Welcome to The Starlight Megaphone‘s playthrough of Fire Emblem: Engage, released worldwide by Nintendo exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on 20 January 2023. It is a follow-up to the earlier release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, also released exclusively on the Nintendo Switch (released 26 July 2019). In addition to the main game, a series of paid expansions were announced prior to the release of the game, to be released over the weeks and months following release.
Fire Emblem: Engage builds on previous Fire Emblem games by using characters from existing games as summonable units who are capable of lending their power to, and merging with, the player’s units. Unlike in Three Houses, the main character, Alear, is not simply a silent vehicle for the player to inhabit: fully voiced, he (or she) is available in both male and female forms, with an extensive spoken script. Alear’s task is to defeat the Fell Dragon which threatens the continent of Elyos, and that story is presented as a single narrative, rather than the four different storylines available in Three Houses. Likewise, the social aspects of Three Houses have been greatly simplified, as Engage focuses on more on the detailed presentation of a pre-established narrative. Hence, the need to recruit characters from other factions is less important, and the pre-written relationships of the characters receive more narrative attention.
The battle system of Fire Emblem: Engage remains largely unchanged compared to Three Houses and other recent Fire Emblem games. Likewise, recent development of the difficulty and battle system remain present: a classic and a casual mode, in which the former features the permanent death of characters in battle; and, multiple difficulty levels, which offer stronger enemies and smaller experience rewards as the difficulty level increases. Likewise, the ability to rewind battle has also returned in the form of the “Draconic Time Crystal”. The battles themselves are tactical and turn-based, taking place on a square grid, with a variety of view options including the traditional overhead, chess-board-style view, and also zoomed-in ground level view focusing on individual units. There are also speed controls and automation available in order to shorten or increase the length of battles.
The aforementioned ability to summon main characters from previous Fire Emblem games (emblems), can occur when a linked character fully charges a meter, known as being ‘synced’. Once the character is synced, new skills (sync skills) are enabled, and the emblem can be engaged on demand. When the emblem is engaged, the player character merges with the past hero for three turns. Whilst engaged, the player’s character gains increased powers and powerful attacks (engage attacks) that may be used once during the engage. Additional skills (engage skills) become available, along with weapons (engage weapons) belonging to the past hero. At the end of three turns, the ‘engage’ ends.
Although the story of Fire Emblem: Engage does not itself depend upon knowledge of previous Fire Emblem games, it uses elements from those games, and players who are familiar with the franchise will find themselves more readily recognising returning characters and other story elements. The impression of dragons in Engage, for example, are taken almost unchanged from Three Houses, whereas a character like Marth, from Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, is not likely to have the same impact upon a player who has not played some version of that game. With that said, Engage does include story pointers which will help to bring new players into the Fire Emblem franchise, and it can be seen as a jumping off point to return to earlier games where those older characters feature more prominently.
Please use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, challenges you have faced, strategies and content you have uncovered, and any aids you are using in your playthrough. Do you believe that the return to a more traditionally-focused tactical RPG has been beneficial; or do you prefer the heavy social components and multiple storylines of a game like Three Houses? Is this one of your first experiences with the Fire Emblem series, or are you a long-term fan, and do you prefer the changes made to the franchise in recent titles? What sorts of changes or additions would you have made to the game? What features would you add or remove? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below! We will select some of the best comments for our podcast discussions.
The aim in this playthrough is to complete the main game storyline by 17 March 2023. Instead of milestones, we encourage you to play at your own pace–but please keep us updated about your thoughts and progress as you play the game. This will help to sustain our discussion and encourage other players, whilst helping us to monitor and adjust the length of the playthrough. Please also make use of our official Discord channel, where we have an #events channel dedicated to playthrough chat.
Participants in our Discord #events channel who post screenshots of their completed game before the playthrough ends will be entered into a drawing for a free Fire Emblem character amiibo (Super Smash Bros. series)!
