Fire Emblem Heroes (Mobile) Review
I’ve been really looking forward to Fire Emblem Heroes. Part of it may be that I’m an Android convert who has missed out on the initial Super Mario Run buzz from the iOS community, but I’m also a recent convert to the Fire Emblem series, with the release of Awakening in 2013. Yes, I’m a Fire Emblem baby. So Heroes is a good opportunity to become a touch more familiar with the rest of the series’ characters.
The story is fairly shallow, with a rough outline for why you’re kidnapping soldiers from many different worlds. You’re summoned from the real world (our world, apparently) to help the kingdom of Askr fend off the forces of Embla, with both sides summoning heroes from many worlds and portals, specifically worlds representing different instalments in the Fire Emblem series.
It’s enough to get into the game, but it’s far from the defining part of the game.The main draw of the game is split between two parts- Summoning heroes in a gacha style mechanic, and using the heroes in small, bite sized classic Fire Emblem scenarios. The summoning is very much designed to pull money from your wallet for a chance at good troops and favourite characters. But unlike many micro-transaction based games, these aren’t entirely for show and cosmetic purposes. The rarer the unit, on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, the better the base stats are, and better skills to unlock. Thankfully, the 1 and 2 star units don’t show up during summons!
These characters are then used to fight in a miniature version of Fire Emblems core gameplay. You have a grid, and bad guys. Each unit will have a different weapon, with a rock-paper-scissors mechanic making the match ups have an added layer of strategy involved. This system is easily understood with a little red, blue or green coloured icon corresponding to a Pokemon-esque Fire -> Grass -> Water idea. The colours were introduced in Fire Emblem Fates, but the triangle has been there for a while, with swords, lances, and axes.
So basically, it’s Fire Emblem lite, nothing more than what you’d need on mobile. Unfortunately, two annoying concepts from mobile gaming have come along for the ride- the aforementioned microtransactions, and my personal pet peeve- the stamina system. Most of the activities in the game require stamina. At first, the story missions cost maybe 2-3 stamina each, letting you get some major headway quickly. Further in, missions cost anywhere from 10 to 15, and sometimes higher. This is an annoying issue when you only have a bar of 50 stamina total. Stamina does seem to replenish at a decent rate, with 1 every five minutes. That’s a total of 4 hours and 10 minutes to refill the stamina bar entirely.
There’s missions in the game as well, with useful items as rewards, like crystals that help you power level characters, stamina potions that fill your bar straight away, and an item that lets you revive all your characters in a failed level. Most of these missions can be completed just by playing the game normally, some require a little bit of tweaking, and using characters you might not normally use.
Orbs are the main desirable in the game, being primarily used to summon characters, with 20 needed for a full summoning of 5. They’re also used to replace the items referred to in the previous paragraph, meaning you have to choose whether to call your mission a failure, or keep going for that sweet EXP. The interesting thing is each story mission will reward you with orbs upon the first completion. This applies to each difficulty, with Hard and Lunatic options unlocked too.
So that’s all the mechanics out of the way- now for the playability of the game itself. The story missions are played less for any plot reasons, and more for a reason to celebrate your favourite games and characters. I enjoyed going through the World of Awakening, seeing a lot of characters I definitely knew, especially with the opening level having Chrom, Lissa and Frederick all together. I’m just a newbie, though, so Fire Emblem veterans may recognise characters from Binding Blade, Blazing Blade and the original Mystery of the Emblem.Each level takes no more than a minute or so to finish, as long as you’re levelling your troops and summoning when you can for those shiny 5 star units.
And while the summoning does feel a touch manipulative, the feeling of getting a good summon with 20 orbs you earned via the in-game story is actually amazing. Earning those orbs with those summon sessions to look forward is actually rewarding, but having those micro-transactions within reach still really concerns me. I haven’t spent any real money on the game yet, but the thought of taking a shortcut and dropping $10 for some orbs has definitely crossed my mind. It’s not cheap, though, with 23 orbs costing $20 here, just over enough for a full summon.
Once you finish the main story on Normal, you can go through them again on Hard and Lunatic difficulties, which means more orbs, and a much harder challenge via higher levelled enemies. You’ll need to be relying on training your troops up to around the recommended levels for each stage, but this gets hefty with stamina in the higher levels. It feels like the game is drawing out the length of the time it takes to finish via these artificial stamina constraints.
There’s also a sort of end-game part of Heroes, with the ability to up the star rating of your heroes, using badges earned in the training tower, and… feathers? You’ll need a looooot of feathers to rank up a 4 star to 5 stars, with 20,000 being the golden number. Most of these will be from sending heroes home, because those 5-10 feathers you get a day from friends visiting will take a while. Oh, and yeah, Friend Codes are back… sorry.
Because it’s free, I’m going to say try it out. If you’re a Fire Emblem fan, seeing those familiar faces intermingle across different eras and stories is kinda cool from a gameplay perspective. If you’ve never played Fire Emblem before, this might be the one of the kindest introductions into the series.
Thanks to NotJim for his Fire Emblem experience to help with this review.