Fire Emblem Warriors Review: The Grind Is Kind

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Ask Joe Game Reviewer or Jane Gamer what they think about Fire Emblem Warriors, and you'll probably get an answer that sounds a lot like this: "It's a Dynasty Warriors game with Fire Emblem characters. If you don't like Dynasty Warriors, you probably won't like this." Take this sentiment, crumble it up into a metaphorical ball, and toss it into the trash. Fire Emblem Warriors introduces a few key curios from the Fire Emblem franchise which spruce up the gameplay and progression momentum in a satisfying way, and if you're looking for a solid action-RPG, I think that you're going to get so much mileage out of this game, even if you're not typically into the Warriors formula.

Okay. So, yes, Fire Emblem Warriors does play a lot like the Omega Force games you've come to know and love. No matter which hero you're controlling at any given time, your various objectives will inevitably require you to plow through endless waves of enemy minions, more powerful special units, and bosses. It's a tried-and-true formula, and we love it because it always manages to make you feel like a legendary warrior in a sea of grunts.

Compared to Hyrule Warriors, the low-level enemy grunts here seem to act with slightly more autonomy, and while they won't pose as much of a threat as their beefed up superiors, they will continue to move in, surround you, and strike out at you. That makes it all the more satisfying when you send them soaring into the air with your axe, sword, lance, or spell.

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Somehow, Omega Force has managed to make that same Dynasty Warriors approach feel fresh again. Every scenario will play out across an enormous map, and every map will task you with multiple objectives and sub-objectives. This is where long-time Fire Emblem veterans can start strutting their stuff.

Before each round begins, you'll be presented with a layout of the map where you'll be able to assess your heroes. They of course show up as adorable little sprites that you'll recognize from their respective games, and before you kick things off, you'll want to give your heroes orders and commands. Look over the forts that need to be captured, and look over units that need to be destroyed. Take a look at the heroes you have on hand, and decide who needs to go where. Once your initial plans are set in motion, your heroes will follow your lead as you take control of one of them and start wreaking havoc.

Several defining Fire Emblem mechanics will shape your decisions, here. You will need to pay very close attention to the weapon triangle before you make your assignments, for example. You won't want to send Frederick, who is basically an axe-wielding monster truck, into a fort filled with soldiers equipped with swords. Likewise, if you flippantly assign a Pegasus Knight like Cordelia to the closest fort without noting that it's filled with archers, you're doomed to fail.

The pairing up of units will also play heavily into your approach. Like in more recent Fire Emblem games, when you pair two heroes together, the 'host' hero will gain substantial stat buffs as a result, and you'll have a chance to unleash some insanely overpowered co-op special moves upon your foes. When heroes spend enough time fighting alongside one another, they will develop bonds which you will definitely want to nurture and level up.

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And speaking of leveling up, your heroes will be leveling up constantly, and you better believe you'll be hearing that signature Fire Emblem ditty every time. Praise the gods as Chrom gets a +1 to almost every stat on the screen, and curse your fate when Robin gets a +1 to HP and strength before calling it a day. Yes, this is truly a Fire Emblem game.

You'll also find an extensive skill and buffs tree that you'll fill out for every hero, slowly, as you progress and earn materials on the field. Some upgrades will require special mats that you can only obtain by leveling up your bonds with other characters, and you'll even find master seals which will alter a hero's class in a huge way, resulting in substantial stat buffs and a complete visual overhaul. It's a great feeling.

The story here serves as more of a vehicle, and shouldn't be considered the main focus of the game. If you're able to play and love Fire Emblem Heroes on mobile, then this narrative will suit you just fine. Intelligent Systems and Omega Force did what they needed to do in order to bring dozens of heroes together from the various worlds and timelines that make up Fire Emblem's dizzying canon, and you know what? I think it all works brilliantly. The two new protagonists you meet at the beginning of the story have a safe-but-compelling backstory, and everyone is enthusiastically (and competently) voiced. There are also dual-audio options available, if you're so inclined.

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If you want to be dangerously reductive, you can base your interest in Fire Emblem Warriors on how much fun you've had with Hyrule Warriors and Omega Force's past efforts, but I don't think that does this game justice. Weeks after I first got my hands on Fire Emblem Warriors, it's still a game that I think about on a daily basis when I'm at work and away from my Switch. I crave to play it, and crave to level up my favorite heroes. There are so many moments of loving fan service for the Fire Emblem faithful, and so many incentives in place for you to keep playing and keep progressing. You're going to get more than your money's worth out of this one.

WWG's Score: 4 / 5