Lyn Reviews: Fire Emblem Heroes (Full Review)

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Developer/Publisher: Intellegent Systems Co., Ltd./Nintendo
Platform(s): Android, iOS
Price: Free, with IAP
Discovery: Friends
Playtime: Approx. 6 hours

Clearly this game is all the rage because lot of my friends have been playing it! The hype almost reminds me of when Pokemon Go came out. Well, I’m not sure if it’s as big as Pokemon has a fairly wider appeal. In fact, while I’ve definitely heard about Fire Emblem and even seen gameplay, I’ve yet to get my hands on any of the titles. So, bare in mind: I’ll be writing on the basis that I’ve never played a Fire Emblem game before. Hopefully it won’t take away too much from the experience.

First things first: if you’ve read my other gacha game posts, then you’ll know that for whatever reason I’m pretty lucky when it comes to drawing good characters. Ahaha, so even before getting into this game, guess who I got…~

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It didn’t take long for me to realize why he is one of – if not – the best units in the game atm.

So, Fire Emblem Heroes is a strategy game with a bit of card-collecting thrown in. Your main method of acquiring units is by summoning them through orbs, which the main premium currency in the game (though you can unlock a fair amount for free as you progress). As you build up your team, the actual gameplay involves carefully positioning your units and making use of the “weapon triangle” advantage on various maps. The movement is in a grid-fashion, and the strategy comes from the fact that each unit brings something different to the table.

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Tile colors: Blue = move to, Red = attack, Green = buff

Notice in the screenshot above the little weapon triangle, as I mentioned. It’s basically a rock-paper-scissors deal and every unit is assigned to one of *four* actually. Not shown in the triangle are gray-colored units. While they don’t have weapon advantages, they often grant other benefits. For example, Bow-users like Takumi are very effective against flying units, and Stave-users like Elise are able to heal.

Another neat feature in FEH is that each unit is able equip various skills, which further add to the strategy and opens up a variety of team comps. For example, something I’ve been testing out at the moment is using Olivia, a red sword-user who has the skill: Dance, which allows an ally to move twice.

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At the moment, there are a variety of modes in the game listed under Battle. Story, which should be one of the first things you should aim to clear; Training Tower, meant to help you level your units faster; Special Maps to get units and other resources; and Arena, which is probably what you’ll be spending your end game on. There’s also a locked area which I’m assuming is Live PvP or something along the lines…?

The Good

+ The visuals are fantastic. You can tell there’s a lot of polish going into FEH. The UI looks appealing, though navigation could probably be improved. As a gacha game, I pay extra attention to the art, and it delivers for the most part (save for a couple exceptions.) Plus, those Chibi sprites are really cute. Though rare, the game also incorporates a bit of 3D scenes (into movie, and when you acquire a focus 5* hero). It definitely reminds me of playing a DS game, haha.

+ There’s a lot of potential for the future. Fire Emblem is a huge franchise with plenty of characters in store to be released. And based on the updates the game so far, I’m fairly confident Nintendo and IS are working hard to further improve the game to meet player demands.

+ A new game means new discoveries to be made. The meta is not set, and people are still coming up with interesting compositions and playstyles, which is great. I think the main reason holding a lot of progress back is due to how much it requires to invest in a unit, though.

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The Bad

– Stamina costs are ridiculous. Swords only refresh once a day. It is so frustrating to have so little progress for each session. Oh, you just cleared 3 rounds of story and it took you 15 minutes, tops? Come back in a few hours. There really is so little to do.

– Arena score is depending on how well you can min/max, not by how much you play. I feel like this is strange design that’s different from what I’m used to in a lot of other mobile games with similar PvP.

Your ranking is determined based on your performance after seven rounds that factors in a variety of conditions, like the difficulty of the enemies, the overall amount of stats your party has, and how much damage you dealt and took in return. This score is pretty much set unless you can best it in after another seven rounds.

What that means is that you really can’t brute force your way into better rankings since it’s so dependent on your team and what units you have. There’s no actual climbing, it’s just topping your own previous score and how that compares to everyone else. I feel like this really limits strategy as it just reinforces a meta. If you’re out to play competitively, you can’t run a team of all waifus when you know that the score will be higher with all 5* of certain units.

