Design question: Fire Emblem 'Story' chapters with 1-2 playable characters

There is a certain type of chapter that I, personally, despise to hell and back. This type of chapter has ensured I never played more than a third of the way into FE10 and has made me want to drop several games historically.

I’m referring to those chapters where you only have 1-2, maaaaaybe three units, and it’s typically a story-based mission of varying difficulties.

Here are a few examples:

FE7 Lyn Mode Prologue: I dislike this chapter because you only have one unit. It’s boring, mandatory, and completely inflexible. On the plus side, it’s over in a minute or less. Basically a playable cutscene without any excitement.

FE7 Hector Mode Chapter 11: I sort of dislike this because you only have Hector and Matthew as playable characters. The chapter is also somewhat long, in that it will take you maybe 5 minutes to beat. BUT… it’s also somewhat nonlinear with multiple paths, so it’s not abominable.

FE7 Hector/Eliwood Legendary weapon/promotion chapters. Of these two, the Hector one is definitely my least favorite. You only have Hector and one other unit, typically a thief, plus you get a lot of items and don’t have access to a convoy, so you have to throw items away sometimes. It’s inflexible, boring, and not particularly fun, but at least it’s slightly open-ended. The Eliwood version gives you four characters, which is more agreeable.

FE8 Prologue: You have only Eirika and Seth. The chapter is actually slightly more open-ended than Lyn’s prologue because you have a choice of chewing through the enemies with Seth or trying to funnel EXP to Eirika… so at least that’s something. It’s also over quickly, and not too bad.

FE8 Chapter 5x: This one isn’t too bad, because you get 4 units and the chapter has a few neat side-objectives and alternate paths. I’m only including it because in my discussion with a friend, they mentioned this as a possible ‘bad chapter,’ though I somewhat disagree. It’s alright.

FE9, Ike vs BK: This is the TRUE example of what I hate. A story-based mission where you don’t get to bring anyone but the main lord, maybe one other character (in this case, it’s only Ike) and it acts as a boring, glorified cutscene. At least it’s over relatively quickly, though it can be tricky to play.

FE10, Micaiah and the BK: The absolute WORST example of this trope. This is it. This is the one that broke me. I have stopped playing FE10 halfway into this chapter, every time. The other examples often aren’t too bad, but this one runs the gauntlet of things I hate.

  • Only two units.
  • No convoy.
  • Fog of war.
  • Awful terrain.
  • Luck-based enemy spawns that can easily catch and fuck you over.
  • Annoying pathing, trying to find the stupid boss.

I hate these chapters, but some are obviously worse than others. FE10’s example might be the worst by far, but others come close to its awfulness. Am I the only person who hates these? Do others like them? Is there anyone who likes playing chapters like these, especially FE10’s example?

Are there ways to make these less insufferable? Are there ways to offer players like me ways to enjoy them? And so on.

What do you guys think?

13 Likes

Give the player more units

9 Likes

Noted.
I’ll make the prologue of all of my hacks exactly like this.
In truth though, I like having short chapters, especially in early-game. I can’t be bothered to have 15 units dropped on me and expecting that I remember their names and uses.

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I… SHALL NOT… PLAY!

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Are there ways to make these less insufferable? Are there ways to offer players like me ways to enjoy them?

Yeah, don’t do them.

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this is the only one that doesn’t really fit, as it is entirely optional

does this also include the ike/bk fight in fe10 which is a bit differently done

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A lot of vanilla prologues were made like this solely for the sake of tutorials. Romhacks don’t need tutorials - at least not for the basic gameplay elements of FE - because of the overwhelming likelihood that someone picking up a romhack has already played a vanilla game. And the tutorials don’t even do a good job anyway.

FE8 5x’s problem is less to do with unit count and more to do with the size. The top 33% of the map only exists to make the map longer. If you cut that area and add a breakable wall just above the archer at the start or drain the water at the start, bam, it works. What makes this even more egregious is that in chapter 8, suddenly there’s a breakable wall in the place where there should have been one before!

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this chapter in my opinion is also just poorly designed, you can very easily funnel exp to kyle or forde to get them to lv.15 before they return due to the long winding hallways and it’s not like the game discourages you from doing that on repeated playthroughs since Orson is

SPOILERSFORFE8

a corpse f*cker

and ephraim is footlocked and will most likely be carried by orson to the end of the chapter

but there’s a cool killer lance so that’s neat

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I also agree with this for pretty much every one of the “starting” chapters that does this. (I don’t agree with the part I didn’t quote :p)

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FE8 5x sucks for reasons other than unit roster. It’s large, tedious, and there is no anti turtle whatsoever.

Time to make 0 unit red vs green prologue.

