Assessing Fire Emblem Birthright Personal Skills

Around six months ago, I did a post where I assessed the various skills1Well…when I originally wrote this, it was 6 months. Now it’s closer to 10 months. that units could obtain in the main story of Fire Emblem: Awakening. Even earlier last year, I theorycrafted some personal skills for FE: A characters as if they were in the Fire Emblem: Fates edition of games. That said, I realized a few weeks ago that I had never gotten around to writing a post I’d meant to create along with either (if not both) of those posts. What are the best personal skills in the Fire Emblem: Fates trilogy of games?

In the Fire Emblem: Fates games — Birthright, Conquest, and Revelation — each unit gets a skill that’s exclusive to them. This skill cannot be inherited by child characters, nor unequipped by the character that has it. The intent is to give each character their own quirks, so that even units of the same class has slight advantages or disadvantages over one another depending on the situation.

Instead of doing Fire Emblem: Revelation as a whole game2Revelation is essentially the combination of both Birthright and Conquest, the two main storylines in the Fates series., I decided to look at Birthright and Conquest as separate entities with separate character rosters. After all, the two games play very differently. What’s good in Birthright and its more casual play style might not be as good in Conquest and its more objective based maps.

As was the case with my analysis of Fire Emblem: Awakening’s mainline story skills, I’ve broken the 41 personal skills from Fire Emblem: Birthright down into tiers. In this case, however, I’ve gone with six unbalanced tiers, as I do think there drastic differences in the quality of some of the personal skills, especially at the lower end of the quality spectrum. The largest tier features 10 personal skills, while the smallest tier features only 4 skills. Like the last skill assessment post, I factored my own personal preference and the activation rates of these skills into my thoughts, as well as the usefulness of the skill in the main storyline of the game. Since each of these skills can only be accessed by one unit, accessibility and inheritance were not considered.

Tier 6: Worthless in the Main Story

The Skills: Capture (Orochi), Sweet Tooth (Asugi), Pyrotechnics (Saizo), Born Steward (Dwyer), Divine Retribution (Azama)

The Why: Let’s lead off with the most polarizing skill in the Fates series: Capture/Kidnap3In Conquest, Niles has an identical skill to Orochi’s Capture skill called Kidnap.. If you could capture the main story units from the other kingdom, this would be a great skill. If you could capture units that you could support your units with so that you’re not forced to play female Corrin to get all the kids, this would be a great skill. But all you can capture is fodder. So no. Of the Wait skills4Skills that require your unit to use the Wait command instead of attacking/healing/rallying., Asugi’s is the least useful, not because recovering HP is bad, but because you recover so little HP that it’s pointless. Pyrotechnics requires the already squishy Saizo to be at low health for it to activate, while Azama’s skill requires you to unequip all your weapons. In a war game5I get that you can stack Divine Retribution with Counter for MASSIVE damage if Azama survives, but I’d rather he just be able to defend himself.. And then there’s Dwyer, whose Born Steward skill is nearly exclusively used in online play. Congratulations, Dwyer! You made me not think everything about Azama is the worst.

Tier 5: Waiting For Death

The Skills: Perspicacious (Yurimara), Competitive (Takumi), Perfect Pitch (Shigure), In Extremis (Scarlet), Optimist (Kiragi), Calm (Hisame), Shuriken Mystery (Kagero)

The Why: Yurimara’s skill is super useful, but you’re likely never slotting him into your team at the expense of a better unit. Similarly, while Competitive is amazing, Takumi is all but guaranteed to outlevel whoever he’s partnered with unless it’s Ryoma, Hinoka, or Corrin6And let’s be real. None of them need Takumi.. Scarlet’s skill is Wrath on steroids, which would be great if she wasn’t extremely weak to bows. Kiragi and Hisame’s Wait-procced skills give them needed stat boosts, but it’s almost like they should be receiving the other’s boost. Kagero’s anti-dagger abilities are great when you need them, but by the time she arrives in the game, you’ve likely got other ways to deal with dagger users. Finally, Shigure’s skill heals anyone nearby when he uses Rally, but his Skill and Strength growths make him a much better fighter than a cleric.

