Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest on 3DS
Conquest is one third of the complete Fire Emblem Fates experience, should you choose to follow all three story branches to their completion. That should make the game sound like an unappealing cash grab, but somehow, Conquest gives a full, complete 30+ hour experience that made me hungry for the content I knew was locked away in those other titles.
After the first six chapters in Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, which are identical to the Birthright version, your avatar reaches a branch of fate where he or she must decide where their alliances lie. Will you return to your blood family of Hoshido, or will you stick with your adopted family of Nohr that has taken care of you since you were a child?
I went into Conquest armed with the knowledge that I was in for a real challenge suited only for the most ‘hardcore’ of Fire Emblem veterans. I wouldn’t consider myself a veteran, but I wanted to challenge myself. Also, I love the medieval European style Nohr royalty has going on, and let’s be real; the Nohrians are just way more attractive than the Hoshidans. Before we get into the review proper, allow me to give you a rough breakdown of how my Conquest experience went.
First five hours: This isn’t so bad at all. The so-called ‘difficulty’ of this game was seriously overstated by Nintendo and the media. Jeez.
Next five hours: Oh.
Next 15 hours: *ugly sobbing* Will playing on the easiest difficulty setting bring shame and dishonor to my family?
Endgame chapters: Oh god oh god oh god, please don’t die. I don’t wanna have to replay an hour’s worth of stress-inducing tactical strategy battles.
Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is hard. Make no mistake; the game’s AI will punish you severely if you make a single misstep. Unlike Birthright, Conquest doesn’t give you any opportunity to grind for levels outside of story missions, paralogues, and castle invasions. This means that you won’t be able to overcome tough challenges simply be raising your levels; you’ll actually need to put some serious brainpower into your fights, or risk losing characters.
The winning conditions in Conquest aren’t always as straightforward as ‘Beat this boss’ or ‘Kill everyone’ either; occasionally, you’ll be given special conditions like seizing the field in a certain number of turns, or escape the field without losing a single unit. The enemies in Conquest hit especially hard, as it has been in past Fire Emblem games, and this entry has the potential to give any careless veteran a serious run for their money.
Because of the limited number of battles, this also means that you won’t be able to unlock S rank supports for every single character in your roster. After 15 hours of gameplay, half my roster didn’t have any B rank supports, and I had no choice but to leave them untouched because it was too risky to even try bringing them into battles at this point. That said, Conquest certainly forces you to analyze your characters as soon as you get them so that you can quickly decide which ones you want to bring with you to the end. While you’ll have more time to get to know everyone in Birthright, there is a greater sense of camaraderie in Conquest because you’ll always have a tight-knit band of fighters, and you’ll certainly feel the pain if you lose any one of them.
Outside of battle, Fire Emblem Fates introduces a brand new ‘My Castle’ feature that replaces the barracks from Fire Emblem Awakening. This is where you get to really personalize your avatar, your characters, and your online persona. The castle has to be built from the ground up, and you’ll gain access to a variety of facilities including an armory, staff store, arena, and several other less important buildings like the hot springs and accessory shop. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time online, the crystal ball in the castle is where you can access other players’ castles to get their resources, and even organize castle battles.
The castle is definitely a welcome addition in Fates. It always feels like a place of respite after a particularly tough battle, especially if you’re playing Conquest. There’s always something to do on the grounds, whether it’s feeding your baby dragon or prodding your spouse’s face in your private quarters. While the castle could use a bit more variety in terms of style and appearances, the sheer amount of stuff you can build and upgrade right from the start definitely makes up for that.
In addition to that, the support conversations remain the highlight of Fire Emblem Fates. Every character has a unique personality, and almost all of them can get married to each other. Marriage between characters not only provides intimacy, it also gives you substantial stat boosts in battle. It’s a great gameplay mechanic; fighting together on a battlefield improves your relationship, and consequentially you become better friends outside of battle. When you get closer, you two fight better on the field together. The pairing system in Fates works just as well as it did in Awakening, and it still feels like a very organic concept that holds your ragtag band of fighters together.
While the story in Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is largely self-contained and provides a good resolution, the game does just enough to make you wonder if there’s a larger, more powerful force at work. Of course, the answers to all loose threads lie in Revelation, the third branch of Fates. Outside of that, Conquest also does a fantastic job of painting your avatar as a morally ambiguous character as he or she struggles to take down a corrupt kingdom from the inside.
Your character and her Nohr siblings are seen as the bad guys terrorizing the world, and the numerous battles against the Hoshido army will make you feel like, for lack of a better description, a real asshole. You’ll clash blades with your blood siblings throughout the course of your game, and you’ll constantly find yourself wondering how things might’ve been different had you sided with them instead.
Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is a must-have gem for the 3DS. While some of its battles may feel exceedingly unfair at times (thanks for one-shotting my avatar at full health with a 1% crit chance, game), the satisfaction of overcoming a tough battle is as sweet as ever. Complete with beautiful animations and a captivating soundtrack, Conquest is an extremely solid tactical RPG that will keep you glued to your screen for hours, and then compel you to buy the other two branches immediately after completion.
• Support conversations are as fun and entertaining as ever.
• Satisfying gameplay that requires a lot of thought and strategy.
• Full and complete story arc, despite being only one third of an entire experience.
• The enemy AI can feel cheap sometimes.
• There’s no time to bond with every single character.