Fire Emblem Engage Review – IGN

After putting in some major study sessions and passing its tests in 2019’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Fire Emblem Engage makes the potentially surprising decision to take a purposeful step away from that focus on time management and teaching. Many base activities and socializing aspects with your team are still here, but Engage makes the smart move to adjust its sights back toward the roots of the series by putting engaging tactical combat first and foremost. There’s a reverence for Fire Emblems past that is clear in every aspect of it, even including the spirits of legendary heroes from previous games that power up your team, which match the strategic depth they bring with an exciting visual flair every time they’re unleashed. Its classic good vs. evil story may not reach those same heights of its predecessor, but the Divine Dragon’s adventure still stands tall among its peers – both on its own merits and as a wonderful tribute to Fire Emblem’s legacy.

When Fire Emblem Engage first introduced the idea that twelve rings housed the spirits of protagonists of Fire Emblem’s past, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. (According to the story, they aren’t actually the exact same heroes from other worlds – more like incorporeal manifestations that retain the knowledge and abilities of their hero’s journey… or something). From Marth to Ike, Celica to Byleth, and plenty more, these legends will advise you, spar with you, and become your battle companions as you try to collect all 12 rings and defeat the big bad Fell Dragon who wants to corrupt them for nefarious purposes. While it’s fun to see familiar faces, there were also plenty I didn’t recognize, which had me worried about how much of the backstory of these heroes were going to be lost on me. Three come from games never officially released outside Japan, and several more have only been featured on the GameBoy Advance or similar decades-old Nintendo consoles — unless you count their inclusion in Smash Bros. or the mobile gacha game Fire Emblem Heroes.

And yet, over the course of my 60+ hour adventure, I found my worries to be unfounded. Fire Emblem Engage manages to celebrate its long history of compelling characters without making you feel left out if you’ve never played through their stories firsthand. Your own character (a Divine Dragon whose name defaults to Alear) has a story that is still the driving force behind your journey in Engage, and while the Emblem Rings play an important role, it’s one that does its best to stay within the context of your current adventure. Did I freak out a little when meeting Ike, the hero from Path of Radiance, since it was the Fire Emblem that really got me interested in the series? Yes, very much so. But even Emblems like Sigurd and Leif were a joy to fight alongside despite me knowing next to nothing about their respective stories. Whether it was offering helpful anecdotes to my character about the trials they faced, or granting me their power and skills to inherit in combat, they became the backbone of my army, and each new Emblem Ring I collected gave me new strategies to work with.

Did I freak out a little when meeting Ike? Yes, very much so.

The true talents of these Emblem Rings shine when taken into battle. Just having one equipped provides a host of passive bonuses and skills. Watching both my unit and their spectral Emblem Ring counterpart slice into foes at the same time was always great to see, even if the animations didn’t actually translate to increased damage. Depending on which rings you use, the skills your team inherits abilities that range from the more mundane stat boosts to incredibly useful skills like attacking twice before opponents can respond, repositioning allies, or altering terrain effects to control the battlefield. All of this culminates in the ability to “engage” their true power for a short period, as your unit essentially fuses with the Emblem hero, gleaming with new shining white armor and inheriting that hero’s hair color or style. These fused characters also sport wild neon blue wings and other crazy effects that felt straight out of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Sheikah tech, making them unmissable standouts on the battlefield.

Engaging also lets you temporarily equip extremely powerful or unique weapons — often giving units access to attacks they would normally never be able to use. Coupled with special “Engage Skills” that are only available for this brief period, it became a huge game changer for how I approached each mission. By engaging with the Emblem Lyn, my lance-wielding pegasus knight could suddenly become winged Death incarnate; able to launch an extremely powerful ranged salvo of arrows to out-snipe otherwise lethal archers, then fly in close to slice and dice with Lyn’s signature katana, and even create illusory doubles to distract foes and counter with their own attacks. Engaging my units with their Emblem Rings became the highlight of every encounter, and the flashy ultimate attack animations were always worth watching. Since it can often take awhile to recharge this power, finding the perfect time to have one more more units engage to turn the tides always had me trying to plan my moves out in advance, as even the most powerful attacks could still leave my characters in danger if they got surrounded or overwhelmed without backup.

There was no wrong answer for pairing up my teammates with different Emblem Rings — only a wealth of possibilities.

Each Emblem Ring is unique enough that no two ultimate abilities feel the same: Some rely on single target or area-of-effect damage, while others work in support roles like sacrificing health to heal the rest of the team. Many of these abilities also have small but interesting modifiers depending on which unit type has the Emblem Ring equipped, adding even more layers of strategy and customization that I absolutely loved to experiment with. Because of this, there was no wrong answer for pairing up my teammates with different Emblem Rings — only a wealth of possibilities. My thief ended up becoming my natural choice for pairing with Emblem Corrin from Fire Emblem Fates, as her Dragon Vein ability added mist cover to the surrounding terrain when used by covert-type units, and the debilitating effects of Corrin’s draconic aura skill was further bolstered by poisoning daggers.

