With the success of Fire Emblem: Awakening, Nintendo’s premiere strategy RPG series has become a force to be reckoned with in the west. This also means that there are plenty of new people now interested in the once near-dead franchise.
Next year, Nintendo will be releasing not one, but two Fire Emblem games in English: Fire Emblem Fates Birthright, and Conquest. It’s understandable that you might be a bit confused by what that means, so I’m here with seven facts about Fire Emblem Fates that might help you to work through the confusion.
1. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is newcomer friendly
So you’ve always wanted to try one of these Fire Emblem games, but the difficulty and hardcore level of challenge always scared you off. You’re interested in maybe taking the plunge with Birthright or Conquest. Which one should you pick?
As it turns out, Nintendo has made this an easy decision. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright is a strong, entry-level game for rookies of the franchise. You get all the tools you would get in any regular Fire Emblem game, but the main campaign has been balanced toward players not used to the more complicated objectives of older releases. What this means is that you always have a means of grinding for experience or new classes by replaying older maps. No decision can ever lead you to getting stuck and having to start over from zero.
Map objectives are kept simple, mostly taking the form of “eliminate the general” or “eliminate all enemy units.” While this may seem too easy, it gives new players a way to more gently get used to the general pace of Fire Emblem games before maybe checking out the other entry in this duology.
2. Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is for series veterans
From the moment the games split at chapter six, Conquest immediately puts players into more difficult scenarios, outnumbered and surrounded by enemies. In fact, chapter seven starts in such a way that if you don’t make the right moves from the starting moment, you’re likely going to lose a precious unit in the first few turns. Conquest is much closer to old school Fire Emblem in terms of chapter objectives as well. You’ll be tasked with capturing specific units, defending locations, or even breaking through enemy lines.
Perhaps the biggest difference in challenge however, comes from the lack of replayable missions on the world map. Once one of them has been cleared, they’re gone forever, preventing players from being able to grind for experience. This means that every level up, every kill, and every class change is significant, and if you don’t plan ahead, you could find yourself trapped in an unwinnable situation.
3. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Conquest are actually two completely different games
When Fire Emblem Fates was announced to be not one, but two packaged games, Birthright and Conquest, there was an understandable amount of confusion. Are these the same game but with minor story differences, or was Intelligent Systems actually making two separate Fire Emblem games ala The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages?
As it turns out, the situation ended up being the latter. Up until chapter six, Birthright and Conquest are the exact same game. You play the same tutorial missions, go through the same character creation, and see the same story beats transpire. After chapter six however, the games split off into two different directions. The characters you meet, befriend, romance, and fight with are almost completely different depending on which version of the game you decide to play. Excluding children, there are only five playable units shared between Birthright and Conquest. Some classes are even exclusive to each version of the game.
4. Children are back, even if they’re kind of forced into the plot
That’s right. Love it or hate it, but the ability to have children is back in both versions of Fire Emblem Fates. the type of kid your characters have is based on the man in the relationship, whereas in Awakening it depended on the woman. Unlike the previous game however, the children don’t fit into the narrative. Awakening was all about time travel and changing the future, and Fates isn’t, so with no obvious story beat to use, the writers just kind of shoehorned them into the game by writing in some pocket dimension nonsense that gets explained in a few lines of text. I’m happy the feature is back, but I wish it was more carefully integrated into the story.
5. Fire Emblem Fates is a better looking game than Awakening
This one might come as something of a surprise, but yes, on a technical level, Fates looks much better than Awakening did.
This isn’t immediately clear at first glance through screenshots, but once you put your hands on the game, the improvements come hard and fast. The first thing that hit me when I started the character creation sequence is how much nicer the unit models look in general. There’s more detail in their faces and clothes, and making sure each unit is unique. Cutscenes are no longer primarily 2D character portraits; most of them at least start with the 3D models moving around before transitioning to the flat art. There are in-game action cutscenes that make use of the character models, and you can even buy new outfits and accessories to equip your units with.
The camera swoops in from an overhead view of the map and 2D sprites, to the battlefield with the 3D models in one smooth motion, before retreating back up into the air. Little changes and additions like these help to make Fates a much better looking, and more cinematic package than Awakening.
6. The digital version of Fire Emblem Fates lets you choose your path in-game
With Fire Emblem Fates effectively being two whole games, it’s going to be rough for some fans to choose which one to buy or play first. For those of you who are less than set on your decision, a digital copy of the game might be what the doctor ordered.
Unlike the boxed games, the digital version of Fire Emblem Fates only exists as a single game. When you hit chapter six, you’re asked to choose which country to side with. After making your decision, the game connects to the internet and downloads the remaining data for that path.
7. You don’t need to play both Birthright and Conquest to download and enjoy the DLC route
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that beyond Birthright and Conquest, there’s actually a third story path. This route is DLC only, and requires you to own one of the two versions of the base game. While the packaged games see you taking sides in the war, this third campaign has you picking neither, instead gathering forces from both armies to fight the true enemy.
This third path, while functioning like a “true end” kind of deal, does not require you to have played through both Birthright and Conquest, so fear not. Those of you who plan on sticking to one game need not worry about missing out on DLC.