HEY! If you’re still with your friend. Tell him to further elaborate on Fire Emblem Awakening’s issues. It’s sad because I really like it, even after playing the others. I must know.
It’s rather difficult to say why I don’t think Awakening is a very good game. That mostly has to do with the fact that I think Awakening is rather mechanically decent at first glance. That isn’t to say that’s it doesn’t have flaws, it most certainly does (and I’ll elaborate how problematic they become), but I do think many of the changes work fine on paper. The change in the avoid formula fits the greater stats and rewards units with defense far better then older games, skills come at a good pace (if you’re not grinding anyhow) and whining about galeforce would just be repeating what everyone has already said.
The problem with Awakening is in the level design itself. Awakening, compared to all other Fire Emblems, has only two objectives. Rout and Seize. That’s not to say this is necessarily bad. FE6 only has seize maps, but it’s a rather well made game. The issue is that these maps are just plain poorly thought out.
Think of some of Awakening’s more “climactic” maps. The first map against Walhart is awful, especially on higher difficulties. The map is a wide open field with enemies just surrounding you, and reinforcements coming every second. The unit density is just a chore, but the saving grace is that it’s a kill boss map. You can simply take advantage of infinite rescue staves and get to Walhart in one turn, and then one shot him. There aren’t any incentives not to anyway. The map is way easier, there’s no circuitous route the player has to take to reach him, and there are no side objectives in the level. Let’s look at the final level, it follows the same trends. Its a wide open map with painfully large enemy density, so the best approach is to just spam some rallies and kill the boss in a single shot. It’s not strategically difficult; the best option is clear, and its wicked boring.
Even if the player doesn’t feel like boss skipping these chapters, it’s not hard to figure out how to beat this game. Awakening lacks any sort of enemy with a status stave. Previous Fire Emblems had plenty of incentives to plan out approaches and not to rush in, but Awakening really lacked any sort of punishment. There weren’t any berserk staves or sleep staves, so there were no weapons that cause you to second-guess how to approach chapters. Instead, you’re likely going to rush into the enemy and hoper you can just demolish everything on enemy phase.
It’s why skills that restore HP (Sol) or weapons that heal HP (Nosferatu) are so good. There’s no reason you can’t just drop a ridiculously good unit in the middle of a field and hope they can just survive. That’s not to say you can’t drop juggernauts in older FEs, but you had to be aware of what was around you. Of course, side objectives should dissuade you from just plowing through enemies. Previous FEs has bandits to incentivize you to play quickly. Thieves would destroy towns or steal chests, so you had to play fast.
Previous FEs has bandits to incentivize you to play quickly. Thieves would destroy towns or steal chests, so you had to play fast. Awakening has towns, but they’re so painfully downplayed. Take the port of Valm, there are four house you can visit. They’re right next to each other, have no thieves to dissuade you from playing slowly, and you can just casually get the rewards at the end of the chapter.
Compare that to Path of Radiance’s port chapter, “Blood Runs Red”. Houses are spread around. Thieves are located behind walls of enemies, so that you have to beat enemies quickly. Vigilantes are in the chapter and you’re rewarded for not killing them, A powerful enemy appears halfway through and causes the player to finish quickly. It’s a fantastic map that has a lot of side objectives.
Even Awakening’s best maps (Escaping from Validar’s castle and some of the paralogues are genuinely decent levels) lack the quality design that many Path of Radiance and other FEs have. Now, let’s get on to stats. Fire Emblem has never been incredibly stat based. Most growths before Tellius were rather moderate actually. Don’t believe me? https://www.reddit.com/r/fireemblem/comments/22e45x/a_look_at_growth_rates_over_the_years/ You can see the inflation of Awakening’s growths (Path of Radiance is skewed because they gave a few special classes insane growths).
The issue is that this, alongside the previously mentioned design of the game, makes the game a real drag and drop experience. You get some units with ridiculously powerful stats, give them a pair up bot to make them stronger, and then have them plow the game. The easiest way to play Awakening is by power leveling the avatar and just have them become so much stronger then the enemies that you can just solo the game with the avatar. Skills like galeforce, sol, etc, just reinforce this problem. Combine this with the fact that you’re guaranteed at least 8xp (12 with avatar) for killing an enemy, means that you can juggernaut the game painfully quickly. Awakening has shallow level design and can be broke in half like a twig.
I really do want to give credit to Fates however. While I don’t think Birthright/Rev is a fantastic game, Conquest is actually really stellar. The game is very good at having objective variety, especially in the early game. Chapter 10 gets a lot of well-deserved praise for being a defense map that rewards the player for extending far to get items in villages. The map changes halfway through the turn limit, so you need to keep positioning in mind for the long term, Camilla (monster unit) is checked by archers that 1RKO her on Lunatic. It’s a very, very good chapter.
Conquest doesn’t really let up on good level design actually. Even levels that are low on side objectives are fantastic. The lategame is incredibly daunting because enemies aren’t just combat fodder now.
