Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)

The Fire Emblem series is one that is divisively split across different eras. The staunch difference between the “new” and the “old” is palpable. The newer games in the series have a much more pronounced emphasis on the characters and their relationships, as opposed to the older games which placed importance primarily on gameplay. The newer games in the series feel a lot more anime-ish than their ancestors. Fire Emblem: Three Houses makes strides to attempt to reconcile these separate styles, so that fans of both the new and the old will be satisfied.

The premise of Fire Emblem: Three Houses is that the player is a professor at a prestigious institution for nobles from three nations of the fictional land of Fódlan. The members of the institution separated into three houses according to their home nation, and the player must choose which house they would like to lead. This important choice will dictate which characters you will be using and how the story progresses. Of course, the land of Fódlan is not safe from strife, as eventually tension between the three nations erupt. The shift between playing at war and war itself is well delineated in the gameplay. Fire Emblem: Three Houses separates its core gameplay into two parts: the monastery and battles.

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The monastery houses the institution, and all of the corresponding activities. This parallels to the newer aspects of the series as the player teaches students, converses with various characters, completes side-quests, plays mini-games, and various other life simulation features. The battles are standard to the series, turn-based tactical bouts of war. The battles themselves seem to mirror the older games in the series with more interesting maps and objectives. By cleanly separating the game into its components, players could focus more one which aspect they enjoy more, and I appreciate the attempt to satisfy all fans of the series.

The presentation of Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a bit all over the place. Character art is superb and the game is fully voice acted. The game is by far the most ambitious entry into the series. I’d wager that this is due to the move from an old handheld console to a new home console. This huge upgrade in hardware let the developers really increase the scope of the game. There are multiple routes, each with different characters, battles, interactions, and stories. Additionally, there is an entire explorable monastery, which is really more like a small town. It houses every character in the game who can be conversed with at any time. Despite all of these great things, it is impossible to ignore just how ugly the game is. The 3D visuals are incredibly out of date, it genuinely looks similar to Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance which was released back in 2005. I rarely harp on graphics, but Fire Emblem: Three Houses is just so jarringly unpleasant to look at.

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One of the core aspects of the Fire Emblem series is its emphasis on resource management. The two primary management facets make a return: weapons have limited uses until they break and you want to dole out experience to appropriate members of your army. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses there are some additional resources that correspond with being a professor to inexperienced recruits. Each unit in your house begins as a complete novice, and you can tailor them however you would like. Of course, each character has their own strengths and weaknesses that should be taken into account. Once a character has learned enough about their requisite class and is a high enough level, they can take an exam to promote to the next tier of classes. For example, one of my units had an affinity for lances and horseback riding, so that is what I trained him in. As he mastered those traits, he went from being a basic recruit, to a soldier, to a cavalier, and finally became a paladin.

I really enjoyed the beginning portion of the game as I took note of all of my units and their strengths. I planned out paths for them, figuring out what classes I would like them to be down the line. Moreover, time is extremely limited in the early game. You can only train a couple of units per session, so I had to carefully choose who needed training the most. Planning out my army from scratch was incredibly enjoyable. Trying to fill all of my needs in terms of units while also satisfying each character’s strengths was a fun management aspect.

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The switch to the Switch led the developers of Fire Emblem: Three Houses to make as expansive of a game as possible. I appreciate that the developers attempted to include as many features as possible. Alongside the explorable monastery, multiple routes, and personally teaching each unit, Fire Emblem: Three Houses also brings back a few key gameplay features. First and foremost are abilities. In the past few Fire Emblem games, units would be granted new abilities upon reaching certain thresholds within their classes. These class specific abilities are great because they further specialize units and differentiate classes.

In addition to abilities, combat arts make a return from Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. Similar to abilities, combat arts are learned by units throughout the game but instead of inherent bonuses, combat arts are more powerful attacks that can be used at the cost of weapon durability. Some of these attacks do additional damage, while others have special traits like immobilizing enemies. Moreover, Fire Emblem: Three Houses introduces a whole new strategic option: battalions. Battalions can be equipped to units, granting them small bonuses in stats while also allowing them to use battalion specific gambits. These gambits were frequently low-accuracy but high-power attacks, often times hitting multiple enemies. While I found combat arts and gambits to have a more niche use than the ubiquitous abilities, I am glad that there are additional tactical options at the player’s disposal.