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I think they could be done well if used intuitively in the story, but so far I can’t say I have any particularly strong feelings on the existing ones in the main franchise.

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Im fine with stuff like the prologues, and i actually like FE8 5x a lot. But dear god i despise that micaiah x burger king burger making competition with Jared in the woods.

I feel these story type chapters can definitely be done well if they fit story wise, and are short to play with no bullshit like fog of war, or atleast some failsafe to make sure you don’t softlock if your main character got bad levels.

Like say you get a flashback from an ex gladiator from one of his fights. In that chapter you play a premade version of him, so you can’t be softlocked thanls to bad levels. Maybe you even have some special chapter gimmick like “step on this tile to pick up a weapon thrown in by the crowd” or you have “Throw sand” as a weapon that you can use to lower your opponents accuracy before he charges for his next attack. And if you wanna be extra careful, and if it fits, you could make the chapter unloseable and just show a different cutscene for it. In other words make it truly optional with a reward for you in the end.

I feel like I have to stand up for these chapters because I’ve made a handful of chapters where the player only has a handful of units. Most of these are built around using a group of support units to get the most out of the player’s sole or main attacker, and I’ve had a few people tell me that these chapters were a high point in the game.

But nothing will make me defend Ike vs. BK. It’s entirely RNG based to get enough Aether procs to outdamage the BK’s auto-healing before the time limit ticks down. It’s one of the worst designed moments in all of Fire Emblem.

Chapter 9 of RD never bothered me much. I once beat it entirely with Micaiah without using BK just for the heck of it.

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Handful. Hand. Has five fingers. Typically, that word means 4-6 units.

Bit of a difference between a ‘handful’ and 1-2 playables, like I mentioned. 4+ units is usually within my tolerable/safe zone.

I’ve actually done two units, but one of them is a dancer who also heals, and she refreshes her turn whenever she heals, and she has White Pool to buff your attacker’s damage output, so it feels like you have more units than you really do.

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that actually seems even worse because it’s effectively 1 unit

:E

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I feel like some of these don’t even deserve to be on the list (FE7 and 8 Prologues). Where’s Awakening’s vision thing with Chrom and Robin if you’re going to consider glorified cutscenes as intro maps as fitting into this?

I feel like Hector’s Chapter 11 is probably a map that could have been cut and told in story, though it does lend credence to Hector saying that everyone is watching and spying on Uther.

I understand that the lore implications of the Durandal/Armads chapters are that they’re a test for the protagonists, but, yeah, being that deep into the game and having that low of a deployment cap is really irritating as a player.

1-9 and 27-2 I feel like are more egregious because of the circumstances and randomness than anything else:

While 1-9 probably could be cut, it does show that Jarod is getting desperate and would resort to assassinating someone in the dead of night and does provide a pathway for the Black Knight to show up as Daein’s savior and to give him a reason to appear in 1-F. But Micaiah’s stats being what they are and the randomness of things along with how long the chapter feels like it drags on for doesn’t help matters.

27-2 is one that I’m fine with from a lore standpoint but not from a gameplay one. No opportunity to save after 27-1, completely random because of skill proc chances, and the result kind of affects your roster for the final map and you may not have any real control over that unless you keep replaying 27 and then get a string of RN rolls that help you get what you want out of 27-2.

I think the major point in a lot of these is where the maps fall in the story, what the gameplay is like on them, and whether it makes sense for it to exist at all, and there should be some kind of conscious balancing act of the three. Hector Ch 11 works with the lore and the timing (kind of), but is it something the player absolutely needs to play? Or could we have just seen it and then pick up with Birds of a Feather and Hector’s first turn being 2 turns into its events?

Most of the worst applications of these chapters are when they are deeper into the game and you already have a core roster and you are inexplicably not permitted to use a chunk of that roster. The others all have detrimental gameplay elements. Honestly, I wouldn’t count early maps with low roster sizes in with that particular grouping, but those kinds of maps should keep in mind how the map fits in and whether it is a “necessary” inclusion?

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Bad and I hate it. It’s actually even worse than most of my examples, except for the FE10 example. I didn’t feel like listing every example from every game. I find FE13’s intro to be extremely boring and slow, because I had to play through it half a dozen times for my awakening save file compilation.

Funny thing: I prefer Eliwood Chapter 11 because it’s more open ended, but Hector Chapter 12 because you get all of Hector’s units right at the start, including Serra and Matthew. That’s cool. Kind of a tradeoff at game start.

I guess it’s something that anyone would have to experience for themselves to decide if it’s fun or not. Personally, I think what the actual gameplay is like matters more than how many units I’m using. If having trained Ike and Mist throughout the game actually led to success in the BK night showdown, I’d be fine with it. It could even be fun. I actually feel more engaged using Mist in that fight because her role is actually fair.

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