Fire Emblem: Lady of Masks [0.1.0 - ACT ONE COMPLETE! | 11/30+ Chapters] (24/07/2022)

How far will you go for justice?

After a devastating surprise attack from the neighbouring theocracy of Haloseia, the Cerahni Empire has fallen. His hometown in ruins and his mother slain, Fane and his companions, Raphael and Lionel, embark on a quest to liberate their homeland from the occupying invaders and to avenge the fallen. But their destiny is forever altered when they encounter Ileana, a Haloseian exile with the power to see the future, whose only goal is the death of the Grim King of Haloseia, Cathal Tolman. As the war rages on and threatens to take everything from them both, decades of conspiracy begin to unravel, revealing hidden truths and dark histories…

Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-11

Hey, I’m Xilirite. If you don’t hang around the FEU discord, you may not know me, but I’ve been working on this project for about a year now, and I’m extremely excited to bring you the first release of the game. While I’ve tried my hardest to get this project as polished as I could before making it public, I figured I was beginning to reach the point where I was hitting diminishing returns, and that I’d be much better suited just releasing this to the wider world so I can get a greater amount of feedback – if you play this, please give me your thoughts! I want to make this project the best it possibly can be, and I’m only one man.

Download it here!

This project’s main goals are twofold: Firstly, to create a Fire Emblem experience tailored to the rhythms I’ve always found most enjoyable – decisive, exciting turns, tackled using powerful offensive tools; and secondly, to use the Fire Emblem format to tell a rich, mature, and thematic story, with multiple protagonists and a focus on geopolitical machinations rather than dragon gods and evil cults.

Content Warning

This hack utilizes somewhat harsher language than the vanilla FE experience, and will deal with some heavy exploration of grief including allusions to suicidal ideation (not currently present in this release). There are also minor depictions of racial and sexual discrimination. If you feel this warning should be expanded on, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your concerns so I can make this as comprehensive as possible.

Features

Features currently implemented in this release include

  • 9 playable chapters, with 20 playable characters.
  • Enemy units with powerful offenses who demand respect.
  • Rebalanced weapons, including a overhaul of magic and bow weaponry, substantially more powerful steels, more asymmetrical design within the weapon triangle, and a greater emphasis on blade weapons as an alternative to generic swords for some classes.
  • A unique personal skill for every unit and some (not all!) bosses.
  • Passive stat boosters that will raise some stats while lowering others.
  • A powerful bow lord, as well as a “ranger” Jeigan. Bows!!!
  • Magic users who each wield powerful PRF spells unique to them.
  • Specific combat units with partial access to thief utility.
  • Several common QoL patches, such as Thracia trading and taking actions after talks/supports.
  • Reworked supports, with support bonuses being standardized and greatly reduced, while giving players access to any number of B supports for all their units.
  • A detailed storyline, with a strong focus on characters and thematic storytelling, following the start of the war through to the end of the first major story arc.
  • Cool hats!!!
  • I really want to stress how cool the hats will be.
Planned Features for the Future
  • A three act story spanning 30+ chapters, three armies, and a year of warfare.
  • A fully redone soundtrack, including several custom tracks.
  • A cast of 40+ characters.
  • Powerful Omens – light magic spells that never break, and possess extremely weak combat stats in exchange for extremely powerful passive effects, such as huge defensive buffs, powerful stat-buffing auras, or even flight!
  • A guy whose name is Mister Big who is very buff and huge.
Screenshots

Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-22Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-7
Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-0Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-2
Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-23Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-24
Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-3Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-4
Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-19Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-9
Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-21Lady of Masks v0.1.emulator-10

