A boss rant

Local idea guy here being bland as ever. After playing some Fire Emblem fangames (and some of the originals), I’ve mostly started to notice a trend that has made me feel uncomfortable, and that is the “expendability” of most bosses around.

Rant on Bosses' expendability

I consider that a game that just throws meaningless faces on a chapter just for the sake of having someone to kill with little to no explanation hurts the worldbuilding of its game, as it forces that there can only be a process of self-improvement by your own forces, as everyone else is forced to join or die if they want any involvement on bettering themselves.

Not only if that damage is also further increased by the usual lack of consequence after defeats and defeats - for being the four generals of X kingdom, I rarely see anyone say “You killed one of my captains!” or “You killed my father, prepare to die.”

There’s the feel of like having a backstory that can be affected by others is either blue unit-only or just if you happen to be a very red boss that is obviously going to be unceremoniously killed off for the sake of it (read: Camus archetype).

It often doesn’t feel like you’re fighting actual soldiers on a Fire Emblem game, because it just doesn’t feel like there are actual stakes there.

How not to solve the problem

I’m pretty sure that if I say “I have been defeated, but I cannot fall here, I must make my retreat!” I will trigger at least a 30% of the Fire Emblem fanbase.

Because, yeah, recurring bosses might be cool, and a way to slightly patch up the fact that going with your army and commiting mindless slaughter is “good” by the game’s perspective, it also has to make sense, or at least provide a way to justify the survival.

The moment you see the same guy just escape? Again? Unsatisfactory, and can’t help but feel that it’s being dragged on for who knows how long, just so that when you get to kill him, your thought it “At damn long last you’re fucking dead.”, and not “It took me this much effort to bring you down.”

Which then also should be mentioned about defeats on people that you expect or want to live - retreat isn’t the only option. People can be taken down and left injuried in combat, and then healed by the enemy army, a wandering cleric, anyone, when you’re out. Hell, you can even take them captive, making those previously one-note bosses suddenly gain depth by being given a second chance, and how they tackle that.

Spoilers on fangames, such as Flames of Redemption or Transcendent Darkness

Although, some games, as Flames of Redemption, manage to do that well on its prologue, where you fight multiple bosses (Patrick, Saif and Sabrina, for example) through some chapters, where one retreats, and the other’s whereabouts are left unknown, to then have two of them to become minibosses, to then swap them into blue units.

You also have Mourashi on Transcendent Darkness, an enemy boss that turns coat after you defeat and “comfort/reality check” him, and buys you time as you escape (as he possibly gets killed off-screen).

It generally feels good when someone that isn’t you and yours truly is relevant to the plot and does something that your blue army would have never been able to do.

When being a boss is too much

Minibosses. It is a step in the right direction, whether it goes from you just wanting an extra face to kill off for little to no reason, making a normally base siege map become a dual-objective map, where you have to go through one to get to the other, or you just want to give faces to normal people for some extra worldbuilding.

It may get tiring to see every new face die in the same chapter, but at the same time, the larger cast of enemies will make it so that there’ll be a sense of fighting an actual army and not just fighting your way through an army of mannequins.

This becomes an issue when you handle it as if it were a Warriors game, where you are just minding your own business and suddenly

“I’ll crush you like the others!” “To retreat is not necessarily to lose” on a loop.

There has to be some sort of balance around the fact that you’re adding these extra enemies to make them somewhat relevant and not just a “what’shisface” moment. Not all have to be good, not all have to be redeemable or turned into a “Camus” situation, but some sort of growth or interaction within them would always be good to have.

Too long, didn't read.

In few words, I consider that enemies are as vital for worldbuilding as your own units, probably even more, and that just killing them off hurts your own game more than it hurts to keep them alive, within reason.


Omg Lesk being based? Incredible.

I wanna add that there are many other ways to make a boss interesting other than making them a recurring enemy or a potential ally later on. You briefly mentioned at the beginning of your rant that most bosses’ defeats lack consequences. And I think there are ways to expend on that.

I haven’t played many hacks so the best example I could think of was my own writing for totf (omg Lesk being based + totf having good writing on the same post? Incredible.) where your lord defeats one of the important general guys early on and throughout the game several people recognize said lord as “that guy who defeated the general dude”. I think this helped bring a sense of importance to this boss fight besides “this is a fire emblem game there needs to be a boss for this chapter”.