Tier 4: Playthrough Dictated Skills

The Skills: Devoted Partner (Felicia), Evasive Partner (Jakob), Vendetta (Rhajat), Highwayman (Shura), Perfectionist (Subaki), Pride (Hayato), Vow of Friendship (Silas)

The Why: If you’re using Felicia, Jakob, or Silas as Corrin’s S or A+ support, their skills are amazing. If you’re not, they have zero use in that playthrough7M-Corrin/Felicia is my OTP for Birthright. Unlike Awakening, where I have very strong feelings about shipping, this is the only one in Fates I feel strongly about.. Like Yurimara in the previous tier, Shura has a good skill, but he’s hard to slot on a team since he has limited supports. He’s at least a better unit than Yurimara, so it’s easier. Subaki and Hayato’s skills require you to keep them at full health and underleveled, respectively. If you can do that, great, but it’s not as easy as it seems. Finally, while Rhajat’s skill looks great on paper, she’s not tanky enough to keep battling the same units over and over again on a map to get Vendetta’s boosted damage.

Tier 3: (Mostly) Situational Skills

The Skills: Mischievous (Sophie), Fiery Blood (Rinkah), Optimistic (Setsuna), Supportive (Corrin), Morbid Celebration (Reina), Forager (Mozu), Haiku (Mitama), Reciprocity (Kaden), Triple Threat (Hinata)

The Why: Mischievous is the only true defense dropping skill, making it pair well with Luna. That said, it doesn’t drop defense enough for it to be great if Luna doesn’t proc. The remaining skills here all require you to meet certain conditions for them to work right. Most of these skills, save for Supportive, require your unit not to be at full health in order for them to trigger. Reciprocity provides some support to your healers, but not enough to set it apart from this tier. Similarly, the healing amounts you get in this tier are either too small (Haiku, Forager) or so far overkill (Optimistic) that they’re frustrating to use. Triple Threat, Morbid Celebration, and Supportive are all good skills, but all have something holding them back. For Triple Threat, it’s the low HP threshold, for Supportive, it’s the fact that Corrin will usually be a lead unit, and for Morbid Celebration, it’s the fact that it’s on Reina. Fiery Blood is the best skill in this tier, but is held back slightly by the fact that you have to take a hit to get it to kick in. And considering Rinkah’s low resistance growths, that’s not always a good thing.

Tier 2: Great, But Not Overpowered, Skills

The Skills: Miraculous Save (Kaze), Noble Cause (Shiro), Lucky Charm (Midori), Fearsome Blow (Hana), Bushido (Ryoma), Draconic Heir (Kana), Peacebringer (Izana), Prodigy (Caeldori), Healing Descant (Azura)

The Why: Miraculous Save is a skill you never hope you need to have, but you’re happy when it’s there. It’s major downfall is that it’s trigger is based on the Luck stat of the unit that’s hit, not Kaze’s. Ryoma and Shiro’s skill are perfect for the father/son duo’s roles as protectors of their group, as they’ll generally be paired with lower-level and full HP units, respectively, anyway. Midori’s Lucky Charm skill is a more limited version of Rightful King from Awakening, and though it’s not as good, it still stands above many other skills. Hana’s personal skill works well if she’s leading the charge into battle as a Master of Arms, though Vantage users can give her teammates trouble if Hana accidentally triggers that threshold. Kana and Azura’s healing skills are much more reliable than lower tiered healing skills, so they get the bump to this tier. Izana’s damage reduction skill is the best skill you’ll encounter in a support limited unit, not to mention it stacks really well with Sakura’s tier 1 skill. That said, since it lowers your own units’ damage output too, it gets stuck in tier 2. Finally, Caeldori can get one of the biggest damage boosts in the game at nearly all times, so long as she’s careful about picking her opponents. The fact that she has to be careful at all is the only thing that keeps Prodigy from the top tier.