Rock, Paper, Fist

In addition to the larger changes Emblems introduce, Fire Emblem Engage has refined almost every aspect of its turn-based battles in smaller ways, too. Enhanced visuals have made each mission more pleasing to look at, UI improvements mean the action is easier to follow, and subtle new spins have been introduced to cornerstone combat mechanics. The classic weapon triangle has made its triumphant return after disappearing from Fire Emblem: Three Houses but its not content to simply return to the status quo: this time, using the right weapon like a lance against swords won’t just translate into better accuracy and damage, as the new “break” mechanic can also disarm that opponent for the rest of the turn. Of course, your enemies can do the same to you, making the weapon triangle even more fearsome this time around. Even when certain defensive spaces let units become “unbreakable,” Engage provides an answer with a new heavy weapon type that can shove defenders backwards – of course, the smart trade-off for this powerful effect is that heavy weapons hit dead last regardless of how fast the other opponent is.

These new features are brought to life in a fun way thanks to Engage’s expansive maps, which are quite similar to Three Houses. Battles zoom right down to the action (wonderfully transitioning the music to be more energetic) and look way more dynamic than they have in the past, as mighty attacks can send fighters flying backwards, even breaking apart fences or crates in the process. Watching someone miss an attack no longer feels like a pathetic whiff, as combatants will cleanly translate the numbers game into seamless parries and counter-attacks that feel way more like an active battle than two opponents just rolling the dice one at a time.

My favorite new battlefield addition, by far, is the massive overhaul to the healer class.

My favorite new battlefield addition, by far, is the massive overhaul to the healer class, which has melded them with martial artists to become “Qi Adepts”. Healers in Fire Emblem have historically always been the weakest link, often requiring the most baby-sitting or being shunted to the back of the army – but no longer! While they still might not always be able to face down a knight or axe-wielding berserker, they can break the weapons of archers, mages, and thieves using punches and kicks. They can also guard another unit from the first incoming attack so long as the healer has full health. This became a recurring theme as enemy bosses would often have an entourage of Qi Adepts just waiting to take one for the team, requiring me to strategically wound them first before I could unleash my full force on the enemy leader.


Where Fire Emblem: Three Houses thrust you into dramatic conflict between rival nations and eventually forced you to fight against the very friends you’d bonded with, Fire Emblem Engage dials things back a bit, for better and for worse. Its story is a classic tale of ancient evils re-awakening, amnesiac protagonists, and various nations uniting under a common banner for good. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sold on Alear and their Aquafresh toothpaste hair design, but I got over that fairly quickly – perhaps when you’re stacked against the various blue-haired guys and gals of Fire Emblems past, you gotta stand out any way you can. In truth, what really turned me around was finally having a fully voiced Fire Emblem protagonist (and allowing the past heroes to be voiced as well). The three-pronged story of the last Fire Emblem is a tough act to follow, but having a main character who does more than stare blankly at people during cutscenes and conversations went a long way. It helps sell many of Engage’s plot points, from the growing bonds between Alear and their friends to some insidious plans enacted by the Fell Dragon and his minions. While not every twist or reveal hit its mark, I was generally surprised by some very late game developments that affected more than just the immediate story.

I wasn’t quite sold on Alear and their Aquafresh toothpaste hair design, but I got over that fairly quickly.

You’ll gain a host of quirky allies at a reasonable pace along your journey to collect all the Dragon Ba… I mean Emblem Rings. Normally I’d be a bit skeptical at how almost everyone is all too eager to pledge their service to Alear’s quest, but I guess when you’ve been worshiped as divinity during your centuries-long slumber, people are just happy to see you awake and slaying evil at last. I also found myself impressed at how Engage handled padding out the acquisition of the rings. Some clever ideas kept me from getting too overpowered too fast, while giving me just enough Emblem Rings to respect the power they added to my army. Even more humbling was learning what could happen when the enemy used the power of Emblem Rings against me. Boss fights in Fire Emblem have usually been tense standoffs where a wrong move could lead to one of your favorite characters getting demolished – but even in that context Engage had me double and triple-checking the skills and abilities of my adversaries before putting one foot into their lair. Using an Emblem’s power to teleport across the map and explode some poor sucker with the Ragnarok tome is a ton of fun — but when it happened to me it was downright terrifying.

The various missions and maps in Engage tested my strategic knowledge in different ways, and it was fairly common for battles to last more than half an hour as I carefully considered my path forward (or sometimes rewound time by a turn or two if I realized my path was leading to certain death for a few characters). Most chapters usually end with defeating a boss, and the way these bosses are handled has left me feeling a bit conflicted. Not far into your journey you’ll meet the main executors of the big bad’s will: The Four Hounds. They all have different personalities and reasons for being on Team Evil, and made for some challenging opponents, but problems arose when I found that they kept coming back for more. I can’t even count the number of times I’d have to fight these lackeys, beating them to a pulp only to have them laugh it off in the ensuing cutscene, swearing revenge for next time like a cartoon villain. And my army would just… watch them saunter off. Again, and again. I don’t even think they were bad characters, as some late game developments did a great job to make me understand them more – I just really wish Engage had at least tried to offer a passable excuse for why I let them get away so many times. I’d even be okay with an overly convenient teleportation spell!