Another valid solution would be to have red units turned blue talk about their old bosses in supports. This is also something I did and I think I did good. And this is also why so many people remember the very nice Henry x Ricken support from Awakening.


Local agreeing user here, ready to provide his opinion. I agree that there is a lack of interesting bosses in most Fire Emblem games and even in Fire Emblem fangames. There are so many instances of characters just being throwaways with a portrait.

A couple of the most bland bosses in the vanilla FE series:
  • Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon’s Heimler: Dude has no battle quote and no death quote at all. He is just a paladin with a portrait.
  • Most bosses from Echoes’ act 1 and act 2. Some of the bosses just have a boss shield and nothing more.
  • Every single boss (with the exception of Lundgren) of FE7’s Lyn mode. 50% are brigands anyway, which makes them incredibly boring and not even to memorable to fight.

There are some downsides to giving every boss a face and character though.

The downside of too much bosses with a face and character

While I do agree with this, there are some downsides to giving bosses a character, background and or face. When giving most bosses in the game a face, you might overload the playing with worldbuilding details and story beats. Most bosses in the early game of a Fire Emblem game have a simple character and a goofy looking face, because someone that is new to the game will not understand what world they have entered. Too much information at once might cause a disconnect.

Having some bland goons to pummel, can also open up some different paths with storytelling. What if most soldiers in the army are these faceless people that have no opionions, because they are not allowed to? What if a bigger boss sees the basic bosses as just cannonfodder and the game translates this by making the servants of the bigger boss scared of speaking up?

Bland bosses do have their uses and it is not wrong to include some in fanworks.

That does not mean that I am against deep and characterised bosses though. Quite the contrary!

Ideas in my hack that gave bosses more character and background (mild spoilers for The Prophecy Of Flames)

Here are some ideas I include(d) in my hack to make bosses less faceless:

  • In the Prologue, a second boss (Samson) appears after defeating the first one. He was ordered to follow the main character’s party, after they escaped. Samson recieves a command from a different boss beforehand, showing his position in the army.
  • This commanding boss is named Igor. After being injured and his target having escaped, Igor has no choice but to retreat and recover from his injury. Igor will show up in a later chapter as a boss, since he is of course still in service of the bad guy army.
  • Stephan (chapter 1) and Garrick (chapter 3) have extra talk conversations. They will talk to their generic individual units and mock the enemy. Stephan shows fear and surprise in his conversation, while Garrick thinks out loud.
  • In chapter 2x, the miniboss Callem appears. With clever strategies, he can be defeated. However the chapter can be completed without killing Callem. Doing so, will result in him showing up in a different chapter.
  • A planned swordmaster boss with a wo dao as his main weapon, will play a special role in the world. In the hack’s universe, three wo daos were made for three sons of a famed blacksmith. Since the weapon is so rare, many others wish to lay their hands on this rare blade. A planned conversation will explain this to the player.

Those are the examples I can think of right now. There are many more outside of my hack and it requires some creative writing. When pulled off correctly though, it can make a huge impact on the player.

Some of the most memorable bosses are the ones with that extra bit of character. I highly recommend that you look into less bland bosses, if you wish to let your hack leave an impression. Be creative about it! It can also be a very subtle hint, like Wolff and Zakson from Echoes as an example:

Wolff and Zakson in Fire Emblem Echoes


They share the same death quote, battle quote and they look a lot like eachother. I can’t help but think that there is some connection between these two, as if they are brothers. The fact that this looks like a coincidence, makes me remember these bosses. Everytime I play Echoes, I remember Wolff when defeating Zakson and the other way around. These bosses are linked in such small ways and I could see a same approach like this working in a romhack as well. Let’s say you have two bosses that look like eachother quite a lot, yet one of them is a soldier and the other a sorry bandit. It links the two bosses together and gives them quite a bit of character and background.

Anyway, I hope I did not stray too far away from the topic. Hope this was insightful!

Too long didn’t read: Bosses with character good, just don’t make every boss “special”.