Tier 1: Burn Nohr to the Ground

The Skills: Nohr Enmity (Oboro), Playthings (Selkie), Quiet Strength (Sakura), Rallying Cry (Hinoka)

The Why: Sakura and Hinoka give damage reduction and damage boosts, respectively, to those close by them, meaning you want them in the middle of your army at all times. For Sakura, this is much easier, though Hinoka is a bit more flexible, given that her mobility allows you to use her damage with other mobile units to outflank your enemies. Selkie’s Playthings ability is a more reliable, albeit less powerful, version of Hana’s personal skill. The fact that you don’t have to put any guesswork into if a kill will happen to know if you’ll get Selkie’s splash damage is great. And then there’s Oboro. Nohr Enmity is not only one of my favorite skills in the game8My favorite skill is Haiku. I know it’s not great. But it’s just so well thought out with Mitama’s character., it’s also the one skill that’s going to come into play in nearly all situations in Fire Emblem: Birthright. Takumi may have a grudge against Nohr, but Oboro is the true vengeful being.

My Top 10 Favorite Fire Emblem: Awakening Official Arts

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite YouTube channels, Ghast, made a video talking about his favorite official art pieces from Fire Emblem: Awakening. If you’re interested in watching the video to get his thoughts, you can check it out below.

Awakening is, as I’ve said before on this blog, far and away my favorite video game. Despite its shortcomings and plot holes, it’s an incredibly fun game with an insanely high replay value. Beyond that, the art in the game is breathtaking, even now with the game just having passed the six-years-old mark9I unintentionally started writing this post on April 19th, which just happened to be six years to the day after FE:A was released in Japan.. My brother-in-law got me the Fire Emblem: Awakening official art book for Christmas a few years ago, and I’ve gone through it a few times since then. In addition to having some wonderful art in the book10Which will be part of the focus of this post., the cover is pretty stellar too.

In the book, you get to see the official character art for all of the characters in the game itself. Much like how some of the characters in the game are written much better than others, there are definitely some characters whose official art is more striking than other characters. It’s worth pointing out that there isn’t necessarily overlap between these two lists, as two of my favorite characters in the game – Noire and Morgan — have some of the worst official art.

With that, I decided to follow Ghast’s lead and write a post sharing my ten favorite official character arts from Fire Emblem: Awakening. I likely will get into spoilers here, so if you don’t like those, don’t read. All official art comes from fireemblemwiki.org. Except for Virion’s which comes from a different Fire Emblem wiki which I won’t link to as it tends to have scummy ads.

Before I hit my actual top ten, I’d like to point out that this list was difficult to cut down to just ten. My final cuts from this list were Kjelle11Let’s talk about how inconsistent the official art work for the children characters is for a moment. For some characters like Cynthia, the official artwork has their mother’s hair color. Which totally makes sense, considering all children characters are tied to their mother in Awakening. But for other children, they have seemingly random hair colors. If you go off of official art, it seems like SullyxKellam or SullyxLon’qu is canon because of Kjelle’s hair color. Be consistent. Also, I’m fairly sure a major reason I don’t like Noire’s official art is because in my headcanon, she’s a redhead thanks to TharjaxGaius., Basilio12Good art, despite being the warrior class, which I can’t stand the look of. Ghast calling out the fact that Basilio is basically wearing a wrestling championship belt made my day., Sumia13Arguably the best fit of character to official art in the whole game.Sadly, it’s because Sumia’s character is basically the Mary Sue trope that dreams of love and horses., and Chrom14Chrom’s amiibo is badass. His art is good, but not quite as good., in that order. Think of them as 11-14 on this list.

10. Gregor

As long as you don’t support him with Nowi, Gregor is one of the most entertaining characters in Awakening. He’s fun, he’s lighthearted, and he’s a flirt without being obnoxious about it like some other characters15Looking at you, Inigo and Virion.. Gregor’s official art captures his easygoing nature really well between his baggy clothes and his mid-laughter smile. He’s not my favorite art by a long shot, but he is one that I think anyone who has played the game can look at and go “yep…typical Gregor”.