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While I do appreciate that Intelligent Systems attempted to incorporate more features to flesh out the experience, I felt as if the monastery and life simulation aspects were ultimately lacking. In the early game, time is valuable and choices are endless. I wanted to carefully plan how to spend my time to get the most out of it. Additionally, figuring out what class path I wanted each unit to take was an interesting puzzle. But once you decide what class you want each unit to be, there really is no engaging gameplay left in the monastery. Sure, you can reclass units and teach them other skills, but there is rarely a point to doing that. Once you invest significant time and experience into a certain skill, you aren’t going to stop using that skill to focus on another. Moreover, as you progress through the game, you gain “professor level” which allows you to spend more time at the monastery. This makes choices feel less important, as you have more than enough time to complete everything that you want to do.

A common comparison that I see is between Persona 5 and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, as both have significant downtime spent doing social simulation. I think Persona 5 was more successful in this department because time was extremely scarce in that game, you had to carefully plan your schedule where as you don’t have to do that in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Additionally, in Persona 5 any action you took had an immediate benefit, such as improving your relationship with a character or increasing one of your stats. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, there is a layer of abstraction between an action and its benefit. When spending time with a character for example, you increase their “motivation”. The higher the motivation, the more time you can spend lecturing them. So, in order to increase a unit’s level in some skill, you need to spend time with them to motivate them, then spend more time to lecture them on the appropriate subject, and repeat that cycle numerous times to see any benefit. The disconnect between the action and the payoff makes the whole thing far less rewarding to engage in.

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Another issue I have with the monastery is just how barren and repetitive it gets. Outside of recruiting characters from other houses, there is nothing that feels worthwhile to engage in. Between every major battle the player is encouraged to explore the monastery: completing quests, talking to characters, doing mini-games, lecturing, so on and so forth. The problem is how shallow all of these tasks actually are.

All of the quests are incredibly blatant fetch quest padding, there is no substance here. Talking to characters can sometimes be interesting as they have different dialogue depending on where you are in the story, but most of the time its just filler one-liners. The mini-games such as fishing, tournaments, or gardening are all pretty boring and unimportant. The lecturing is fun in the beginning as you figure out what you want each character to focus on, but past that its just a matter of clicking on the character and their respective skill to put experience into it. The only worthwhile thing to do in the monastery is listening to support conversations between characters, but this is hardly a new feature and has existed in nearly every Fire Emblem game to date. Ultimately, the monastery is a pretty shallow time waster, and I feel like it significantly hurts the game.

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I would not be so offended by the monastery if it wasn’t such a gargantuan waste of time. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a very long game, especially by Fire Emblem standards. For me, it was about a sixty-hour game to complete a single path, which is two to three times longer than any other Fire Emblem game that I’ve played. There is the same amount of main story battles in this game as any of the other games in the series, so all of that extra time is spent futzing about in the monastery. There is an option to “skip” things like exploring the monastery or lecturing, but it just seems counterintuitive to what the series entails. Resource management is important, so outright skipping things like managing a character’s skill experience just feels wrong to me. Moreover, it is not optimal and is sure to make playthroughs more difficult than they really should be.

Its telling that when I began playing the game, I was excited to try all of the paths to experience all of their characters and unique stories, but by the end of the game I had no desire to attempt even a second playthrough. Not because the gameplay was bad, but it was just such an unnecessarily long experience that it began to drag. Furthermore, the first half of each path is exactly the same, except for the characters of the house you are leading. All of this just put me off playing the game a second time, even as a huge fan of the series who wanted to see how each route would play out.

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While I believe that the time spent in the monastery is by far and way the largest issue in the game, there are a few other problems that will nag at series veterans. Primarily that the game is far too easy. There are a few reasons for this, one of which being that the game only launched with three difficulties: easy, medium and hard. I usually play on the “lunatic” difficulty in Fire Emblem games, but that option was not added until a patch after release. I had to settle for hard, which was suspiciously simple, even for an experience player. This is partially due to the ability to rewind time, a returning feature from Fire Emblem: Shadow’s of Valentia.