Okay so basically you’re saying the downside of having only impactful, memorable bosses is this :

Overloading the worldbuilding

While you’re right on that, there’s also the chance of using those bland bosses later relevancy (after pummeled) as some sort of mention by other characthers, either as a new reputation altering the view of others, spread by the common-folk (if possible longterm)

Or, even in some sort of sentence saying “You took care of the bandit problem, whomever you might be.” or even some basic villager screaming at you on a village (done in Iron Emblem) because you killed their father.

On the relationship about big boss-low boss

Now that’s an interesting concept that also makes me want to rant about another part of Fire Emblem normal way to go - military structure, as you rarely see any doubters nor any discomfort within batallions except for when no-name dude decides to betray the enemy and become recruitable - but that’s a rant for another day.

Besides, the plan of having some higher-up influence the way their low-ranks act makes sense in hind-sight and is something that if introduced well, would work great (though possibly requiring presenting bosses early that are supposed to die soon-ish, which FE doesn’t very like doing).

On boss retreats / dependant survival / alternate routes

Return of bosses that survived is a thing I’m always on, and, although it may not be as impactful as a sudden enemy coming back from the dead, it can also alter that boss’ standing or situation (see: “We fought 'til our last man” - “You are not a man, then.” → epic execution because blood).

Resemblance within bosses

Small connections like these that make normally bland bosses gain an extra depth by what could be implied within each other is an extra play that could work as an afterthought, though there’s always the cool 30% of the FE fanbase that will blame it on whoever did the game being awfully lazy.

That one The Incredibles scene

Everyone is equal, Zelda.

Equal against the power of the Start button.

Although, that in core, making every boss special will truthfully not work, there’s also the fact that even the blandest of bosses deserves to be somewhat close to be considered a living being - mannequinism isn’t a cool thing to have.


In a big way, yes :laughing:

Being a very story-oriented player, I have to heartily agree with you. Bosses are a prime opportunity to flesh out the world and political dynamic of the setting, and I feel both mainline FE and many fanhacks don’t use that to its maximum potential. This is why I love the country of Agustria so much – every single boss, even people like Phillip who are basically cardboard, plays a part in conveying the political dynamic between the various lords. imo Agustria is the best written country in mainline FE, and a huge part of that is the bosses.

I think bosses don’t even need that much dialogue to be interesting either, as long as the story utilizes that dialogue in an efficient way. I’ve found an easy way to do this is having an overall “goal” in mind behind each boss I write. like, what do I want them to teach about the enemy army composition, or the political system of a given fiefdom? Keeping this goal in mind during their development ideally/hopefully makes them feel like they have more purpose behind their existence.

It’ll be a long time before this sees the light of day thanks to my irl circumstances, but whenever I get around to putting my hack story plans onto paper and make a full-length hack of my own, I really want to lean hard into this concept as a core part of the narrative.

minor Order of the Crimson Arm spoilers

OCA does this pretty well with Roswell at least. His frequent defeats leave him more and more desperate to actually pull off a win, and he starts turning to riskier/more grandiose tactics as a result. It made for a fun side arc despite the annoyance of him retreating (though I do have other gripes about his writing)

minor Dark Lord and the Maiden of Light spoilers

I feel like Eligor DLATMOL is an interesting example of this, being a recurring miniboss. It feels like he does contribute to the story in some ways (seeing Mstislav bossing him around as his new overseer is a sign of Mstislav’s ascension up the totem pole, for example) and his ending is solid enough. But his actual gameplay presence leaves a lot to be desired and often feels like fluff for the sake of extra difficulty, since he doesn’t really have any meaningful ties with any other characters until his final encounter.

I’m not sure how I’d make his appearances feel more meaningful though.

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently, albeit a slight tangent. I’ve found that I often don’t really enjoy the earlygame stories of most hacks, especially on first playthroughs – and I think it’s because the story needs a bit of wiggle room at the beginning to set itself up and establish everything. Come midgame, where the world is fleshed out enough and a good number of characters have been introduced, and I’ll usually be enjoying the story a bit more.

I’ve also been tossing around the idea of bosses being shown in new lights later on. One idea I’ve been ruminating on is a prologue/earlygame boss who enlisted in the enemy army for paycheck reasons, and after their death one of their loved ones turns to more illegal measures to make up for the lost income. Running into the loved one later on in the story would ideally recontextualize what originally seems like a bland and unmemorable boss.

me when people press start


There are a lot of bosses that are either one-note, just two-dimensional that we have mixed feelings about, bosses who are very 3D with a backstory, or bosses who are very meme-worthy such as Batta the Beast, Glass, The man who wants to defy the gods, and Puzon who is related to his cousin, Cruzon.

