Fire Emblem Heroes: One Year Anniversary Review

Image Courtesy: Nintendo

Keenan Thungtrakul/Senior Reporter

It’s hard to imagine that one year has passed since Nintendo released Fire Emblem Heroes for iOS and Android devices. I’ve been playing this game long enough to know what features were done well and what can be improved on to make it more fun and enjoyable. I’ve done a series of articles on this game, and this will be the last one in the series. For those who haven’t heard of Fire Emblem before, the series is set in a medieval fantasy realm of legendary weapons, magic tomes, dragons, kings, and queens. Players assemble and lead an army of allies on epic journeys against enemies on turn-based battlefields set on a grid, kind of like a radar map.

Battlefields feature various forms of terrain that gives bonuses to units fighting in that area. These include mountains, fortresses, forests, etc. Heroes take all the games in the series and combine them into one dynamic realm. Players collect their favorite characters from the series and bring them into battle alongside each other. The characters come in a one-to-five-star tier system, with five-star being the most powerful variant. There are many game modes to choose from, from playing multiple maps in a row to exploring the dynamic story to head-to-head battles against fellow players. Heroes use shiny, rainbow-colored orbs as its in-game currency.

Players use them for various features, but their primary purpose is for summoning new heroes. In summoning, you are essentially rolling a large die to determine what Hero you get, and they can be multiple of the same character. To deal with this, you can pass on a Hero’s skills to another character, enhancing his or her abilities at the expense of the duplicate Hero. Or you can merge duplicates for stat and skill point boosts. Another option is returning the duplicates to their home realms in exchange for Hero Feathers; an item used to promote allies to higher tiers, dubbed “rarities.”

The latest additions to both Heroes and the newer Fire Emblem games make the stories they tell more interesting and gives players the ability to customize their army with more than just weapons and skill sets. You can pair your favorite characters together and watch their relationships grow, giving greater bonuses with each support level. Heroes have added a feature where you, as the player, can bond with an ally of your choice, giving yourself an in-game partner. I find that interesting, especially in an age where technology dominates one’s life. Nintendo’s finding a way to keep that grip, just like the other big tech companies.

The game’s made it to software version 2.1, and with the 2.0 update, a whole lot of new things entered the playing field. First off, there’s new Legendary Hero summoning events that occur every month. Players have the chance to obtain a special Hero alongside other popular Heroes in a focus where the only 5-star heroes you can get are those in focus.

The special “Legendary Hero” comes with an elemental blessing that can boost allies carrying that blessing on the battlefield. Blessing items are usually obtained in quests and can be bestowed upon any ally of choice. The focus heroes also appear at a significantly increased rate, so it’s easier for one to summon a five-star Hero of choice.

Another improvement to Heroes is the ability to refine weapons to make them more powerful. It draws from the “Forge” menu option for armories in the newer games, where players can spend resources (typically gold) to make a weapon of choice for their favorite character. Here, you don’t have gold. The game uses special items obtained from various play modes to forge weapons. Aside from granting increased attack power, allies gain skill-specific bonuses, such as the ability to nullify an enemy’s bonuses if the weapon used is “effective” against it (e.g., bow against a flier).

Aside from these improvements, some of the things the game puts out for players make playing seem like a chore. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s just a game, but for some, it may feel like more than a game. For instance, Tempest Trials, a chain battle mode, features daily bonuses and incentivizing rewards, encouraging players to battle it out twice a day plus all the other neat stuff going on. There’s always at least three concurrently running events in the game that it’s easy to pick something and play. For those looking to rack up free stuff, it’ll take some effort.

Fortunately, the game has an auto-battle feature for those that are busy but still wish to aim for good rewards. You can make it so that the only interactions you have to do is pick a new team if your current one is defeated. Nonetheless, there should be a better way to give bonuses so players can better take advantage of them in the midst of their busy lives.

Overall, I feel Heroes has followed a good path over the past year, giving players plenty of dynamic scenarios and modes to play so they won’t get bored, and incentivizing them with lucrative rewards. While the game is dependent on luck as far as collecting your favorite characters, there are enough fail-safe mechanisms in place to ensure your precious orbs don’t go to waste. The game is very generous, so there’s plenty of ways to regain lost orbs.

As far as events go, there needs to be more balance in bonuses so that taking part in them won’t feel like “busy work” or a chore, but rather as an option for one’s free time. With one year under its belt and more ahead, I’m sure Heroes will continue to attract players of all backgrounds to the series and encourage them to explore the magical realm that is Fire Emblem.