Turn-based games involving some sort of luck factor always have the issue that sometimes the player can get unlucky and get screwed over. While it is the player’s job to mitigate risk and take high-percentage plays, sometimes lady luck just isn’t on your side. The ability to rewind turns is a feature that included in Fire Emblem: Three Houses to prevent this. I welcome this idea, as it prevents losing units or having to restart chapters due to an unlucky roll. The issue arises with how often the game lets you use this feature. Being able to do this once or twice a battle to combat bad luck is reasonable, being able to rewind time ten times in a single battle is unacceptable. It completely undermines the point of tactical decisions in the game. The goal of games such as Fire Emblem or XCOM is to make low-risk moves to maximize chances for success. By allowing the player to undo moves so frequently, it lets the player make reckless decisions and play poorly with the knowledge that they can just undo it if things go south.

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Moreover, the map design in the game was not capable of being pushed to a point of sufficiently challenging players. Unfortunately, this is due to the fact that any unit can be made into any class that you want and reclassed at any time. This puts map designers in a tough spot, as they can’t possibly know what units the player has in their arsenal to design around. Maps can’t require or heavily encourage the use of a certain type of unit, as there is no guarantee that the player ever pushed one of their units into that class. Generally, the maps are pretty decent, especially by modern Fire Emblem standards. There are some interesting objectives, and many maps encourage the player to move quickly. Its just a shame that the maps are frequently too easy and let the player steamroll them without having to engage in strategic thinking.

My final, and undoubtably nitpicky, complaint about Fire Emblem: Three Houses is how the classes are handled. Admittedly, some classes got some interesting features which I appreciate: archers are far more useful than they were in the past due to increased range, and mages get to carry more interesting spells for various situations. Class balance has always been a bit of a problem in the series, but not nearly as bad as it is in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Certain classes are just exceedingly powerful, while others are strangely weak. This is a large problem because the player gets to choose what class each unit is, so naturally players are going to gravitate towards the more powerful ones. There’s just no reason to ever use half of the classes in the game, and that kills variety. Furthermore, each unit begins as a basic recruit, so the early portions of the game feel like you are just using ten of the same unit.

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A bizarre decision was to include weapon mastery and all of its perks as abilities rather than just being inherent. In previous games characters would get increased hit rate, avoidance, and critical strike chance after gaining a level in their weapon skill. In this game, you have to equip a “mastery” skill into one of the character’s ability slots. Additionally, skills like “breaker” or “faire” which are gained from mastering a weapon have to also be equipped in an ability slot. A character only has five slots for abilities, and right off the bat three of those are taken simply for weapon mastery. The more interesting abilities have to fight over the remaining two slots. Moreover, this completely negates any potential for hybrid units. There’s no feasible way for units to use multiple weapon types, since you need three ability slots to fully utilize a weapon and you only get five ability slots. And that’s not accounting for other powerful abilities.

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The classes also do not have anything resembling clear and intentional paths to follow. There are five tiers of class: recruit, basic, intermediate, advanced, master. For many units, there exists no logical path through these tiers. For example, if you want to make a unit which flies on the back of a Pegasus: they begin as a recruit, then become a soldier, then become a Pegasus Knight, then there is no advanced Pegasus class, and then they become a Falcon Knight. Inexplicably, there is a gap between intermediate and master. So, I either must turn my Pegasus unit into an unrelated advanced class, or simply leave them as an intermediate class until they are ready to become a Falcon Knight. Neither choice is particularly appealing.

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The master classes in general are completely wonky, many of them are bizarre hybrid classes, which as previously stated are just not viable. They have no sensible paths which lead into them. For example, Mortal Savant requires a master of swords and magic, yet none of the tiers below master have a class which remotely resembles this. For many classes, their logical path ends at the advanced tier, as there is no corresponding master class. It’s a shame because it feels like my units were done promoting halfway through the game, since there was no rational master class to promote them into.