9. Lon’qu

Lon’qu is very much the silent assassin archetype with a heart of gold underneath16I would have gone with tall, dark, and handsome, but Lon’qu is decidedly pale. Though he almost qualifies as tan by Awakening’s standards. There’s not a ton of racial diversity in Awakening, but we’ll get to that later in the post.. His paralyzing fear of women combined with the fact that he’s a hell of a swordsman keeps people from getting too close. But when you read into his supports, Lon’qu is just a gentle protector who never wants to fail at keeping someone he loves safe ever again. The butterfly on his scabbard is a nice touch, as it symbolizes the kindness Lon’qu has without overtly stating it.

8. Cherche

As Ghast said in his video, Cherche is muscular as all hell. While many of the female characters in Awakening are demure or have relatively petite builds, Cherche is one of two female characters in the game to be well-toned. Even the notorious tomboy Sully isn’t as muscular as Cherche, which is goes to show how much better the writing in the game could have been had the built out the fact that Cherche looks like she could complete an American Ninja Warrior course without breaking a sweat. The goofy wyvern wing collar is offputting to me, which is really the only thing that keeps Cherche outside of this list’s top five.

7. Cordelia

Let’s start with the frustrating thing — this isn’t even Coredlia’s best official art. Her Warriors art, while clearly designed for a higher power system, is so much better. Maybe it’s because she’s less pink-themed in the Warriors art. That said, of course the prodigy of the game is going to have a Brave Lance in her default art. She can do everything perfectly, so why wouldn’t she carry the lance that takes the most experience to use. Cordelia’s story pre-child is one of the most frustrating of Chrom’s army17Her unrequited love for Chrom wouldn’t be so bad if Chrom’s supports with all of his marriage partners aside from Robin weren’t garbage. That said, the what little bit of the Cordelia/Severa relationship we get once Severa is born is amazing., but her art and usefulness in the game more than makes up for it.

6. Say’ri

I get that at a certain point you have to stop having marriage-capable characters. And yes, Say’ri joins three chapters after you get your last marriage-capable adult character (Cherche). But that art though. It’s like a L’Oreal ad spontaneously started in the middle of Mulan. The gale force winds that Say’ri has to be standing in during this shot are clearly not pushing enough hair into her face to be realistic…but come on. This is art is a main character waiting to happen. Instead, we’re stuck with Say’ri being a character that moves the plot along because she just happens to be yet another minor-role noble that isn’t Chrom18Between Say’ri, Virion, Flavia, and Basilio, you recruit a surprisingly high number of nobles from other kingdoms besides Ylisse..

5. Gerome

I get it. He’s Batman. Clearly he’s a walking, talking Batman motif19Just like Batman, he doesn’t talk much.. But good lord, do I love it when good guys wear black in films and video games. It really messes with people who expect good guys to wear white while bad guys wear black that was once a huge deal. Gerome was going to make this top 10 anyway because he’s well designed, but that fact by itself vaults him over some of the other art on this list. Even if he’s forced to wear his backup mask because he gave his real one to Lucina for her Marth cosplay.

4. Lucina

Lucina has a lot of official art. Not only that, she has a lot of good official art. That said, of all of the art that’s been officially released of her — and even if you include most of the fan art I’ve seen — this is still one of my favorites of her. Despite the fact that you have to use Chrom on every map and despite the fact that your avatar character is in the game, Lucina is the real hero of Awakening. This pose manages to combine the regal nature of Lucina’s background and status as heir to the Ylissean throne with the innocence of her youth at the time of the game. It’s not my favorite official character art for the game, but it is one of the most emblematic.

3. Virion

Virion is a TERRIBLE character. He’s almost Azama levels of bad20And Azama is cringeworthy. Seriously though, Azama’s only redeeming factor is that he has the most entertaining kid in Birthright.. I mean, yeah, he’s a fine archer, blah, blah, blah. But I skip every dialogue where he talks. He’s just that grating of a personality. And yet his official art is amazing. He’s a pompous nobleman who thinks he’s god’s gift to women who deserves a date for tea with any attractive woman he sees. And you know what? This art captures that. Bravo on the art. Still skipping his dialogue.

2. Cynthia

Of all the official art for Awakening, Cynthia’s feels the most real to me. I could definitely see this ball of energy young woman bounding around on a pegasus acting like a super hero trying to save the day. She’s just so happy at all times and that comes through in the art. Beyond that though, she’s one of the few characters that really still feels like she’s trying to cling to whatever little bits of her childhood she has left, if only because it keeps her sane. You know you have great art when all of that can come through from your official photo. Yet, it wasn’t quite enough to get the top spot on my list.

