How I Learned To Let Go and (mostly) Accept Modern Fire Emblem // a review of Fire Emblem Engage

This post will contain spoilers. I’ll touch on things that go through until the end of the game, so don’t look if you want to remain unspoiled. Thanks. I’ll admit the review is a little rough around the edges, but I’d been sitting on this for a while and felt it was worth sharing.

I recently purchased and completed Fire Emblem: Engage. I haven’t finished the final chapter, but saw it through enough to get a sense of what it was about (the map wasn’t great so I haven’t felt compelled to go back to it).

I did not use or purchase any DLC. I played the game on Hard/Classic. I completed all of the paralogues and did a few skirmishes/training battles. I played with Japanese VA.

I have a lot of thoughts about the game and wanted to share them, and felt writing a review would be helpful for generating discussion and sharing my own thoughts.

Engage is a difficult game for me to evaluate. It shows refreshing flashes of brilliance on the gameplay side, but is mired in mechanic complexity posing as depth and a story that ranks among the series worst, if not the absolute bottom of the barrel.

As someone who tends to be more interested in how the game actually plays, Engage is solid and I’m generally willing to put up with this type of weak storytelling to experience it. The mechanics have some highs and lows, but it’s a lot to parse through and understand (especially on a first blind run), so I’ll be spending a lot of time breaking this out and sharing my thoughts.

For this review, I broke the game out into 5 categories (like I did in this thread) and evaluate each piece as best as I could from my single run of the game.

In short, Engage is a middle of the road Fire Emblem held up by strong gameplay and map design and bogged down by poor plot and character writing. The nuance, and how you may ultimately feel about Engage, will likely be tipped pending how you feel about its many mechanics and subsystems, which range from innovative ideas and needed refinements to old systems to headscratchers and time wasters.

Here are notes for the TLDR Review:
  • Gameplay is good. Story is bad. Visuals are middling to weak. Characters are Awakening/Fates tier interesting, with a few diamonds in the rough that look great here but would be middle of the pack types in a game with a good cast. The game is better when you don’t think too hard about what’s happening narratively and just focus on the maps.

  • Mechanic experiments are interesting. It’s a lot to take in but doesn’t muddy gameplay too much, while some elements are refreshing and fun. While the end result of the mechanics and how they affect maps are generally enjoyable, the mechanisms of getting to these mechanics make them more tedious to figure out than fun.

  • I felt there was very little BS thrown at the player (at least on Hard)

  • If you are a fan of Conquest gameplay, you will probably like Engage. This felt like a refinement of the Fates gameplay formula.

  • I also felt notes of Tellius, Gaiden, and Thracia sprinkled throughout, and would call those entries secondary influences on Engage’s gameplay and mechanics. The other non FE influence that shines through is Triangle Strategy. My headcanon is the game was delayed to crib ideas from TS. There’s also a lot here that hacks did first. IS is 100% on FEU.

  • I need to digest the game more to evaluate where it sits among other FEs all time, but right now I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle, likely still bottom half. The game really deflates after ch18 and the pacing makes the end of the game really a drag.

  • Yunaka, Seadall, and Lindon were probably my favorite characters, but in general the cast was really weak and I haven’t felt compelled to read more about them or want to spend more time with them on a replay.

  • Emblem Sigurd is the GOAT and easily the most compelling character in the entire game. He has some killer lines. Absolutely stands head and shoulders above everyone else who speaks in this game. Emblems in general were among the better written characters. Emblem Sigurd has that sorrow and just seems so forlorn. He was my favorite part of the game’s writing.

  • Glad I played it. I doubt I’ll go for DLC unless they add stuff to spice up a replay (more classes would be nice). Game feels replayable, but I have little desire to revisit it right now.

Below are the detailed breakouts.

  • Visuals (map design, unit design)

First, we need to address visuals. Engage’s color choice is reminiscent of the highly saturated colors used in Elibe. We haven’t had an FE this bright and colorful since FE6. While I appreciate the sentiment, high saturation and 3D don’t go well together - I found myself needing to dim my TV settings to make the game easier on the eyes.

This is made worse by the most obvious aesthetic issue: unit design. The unit are overdesigned - nothing feels practical, very few outfits make sense. It’s all very bright and showy with little regard for practical purpose. Outside of a few units (namely the armors), it’s hard to take the units seriously with how they look and what they wear, especially compared to the generics you occasionally see milling about.

The maps themselves, however, look pretty. The animations are very fluid and clean, and are generally the highlights from a visual standpoint. I appreciate how the map terrain is used and you zoom into the battlefield. There’s a lot of detail here and I can tell IS put a lot of love into making this work the way it did. While this approach leads to the battlefields feeling overscaled (and very empty when you walk around after the fact) the overall stylistic choice works.

My biggest issue with the maps were the general display. The GBA games are really easy to read - your units are generic icons that are all blue, the enemy’s are all red. It’s very easy to quickly glance at units and figure out what to do and who has moved. In Engage, the units are all highly personalized and their color schemes aren’t uniform. It made it difficult to parse friend from foe and which units I’d taken action with. Additionally, unless I zoomed out, it was hard to see the board clearly. I think part of this is an issue with 3D, but the on-map viewing in this game requires more brainpower than it should, and it made me realize how good some of the 2D entries were about making it clear who you had on the board and what enemies were there – I had quite a few situations where I’d forget to move a unit because they looked greyed out or forget an enemy was right in front of me because they all blended in. Similarly, I’d also lose track of how near enemies were because of the map zooming. There was always a tradeoff between making out my units and getting a decent view of the map. While a quick scoot on the cursor makes pulling up this info easier, it should be more obvious visually. I’d argue Tellius was more readable visually here despite being less pretty overall.

  • UI

Outside of the map visuals being a bit difficult to read, the UI is generally clean. While the biggest issues I have with it are predominantly related to how much stuff there is, the menus and text are readable. Placement on the screen is generally fine. I appreciate their use of essentially a MMB to display essential info all on one screen. The color choice for the menus is also nice - a solid blue color that’s easy on the eyes. I’d consider adjusting the font, but overall this is pretty high-end UI from IS, especially among their games with only a single screen to work with. Huge step up from 3H.