Bosses are basically just pawns of the big bad and obstacles to the main characters to prevent them from achieving their goals. Sometimes, we just need to shape what kind of bosses could affect the plot of the story based on how relevant they are or not.

Back in the early days of Fire Emblem, we have bosses that are part of World Building and what ranks they are. Now in today’s Fire Emblem, we have bosses that we got to know and emotionally connect before like Three Houses that the Students from the Monastery who we did not recruit ends up as minibosses from the opposing nation that we face off against if we don’t have them in our army unless we complete some secret requirement that have them join our side when they are on the enemies’ side.

That or we just play the ROM hacks that feature recruitable Bosses and give them a second chance in joining the good guys. Sure it may ruin the premise and be out-of-character, but we can get to have fun with them and see their endings.

in history, No matter how wealthy a nation, it cannot fight many battles on a decisive level.
At most, a few times, I think.

However, there are about 20-30 chapters in FE.
Therefore, except for a few decisive battles, there will be skirmishes.

And each map needs a boss.
So it’s inevitable that there will be disposable bosses.

Since they are not in a position to command a large army in a decisive battle, but are generals of a much lower status, it seems difficult to draw their backgrounds.

However, if it is a feudal kingdom, the generals are often nobles.
Nobles often marry into families of the same rank, so I don’t think it is unusual for someone to be related to someone else.
Or they may be classmates who both studied at the same military academy.
If you use them well, you might be able to give the disposable boss a background.

//Just remember that not many people might remember a boss who died early in the game.


Maybe not every map needs a boss. Every once in a while I’ll just skip having the boss since it doesn’t seem necessary.

imo trying to fix the problem of bosses could be misplaced effort for most people. If you have a defend/escape map, you don’t need a boss. If you have an escape map, you don’t need a boss. Even if you have a seize map, you don’t really need a boss. If you have a rout map, your problem is that you have a rout map.

Your average fangame designer (and, let’s face it, the IS guys a lot of the time) is not a champion writer, and an attempt to weave a worldbuilding net using them may have unintended results. As a writing goal, it would be nice to fully utilize every tool at your disposal, but I recognize this as unrealistic for myself and must assume it is for many others as well.

Until this thread I had never before considered the idea that a generic-ish boss would be actively detrimental to a player’s enjoyment of the game rather than merely a neutral or insignificant factor, but in light of that, I think it’s fine to just dispose of them if you wish your story to remain as tight as possible without stretching yourself thin.

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It is very unnatural for an army to not have a commander (boss).

For example, even if it is a rogue mafia, it has a boss.
Bandits and pirates also have bosses.
Even republics, not armies, have presidents and prime ministers.
Even a company has a president and a general manager.
Even a pack of lions or monkeys has a boss.
Therefore, it is very strange to have an army without a commander.
If there is an army, there must be a commander.


Oh I don’t mean to say dispensing of bosses entirely, that would be super crazy. Just not having a boss in every map. You won’t always be face to face with someone who needs to, uh, have a face lol

I think that’s when they are a commander, but they appear in the game as a common soldier.

A famous general with a name is commanding in the rear, for example, and the player fights with his advance party or squad.
Since an advance party or a detachment is a group, there should always be a captain in these as well.
However, I think it’s possible to have them appear in the game as nameless soldiers without daring to depict them.

Forcing the captain of a small unit to be portrayed as a common soldier without giving him a name and portrait.
That’s a reasonable opinion.

For example, there must be many O’Neill-level small unit commanders in the Grado Empire.
However, other small unit commanders only appear in the game as nameless commanders.


The brigand bosses in Lyn mode do reference each other though, and they gradually become angrier over their comrades losing to Lyn with lines like “So and so was stupid for underestimating them because they had women in their group.” And the bandit arc ends with the bandits resolving to kill the whole group rather than keep the women alive to sell.

And Eagler, the boss of Chapter 9, has a bit of backstory where he doesn’t support Lundgren, but he fights because his wife and child are being held hostage.

I’m not saying they’re stand out characters or anything, but I wouldn’t say Lyn’s story has the worst written bosses in the series.


