Fire Emblem Engage is a wonderful franchise celebration through battles more than story

Three Houses is in my top five games on Switch, it nails the Fire Emblem formula and adds some fascinating new mechanics to keep it fresh.

So my hype for Fire Emblem Engage was palpable. I was eager to get into some new battles, to follow an all-new story, and get eye-meltingly gorgeous visuals to fawn over.

For me, while Engage doesn’t quite hit the same highs as its predecessor, I have been absolutely loving my time with the latest entry and enjoying its fine-tuned mechanics as much as ever.

Sadly, it’s the story that lets the side down a bit here. I do wonder whether the game’s reliance on wanting to celebrate its past gets in the way a bit of enabling it to move forward.

See, in Engage players will receive and use ‘Emblems’ which are basically recreations of legacy characters from older games. Marth, of course is here, as well as Byleth from Three Houses and Corrin, to name but a few.

Future content updates for the game will also include other iconic Fire Emblem characters and I guess this serves as a good way to show players how many Fire Emblem games there are, especially if the Switch was their introduction to the franchise and bring these legends together under one roof.

I guess you could call this the Mario Kart of Fire Emblem games. Even though that sounds totally weird.

And the concept is original and smart as these Emblems can be bonded with through the new lead character, the Divine One, Alear. By obtaining Emblem jewelry, you can then attune yourself to one of these legacy heroes and build a bond with them. This is often done through sparring, but also finalised with deep, meaningful conversations and by having them equipped with you in any battles.

Bonds will then unlock all sorts of abilities for you and unlock new skills which you can benefit from. This not only makes you more adept in combat and able to take on new challenges, but it also means you hit harder and are more durable.

It’s an interesting twist because previous Fire Emblem games merely see you get stronger via levelling up and have you fighting alongside a larger party (and that’s very much the same here) but without a successful bond with your Emblem in Engage, you’ll miss out on key passive abilities and unique Emblem specific skills which can feed into your strategies.

There’s a lot more to think about in the pre-battle stage as a result, which is imperative as I would definitely say Engage, above many others, really brings those unique tactical battles to the forefront and makes them the game’s focus. As they should be.

As such, furthering bonds and gathering bond fragments is integral to progress. You need everyone to be on their A-Game as the opposition is fierce, and so making time to chat to allies at the Somniel, the game’s hub area is important.

It sort of plays out in a similar way to the school in Three Houses, but there’s less emphasis on day/night cycles (though they are still relevant to various activities) and less of a worry of activity points running out before you can do the things you want.

You can just kick back and fish between battles, spend some downtime with friends, purchase new gear or get the Smithy to craft some for you, even get in some training.

There’s still the option to change classes here and to further your relationships with characters, but you’re not tasked with carrying out a lecture or moving between rival factions. Everyone is allied here, for the most part.

And maybe that’s where I felt Engage lacked a little bit. I missed the option of choosing between rival factions and the playful banter between them. I loved being able to coerce characters to join my classes and I felt more connected to the wider story and its character-base as a result.

There’s emotional nuances here, no doubt. The Divine One has been sleeping for the longest time and awakes under mysterious circumstances. The world is different from what they remember and they’re drawn into their emotional ties (and connections) very early on in the game. The result is a powerful, memorable opener that definitely keeps you glued to your screen but things fizzle out quite quickly from there.

From there, the story has its ups and downs. It’s never dull or hugely underwhelming, but it’s not especially memorable either. And it really feels as if, after the introduction of the legacy characters, the game goes out of its way to try and make the story more about them and your connections to those characters rather than building out the new one you’re playing.

This sort of goes back to my earlier point about the game getting stuck in its past and not really doing much to evolve for the future. Where Byleth has become an iconic, recognisable part of Fire Emblem history – who will ever forget the Smash Bros reveal – I’m not entirely sure we’ll be saying the same about Alear in a few years time.

That’s ok, not every game needs to go and do that, but I do feel like it helped me connect to Three Houses on a deeper level and running around the school, I wanted to make sure I was talking to everyone in case I missed anything. I didn’t feel the same compulsion in Engage.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Somniel is an afterthought with the battles clearly taking precedence here, far from it, but it doesn’t feel as integral or essential to the experience as the Academy.

That said, there is a really interesting set of characters, each with distinct backstories and intersecting relationships. You’ll probably want to learn more about them than Alear’s story in all honesty.

But combat and battlemaps are filled out with interesting new devices, like civilians to save and interact with, as well as some hidden pathways and treasures which make already sprawling maps even bigger and more interesting to explore.

All combined with the Engage system make for some really tense confrontations which is what the game has always been about and bring it more in-line with the triumphant 3DS collection which was, arguably, the series true high points.


Fire Emblem Engage is another fantastic entry in the classic franchise on Nintendo Switch. It moves away from some of the mechanics Three Houses implemented and goes back to the ferocious, epic battles the series is known for. To a degree, this does come at expense of the story but it also puts interesting new mechanics and possibilities in the limelight which fans new and old will love in equal measure. 


+ New battlefield possibilities are really interesting to discover
+ Beautiful graphics with a story that’s well voice-acted
+ Engage system is smart and a clever way to make use of the franchise’s long, storied history


– Story is a bit thin and lacking

Fire Emblem Engage is out now on Nintendo Switch

Code Kindly Provided by Nintendo

About the author

Sam Diglett

Sam grew up with a PS2, spending hours howling at the moon in Okami and giving students wedgies in Bully. Fortunately, she also likes Pokemon because otherwise life could have been quite annoying for her.
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