  • Music

Fire Emblem games always have good soundtracks. I’ve not played an FE where I found the music any less than “good”. The same holds true in Engage. Their ability to compose solid tracks is their greatest strength as a studio (outside of willingness to experiment).

I didn’t really hear many tracks that stood out to me on my playthrough, but nothing was really distracting. The support background music got a bit annoying with how often it played, but that’s minor. Overall this is a solid soundtrack, albeit I struggled to find the one “iconic” tune I can pull out from it. The highlights were the way they handled music changes in battle, and I generally enjoyed the relaxing vibe of the Somniel theme. The remixes in the paralogues were nice too, albeit predominantly for nostalgic and fanservice value.

  • Modes/Options

You get access to Normal/Hard/Maddening upfront, which I appreciated. I’m not sure why Maddening is locked to fixed growths on a first run, but otherwise, the general flexibility of difficulty is on par and it is arguable this is more open difficulty selection than most entries.

  • Fairness

Every map felt fair. On Hard, the game allows you 10 charges of the turnwheel and unlimited in chapter saves, which are functionally save states. While I appreciate how lenient the game is here (especially with lots of low crit running around), it also forced me to try and make my own difficulty by not just brute forcing my way through maps with trial and error. There isn’t really much “cost” to a mistake because you can rewind easily. I found myself naturally making aggressive moves and not looking closely at what was happening, knowing I had a safety net. The most I enjoyed the game was when it pushed me to be more thoughtful turn by turn and do more planning vs. trial and error.

At the very least, the game’s difficulty doesn’t come from sucker punches like Awakening’s ambush spawns or heavy cognitive loads w/ skill loadouts like Fates – instead it’s more old fashioned and streamlined, with most mistakes feeling like they were my own (outside of stray 1% crits). This is a good balance to strike, and I feel like Engage’s hard mode stands among the best designed difficulties IS has made.

The parts that are easiest to ding are less to do with “how IS tried to make their game difficult” and more about specific mechanic choices, which we will get into later.[/details]

  • Map design

The maps are all generally solid. There were a few standouts that execute on their ideas well and a few stinkers that could’ve been better, but none that made me want to drop the game or cause me to take an extended break. Chapter 18 is the game’s gameplay peak, and the glut of paralogues and final stretch of main story maps are far from inspiring, but I find it hard to ding IS too hard for yet another weak late game, as that’s true of almost every entry.

The most notable new feature on the maps are the way boss encounters work. I like the innovation here from the multi-health bar monsters in 3H now being on bosses. Given the powercreep with engaging, this made the encounters a bit more thoughtful and scary.

Bosses seldom stayed still and rarely did I feel like I could do warp strats on its many defeat boss maps because of it. Taking down a boss was usually a team effort and required careful planning. While many of the boss fights boiled down to strafing them into position, then spamming some combination of freeze/silence, dagger poison, chain attack setups, and 3 dances with my best attacker (among other attackers), I appreciated that it was more thought provoking than other encounters throughout the series’ history, especially in the first half of the game. It was a good experiment and I’m keen to see them refine this and make boss encounters more challenging and memorable.

The objectives were not super varied. There was a lot of bread and butter objectives: rout and defeat boss. There were a few with notable side objectives and emblem related gimmicks, but nothing that outstayed its welcome. The general length felt about right for most of the game. I spent anywhere from 20-40 mins per map on average (played w/ anims off), which feels about right for me. Long enough to sink my teeth into, but seldom too long where I felt the map outstayed its welcome. This made the game pretty easy for me to rip through, even towards the end when the maps started to wear on me.

  • Unit design

While Engage’s maps feel intentionally designed, its unit design is suspect. You get ~36 playables, which feels like more than it is given how restrained deployment gets. Like the game’s story pacing issues, unit pacing is also an issue. There simply isn’t enough to differentiate many of the units you do get, and you are constantly getting units that outclass ones that joined a map or two ago. It felt bad to invest in units, have them meet their averages, and then be given a new character who does the same thing but better. This was a particular problem during the Brodia arc, where you would get unit after unit the one-upped one you’ve barely gotten a chance to use. It was frustrating to have so many units all at once and not have enough deploy to attempt using them for more than their join map.

The main differentiation between old and new units throughout the game is the emblem bond and supports, both of which are cheaper to make up than raw stats. SP from new units also helped close any skill inheritance gaps, further giving leverage to late joiners who also have statistical advantages.

It would’ve been better if the game had more filler maps in between units joining, or if the new units were more complementary – different preferred Wrank, different stat spread, PRF weapons – really anything to make the choice more differentiated than raw stats. Personal skills were generally so small to be a non-factor, too.

A lot of the early units I used through the first third of the game were strictly inferior to the units that came later. While I anticipate some late joiners being better, I wasn’t expecting it to be with such consistency. This, coupled with restricted deploy (felt like I could use 10 or fewer units each map barring new joiners), made it hard to justify using much of the game’s cast. I was surprised that they took this approach to unit design. While I can appreciate knowing I have the backup coming to make up for poor unit outcomes, the game’s emphasis on unit building made using early, inferior units a suboptimal choice and a general waste. Perhaps it was designed this way knowing players would mess around with emblems and inherit skills early and then want to “refine” their approach with late joiners? I can’t really think of a reason why they made it this way. It reminds me of how overpowering the FE7 prepromotes are, but here you’re barely given any time to make the early units good or see what they can do.

  • Gameplay loop (Map->explore->somniel->world map)

Much improved from the monotony of the mandatory monastery, the Somniel being more “optional” certainly helped the gameplay flow. I’m a traditional FE fan, so I like to go map to map with only a bit of story and some prep time in between. While I generally enjoy doing preps in older titles, even those with more sophisticated base menus, I found that Engage’s loop still took too much time out of battle.

The biggest offender here is how much time it takes to do anything.

The explore sections (a shameless lift from Triangle Strategy) were really empty and uninteresting. No one ever had anything contextually relevant to say, and I quickly ignored them and ran around to collect some items and maybe talk to an animal. This aspect has potential to be interesting, but its inclusion felt very slapdash and not well thought out – “it could’ve been a menu” will be a recurring phrase in this section of the review. But the explore section, while novel to walk around the map initially, is incredibly empty and a waste of my time to collect meager rewards.