Please join in with us and comment about your experience! Our playthrough is intended to encourage anyone and everyone to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the genre. Comment and tell your friends!
Without further adieu, we invite you to join The Starlight Megaphone‘s staff members and readers in A Fiery Engagement: a Fire Emblem: Engage playthrough!
Fingers, toes and a couple of legs crossed that our frustrating mail service delivers this to the store VERY quickly and they can get it out and hopefully I’m playing sometime next week!
I cannot believe that the post lost your game! AWFUL!
I just started playing today, having fallen asleep last night before the game unlocked. I’m absolutely loving it, and I think it is a great attempt at refocusing the series after Three Houses (a great game, but a little too heavy on the social stuff to say the least, and not the purest tactical RPG because of the limited ability to battle).
Engage gets back to basics and feels a lot more like classic FE games in the past, albeit with the addition of the casual mode (for LEETLE BABBIES). As in Three Houses, the “Hard” mode is really the most normal difficulty. “Normal” is absurdly easy, and “Maddening” is on par with old-style hard mode. Even “Hard” mode feels easier this time around. Maddening is available from the very start, no clear file needed.
The game has very, very short chapters. Each one comprises a single battle to Chapter 4 at least. As the patch notes indicate, in Ch. 4 the player gets access to the “Somniel”, which is basically the hub/base for your party. As you recruit people, they appear in the Somniel and can do various things there like serve as weapon vendor, barkeeper, fishmonger, etc. In this way it is much like Suikoden! The Somniel is where gifts are given to party members to increase their affinity which leads to better combos in battle. Here’s a guide for giving gifts: https://primagames.com/tips/all-unit-gift-preferences-in-fire-emblem-engage
The summonable heroes from past FE games are done very well and the game is thoughtful about their narrative incorporation, so they are not too distracting or weird. They seem perfectly natural and the way that they are implemented is sensible considering the main character is a divine dragon (their function in battle is described in the main post). That choice is also really interesting, narratively. As a result, the main character is ridiculously powerful, and everyone is constantly fawning over him. It’s a bit like playing a Final Fantasy game from the perspective of (e.g.) one of the ultimate summons, like Bahamut. It’s a little weird, but also quite fresh in some ways.
The battle system has done away with annoying things and simplified/enhanced the weapon priority. Some people will be annoyed because they will see the reduced complexity as a step backwards from Three Houses, which had a really complex character skill/weapon/ability system. The problem with that is that it took loads of time and even on hard/maddening, it didn’t really matter a whole lot. Engage boils things down: the axe>lance>sword>axe trifecta returns, but now it has a really significant effect (using the right weapon ‘breaks’ target defence and prevents them counterattacking for the rest of the turn). Magic/arts users now just cast as their attack, and are strong against everything else. And of course, bows are strong against flying.
Weapon durability is gone, thanks be to God! Items still have limited uses, and also characters can equip staves that cast spells: these do have limited use. Each cast of a spell depletes one charge. For example, a healing staff with 25 charges can be used to cast heal 25 times, and then it breaks.
In short, lots of refocusing on the battle system to get things back to basics and to ensure people spend most of their time actually playing the game instead of running around a monastery trying to spend their very limited action points on a huge number of important skills and abilities. I love Three Houses, but I will not miss trying to decide whether to raise Axe for Edelgard, Leadership for Byleth, Magic for my healer or for my mage, Bows for my sniper, or just overall affinity, or even other things, let alone forging weapons, doing exams for new classes, changing skills and abilities, requipping everyone, doing the fishing game, picking herbs, and a million other trivial things. That kind of thing makes it VERY hard to go back to Three Houses for a replay–it’s just exhausting. Engage is a far more streamlined, pure experience. It’s great.
The only slightly confusing mechanic I’ve encountered is Bond Rings. The game doesn’t explain them hardly at all, so here’s an article that may help: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/fire-emblem-engage-how-emblem-and-bond-rings-work/1100-6510733
How to change class, and how to gain ‘prestige’ levels: https://www.gamespot.com/articles/fire-emblem-engage-changing-classes-master-seals-and-second-seals-explained/1100-6510731
Sommie’s preferred foods in the Somniel:
HATES: Onions, Nuts, and Eggs.
