Let's talk about difficulty in FE

Hello you beautiful fans of Fire Emblem. It’s been quite a time since I post here on the forum.
And I wanted to post something about a thing we all either like or dislike from a FE game or hack.

Difficulty. And when we speak about difficulty, we need to mention balance.

We as hack creators need to contemplate the players game styles. Are they the kind of player who enjoys more the gameplay? Maybe the difficulty? Maybe grinding in the arena? Turtling? Who knows. That’s why we need to balance it for everyone. But is such a hard chore to do.

Because not everyone will agree with me about this. But at least there are somethings we can agree are straight unfair and needs to be balance.

Many people around the hack community balance their hacks to one thing.

Hard Modes

These modes are supposed to offer a challenge through different enemy equipment, skills, positioning on both player and enemy units. But let me ask you. How hard, is hard enough?

Of all the things of the FE franchise I could mention, I’ll narrow it down to Ambush Spawns, Hard Mode Bonuses, Exclusive Reinforcements, Unit Relocation, and Enemy Equipment.


Did you tremble when hearing that word? If you’ve played FE6, or even Thracia, it doesn’t surprise me, I’ve been there too (I played Binding Blade as first FE).

They’re the infamous example that really makes you wonder if they’re even fair in the slightest.

For a quick explanation, Ambush Spawns are enemy reinforcements that get to move in their turn the moment they arrive. But the issue is not that. It’s about WHERE and WHEN they spawn.

The best example is Rutger murdering any unit on turn 6 if they’re near the castle in Ch. 4.

IS really exploited them in Binding Blade and ocasionally in Blazing Sword, no wonder why they’re infamous and why FE6 is really hard.

Hard Mode Bonuses

Oh boy, these can break the game if not carefully tested. We just need to look at Fates.

Fates is by far the best example on HOW TO NOT tackle the issue. But if you argue with Shadow Dragon, then that’s another topic.

For the GBA games I would say it’s really balanced if you take away Sacred Stones pitiful bonuses (Japanese Sacred Stones have higher bonuses).

Relocation of player / enemy units

Sometimes by just relocating where you spawn in the chapters makes things a bit harder and tricky if the enemies also get relocated.

What if the stationary enemies get to block a choke point for their mages or archers chip you and the fliers finish the job? This could be an example for hard mode relocation.
That was for enemy relocation, what about player relocation?

Say we’re in a map like Ch 16 in Sacred Stones. Epharim’s army starts at the bottom left corner wheras Eirika starts at the bottom right corner.

That makes things really hard for a Low Turn Count Player in Ephraim route and makes the space annoying in general. Especially if the treasures are really far away and thiefs are inbound. That’s my example on player relocation.

Equipment Variety

This is also a thing. The game gives better equipment to the enemy to counter some specifical units on your army like reavers and slayers. How about better weapons and magic.

Speaking of balance in weapons… What about Siege Tomes and Status Inflict Staves?

Are they fair? NO. NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST. At least if the enemy is not the one holding them, Imma right or right?

Sleep is annoying, but not unfair. Silence alone is not a treat but oh boy. The infamous combo Silence + Beserk is reaaaally scary for any magician with low res and the deadliest unit with low res if Sages, Bishops and Druids are the users of the status staves.

Siege Tomes are really hard to balance, not because of their range and placement.
The unit who carries these weapons become the campers of the map for 5 turns. 5 TURNS OF AREA DENIAL.

Area denial is not the real problem. It gives time for reinforcements on your back to arrive and thiefs to spawn and yeet the treasures. Not cool dude. Not cool.

(Only weapon that can easily be balanced is Luna. You just take away the critical. That’s why it wasn’t mention here).

Hard Mode Exclusive Reinforcements

These are really fair and balance. It spices up the hard mode.
They don’t have to be ambush spawns if you desire, but the fact that they’re a surprise for first timers to the Hard Mode adds the flavor of surprise.

It tricks the player the hard mode is hard. You can do anything with these.

Wrapping Up

With everything said, let me hear your opinions on this subject. What do you think it’s fair and balance according to your tastes. If I got something wrong in these subjects, let me know.


