Fire Emblem Warriors seemed like an ideal combination but stumbles in its execution. Dynasty Warriors gameplays fan will definitely enjoy this mashup but other gamers should tread carefully.
I’ve had to think long and hard to formulate my thoughts about Fire Emblem Warriors, because of the love/hate relationship I’ve developed with it over the past few weeks. It’s a mix between the Fire Emblem universe and the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors, as the name already suggests to gamers familiar with both. I was excited when I received the game because I’ve always loved the Fire Emblem games’ stories and the intricate relationships between the various characters and kingdoms, but the gameplay a bit too long and dreary and complicated at times. With the Dynasty Warriors franchise, it always has been the opposite. The story is not very interesting, absent even, but the quick and simple button-mashing gameplay a relief to play once in a while.
Fire Emblem Warriors presents itself as having a Fire Emblem-like story with a whole fleet of iconic characters like Marth to more recent characters Ryoma and Xander, with the hack-and-slash gameplay of Dynasty Warriors. To go along with that, Fire Emblem Warriors also inherited the Weapon Triangle system (think rock paper scissors but with weapons), which was subsequently bolted onto the combat mechanics of Dynasty Warriors. Sounds pretty good, huh? Unfortunately, in my opinion, Fire Emblem Warriors feels a bit like a disappointing used car purchase. It looks like it’s in great condition, and you’ve always wanted to own a convertible, but after a week there’s already some breakdowns and the roof doesn’t seem to close properly. You really want it to work but it just doesn’t.
To start off with ‘the roof that doesn’t close properly‘ (quoting myself without shame here), it’s the story. It starts off with the twins Rowan and Lianna, who are being forced out of their home in Aytolis and are tasked with sealing off an extremely powerful dragon and meanwhile, characters with entire armies are popping up from other dimensions nearly every chapter. The twins luck out because they seem to meet everyone that pops up. For most of the chapters it’s the same all over again, where you first fight them due to a misunderstanding, and after battling them all turns out good and they join you. At the end of the 20 odd-hour story, you’ll end up with 25 playable characters (not including the DLC, ahum), which isn’t even all of the people you meet that have dialogue.
The story is vague and feels like it has a lot of gaps, with a lot of things happening to a lot of characters all at once. While I did my best to understand it, I still hardly have a clue about the plot. It would have been much better if the story focused on a small group of enemies or a common enemy, in perhaps one or two kingdoms. Now it feels they’ve poured all the characters and all kingdoms into a blender and tried to make a story out of it. The mediocre voice acting doesn’t help either, with some characters being simply annoying to listen to (I’m looking at you, Rowan). The Japanese voices are better but are an optional and sizable download.
Hacking and slashing
Looking at it purely from a gameplay perspective, then it’s all pretty solid. It’s the familiar hack-and-slash, button-mash gameplay from Dynasty Warriors as we know it (no need to remember combo’s, just mash one of the two attack buttons), with a twist: the weapon triangle. This means swords beat axes, axes beat lances, lances beat swords, although there are a few more weapons than that. In theory, this means that you’ll have to think cleverly about who you attack and when to switch characters. In practice, it doesn’t work so great. If I set the difficulty too low, I can beat any weapon with any weapon (it just takes a bit longer), but if the difficulty is normal or higher, I’ll have to constantly micro-manage the other characters all the time to make sure they attack the right enemies. Which could’ve been a nice mechanic, but the objectives and enemies change so quickly in this game, I’d have to spend more than half the duration of the level in menus. On top of that, the game seems to be fairly slow and/or buggy in registering kills. I’ve had to wait more than 30 seconds for an objective that I killed to register, which means that any objectives or triggers following that objective aren’t activated either, which means you’re effectively idle for that time.
Besides that, there’s a whole list of small annoyances when added up make it tiresome to play a level, including but not limited to; a mini-map that’s incomprehensible, special attack animations that take way too long and fully take away the player’s control, being absolutely bombarded with messages from all across the battlefield. The last issue being so severe that sometimes I haven’t even finished reading the first before the next one is voiced.
As I’ve mentioned before, the story is 20 hours or so long, and then there’s the History Mode which adds a variety of levels. The levels are bunched up into a number of themes, that mostly refer to certain events within the Fire Emblem games. The story is much thinly layered on these levels, which is actually nice at times, and the levels change up the pace as well with time-trial and arena levels. It’s a fun distraction from the story mode, but the level design feels a bit blander. However, if you enjoy the gameplay a lot, History Mode is probably a lot better than the story mode. The Season Pass DLC adds a bunch of levels and characters as well, with more in the future to come. Therefore, expect to spend a lot more hours in this mode compared to the story mode if you want to beat all of them.
Fire Emblem Warriors is a bit of a mixed bag for me. The idea behind it sounds great, but the way it’s executed just doesn’t work for me. If the story were a lot better, the game less buggy and the mechanics more interesting, this would definitely be one of my favorite Nintendo Switch games. But in the state it’s in now, I would’ve rather seen a regular Dynasty Warriors game. If you’re looking for a Nintendo Switch game with an incredible story to get through the winter, there are much better options to spend your money on, such as Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Or you could get around to finally finishing Zelda Breath of the Wild if you haven’t yet. However, if you do enjoy this peculiar mix-up game, there’s a ton of hours of enjoyment to find here.