The Somniel was not much better. Even if you ignore most of the truly optional parts of the Somniel and focus on the bits that you’d get in a Tellius base menu or a GBA prep menu, you’re still going to the shop, armory, flea market, and forge between every battle. I would often do this plus the arena for EXP (which I stopped doing about halfway through the game because I was tired of how long it would take) and then anything to build bond with emblem rings, like skill inheritance or the emblem arena.

In general, this part of the game was far too sluggish. While the support writing was bad, the bond writing and VA was probably the biggest waste of time and money in the entire package – I’m not sure why they felt it was necessary to make something as simple and elegant as “grind rank” take so much time and require so much repetition. Especially towards the latter third of the game when you get emblems back and want to mix and match more, grinding the ranks in the arena took a ton of time across 12 emblems and the 12 or so units I was committed to. Having to grind up to a level, watch a fight, stop for a conversation, and repeat was a masterclass in disrespecting the player’s time.

  • Reclassing

I dislike reclassing conceptually since I think it reduces immersion and leads to me wanting to make everyone the same 1-2 classes that are really strong, but this system was one of the better ones IS has done.

While there is some jank associated with trying to map out the emblems that have the right rank, which level you get them at, then spending bond currency to get there so you could reclass, it was more of an exercise in tedium and busywork rather than as easy as it could’ve been. That said, I am glad it wasn’t based around grinding in specific classes like in 3H. It felt more meaningfully limited, which discouraged me from making everyone the best possible classes. In that sense, the reclassing was good. But broadly, I would’ve liked to see the system a little easier to navigate, both in terms of how I can view relevant info, but also in terms of how I can meet the pre-reqs to reclass. It felt like they made it intentionally more obtuse to appease traditionalists who dislike reclassing, but appeal to modern players who enjoy that type of freedom and “job system”.

It’s one of the many olive branches that I felt IS was extending to different sides of the player base with its mechanical choices - an attempt to meet old and new in the middle in some places, but likely leaving both feeling slightly dissatisfied instead of fully alienating them.

  • Emblems (skill inheritance, bond rings, bond level)

Similar to my thoughts above, I appreciate that this felt more meaningfully limited than it did in 3H. It was harder to get good skills on everyone early, as well as levels on all the units you want to give rings to. I appreciated the tradeoffs. Towards the latter half of the game though, it started to get a bit cumbersome to manage.

As a gameplay system, I felt it was just a bit too obtuse to navigate all of the currencies and levels. I had to go back and forth between loading screens to review what was needed, then spend time grinding the rank, adding the skill, then going to another menu to equip said skill. It’s not that the premise itself is weak, but the execution is really lacking here. Overall I felt like they could’ve streamlined how this both worked technically and how you viewed the information.

Additionally, by the end, the bond fragments are so plentiful with all of the achievements that you get for just playing the game normally that you could do whatever you want with emblems and get high levels for good skills inheritance without much problem. While I can appreciate the flexibility the game provides towards the end to ensure the player has enough stats/skills/etc to move forward, it also lead to me building bond with the same few emblems to get specific skills I wanted to make the late game easier (speedtaker, canter, spd+3 were big ones), versus using it to build bond with emblems I’d equip units with. This was more tedious than it was interesting. It took a lot of time to execute, but wasn’t really rewarding to “figure out” because some of the choices for builds were seemingly obvious. For example, getting 3 points of RES costs as much as 3 points of SPD. IS continues to not understand how useful speed is and putting it on the same level as other stats makes me feel like IS doesn’t really understand how powerful doubling and dodging are.

  • Plot (Premise, pacing)

The short version is that this is the worst writing in a Fire Emblem game I’ve experienced. Most of the hacks I’ve played are genuinely better. If Engage was posted to FEU, its story would be skewered by a series of longposts, every plot contrivance or weak character moment called out for what it is - uninteresting and poorly put together. Half-baked is generous, quarter-baked feels right.

The premise is cheesy, but workable. Calling the world “paper thin” almost feels like it gets too much credit. These are items that are easy enough to ignore. However, where the main story really suffers is its pacing. This is most critical for me because it impacts how the game plays.

The plot pacing is rocky throughout the entirety of the game. While it starts off at a fine enough pace, the period around the early mid game felt particularly rushed, namely the Broda section and what comes immediately before and after. While I alluded to my gripes with units above, the story exacerbates the issue.

Broda’s king is introduced, died, reincarnated as corrupted, and killed again all in the span of 3-4 chapters. Later on, the Solm arc has much less happening, but also takes a lot longer to get through. It’s actually in Solm where the game’s pacing is at its best, because it gives things time to breathe.

Something that is often not discussed in FE (and storytelling generally) is the importance of letting things breathe a bit. While nonstop action may sound great on paper, it is difficult to execute in this type of game, especially with so many story beats and moments that try hard to land. Because it’s so rushed throughout the early-mid part of the game, hardly any of it feels like it matters. I don’t get the time to learn the characters much through gameplay or story, because their arc in game is over almost as soon as it begins. The endgame needlessly drags (what are these crystals and why do they suddenly matter?) and we end up fighting the same handful of bosses multiple times when the story starts to crawl. It would’ve been better to shuffle it around and add some filler earlier and let the game get to its climax more naturally.

I think about FE7 and how a character like Nino was handled. She gets introduced well before she’s playable, and gets a number of scenes and character moments that establish who she is and what she’s about before the climactic moment in Battle Before Dawn where she decides she doesn’t want to kill Zephiel. She then gets a gaiden where she gets to face off with Sonia, effectively resolving the arc. Beyond that FE7 is generally sitting on a much stronger world and premise than Engage is, this works because the game lets the events breathe. While there isn’t that much that happens with Nino in story that could’ve been told over fewer chapters, having a slow intro and a few scenes for us to get familiar with it, followed by some space where the group did other things, and then Nino’s big moments in the 2 chapters she’s featured in make it all feel like it matters much more.

The Broda princes in particular suffer from this – we focus on their conflict for all of 2-3 chapters, with their dad dying and being reincarnated in the same timespan. We don’t get much time to process the info or see enough of these characters to care about them. When fighting morphs of villains you’ve gotten to know over the course of the game at the conclusion of FE7, it felt a lot more emotionally impactful than seeing Broda’s king as a corrupted, because we never got to know him well at all. (not to mention the character is a walking death flag. But even if you tweaked that, this pacing issue still remains).

