Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a smash hit for Nintendo both critically and commercially. While it didn’t dramatically shake up the combat, its ambitious multi-campaign structure swung for the fences. It only seemed natural that Nintendo and developer Intelligent Systems would build off Three Houses’ success. While Fire Emblem Engage certainly builds on the deep and rewarding tactical combat, the predictable story and repetitive side activities feel like a step backward for the long-running series.
Fire Emblem Engage follows a more traditional structure than Three Houses’ calendar-based progression. Your time is split between the tactical turn-based combat the series is known for and a hub-like area where you can interact with other characters and outfit your units with weapons and equipment. While there are multiple missions available to you at any given time, the story sticks to a linear structure as you plot a course around the map. There are no major story decisions, and apart from a couple characters found in optional paralogue chapters, everyone will recruit the same characters at the same time.
This traditional structure isn’t inherently a bad thing. Some of the best games in the series follow this narrative style, and Engage’s presentation and narrative are more polished thanks to its focused design. But this approach also puts the story in a brighter spotlight and, unfortunately, the extra polish doesn’t hide the predictable and meandering plot, which overall falls flat.
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