Fire Emblem Warriors is the latest in the long-running, turn-based action Fire Emblem series from Nintendo. Despite having over 25 years of heritage, though, Fire Emblem has only become popular in the West in recent years; so, while Fire Emblem Warriors is very much a piece of fan-service to Japanese audiences, it’s acutely aware of the need to uphold its reputation in newer markets. It’s good news then that, despite being thrust into the template of an action-packed hack-n-slash game, Fire Emblem Warriors manages to remain true to its roots.
This is due to some smart tweaks to the Dynasty Warriors template by developer Omega Force, introducing a smattering of Fire Emblem’s core gameplay elements. It’s far from a simple cash-grab and, knowing Nintendo, that’s to be expected. The last thing it would want for the first Fire Emblem Nintendo Switch game is a soulless tie-in.
Fire Emblem Warriors review (Switch): At a glance
Fire Emblem Warriors is Nintendo’s turn-based strategy game thrust into the fast-paced hack-n-slash mould of the long-running Dynasty Warriors series. Taking control of Fire Emblem characters from across the series, you’ll cut down thousands of enemies as you search to restore the power to the sacred Fire Emblem.
The game makes smart use of the Fire Emblem series and with the help of Intelligent Systems’ feedback on development and Nintendo’s stringent quality control, Fire Emblem Warriors is one slick Nintendo Switch action title.
Fire Emblem Warriors review (Switch): Setting
As a series, Fire Emblem hasn’t had a fixed timeline. Most entries have been pretty self-contained and there haven’t been that many recurring characters. Fire Emblem Warriors is similar, but also different all at the same time: instead of falling at any point in a timeline, it spans the entire series, pulling heroes from across the ages into one connected world, all focused around the game’s main protagonists Rowan and Lianna from the Kingdom of Aytolis.
The story is rather threadbare: an unnamed evil entity has invaded these connected kingdoms and all the heroes band together to prevent it reviving an evil dragon and destroying everything. Thankfully, this fluff doesn’t really matter. Fire Emblem may have had interesting stories to follow, but Warriors isn’t about plot. Instead, it’s all about the gameplay. It’s about absorbing you into the action and driving you forward because you care about the small interactions on the battlefield instead of the overarching story that, just about, holds it all together.
Fire Emblem Warriors review (Switch): Gameplay
Generally, Fire Emblem Warriors follows the same beat as a normal Warriors title. You’re dropped onto a battlefield with the odds seemingly not in your favour. By defeating stronger foes and capturing forts, you’ll eventually whittle down your opponent and claim victory. Sometimes there are secondary objectives to undertake, which involve killing certain targets, protecting specific allies or capturing a point of interest, but for the most part, it’s rather straightforward stuff.
Combat isn’t that different, either. You’ll cut through swathes of enemies, sometimes a hundred in one go, by alternating quick and heavy attacks and constructing powerful combos. You also have a strong, character-specific, area-wide special move and a power-up “Awakening” state to deliver even more punishment to the enemy’s troops.
To ensure it feels true to its Fire Emblem roots, Fire Emblem Warriors does borrow some smart gameplay features from the series. The same triangular weapon system of Swords > Axe > Spears > Swords is present, meaning you’ll need to weigh up which character is best for a given situation on the battlefield. You can also pause combat and issue orders to your troops and other heroes you’re not currently in control of. This means that, in order to succeed, you need to have a good overview of what’s happening at any given time instead of simply what’s going on within your patch of the battlefield.
To aid you in your control over the battle, Fire Emblem Warriors also adopts the “bond” system from the Fire Emblem series. Pair up a couple of fighters and they’ll work together to support one another in battle. Your reward for this is a set of rare items used for crafting and stat boosts, along with hidden conversations that reveal more details around individual character’s backstories. To add in that extra bit of peril, Fire Emblem Warriors also brings in its brutal permadeath mechanic as a gameplay option, meaning if one of your members should fall on the battlefield, that’s it – they’re gone for good.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s a new “History Mode” that runs alongside Fire Emblem Warriors’ story mode and this contains a series of unlockable mini-campaigns. These constitute short, self-contained stories that replay out sections from past Fire Emblem games in the Warriors mould. You can also revisit any completed battle with absolutely any character you like, too, levelling them all up to the max in the process if you want.
That’s no mean feat either, as there’s a dizzying choice of characters here from across the Fire Emblem universe. If you’re fan of the series, this will tick absolutely every box for you.
Fire Emblem Warriors review (Switch): Graphics and performance
It has to be said, Fire Emblem Warriors is one great-looking game. Its anime styling means it looks wonderfully slick in motion and it runs smoothly on the Switch even when there are hundreds of enemies onscreen at once. This is, by no means, the best looking Switch game since launch but it doesn’t really matter. It’s stylish and bold and you can easily identify who’s who on the battlefield.
And for a game like this, performance is certainly more important than graphical fidelity. Rendering all those enemies at once, while keeping it playable, is essential to keep the game playable. Plus, when playing with the Switch in TV Mode, there are options to favour better graphics or slicker performance, depending on your preference.
Fire Emblem Warriors review (Switch): Verdict
Overall, Fire Emblem Warriors is a wildly enjoyable hack-n-slash game and easily one of the slickest entries in the Warriors universe. If you’re a fan of the series then you should welcome Fire Emblem Warriors with open arms.
However, those of you who either love the Fire Emblem series or have flirted with one or two titles here and there, won’t find quite the same level of depth. Wading through countless enemies feels fun at first, but as you progress it begins to wear thin.
Objectives start to repeat themselves, the story seems to linger longer than you’d like and the cast of characters expands to the point of confusion around who’s who and what sets them apart.
That said, if you’re after an all-action romp that’s well-crafted and good fun, you can’t go far wrong with Fire Emblem Warriors.