The last 6 or so chapters of Engage in particular felt like padding and contributed to the sloggish pacing at the end. This was also in part due to the way the game presents paralogues for emblems, which end up all being clustered around the same time. I had most of them available to me around ch19, and doing all of the paralogues in succession to unlock the highest bond rank killed a lot of momentum the game had. While I can appreciate flexibility offered by letting the player tackle them as they choose, because they’re tied to a relatively important gameplay mechanic (unlocking the highest bond levels), I would’ve liked to see them woven into the story more naturally – especially considering the Emblems are far and away the best written characters the game has to offer – isolating their big character moments to items divorced from the plot felt like a huge miss, and the gameplay flow and narrative pacing suffers for having 12 paralogues that unlock roughly around the same time with ~7 chapters or so to play.

  • Characters (Supports)

I didn’t mention this much above, but characters are obviously FE’s bread and butter. The people love good characters, and IS recognizes the power of its characters (although I’d argue they learned the wrong lessons from it).

Supports are the best way we get to see more of the many minor characters who each get a short moment in the sun when they join, and are often the source of most of their characterization.

First, I’ll say that I love the amount of food dialogue in this game.

There’s so many conversations centered around food and tea. It’s great. I’m glad that the game chose a topic that was, pardon the pun, easy to digest and low stakes enough to make it easy to put the characters front and center.

However, like many of its modern predecessors, the supports got repetitive. While less repetitive than some of 3H’s supports, the overall quality of writing was significantly worse. Almost every support leaned heavily on the characters’ gimmicks. Louis’ love of stalking. Chloe is only able to discuss fairy tales and “folk foods”. Framme fangirling over Alear. Towards the end I started to skip supports because most were hard to read.

There were a few standouts I did enjoy. In particular, Yunaka x Seadall stood out to me as one of the better ones (unsurprisingly, since I felt both were among the best characters in the cast). Lindon’s chain with Alear starts on a bad note (as almost all of Alear’s supports do), but ends on a high one where Lindon opens up about his wife.

I’m struggling to think of many others that I really “enjoyed” here. At best, the “good” supports were merely palatable, while the bad ones made me me groan. There were far more of the latter, and a big part of it was the insistence on shoehorning the character’s gimmick into every support conversation. Rarely did it feel like characters showed another side of themselves or do anything that didn’t just reinforce what we already knew about them.

In general though, I appreciate that supports were a touch more limited and that I didn’t get bombarded with them after every map. While the quality was poor, at least there wasn’t so many all at once given how slowly supports gain here relative to other modern FEs.

Summary and closing thoughts

Engage is a roller coaster. When you put it all together, the package ends up being middling, but with sharp juxtapositions between its strengths and its weaknesses.

I’d probably rank it towards the top of the lower half of FE games on the strength of its gameplay and general spirit of innovation and refinement from modern FE systems. It suffers from a lot of things most FEs suffer from on the gameplay front which is a weak late game.

What’s been most shocking to me about Engage is how seemingly tepid the community’s reaction to it. It is March 1st and not a single review is written on FEU. No one has attempted to make a hype-fueled community hack cribbing ideas from Engage. There isn’t really much debate surrounding its quality, everyone seems to agree that “gameplay good, story bad”. While there are a few outliers who champion the story and its characters, they’re far from a majority voice from what I’ve observed. The response and discussion feels shockingly flat.

In general, it’s fitting that a game celebrating 30 years of FE has myriad strengths and weaknesses and falls near the middle of my personal FE list – it wears its influences on its sleeves, tries some new things, and makes an olive branch to both ends of the fandom. In general, I’d say Engage was fairly successful in putting together a package I enjoyed playing through for the most part, without really much to make me want to stop until the end, which is par for the course even for the FE games I do rate highly.

While it’s a far cry from the Fire Emblem I want, it was “good enough for a modern FE”.

Given that IS hasn’t put out a new FE game that I’ve been jazzed about since Radiant Dawn (Not considering remakes here, I do like FE11 and FE15 a lot), I’ve come to accept I’m no longer the target demographic for these games and that the era of FE that I grew up with is long over (outside of epic hacking). While I likely would’ve been sitting around stewing about more of these parts I was critical of years ago, after playing Engage I mostly had to let out a sigh and accept that this is what IS wants to make now, and that I can try to ignore the parts I dislike and attempt to enjoy the parts of it that FE can still execute well with regularity – a grid with combat. Thankfully, we still have the hack.

Thanks for reading.

I’m curious to hear what others think. Thanks for reading.


Sorry Dan but Engage is actually the peak of the series. Nice try though


I think part of the reason that discussion around Engage is relatively tepid is that there’s less of a sense that IS has wasted something good.

With Fates, story-wise the idea of having two opposed but equally compelling routes was absolutely dunked on by whatever actually happened, and Rev kind of just pooped onto the corpse. But the fact that the groundwork was there for something cool and hitherto not done made it a lot more impactful.

3H imo falls into the same bin. What we had was already pretty cool, but the potential for it to have been “holy smokes game of the decade” good is very clearly there and tragically unfulfilled, like black eagles being half a route and some route split-looking dialogue still being present.

Engage was the red rangers unite episode featuring a pepsi advertisement, and it doesn’t give off the sense that something was tragically wasted. Could it have been better with some better pacing and plot delivery timing? Absolutely. But there’s no indication that we missed out on something great. What we got appears to largely be what the team had envisioned, and what people had expected based on the leaks.


I played Maddening/Casual straight up - it’s pretty brutal, especially the first half of the game. I think Random/Maddening risks softlocking the player if their characters get stat-screwed, so Fixed is used so that doesn’t happen.

Agree on this point entirely. Having to go between the Arena and the Ring Chamber CONSTANTLY to figure out who needs to grind what is such a massive PITA and yeah, it would have been better off as a menu.

Yeah this was a little weird. There are some setups that are just objectively better than others. High Priest is completely inferior to Sage apart from a class ability which is borderline useless.