I’d say add fates Phoenix mode to your hacks

Makes the game a million times better tbh


Why would you add Phoenix mode? That shit makes the game way too hard

you really can’t expect me to finish the game before i fall asleep due to boredom

It removes the factor of fe nobody actually likes: the gameplay

Gives you more time to focus on the better part of fire emblem: the waifus


waifus? don’t you mean numbers and a stat screen?

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Is this just numbers and a stat screen to you?

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yes, it is




On the siege tomes part. I think many people would agree to this that eclipse is easily the easiest one to balance and this is because it does flat HP damage. It either cuts your HP by half in fe8 or leave it on 1 in fe7. The only thing that sucks about it is the Tome’s absolutely crap hit rate. So a proposed balance for siege tomes would be for them to do flat damage, like manaketes and have them during late game. that way the player could anticipate how much damage their units are going to take and plan accordingly. if you want, you can also make tiers of siege tomes so you can use weaker ones for early/mid game.

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To bring this conversation back on track…

It should be noted that there are several different ways designing FE can be handled. GBAFE and DSFE alone have quite a few differences in design philosophy and I’m not even going to get into 3DSFE.

Generally the game itself makes the player form a gameplay style that works in the context of that game, and I think that’s important to mention. This even applies to many hacks. Try playing Souls of the Forest the same way you play Vision Quest. It probably wouldn’t work out too well.

*Ambush Spawns*

…Okay, fine. There’s no good reason to use ambush spawns since the only times using them can be seen as fair, normal reinforcements would work just fine.
Ambush spawns only artificially increase difficulty by creating a gotcha moment in the chapter. And if it causes a death, the player will just feel cheated and won’t be having fun playing the chapter.

*Hard Mode Bonuses*
Nothing much here that I want to elaborate on. Hard mode bonuses are good if you find the sweet spot between too many and not enough

*Relocation of player / enemy units*
Yes yes yes yes! Creating difficult situations for the player through unit placements is very good. Doing this makes perfect sense seeing as how Fire Emblem is a strategy game.

You’d be amazed at how many things you could do with the same number of units in the same map. You can take the times where you might say “Nah, I don’t want the player to handle something this hard right now even if they have the tools to.” and actually use those ideas for hard mode.

Add to that different inventories, and you can craft a new experience with the same map.

*Equipment Variety*
Speaking of tools, It’s very possible and probably easier than one might think to design siege tomes in a way that camping isn’t the only good solution. Give the player the right tools and they can get through in a reasonable amount of time. Paladins and falcoknights are very useful for that sort of thing.

As for sleep and silence, they’re in the same boat. Give the player the tools (barrier, high res units, restore, etc) and let them have at it. Berserk is a harder one though since if someone gets berserked and you don’t have a restore person in range, you’ll be dealing with five turns of of protecting your other units from the likely heavily armed berserked unit while trying to keep said unit from getting themselves killed.

There’s other variety like handing out stronger weapons like reavers, or effective weapons. Doing this also goes really well with different enemy placements.

It’s also really worth noting that half of what I just said can be changed heavily depending on the game/hack. If you made berserk happen for only 1 turn, it’d be more salvageable for example.

*Hard Mode Exclusive Reinforcements*
These can also work. Nothing else to add other than ambush spawns stink.

Manifestos and hating on ambush spawns… I’ve been hanging around Pandan too much…


I would like to eliminate unreasonable game overs.
For example, I would like to put up a message before an ambush, or explain it in shinan.
This would prevent unreasonable deaths.
Of course, there is nothing we can do about those who don’t read the messages.

As for the difficulty level, I would like to make it possible to clear the game normally in normal mode.
About hard mode and above, I think it is natural that it is difficult.
Because it is hard mode.

I can’t help people who choose hard mode from the beginning because they want to look good.

In addition to messages, there are several other ways to reduce the difficulty.

  1. AutoSave Patch
  2. Casual Mode Patch
  3. Sell Restore, Torch, and other item at the store in preparation.
  4. Prevent clogging by making these staff level E

On the topic of Casual Mode, I think there’s a secret spice that is underexplored for making things hard: designing difficulty with easy-mode tools in mind in order to make them harder. For the unusually high concentration of Touhou fans here, think Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, where, in a bullet hell, you get infinite continues, but you always start at the beginning of the stage. In terms of pure level difficulty, this game is considered the one of the most ball-busting of the series because the dev intended for you to have to try and die a lot.