LIKES: Tomatoes, Berries, Rice, Herbs, and Potatoes.
LOVES: Apples, Peaches, Grapes, Rare Fruit, Rare Vegetable, and Beans.
It is possible to get two rewards from Sommie: pet it first until you get the first bond shard reward, and then give it a food that it loves to get the second!
More helpful tips!
I had to rewind time once during Chapter 6, so I took the oportunity to test the Time Crystal, and I researched it a bit:
– On Normal, it can be used as much as needed. So there is no reason to play Normal/Casual, since you can always rewind time to prevent characters dying.
– On Hard/Maddening, it can be used 10 times per fight.
The arena becomes available in Chapter 6, and you can use it for free three times per chapter. It is basically a simulated auto-combat with a character to give them free EXP.
You can also spend bond crystals to build bond level with an emblem (no limit on that).
So if your characters are a little underlevelled, or if you want to up their bond level, this is a good way to boost them.
Also: Louis is voiced by J. Michael Tatum (Sebastian from Black Butler).
For those, like me, who were wondering how to return to towns in order to recruit more animals:
There are many towns, villages, and cities that you can visit on your adventures. Once you have finished the mission, usually a battle, the post-battle scene takes place in that town or village. This is your opportunity to explore these areas to find unique animals to adopt or some rare and valuable materials.
However, the actual items and animals that spawn are slightly randomized. So while a town may list three different animals to adopt, only two may appear at once. This means that you often leave a town or a village without being able to adopt all of the animals.
The only way to return to a town or village and visit it for a second time, is to wait. Eventually, and this appears true for every village we’ve encountered, you will get a world map encounter. These will either be a battle against enemies or training with allies. When these events appear they will always appear on a town or village you have previously visited.
Thanks for all the great info!
It finally arrived and I’m enjoying it a lot. While Three Houses is great it’s also something I have to be in mood for. I need to settle in for the long social aspects. I am also happy to have a more streamlined entry.
Got to chapter 4 amd the hug this evening. Look forward to playing more!
I’ve recently been very slow working through recent playthrough games
but I’ve been really anticipating this one. FFVII I went on to do a 100% playthrough and Pokémon I got to a bit late but I picked this one up on release day and I’ve managed to put in around 18 hours. I’m on chapter 13 so far, working on the paralogue Heroes of the Oasis. Some of the maps have been filled with enemies, it’s usually some of the bosses that give me issues in combat as they can sometimes hit very hard.
I’m playing on Normal Classic. I originally started on Hard Classic as that description fitted best. I’ve played a lot of FE and tactical RPGs but it was too frustrating as I hadn’t unlocked everything in those first few chapters so found I was restarting a lot and really not progressing. So I’m enjoying it much more now.
There are a lot of different gameplay mechanics I’ve probably not touched on yet.
It seems a great game so far! Nice and slick and polished coming to it after Pokémon Violet, which was also amazing but really didn’t feel polished in the slightest.
In our forthcoming podcast, I talk about the difficulty in FE: Engage. I think that with the way the game is set up, the EXP penalty is not as significant at the beginning as it is in FE: Three Houses. But later on, it has a more significant effect than in Three Houses. So if you play Engage on Hard, you’ll find the beginning of the game easy, but then the difficulty increases, which is the opposite of Three Houses (TH is only hard at the beginning in that game). I certainly noticed a ramp in difficulty in Engage moving from Chapter 5 to 6 to 7, and I have had to be cautious and even make judicious use of the time crystal in the most recent battle. If the game continues to increase in difficulty as it goes, I can see how even allowing a maximum ten uses of time crystal might be pretty strict if one goes into a battle not aware of what happens in term of surprise reinforcements/flanking, and so on.