I won’t comment too much in regards to conventional chapter bosses, but I do have something to say about minibosses.

For example, you have a simple chapter. Objective is to seize the throne/gate with a boss on top of it. A simple map from there would just have a bunch of generics and maybe a timed side objective like a village or chest. However, this map has much more potential than it seems.

You can have enemy reinforcements spawn from a gate or a side of the map. There is then a miniboss, such that their name is like “Officer” or “Reinforcement Commander” who is deployed along with the initial units, is set to not move or stay near where the reinforcements spawn, and whose defeat causes reinforcements to halt. This concept has already been used in 3H on maps like AM’s Merceus or AM’s Arianrhod. You don’t need to assign character like when Manuela gets used for this purpose in Arianrhod - just differentiate them with the generic soldier portrait used during cutscenes instead of class-based portraits. It tells the player that this is some enemy officer with a purpose, without having to create an actual character that the player will care about - all they see is what they need to do if they don’t want constant paladins rushing their right flank.

It doesn’t have to be reinforcements - If you’re besieging a castle, defeating a miniboss on top of a tower or on the gatehouse can lower the bridge for other units to move in. Place a miniboss and a pile of generics in front of the throne room, and only open the door when the miniboss goes down, instead of letting a door key get rushed in.

Point is, you don’t need a guy with a face to add character to the enemy army. Just seeing that “hey, there’s a guy in charge of the reinforcements” is enough to add character to the enemy army without a character the player will ever care about.

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This is true and I completely forgot about it. Thanks for pointing this out. While I like that they connected the bosses this way, I’m still a bit sad that they did not do more with the indivdual brigands themselves.

I remembered there being something special about Eagler, but I thought that it was not that special. Turns out I have been terribly wrong. Once again thanks for pointing this out.

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Using bosses effectively

That’s actually a solid point to make, having them feel more purposeful and not just another soldier with a shiny helmet - giving or implying some sort of structure within the world is an easy yet effective way to do things.

3H’s enemies are often a weird issue for me - because while there’s that “emotional” leverage of having supposedly met them on a different route, or having made them join you on another time, it’s kind of a hit or miss situation - trusting on replayability for impact is not really a good gamble to do, although it comes with the advantage that most of the enemies will come fleshed out by default, even if some just turn out to be the Bane of Players, Hellspawn Hubert.

Although it is cool to have those - despite them being kind of a break and having, let’s say, recruitable Batta having no one to stand against him, it doesn’t really aid to the fact that normally they don’t get fleshed out afterwards, at all.

Drawing connections between bosses is always a great way to use them effectively, even if they might just be pirates instead of generals of a kingdom (Barth, Garth and so on, now that I recall it.), which had connections not only within themselves, but also with Valbar, shown by his quotes.

I’d normally say that’s a fault of general worldbuilding, as although it isn’t very wise to make a lore heavy entrance, there’s also the fact that first chapters tend to just be a classical brigand burnout with the hahahehe axe chapter (Rant for another day).

"There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare."

While that’s a heavily solid point, it also comes to mind that decisive combats could somewhat be on a larger scale - even spanning across multiple chapters instead of being relegated to one.

Of course, while this can be easily done going from an outside combat to fighting inside a castle, but sometimes I feel that combats could have multiple more twists span across multiple chapter, giving some sort of actual “war” and not just your blue “army” (actually just 16 people) that got previously bonked on the start be suddenly rock-rolling the enemy.

Like, you start on a normal “conquer” chapter except it gets interrupted mid-way by alerts in the back of supplies/base camp/any of this in general being taken down or being endangered.

Battle of Kin is another way (including the whole 72 hours battle) to make battles somewhat have a feeling of actually lasting, but there are always other alternatives.

Generally, this makes sense, but also has me ask “Just one?”. Yeah, overloading it with minibosses, batallion captains and so on might not be the wisest of ideas, but it also would help on the aforementioned realism.

Not needing bosses and minibosses

Although I’d say it would only work on context (Iron Emblem does this well),

I’d say I’m agreeing on this here - there’s no need to force all commanders to have a face, although I’d like to think that there could be some sort of play-around with that, whereas killing them changes the events of a village, or their survival has them have a different appearance where they even remove their helmet and stop being faceless.