FE provides two options that come to mind for this:

Designing around turnwheel: This is, in my opinion, a somewhat boring option, but serviceable for blind playthroughs. Essentially, all the jank, unfair stuff like ambush spawns, you can toss in if you’re designing your game around turnwheel availability. It is a little dull since it loses its luster upon a restart or replay, but if you were making, for example, Iron Emblem featuring Turnwheel & Knuckles, a number of mean-spirited occurrences per map equal to your turnwheel uses might be in consideration.

Desinging around casual mode: Here’s where it gets spicy. Habitual resetters might not know this, but, as a matter of fact, an individual map gets harder if you let a unit die. Why? You have one less unit for that map, duh. That’s one less body blocker, one less enemy-remover on player phase, maybe even one less healer if you really messed up. Now in a casual mode-default game, the developer is free to absolutely annihilate the shit out of player units so long as the goal for the map is still achievable. This frees up space for nonsense like infinite-use siege weaponry for enemies where the player is genuinely forced to press through enemy fire. It also makes bosses on thrones more interesting. Dabbing on a stationary guy with a full army of 1-2 weapons and healers is boring, but what if it’s just down to one melee guy and a mage with no heal staff uses left? What if your convoy user died earlier? Spice, baybeeee

You’re actually insane if you try to balance around phoenix mode though, but now that I think about it I would really want to see a game where someone succeeded at making phoenix mode hard without having it be terribly boring.

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Why not just use AutoSave Patch?

I actually don’t know what that does lol

You can use both AutoSave Patch and Casual Mode.
With AutoSave Patch, you can redo that turn as many times as you want.
If you are willing to tolerate a future in which the unit dies on top of that, you can save him in Casual Mode.


Even if you are using AutoSave, it will not prevent you from playing the restrictions because it will not take effect unless you reset it.
If you want ironman, you can continue without resetting.
Casual mode can also be turned off in the settings.

If you want to restricted play, you can even not use them.
If you want, you can play blindfolded, standing on your head, or using only your feet.
I think these are also types of play styles.
As well as not reset, you can also play without using your eyes or hands.
It is also possible to play with large amounts of alcohol inoculated to restrict the brain.


All the funny jokes I said yesterday aside I’m kinda chill with the turn wheel or divine pulse or whatever because you can just choose not to use it plus like you said it’s good for blind plays, same thing with casual mode

People are gonna say that fe is sucking up to casuals by including those things, I personally don’t care because classic mode is a thing and you can just not press ZL and ZR to use the power the loli goddess in your head gave you

But for hacks (if I hypothetically made one) I would probably include a casual mode just because some would prefer it and then add Phoenix mode just as a joke and probably also playtesting purposes to make sure things actually work


I think this scene in FE6 is the most ideal non-reasonable surprise attack.
For ease of understanding, a fan-translated version was used in this case.

This boss tells the player that enemy reinforcements are coming from the south.
This allows the player to prepare.
Reinforcements are therefore not unreasonable.

I think we should follow his example and warn our players.
I try to follow his example and give as much advance warning as possible in kaitou.

However, this chapter is quite challenging and is one of the points of frustration when playing on a higher difficulty level.
This is because it is dependent on the movements of NPCs.

Also, FE6 has reinforcements on the enemy turn, making the game more difficult.
This was one of the traditions of FE, but since FE7, reinforcements are now on the player turn.
In Kaitou, only after the last number (ch62) of the hidden stage, reinforcements are given on the enemy turn.
There are some exceptions due to events, but in those cases, we try to keep a considerable distance from the player.


I actually like this idea a lot

I kinda like the idea of the game bluntly telling you that the level will have reinforcements, usually by the boss of the level

Definitely noting that down


I think community had reached a consensus long and:

  • ambush spawns bad
  • hard mode must be tested
  • stronger/more enemies is the best way to make chapter harder
  • casual mode is really ok if you’re not building the enitre game around it.