1. Flavia

Flavia can kick your ass. Period. Remember how I said earlier that Awakening doesn’t do a terribly good job of having a racially diverse cast? I mean that in the sense that their main characters really aren’t. Yes, you have the taguel and manakete species represented, but they’re not human. And you do have some minority race villain characters. But the only two minority race characters that have any positive importance to the story are largely NPCs for most of the game. Yes, you can get Flavia and Basilio in Chapter 23, but you’re limited to marrying them to your Avatar then. And that’s unfortunate. Wouldn’t you want your main character’s child to have a mother who looks like she can kill a dragon with her bare hands, yet still uses her sword just because it’s fun? Her art practically screams hero21And not just because she is part of the Hero class either.. It’s so good. How isn’t Flavia a bigger part of Awakening?

What’s your favorite character art from Fire Emblem: Awakening? For that matter, who’s your favorite character from the game? Drop by the comments and talk Awakening with me…it’s a damn good game.

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 improvements22Mainly 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 skills23Not 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 inheritance24Special 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 else25I 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 Knights26That 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 Chrom27Who gets Aether and Aegis access., Lucina28Who 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.

Fire Emblem: Heroes Review

A few weeks back, I did a recap post of all of the information coming out of Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Direct event. Since that post, the first of the four games mentioned in the Direct event — Fire Emblem: Heroes — has released on mobile devices. I downloaded the game’s iOS version and have been playing it since launch day. Now that we’re almost a month into the game’s existence, I wanted to share some thoughts on FE: Heroes and my experience with the game.

Story

Like most Fire Emblem games, Heroes gives you a story about how you’re trying to save the world you’re in from bad guys. Granted, in almost all of the previous FE games, you’re trying to save the world from an evil dragon, but we didn’t need an evil dragon for this to feel like a Fire Emblem game. Instead of a dragon, you’re tasked with saving the summoning gate from the evil Princess Veronica.

To be clear, you’re tasked with saving the summoning gate — the place in the game where you can buy your units — from a bad guy trying to stop you from being able to summon.

On one hand, I get the point. Veronica wants to stop you from summoning great heroes who could defeat her. Her motives make sense. Meanwhile, you want to defeat her so that…uh…you can summon more units to defeat her again? I mean, your ulterior goal is to save Alphonse and Sharena’s kingdom (Askr) from Veronica, but the ultimate objective is to save the summoning gate. Which could cause you spend money. Is Nintendo trying to teach you that fiscal responsibility is bad[1]?

That all aside, the plot seems very thin, both at time of release as well as now. While the paralogues get you into the history of Fire Emblem games a bit, the main story is extremely linear. On top of that, the dialogue pre-chapter is very slow. Your only options for the dialogue are to wait it out or to skip it entirely. I found myself skipping it entirely from chapter 3 onward, then going back and finding it online to read it myself.

Also, why is it that the most badass original character introduced in Heroes (Veronica) isn’t a playable character?

Gameplay

The primary game play focus of Heroes is similar to the grid-style, turn-based combat featured in most Fire Emblem games. You’re limited to 4 units per map, which feels perfect on most maps. You’re generally tasked with facing 3-5 units in story mode, so it’s rare you’ll feel crowded by anything other than terrain. Though the permadeath feature that most early Fire Emblem games are known for isn’t present in Heroes[2], there are quirks in the game that force you to be creative with your game play style in other ways. As an example, if a unit dies mid-battle, you lose all XP and stat growth that you’ve gained throughout the battle. This prevents players from charging headlong into battle with no regard for strategy, particularly on Lunatic difficulty in the story mode, as well as in the PvP arena.

Story mode itself seems like it’s going to be an in-depth experience at first glance. You have 9 chapters with 4-5 parts each, as well as three different difficulty levels you can play each part on. The rounds go relatively quickly though, meaning you can blow through your limited player energy in 10-15 minutes, particularly on higher difficulties. Though stamina potions are plentiful, this only makes the story mode feel shorter.

