Title is exaggerating. But seriously. Here comes a game design rant. Context - I’m from 2013 onwards and i still fuck with fe7 so my bias is there.
FE8’s skill system was a technical marvel and I’m glad it exists as a testament to how far my wizardly peers have gone with hacking. Its pretty incredible that this community is continuing to push the engine to do some pretty wickedly impressive stuff in FE8.
Edit: For clarity, this is a criticism at the use of skills in projects, not the system itself.
But I’ll be honest, if there’s one thing I wish 99% of people would reign it in HARD on. Is the implementation of these ridiculous custom skills I’m seeing pop up everywhere. There are several reasons why i strongly dislike this system, but I’ll try to break them down into the few reasons that really stick out to me.
- Lack of accessibility slows down pace.
Consider the games that had “icon” skills in the past. FE4-5, fe9-10, the 3ds games and most recently, 3H. Many hacks I’ve played so far stack more than one skill at the same time. And the more complex and hard to remember they are, the more I need to go into the unit menu, go to Personal Data, scroll to skills and THEN read the text. That’s like 4 steps needed to view a skill.
The pace obstacle that skills in other provides falls imo into two camps with the other games - “Check menu” or “hover”
games like fe4, 5, 9 and 10 require you to also check the unit menu, jump a couple pages and then check the skill being used. but these games can get away with this because the skills in those games are INCREDIBLY easy to understand. Miracle, Vantage, Paragon, Adept… etc. They are like 1 sentence long and very easy to apply in battle. They’re not stacked with Fire Emblem Heroes levels of conditionals that make it hard to remember. This makes them really easy to remember how they work and mitigates the need to return to the menu to remind yourself of what they do. In Personal Data, you can’t efficiently check a unit’s skills without first hitting R and then going all the way down to the bottom. multiply the need to do this dozens upon dozens of times in a long map and holy heck it gets tedious.
The UI for FE games that have more complicated skills that deal with AoE passive status affects, damage reduction, HP thresholds are VERY easy to view because their games are designed to make them super easy to access. in 3ds, you could simply view the skills on the bottom screen and tap the icons to get their description. in 3h, simply hovering the cursor over any unit will cleanly show you what their PRF, class and custom abiltiies a unit has. Again, its extremely easy to view and doesn’t slow down the pace of play because of… how extremely it is to view. Heroes has the most fucking absurd skill text I’ve ever seen in my entire life, but again, the UI considers this and lets you read these skills in the unit profile whenever you tap on a unit.
FE8’s skill system by its design is limited to the Check Menu camp, but projects treat them otherwise. I recently played a project that had HP threshold skills and a skill that gave passive Hit% boost.
Designers, when you place these skills in your projects, you’re asking the buddy playing to interupt their game to constantly check in on what these actually do again. Its annoying enough to try to remember even 3 skills at your disposal, let alone having to check on enemy skills as well. So, you leave the player with 2 options: slow down their play for the sake of “strategy” or have them completely ignore the skills entirely, say “screw it” and keep playing. The majority of players are going to pick the second thing. The GBA’s screen is too small and the graphics are too limited for it to work like it does in the hover camps. its really annoying. I’ve seen the implementation of inventory icons being able to be viewed when the cursor hovers over a unit, and even that’s pushing it since you can’t reduce the scale of the graphics.
More “innovation” doesn’t make your game better
This is a pretty common thing I’ve seen around this discussion so this point isn’t anything you haven’t read before. In the same way adding a fuck-ton of flower text in your essays is a sign of bad writing, tacking on skills for the sake of “innovative gameplay” is a sign of not knowing what makes shit fun to play. IMO, if a map can be fun by getting by on unit placement, chapter goals and good pacing, then you don’t need to give me a skill that gives me a ridiculous +30 to my avoid if my HP < 50%.
Don’t be like Fire Emblem Heroes
The more specific your skill ends up being, the more situational its going to be. The more situational it is, the more useless it becomes. This is why “innovative” skills in Fire Emblem Heroes like Close Call, Repel and idk fucking Null Follow-Up are generally understood to be OK skills, but outclassed by others. There are already established good skills in mainline FE and FEH, i get the urge to innovate (trust me), but the more conditional i see these new custom skills, the more I want to avoid them. Remember why there are some skills that never made it to another title, and why there’s a meta in FEH at all. I know I’m reigning on some people’s parades here… but sometimes you just gotta stick to what works instead of making up random nonsense skills that sound cool in your head.
Actually, that’ll do. Those are the main reasons why I’m not a huge fan at all of the use of this system. Remember what game made what work and why. And for aspiring hack creators, reign it in. Yes, I know Not All Projects, but you get my point.
Thanks for reading.