Hands on with Fire Emblem Engage – Preview
As a belated Christmas present, Nintendo is treating us all to a new Fire Emblem, so close to a Warriors spin-off we could only be so lucky. Fire Emblem Engage is the latest entry in the long-running series. Coming after Fire Emblem: Three Houses, there’s a lot to live up to.
Starting with a climactic battle with the red and blue-haired and eyed hero seemingly ending the conflict, suddenly you’re waking up 1000 years later with plot amnesia. You play as Alear, a divine dragon, a legendary being who the kingdoms have been waiting to arise again.
Conveniently, a deadly new force has begun to wreak havoc just as you have awoken. Restoring peace to the realm will involve working with the different kingdoms of the land to fight back against this threat, bringing peace back to the realm.
Somniel is the home base for Alear and comrades, a floating island and castle home to train and unwind. Between chapters, you can return here, wander around, and chat with team divine dragon, including your obligatory bonding conversations and more. You can walk (and thankfully dash) around the island, pick up items left around, do some minigames, and adopt animals to keep in your stables. In the early chapters, not everything is accessible straight away, but they start to open up at a reasonable pace while your roster grows. A mysterious little puppy-looking creature serves as a mascot for Somniel. You can feed and pet him at his shrine.
Otherwise, he will always be close as you run around the island. If you take good care of him, he’ll reward you with more bond fragments. While the Somniel is something you can run around and explore, it doesn’t take long. It’s been great to see more shops and buildings open up as it progresses. However, in the earlier stages, it can feel a bit empty. I get it’s meant to be, but going around to all the collectibles feels like a chore when you’re not stopping by the other places.
Fire Emblem Engage’s new mechanic is based on “Emblem Rings”. These rings provide the connection to heroes from other Fire Emblem games, as they lend and merge their power with yours. This manifests with the units with an Emblem Ring having their Emblem hero alongside them on the field. When you have the Emblem points to ‘Engage’, you can fuse and unleash new powerful attacks on the enemy or to help on the battlefield one way or another.
While supercharging your characters, the new mechanic in the early chapters doesn’t appear to bring any wild imbalances to how the battles unfold. You can still wind up in over your head, with a strong enemy taking you out as fast as anyone else. Even when you unleash the big attacks, it’s not a guaranteed one-hit kill, either. Although used correctly it can really help in a pinch. As always with a Fire Emblem game, it’s vital to let the team join in the fight to share the exp around. Let your Emblem wielders hog all the fights would be to your detriment.
Given it’s a preview, I can only go into so much of what’s here. The game itself is more Fire Emblem, which is excellent. Even across just a few battlegrounds, the environment is varied, never letting you rest on your laurels while not being too hard on you. Permanent death for characters is still a thing for this game. However, it’s been a while now since Fire Emblem has the setting to turn that off. Your characters can limp away from the battle to fight another day. You can also set the game difficulty independent of the permanent death option.
Fire Emblem Engage in the early hours feels like a warm welcome back as the story unfolds and your roster fills out with familiar classes and characters you want to know more about. The game also looks nice, and the visuals and the character designs aren’t unusual for a Fire Emblem game. The Engage mode versions of the characters are an excellent combination of the more traditional mixed in with the futuristic.
With the Emblem Rings looking to be a big part of the game, you’ll have to work out who you want to wear the good stuff, while also being able to craft new bond rings for the rest of the team to equip. This is where those bond fragments come in handy. You can spend these on random bond rings which will be attributed to a character from the franchise, with different rarities and stats to help give the selected character a boost. You can craft one or ten at a time, so I can only assume the island is silently struggling under the weight of an incalculable number of random rings that didn’t pass the test to equip your team.
After the Three Houses defined most of Fire Emblem’s time on the Switch, and it only being months since Fire Emblem Warriors: 3 Hopes, I look forward to seeing how the rest of Engage plays out. The cast of this game is engaging and entertaining. But the story still has me guessing what happened in the past and the direction the game is going.
It won’t be long until the 20th of January, and everyone will be able to awaken the divine dragon with Fire Emblem Engage. If the early hours of the game indicate anything, it will be that Fire Emblem fans will have a great start to 2023.
Check out our bargain guide for Fire Emblem Engage here. It also has listings for the reissued Fire Emblem amiibo.