As I continue my Fire Emblem Fates reviews, see Birthright here, we now come to the darker side of the coin in the form of Fire Emblem: Conquest.
From nearly the getgo, we heard from Nintendo themselves that Conquest would be the “harder path”, one that would be for the “diehard Fire Emblem fans” who wanted a true challenge without the “pandering” to the causal gamers. Needless to say, they were accurate. Conquest is a brutal test of skill and will as you try to claim victory for Nohr.
An early complaint I heard about Fates was that they were going the “Pokemon route” via the different versions. With it possibly only being different in its difficulty. While the opening is the same (as you have to work up to the path decision) once you side with Nohr, the game is totally different in both story, levels, and outcome.
The tone of Conquest is incredibly dark, and for good reason. You’re literally on the “wrong side”. Whereas Hoshido was trying to stop an invasion in order to save their home and grant peace. You are now the pawn of a mad king who wishes for the whole world to burn, and if you don’t follow his orders, he will kill you. That’s pretty dark. Now yes, you are actually the hero, as you’re trying to stop your crazed adoptive father, but you’re playing a long game here as opposed to a simple goal like there was in Birthright.
Also though, we learn more about the world Fates takes place in that was only hinted at in Birthright. Through this, we see just how mad King Garon is, and it adds fuel to the fire that we have to overthrough him. Not that this is easy by any means.
The challenge of Conquest isn’t just the heartwrenching decisions you have to make in the course of the story, but also the incredible difficulty of some of the levels. This is a no-holds barred game. You will start levels over if you don’t want to lose units. Unlike Birthright, or almost notoriously in Awakening, there is no grinding, so thus you can’t spend time leveling up a character on some weak opponents so they’ll become more useful, you have to be precise with who you want on your team, and which way you want them to level up and evolve. By the time you reach the end of the game, you will know how “well” your team was raised, as a brutal two-part endgame awaits you, without a save inbetween.
Also though, your ranks don’t grow as quickly as you might expect. Sure, when they do, it can be in bulk, but you’ll not know that going in. In one mission I was severely outnumbered, and had to hold the line for 10 turns. I felt totally screwed, until my Nohr family showed up with their retainers and suddenly I was like, “I might have a chance”.
Yes, even though your adoptive father is nuts, your siblings are actually really cool. Xander, Leo, Camilla and Elise all love you dearly (some in stronger ways than others) and they all trust you without hesitation. And as you wage your Conquest to free Nohr from your father, they’ll slowly join you, but in a way that’s true to each characters. That’s the other difference here in the stories of Conquest and Birthright. While in Birthright your family is immediately on your side in stopping Nohr. Here in Conquest, they all have to trust you in the respect that something is wrong with their birth father. Two outright don’t believe you, but when they see the madness with their own eyes, they begrudgingly join your cause.
That doesn’t mean the path to overthrowing your father is easy. There are plenty who are against you, and want to see you die. Worrying about your Hoshidan family (who aren’t happy with you at all) and dealing with naysayers in Nohr shows just how difficult the game is. Sometimes missions and enemies come out of nowhere. And the brutality that is shown in the story is some of the darkest stuff this series has ever shown.
In one instance, a character that joined your team in Birthright is an enemy boss who you must defeat. You spare her life, only for it to be taken by a Nohr general under Garon’s control. You how she suffered as she died, something that often doesn’t happen here. It takes cuts to get through the story, and even when the ending comes, there’s still a lot of sadness to go around. For a war of the size you’re fighting cannot be without major casualties on both sides.
There is light in the game though. Outside of your family, your teammates, both familiar and new, add fun through the numerous support conversations. Unlike many of the Birthright characters, lots of the Nohr characters have a questionable grasp on sanity, which makes for very, VERY, interesting conversations. Choose who you marry well.
Though I’ve said it before, Conquest is not for the casual. The difficulty will stifle some, and maybe a turnoff to those who want a “simple” experience. Also, this difficulty is added upon with the rather harsh battle system which seems to love giving high chances of hitting to low probability hits. Again, you will be resetting.
Aside from that and other very minor problems, Conquest is a game that is for Fire Emblem fans to enjoy if they love a true challenge. It easily ranks among some of the hardest games in the Fire Emblem franchise, and if you make it through, you’ll know you’ve accomplished something.