The problem I have with Normal is that it is so easy that the game doesn’t punish you sufficiently for making tactical blunders (both in terms of unit placement and unit type), and it gives infinite time crystal usage which obviates the reason for playing on classic at all, so I’m going to tough it out on Hard for the time being.
Reached chapter 12. There was some big things happening in previous chapter and I’m enjoying the story a lot now. I think I have opened up the last online feature too so I’m eager to see what that is.
After hearing that Winter was so far ahead of me in levels, I figured I would back up my save file and try out ‘normal’, just to get a bit more XP and to see what the difficulty is like.
The difference is night and day. On hard mode, I have to be careful with unit placement, and think about to what attacks I am exposing individual units by moving them into range of attackers. Caution is necessary or death follows immediately. On normal, it doesn’t matter at all. The enemies all do no damage or single digit damage, and I kill most units in a single attack. I had five units gang up on Louis with chain attacks during one turn and they weren’t able to take him down.
I think that it is pretty clear that exactly what was done in three houses has been done in engage: easy has been renamed ‘normal’, and normal has been renamed ‘hard’. What used to be hard mode is now something like ‘maddening’ or ‘expert’ going forward.
I’m glad I backed up my save, because there is just no reason to play it on normal if this is the level of difficulty. You’d almost have to try to deliberately kill your characters in order to be in danger!
Here is a fantastic Reddit post about best weapon upgrades: https://www.reddit.com/r/fireemblem/comments/10zqdxc/fire_emblem_engage_quick_guide_to_weapon_forging/
My progress in Fire Emblem Engage is about 43 hours now, up to chapter 18 and I’ve been doing all the paralogues as I go along. I’ve not been doing an awful lot of skirmishes or practice quests. My lvls seem to be good enough with the occasional training quest and trying to do somniel activities in between each battle.
I do think some of the characters in this game don’t get as much of a chance to shine, however it is probably a good thing that we don’t have the paired waifu-sim endings to the support conversations that Awakening and some other Fire Emblem games had. Some of the characters seem a bit one trick in this game, but some have really intrigued me.
Yunaka is probably my favourite in terms of character and the gameplay. If you refine her weapons for avoid and manage to get her in the fog or trees she is nearly unkillable.. her background is quite interesting as a previous assassin. Her support conversations with Citrine were quite interesting actually!
Going back to the gameplay balance though, I have found certain aspects unbalanced. Long range attacks from ballistae seem way too overpowered. They can one shot a lot of my guys and I think I’ve managed to keep them up to a good level overall. Furthermore, they can hit in fog or trees and seem to ignore normal avoid stats. In one of the paralogues with multiple bridges (Leif maybe?) I had to wind back a few times as Yunaka or some of the others got nuked from a distance. I found the best tactic for them was just wait it out, tanking the hits with my generals or high HP characters and waiting til they were out ballista ammunition.
I’m not 100% sold on the difficulty options and how they work in this game. I’m currently on normal/classic and most things don’t give problems but an emblem holding boss can surprise you and wreak havoc. I think freely being able to change difficulty might be better. At times I wish I had kept it at hard, and now find no way other than restart to change it back. And no way at all to change from classic-casual or vice versa.
Probably the most egregious flaw I’ve found so far has been the currency and availability. I think Chris talked about it on catfancy rpgcast this week as well. But there just isn’t enough money/SP/etc to go around. Upgrade mats like ores etc. To make the most of the gameplay systems. I think the game is fair but unbalanced. It does mean you need to prioritise weapons to upgrade/engrave or really think about which skills to inherit. So they have these cool systems to look into but you won’t really have enough currency to use them to the extent you might want.
I’ll try and post another post of thoughts before the end of the playthrough and some cool YouTube videos I’ve found too.
Finished! Around 85 hours I believe. Four units survived the last battle.
Had a blast with this game! It wasn’t quite as emotionally engaging as Three Houses, but it’s actually the first Fire Emblem I finished.
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