…tbh I’m not so sure where I was going by typing all this up, but ultimately I’m going to chalk it up as a bad thing. Maybe once I play more of the game I’ll get a better grasp of this idea and see where it goes.

– Upgrading a unit. All units have the potential to become 5*. Unfortunately, the sheer cost of getting a unit that isn’t already 5* takes up a ton of hero feathers. And the only reliable way to get them are achievements which are few, and to send home unwanted heroes, which requires a bit of whaling to summon them to begin with. Feathers are such a commodity that only the best units with the right stats should be invested in.

– Nature is a bummer. So, to add a bit of uniqueness to each unit, IV variation exits. So my Takumi may have little more attack but less resistance than your Takumi. This sounds nice on the surface, but actually complicates things for the worse. For one, getting a 5* is hard enough, but can dampening upon finding out your unit has less than ideal stats. 😦 This is a pretty big deal when that difference in the speed stat, for example, could mean the difference on whether my unit double attacks to kill off an enemy and lives, or dies from a counter attack. This of course, affects the arena score.

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Improvements

• Lower the stamina cost for each stage OR increase the maximum capacity. 50 stamina is not enough to compensate for how much some of these stages cost. It’s a rip-off considering how short actual gameplay is. And don’t even get me started on what happens if you’re unfortunate enough to fail a stage.

• C-can I get a little more orbs? Please? No monthly package, no daily achievements…how is a F2P person to survive…!

• Adjust the hero feather cost or implement more ways to get them. What is a strategy game where you can’t strategize due to resource limitations ~

Final Thoughts

When I started writing this review I’ll admit I was kind of frustrated with the limitations in place, but after settling with the game for a couple days, have gone to like it a bit more. The game has been pretty swift with its updates and responsiveness, so that leads me to be hopeful. Then again, I haven’t fully reached “end game” for FEH yet, so I’m still figuring things out. Nonetheless, the game has just quite enough for me to stay interested enough to keep playing, so let’s see where it goes.

RATING:

• Gameplay – 7/10 If my research is correct, then FEH actually plays out like many of its other titles. What I really enjoy is that there is a bit of strategy involved in building the right team and utilizing skills and positioning. Too bad there are times it does feel like the round is over fairly quickly.

• Story/Concept – 6/10 Having not played the previous FE games, I can’t help but feel like I’m sort of missing out on some references and whatnot. Because of this, purely based on what I know from the game, the story is a little meh. You travel to each world (I’m assuming each FE game) and beat some sense into your enemies until they realize they’re being manipulated and controlled. Well, yeah, I’m totally glossing over on some details but for the most part the dialogue is almost formulaic. You encounter enemy, enemy says stuff, you defeat the enemy, enemy either runs off or admits that you are a formidable opponent and you earn their respect. I guess there really isn’t enough out for me to make a final judgement, but let’s hope newer chapters can really enlighten us…

• Graphics/Art – 8/10 I feel like some of the artwork is really hit or miss, as it’s not consistent. For example, the hero, Arthur, really stands out and looks pretty cartoon-y. Does he look like that in the other FE games? Anyway, what I also really like are the animations that play during combat. It’s pretty fun…for the first hour or so playing this game. ^^;; Afterwards you pretty much turn it all off because it gets old pretty fast. Especially when you’re grinding the same maps over and over.

• Audio/Sound/BGM – 7/10 Ewww English dubs. It gets me every time I hear the main menu. FIRE EMBLEM. HEROES. Well, it’s not too bad, but it’s really rare to find English dubbing that really fits the characters. The music and other sound effects is pretty unnoticeable.

• Bang-for-your-buck4/10 This is where I really have to ding FEH. I feel like if the game was made as a one time purchase/single-player game, it would do fantastic. But instead, we have some poorly made F2P decisions that end up hurting the overall gameplay experience. I really can’t get into FEH when I’m forced to only play for such short periods at a time due to the various resource limitations. And there’s no way I’m going to pay to restore my stamina or whatever. It’s not worth it. The game falls short in creating that “carrot-on-a-stick” feeling that’s supposed to keep players like me going along. The F2P wall is hit way too fast.

FINAL SCORE: 6.4/10

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