Fire Emblem Engage (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 29.01.2023

Review for Fire Emblem Engage on Nintendo Switch

After the hits that were 2019's Fire Emblem: Three Houses and 2022's subsequent musou spin-off, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, Nintendo has returned with a new entry in the series. Like Three Houses, Engage is an SRPG title in the mould of the mainline Fire Emblem titles, promising a continuation — and expansion — of a formula that's grown from having a cult following to being a beloved mainstay in Nintendo's first-party lineup.

Long-time fans will feel right at home with Fire Emblem Engage. There are some exciting additions to the tried-and-tested turn-based strategy combat, with a few new tricks that evolve the formula further. These additions — which were heavily marketed ahead of release — mostly serve to make Fire Emblem Engage the most refined entry in the series; from a gameplay perspective, at least.

The 'nostalgia factor' was clearly a key decider for the direction that Engage takes, both in terms of gameplay loop and the story. New protagonist Alear (who can be male or female), a blue-and-red-haired mystical being known as the Divine Dragon, is tasked with collecting 12 Emblem Rings scattered across the continent of Elyos. Why? To stop an ancient evil from destroying the world, of course. The story is certainly not Engage's strongest asset; it's uninspired at best and weak at worst. How much that bothers you will be down to why you play Engage in the first place.

Screenshot for Fire Emblem Engage on Nintendo Switch

The way this reviewer sees it, there will be 3 main types of player interested in Engage. First is the long-time fans who love Fire Emblem for its turn-based strategy battles; second, players who hopped on at Three Houses and are looking for more of the same balance between said combat and the social sim element. Third, there will likely be newcomers to the series who want to see what it's all about.

Players from the second category will by and large be the most disappointed. Engage's social elements are severely toned down compared to Three Houses in order to accommodate a more streamlined gameplay loop: one that encourages you to get back into the action of combat as quickly as possible. This is great for those who can't get enough of the action, but other elements of the experience suffer as a result.

The story is one of those elements. It's contrived, unoriginal guff that leans on the worst tropes that the anime influence has to offer. The characters also suffer as a result; very few of them are lastingly interesting, and those that are engaging (pardon the pun) aren't given enough airtime due to the stripped back social aspect. It feels like a step back from the grounded, expansive story told in Three Houses, even if the combat here is brilliant.

Put simply, Engage offers the most mechanically sound tactical battles of the series so far. It's Fire Emblem as its known and loved, which will delight players who primarily seek out this experience for that reason. Even though it's pared back in other areas, Engage is devilishly addictive thanks to its very good combat, which feels finely tuned to the point of perfection. It helps that it's also an absolute treat to look at and performs pretty much flawlessly both handheld and when docked.

Screenshot for Fire Emblem Engage on Nintendo Switch

The new Engage mechanic allows player-controlled Units to equip one of the 12 Emblem rings at a time, each of which houses a past protagonist from the Fire Emblem series. In addition to being rather satisfying on the fan service front, this dramatically alters the combat abilities of the equipped Unit and opens up a range of new options. Considering there are what feels like dozens of available Units and a dozen Emblem rings, the possibilities feel endless in their scope — particularly when you factor in changing each Unit's class.

The class system has been refined as well, with a lot more freedom when it comes to chopping and changing a Unit's class. Now, once a Unit reaches level 10, they can upgrade to an Advanced class with a Master Seal as long as they have the required weapon proficiency (which can be acquired by strenghtening a Unit's bond with the required Emblem). Second Seals can also be used to either re-roll a class's stats or move to another class on the same level, essentially allowing for infinite levelling within a class. Compared to Three Houses' often arduous process of building up to a class change, it feels refreshingly simplified and more open-ended, without being easy to abuse as Seals aren't easy to come by for most of the game.

If you're worried that this all sounds like a lot to keep on top of, don't be. Engage, despite its obvious appeal to the longest serving fans, does a pretty good job of bringing new players up to speed with both the core gameplay and the new mechanics. For players who have yearned for the streamlined gameplay loop of past Fire Emblem titles, Engage should be right up your alley.

Screenshot for Fire Emblem Engage on Nintendo Switch

As mentioned, though, there will be players disappointed with the paper-thin social aspect. It serves only to enhance Bonds between Units and Emblems, with little payoff beyond more chemistry during combat. For all its steps forward, this makes Engage feel like more of a spinoff full of fan service rather than a fully fleshed-out mainline entry. Compared to the extravagance of Three Houses, this makes it feel like it's operating on a much smaller scale.

This reviewer is aware, however, that many will see this as a positive. Taking the 'glass half full' outlook, Engage is certainly more streamlined, designed to get players back into the action as quickly as possible. Some will love that this involves less of a runaround between Chapters. Players who enjoy some downtime between combat sequences will be disappointed, though. Engage's homebase, known as the Somniel, is bland in both appearance and content, with little in the way of meaningful activities to partake in between advancing the story. Thankfully, you don't have to return there after every battle as you did in Three Houses. You can simply head straight to the next Chapter or Paralogue Battle if you wish, and there are replayable Skirmishes if you fancy a bit of a grind.

Still, if you're a long-time fan prepared for Engage to do it's very hardest to make you feel nostalgic at every opportunity — or you love a good bout of strategic combat with no lengthy exposition to wade through between battles — it's a great title to pick up and play. Just don't expect the world when it comes to its story and characters.

Screenshot for Fire Emblem Engage on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Fire Emblem Engage offers the most rewarding, fleshed out and beautifully balanced strategic combat of the series so far, and performs beautifully on the Switch. Its story, characters and social sim element, however, are not up to the standard expected of this beloved franchise. While the combat has matured beautifully, the overall tone has taken a step back. If you're only interested in the trademark Fire Emblem combat, then you'll likely have more fun than you ever have with the series. For players who want a little more from Engage's characters and story, though… you may be disappointed.

Developer

Intelligent Systems

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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