This last battle was the worst of them yet. I'd gone in with my best warriors by my side and came out the other end with five fewer allies; six if you count the two who joined my cause mid-battle. They were some of my strongest and bravest, but now they were just another row of tombstones at my castle. With each new battle I fight, I find myself looking for them and wishing that they hadn't been so cruelly cut down in their prime.
I'm playing a game called Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest and while the mechanics are solid the story is total garbage. This is an impressive feat given the initial premise: you discover that the royal family which raised you is not your royal family of birth and must choose between the two quite suddenly and dramatically when the two countries go to war with each other. I played through the companion game, Birthright, where you choose to side with Hoshido, which is basically feudal Japan, and over the course of that game the polish and shine of the new mechanics lost their appeal in the face of a bad story and pathetic difficulty. I started playing Conquest shortly after, but eventually set it down.
Fire Emblem is an interesting franchise in part because of it's death mechanics that have been in the series from the start: there are no extra lives here, if a character dies, they stay dead for subsequent levels. Generally, players will play a stage over and over until they can win without anyone dying. If they lose a character they are invested in, most players will load their last save file. Even though the game had never completely shed this death mechanic, it still strives to tell a story with these characters. To this end, any characters that are important to the plot will "retreat" from battle rather than die. This takes them out of your future battles but allows them to appear in the story as needed.
This is a huge waste of potential for interesting narrative decisions! The plot never branches or changes significantly depending on who is alive and who is dead in these games, so why wouldn't you reset each level until everyone can get out alive?
I was thinking about what a shame this was one day when I realized that I'd never really let anyone die in my own playing of the games. Why not push the game's balance to its limits by leaving dead characters lie as long as I could clear the level? How few characters could I beat the game with? Determined to win the war no matter the cost, I found myself picking up Conquest once more.
We'd come to Cheve to quell a fledgling rebellion at the king's command and what we found was the Hoshidan army led by my character's brother, Takumi. The rebels themselves were small in number, but Takumi had brought trained soldiers to back them up. After they made it clear that they would not back down, we had no choice but to defend ourselves.
The first few waves of spearmen fell easily to my warriors and we drove them back to a nearby bridge, creating a handy choke point from which we could whittle them down. Unfortunately, my brother Takumi was a handy shot with a bow. Though Effie was a fortress with her bulky armor and high HP, she was no match for Takumi's 11% critical chance as he shot her full of arrows. Reeling from this loss, we drove Takumi back and I forced him to flee with the help of Mozu, a young war orphan who had joined my cause early on. I'd been training her up to be an ace archer in her own right and she'd proven herself to be indispensible when we were under siege in the port town of Dia.
Reinforcements showed up in the form of Charlotte and Benny and it looked as though the rest of the battle might go our way. That quickly changed when enemy mages advanced on us and, taking advantage of bad positioning, did away with Niles, a retainer for my character's brother, and Nyx, an elite Nohrian mage we'd rescued from Hoshido's clutches.
Our soldiers falling around us, we pushed our way into town, stopping only to tell villagers to stay inside and bolt the doors. They told us that many of their fellow citizens were loyal to the crown and everyone hated the loud rebels outside. We assured them we'd take care of them and be on our way.
The situation seemed to be well in hand when enemy reinforcements arrived, putting us in a poor position. Kaze (I'd spared his life once, earning his undying loyalty), Silas (a childhood friend who'd wanted to travel the world with me), and Charlotte (met her literal minutes before her demise) all fell as the reinforcements and the rebels attacked us from all sides. We pushed through, and managed to force the leader of the rebels, Scarlet, to kneel and put aside her weapon.
It was a victory, but it came at the price of almost all my best units. In a campaign that had thus far involved attempting to make the best of every bad situation that the cartoonishly evil king of Nohr sent us into, it felt good to have pulled out a victory for once.
Not content to let the player feel good about anything though, the game immediately launches into a story scene where an NPC general (who doesn't help you with any of the fighting) is killing all the young men of the town as punishment for the village's rebellion. Another character rushes on screen to let me know that the rebels themselves and the injured Hoshidan soldiers have been killed while receiving first aid. It's just another day in Nohrian army.
Before the start of the next mission, I'm treated to a scene where my character's father praises us for putting down the rebellion as my character grinds their teeth in frustration. They aren't listening. They're thinking about who they'll say goodbye to in the next battle. They're thinking about Effie, Niles, Nyx, Kaze, Silas and Charlotte.
|Out of all the characters to join my army, this is all that remain at the end of Chapter 14.|
There are 15 more levels to go.