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Fire Emblem Engage Review

Fire Emblem Engage

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 USD – Available Here $79.95 AUD – Available Here


For the longest time the most tactical RPG fans knew of the Fire Emblem series was that Roy and Marth were included in Smash Bros. as the franchise had remained Japanese exclusive despite seeing six separate releases prior to 2003. Then finally, twenty years ago the first Fire Emblem was released in the West and the series has remained incredibly popular through its harsh tactical combat, engaging characters and storylines, and often perma-death features. Over the past two decades a number of changes have been made with various releases focusing heavily on certain aspects and now that Fire Emblem Engage has arrived the focus has shifted once more. Arriving four years after the popular Fire Emblem: Three Houses and placing its focus solely on combat with character interactions and choice placed firmly on the backburner, is this latest entry in the long running franchise worth your while?


A thousand years ago the Fell Dragon nearly took over the entire land of Elyos before it was stopped by a powerful group of warriors led by the Divine Dragon. The Divine Dragon Alear (nameable by the player) fell into a thousand year slumber and has reawoken to find that the forces of the Fell Dragon have once again begun to move. Unfortunately for Alear, their long slumber has left them with almost no memory of what happened to them. Before Alear can even begin to learn who their family is and begin to learn about their past tragedy strikes as their home is assaulted and many of the powerful treasures, the Emblem Rings, that were used to seal the Fell Dragon away were stolen. With a clear goal of both gathering the twelve Emblem Rings to once again seal the evil away as well as getting some revenge, Alear and his allies begin to travel to the four nations that were entrusted with the powerful rings.

The narrative of Fire Emblem Engage is surprisingly a generic one that not only takes a fairly long time to get going but even when it does eventually begin to develop various plot twists most of these events are rather predictable. There are indeed some rather emotional moments still that pack quite a punch and often there is plenty of tension thanks to how high stakes the events are that happen on screen, especially in the final third of the game, but there is very little in the way of actual experimentation or unusual risks taken in the storyline which is rather disappointing especially since there are no alternate paths or ways to develop the plot outside of straightforward progress. Thankfully there are a few more interesting elements that come in the form of Paralogue stories that often involve recruiting an extra ally or exploring a bit of history through special missions that are obtained from bonded Emblem Rings. These missions are great bits of fan service for longtime fans of the franchise as they revisit historic battles from older titles such as fights from Marth or Lyn’s history.

The mostly uninspiring storyline is helped a little bit by the fact that many of the characters that players meet in Fire Emblem Engage are rather entertaining with a few having some worthwhile developments through the plot. These moments are great but often few and far between, especially since Support Conversations are now quite stunted with only about half of the cast having actually interesting or noteworthy developments happening as players grow closer to their allies or watch their allies interact with one another. In fact, some characters barely develop beyond having one or two trope-like traits that never change regardless of them speaking with Alear or other allies. It also is worth noting that romance is basically removed from the game as well, we say this as, the S level support conversation that would otherwise usually involve a romantic engagement have now been dialed down significantly despite involving a ring. These conversations have been localized into being little more than fluff with a bit of extra CG artwork as a reward meaning those who enjoyed the more social aspects of previous Fire Emblem games will be left wanting here. Even the bond conversations that players can have with the souls held within the Emblem Rings are a bit on the disappointing side as many are only a sentence or two long with little engagement between the characters.


With the story and character interactions taking a step back the combat in Fire Emblem Engage sits at the forefront with perhaps some of the strongest customization options ever available in what feels like a truly exceptional tactical RPG that can be both highly enjoyable when things go right and incredibly punishing if players make the wrong moves in a battle. As usual, the fights in Fire Emblem Engage take place on a grid-based battlefield with players being able to move all of their units and attack during their turn with all enemy movements occurring on their turn. Just like more recent entries Fire Emblem Engage offers players a variety of difficulty options to choose from though Normal is the default setting with harder options available. Also included is the more recent ability to make it so players will not have to deal with perma-death in combat. This allows players to be a bit riskier with their movements as they no longer will have to worry about permanently losing a character but even if players choose to play with perma-death that isn’t the end of things. 