I understand that I am harsh on Fire Emblem: Three Houses, as I am with every series that I love. After playing so many of these games, and playing them for so long, I’d like to think that I am fairly knowledgeable about the series and its mechanics. Things like the difficulty, class balance, and map design weren’t major flaws, but were noticeably problematic. The biggest issue, the monastery outright decimated any desire I had to replay the game on separate routes. Its slow, repetitive, tedious, and a large part of the games play time. Despite this, Fire Emblem: Three Houses still manages to be a triumphant success for the series. The scope of the game, the story, the swathe of new mechanics, the multitude of playable routes, the interesting characters, and the solid gameplay all make for one of the best modern Fire Emblem games. It is for these reasons that I give Fire Emblem: Three Houses a 7.5/10. While not perfect, Fire Emblem: Three Houses melds the varying directions of the franchise into one cohesive game.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (2017)

Remakes of older games often struggle with finding a balance between fixing the games shortcomings, but at the same time remaining faithful to the core design. Done correctly, remakes can be the definitive version of a video game. If the developers change too much, then the game may hardly be recognizable. If they change too little, then the same problems from the originals are just as persistent and frustrating. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a remake of the second game in the series, Fire Emblem Gaiden, which was released back in 1992. Gaiden is without a doubt the black sheep of the Fire Emblem franchise. Most people who have played it can attest to its frustrating designs and its sluggish gameplay. Shadows of Valentia has a tall order to fill: keeping true to the original but fixing the glaring problems that plagued it.

Shadows of Valentia did a lot of things right, but my absolute favorite feature was that the game was fully voice acted. This is new for the Fire Emblem series, but it is a massive step forward. Having all the characters voiced definitely brings them to life and puts a lot more impact to the dialogues that they have. Speaking of characters, Shadows of Valentia is a big step-up from previous entries Awakening and Fates in the characters department. The latter games characters were one-dimensional and a single personality trait defined their entire character. In Shadows of Valentia the cast is a lot more interesting and fleshed-out, they feel like they could be real people, not just a wacky cast from a video game.

The story of Shadows of Valentia is simple but satisfying. It is not a mind-bending experience, but the plot is extremely gratifying and gripping as you fight your way through the continent of Valentia. Alm and Celica are two childhood friends that split paths and each attempt to save the dying continent of Valentia. Alm’s path focuses on militaristic battles and war, while Celica’s path is a much more religious journey. Alm attempts to reclaim his homeland and fight off invaders, while Celica must visit the temple of a goddess to learn why the farms have gone barren. While the story can be cliché and predictable at times, it was still intriguing and engaging enough to keep me playing. What really stood out to me in this game was the world building. Being able to explore the world map for yourself is something that I love in Fire Emblem games. This was a huge step up from Fates, in which the continent that you play on is not even named. Being able to visit villages and talk to the locals gives the player a much better understanding of what is going on in Valentia rather than “This guy is evil, go fight him.” Even the allies that you recruit constantly comment on the happenings in the game and give their perspectives.

There are some new gameplay features in Shadows of Valentia. The biggest addition to gameplay was probably the dungeons. Fire Emblem is traditionally a top-down, turn-based strategy game, but in dungeons you explore in 3rd person view. When you run into enemies, the game starts a classic top-down battle. To be completely honest I am not a big fan of this feature. For the most part, these dungeons felt like filler and I do not think that they added a whole lot to the game. All of the battles that were had in these dungeons were incredibly repetitive and boring. Every single battle fought in the same dungeon uses the same map, only occasionally the enemies are rearranged in a slightly different fashion. All of these battles blend together and are all together bland, dungeons just felt like filler to pad out the game length. Dungeons were definitely a unique new addition to Fire Emblem, but they are going to need to see some tune-ups before I am sold on them.

Some other noteworthy gameplay changes include abandoning mechanics from newer Fire Emblem games and returning to the classic style of gameplay. The pair-up feature from Awakening and Fates has been left behind, and I think this is a good thing. The pair-up feature led to many balance issues and just encouraged the player use characters as stat boosters for other, more powerful characters. Another feature that was left behind was skills. Personally, I thought skills added extra dimensions to characters and their utility, but they definitely were difficult to balance and often relied on random chance to activate in battle. The skills have been replaced with combat arts, which are activatable abilities that units can learn by using certain weapons. Some combat arts are simply more powerful attacks, while others have special properties like dealing extra damage to armored units, or dashing through the enemy unit on the battlefield. All of these combat arts come at the cost of health and I felt like they certainly added some extra tactics to each encounter.