I agree on pretty much all your points, Pandan. IS knew exactly what kind of game it wanted to make and it succeeded. The entire concept of using protags from other games is kind of silly to begin with, so it has a visual aesthetic and story to match.

I’m on Chapter 23 of this game now. It’s been pretty fun - the gameplay and difficulty tuning has been pretty spot-on, for the most part. I do hope that the Engage mechanic returns in some way, just with original or better characters instead of fanservice. Imagine Persona Emblem! The visual flair of this game is divisive, sure, but I’m in the camp that has really enjoyed it. The story is stupid.


I’ll keep my thoughts as brief as I can because it’s so late here as I write this.

Story is absolutely the most important thing to me about games. I’ve played some genuinely awful games because they had great stories in the past. Engage is not one of those for me. I think I might be in the minority among the entire FE fandom in that I actually don’t really care one way or the other for the more heavily strategic aspects of the series. I like grid, I like turn-based, I like number go up. That’s about the extent. The gameplay additions in Engage ended up being kind of annoying for me personally due to how heavily they impact your experience. You must factor in the break mechanic even on normal or you’re going to have deaths. But I generally just accept that because I’m aware that’s the series appeal.

My issue with this game is the absolute travesty that I find it’s story to be. Even ignoring the pacing issues, I feel like it’s among the most lazily written entries in the entire series, and definitely the worst story of any FE I’ve played. For all its flaws, I felt Fates was still an overall better story experience for me. There is one moment in particular that I will point to here that drove me literally up the wall in frustration, and it is a spoiler for the halfway point, so be warned.

The point where Veyle takes the time stone or w/e it’s called was such a lazy slap in the face. It never factored into the story before then aside from when you first get it, and then suddenly it gets taken off screen, used off screen, and you lose everything off screen… Just to have it given back in that same chapter…off screen. To so boldly whip out such an overwhelmingly lazy plot device which prior to that only existed for the purpose of a gameplay mechanic for the convenience of the player, it actually made me angry when I was first going through it. I didn’t touch the game again for weeks after that just because I needed the time to cool off.

After that point I was struggling to stay invested in the story, and while I think the character design of the game is fresh and interesting at least for one entry, I never found any character particularly compelling because, frankly I think you’re fairly correct in that many of them feel very one-note. They’re too much of their gimmick. It doesn’t help either that their growth balancing is so unabashedly “classic” FE that the roster is very lopsided. Some characters are just legitimately awful (my poor Etie…) while others get absurd growth favoritism (Kagetsu, despite being a prepromote).

Despite bringing in some super special outside character designer and evidently giving them carte blanche to design the entire cast, some characters are just bad. That seems weird and wasteful to me. At least in other modern FE games they seemed to adapt an approach for most units where they would have units in the same classes fill different niches, like the ninja of Fates. Each one was good at different things, meaning you could really use any of them and adapt your strategy to make use of them. Etie though is literally just a terrible unit… Only her strength is any good. Even if you put her into another class like I did, all her other stats are so low that they can’t be compensated for. It was devastating because I absolutely love her design.

By the time I got Alcryst, she was two levels higher than his starting level but every one of her stats were half or lower than his, while her strength was only a few points higher. And looking at her growths even with the added class ones from archer, it’s there. Her growths just suck and his are better on top of him having good bases. There’s other cases of this as well but this is the one I cared the most about personally.

I could go on but I’ve already written more than I originally wanted to at this hour… In short, the game really fell flat for me. The story is worse than most fanfics I’ve read and the gameplay was overall…okay enough for me, though many aspects of its balance took a few steps backwards in my eyes, like they intentionally unmade progress.


In my opinion, Engage is so close to being an amazing Fire Emblem, but just falls short, due to what I think boils down to 2 major flaws. Note that I am referring exclusively to gameplay here, the story is a whole other can of worms.

The first and most important flaw in my opinion is that it fails to prevent juggernauting. It’s truly a shame because the game had some really great ideas such as chain attacks and the break mechanic which try to prevent it. The issue is that IS just doesn’t seem to realise how broken avoid really is. It is relatively easy in this game to reach a point where one or multiple of your units have so much avoid that enemies have 0 hit. And when you reach that point, there’s nothing stopping you from juggernauting with those select few units. Juggernauting is where the strategic depth of fe goes to die, and yet few fe games have come close to preventing it (fe6 probably comes the closest). As far as how I would fix this, I think engage’s inflated statline would benefit from the dsfe avoid formula, usually I prefer the traditional formula, but when stats are so ridiculously inflated, speed grant 2x avoid is too overpowered. They should also reduce the amount of avoid you can get from skills. Secondly, I would slightly reduce the defensive capabilities of armour knights (most importantly, louis). 17 base def and an 80% def growth? What were they thinking?

The second flaw is reclassing. Class diversity is essential for a fe to be fun and engaging. It means that different classes have different interactions with each other. Mages are strong against armour knights and wyverns, pegasus knights are good at fulfilling side objectives and rescue drops, cavaliers are good all-rounders that can help out in any situation, etc. Mastering these interactions is a good element of fe, and engage had so much potential in this department with the emblem rings. The sigurd ring could patch up an armour knights poor mobility, or alternatively, you could use the leif ring to further enhance their defensive advantages. This strategic depth is somewhat nullifed when you can simply reclass your entire team into griffin knights. And sure, you could just say “if you don’t like the feature, just don’t use it”, but this is a stupid argument.

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Just curious, did you play Maddening? On Maddening, the AI is adjusted so that enemies won’t attack if they have 0 hit. Also, there’s tons of bullshit like Wyvern Knights with Certain Blow to help prevent this. Yes, avotanking is a viable strat, but not always.

I did play on maddening, but enemies not attacking doesn’t necessarily prevent juggernauting. In fact, sometimes, it can make it easier. Most objectives are kill boss, so enemies not attacking just makes it so that you can ignore them and go straight to the boss. If you feel the need to kill some for sp/xp, then you can just kill them on player phase.

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I think this is a good starting point for me.