Known Issues
  • Several events currently don’t have map movements associated with them, including a very notable event in 1-1 that requires specific assets that haven’t been made yet. Don’t worry! Things will be given the full cutscene treatment in time, as the more mission-critical features are finalized.
  • I’ve seen exactly one instance of somebody using VBA having 1-3 hang when they attempt to clear the map. Resetting and resuming appeared to fix the issue, and I haven’t been able to replicate the bug on mGBA.
  • The talk conversation between Price and Rory in 1-6 can black out the screen for a few seconds if it’s skipped, but this was very shaky for me to reproduce and was generally easy to break out of without losing any progress.
  • All but one of the support conversations are still not implemented, as supports are undergoing a minor overhaul. I’ve attached a link to the currently written support conversations for anybody who wishes to read them as they unlock them, and in the next update I will have them all inserted, alongside some changes to how supports function in the first place. Details are subject to change on how that’s gonna pan out, though, all I know for sure is that they need to be rewritten to take into account plans to implement some kind of base system where supports will take place between maps – half the supports are written around being in combat, and the more recent half of the supports, so there’s a disconnect I want to address before I handle the rest of the system.
  • Spell animations are entirely unimplemented, and almost every custom spell just shoots an arrow (or else just reuses a vanilla animation). You can take this as even further archer bias if you’d like!
  • William’s animations are currently still set to be dancer animations.
    Post 1-E Issues
  • Keio’s promoted animation breaks at melee range. I’d recommend just playing with animations off, or at least off for her, if you intend to promote her.
  • Both Coinneach and the librarian have no portrait. Yes, they both use Moulder; no, they aren’t the same character.
  • Some events will probably load to the map over and over again right now, and text formatting is inconsistent across text entries. This, too, will be fixed in… the Xilfile.
Link to Credits

Lady of Masks Credits - Google Docs

Link to Supports (This will be removed once all supports are finalized and implemented in game)

The Big Supports Doc - Google Docs

I really hope you enjoy! This project has been one of the things keeping me sane over the course of the last year, and I have big plans for where the story will go from here. If you want to get in contact with me directly, you can message me here (I try to check the forums every day, even if I rarely post), or on Discord via our development server (link below), the FEU server, or by messaging me directly at Xilirite#4899.

Like what you see and wanna keep up to date? Click here to join us in the development discord and you can see all the WIP junk that hasn’t quite made it into this release!

48 Likes

Congrats on the release! Looking forward to giving this a try.

I’m still not used to the varied textboxes, but glad to see new tricks at work.

2 Likes

This looks really interesting.

Working on my next release is eating up my Fire Emblem energy right now, but once that’s out, I’ll definitely give this a try.

4 Likes

We’ve reached a point in Fire Emblem hacking where the much lower barrier to entry and influx of community members have made it far more difficult for hacks to standout today than in the past. Many wonder, how do I make my hack, stand out?

It only took one man to crack the code.
image

8 Likes

sees Witch hat in pic

yeah, ok, you got me, i will give this a try

3 Likes

Everyone loves a good witch hat ^.^ There may even be more than one witch hat in the final release :eyes:

3 Likes

This literally got me riled up try the hack even tho I don’t normally play incomplete ones.

  • This post made me realize that I needed to see cool hats on FE
2 Likes

Good day Xil, congratulations for the release! The hard work has finally paid off.
I have played the first three chapter today, and I wanted to leave my thoughts about them.
I’ve playtested some of these maps in the past, but they have a different feeling due to the number tweking recently made.
You have always defined your hack as text heavy, but the scenes never overstated their welcome even to somebody who prefers a leaner approach like me; that’s pretty remarkable.

Prologue

I appreciate the map being short and easy, but not a pushover. The map is paced so you have all the time to make acquaintance with your units. Thanks to the terrain composition and Maeve and her Compassion it’s possible to feed a couple of kills to units like Gael and Ileana in a pretty safe way.

Chapter 1

This map has evolved a lot since the last time I played it. The section on the bottom left is still pretty scary, but far more manageable. The true star of the chapter is Raphael, with his leather shield and his skill, he is a reliable and somewhat fast tank that can quickly dispose of the several axe users present on the map. The presence of Lionel and Fane make that part of the map very fun to play.
The right part on the maps suffers a little bit during the first turn due to the limited number of units, and consequently due the limited number of moves the player can perform. Everything is nice and dandy as soon as Eliza joins the squad tho.