An entirely new feature was the useable item called Mila’s Turnwheel. This item allowed the player to go back in time and revise moves that they previously made. If you make a bonehead error, or you misclick, even if you get unlucky and a unit dies to a 1% critical hit chance, you can use the Turnwheel to give it another shot. This is a welcome feature as it mitigates frustration from bad luck or just a lapse in judgement. You no longer have to reset and redo the entire chapter if a unit dies to a roll of the dice thanks to Mila’s Turnwheel. Of course, you only have a limited number of uses so you cannot just use it all the time. I actually avoided using this feature outside of just testing it out because I felt like Shadows of Valentia was already relatively easy, even on the hardest difficulty. Mila’s Turnwheel definitely makes the game easier, so avoid it if you want a more difficult experience. That being said, it is a great tool if you are not looking for a tougher time. It also has some interesting narrative uses, as it allows the player to see “memory prisms.” These are flashbacks to years before the happenings of this game. These set up the story a lot better when you can see the events leading up to the present rather than just reading about it through some text. There are some other unique gameplay aspects of Shadows of Valentia. Archers, mages, and clerics are all drastically different from previous iterations. They are a lot more utility focused and I think these were solid changes.

The original Gaiden was known for being tedious and frustrating, and this is mostly due to the games maps. This is the most common complaint about the original, so I thought for sure that the maps would be fine-tuned and improved for this game. I was wrong. Many of the maps are 1-to-1 remakes of the original. This is mind boggling to me. The developers had to know that the maps of the original are criticized heavily, so why move forward with the exact same designs? I understand wanting to be faithful to the original, but if something is obviously bad I expect the developers to at least attempt to make it better. What makes these maps so bad you ask? Well, they range from tedious and boring, to obnoxious and infuriating. Many of the earlier maps are just boring, repetitive slogs. Giant, open, grassy fields dotted with some forest tiles here and there. No chokepoints or interesting features, just flat nothingness. There are not even side objectives to spice things up. These types of maps are bad and completely forgettable, but they are nowhere near as bad as what is to come later in the game. Many of the frustrating maps have deserts, which inhibit movement, or swamps than inhibit movement and deal damage to you. Giant clusters of enemies with no tactical way of approaching them. Some maps were even reused multiple times throughout the course of the game. But the biggest issues with the maps were witches and cantors.

Witches are one of the single most frustrating designs in any video game ever. I am confident of that. Essentially, they are mages with the ability to teleport wherever on the map that they want, move, and attack, all in the same turn. If their AI was any good at all, they could simply just teleport to your lowest resistance unit and gang up on that unit and kill it, and there is no possible way for you to stop this. The only thing making these witches even bearable is that their AI is complete garbage, and I think that it is this way on purpose. They just randomly teleport around instead of focusing on your weaker units. Sometimes they do not teleport at all. In the entire course of the game I think I only had to reset because of a witch maybe two times. Still, the fact that they are so incredibly inconsistent is nerve racking. At any given moment while you are playing, a witch could just make the right move and force you to reset with no plausible way of stopping it. You just have to hope that they keep making dumb moves. Cantors are another story. They are summoners that spawn weaker units every few turns. On paper this actually sounds like a good idea, it is a way of speeding up the player. Saying “if you do not kill this cantor quick than you are going to have to deal with hordes of enemy units.” Unfortunately, it does not work out that way. Instead cantors are often surrounded by powerful enemy units, forcing you to take your time dealing with the tough guys first. Many maps with cantors become slogs of killing massive amounts of weak summoned units as you slowly pick off the more powerful enemies. Towards the end of the game, there are cantors that spawn witches. I think that speaks for itself. The thing that really bugged me was that plenty of the maps would have actually been good maps had it not been for the witches or cantors. Just take them out and there are some actually decent maps in this game.

My last gripe with the game are the random encounters. As you travel the world map enemies will crop up from strongholds and chase you around the map. These small skirmishes are fairly boring and they are unavoidable. Sometimes I just want to get on with the main story, but no, first I have to slog through some small battle on a map that I have already seen and played. I feel like this really punishes the player for exploring the world map, visiting towns, doing quests, even going to shrines to promote your units. Doing any of this will lead to the random encounters cropping up and forcing you to play them despite their dullness.

