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‘Fire Emblem Heroes’ – Building a Better Gacha



When Fire Emblem Heroes launched back in February of this year, it was pretty limited on content. You had a story mode, training tower, and that was about it. There was a pseudo-PvP arena, but it was dominated by the players who could afford to continually roll for new (stronger) characters. The game’s meta very quickly fell into place, and players with less disposable income found themselves without things to do once they finished the story quests. Gachalog games tend to live and die by their content, and Heroes was off to a rough start. It’s now going on 6 months since launch, and at present, the game feels rather different. A lot of these improvements and refinements to the game couldn’t take place without having a good developer behind it all, and Intelligent Systems has set the bar for quality pretty high with Heroes.

Rebalancing and Resources

One of the biggest complaints about Heroes after its first major rebalance (and honestly, even before it) was the difficulty in obtaining feathers. Feathers are used to upgrade units, and the only way to obtain them was to either win in the arena or send back summoned units. Both options felt like trash because of the measly amount of feathers they would give. Since then, the arena has been revamped to give much higher rewards, and new monthly events help keep feather stocks more manageable. Feathers are still an incredibly rare commodity, but at least upgrading 1 or 2 units to max rank is something that an average player can do every couple of weeks instead of every 2 months. Feathers are still one of the hardest items to obtain, but they’re coming at a much steadier pace now.

It’s not too hard to obtain any other item in the game, except for maybe the game-saving “Light’s Blessing,” and Intelligent Systems is pretty generous with handing things out. Orbs are the main currency in the game and used to roll for new characters. Every story mode stage rewards you with orbs on your first clear, and you can currently get just over 200 orbs from story-related content alone. This ignores things like quests, arena scores, and other monthly/weekly challenges. Other items include dueling swords (arena currency) and stamina potions (currency for every thing else), both of which are handed out like Halloween candy throughout the week.


Intelligent Systems (IS) has added a lot of new game modes to go with the resource overhauls. Since launch, several survival modes have been added, the biggest being a monthly event called Tempest Trials. Each trial has its own ladder of rewards and gives plenty of content for those who have maxed out some of their character’s levels. IS has also introduced Chain Challenge and Squad Assault, two modes that work similarly to Trials, but without a monthly timer on them.

Playing How You Want

Heroes is a crossover game at its core. It takes the base principles of the standard Fire Emblem formula and rebuilds them for a simpler mobile experience. Instead of rolling for criticals and facing huge armies, you use a selected set of skills and fight in small 4v4 matches against the computer. The game is mostly PvE thanks to this, and as such, you can make just about any character work with a little bit of dedication and input…albeit some need more dedication than others. Often in gacha games, there are characters that feel terrible to roll or have no purpose, and while Heroes has its fair share of jokes related to rolls, there’s only a handful of characters out of the +150 available that feel as though they serve little purpose.

Where there is a will and a favorite character, there’s a way to make them work.


PvP is strictly related to the arena, and even then the only player controlled element you’re against is what team you use to “defend” – the computer still controls them in scuffles, and there are actually plenty of examples out there of players finding unique and creative ways to tackle the most difficult challenges in the game with “weak” or limited teams.

Handling Limited Time Exclusives and Customer Service

Gacha games are notorious for having limited deals on characters or other events, and Heroes is sadly no different. However, when it comes to free to play, Intelligent Systems has been pretty generous. Grand Hero Battles are like the game’s boss encounters, except you get the boss character when you beat them. Hero Battles cost nothing (outside of your stamina bar), and several of the characters from them have either become strong staples for team building, or cool niche picks. Even if you missed a GHB once, there’s a chance they’ll come back around. As IS updates and changes the way these challenges work, they cycle back the older ones that lacked the newer features. Currently, all except two have had a second showing since the introduction of a new difficulty level from a few patches ago.

The one major thing that has been surprising about IS’s devotion to Heroes has been how it handles its patching and bugs. Whenever something has gone wrong, the company sends out a small set of orbs as an apology (and by small I mean 5-10… which is actually a pretty nice amount). These have been sent out for a lot of things over the past 6 months, from weird glitches to map-altering bugs. Updates also have always come at the benefit of the players. For example, the first run of Tempest Trials was rather difficult, and many players struggled to complete it, but when the second set came around IS had overhauled the entire thing to make it more accessible and enjoyable.

Now is a pretty good time to give Fire Emblem Heroes a try if you skipped out on it or put the game down a little while ago. There are plenty of upcoming events in the next few weeks to celebrate the game’s 6-month anniversary, including plenty of free rewards to make getting into the game or returning to it easier. The start of August marks the new beginning of the next Tempest Trials session, new Grand Hero Battles, and several summoning changes that will make stronger characters easier to get, at least for a little while.

Fire Emblem Heroes is currently available on the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store.

If you want to check out the latest developer live stream you can find the archive here. It’s a bit like a Nintendo Direct.

Taylor is a writer from Atlanta, GA. His passion for games extends across genres and generations. When not playing or writing about games, he's probably reading science fiction.