Fire Emblem Engage could be turning its back on Three Houses

A new trailer for the upcoming tactical RPG Fire Emblem Engage has been revealed, teasing the game’s main story. 

Due to release on January 20 for the Nintendo Switch, Fire Emblem Engage is the latest entry in the long-running series of tactical fantasy RPGs. Though not a story sequel to Fire Emblem Three Houses, Engage follows in the footsteps of its critically acclaimed predecessor. As with other titles in the Fire Emblem series, expect a sweeping, high-stakes plot, turn-based battles, and immersive character relationships.  

However, judging by the trailer, it looks like Engage will be walking a more traditional path in line with earlier games in the series. It clearly seeks to tell a more old-school fantasy story by having its protagonist, Alear, journey across four nations on a quest to defeat an evil dragon – classic stuff. 

This comes in stark contrast to the plot of Three Houses, which had its main character put down roots and become a professor at an officer’s academy. Though epic and involving high stakes, the story of Three Houses was grounded in the story of the academy, its students, and their experiences. 

Returning to basics is certainly a bold move, and we have yet to see if it is the right choice for the series. 

Safe as houses?

Fire Emblem Three Houses added something magical to the series’ formula. In your role as a professor at the officer’s academy, you not only lead your students in battle but teach and befriend them outside of combat, too. Three Houses also introduced a time management mechanic, where you could only socialize with or teach a certain number of students per month. 

Though this was very much a new direction for the series, this Persona 5-esque limitation on how you could spend your time made each moment feel all the more precious. What’s more, it gave you an opportunity to get to know the ensemble cast beyond the usual unlockable dialogue (known as “support conversations”), traditionally triggered solely by fighting near a given ally in battle.

The officer’s academy added a rich and immersive backdrop for the story and offered something truly distinctive.

Though support conversations have always added a welcome sense of depth to the relationships in Fire Emblem games, the officer’s academy added a rich and immersive backdrop for the story and offered something truly distinctive.

Something borrowed, something new

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Engage is seeing a return to some beloved long-lost game mechanics. The rock-paper-scissors-inspired set of strengths and weaknesses that made up the weapons triangle of the previous games is set to make a return. Plus, judging from the first trailer, it looks like the battalions of soldiers that supported characters in Three Houses won’t be making a comeback either. 

I’ve been a fan of Fire Emblem for an embarrassingly long time, and I count myself among those who are glad to see some of these older features return. However, it would be a shame to abandon positive, newer features as part of this effort to return the series to its roots. 

That said, there is hope. The first trailer did show Alear walking around an area that seemed reminiscent of the officer’s academy from Three Houses, and although we don’t have any concrete details about this “Somniel” area yet, it is possible that Intelligent Systems may not be abandoning the path they took in Three Houses. Only time will tell. 

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