Fire Emblem definitely has a divisive fanbase. The series varies wildly, and people enjoy the different games for different reasons. I consider myself to be fairly central and I appreciate a well-rounded game. Fire Emblem traditionally mixes strategy elements with story and RPG elements, and I do not think that Shadows of Valentia struck a good balance. Shadows of Valentia definitely has positive story and RPG elements, and it is a huge improvement over Fates which was a disaster in that department. Unfortunately, the gameplay is bogged down by dreadful map design. Most of the maps are just bland and repetitive, but towards the end they just get frustrating. For the most part I enjoyed Shadows of Valentia, the story and characters were certainly enough to keep me playing despite the maps. For these reasons, I give Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia a 7/10. Before you pick up this game, ask yourself why you like the Fire Emblem series. If you are into it for the tactics, strategy, and map design, I would probably avoid this title. If you enjoy the series for its characters, world building, grand fantasy, plot, music, or any other of its RPG elements, definitely check out Shadows of Valentia.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (2005)

I am currently working my way through a Lunatic run of Conquest, but I can only stand to play maybe one chapter a day without getting overly frustrated. After resetting Conquest Chapter 12 for the fifth time I decided to take a step back and try some of the older Fire Emblem games that I own and have not played in a long time. I have not played Path of Radiance since it came out and barely remembered anything about it, so I spun up my Gamecube and decided to take a crack at it. It was a shock to me just how much of drop in difficulty this game was. I am no expert at Fire Emblem, I have only played and beaten: Sacred Stones, Path of Radiance, Awakening, and Conquest (Hard Mode); and three of those titles are considered the easiest of the Fire Emblem games. While I expect maybe four or five resets for every Lunatic Conquest chapter, I only reset five times in total during my Path of Radiance run, and most of those resets were just pure laziness and recklessness. Granted, I have an American copy of Path of Radiance so there is no Lunatic Mode, so I settled for Hard Mode, but it is still way too easy.

There are a couple of reasons why the game is lacking in difficulty. The first and most obvious reason is that the enemies just suck. For the vast majority of the game my units completely out-leveled, there were un-promoted enemies up until Chapter 26, which is sad considering all of my units were promoted by Chapter 18. Another reason why the game is so easy is that mounted units are completely busted. On top of having far movement range and being able to ignore terrain in the case of flying units, they also have a couple of other things that make them so strong. Being able to move after an action allows them to move forward, attack an enemy unit, and move back to safety all in one move. It allows the player to make aggressive moves with very low risk. Mounted units also have the ability to rescue other units which provides them with a lot of utility on the battlefield. The last reason why the game is so easy is the Bonus Experience (BExp) system, now I love the concept of BExp, but it was poorly done and it allowed for units to get so much stronger than the enemies.

While the BExp does make the game too easy, I think it did have a lot of upsides as well. It encouraged me to play a lot faster and to not turtle because there was a BExp reward if you finished the Chapter in a certain number of turns. Since you could distribute BExp to whatever unit you wanted, it was generally better to finish the Chapter early to get the reward rather than killing all the enemies for their experience. Also, there were interesting BExp rewards in Chapters 11, 15, and 22. Instead of just fighting the opposing army, there were vigilantes, rebels, and priests, who were all enemies for the purpose of gameplay, but there really were not evil in the grand scheme of the game, so if you let them live you would get BExp rewards which was a great way to add an extra spin on the game. Being able to give BExp to whoever you wanted allowed some of the lower-leveled units in the game to catch up without having to invest to much effort into them which was nice. On a side note, the Base Info conversations were also pretty cool despite not adding much to the gameplay. The Info conversations did add some more backstory and character development that I wish was implemented into the more recent Fire Emblem games.

The strongest point of the game for me was easily the story. I felt like the story was extremely engaging and interesting. Every Chapter felt like it had a purpose and was important to the story, which is not something I can say about the more recent Fire Emblem games. The game was also really well paced and it gave a good chunk of story between each chapter, not too much, and not too little. The game also built a very memorable world and every nation played a significant part. It also had a good explanation for why an untrained group of mercenaries was able to essentially defeat an entire army. I also liked how many units were in the game. I think you can get around forty-six different units for your army and you can only realistically use about fifteen of them a playthrough. So if you really want to experience all the different characters you will have to play through the game about three times. Most of these characters were pretty interesting as well and they had good character development throughout the course of the game, and their support conversations were pretty decent as well. The story was easily the high point of this game for me, and it did make up for the fact the gameplay was lacking.