You’re awfully right here, and I’d say that all of this is right - and although I might complain about how no faces and no lore consequence don’t make me happy, there’s also the point where by itself it feels like a sound point to make.


I feel like my opinion on faceless “Enemy Commander” generics as bosses is dependent on the context. I enjoyed seeing them in FE4, as it made the groups of soldiers feel more like squads and they didn’t detract from the worldbuilding in any way.

That said, the significant presence of faceless generic commanders was one of my least favorite parts of 3H, to be honest – though it’s partially because the game is horridly lacking in unrecruitable minor bosses as a whole, in part thanks to the presence of a: unrecruited students as bosses and b: the likes of Hubert/DK retreating so often.

I honestly think 3H’s worldbuilding suffered because of its lack of meaningful bosses, especially in part 1. It’s mainly because these generics easily could’ve been outlets to help develop the lore. For example, the “mysterious mage” in the underground tomb/sword of the creator chapter could’ve helped flesh out the Agarthans, who are already sorely underdeveloped, if he had an actual identity. But because he’s a generic we kinda got nothing meaningful from him at all.

It got to the point that when I saw Metodey near the end of part 1 I was overjoyed, mainly because he broke the cycle of almost every boss being either plot important/retreaters, or completely faceless mooks who could be removed with no impact on the story.

To be fair, some of 3H’s minor bosses are definitely solid (I see Acheron as the kingpin behind the Leicester Alliance’s lore being convincing, since he’s literally the only instance we actually see infighting in the Alliance firsthand) but they’re the exception rather than the norm.

tl:dr I want to say they can work, but only if they aren’t used in lieu of conventional bosses? Though I guess that’s the entire definition of a miniboss lmao


fighting inside a castle

It is possible to pad the chapters with castle maps, but…

In my opinion, castle maps only exist in fiction.
In a typical battle, if the walls or gates are breached, it’s over.

I mean, this map is possible.

but this map is not possible.

In the first place, if you are in a situation where you can break through the gates and get in, then you are surrounded by the enemy, and you don’t even need to fight, just wait for them to run out of food and water.
This is because it’s hard to imagine that farmland is not seize or water sources are not seize when your gates are breached.

In the opening of FE8, King Fado surrendered when his gates were breached by the enemy.
I think this is normal.

On the other hand, it’s more strange if the battle continues even after the gates are breached.
Why didn’t they run away?
Do they think that they can win even if the gates are breached?

If they are going to pad it down, I think there will be two battles: one on the plains, like the battle of the steppes in FE1 and the decisive Macedonian battle, and the other over the citadel.


In the first place, if you are in a situation where you can break through the gates and get in, then you are surrounded by the enemy, and you don’t even need to fight, just wait for them to run out of food and water.
This is because it’s hard to imagine that farmland is not seize or water sources are not seize when your gates are breached.

Generally this is true, although you have to keep in mind that not every general is a combat genius and knows this. It wasn’t totally uncommon in history to have people in positions of power, despite not having any idea how to do their job, as you mentioned it could be due to being related. It could also very well be that you have a very aggressive and ruthless general who wants to fight a battle for the hell of it, or because of some political reason.

There are also several cases in history where a defender did not surrender despite it potentially saving his, or the lives of his men. Examples being the Battle of Shiroyama where the last stand of the Samurai took place, Battle of Gaixia where Xiang Yu fought on until the very last moment with a handful of his most loyal soldiers. Or the battle of Roncevaux Pass, where Roland and his men secured Charlegmagne’s safe retreat from the Basques.

Of course these were exceptions, this did not take place at every siege and every battle, but seeing how Fire Emblem often has the player fight characters like Ashnard or Zephiel, who are not the types to surrender, it doesn’t seem totally out of place. You also should consider timing, as you don’t always have the time to starve out an opponent, be it supply issues, a massive approaching army, etc

Another thing that i think is important is how magic is common place in Fire Emblem, in the real life middle ages a shieldwall of men can only hold on for so long before hordes of enemies break them, and one man can only hold on for so long against large amounts of enemies. But in Fire Emblem we have blessed armour (Black Knight) superhuman strenght, etc.

To conclude this: I think you don’t always need to have an indoor castle battle, but there are certainly places where it fits well in a setting like fire emblem.