The future of Fire Emblem may not be turn-based combat

Emblem of fire
Image: Nintendo

How will you feel if the main line is next Emblem of fire Is the game just a social sim?

While this drastic change is almost certainly not on the cards, the identity crisis that Fire Emblem is currently facing means that change must come. While Engagement1.61 million’s sales as of March 2023 respectable for the franchise, it marks a return to 3DS-era numbers after whispers of blockbuster status when Three Houses sold nearly 3 million in the first financial year. The reason for this difference is simple: Three Houses expanded its fan base by shifting focus away from strategic elements, while Engage doubled down on its strategic roots.

It’s a tough sell for any series when a surge in popularity occurs for reasons that go against its traditional formula. However, those already playing in the niche genre can quickly be reshaped by such a phenomenon. Take turns strategy games—such a genre—rarely achieves million-seller status. It took Fire Emblem more than two decades to achieve this despite being arguably the biggest player in the field. Awake famously saved the franchise from impending demise by attracting a fan base around the marriage system that later evolved into personality-simulation of the encrypted society of Three Houses.

Simplifications like the oversized map and the removal of the signature weapon triangle would bury any entries other than Three Houses, but casual players don’t focus on this; they want to sip tea with the lord of their choice, romance their favorite pupil (tie a collar here), and micromanage their monastic duties. If social media conversations surrounding the franchise weren’t already character-focused before this momentous Switch entry, after its release it became an all-out shipping war. Some fans of the old Fire Emblem formulas were left behind in the process, but the new-found audience doubled the franchise’s reach. Fire Emblem has become synonymous with its social elements, and there’s no turning back if Nintendo wants to maintain its popularity momentum.

The Three Houses characters look and act like humans, while the Engage characters look and act like caricatures.

But backtracking is exactly what Nintendo tried with Engage.

Perhaps more appropriately, Engage tried papaya and ate it. For my money, the moment-to-moment decision making—especially regarding the titular “engage” mechanics—resulted in Intelligent Systems’ most engaging combat, but It is also for this reason that many new fans have appeared to participate in a role-playing society. the story was shunned.

That is if they appear, as the game’s narrative and writing quality has been mixed and there are fewer meaningful social systems to interact with the characters. Even the characters themselves don’t fit the mold of modern Fire Emblem. The Three Houses characters look and act like humans, while the Engage characters look and act like caricatures. This boldness is in keeping with the traditional Fire Emblem formula in which most characters only have plot relevance during their introductory missions (so they’re free to die afterward), but the philosophy That’s the opposite of what made its predecessor so sensationally popular.

Emblem of fire
The less we say about Fate, the better – Image: Nintendo

Is it too far-fetched to say that I could enjoy a Fire Emblem game that focuses solely on social interaction?

It might seem obvious that Intelligent Systems could simply copy and paste the Three Houses formula for the next mainline Fire Emblem, but this tactic has been applied spectacularly in the past. destiny Awakening’s homework is carbon-copied but colored between the lines with less memorable characters and bulkiness due to the boat’s load. Another thing worth noting is: HeroFire Emblem’s biggest moneymaker, combat is so simplified that it plays second fiddle to seasonal character outfits.

So change must come. Or more specifically, the franchise must adapt to the desires of the largest player base, lest it risk returning to its dangerous pre-awakening state. I ask again: what if the next Fire Emblem game becomes a social simulation entirely, even to the point of abandoning its turn-based strategy roots?

Consider these three future possibilities:

  • If you eliminate combat entirely, then you’re faced with the problem that war remains a narrative mainstay of the series. Perhaps a social sim in this setting could serve as a commentary on the impact of an external war on the people within a kingdom. Think of this as a story that takes place while the turn-based Fire Emblem game you usually command is in progress. Character choices are influenced by your interactions which can lead to outcomes such as permanent death (you may not be able to convince them not to join the fight) or romance. The thing is, many of Fire Emblem’s conceptual ideas and thematic elements could exist in the form of combat avoidance. Combat-based entries can be ported to remakes of classic games in the Echoes series.
  • For a less nuclear option, turn-based combat can be an optional part of the social simulation story. You can choose to send troops out to auto-combat giving you more time for social missions, while players who want to dominate the battlefield can still do so. It’s going to be difficult to strike a balance between storytelling and pacing in this format, and creating essentially two games in one is something developers typically don’t want to do. However, the ‘do what you want’ model still works for games like Virtual life so maybe there’s a way to implement it here as well.
  • They could change the fighting genre to one that is more accessible to the average player. I mentioned Three Houses’ Persona style earlier, but what if it took the concept to its logical conclusion and created a completely medieval Persona? Honestly, it would take a bit of a twist to put traditional JRPG dungeons in the locations where the main story beats in Three Houses take place and fill in temporary content with dungeon-crawling style Mementos. We can even go so far as to follow the path of action, something Three hopes has been proven feasible.

This doesn’t mean I’m advocating a future where Fire Emblem isn’t a bastion for turn-based strategy fans. However, when I think back to the Switch’s two main entries, I’m faced with a conundrum. Despite having major issues with Three House’s combat design while loving Engage, I still prefer the former because of the bond I built with its student body. Is it too far-fetched to say that I could enjoy a Fire Emblem game that focuses solely on social interaction?

Join the fire symbol
Image: Nintendo

I suppose the answer to that question could only come in the form of Nintendo green-lighting such a project, but the more I consider the possibility, the more interested I become that such a game exists. .

Would you play a Fire Emblem game that focuses primarily on social elements instead of turn-based combat? Or do you still swear by the powerful weapon triangle?

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