Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright may be the worst and last Fire Emblem game I play. That’s not saying it is a terrible game. In truth, I enjoyed it enough to sink 27+ hours in on my way to completing it. There’s a whole lot that Birthright gets right and a whole lot that just didn’t work for me.
First and foremost, I don’t think being split into three separate releases hurt Birthright in regards to the value of the content that is available to the player. There’s a ton of things to do in this game. I could’ve spent many, many hours more having my units bone one another so I could magically recruit their children into my army. I could’ve maxed out more characters, level-wise, and fully embraced the RPG-side of the Fire Emblem experience. I could’ve done some of the multiplayer or bothered with setting up my personal base’s personal defenses to protect against invasions. This game is worth the cost based on content alone.
All that said, the story of Birthright was not only dull and straight-forward, but I felt like I was missing out on something and that something happened to be the only reason I might care about this fantasy melodrama. The motivations of the game’s final boss never rose above “mustache twirling” evil. The game may have tried to allude to deeper reasoning, but did so in ways that were so vague that they could’ve left them out altogether. I am sure everything gets explained in the Revelations DLC Campaign, but there’s a fine line between withholding to heighten the mystery and withholding to give me an excuse to buy more content. Birthright felt like the latter.
Unlike Fire Emblem Awaking, Birthright made me hate the one battle per chapter formula. It kept the plot moving at a pace that barely allowed any development time. People die, people cry, and my army moves on to a new location with a new sub-plot to be immediately resolved with zero hesitation. Even the trial of ascending a certain tower to be worthy of meeting a certain sage was resolved in a single battle. It just made everything seem a bit goofy and rushed.
The side missions for unlocking the children characters were a nice break, but they ended up being rare for me since I wasn’t actively mating my units as much as I could. It would’ve been nice to have some other sidequests as well, but either there are none or I have no idea how to activate them.
I can move past story, but the game was pretty boring by the end. I love RPGs most when I can have a lot of creative control over designing a really interesting team of characters. Birthright gives you the characters, but the RPG elements are pretty sparse. Sure, you level up and change classes, but it takes so long to max anything out without focused grinding that your passives are more or less what you get, not a specially selected assortment of potential options for any given match. Plus, as much as I like the paper-rock-scissors system, progressing weapon skills and equipping new weapons in Fire Emblem games is the worst. Each weapon is balanced to do something unique and be used throughout the game, but it rarely mattered to me which I wanted to use and I just wanted a more standard RPG system of increasingly better statted weapons.
Finally, I chose to play Birthright without permadeath on because, while I love roguelikes, I hate turn-based RPGs with permanent death because they make me far angrier than any video game should be allowed to do. Especially when you throw in my lack of battle knowledge, the randomization of both critical hits and who the AI is choosing to attack, and Fire Emblem’s focus on maintaining relationships among your soldiers. I tried it Awakening and I had to start over because I got so pissed off.
Needless to say, Birthright is not designed well when it comes to not having characters who can permanently die. While I didn’t go as far as the automatic resurrection mode, many of the game’s latter stages require only that the boss dies. I designed my units to be excellent zergers, so most battles were ended laughably soon by my band of suicidal maniacs. The few that did give me a challenge because the focus was more on preventing my army from reaching the boss worked better, but often were frustrating since I had developed my strategies specifically around zerging.
All in all, I think everyone should play a Fire Emblem game at least once. Personally, I still recommend Fire Emblem: Awakening as being that first choice. Birthright is by no excuse a bad game, but it was an average experience overall for me. I had originally preordered it in hopes of soon moving onto Conquest and, later, Revelations, but I will do neither. I am still open to future games in the series, but I am going to need something far different before I bite again.
Not that it matters, all my hype is with Bravely Second anyway.