After years of Nintendo-only games, we finally get a free-to-play Fire Emblem game for iOS and Android. This spinoff is a simplistic but entertaining spin on the strategy RPG series that offers long-time fans something light to enjoy between last year’s Fates and next year’s game for the Switch.
The Fire Emblem series is a turn-based strategy game where you command a group of soldiers to fight and defeat another group. The playstyle seems simple but it gets addictive very fast. If you want to win and have all your units survive, you need to plan ahead and be strategic about how you play. One wrong move could make the difference between losing all your players and defeating the enemy.
In the other mainstream games of the series, you control about 12-13 units at once, have to move around a large map filled with obstacles and sometimes have to deal with enemies who just keep on coming. Fire Emblem Heroes by contrast, is much more simplified and small-scale. You only control four units at a time and the map is small enough to fill your entire screen. This means each round is shorter yet this makes it a much better fit for mobile platforms. You open the game, get a quick ten-minute fix and you’re back to whatever you were working on. Unless you have terrible self-control, in which case before you know it you’ll have spent a good hour on it.
This game doesn’t have the random number generators that have been known to make the original games frustrating as heck. Also absent are the more subtle features, such as weapons durability, permadeath, and unit pairing. The more simple nature of this game takes away from the excitement of trying to get through difficult levels, but on the other hand, this it makes Heroes more accessible for on-the-go play and newbies.
Of course, this small-scale nature doesn’t work in the game’s favour all the time. If you’ve played any mainstream Fire Emblem games, you’ve gotten to experience their amazing storylines and you’ve sampled all kinds of different arenas. You’ve gotten to see characters develop and build stronger relations with each other. By contrast, Heroes’ story is a paper-thin and there are only three or four characters that are really integral to the plot. If you really want a truly fun and immersive experience, you’re better off buying any of the other Fire Emblem games.
Having said that, the mobile version does pack a really cool exclusive feature which allows you to use and play with any of the characters from Fire Emblem’s long history. This gives the game the same fun ‘collect ‘em all’ aspect that’s made Pokémon so popular. The only problem this causes is that all the fan-favourite characters have a rarer occurrence rate, so you’ll probably spend your time getting mostly C-list characters. Adding insult to injury is the fact that these rare popular characters are objectively better than your average C-lister. So playing with a unit you’re not a great fan of when in addition they can’t even pack a punch, can get old fast. Still, overall, the feature is nice and there’s a real novelty to seeing characters from different games all work together in your team.
Outside of the story, there’s plenty you can do to level up your characters and have fun. You can fight it out in the Training Tower or battle with other people’s teams in the Battle Arena. There’s lots of rewards you can earn to incentivise you to keep playing and the game mechanics are such that you never truly feel stuck. There’s also always something you can do or a freebie you can get that can help you make your way forward.
Fire Emblem Heroes may not be perfect but it’s definitely a fun experience and a good start of bringing the experience to smartphones and tablets. Despite its shortcomings, the spectacularly fun battles and ability to meet old Fire Emblem friends makes this game worth the free download.