Fire Emblem Engage marks an exciting time for the series. It is the first major new release since Fire Emblem: Three Houses back in 2019. Not only does the game open itself up to newcomers by offering a new story, but the game also pays homage to the past entries in the series in so many ways. If you’re like me and aren’t too familiar with the series, Engage is incredibly accessible. This anthology approach might bring similar elements and some characters across from older games but the general narrative doesn’t directly tie into Fire Emblem: Three Heroes.
With that being said, you need to expect a few things going into Fire Emblem Engage. First off, this game is a strategy RPG with a range of mechanics that rely on deep team customization, plotting moves and executing them. It is also a Fire Emblem game so there’s a lot of reference to the series’ general lore. However, at the same time, it never felt like a must to know what was going on. Instead, the first couple of hours were used to catch me up on the overarching story.
1000 years have passed since the four kingdoms cooperated with one another to fight off an evil known as the Fell Dragon. Fire Emblem Engage picks up at the dragon’s so-called “reawakening” and follows a being with immense power known as the Divine Dragon on their journey across the lands to figure out what is plotting.
The main protagonist in Fire Emblem Engage is named Alear and they can be either male or female. I could also rename them to whatever I saw fit. I went with a female model because her hair looked cool.
What starts out as a mysterious adventure across the four kingdoms slowly becomes a treasure hunt for rings. You see, certain magical rings in the game have the ability to hold powerful spirits known as Emblems. These spirits mostly come in the form of returning characters from previous games such as Marth and Celica. I won’t spoil any more because meeting and obtaining these Emblems makes up a huge chunk of the game’s enjoyment.
These Emblem Rings, at their core, are Fire Emblem Engage’s main focus and they tie into almost every single mechanic at play here. Due to their nature, Emblems come in all shapes and forms. Each is a character with its own backstory and personality. As such, meeting them and bringing them with on the journey expands the game’s combat, relationship mechanics, gear system and more.
You start out with only a few Emblem Rings with the goal to obtain more scattered around the four kingdoms. This system makes trekking across the game quite enjoyable because the idea of expanding my Emblem collection meant so many opportunities awaited in the game.
Mainly, every ally in the game can be equipped with an Emblem. During combat, they can then “Engage” with their Emblem enhancing not only their looks (they look cool) but also their combat. Allies gain new abilities based on the Emblem and class of fighter they are. So this meant merging a magic-wielding ally with a magic-focused Emblem created some fantastic ways to kick Corrupted backside.
It gets better. The more these allies are Engaged with the Emblem Ring, the better their bonds grow. New bond levels unlock permanent skills and buffs for that ally. This forced me to switch around Emblems every now and then as a way to grow new allies I met along the way.
These Emblems are truly the game’s shining star and offer a plethora of ways to approach not only combat but customization, tactical approaches, gear and more. The fact that everyone can equip an Emblem and Engage with it also encouraged me to mix and match with different combinations. (I also just wanted to see how cool characters looked in their Engaged form).
Nailing down a good team with a good Emblem combination also helps a lot. Certain allies just gel with certain Emblems and I learnt how to use them in combat, when to use certain attacks and how to really take advantage of these perks.
One Emblem combined with a Cavalry character unlocked an Override attack. With this attack, I could charge into a line of enemies dealing massive damage to everything in that line of blocks. Other combinations let me cast double spells with a buff in damage.
Not only do these Emblem Rings power things up but characters also take less damage and can block and evade a lot easier too. Even getting around is faster thanks to some abilities such as Warp Ragnarok that let me teleport anywhere on the battlefield and deal heavy damage to a nearby enemy.
Of course, there is a downside to these Emblems too. They can only be used for a limited number of turns before needing to recharge. They also make things a little too easy. I could not help but feel that once I nailed down a good character lineup and Emblem assortment, the game wasn’t very difficult.
Characters I didn’t want using an Emblem Ring can also equip Bond Rings. These rings are crafted in the game from Emblem Rings and act as a sort of “spawn of an Emblem”. They represent other classic characters in the Fire Emblem series. In addition, they include buffs to stats across a range of fields. Usually, the buff would play into the Emblem Ring’s role.
With all that being said, combat in Fire Emblem Engage relies on moving units around a map, attacking, defending and trying your hardest to kill as many goons as possible. It generally plays out the same regardless of having Emblem Rings equipped. The more you use a character, be it fighting, healing, buffing or whatever, the more XP they get.
But there’s a lot to the combat encounters in Fire Emblem Engage that I had to pay attention to. Things like the Weapon Triangle determined how well my weapon type would fend against the enemies. Axes will break a sword defence meaning I would not be able to counterattack a unit that hit my sword hero. Bows can attack enemies a few blocks away and they can’t counterattack. Not to mention the flying enemies are weaker to bows too.
In all honesty, I expected Fire Emblem Engage to be more complicated than it was. A few hours in, I was thoroughly enjoying myself across each and every battle and combat all felt natural. As a result, this game is a lot of fun and I didn’t have to put on my try-hard hat to enjoy it. There’s just enough “technical” here to keep you intrigued without making it feel like a complicated chore.
Of course, outside of the combat Fire Emblem Engage also encourages daytime activities. The island of Somniel acted as a safe house for my crew. Here, I could purchase weapons, upgrade gear, cook food for combat buffs, speak to allies, craft rings and so much more. This is where the real management system comes into play. I would spend a good minute working around the menus to equip the right gear across all the fighters, buff them up and even train them. It is a nice break outside of the combat.
Fire Emblem Engage is also beautiful to play. The sheer level of detail across this game goes a long way to enhance the experience too. The small things like the ability to walk around the battlefield after a fight to pick up items, adopt animals and chat with teammates helped me connect with the world.
Every cutscene is also fully voiced. There are also some stunning movies to watch throughout the game that are delivered in some beautiful ways. Sure, some characters have squeaky annoying child voices but at least I didn’t have to read walls of text like it was 1999 (cough cough Pokemon Scarlet).
There is very little that Fire Emblem Engage does wrong. Even dozens of hours into the game I was still enjoying managing my team and heading into battle to see the fruits of my labour. I didn’t expect the game to keep my attention for as long as it did. Apart from the great story being told, the massive character roster and how well they work into the combat system help carry the experience here too.
Fire Emblem Engage is a real gem and is likely one of the best games in the series. The Engage feature goes to some great lengths to add excitement to every facet of the experience here and it will keep you thoroughly entertained for a long time. Hardcore strategy fans might find it a bit too easy but apart from that, it shouldn’t slip you by.
This Fire Emblem Engage review is based on a code sent to us by Nintendo of Europe. The game is released on 20 January 2023 for Nintendo Switch. You can pick it up from R1,199
Fire Emblem Engage Review
Story - 9/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 9/10
Fire Emblem Engage is one of the best games in the series. The large character roster, changes to the combat system and the exciting Engage system all help create an enjoyable time across a game that looks absolutely stunning.
A tad bit too easy at times