Chapter 2

This is for now my favorite map. The distinct weapons of the enemies elevate the usefulness of certain units. Malgrave is a perfect candidate for the the left part of the map, he will eat those sword users like they were his breakfast. Eliza (I am so happy to see her risen from her meme unit status to a competent cavalier to be reckon with) and Lionel are perfect for the upper part (but not too dominat thanks to the halberd).
The most interesting part of the map is definitely the lower right. The combination of cavaliers and longbow archers make correct placement and use of your units bulk crucial for success (the duo Raphael and Fane, plus some chip from Gael and Keio did the heavy lifting).
Maybe it’s because I’ve sent him to the lower path, but besides a couple of cavaliers I had a little bit of trouble finding something to do with Ramm. Switching the mercenaries on the extreme right of the map to some kind of lance user might be an idea. But as I said, very minor nitpick, I still need to see how he performs on the upper part of the map.

Overall, I had a lot of fun. The number tweaking really did its job well. Pretty eager to share more feedback. I am sure that with further development and addition of custom stuff this will be a crème de la crème hack.

2 Likes

Hey Xil,

I played a bit of the hack. Overall I am impressed by the eventing and general direction you’re taking things. I managed to play the prologue and 1-1 before I cut it short to get ready for work.

General items to note:

  • Compassion: Lowers defense by how much? Would help w/ calculating hits if it specified that it was -2.
  • Unit colors: I recall having this issue in Order of the Crimson Arm, but teal players and purple enemies can be a little easy to mix up. I’m fortunately not color blind, but I’m curious if this color choice is difficult for those who are. I know Ternon used asm to allow players to toggle, and that may be an option for those who want to use standard blue/red.
  • Vulnerary: Note how much they heal since it looks like it is more than 10.
  • Blessing: What does “some HP” mean in comparison to Heal’s “restores HP”? Is it a different formula? It’d be nice to have some transparency if you’re open to it.

Prologue

  • The map flow feels a bit off. It seems like you want to split, but doing a 2/2 split w/ a trainee did not feel wise. This lead to my turn 4 looking a bit congested down low, as you can see by this screenshot:

Lady of Masks v01-0

  • I’ll also add it feels like there’s a lot of axe users for a crew featuring 2 lance units. Heresy can make quick work of them and Gael’s personal make it is less of an issue, but it felt unintuitive to me as I played.
  • Kom’s generic boss quote has him appear on the right side instead of the left when speaking.

Chapter 1:

  • I’d love it if Lionel came with a weapon that’s good for chipping. While it’s nice to have a Jeigan delete enemies, I’d also like to be able to more easily use him to feed kills as well. He either OHKO or ORKO every enemy on turn 1. To be fair, just about everyone did - are enemies supposed to be so easy to kill?
  • I got borked by the mischievous sand tile:

Lady of Masks v01-1

  • I feel like Eliza showing up a turn after Keio and Margrave doesn’t add anything to the map flow - I find that it limits my creativity on the turn or two prior. This is one of the gripes I have with low unit deploys in general - it makes certain moves strictly more optimal than others and gives the player less wiggle room to be inventive. The first two maps felt a bit restrictive for my taste with the number of units and how they’re laid out, but 1-2 looks like it will be better now with both parties converged.

On a more general note, my feelings on combat are mixed. I feel like the difficulty oscillates from too easy to surprisingly hard very quickly turn by turn. I think a lot of this has to do with how frequently the player can one round, which feels off this early in a game. I’m definitely struggling to articulate it, but I feel like there’s an opportunity to make the combat feel a bit more “even” at times - right now it feels like I can stomp enemies, but the number of units given and their strength make me need to restrain myself since I can die quickly, too. I think if one rounding was limited and I needed to combine for kills more often, it’d feel a bit smoother overall. Right now I feel like the game’s numbers want me to clear things at a fast pace and I am unable to because of the lack of units / healing so far. I’ll try to solidify my thoughts on this more as I play the rest.

I’ll keep sharing feedback as I go through. Excited to dive into 1-2 later.

2 Likes

Hey, Dan! Thanks for the detailed response, this is very helpful and you’ve echoed a lot of problems I’ve had myself with the early chapters, while putting them into words I was struggling to find for myself when thinking of ways to address them.

