Assessing Fire Emblem Awakening Skills
It’s been a while since I did a proper Fire Emblem post on this blog. At one point in time, I had this grand idea that I’d do a whole series comparing Fire Emblem: Awakening with Fire Emblem: Fates. Here’s the thing though — Fates wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. While it’s an okay game that I enjoyed playing through a couple of times, its relatively boring storyline, strange weapon forging system, and limited reclassing options took away from some of the game’s improvements1Mainly the reintroduction of knives/shurikens and the introduction of personal skills. I have mixed feelings on the removal of the weapon durability feature. It’s largely a positive, though I think it could have been done better. There’s no reason to ever use anything above a C-class weapon in Fates, particularly due to the penalties you pay for high-rarity weapons..
Awakening, though not a perfect game, is easily one of the most replayable games I’ve ever played. Part of the appeal to the game — along with the great storyline and engrossing characters — is the ability to build characters with skill sets to suit your play style. Although I would love the personal skills mechanic from Fates to be added to Awakening, there’s still plenty you can do with the five skill limit that your characters have.
This got me to thinking though. What are the best skills to have in Fire Emblem: Awakening? In a game with 84 skills available even before you consider DLC, you certainly have plenty of options at your disposal. I took a look at all 84 skills and considered their usefulness in the main game, importance as inherited skills, activation rates, accessibility, and personal preference to put those skills into 9 tiers with roughly 9 skills in each tier. This post focuses on the importance of these skills in the main game, as wireless play can be a whole different beast.
Tier 9: Replace As Soon As Possible
The Skills: Speed +2, Skill +2, Magic +2, Strength +2, Rally Skill, Rally Speed, Rally Magic, Rally Strength, Rally Luck
The Why: Despite the fact that much of the Fire Emblem gaming community loves the Rally skills2Not to be confused with Rally Skill, which boosts your Skill stat., I personally can’t stand them. They waste an action for a promoted unit in exchange for +4 of one stat (with two notable exceptions). It’s rare that such a boost will turn the tide of a level or even one battle. You’re better suited to having other skills. If you must have a Rally skill, there’s better options than the five in this group. As for the +2 stat boosts, you’re generally not using them deep into the game. If you must though, use the survival boosts rather than offensive ones.
Tier 8: What You’re Probably Replacing Second
The Skills: Odd Rhythm, Even Rhythm, Underdog, Beastbane, Tantivity, Focus, Defense +2, Resistance +2, Rally Defense, Rally Resistance
The Why: The Defense and Resistance skills for Rally and stat boosts are slightly better than those in tier 9 for survivability, so they get the bump to tier 8. Odd and Even Rhythm only work 50% of the time, which limit these otherwise average skills. Similarly, Focus and Tantivity are limited by the fact that your unit has to be all alone to gain benefits from them, which isn’t a common play style for Awakening. Underdog is a useful skill for Donnel and Donnel alone, but it pales in comparison to his other skill options. Beastbane is handicapped both by the plethora of other units and weapons that deal with mounted units, as well as the fact that taguels are just awful as a class.
Tier 7: Weaker Niche Skills
The Skills: Wyrmsbane, Pass, Relief, Outdoor Fighter, Charm, Discipline, Patience, Special Dance, Hex, Solidarity
The Why: Wyrmsbane gets ranked higher than Beastbane because manaketes are at least competent statistically, even if you’re probably not using Nowi and Nah in that class. Special Dance, Charm, and Solidarity are useful on the adult units that get them, but they have limited usefulness in inheritance3Special Dance in particular cannot be passed down at all, even if Olivia is Lucina’s mom.. Pass and Relief are similar skills in that their usefulness comes most commonly behind enemy lines, which is situational at best. Discipline is great in the early game, but you’ll drop it once weapons are maxed. Patience and Hex are avoidance impacting skills, but there’s better options out there. They’re good in conjunction with those other skills, but they’re not required. Outdoor Fighter would be better if more outdoor maps had choke points, but that’s not the case.
Tier 6: Above Average Early Game Skills
The Skills: Avoid +10, HP +5, Luck +4, Indoor Fighter, Despoil, Veteran, Rally Movement, Prescience, Anethema
The Why: All of these skills except Rally Movement (a promoted unit skill) and Despoil (requires a class change) come very early in the game with units you can acquire relatively easily. That said, aside from Luck +4, which helps Olivia’s survivability in her recruitment chapter, none of these skills are critical for units to keep past mid-game. Avoid +10, Prescience, and Anethema are similar in function to Patience and Hex from tier 7, just stronger or less situational. Indoor Fighter is helpful due to choke points on indoor maps, but it’s still not a great skill overall. The only skills I can see keeping end game are HP +5 and Veteran, but only if you have nothing else better to replace them with.
