Few series are as beloved as Fire Emblem, and I probably don’t need to tell you that Fates is a wonderful new addition to the long running series. This particular review will focus on Conquest, the more difficult or the two releases. Charming characters and strategic combat strike all the right chords, but some gimmicky gameplay and a heavy reliance on RNG prevent it from being top of its class.
Let’s just get this out of the way now, Conquest is not actually that difficult. If you’re a long time player and have had success then you’ll be able to overcome the many challenges before you. Where Conquest “challenges” you is through mission gimmicks and RNG. These can range from enemies that can only attack/be attacked on certain turns to winds that move your units at the end of each turn. They simply don’t add anything of value and can really be a detriment to the pacing of battle. Then there is the RNG…let me tell you, there is nothing more frustrating than watching your characters miss consistently with 80% or more chance to hit, or to be consistently hit by 36% or less. There is no rhyme or reason, just chaos. The True Hit system many North American players are familiar with is gone, which made higher chance hits hit more and lower chance hit less. This has been the standard for years and the new system is just plain frustrating. Every move is a risk because you never know who will get lucky and when. As a result, a chapter can quickly shift out of your favor costing valuable time and replaces the satisfaction of winning with relief.
Now, that being said, Conquest is otherwise a fantastic game. 90% of the time you’ll be planning turns ahead as you march forward, defeating numerous foes, building relationships, and lead your kingdom to victory. New to this entry is the castle mode in which you can gather resources and construct shops and the like. Think of it as the central hub after missions rather than running from point to point on the map. You can use this area to build greater bonds with your comrades, or even get married and have kids, who will of course join you on the field of battle through various levels of “because reasons”. To be perfectly honest, it is just busy work between missions as there isn’t too much you can actually do, but it is developed enough there is always something to do, even if you aren’t ready to just jump into the next mission.
Combat is mostly intact, though the range of weapons has been expanded. In addition to tomes, spears, swords, etc, you’ll have access to scrolls, daggers, shuriken, plus familiar items with new effects. All in all, it could be a lot to manage and understand. Luckily, each weapon type is color coded so instead of trying to remember what counters a shuriken, you just need to remember what beats blue, which is green of course, which is beaten by red, because Pokemon. One big improvement, the removal of durability, has been countered by new stat effects on weapons. Some of these can be beneficial, but many make you characters more vulnerable after attacking or when counter attacking all at the cost of a stronger weapon. Instead of progressing to the very best weapons as in previous games, you’ll need to be conscious of what each weapon actually does to your characters. Pairing has seen some minor changes as well, most notable being that paired characters no longer attack. Characters can both attack if next to each other, but they cannot block attacks.
Unlike some of the more recent games, or its siblings, there is no grinding in Conquest. That means every point of experience counts. Leveling properly is paramount in later missions when enemies begin to upgrade their own classes. Having just a handful of powerful characters will leave you with little to no room for error. Your best strategy is to decide fairly early on a diverse group and level them as evenly as possible, resulting in a group of capable fighters that support each other well in combat, with maybe one or two powerhouses who can clean up the most troublesome of enemies.
Story and Modes:
You’ll play the role of the middle aged Prince or Princess of Nohr. After being captured by the enemy Hoshidans, you learn that you are merely an adopted child of Nohr, and that the Hoshidans are your real siblings. The first 5 chapters are the same no matter which game you purchase, but Conquest has you siding with Nohr, believing that you can change the kingdom from within. Nohr wishes only to conquer Hoshido and her king, your father, is a cruel man who would hardly hesitate to have one of his children killed. A point you’ll quickly learn as, to prove your loyalty, the king tasks you with one insurmountable task after another. Along the way you’ll fight your blood siblings from Hoshido, who beg and plead for you to come home to them. You’ll fight to conquer Hoshido, all in hope of bringing peace to the world. There are a few obvious twists, especially if you’re familiar with the classic Fire Emblem formula, but it’s an enjoyable if unspectacular campaign. Your Nohrian siblings are a likable bunch, though the flirty Camilla stands out as the weak link. Elise and Leo develop well, with Elise being especially lovable, just please, don’t love her. She’s just a young girl. Most of the characters you meet are an absolute delight and half the fun will be learning as much about them as you can through support conversations.
Online features return such as DLC (JOY) and online battles. You can also visit other player’s castles to collect their resources for your own use. Streetpass is back and you can meet plenty of other heroes, assuming you live in a densely populated area with other Fire Emblem fans.
Visuals and Sound:
Characters have feet now, so that’s a thing. In all seriousness, the game is on par with Awakening, which means the 3D models look about as good as you can get on a 3DS and the battlefield is full of the oh so familiar sprites. Voice acting is still good, but far less consistent. A few stand out as especially poorly cast with their voice just not fitting with the look or attitude of their character. The soundtrack isn’t always as fantastic as Awakening either, but there are some truly beautiful tracks. It too is certainly worth stopping to listen too, much as Fire Emblem has always seemed to be. One big missed opportunity is exploring the castle with your 3D avatar instead of your sprite. In normal circumstances, you run around in sprite form and enter buildings as 3D. Pressing R when outside will zoom in letting you look around in 3D, but not move. It would have been nice to explore and interact with characters with 3D avatars, and honestly doesn’t seem particularly difficult considering the castle area can already full render in 3D. Even if this was exclusive to the new 3DS, it would have been welcome (because there has to be some reason I bought this thing other than Xenoblade Chronicles and the nub).
Conquest does not break any new ground, but that isn’t a bad thing when you’re talking about a series as consistently excellent as Fire Emblem. A handful of new gameplay mechanics won’t change your mind if you’ve shyed away from the series in the past though. It is a mostly safe addition that relies on its heavier than average difficulty than anything else.
Being that I am the type to take too many turns than not enough, take this with a grain of salt, but I finished the game in about 32 hours. That of course doesn’t take into account the countless hours spent failing missions because I just can’t let my people go when they die. Conquest challenges your patience as much as it challenges your wits, but it is still a satisfying game. It is a shame that to get the “full” story, you’ll need to purchase both Birthright and Revelations for $19.99 a pop, bringing your Fire Emblem Fates grand total to about $80. Is that a tad too steep? Well that part is for you to decide.