These are problems I’ve had with the prologue chapter myself, and ultimately while I feel the map is far better than it used to be, it also isn’t anywhere near where I’d like it to be, and from my time tinkering with the map I think nothing short of a total overhaul of the chapter’s map and flow would be enough to have it meet my expectations. Current tentative plans involve trying to make this more of a setpiece map, involving more characters like Jericho.

Minor Cast Spoilers

Jericho, like Maeve, is a playable unit only in act 2, which hasn’t been created yet. Alongside them are Ceres and Lisbet, who are chapter bosses in 1-9 (another chapter that doesn’t exist yet) and then playable units later. The new plan would involve having these units show up as well, and possibly others as well bc three units isn’t very many, and designing the map as a sort of two pronged deal – escape with Ileana and crew while the act 2 units fight more powerful enemies, and have the prologue act as a sort of sneak-peek into some of the toys players can play with later in the game.

These are just vague ideas though, and I have plans to rework the prologue (and chapter 1 for that matter, as I’ll discuss in a moment) once act 1 is finished.

Lionel is in a strange spot balance-wise and I’ve been talking a lot to some people about how to address him. I’ve definitely had plans to rework his starting inventory in particular, but I didn’t want to start playing around with that until while my main focus was making sure 1-5 and 1-6 were in a good state for a public release.
As for enemy quality, chapter 1 definitely introduces you to some of your most powerful units right out the gate and encourages you to get used to the level of reliability they bring – Fane very rarely falls off, and Keio can be almost as reliable as he is with just a few magic levels. The longterm goal, design-wise, is to present players with enemies that are very threatening, and then providing them with powerful tools to eliminate those threats, such as Fane or Ileana, while also not requiring near-perfect play from players at all times. It’s… a work in progress goal :stuck_out_tongue:

Yep, same as the previous chapter, I’ve been not too fond of this map’s flow for a while now, especially as units have evolved to be better suited to meet the challenges of 1-2 through 1-6 – for me, the first two chapters feel like a different game with different design goals, in large part because they sort of are. A lot of design goals didn’t crystalize until around 1-3, and Prologue + 1-1 were very messy retrofits to try to meet those goals. 1-1 is also slated for a rework once act 1 is finished – this one more about explicitly about evacuating the town rather than just a generic kill boss. One of the things that most bothers me about the chapter is how restrictive the two sides of the map are, and addressing that is one of the major outstanding goals for the project at the moment (besides the, uh, “finish it” goal lol)

I think a big part of this issue will be solved with that 1-1 rework, since a part of it would 100% involve making sure that all your units are deployed at the start and in the vicinity of each other, such that the map isn’t being tackled by small 3 unit pockets. Another major component of this issue is that the enemy unit formations at the south end of the map are very restrictive, and require a very odd kind of pacing to safely approach them. This is something in particular I feel I currently struggle with a lot as a designer, and now that the hack is out I plan on spending some time playing other hacks for a bit to try and see how they handle creating the kinds of situations I feel I’ve failed to create myself.
That aside, though, while I made need to tone Raphael’s 1-1 performance down a little bit long-term, one of the things I want 1-1 to make extremely clear to players is that if they need something dead, Fane can kill it, and he will almost never not be able to kill it. If enemy quality proves to continue to be an issue, I’ll have to readdress some of how the cast is designed, but with prologue and 1-1 in particular, these are issues I plan on addressing when I remake the chapters.

1-2 and 1-3 are I feel the strongest maps in the game! I really hope you enjoy them!

1 Like

Thanks for the detailed response. It’s helpful to hear the context and some background. All makes sense to me.

From a balancing standpoint, I was taking aback by how strong some of the gear was in the party. It felt like it was a bit too soon for your first soldier and cav to come with steel weapons before we’ve even gotten acquainted with iron weapons.