The gameplay in Path of Radiance was not that good in my opinion. While their were some interesting maps, there were a lot of completely forgettable and just all around boring maps. Chapters 24, 26, and 28 all come to mind as maps that were just so similar they kind of melded together in my mind. They all are late game chapters that are in a giant, open, grassy field which have a ton of enemies and spit out even more enemies in the form of reinforcements. In chapters 26 and 28 specifically I can remember thinking “when does it end” in regards to how many enemy reinforcements were spawning. There was also an issue with how many units you could use in each chapter. One chapter you can use eleven units, the next chapter you can use nineteen units, this led to me just using a consistent core of about twelve units because I did not want to invest experience into units that I was only going to use for two or three chapters. Another issue I had was the boss battles that the game tried to implement. I think boss battles are very hard to implement in a turn-based strategy game because there is not really much strategy other than just hoping that your units are strong enough, however that was not the issue I had with these battles. Since I played Path of Radiance before, I did remember the Black Knight fight, so I got my Ike to 20/20 and capped him out in everything but Magic, Luck, and Resistance, meaning he was about as strong as I could possibly make him. Even though he was capped, the Black Knight, Ashnard, and Berserk Ashnard battles all came down to the Random Number Generator hoping that Ike would activate his ability, Aether. The Black Knight fight is a little better than the Ashnard fights because you can run away from it if you get unlucky, while the Ashnard fights you have to restart the whole chapter if you do not get a couple of Aether activations. I got lucky and was able to beat these without resetting, but I could see how people could get unlucky and have to redo the whole chapter.

Here is a small tier list for the units that I used in my playthrough with some reasoning behind it. This is not a comprehensive tier list because I did not get to use every unit in the game, and I may have gotten some bad growths for some units as well. This is just my personal opinion about the most valuable characters for me.

S-Tier

Nobody: I think S-Tier is reserved for a unit who is just incredibly strong and outdoes the rest of the cast (think Seth in Sacred Stones or Ryoma/Xander in Fates), there were none of these types of characters in the game.

A-Tier

Oscar: You get Oscar super early on, hes a mounted unit, and he has great stats. There is not much more too it than that.

Kieran: While Kieran has slightly better stats than Oscar, I think Oscar is slightly better because you get him earlier in the game. Other than that Kieran is extremely strong.

Jill: She is another relatively early game unit, and she is a flier at that. She brings massive utility through her flight and also has great stats.

Reyson: I did not use Reyson that much because I thought he made the game way too easy. Being able to sing (and give an extra move to) to four different units every turn is ridiculous utility. The only reason hes not higher is that he cannot fight on his own and you get him pretty late in the game.

Titania: While Titania does fall off late in the game, she is extremely powerful for the first seventeen chapters or so. She also brings utility through being a mounted unit.

B-Tier

Marcia: Another flying unit, she is comparable to Jill but I think she lacks in the bulkiness department so I could not be too aggressive with her.

Boyd: He was pretty invaluable to me in the early game, but his low defenses and hit/avoid rates made him way too unreliable later in the game.

Ike: Ike was great once he gets Ragnell, but he only gets it for two chapters which is unfortunate. He was pretty mediocre up until that point combat wise. He also lacks in utility because he is foot-locked and sword-locked.

Mist: Once she promotes she is really useful as a mounted healer. She needed a bit of babying to get going.

Ilyana: She is a decent magic user, but her speed was lacking so she did not frequently double-hit the enemy.

C-Tier

Zihark: Pretty strong in a 1v1 scenario but he lacks in utility and is sword-locked.

Haar: Another flying unit, hes decently strong but unfortunately comes really late in the game.

Tanith: Another flying unit, she does not have great stats and she comes pretty late in the game.

Mordecai: I used Mordecai for a couple of chapters as a Smite-bot to give my other units some more mobility. He was useful but did not see much use later in the game.

Volke: I just used Volke on the chapters which required him to open chests. Pretty useful but I did not use him much outside of that.

 

Overall I really enjoyed Path of Radiance despite its shortcomings. I wish some of the chapters were a little more unique, but there were some good and memorable chapters sprinkled across the game. The story was easily the best of the Fire Emblem games that I have played and I do think that this game deserves a playthrough just for the story. The Base was also pretty cool and I wish more games implemented that system. I cannot wait to play the sequel: Radiant Dawn, once I get a copy.