Arena mode is painfully disappointing. Similar to the story mode, arena allows you to compete in a 4 vs. 4 battle, though your opponent is another player. The battles themselves are generally harder than story mode, adding a challenge to the player experience. That said, arena mode is majorly flawed thanks to the bonus points you can receive for using certain units in the arena. If you’re able to use one of the 6-10 bonus point units for that arena “season”[3], you’re all but guaranteed to receive the maximum prizes possible that season. If you can’t use one of those units, you’re relegated to 60-70% payout in a best case scenario.

Other side modes like the training stratum and special quests are merely for materials or unit farming. Nothing really to write home about, though it’s pretty standard fare for mobile RPG games.

Summoning and Leveling

As mentioned earlier, to get new units for your teams, you must summon via a gacha-style summoning gate. Fortunately, the in-game currency (called orbs) are pretty common to get, even when ignoring the app release bonuses currently ongoing. I’ve summoned or acquired[4] somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 units to this point, with 5 of those units being top rarity units. Considering I’ve been free-to-play the entire time, summoning new units is not an issue.

Nor is there an issue with the actual leveling of units, at least once you recognize that if a unit dies mid-level, you lose all their XP and stats obtained that level. It took me 3-4 days to realize that was happening, so be aware of that mechanic. Unit experience seems to scale at a comfortable level from level 1 to level 40 regardless of the unit’s rarity, so that’s a positive as well.

The major gripe I have here is with the promotion functionality of Heroes, which is referred to in-game as Unlock Potential. For units of a very low rarity (1 or 2 stars), the resources required to level the rarity of a unit up are pretty minimal. However, once you try to level a 3 star or 4 star unit up, the acquisition of one of the two items (hero feathers) needed to raise the rarity of a unit is unsustainable. The only way to obtain large amounts (read: more than 10 at a time) of hero feathers at this time is through weekly arena rewards. The best case scenario for arena rewards is 7,100 feathers in a week, though that would mean you would have to be the top player in the entire game. A more realistic value is that you finish unranked among all players, but still get full rewards for the other milestones. If you do that, you get 2,100 feathers in a week…or just over 10% of the amount you’ll need to raise a 4 star unit’s rarity to 5 stars. You’re either stuck grinding for literal weeks on end or hoping you get good luck at the summon gate.

Replay Value

For free-to-play players like myself, games like Fire Emblem: Heroes need good replay value, otherwise grinding for resources is pointless. The replay value so far isn’t good. That in and of itself is concerning, as I’ve found myself getting bored with the game less than a month after its release. Though Nintendo has done a good job of releasing new content since launch[5], the amount of effort and/or luck needed to get a top-tier team is disheartening. I got lucky in one of my very early unit pulls and managed to get two units that seem to be meta-defining in the arena at this stage of the game (Takumi and Cordelia). Had I not had that luck, I think I would have lost interest before now.

Furthermore, unless you intentionally handicap yourself by using lower level units, most of the story mode is simple. I finished Normal mode in less than a day, Hard mode in about a day and a half, and Lunatic in three days. The only reason any of those modes took as long as they did was the energy limitations — even Lunatic mode would be easy when compared to other Fire Emblem games.

Final Thoughts

I had pretty low expectations for Fire Emblem: Heroes prior to its launch. Despite all of its flaws — and there are quite a few — Heroes has exceeded my expectations pretty comfortably. The game is enjoyable in small bursts and it makes me nostalgic for previous editions of the Fire Emblem series. With that said, I’ve taken multiple day breaks from the game twice already in the first month. There’s just not enough content to make a casual gamer, especially one that isn’t familiar with Fire Emblem canon, care about the game.

If you’re a Fire Emblem fan, Heroes is probably worth playing through for the nostalgia. It’s a good time waster in small bursts, and its familiar game style will be easy to pick up on if you’ve played previous games in the series. That said, unless Nintendo comes out with more content, more difficult content, or both, I don’t see Fire Emblem: Heroes being a long-term success.

