I was so hyped for Fire Emblem Engage after I dumped nearly 100 hours into Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but there were a few things that gave me pause when I picked it up. I may still pour a hundred hours into this, but the more I play, the more shallow everything feels. It’s like Nintendo was more concerned with hastily pumping out the next Fire Emblem game instead of actually making an interesting installment..
Engage is, without a doubt, the most fan serviced Fire Emblem game. I mean, come on, it has all of the classic characters, like Marth, Ike, and Lucina. It’s easy to sell someone on Fire Emblem Engage, but it couldn’t grab my attention as well as its predecessor. The intensity and stakes were severely lacking. It’s fun and I love romancing characters, but overall, this is such a lackluster Fire Emblem entry. It’s hard to recommend it for the best Nintendo Switch games.
Fire Emblem Engage made me feel like I was a passenger in the journey instead of an active participant in a roleplaying game.
I don’t play Fire Emblem games for the combat. It’s always been a hurdle to get over to the fun roleplaying moments with my favorite characters. However, I do enjoy customizing my characters’ builds and seeing how effective they are in combat.
If you’re not familiar with Fire Emblem, it’s a turn-based strategy game that relies on a rock-paper-scissor combat formula with a few extra additions. Getting accustomed to the mechanics is easy, but if you’re invested, it can get really complex. Each Fire Emblem game has a gimmick, and Fire Emblem Engage’s fresh take is its Emblem Rings.
You’ve probably seen the art of recognizable Fire Emblem characters like Marth, Ike, and Lucina appearing in Fire Emblem Engage. They are Emblem Rings: equipable rings that’ll give you stat bonuses, new weapons, and new abilities. For example, Celica has an ability called Warp Ragnarok, which lets you warp up to 10 spaces and make a powerful magic attack.
You can throw these rings on whomever you’d like, but if you want to play intelligently, especially if you’re on a harder difficulty, you must figure out which characters synergize best with which Emblem Rings. Or you can be like me and just Google it. I use Game8’s guides.
What’s most fun for me is deciding which classes are best for my characters. I went on entire journeys to get Yunaka and Anna to be a Wolf Knight and a Sage, respectively. It’s really neat seeing all of your hard work pay off when you get a character to a class that synergizes well with their stat growth.
Too much ANIME
Fire Emblem Engage is about a sleeping deity, Divine Dragon Alear, that awakes at the same time as a world threat, Fell Dragon Sombron, appears. Your goal is to unite the kingdoms to battle this threat, but unfortunately, it’s not as cool as it sounds. I have fond memories of Fire Emblem: Three Houses so maybe I blocked it out, but I cannot remember it being as cringey as Fire Emblem Engage.
Alear acts like an oblivious child throughout most of the game without a lick of backbone in them. That is incredibly frustrating considering they’re supposed to be the Divine Dragon, the deity of this universe. I get they have amnesia and the whole world is new to them, so they have more capacity for empathy, but the developers could not have written them to be more obnoxious if they tried. It’s like the writers dumped hundreds of anime into an AI and had it spit out the most generic dialogue it could imagine. All of the other characters have their cringey moments as well, but it does not come close to the crap that Alear says.
Alear just rolls with whatever is happening and asks all the wrong questions, sticking to their lame one-dimensional perspective. I honestly would have preferred if they were silent like Byleth in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Give me meaningless dialogue choices instead of having to listen to this person speak. Even then, at least Three Houses had impactful narrative decisions. There’s nothing like that in Engage.
Fire Emblem Three Houses was intense; you picked a side, and eventually, came to terms with killing your own students because they were on the wrong side of a war. It depicted the horrors of war and what it does to the people around you — and did so surprisingly well for an anime-like game. I feel none of that when I play Engage. It's just a linear journey toward the bad guy.
My romance simulator
I love Fire Emblem games for their characters, and the most exciting part of it is the romance. Unfortunately, Fire Emblem games don't have the best romance mechanics or narratives, as they're usually short and sweet. That doesn't stop me from agonizing the entire time about who I'm going to share the Pact Ring with — Engage’s romance mechanic.
Right now, my favorite characters are Yunaka and Ivy. The former for her spunky attitude and shady past, and the latter for her mystique and, let's be honest, voluptuousness. It sucks that I can pick only one — where are my polyamorous romance options? I wanna catch em all, damn it!
It is nice that you’re not gender-locked out of romance options. So regardless if you pick the feminine or masculine avatar of Alear, you’ll be able to romance anyone you’d like. I won’t lie; Diamant was up there for me. I like them muscles.
No classrooms, no time
One thing I love and hate about Fire Emblem Engage is that you have all the time in the world to interact with the game's hub, Somniel. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you could only participate in a limited number of activities per day.
Obviously being free is great, so why do I kinda hate it? It's a bit overwhelming. There's too much to do and all of it doesn't feel very impactful. I love that I can easily increase my support bonds with other characters without having to wait for days, but that incentive kept my attention in the previous game.
With freedom, I don't feel compelled to do things, and this was especially the case in the beginning when I didn’t have much to do anyway. In Three Houses, you had to spend time training your student's proficiencies, but in Engage you can just buy them with Emblem Ring training. It's convenient, but I get to my character goals so quickly that I lose interest in continuing forward.
The only thing that keeps me moving is unlocking new characters, otherwise I wouldn't have much to do apart from grind the story. As I've mentioned before, combat isn't my idea of fun, so by letting me speedrun the roleplay aspects, there aren't enough things for me to do.
All of the activities in Somniel don't really engage with the other characters. Cooking is probably the only interesting one because it delivers stat buffs and unique dialogue for each character. Things like Strength Training and Wyvern Flight could have benefited from character interactions. Even support-building options (e.g., the Recreation activity) could have had some fun dialogue — and that activity was an update after the game launched.
There’s not a lot of roleplay in this tactical role-playing game. I criticized Three Houses for not making choices as impactful as they could’ve been, and in an indirect response, Fire Emblem Engage completely removed all choices. This is the polar opposite of what I wanted out of the next Fire Emblem game.
Engage is great for those that truly love the tactical aspects of the series, but people like me who invest in the roleplay mechanics got screwed over. I just hope that the next game can pivot in the right direction for everyone.
Fire Emblem Engage doesn’t live up to its titular promise of being engaging.