In a brilliant twist, and something no other FE has done, enemies now have powerful skill combinations on higher difficulties. Enemies will perform lunge chains to bring player units closer to each other, most enemies by chokepoints have skills that reduce defense, inevitable end (a skill that lets debuffs stack) stops the player from juggernauting the late game with powerful units and incentivize stave use to stop enemies.
Speaking of which, enemies with status staves also come back and have been rebalanced for the better (usually one player phase, compared to the previous 4-5). It proves that the Awakening system, with a little refinement, is a mechanically strong game. With some changes that make pair up less powerful, stats a bit less overwhelming then awakening, and enemies that has tools besides raw stats, it’s one of the best Fire Emblems. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its flaws, but it’s rather clear that a lot of thought was put into Conquest.
Why does that matter though? Because a lot of these things only occur on the hardest difficulty. On Normal the game is fairly simple, on Hard the game is about as hard as an old school FE with some twists, but Lunatic tried something new. It’s an intimidating, daunting experience that doesn’t let up on higher difficulties. Despite a high learning curve, incredible difficulty, the inability to grind, Conquest was better received and sold about as much copies as Birthright.
Fire Emblem never needed to become more casual, or ostracize older fans with poorer levels. By implementing the pandering aspects and easier gameplay on lower difficulty, Fire Emblem was able to still be successful. Chances are if Awakening was a game like Conquest, one with waifu pandering and deep gameplay, one that still recieved great advertisement, and still had a solid presentation, Fire Emblem would be doing just as fine today.
What does your FE friend think of Fates’s debuffs and guard stance?
They really put me off from playing Fates. A debuff system in a game where enemy’s order of movement is randomized (or at least hidden from the player) seems fucking awful. If my unit is in range of two regular enemies and a debuffer how am I supposed to know in which order they will attack? The resulting enemy turn seems to be at the mercy of RNG, the debuffer might attack first, giving the other two allies their best possible damage output, or last, so its debuffs won’t be relevant until next turn.
Same thing about Guard Stance. The guard guage fills up a little for basically every interaction with the enemy which, again, is unreadable by the player, so during the enemy turn there is no way to foresee whether or not the dual guard will kick in against the actually menacing berserker who will deal a lot of damage or the puny myrmidon that the RNG decided to make attack just when the guage was filled.
Again, I haven’t played the game yet, so maybe I’m overestimating stuff. Maybe there are only two groups containing a debuffer you have to triggerbait in the entire game, maybe stats are lenient enough that you don’t have to perfectly plan your dual guard to beat the map, but these mechanics in vacuum feel more at home in a game with no permadeath. Or in a very easy Fire Emblem. This amount of randomness feels out of place in games where a single point of defense may make the difference between life or death.
Debuffs don’t occur if you 1RKO enemies with skills or avoid getting hit by debuff weapons, so it incentivizes being able to finish enemies quickly. It’s not at all difficult to play around with, as there’s a fair amount of counterplay involved. If you put a unit in so much danger that they may die in enemy phase, regardless of context, you probably made a bad decision. That’s really all there is to it.
Guard stance is fairly easy to predict. It takes 2-3 battles (depending on if you double) to achieve. I’ve made strats around guard stance and it’s wicked easy to play around with. I think it’d be better if it was nerfed actually, it’s far too easy to manipulate atm. It has flaws, but is certainly a step up from Awakening.
Can you ask your cool Fire Emblem friend which one between Roy and Leif takes the cake as the worst FE lord?
He says Lyn, lol.
“Leif is an amazing support unit who gives +hit/avoid to a ton of units, has an amazing personal weapon, is available in a part of the game when most of your best units disappear, and has infinite stamina which allows him to deployed in every chapter.”
“Roy isn’t good, but he has some early game chip utility and forced to be deployed. He also gives supports to some units that help in more lax runs (Alan/Lance) or in crazy RNG abuse LTCs (Lilina). He’s not good, but he has more utility then Lyn.”
“Lyn has no support utility, awful durability, is sword locked in a game where you want lances/axes, is a unit that focuses on speed when doubling thresholds are around 14/15 for the whole game, and isn’t even required to be deployed.”
“Leif is also bad, but never put Leif in the same league as Roy/Lyn. He’s a million times better.”
“Lyn’s the main lord in the easiest part in the game. Where her durability doesn’t matter so much. So people baby her in that part to make her good. Then she turns into an eh-ish unit in the main part of the game.”
Not the same guy, but can you also ask your FE friend what are his favorite FE games?
“Genealogy of the Holy Wars, Path of Radiance, and Conquest.
The former two have a lot of nostalgia bias, but yeah. I have a huge fondness for the cast and story in both games. Conquest is just really good from a gameplay perspective.
In terms of sheer game design, I’d say Thracia is also a really good game, but it’s also a giant troll on your first run. I hear New Mystery of the Emblem is also really good, but I’ve never played it.”