This is because the player will quickly gain access to the Dragonic Time Crystal that will allow players to rewind time and make different choices. This means that if the player managed to move a Wyvern unit within range of an unseen archer resulting in a quick death or found themselves counter broken and left at the mercy of the enemy, players can choose to rewind time and take back that action. This makes things a bit easier but also is entirely optional giving players a lot of freedom when it comes to making Fire Emblem Engage as difficult as they feel. That being said, players cannot raise the difficulty once it has been lowered. It is also nice to note that the game allows players to save at any time in combat meaning, given the Switch’s portable nature, players can pop into a battle and save midway to return to the fight later if they happen to be on the go. 

In many ways Fire Emblem Engage‘s combat breakdown remains fairly similar as the game once again makes use of the classic weapon triangle with swords beating axes, axes beating spears, and spears beating swords but this time around it is more important than ever. This is thanks to the inclusion of the “break” system. Breaks happen almost anytime a character attacks with a weapon with advantage over another, breaking the defender’s stance and forcing them to not be able to counterattack during that turn. This turns into a hard counter that can blow a target wide open for attack but also leave the player’s units open if they are “broken” as well. It is also worth noting that various elements such as magic attacks dealing plenty of damage to armored units and bows slaughtering flyers remains true. One new implemented ability are monk-style fist attacks. 

Healers have seen a significant overhaul that allows them to be both a unit that can guard an ally from a blow as well as dish out plenty of damage on their own. In fact, the fist style of weapon used by healers can be used to break any of the miscellaneous attack types such as magic, bow, and knives. Another changed element is the fact that, outside of staffs used for healing or to provide buffs/debuffs as well as standard items, all durability has been removed from equipment giving players plenty of ways to experiment with a unit’s weaponry while also encouraging equipment upgrades.

As for the biggest change in Fire Emblem Engage we have the titular “Engage” system. As players play through the game they will obtain Emblem Rings containing the souls of past Fire Emblem characters starting with Marth and ranging from Roy to Celica, Lucina, Lyn, and many more and these rings can be equipped to any character to give them a significant boost in power as well as a number of extra feats just from equipping the ring. There are no right or wrong rings to give to certain characters though some may make better use of a ring’s various abilities better than others but players can freely choose to customize their fighting force as they please. In fact, equipping the early healer Franne with Sigurd’s ring turned out to be an early way to give her a massive movement increase, allowing her to quickly navigate around the battlefield to heal and protect characters while also providing an additional weapon that can be used in one-on-one battles.

These rings truly shine when players activate the “Engage” system that transforms the ring’s holder into a far more powerful version of themselves. An Engaged character can only remain in their form for three turns, though they can last longer with unlocked abilities, and this Engage gauge refills either through fighting normally or stepping into one of many locations on a battlefield that will instantly refill the meter. When a character is in their Engaged state they will gain not only improvements to their base stats but also access to a number of powerful abilities. These can range from being able to use the Emblem Character’s weapon such as letting Alear wield Marth’s Falchion as well as being able to use their signature skills such as the Lodestar Rush to devastate opponents or Celica’s teleportation spell to deal massive damage to a foe and provide fast movement to nearly anywhere on the map.

When characters enter battle and fight with an Emblem Ring equipped they will slowly be able to raise their bond meter with that ring. Not only can these characters unlock small conversations with these classic characters but also obtain powerful new abilities that will increase their effectiveness in a fight. In fact, once players reach a certain bond level with an Emblem Ring they can even inherit a number of skills that can be equipped and used even if they happen to remove the ring in question. This means it can be highly rewarding to swap rings between characters in an effort to obtain numerous beneficial skills and allow most of the party to benefit instead of focusing on a sole fighter. This level of customization gives players a truly outstanding level of variability when it comes to how they want to build their team and this is taken a step further when you factor in weapon proficiencies. Using certain Emblem Rings will raise a character’s proficiency with some weapon types including those they would never be able to wield otherwise, allowing them to eventually class change into some rather different classes than simply ranking up their current class.

Map design in Fire Emblem Engage is fairly interesting with a proper escalation as players make their way through the game. Initial stages and Paralogue battles will offer only a few areas that may provide small bonuses for units standing on certain pieces of terrain but later stages can offer some rather unique buffs and debuffs and while we won’t spoil them here, some can be a real doozy. The stages are also designed in a way to keep things feeling mostly fair though players will always need to keep an eye out for dangerous choke points as well as objects in the environment that can be destroyed to open up extra pathways.

When not in battle players will be spending most of their time at the Somniel which serves as the home base and hub for everything ranging from mini-games for temporary buffs, Support conversations, weapon upgrades, Emblem Ring upgrades, purchasing items at shops, and more. In many ways the Somniel feels a bit cluttered and overdone and even though there is a quick travel system to move around faster players may often feel like skipping the Somniel altogether if they can help it and only returning when they really wish to buff up their team or watch some of the simplistic character interactions. 

The minigames at the Somniel involve everything from a fishing game that takes a bit too long to be enjoyable, wyvern riding, strength training for temporary buffs, and more while other side attractions involve visiting the many different types of animals players can adopt from the battlefields, having a stat boosting meal with two allies at the cafe, feeding and petting a mystical cat/dog, taking a nap to be woken up by an ally, training in the Arena with other fighters or boosting bond with an Emblem, polishing a ring, and far more to the point that things can be rather overwhelming and often something that will quickly be avoided. This is especially true when things such as polishing a ring gives such a minimal Bond score that can otherwise easily be boosted using Bond Points obtained from fights, random item drops around town, and from completing achievements. Players can also use these points to craft very basic rings that are based around the game’s each Emblem character came from that provide small stat boosts for team members who don’t quite qualify for a full Emblem ring.

Outside of the standard story battles, Paralogue fights, and the random skirmishes that players can take advantage of to grind levels, money, and support between characters, there are also a number of online options available as well as the Tower of Trials. The trial battles see players facing down a number of challenges in a row trying to survive and gain rewards for doing so while the online battles are a bit simple but can be a bit of a fun diversion. As for the online battles players can either take part in a relay battle that will see players needing to race through a stage and fight against enemies to compete or help other online players and then challenge maps. These challenge maps can either be created from scratch or fought on a pre-set map against a team created by the opposing player. These battles can be fun but also potentially spoil characters that haven’t been unlocked yet and often offer very little in actual rewards.

Visuals & Audio

When Fire Emblem Engage was first revealed a lot of fuss was made comparing Alear’s hairstyle to Pepsi or Crest but in action the game not only looks extremely impressive but the character models happen to be some of the best looking the franchise has seen, especially on the Switch, as many characters manage to take full advantage of this new art style and are quite memorable as a result. The character models are heavily detailed with a good amount of variety found between the cast and animations during combat are stellar looking with impressive visual effects to match the powerful skills that fighters can unleash on one another. The many pre-rendered cutscenes that play throughout the game also are rather exceptional looking with plenty of bright colors and fluid motion on the Switch. Stages are nicely designed with some solid variety and there is a nice touch with combat zooming in without pause to the action on the field whenever an attack takes place with no slowdown of any kind. The Somniel is unfortunately a bit too large for its own good but thankfully players can quick travel around the mostly bland feeling location rather than run around.

With the release Nintendo has released Fire Emblem Engage with both the original Japanese voice track as well as the English dub and players can thankfully swap between the voice tracks simply by returning to the main menu. The Japanese voice track is impressive with a number of fitting voice actors handling their characters though it is worth noting that not every combat bark is subtitled. As for the English dub, things are a bit on the rougher side as some of the voice actors can sound incredibly stilted especially during the Support Conversations though most story scenes are handled well. As for the game’s soundtrack the company has included an exemplary collection of tracks that work well both while fighting across the multiple maps in the game and during the slower moments back at the Somniel.


Fire Emblem Engage forgoes its more interesting character interactions and noteworthy story and instead places all of its efforts into creating some of the best tactical gameplay that fans could ask for. With so many options for customization, players can truly tackle almost any situation however they feel like with countless combinations at their fingertips. Combine this with so many minor mechanics that can be used to improve the team’s abilities and Fire Emblem Engage ends up offering a vibrantly colored world where nearly any unit can be the star. With gorgeous graphics and deep customization that offers more options than ever, even the simplistic storyline does little to hold Fire Emblem Engage from being a must have for fans of the genre.

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Fire Emblem Engage may lack the same quality storytelling and interaction as past releases but offers some of the best tactical RPG combat and deep customization that fans could ask for.
Travis Bruno
Travis Bruno
After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.
<i>Fire Emblem Engage </i>may lack the same quality storytelling and interaction as past releases but offers some of the best tactical RPG combat and deep customization that fans could ask for.Fire Emblem Engage Review