Tier 5: Healers and Killers
The Skills: Hit Rate +20, Lethality, Renewal, Slow Burn, Gamble, Dual Strike+, Dual Guard+, Miracle, Healtouch, Demoiselle
The Why: There’s not a ton of good healing classes in Awakening, so you’ll likely find yourself using the healing skills less frequently than most other skills. Miracle is awesome in permadeath mode, but only in that mode. Healtouch and Renewal aren’t skills I typically keep until end game, though that’s more a function of my dislike for the War Monk and War Cleric classes than anything else4I like the actual cleric characters, particularly Lissa, but the class is just awkward.. Dual Strike+ is a good skill, but since only Chrom and Lucina can get it, it’s hard for me to rank it higher. Dual Guard+ is more available, is overshadowed by Great Knight’s Luna ability. Lethality is my favorite skill in the game, but is also has the worst activation rate of any skill in the game, so I can’t rank it above this tier. Slow Burn, similar to the Rally skills, is loved by many Fire Emblem players, but games don’t last long enough for Slow Burn to fully take effect. Demoiselle is the only skill in the game that allows you to avoid critical hits, which pairs well with male units running Miracle for extra bulk. Gamble and Hit Rate +20 are acceptable skills, but I usually find myself replacing them with one of the skills in the next four tiers.
Tier 4: Niche Skills and Crits
The Skills: Bowfaire, Counter, Movement +1, Rally Spectrum, Defender, Wrath, Astra, Locktouch, Zeal
The Why: Unless you have a unit in the Assassain class, Bowfaire isn’t worth your time to learn, as hit rate is more critical for Snipers and Bow Knights5That said, Bowfaire on Yarne as an Assassain is awesome.. Rally Spectrum is the only Rally skill worth a damn, but considering the amount of skills Robin and Morgan can pick up, good luck slotting it somewhere. Locktouch is 100% situational, but indispensable when you need it for door or chest-heavy maps. Wrath and Counter are loved by those who play a melee heavy style, but they’re limited by a need for low HP (which is hard to do for Berserkers thanks to their inherent access to HP +5) or low defense (which isn’t terribly common for those with Berserker access). I’d rather take Zeal’s lower crit boost and call it a day. Astra would be much higher up if it had a better activation rate, but it’s a good skill nonetheless. Free movement is always good, and Movement +1 is one of the few movement skills a non-flying unit can pick up. Defender is terribly underrated, as you’re picking up +7 overall stats along with any pair up bonuses you’re already getting.
Tier 3: Avoidance Is Your Friend
The Skills: Axebreaker, Lancebreaker, Swordbreaker, Acrobat, Luna, Deliverer, Tomebreaker, Quick Burn, Vantage
The Why: All of the -breaker skills give you +50 avoidance if the foe is using a specific kind of weapon, making them stronger than any other avoidance skill in the game by 20. Even though they’re situational, they’re so strong they must be considered top-tier. Acrobat and Deliverer greatly boost movement for infantry/mounted and paired up units, respectively, which is great for quick strike offense. Luna is one of the better offensive skills in the game, but is inferior to Aether due to its lack of healing (despite having a better activation rate). Vantage is one of the few early game skills you’ll want to use in the end game for units with access to it. Quick Burn is far superior to Slow Burn thanks to the fact that most battles don’t go beyond 7 turns, giving you extra avoidance early in a battle.
Tier 2: Damage Boosts Galore (Mostly)
The Skills: Lucky Seven, Swordfaire, Tomefaire, Axefaire, Lancefaire, Bowbreaker, Ignis, Aether, Dual Support+
The Why: Lucky Seven is Quick Burn on steroids, though it lasts half as long. The -faire classes all give +5 damage when using that weapon type, making them end-game staples and good inherited skills if there aren’t better options. Bowbreaker is better than all other -breaker skills due to all flying classes having a weakness to bows. Aether would be one of the top skills in the game if more than Lucina, Chrom, and Lucina’s sibling got access to it. Similarly, Ignis triggers at a great rate, but only Robin and Morgan can access its overpowered abilities. Dual Support+ is broken as all hell, but considering only the extremely uncommon Valkyrie class can access it or pass it down, that caused me to place Armsthrift in the top-tier over it.
Tier 1: God-Tier Skills
The Skills: Rightful King, Galeforce, Aptitude, Lifetaker, Vengeance, Aegis, Pavise, Sol, Armsthrift
The Why: Rightful King allows all other skills to activate 10% more of the time. It’s wonderful on Chrom6Who gets Aether and Aegis access., Lucina7Who gets Aether and Aegis access from Chrom, but also potentially Ignis, Lethality, Armsthrift, Sol, Miracle, Vengeance, Pavise, or Astra, depending on her mom., and Brady/Inigo. Aptitude is only accessible to Donnel and his child, but it gives the best growth rates in the game. Aegis and Pavise are chance based skills that lower damage received while Sol and Lifetaker heal you while attacking. Armsthrift saves your weapon durability with the best non-100% activation rate in the game, which is important because only the Falchion and Parallel Falchion are indestructible. I feel like Vengeance should have had an activation rate of Skill divided by two instead of Skill times two, as it triggers almost constantly on child units who have it. And then there’s Galeforce…a skill so broken that they had to make it DLC in Fates just so you wouldn’t beat the game in your sleep. Since nearly every female parent has access to the Galeforce skill and since all children except Lucina and Morgan are tied to their mothers in Awakening, nearly every child unit can be given Galeforce with proper planning. This essentially assures you taking 2-3 full turns for your entire team per every one turn your enemy gets. Galeforce is crazy.
What are your favorite Fire Emblem Awakening skills? Do you disagree with my tier list? Sound off in the comments.