Fire Emblem Direct Thoughts

A little over a week and a half ago, Nintendo held a Nintendo Direct event for the Fire Emblem series of games. As you might be aware, I like Fire Emblem just a little bit. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the four games discussed in the event below. If you haven’t watched the event yet, you can find the full video below.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

Shadows of Valentia is a game inspired by an earlier entry in the Fire Emblem series, 1992’s Gaiden. While I’ve played quite a few games in the Fire Emblem series, Gaiden is not one of the titles I’ve played to this point. From everything I’ve gathered, the gameplay mechanics of Gaiden differ pretty drastically from other Fire Emblem games, which is a disappointment. Gaiden combines the turn-based strategy of a typical Fire Emblem game with a navigable world map similar to games in the Legend of Zelda series. I love the turn-based style combat of Fire Emblem, so seeing a Fire Emblem game deviate from that — as three of the games on this list are expected to do to some extent — is a bit disappointing.

With that said, Shadows of Valentia appears to have a good storyline, at least from what little we can glean from the Direct event. The game itself is reported to copy Gaiden‘s gameplay style nearly directly, though an updated story inspired by Gaiden will be introduced with Shadows of Valentia. Part of me is tempted to get my hands on an emulator copy of Gaiden soon to see if I like the style. But there’s two main things holding me back from that.

  1. Gaiden never received an English translation
  2. I really hate Zelda style games

The Direct event shows a scene around the 5:15 mark where you appear to do a dungeon crawl level that really turns me off to the game. As much as I love Fire Emblem, I have no desire to play hack and slash or dungeon crawl games. That said, a lot of the other scenes focus on more traditional Fire Emblem game play. My hope is that Shadows of Valentia focuses more on the traditional game play than the overworld.

Shadows of Valentia will be releasing on May 19, 2017.

Hype Rating: 3 of 5

Fire Emblem for Nintendo Switch

We don’t get a title for whatever the new Fire Emblem game coming to the Switch is, but that’s alright since the game won’t be releasing until 2018. We don’t know much about the new game other than it’ll be the first full console release of Fire Emblem since the Wii. Even in the Direct event, all we got was a 45 second blurb about the game coming out in 2018. That said, of the coming games, it’s the one I’m most intrigued to learn more about and eventually play.

Hype Rating: Incomplete, though likely at least 4 of 5

Fire Emblem: Warriors

No.

But really though. Dynasty Warriors is a hack and slash series that I have zero cares about. If you want to see an example of exactly how hack and slashy this game is, go to the 7:50 mark in the video at the top of the post. The art in Warriors looks amazing from the preview video, though I’d have to assume that’s console gameplay we’re looking at, not handheld. While Warriors will be released on the 3DS and 2DS in addition to the Switch, I do get the impression that either there will be less stellar graphics on the handhelds, or we’ll see a degradation of play quality. Since I can’t imagine Nintendo allowing the latter to happen, I’ll assume that the handheld versions will have lessened graphics qualities.

But hey, at least Chrom is in the trailer?

Hype Rating: 1 of 5

Fire Emblem Heroes

This game screams Brave Frontier or Final Fantasy: Brave Exivus. Bad. To the point where I had to go back and watch the Direct video a few times to make sure Alim wasn’t part of the development for Heroes.

This is Nintendo’s first foray into the mobile market with a Fire Emblem game. Heroes — at least from what we can tell from the Direct video — looks to combine some of the turn-based attack strategy game from Fire Emblem’s other games with summoning type mechanics found in mobile games like Brave Frontier.

Of all the games announced so far, Heroes is the only game thus far where I’m disappointed with the released art. I don’t know if this is because I’m so used to seeing newer Fire Emblem games like Awakening and Fates, however the actual gameplay art of Heroes is subpar. The non-gameplay art (in particular the summoning art) seems to be pretty good, so perhaps it’s just the preview that I’m bothered with.

Not shockingly, Nintendo has decided to go with the microtransaction model for acquiring the in-game currency needed to acquire units in this game. As much as I’d like to try Heroes thanks to my love for the Fire Emblem series (as well as the aforementioned Brave Frontier), I don’t think I’ll find myself picking up Heroes when it releases on February 2, 2017.

Hype Rating: 1.5 of 5