Fire Emblem Warriors (2017) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Fire Emblem Warriors (2017)

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When did "button masher" become a bad thing?  I ask in part because Fire Emblem Warriors (just Warriors moving forward), with all its cut-scene super moves and nearly endless sea of faceless baddies, is unapologetic in the amount of buttons it asks me to mash to make it through each map.  It may be possible to get through the game by just mashing the light attack button and have a poor time with Warriors, but I'd get the satisfaction of seeing the credits roll. Thankfully, I'm more interested in combat that allows a bit of room to mash more than one button, and Warriors is just smart enough in its design to keep my attention in areas other than where I'm swinging my character's sword.

Fire Emblem Warriors is an odd duck considering its two main points of inspiration are the Fire Emblem tactical series not known for impulsive gameplay, and the Dynasty Warriors games that are.  Much to my chagrin, this blend focuses heavily on the Nintendo 3DS line of Fire Emblem games Awakening and the Fates trio, leaving the most recent (and best) Shadows of Valentia twisting in the wind.  As much as I'd love to have my boy Valbar on the field of Warriors, his trauma-riddled backstory would be an odd fit for the timegate multiple dimension shenanigans that form Warriors' story.  So it's better that Warriors reserves that slot for the future daughter of one warrior in a potential timeline to join her father in someone else's world for swordplay.

If that last sentence is a bit confusing, it's because the Fire Emblem games in the 3DS era aren't known for tight plotting.  It's all wars with vaguely defined villains and broadly defined heroes who have kids that get raised in pocket dimensions where time flows differently.  Then you've got the trend started with Kingdom Hearts (or The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones if you want to get out of videogames) of on-paper narrative insanity to create ridiculous explanations why characters from different games come together.  Warriors takes this to the absolute limit with some characters literally warping in and out of the timestream mid-battle.  It might hurt to think about the plot, but the leads are the most bland blonde twin twosome destined to get mighty swords and slay the great evil.  So, to its detriment, it's easy to forget the plot of Warriors and just slash away with who you like.

But in the blank space where my attention to the plot would normally go is a sort of chaotic bliss.  As interchangeable as its leads are, each of the fighters you can choose from are distinct in both their personality and movesets.  It's quite the shock to go from the careful strikes of a grounded sword wielder like Marth to the heavily armored warhorse doubling as destruction derby vehicle that is Frederick.  I almost felt completely out of control with power when I shifted to the latter, and learning to control Frederick's massive blows to contain enemy units is one of the subtle victories Warriors accomplishes.

Combos aren't required but if you don't mix up the attacks then you aren't going to make quick progress, and since Warriors imports the weapon triangle system (essentially rock/paper/scissors) of the Fire Emblem series it was to my benefit to learn how different characters played early on.  Warriors gives you a slot of four to fill with whichever fighters you want to control, and depending on the mission there can be double-digit friendly fighters at your disposal.  The earliest levels were the most exciting, switching from fighter to fighter as I beat back the waves and made sure I had the weapon advantage.  I got a nasty reminder to be mindful of the triangle early on when a simple grunt poked my fighter with a spear and I saw nearly half of my health disappear.  If you don't pay attention, you're going to end up with a lot of corpses because Warriors also implements the Fire Emblem death system - once a fighter's gone, they're gone.

You don't have to play this way, but it gives the ostensibly mindless battles an edge other slashathon games lack.  Even if you opt out, there are plenty of obstacles that give you reason to make use of other tools.  There's an intuitive order issuing system, where you can tell your fighters to attack, hold, defend, or pair up depending on the situation.  This leads to some truly sublime encounters, like a mid-game battle where I had to evenly chip away at two warring sides to tire them out enough for a truce.  Just controlling my strongest fighter wouldn't cut it, I had to quickly flick out to the order system to ensure neither side was gaining an advantage and redistribute forces all while keeping the weapon triangle in mind.  I'm most at home when slashing action asks me to multitask and, dear reader, I was in multitasking nirvana.

None of the systems Warriors utilizes are deep on their own, but together they make for a great pick up and play package.  "Just one more map," has been a near nightly refrain as I convince myself - no - I'm not tired, I can do one more.  Then one more.  And another.  I've played better games this year, but none as intoxicating as Warriors.

Now...for another map.

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Posted by Andrew

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