Welcome to part two of our Fire Emblem Fates coverage! Last week’s review covered the Birthright version and the overall premise of the games — your avatar Corrin is the ward of the Nohrian king and lost son of the Hoshido royalty, forced to make a crucial decision between the family who birthed them and the family who raised them. Conquest is the story of the latter choice.
Siding with the battle-hungry Nohrian kingdom presents quite a different game experience to Birthright. As mentioned in the above review, Birthright is the more ‘noob-friendly’ path, while Conquest sits closer to the franchise’s hardline roots. Gone are the grind-friendly challenge maps of the Hoshido storyline, forcing you to more efficiently choose who you will focus on training and levelling as you progress through the game. While the Conquest campaign has been sold as much more difficult as a result of this – and it is, don’t doubt that – you can still purchase and play the DLC map packs as much as you like, to train up our army and build the character bonds.
That said, the campaign missions of Conquest DO stand a level above their Birthright contemporaries. While overall goals are much simpler – defeat all enemies, defeat the boss, reach the other side of the map – you’ll find your way hampered with other restrictions such as turn limits on certain chapters. Encounters also feel much more strategic – maps are designed with more choke points and enemies start out paired up in effective teams or groups to blockade or outright destroy your combatants. Played in the Classic ‘permadeath’ mode, these battles are no laughing matter.
Given Conquest’s more outright focus on combat, this seems the best of the three reviews to touch on the changes that have been made in Fire Emblem Fates’ combat dynamics. The Fire Emblem series has always operated on a rock-paper-scissors model; swords are strong against axes, axes are strong against lances, lances are strong against swords. Conversely, when going around the circle in the opposite direction, each weapon is weak against the next. Fates has expanded this interplay as a new weapon type has been added to round the types out to six – Hoshido’s Japanese-influenced ninja bring shuriken to the war table. As a result, each weapon has one neutral pairing, two strengths and two weaknesses: swords and magic > axes and bows > lances and shuriken > repeat. It’s a new wrinkle to the combat mechanics that presents new challenges to ongoing players, while making it clear to new players which fights are a good idea and which will end with a sad musical sting and that horrible ‘pschoo’ sound as your unit vanishes from the map – potentially forever, depending on your difficulty choices.
Additionally, certain units of royal standing in both games are known to have ancient links to the dragons of myth, giving them the power to activate ‘Dragon Veins’ on the map. These Veins vary in their effect – some will hinder your enemies in various ways, while others affect the battlefield to add or remove obstacles to your fights. While it’s not essential to most encounters, these Dragon Veins do add a new dimension to a combat-focused game that may otherwise become a slog over time with just a rock-paper-scissors mechanic in play.
That’s not to say that combat is all Conquest brings to the table. The overall story may actually be better than Birthright’s, or at least more layered. As I mentioned in that game’s review Nohr may seem at face value to be the obvious bad guys of the story, but it’s not so simple. Return to King Garon’s side and Corrin will do all in their power to dissuade their father from his savage inclinations, forging a path to victory via peace instead of bloodshed. Over time it becomes obvious that you’re not the only one to think that King Dad is a bit harsh – the other princes and princesses do their part to carry out the will of their father’s orders, if not the exact words. A deeper conflict is uncovered in time that makes it clear your allegiance to Nohr is not a bad thing, in and of itself.
If you’re aiming for a steeply difficult strategy game that really makes you think ahead, Conquest is the way to go. I’d still recommend playing the Birthright path first, to be honest – the difficulty curve between the two works well, and Nohr’s story works well as an extension of your experience in Hoshido. For ‘blunt-force’ players like myself, this game will really make you rethink your approach and take into account various units’ coordination and strengths, as well as the lay of the land in battle and the effect it can have. With combat encounters taking half an hour or more as you play through the game, it’s nice to sink yourself into this game and really think like the leader of an army.
Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest was reviewed using a promotional code on 3DS as provided by the publisher.
Review: Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest