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How Does The Fire Emblem Engage Somniel Compare to My Castle and Garreg Mach Monastery?



Since Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, each game’s army has had a place to relax and unwind. In these areas, the player gets a peek into the characters’ downtime and can typically speak to them in some manner. However, Fire Emblem Fates took the idea of a base to the next level; no longer an options screen with some interactions available. Now, the home base is fully explorable, like in Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Fire Emblem Engage. While My Castle, Garreg Mach Monastery, and the Somniel all function similarly, they have some key differences that set each other apart and make one better.

A 2D Castle

My Castle in Fire Emblem Fates’ was the first iteration of an explorable base. Like the Somniel, My Castle exists as a base that can be visited at any time, regardless of the army’s location. It seems a bit far-fetched, but at least it does not imply that the army retreats to the same location every month as in Three Houses. Unlike the monastery and the Somniel, though, My Castle is entirely disconnected from the narrative and could have easily used the same method as the games before it.

Screenshot of the throne in My Castle.
Source: Nintendo

Compared to Awakening, Fates could add a lot more to the base, but the 3DS still limited it and did not allow the graphical quality of Fire Emblem Engage or Three Houses. My Castle can only be explored from a top-down angle, with a camera that will enable the player to look around the 3D landscape from a stationary spot. This severely impacted the exploration and interaction with members of the army. Despite this, one thing that My Castle does well is customization. Players can choose a style for their castle, arrange buildings, and even add defensive mechanisms to assist in battles. They can choose a layout that works best for them and then battle in the castle they arranged themselves. There may not be much to explore, but players can at least customize their experience and visit places they built themselves.

Though My Castle is limited and small, it allows players to focus on battles if they wish instead of being forced to spend time at a base they may not enjoy. Players can easily return there, save, buy weapons, and head straight back into the story without bothering to visit any other places or talk to any allies. It even allows battles within the castle in the form of invasions that are unlocked after certain chapters or battles against other players. Though invasions are tied to chapter completion, they are not required and simply exist as a fun way to use the castle’s structures in a new situation. Overall, almost everything in My Castle is entirely optional, which suits many players’ play styles.

Art of Garreg Mach Monastery from Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Source: Nintendo

School Made Fun, At Least For a While

Garreg Mach Monastery is an expansive base that actually allows the player to wander around in 3D. Compared to My Castle, the school truly feels like a place to unwind after battle; it also helps that Garreg Mach has a much better reason for existing than the bases in both Fire Emblem Engage and Fates. It serves a distinct purpose in the plot and allows the player to use it for its purpose: teaching students. It functions as the perfect blend of gameplay and story, with every activity providing a tangible reward and narrative expansion.

Activities are plentiful in Garreg Mach Monastery, from ones that will assist in battle to those that forge bonds with allies. There is a wide variety of things to do. The player may cook with a student, then eat dinner with faculty members. Afterward, they can be trained by their own students to hone their skills in Reason or Faith. Most of these activities are quite fun and a good way to pass the time rather than teaching or playing an extra battle. But unfortunately, most activities are available from the beginning, and the length of the game makes them turn stale quickly.

But for all the things the monastery does well, its effectiveness is lessened by the sheer absurdity of the students returning to school after every battle, regardless of how far they traveled. They also consistently plan battles at the end of the month, which would be quite obvious to their enemies. This is to ensure that the player has plenty of time to spend doing other activities or exploring the monastery, but after repeating this so often, it can become boring, especially later in the game. In many situations, it is more entertaining to just do practice battles, but the player must teach their students at some point and will likely need to explore as well. The monastery being forced on players despite its narrative inconsistency is one of the worst parts of the game.

Screenshot of the Somniel from Fire Emblem Engage.
Source: Nintendo

Bringing It All Together in the Somniel

The Somniel from Fire Emblem Engage is a middle ground between the two previous bases; not absolutely necessary, but also large enough for players who enjoy this sort of gameplay. Though it still falls into the same pitfall as My Castle, being a base that the main characters can return to at any time, it is more reasonable for the base to be a floating island rather than an alternate dimension. But while My Castle is solely a castle that exists for no apparent reason, the Somniel has a purpose for existing similar to Garreg Mach Monastery. The Somniel fits into the narrative in a natural way, even though its appearance and activities are still quite contrived.

Along with some expected activities like shopping and polishing Emblem rings, there are also completely off-the-wall ones like exercising in modern athletic wear. It is such a random assortment of things to do that they are incredibly fun to try out for the first time and several times after that. Unlike Three Houses and its activity points, Fire Emblem Engage does not make the player feel as though they have to participate in these activities every time they visit the Somniel. The player may choose to do these whenever they desire and skip them when they wish to move on. It is a flexible system that balances the fun minigames and chats with allies with the strategic battles that Fire Emblem is known for.

The Somniel’s absolute greatest quality that sets it apart from the other two is the fact that it has a farm where you can collect pets. This has never been done before in a Fire Emblem game; Three Houses had several animals around, but none that the player could interact with. Engage, on the other hand, allows the player to go find animals and then bring them back to the Somniel, where they can be kept as pets on a farm. This sort of activity is unique and brings something entirely new to the table. Just for this, the Somniel can be considered the most interesting base in recent years.

The Somniel shows clear improvements from My Castle and Garreg Mach Monastery, indicating that Fire Emblem Engage took some of the best parts of each to create a more streamlined experience. The Somniel is not without its faults, however. It is clearly very campy and does not look like the traditional Fire Emblem base, with some activities seeming absurd in the midst of a war. But to some, this may add to its charm and provide a well-deserved break to the members of the army. Perhaps the next game will use Engage’s Somniel as a basis for the next hub and continue refining their craft until Fire Emblem perfects its base formula.

As an aspiring creative writer and artist, I dedicate most of my free time to drawing or creating ideas for video games. When I am not working on my creative pursuits, I am usually playing Fire Emblem, The Legend of Zelda, or Genshin Impact.