Capsule Review: Fire Emblem Heroes

A turn-based tactical RPG scaled down and streamlined to work as a mobile game. The core of the Fire Emblem experience remains - characters with a variety of traits and abilities that interact to create multi-layered rock/paper/scissors combat that feels almost chess-like due to the importance of positioning. A lot of the fuss on top of that (breakable/consumable weapons and items, units interacting and growing closer, a story that’s worth a damn, etc.) has been stripped away, and the smaller-scale battles (taking place on a single screen and generally four units to a side) and super-usable controls (you can move and attack in a single tap-and-drag) make the game faster and more accessible than ever. This makes it a great entry point into the series’s mechanics, as players can quickly and easily experiment and iterate and learn to play strategically, which is quite satisfying.

Unfortunately, two things hamper the game’s long-term appeal. The first is that the game engages in some of the standard freemium shenanigans. You need a variety of heroes to succeed, but recruiting heroes is a double-RNG gacha system with overpriced premium currency. There’s also an inexplicable energy mechanic that can’t be microtransacted out of and limits your play more the further you advance in the game. The second problem is that the game becomes less and less chess-like the further you go. Once you clear all the story missions, what’s left are randomized levels you can’t study and practice and prepare for, and the large power differential between characters with high star ratings, good stat growth, and useful abilities merged onto them and characters who are ostensibly the same level but haven’t had so much time, money, and luck invested into them makes things feel unpredictable and unfair. There’s no longer anything to learn, and the game becomes a grind- and/or spend-fest.

I Stopped Playing When: After finishing all available story levels (I believe more have since been added) momentum carried me forward for a while, but I got frustrated with power level differences that could only be crossed by spending lots of time or money and I no longer felt like the game was challenging me strategically.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.