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E3 Hands-On: ‘Fire Emblem Warriors’ is a Love Letter to Both



Fire Emblem Warriors is the latest collaboration between Nintendo and Omega Force, the creative minds behind the Dynasty Warriors series and the more recent Hyrule Warriors for the Wii U. Blending over the top the hack and slash combat that the Warriors titles are known for with the tactical elements one would expect find in a current Fire Emblem title, Fire Emblem Warriors tries to create a unique experience. Similar to how Hyrule Warriors was the perfect union of Legend of Zelda characters and concepts with the Warriors-style combat, Fire Emblem Warriors takes incredible care to distinguish itself from a normal Warriors title by implementing the unique elements that make Fire Emblem so significant. Sadly, Fire Emblem Warriors doesn’t seem to go far enough in mixing up the formula.

The E3 demo showcased four heroes, two more recent mascots of the series, Corrin and Chrom, veteran Marth, as well as an original Fire Emblem Warriors character, Rowan.  In Fire Emblem Warriors, players can easily switch between heroes on the fly at the push of a button. This allows for greater control of the battlefield while giving the player the opportunity to make use of the pair-up mechanic that was introduced to the Fire Emblem franchise with Fire Emblem: Awakening. By pairing up two heroes, the player is given a boost in both offensive and defensive power as well as the ability to unleash devastating super attacks. However, this boost came at the cost of map control.  It instantly became apparent that not only does the player sacrifice their ability to quickly swap to other regions of the map to control another hero but that those other areas of the battlefield could no longer defend against the enemy onslaught without the absent hero. This isn’t the only change as Fire Emblem Warriors also abandons the Warrior’s level up system in favor of Fire Emblem’s. Stats like Magic, Resistance, Skill, and Luck are all increased upon leveling up as opposed to simple health, defense, and power increases. While only sword-wielding heroes were featured, it’s clear the traditional weapons triangle from the Fire Emblem series will play a large part in combat encounters.

While Hyrule Warriors often feels barren compared to core titles on other systems as the Wii U isn’t able to render nearly as many enemies, the problem thankfully seems to have been resolved with the move to the Nintendo Switch. Now, everything not only feels full but it looks and, more importantly, runs flawlessly.  Large combos juggling fifty plus enemies into the air come off without any dips in frame rate or noticeable hiccups.

While Fire Emblem Warriors is a love letter to the history of Fire Emblem, it is at its core a Warriors title, which includes both the good and bad that comes with that. In one level the player is tasked with routing three captains, taking over forts guarded by fort leaders, all in order to force the spawn of the enemy commander, in this case, Xander the Nohr Prince from Fire Emblem: Fates. It’ll feel very familiar to anyone who has played a Warriors title in the past decade. Victory in combat is achieved by using a combination of light, strong and massive “Musou” attacks to eliminate hordes of weak soldiers before going head to head against other enemy officers. As the battle progresses special challenges like ‘rout the two groups of cavalry reinforcements before they flank your forces’ occur, and while, technically, these are optional, they greatly affect the moral of your troops and the flow of combat. The true strategic depth of the game will come more from how you position your officers across the battlefield than by Fire Emblem‘s weakness triangle.

Even with the little details like showing your character’s class and the changes the new pair mechanic brings to the series, it all feels very rehashed. However, this was only a short demo, and while I’m very familiar with ins and outs of the Warriors games to the point it’s grown stale, newcomers and fans of either series will find plenty to love. With much more yet to be revealed before the launch this fall, Fire Emblem Warriors is shaping up to be a great addition to the Switch’s growing library.