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Everything You Need To Know About Fire Emblem Heroes

by Javy Gwaltney on Feb 03, 2017 at 05:00 AM

Fire Emblem Heroes is latest the mobile game to be published by Nintendo, as well as the first Fire Emblem title to be released since the publisher revealed its rather aggressive expansion plans for the series last month. Is it worth your time if you’re a Fire Emblem fan? What if you're a newcomer to the series?

Let’s chat about it.

What’s a Fire Emblem?
Fire Emblem is a long-running strategy RPG series that’s been around since 1990, though the series didn’t make it stateside until 2003. The games rely on fantastical tropes, often having you play as a group of knights and do-gooders trying to retake a kingdom or overthrow corrupt rulers. The series has a reputation for being among Nintendo’s most hardcore games thanks to its merciless approach to difficulty.

Also, they tend to be really good. Here’s Kim’s review of Awakening and my reviews of both Birthright and Conquest, if you want to know more about them.

Okay, so what is Fire Emblem: Heroes?
The best way to think about Heroes is as a streamlined modern Fire Emblem game missing a couple of features that many fans of the series consider to be its defining qualities.

Such as?
In most Fire Emblem games, if your unit dies in battle it’s dead for the rest of campaign. Fire Emblem: Awakening introduced a difficulty modifier that allows them to faint in battle instead of dying. In Heroes, your units just faint; permadeath is not in play. There is no option for it.

Both Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates also allowed players to pair up their units to produce offspring characters, whom (through the magic of time travel!) they could then use as units in battle during the campaign. You can't pair characters in Heroes.

That sounds rad. Too bad Heroes doesn’t have those things.
Yeah, it’s a shame. However, this doesn’t mean Heroes is a bad game or lacks something for fans.

I’ve never played Fire Emblem. Is Heroes worth my time?

Heroes banks more on fan service than Pokémon Go or Super Mario Run do, and much of the joy in playing the game comes from earning fan-favorite heroes from the series and using them to dominate the battlefield.

However, gameplay is also fun and lightning quick. Like the main series, Heroes has you using a battlefield represented by tiles. A number of factors enter into how your units’ battles will go – terrain, unit type, weapons – but everything is streamlined for speed. Matches rarely last more than five minutes since units in each army are limited to four, so you don’t have to worry about battles taking forever when you’re on the go and just want to do a quick match.

Can I play offline?
Nope. Like Super Mario Run, you need to either be connected to wi-fi or using data, so don't expect to play Heroes on a plane or in the subway. 

The game is free-to-play. How scummy are the F2P elements?
Well, kind of scummy to be honest. Not overwhelmingly so. You don’t have to pay to win and you can earn orbs, which are used to purchase upgrades for your castle or new heroes for your army.

The game features a stamina bar that caps at 50 and regenerates a point every few minutes or so. Battles require stamina points. If you do a lot of battles in a short period of time, you are unable to play for several hours unless you replenish it with an orb or stamina potion, which again, can be won in battle. The game is clearly pushing you in the direction of buying them outright so you can keep playing.

Yeah, I know. Not great. However, for a F2P game, there’s a lot here that’s just given to the player, including a lengthy campaign. The balance that Intelligent Systems has struck between channeling the deep strategy of main series entries into Heroes’ lightning-fast gameplay is often impressive.

A campaign? So there's a story?
Yes. It's not much, existing mostly as a flimsy excuse for fan-favorite characters from across the series to go up against each other, but it's there.

Is the game good overall?
I still need more time with it before I make that call. Our official review will be coming in a few days, but for now, even as one of the big Fire Emblem fans here, I’m enjoying it much more than I expected.

Any tips?
For sure. Here are some pointers to help you get going:

  • Spend an orb early to upgrade your castle. It gives a 20-percent experience gain boost to your units.
  • It’s tempting to run to the summoning circle to get a hero anytime you have five orbs, but it’s better to save them until you have 15-20 since the cost for summoning heroes goes down the more you summon during a session.
  • Make sure you use your four team slots effectively. Have a swordsman for up-close offensive strikes, Have an archer for taking out air units, as well as an air unit yourself. Enlist a support unit capable of buffing other players. Basically: employ a unit for every occasion on your team. If you don’t, you’re gonna get squashed.
  • Explore the menus. The game does a poor job of explaining its systems, like how you can upgrade your units by accessing the Allies option at the bottom of your castle screen. Be sure to poke around a bit. Don’t trust the tutorial to explain everything to you. 
  • During battle, click on the "Danger Area" button to see all the tiles enemy units are capable of moving to during any given turn.
  • Check the fountain! As you play through the game, you’ll complete certain small quests – like defeating a certain kind of enemy a number of times – which reward you shards or even orbs that you can use to unlock characters or level up the ones you have. You have to access the fountain on your castle screen to claim those rewards. It will glow gold when you have rewards.
  • Keep an eye on what you’re earning through battles. Every time a character levels up they earn “SP,” which you can use in the Skills menu to give them special abilities, like a higher defense buff or a stronger special attack. 
  • Be sure to fight in the Training Tower and Special Maps. While there is a lengthy campaign that you can play over and over again, both of these modes offer special rewards for playing them (like unique units) that you can’t get in the campaign.