, many to completion. I love turn-based strategy, however, and Fire Emblem is undoubtedly some of the best turn-based tactics and strategy games out there. They’re usually a blend of epic story, interpersonal relationships, and permadeath that no other series quite matches. I’ve played other games like Fire Emblem that I would consider homage, but there are few that I’ve played that I would say are direct Fire Emblem clones—Dark Deity is definitely more clone than homage, for better or worse.
Dark Deity is a turn-based tactics game where you control a group of fighters as they navigate their way from fresh recruits to hardened warriors. It’s not just in the style of Fire Emblem, it is basically Fire Emblem in almost every way, except for a few critical points that make Dark Deity a little harder to get into. I’m not trying to discount the efforts of Dark Deity’s development efforts, however, as it’s a solidly built game that incorporates almost every hallmark from the Fire Emblem franchise, with little deviation from the course. It does have a cast of interesting characters, with reams of dialogue between them. If you liked the character bonding mechanics in Fire Emblem, it’s handled decently in Dark Deity as well. Even dialogue is handled similarly, with characters not voicing full lines, but grunting or adding a word here and there for emphasis. Nothing feels quite as polished as a proper Fire Emblem outing, however, and if you’re not familiar with Fire Emblem, it might be a bit hard to get into Dark Deity.
Dark Deity doesn’t really teach you how to play its style of turn-based tactics: it assumes you already know. This is the most egregious error Dark Deity makes from an objective standpoint, but honestly, most who specifically seek out Dark Deity probably have some playtime in a Fire Emblem title. But for people who stumble across Dark Deity without prior knowledge, it doesn’t really do a good job of explaining its systems. For instance, while Bonding characters is essential, and has real results for the tactical gameplay, I’m not sure the game even introduced me to the concept. I was just met with a “Bonding” option in a menu between battles. Dark Deity also does away with Fire Emblem’s iconic and easy to remember rock, paper, scissors method of battle—spear beats sword, sword beats axe, axe beats spear– and replaces it with a system that is more like a conventional role-playing game.
As far as the actual turn-based combat, Dark Deity does a good job. Fights feel tactical, and while odds often feel overwhelming, the difficulty always sat as a nice balance of never being too hard, or too easy. It should be noted I was playing on the “recommended” difficulty level, which is between the easier and harder options. But while the combat was serviceable, I found a lot of the battle maps felt empty or even unfinished. It’s apparent that a lot of work and love has gone into the character designs for the thirty-something playable character in Dark Deity, but I found myself wishing more attention to detail was put into the combat scenarios. I also wish there was more enemy variety, or story elements to make the fights less monotonous as some battles feel like they drag on for a very long time.
Overall, I think Dark Deity does a good job as a Fire Emblem clone, and would actually be considered a decent Fire Emblem game. It doesn’t do much to rock the boat or drift from the Fire Emblem formula, except when it comes to the way weapons and weaknesses work—and I much prefer the simple, but tactically deep system Fire Emblem employed. However, I enjoyed playing Dark Deity, even if some of the battles felt like they dragged on with lots of units on screen, and not much to break up the monotony of the action. But as a turn-based tactics game, it’s fun to play, and definitely scratches that Fire Emblem itch.
Dark Deity is available now for PC via Steam.
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