I’d love it if Lionel had an option similar to Maeve’s compassion where he can chip reliably to feed kills to other units. Not sure if I’d necessarily replace his silver bow or steel blade with it, but the option existing would be nice since as a casual it can feel bad to feel forced to take kills with your Jeigan without going out of your way to give them a weak weapon. Either that or beefing up enemy speed so they get doubled less may help, too. I suspect the weapon will be more fun for players to work with and be easier for you to balance around long term, however.

The changes you propose make sense. Happy to talk through and brainstorm on changes as well. My advice is rework stuff when you feel motivated to do so, since right now it’s far from bad or unplayable.

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This is a very kind offer! Once I’ve finished with my little hacking hiatus I’ll take you up on that ^.^

Also the point about the starting gear is an interesting one, about getting “acquainted” with irons. I’m gonna give that some more thought, I think, bc that’s an interesting way of putting it – letting players get used to the relative strength of irons before introducing steels. Gonna put a pin in that and play around with it once I get back to work.

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Sounds good, I’ll pop into the discord.

Yeah this is also my bias showing through - but I find that gradual introduction to varied weapons helps make it easier to design rewards. For example, if everyone has a steel sword in chapter 1, iron swords become a downgrade if introduced later, while players will then look towards silver sword as the next upgrade. If everyone gets an iron sword, then you can give out a steel sword as a reward - creating the feeling of progression while also providing a more interesting choice. I’d argue it’s generally more fun to figure out “who do I give my best gear to” vs. “who do I give this weaker gear to”.

Admittedly, I skew towards the low-end a lot in FE (I love bronze, slims, irons, etc.) and like the gradual power increase - this was something I probably jumped the shark on a bit in VQ, but that I hope to remedy in a future project.

Enjoy the break!

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Keio’s hat is very cool. Looking forward to trying this out, looks good!

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Played a little bit more this morning and wanted to capture my thoughts.

1-2

  • I like the general set up of the chapter and the pressure you face. While I appreciate the difficulty, in some ways it felt like I had to progress much slower than I wanted to because of general enemy strength. It took me a few tries (I got killed once because I forgot to account for fiery blood when making a plan), but it was satisfying to need to combine for kills.
  • Chapter was overall much more satisfying, albeit I felt like I needed to stay still and let waves of reinforcements come to me for a few turns instead of pressing forward. Manages to be engaging in spite of this, but I definitely felt a bit “stuck” at times in terms of how I moved because of enemy formations, leading to a few instances where I mostly waited and pulled reinforcements.
  • Does Cylean join if you clear before she shows up? Showing up on turn 6 felt late for a recruitable, and I don’t think it really added much to the map having her show up that late to the party when I was in clean up mode (I was setting up for boss kills on turn 6 and finished on turn 7, so she got precisely one round of combat in). Is there a reason she doesn’t show up earlier? I think it would be nice to have a flier for more of this map.
  • Lionel is dope and I like how he’s written. Old man with regrets is the best archetype.

1-3

  • Opening scene felt a bit long, especially the part with Janus and the nobles. You may be able to trim this down slightly, but this is a granular comment.

  • The merchants have iron swords in their inventory they can’t use. Is this intentional?

  • Bit of a glitch with the cursor and text box when Maeve shows up
    Lady of Masks v01-2

  • I was able to get the 3 caravans and swipe an iron sword with Price before leaving. Felt like I was able to one round a lot and the number of enemies scared me more than their quality when I actually got into combat with them. Think this map has a lot of potential to be high pressure, but the general enemy strength left me a bit wanting. By the time Maeve showed up though, I knew it was time to leave. Worked out that I got the last caravan right as she showed up and was able to boogie out of there.

  • Cool chapter premise overall, love to see the “push your luck” map objective explored this way. I would make it clear in system text that if you feel like you can’t get everything, that you can escape - it isn’t really clear that the map will end by escaping, so some details on the objective upfront would be good to avoid any potential confusion.

