Home » Reviews » Backlog Reviews » How I Broke Fire Emblem Awakening

How I Broke Fire Emblem Awakening

Most people who would introduce you to Fire Emblem would suggest that it’s a difficult game series. With the ever present threat of the permanent death of your character by one wrong move made on the battlefield, players are forced to command their armies with the utmost care, lest they risk losing their favorite unit to a well-placed arrow or ignored a member of the stronger point on the weapons triangle. Fire Emblem has always had ways of mitigating its difficulty, whether it be standard difficulty levels or embedded difficulty decisions like using an “overpowered” early game unit.

Awakening even introduced a way to subvert this by removing permanent death, meaning instead of having to reset and redo battles, you can now simply finish the battle sans your misplayed unit, and they will be there waiting for you no worse for wear (Although it always feel like they should be a bit perturbed that you let them fall). This seems like a great progression for gamers like me who don’t enjoy punishment and would much rather get on with other bits of the game.

But it’s those other bits that are so dangerous for players. These days, games are ALL about players being able to choose their own destiny. But what if the players choose wrong? It’s somewhat similar to what Oscar Strick talks about with sub games: what if a player’s sub game directly conflicts with the game they’re playing? Fire Emblem rewards characters for taking the time to foster weaker units. With Fire Emblem Awakening, DLC was introduced that allows you to do this to the extreme, repeatedly fighting a small room of monsters that refuse to attack back. Instead of carefully doling out EXP to your units over a limited number of chapters, this DLC gives players the ability to stockpile massive amounts quickly.

Now, it’s easy to say “don’t download the DLC then!” or “don’t use it until you beat the game” or any such variation. But, as I’m somewhat familiar with Fire Emblem and have trudged through those hardships before, my curiosity got the better of me. I was intrigued by the “reclassing” ability introduced, but I didn’t feel like I was properly able to take advantage of it, so I decided to get the DLC before finishing the main story. This choice turned out to be a very dangerous rabbit hole.

Once I started reclassing, it became an addition. I had to get all the greatest skills for all my characters. Fire Emblem is not unique in this way, these days every game is stuffed with similar things that players can easily get caught up in, whether they’re set out as real sidequests or something more akin to always collecting better and better loot. But what if these ideas damage the game itself? What if they irrevocably change your experience, so you are no longer able to enjoy the game as it is supposed to be enjoyed?

When I first set out to play FE:A, everyone on the forums recommended playing a standard playthrough first and then dealing with stuff like reclassing and optimal pairings on your second playthrough. After my experience, I would wholeheartedly recommend doing this as well. I fully intended to do this myself. But when you fall down the rabbit hole…