Musou games, such as Dynasty Warrior, often get a lot of flak for being “simplistic” or “repetitive” but my wife and I have found that smashing through hoards of enemies in these games can be a satisfying, almost cathartic experience. For #MusouMonth, we played through most recent collaboration between Omega Force and Nintendo, Fire Emblem Warriors. We came away from our co-op playthrough of the campaign with these observations:
- Fire Emblem Warriors tries very hard to integrate the turn-based strategy elements of Fire Emblem into the fast-paced action gameplay of a Musou game. The results of attempting to blend these two very different genres are mixed.
- The first several missions of the campaign are primarily devoted to introducing Fire Emblem mechanics as they apply to Musou. Unfortunately, this is done with text boxes that pop up on screen and abruptly halt the gameplay. My wife and I found that every time we would get into a groove with the action, we’d suddenly be interrupted by “useful” tips like “Health potions restore your character’s health. If a character’s health reaches zero, they will die.” Thankfully after the first five or so missions of the 20-mission campaign, these tutorials drop off.
- The use of the Fire Emblem weapons triangle encourages the player to switch between characters in order to take advantage of enemy weaknesses. This helps vary the gameplay since making the most of this mechanic will mean playing as two or three different characters during each mission. However, after characters have leveled up a bit, it’s pretty easy to brute force your way through a weapon disadvantage. Often it's more convenient just to keep wailing on an advantaged enemy than it is to switch characters and then have to run that character all the way across the map to exploit the weapons triangle. A glaring exception to this is that a flying unit’s weakness to archers is absolute; a single arrow can instantly kill a Pegasus Knight. If that Pegasus Knight is a plot-critical character; that’s an immediate game over. Thus, we often ignored the weapons triangle but quickly learned to babysit our aerial warriors.
- A major highlight of Fire Emblem Warriors is seeing all of your favorite Fire Emblem characters rendered in HD and fully-voiced. If you’re primarily a fan of the 3DS Fire Emblem games, Warriors mostly delivers. However, while there are at least 20 different playable characters, from a gameplay standpoint, there feels like there are closer to five or six since a character’s class determines how they control and which moves they have. For example, Fire Emblem Awakening’s Cordelia and Fire Emblem Fate’s Hinoka don’t feel distinct from each other since both of them are Pegasus Knights.**
- In addition to the playable characters, a Musou game always puts some AI-controlled companions on your team. In most games of this type, the player has to rely on these characters acting on their own. Sometimes they make reasonably intelligent decisions, but plenty of other times they just get themselves in trouble. In Fire Emblem Warriors, the AI characters have far less initiative, sometimes acting on their own but often just standing around waiting for orders. What the game wants you to do is pause the game, open the map screen, and issue them commands as if you were playing a regular Fire Emblem game. While this may add a more strategic feel to the game, it comes at the cost of making the action feel disjointed. Perhaps this works better in single-player mode, but since the co-op is split screen, both players get disrupted every time the map is opened. As a result, my wife and I ended up mostly ignoring the AI-only characters unless they were partnered with a character one of us was controlling.
- As cool as it is to see characters from several Fire Emblem games teaming up, the story that brings them all together is very disappointing. Similar to the mobile Fire Emblem game, the two lead characters are original creations for the Warriors game and they encounter the other Fire Emblem characters through portals that start appearing throughout their kingdom. The whole thing just feels like a shallow excuse to make the characters interact; the dialog sounds like an audio production of an uncreative fanfiction.
Completion Time: 12 hours, 55 minutes (main campaign, normal difficulty)
If you'd like to pick up a copy of this game and support Tales from the Backlog, you can get it via this Amazon affiliate link: Fire Emblem Warriors - Nintendo Switch