Engage is… a Fire Emblem game. It is the first Fire Emblem game I was there for from the beginning. I got into the franchise roughly two years after the release of Three Houses, and since then, I have played every entry from FE3 to FE16, as well as several romhacks. I will say that I enjoyed most of them. I think every Fire Emblem game has flaws, but it was usually still enjoyable enough for me to play and experience that I finished it. The reason I say “most of them” and “usually” is that Revelations exists. Even after Engage, I think Revelations is by far the worst FE has to offer.

Wait, “even after” Engage? How did this game hurt you so much, Vulgard?

Let me cook. (Gotta continue the food jokes.)

So, as someone who got into the series after Three Houses, I definitely don’t have the same type of bias toward older entries as series veterans do. I wasn’t there for the great arguments between Awakening fans and the fans of previous games. I wasn’t there for the 3DS era and I certainly wasn’t here for most of the Three Houses discourse. Three Houses had been mostly figured out by the time I got into the series, both in terms of gameplay and story.

Yet, my favorite games in the series are the older ones. My favorite era of Fire Emblem is the Tellius saga, and my favorite FE game is Radiant Dawn. One primary reason this is the case is that these games care enough about worldbuilding and character writing to get me invested in their universe and characters. I also enjoy Jugdral for the same reasons, although I think the Jugdral games are rather dated, and Elibe is largely carried by its world being somewhat developed and the characters being solid.

The other reason I like the Elibe-Tellius stretch the most is those games’ approach to mechanics - there are not too many mechanics, and I think that is a GOOD THING. The games feel focused. I never felt like the gameplay content was bloated, and that allowed me to focus on the mechanics that WERE there. I’m not going to pretend these games are flawless, but I do think that they do this very well. I would be saying the same about FE11 and FE12 if they didn’t have reclassing, which is something I strongly dislike.

The reason I dislike the games from Awakening onward (barring SoV, which is a faithful remake) in terms of gameplay is that I feel like IS started cramming too many gameplay features into them, resulting in me thinking half of them could be thrown out and the game would be more enjoyable to play for me. I definitely see the appeal of extensive unit customization and playing around with tons of variables, but that is not the same of gameplay experience I personally enjoy as much. I think Three Houses was the least bad of them all because most of the mechanics revolved around the tutoring system, making things a bit more focused, but the reclassing was just too much and there were still extraneous things.

I like Fire Emblem games the most when they care about worldbuilding, when they care about the characters, and when they offer a focused gameplay experience that revolves around a few key mechanics at most. By extension, I prefer units to be designed not as investment projects that you can turn into anything, but as people with specific toolkits that can be useful in different situations and for different purposes. Radiant Dawn is my favorite FE game largely because of the story structure, which makes every unit fulfill a specific role at any given time. At least until part 4, which is when it turns into “just deploy your strongest combat units,” but I actually think that’s fine, because it’s a culmination of the story and at this point you just want combat. I think that’s fair enough. The tower changes that a bit, anyway, as in the tower you do want utility units such as Ena and Kurthnaga.

Now, I shall finally talk about Engage.

Engage’s approach to worldbuilding, character writing, and unit design is all diametrically opposed to what I like, which is why I consider this game the worst Fire Emblem barring Revelations. This is not an objective take and I will not pretend otherwise - but it is certainly a genuine opinion. In fact, I will say this – because I followed the teasers and leaks religiously, my expectations were quite high, which was a mistake. After the game released and I played it, I legitimately cried and had a low point in my mental state for weeks, because I’d waited for this game for months and the result was me getting utterly disappointed. I grew to care about this franchise and I hate the direction in which it went. Yes, I know the games aren’t meant to cater to specific people, but if this is the direction they are taking, I’m not going to play the future entries, barring the remakes.

Let’s break it down.

Worldbuilding: It barely exists. “Barely” is putting it mildly, it almost doesn’t exist at all. Locations are introduced with barebones backgrounds or no background at all, and we do not get to spend much time in any of them. Characters do not give us much more information about them. We don’t even know the basic information about what’s happening in them. We don’t know what changes in them after certain characters die, and the gameplay mechanics do them no service, as you can fight Corrupted anywhere at any time due to map spawns and you can donate to Elusia while it houses your enemies (???). The world of Engage barely exists at all and the only thing it has over the world of Fates is that the layout is made much clearer. In terms of depth… yeah.

Character writing: I agree with Pandan on that front. The characters are a universal step back from Three Houses, without a doubt. I’m not asking for every characters to be deep and filled with psychological complexities, but I want them to feel like people, and most of the Engage characters do not feel like people. They feel more like memes at times, which makes them amusing to meme about, but not very entertaining to discuss. There simply isn’t much there. Some supports do have depth, but that’s the exception and not the rule. Each character revolves around a gimmick instead of just being a person, and that genuinely pains me. Three Houses characters also had so-called ‘gimmicks,’ but they weren’t all about those gimmicks (…mostly.).

Side note: I won’t talk about the character design here, but that is something Tellius did perfectly in my opinion and Engage completely butchered. I don’t want to sound like too much of a Tellius stan here, but that’s my opinion.

Focused gameplay: Oh god. The sheer amount of mechanics in this game is crazy, and most of them are new. Adding new mechanics is a given in a new FE game – these games generally seek to innovate, after all – but I really think they went over the top here, and it frustrates me. To me, it’s like this game was designed for people whose perception of FE’s strengths and identity is entirely different from mine. Let me make a quick list: forging, engraving, Emblem Rings, skill inheritance, class subtypes, reclassing, proficiencies, new weapon traits, the smash mechanic, new staves, new class actions, multi-healthbar bosses, break, chain attacks, engage weapons and abilities, bond levels, cooking, training, gacha rings (whyyyyyyyyyyyyy), donating, skirmishes, tempest trials, relay trials, paralogues, DLC stuff… I think I missed some, and some of them might seem unfair to list together, but there is a LOT of stuff in this game, and I think it dilutes the experience way too much. There is simply too much to do and think about, in my opinion.

