Opinion: Thoughts on Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright’s Mechanics

Okay, let’s get back to Fates. The characters didn’t resonate with me as much as Awakening and Fire Emblem, as I discussed last time. But in terms of its gameplay, how did it fare?

The mechanics continue a lot of what Awakening added into the mix, with Pair Ups, Supports and marriages/children remaining a key aspect of the strategy…with some tweaks. Pair Up now is split between two options versus Awakening — standing next to an ally will allow them to attack alongside the active combatant along with some slight boosts to the primary character (like increasing their dodge), while uniting the two units will give the active battler better stats based on their partner, as well as a possible defensive move that reflects damage, but no offensive capabilities. I feel this is a better system than Awakening, as it does make the player have to decide if teaming up their fighters for defensive reasons or to just group them together for the increased attack options. It works so well because you can place archers and mages behind your tanks, and their bonus damage could turn the tide depending on the enemy squaring off against you (like a Wyvern against an archer, for instance). It was my favorite component of the gameplay.

Supports are back, and they continue along Awakening‘s trend to let you talk it up with most anyone and even get hitched if you wish. Unfortunately, the supports are a little less interesting this go-around due to the character writing being much more reliant on simple traits and tropes. Setsuna’s frequency of falling into traps, for example, permeates most of the conversations I had with her and other characters. So while it’s nice to have them here again and at such frequency, the overall effect is lessened because these characters are just not as fascinating.

The supports again lead to marriage, and the game shoehorns Awakening‘s children again, although the execution here does not land anywhere near as smoothly. Unlike Awakening, there are not two timelines in play during the narrative, so your children aren’t leaping through time to assist Lucina; instead, your coupling leads to an accelerated pregnancy and birth that instantaneously happens upon the S support and whisking the child into the “Darkrealm”, a magical place where the kids can grow up in relative safety. Except not, since whenever you enter a Paralogue to recruit them they are in danger. XD It’s just a jilted and clumsy way to incorporate this mechanic in, and lacks the compelling reasons for why they made the leap in Awakening. Here they all need rescuing in some way, and then convincing their parent to let them join up despite their age. It’s just disappointing.

The major addition was a base for Corrin and Co. to rest in between fights, and it’s…okay? It’s nice to customize and socialize a little bit with your team, and having all of the shops and a meal room to increase stats is cool…but I don’t know, maybe it’s the overall apathy I had for the events going on and the stars dealing with them, but I just didn’t really relish the mode. And I normally do like this kind of thing. Granted, I didn’t defend my base more than once and it was only against the AI, but I was simply unenthused to put in more time and effort than the basics demanded of me. It also seemed to not have any real significance to have buildings razed in these encounters (as everything popped back up when I cleared the map) beyond experience and support building…which I could do on more interesting maps in-game. *shrug*

Lastly, the game scraps the limits on the majority of the game’s arsenal (staves and some special weapons are the only ones still shackled into the old-school methodology), which works great for low level weapons, eliminating one of the gripes of older games, but my question is “should things like Killer Axes be infinite?” Scarlet came into my army with the fabled high critical axe, and I rarely used any other weapon because while its hit stat was lower than, say a Silver Axe, the urge to abuse the crit was too great for me. And it worked a lot in my favor! And since she is a Wyvern Knight, she needed that oomph to deal with archers and the like. So while Rinkah may have been a better fit for it (cause she could crit pretty damn well on her own), it was nice to have two characters with a 30% plus crit on my front line. Which trivializes some of the tactical elements of the older games. So I wish there was a middle ground here — Iron and Steel weapons could be infinite, but Killer weapons wouldn’t. Maybe for the Switch?

So, overall, I enjoyed playing through the game and think some aspects were an improvement, while others were frivolous or flawed in execution.