  • The one round meta made it hard to make use of units who struggle to ORKO. The enemies felt a lot easier to kill because many of them were weighed down. I don’t think Eliza or Ramm more than one round of combat because others were able to do much more (I gave some scraps to Gael, of course). I think with tougher enemies, I’d get more use out of everyone. Or at least enemies that are weighed down less frequently - right now it feels like getting weighed down means they are likely to be ORKO’d which is a huge swing in player perception IMO. I am still getting used to the game, but I find regular ORKO this early to feel a bit off and I don’t expect it - there hasn’t been a gradual ramp up in power - I’ve been able to do this from the start. It makes it more difficult to use all of the tools you present the player with since a few do the job much better. Vanilla is often guilty of this too (hello Seth), but I think beefing up enemies slightly (giving them lighter gear, perhaps a touch more speed or HP) would help a bit. Albeit, if you do this, you may want to reduce density slightly, but I’d need to test more to say for sure.

  • I gave the energy ring to Cylean and the robe to Keio. Still debating who to give the secret book too, but Gregory is looking like a prime candidate.

Overall I’d say 1-2 and 1-3 don’t need much rework. Both are in pretty good shape, and the issues I have are broader w/ enemy quality and should be remedied with some changes on that front - less so with the maps themselves.

Hope you don’t mind my rambling as I continue on.

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Would you believe that what you read IS the trimmed down version? I may have to do some more shearing of some scenes in general as things go on, but the original version of that scene was originally much more involved.

This seems like something I’m going to be putting a lot of thought into moving forward. I think as time has gone on in this project, unit quality on the player’s side has consistently been improved, while enemies have struggled to keep up. I’m going to look into specific ways to address this issue, though enemy speed definitely seems to be a big one. I think I’ve definitely jumped the gun on player strength in the early chapters, in part due to not having the full picture of the game in front of me yet to be able to envision the arc of their power properly, and this is leading to a situation where you aren’t really getting to see your units grow in power so much as you’re watching them maintain their baseline level of power (continuing to be able to double, continuing to be able to tank damage, etc.). The only thing I think I want to keep longterm is that I still want Fane specifically to reliable double enemies the moment you get him, so that he can still leave his mark on the player as “cruise missile you use to solve problems.”

1-4 is a strange map that is designed more as a breather chapter before the next big arc, but hopefully it’s still enjoyable. If it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to hear what you feel necessary to purchase from the shops when you get there.

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ah yes, instead of the father dying the mother dies! Revolutionary!

Yeah that’s fair. I think the biggest implication is how much one rounding impacts how the game is approached. I mostly have more units than I can reasonably use each turn because enemies can be taken down by a single unit more often than not, which creates a further power disparity between units like Lionel, Fane, Ileana (all great weapons) and almost everyone else. It reminds me a bit of the power disparity between magic units and physical units in deity device - the latter aren’t explicitly bad it’s just the former do the job much better.

I get what you mean about not having the full picture. The ramp up w/ big weapons and one rounding makes me think the game is going to end soon, it’s a lot quickly and the units’ more nuanced strengths/attributes are lost because Pathfinder, Silver Bow, and Heresy make it easy to ignore who I am dealing with and delete them indiscriminately.

I made an attempt at 1-4 earlier and honestly I didn’t really feel like I needed much. I bought a wyrmslayer to try and take out Jericho (Which failed because Lionel missed a 60, RIP). Everything there felt like ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘need to have’. I wasn’t sure if preps were inflated, but I would’ve probably bought a few irons to have as backup, but going into 1-4 I felt pretty kitted out with all the gear you’ve been doling out. Especially now with a bard I don’t really know what else you are going to do to help with the feeling of progression besides more regular killers/silvers, and even then we already have a few of those.

The wyvern reinforcements in the top left got me - was not expecting there to be so many and for them to be right on top of me. Had a hard time dealing with Jericho because I forgot I could steal his shield until i missed the killing blow with the wymslayer :pensive: Will try again later.

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iron swords were for Price to nab
his recruit dialogue stated ‘armaments’ in the caraven I believe?

This is all very helpful, thank you very much! I’m glad you’re enjoying the story so far, I’m very passionate about storytelling and it’s extremely encouraging to hear so many people singing its praises.

I’m still on a bit of a hiatus for a few days, but I’m cooking up big big plans right now for how to address some gameplay issues.