What is Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia?
Fire Emblem Echoes is a strategy role playing game set in the land of Valentia. With two warring factions engaged in a drawn out battle, childhood friends Alm and Celica come to find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. Yet, as is often the way, there's more to these two than it seems... With spectacular anime cutscenes, equally colourful characters, and strategic yet accessible grid based battles, Fire Emblem Echoes is a brain testing fantasy adventure.
How do you play Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia?
Hopping from location to location on the game's world map, Fire Emblem is a game of reading through visual novel style dialogue exchanges and cutscenes, exploring towns, cities and dungeons, and, perhaps most importantly, taking part in loads of strategic battles. Played from a top-down perspective, these grid based encounters see you face off against a group of foes that usually outnumber and outgun you - and it's up to you to figure out how to best use your troops to bring them toppling down.
Along with having their own distinct personalities, each of your units has its own class, whether it's a tough yet slow Knight, a magic wielding Mage, or a ranged specialist like an Archer, with each having their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own special uses. By keeping an eye on your opponent's range, it's up to you to use the right units to take out the right enemies, being sure to position your units in the best place to take out your foes, whilst not leaving any of your weaker units exposed. Luckily, selecting an enemy unit will show you its range and where it can attack, whilst pressing X will bring up an overlay showing you the total range of all enemy units combined - effectively revealing where you can place your weaker troops to keep them safe.
New features for Echoes include 3D dungeons you can explore from a third person perspective (with any battles you get into causing the game to transition to a traditional top-down Fire Emblem strategy battle), and towns/villages you can explore to gain new equipment, troops and resources.
How easy is Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia to pick up and play?
Despite the series' somewhat hardcore reputation, Fire Emblem Echoes has a number of options to make it easy for those who've never played a strategy role playing game to find their footing here. Whilst seasoned pros can play in Classic mode on Hard difficulty, meaning if any of your characters fall on the battlefield, they'll be "perma-dead", and you'll never get them back, beginners can play in Casual mode on Normal difficulty, which disables perma-death (so anyone who falls in battle will be back fully healed at the start of the next fight), and gives players a much easier time.
While you'll still have to think about how to approach each fight, Echoes seems to generally be a more forgiving game. Battles tend to feel a little bit more balanced than on other games, with less traps waiting to catch you out (like corridors full of archers, or mages that can target literally any space in an entire room). As before, moving your troops within range of an enemy will let you preview how your attack's going to go, showing you the damage you'll deal and receive, along with your percentage chance of landing each hit - although you'll want to switch to the simplified prediction in the menu, to avoid being swamped by bars.
An additional safety net comes in the form of Mila's Turnwheel - a new feature that lets you rewind up to three full turns (or more, if you collect the cogs you find scattered around the game) should something go horribly wrong. If you find yourself on the wrong side of a critical hit, or end up accidentally leaving one of your key troops exposed, this can be a real life saver - and one that'll save you having to rage-restart.
While the vast majority of Fire Emblem is fully voiced, certain quests and dialogue sections are delivered through text only, meaning a reading ability is required. It's worth also bearing in mind that there's plenty of medieval style language and wording in use here too, meaning some of the dialogue may sometimes be tricky to understand.
Sample sentences include:
- I'm tempted to fill my pockets, but that would make me no better than a pirate.
- With all that's gone on in the world lately, my children are afraid. I'd love to bake them something sweet to put a bit of joy in their lives, but with the war on, ingredients are dear, so they are. What I need is some flour, honey and butter.
- I consider cheese the greatest gift to man, and dedicate my life to eating it. Scour the world for new cheesy treats, and I'll see you rewarded accordingly.
While sample spoken lines include:
- "Our purpose cannot brook delay"
Fire Emblem Echoes is fairly light in terms of mature content,. While the game does feature bad language, it's mild and infrequent, going only so far as the odd utterance of "piss", "turds", "sod", "boob", "nonce" and the game's own unique curse word, "dastard".
The game does also feature some very minor innuendo - you'll overhear two troops chatting about a female character, "Woof! She's going to be a handful." "That's what I'm hoping!", while later a conversation mentions a woman asking after you at the pub, "wanting to give whoever sank those pirates her thanks".
Perhaps as strong as the content in the game gets is the violence, but again, we're only talking very mild combat scenes here. Troops will engage in up close battle scenes with swords, spears, arrows and magic attacks, although there's nothing in the way of realistic impacts. One cutscene does show a character being impaled on a sword, but again, there's no blood.