This goes right into unit design. Every unit in this game is considered an investment project of some kind. Every single one, and yes, I also think the late joiners are like this – they also want you to invest in them by giving them certain rings and bond levels. Their only real individualized traits are join time, personal bases, personal growths, and personal base SP, with only a few rare exceptions. Everything else can be changed. Every unit can be changed beyond recognition just by utilizing all the investment mechanics in this game. This is something you could do in Three Houses, and I already disliked it there – I do not like it here, either. In fact, I think it has gotten worse. Early on, I think everyone has a different enough basic purpose that this isn’t too noticeable, but as the game progresses, everyone becomes samey for me and I hate that. I already think the characters themselves are rather shallow and one-note, why must they also lack a clear identity as units…? Yes, the fact some are easier to invest in than others IS an individualized trait, and so is the fact that some of them need more investment than others… but investment really isn’t the bread and butter of what I enjoy in FE. What I enjoy most is capitalizing on inherent strengths. And yes, you could make the argument that units are differentiated by them warranting different types and amounts of investment, but frankly, I would prefer it if they inherently had these strengths and the investment mechanics were gone, or mostly gone.

I’m not quite sure if this unit design paragraph is understandable, but I find it difficult to express this particular gripe. The gist of it is that I prefer investment options to be on the low end. I prefer units to be much more “they are like this, take it or leave it.” I do think there should always be ways to compensate for their weaknesses a bit or to amplify their strengths, but I don’t want there to be too many. Engage offers a ridiculous amount of customization, though, and that… is something I don’t like at all. A good example is Kagetsu: he is commonly understood to be one of the best units in the game thanks to his ridiculous personal bases, but I think he would be a much more interesting unit if reclassing didn’t exist, because in that case he would be stuck in the Swordmaster class and his applications would be more limited. Similarly, Louis would be a more interesting unit if you couldn’t give him the Sigurd Ring and zoom all over the early-game maps. I’m sure there are bound to be people who disagree with me on this, but I’m not seeking to prove a point – this is a highly personal review.

The good thing that came out of Engage is that my distaste for it pushed me away from modern vanilla FE and into the romhacking scene. I had already dabbled in it before, but I only started investing a lot of time into romhacks recently. Seriously, you guys (romhackers) are awesome, and romhacks are so much fun to play. I’m proud of the romhacking community. Shoutout to VQ, which I’m likely going to play soon.

The bad thing about Engage is that discourse about it now dominates the community (at least on Reddit), since it is the newest game and therefore the entry most people want to talk about. I don’t. I’ve already written it off as a game I don’t want to talk about or even think about and I’d like to move on already, but that’s not something I can enforce upon others, so I’ve ended up withdrawing from discourse. Maybe that’s for the better.

I’ll end this post with a short musing.

The weird thing is… I didn’t grow up with the older era of FE. Yet I still enjoy it more than the modern era. There’s something about it that’s been lost across the years, and frankly, it hurts.

I think you’re right, and it hurts. I’ll probably accept it eventually.

I’ll likely get back into Engage in a year or two with this exact mindset. For now, the game still hurts me to play, unfortunately.

The bolded I agree with wholeheartedly. Seriously, I am so glad this scene exists.


After playing [insert any game from Awakening onward here] I mostly had to let out a sigh and accept that this is what IS wants to make now

Joking aside, I like reclassing in most of its iterations (3H was bad). But in Engage? The system is baffling.

If I have a second seal, I can turn ANYONE into ANY class. Bond fragment inflation has hit the economy hard, and proficiencies can barely be called a requirement, except when you don’t have access to the proficiency at all. Hope you don’t like fist classes! (You probably didn’t anyway) You’re always swimming in sword emblems and have to wait for anything else.

But so what, reclassing has had little to no investment in past games like the DS games? Well, fixed weapon ranks by class. Why is this a thing in a reclassing game. The archer I’ve been using all game long has B rank bows. The knight I just reclassed to archer? B rank bows. Weapon ranks used to be the identity of the unit regardless of what class they may be. Now even that has been stripped away, and a unit’s identity is their stats and their stats alone. This is not enough, and exacerbates the issue of later joiners constantly outclassing your early ones, even with investment.

On top of all this, you can’t learn a class skill in one class and take that skill into another class. This was my favorite part of 3DSFE. This makes me question why reclassing is in the game to begin with. What is it contributing? As previously stated, units are defined only by their stats. Their class could have helped with this problem, as it does in every older FE. You can’t do anything cool with reclassing in Engage, it’s just “Look guys, Kagetsu is a wyvern knight, cool right?” and that’s it. There is nothing unique about a Swordmaster turned Hero versus a Berserker turned Hero.

There’s no point to the reclass system existing in Engage that I can see, and that’s just disappointing to me. It tells me that, like what Pandan observed with IS’s undervaluing of the speed stat, IS doesn’t understand their own games.

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Good. Because there’s no going back.

The more I look at the mainline Fire Emblem Games, the more that I believe we can make better FE games that are ROM Hacks. But the main concern about Intelligent Systems taking notice of FE fans who are making their own FE games through the older games that they made in the past. I don’t know how long would they realize that using nostalgia bait is a cheat sheet for them and that they need to up their game by keeping the Gameplay as a whole. One thing that made me realize is that Intelligent System needs to stop using old-school tropes that Kaga created as a staple and/or reinvent or create new ones.

I’m just saying that IS needs to utilize the true meaning of what Fire Emblem meant without the nostalgia bait or characterization of how the fans were first brought into this world.

P.S. I wonder if IS would go look for Kaga and owe him an apology and ask him for advice, but the odds of that happening are 1 to nonexistent.

TL:DR for Pandan’s review on Engage.
Gameplay = Fantastic
Maps = Great
Mechanics = Interesting and endless combinations
Cast = Mixed Bag
Worldbuilding = Lackluster
Supports = Either hit or miss depending on your interest in Character’s interaction and how hardcore the Avatar worship goes along with finding any redeemable qualities within them including the Avatar.
Classes = Very diverse and happy to see some familiar classes from old FE games such as Halberdier, Griffon Rider, and Mage Knight along with new ones such as Fist Monks, Hero class with Swords and Lances, and new Lord classes as well. Can’t wait to see what they look like in GBA sprites.

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It could just be that I’m easy to please, but Engage gave me almost exactly the Fire Emblem experience I wanted. The gameplay is fun and fair, the story doesn’t make me frustrated, and the characters are all wacky and interesting enough that I want to use all of them, as hard as it may be. It is a perfectly solid Fire Emblem game, probably among the best of the modern post-Awakening era.

I can sympathize with feeling like IS is leaving the old fans behind, however. What they’re doing makes sense, people got in off the new games, there’s more new fans than old, and IS is of course going to want to appeal to the larger, waifu-loving demographic. And as much as it pains me to say this, most of them aren’t going to particularly like games like Genealogy because story aside, the game feels old and clunky, or Thracia because a good chunk of the cast just never gets developed. I’m sure these are issues a remake can fix, but given how given how Echoes kept a lot of the worst points of Gaiden’s gameplay, I don’t have much hope at least in that area.

New fans want a different experience from old fans, and IS is fully aware of what demographic they need to target to maximize profits. It’s sad, but I get it.

(Should probably mention that I’m not disappointed in the direction the series is going on. I’m just sympathizing.)


ngl this is… a lot
like i get it, you want fe to go back to being like the “good ol days of gba”, but that’s long since passed

there are so many hot takes it would take forever to respond to everything but ill say this

you guys kind of need to grow up and realize that just because you don’t like x doesn’t mean x is objectively bad or other people don’t enjoy it

this is coming from a person who didn’t really like engage from a story perspective but enjoyed the tweaks they’ve made to the current formula

okay i lied there are a couple things i wanted to respond to

romhackers gassing themselves up, more at 11

class growths; there’s not really any reason to be able to port over skills because that defeats the point of them being class skills… limiting skills to 1+personal is good, idk about the sp cost being insane though for the extra stuff

huh? please clarify

nvm this is just a topic intended to complain, no need to respond to me


You really came back from a five year break just to troll a… pretty civilized thread critiquing Engage?

I think I’m the only person here who got extremely negative about the game and you didn’t even refer to my post. Are you targeting those specific people or what?

Most of what the others have said included some form of “I guess I just have to accept this is what the series is now” which you say they need to do. I’d say you should read peoples’ posts before you end up showing your ass like that. And read more than just the parts that add to your little trolling fit. If it’s too long to bother, move on and don’t waste the time and energy of other people.


Guys, chill out. Slightly strong wording is not “trolling”, nor is anyone obligated to respond to everything in the thread.

For my 2c, I enjoyed Engage quite a bit more than any other modern titles. There are some baffling decisions and the map quality drops off a cliff after Solm, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.


I really don’t mind Engage, tbh.
The opening song really grew on me, and being someone that enjoys taking it slow, I also don’t mind the Somniel.

The character writing, from what I’ve seen so far, (Chapter 8), does leave a little to be desired, but I don’t think the supports are the worst dumpster-fires I’ve ever read (that honor goes to most of FE6’s supports that I’ve read, which reaaaaally love ending their conversations rather abruptly).
I’m at the beginning with Etie and Clanne, the latter’s dynamic with Framme is pretty adorable, and Céline bonding with Jean is pretty nice.

I got into this series with FE7, and will forever regard the Tellius saga as the best games of this series unless something else will eventually replace it. The world-building from FE7, 8, 9 and 10 was nothing short of fantastic. (Also FE4, 5 and 13)


From the perspective of someone who’s only played up until Chapter 8, I’ve gotta say it’s a massive shame that Alear’s amnesia hasn’t really been touched since Chapter 3. It could have really had a great potential. Moreover, I feel that the way in which he instantly earns everyone’s respect, while endearing, can also be a bit disappointing at times (at least it plays out well with Yunaka, from what I can see so far).

Also, can we talk about how Lumera’s death feels almost as empty as Queen Mikoto’s from Fates? Lumera’s cutscene was never-ending, and Etie and Boucheron were randomly not even put in the background of the scene??? Like, we’re currently at 7 characters, and the room is huge, why exclude two people?
Stuff like this really bothers me, since this game really loves excluding ANY character that isn’t Alear or the royals from the story scenes as soon as their introductory chapters are over.

The story is very light-hearted and cookie-cutter, from what I can see, which is a damn shame.
Stories and/or characters like the ones in Gaiden/Echoes, Jugdral, Tellius, Elibe (FE7, screw FE6), Magvel, and why not, Awakening’s continent too, are when this series is at its best for me.

Engage does seem to at least have characters that I like, but even as Pandan noticed, it really isn’t the best character writing we’ve seen in this series.


Before moving on to me praising this game’s soundtrack so far, I have to say that I was very giddy when I noticed that each character could have individual conversations with each of the emblems!
Imagine my disappointment when I got the first one of those convos, only to find out that IS had pulled a page out of Radiant Dawn’s mediocre “support” quips -_-

On a more positive note:

  • the intro song is freaking fire;
  • Firene’s map them alongside the battle variant is amazing (seriously hoping someone does a legit mix of those like they did with Fates, where first the map theme plays, whereas the battle variant starts kicking in during the second part of the video, and no, I’m not referring to extended versions);
  • The battle preparation theme is a great addition to this series, imo, and alongside the characters moving models when you select them it really gives this adventure a lot of charm to me for this more light-hearted Fire Emblem experience.

Just because I’m very disorganized in my writing, here’s how I’ll end it:
I enjoy this game, and I’m glad that I got it.
It will never hold a candle to previous entries for me, and I’ll forever be grateful to people who make rom hacks with much more appealing stories and/or characters, but I feel like I’ll always be at least a little bit fond of this game, in spite of its massive wasted potential.

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I’ll probably get a slap on the wrist for dragging this on but whatever. This’ll be my only further post on it, I swear.

If you can read this thread and the pretty level-headed criticisms everyone but me has put up, and then read that particular post saying “grow up lol, get used to it,” and then ending with, and this one isn’t paraphrased; “nvm this is just a topic intended to complain, no need to respond to me” AFTER asking for a response…and THEN say the person’s not trolling, maybe you’re not really up to date on what trolling is.

They even liked my post saying they were trolling. That’s about the cheekiest little “yeah I am” you could possibly give to being called a troll. Seems obvious to me, but maybe I’m the one not up on modern definitions of trolling.

Sorry for dragging this out, please continue with your civilized discussions everybody.

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Consider they liked it to show they saw it and had no intention of responding to it.

Move along

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Thank you for the review. I love your insight into FE design and I find myself aligning my own views with yours very often. I was originally going to outright pass this as another modern FE game, but if I find a lull in the games I want, I’ll consider checking this out.