Fire Emblem Engage – Review
Follow Genre: Turn-based strategy
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Fire Emblem Engage – Review

Site Score
Good: Emblem mechanic allows for new gameplay strategies
Bad: Day one expansion pass feels like a cynical cash grab
User Score
(3 votes)
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Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)

Over the last decade, Intelligent Systems’ Fire Emblem series has cemented itself as one of Nintendo’s core franchises. While the series isn’t quite up there with heavy hitters like Mario, Pokémon, or Zelda in terms of popularity, it still has a considerable fan base and a three-decade history behind it. The series’ latest outing, Fire Emblem Engage, is a love letter to past entries. If the rumors are to be believed, Engage was intended to be released back in 2020, as part of Fire Emblem’s 30th anniversary, but the game was postponed because of COVID-19. It’s finally here now, however, and as long-time fans of the series, we couldn’t wait to dive in. Now that we’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the company of the likes of Roy, Lucina, and Alear, how does Nintendo’s first big release of 2023 hold up?


Compared to the multi-route Three Houses, the previous mainline Fire Emblem game, Engage dials things down by a considerable margin. The game takes a straightforward approach, focusing on delivering a clear and concise story, through gorgeously animated cutscenes. Set on a brand new continent, known as Elyos, the game tells the story of the Divine Dragon, who awakens from slumber every 1000 years to defeat the Fell Dragon Sombron. In order to do this, the Divine Dragon must first unite all 12 Emblem Rings, each of which houses the spirit of a great hero from the past. The current Divine Dragon, Alear, has been asleep for a very long time, however, and is mostly unaware of their plight. Fortunately, their retainers and their mother are there to train Alear. When Sombron’s minions attack, Alear’s mother sacrifices herself, leaving the protagonist to figure everything out on their own. Alear must now unite the different realms of Elyos in order to obtain every Emblem Ring. They will not have to take on this task alone, as old friends and new allies alike step up to aid the Divine Dragon on this epic quest. While Engage’s scope isn’t up there with Three Houses’ Shakespearian drama, we still enjoyed the flow of the story, with chapter 11, in particular, being both a highlight and a turning point.


Intelligent Systems turned to V-Tube designer Mika Pikazo for Engage’s character designs. Although the final result still feels familiar and recognizable to the Fire Emblem universe, the reception to protagonist Alear’s design was mixed, to say the least. This has more to do with the bright and saturated colors that Pikazo employs, which stands in contrast with the more subdued tones that most people have come to associate with Fire Emblem’s aesthetic. That said, Engage looks and performs great, both in handheld and docked mode. It’s another showcase of what the hardware is capable of when a game is optimized. The only thing we would have liked to have seen differently would have been the option to be able to zoom in closer during the battles. In Three Houses, it was possible to look at battles at ground level, so we know it’s a possibility, but here everything is a bit too zoomed out, even at the closest possible point.


Music has always played an important role in the Fire Emblem series and Engage certainly isn’t different in this regard. Engage’s original tunes blend wonderfully with remixed versions of familiar themes, and music from previous games in the series can be accessed by unlocking it with Fire Emblem amiibo figures. A particularly nice touch is that these classic tunes are rendered as they originally appeared. Hearing 16-bit renditions of music from Shadow Dragon or Gaiden definitely put a smile on our face. Engage is also fully voice acted, and returning characters are mostly voiced by their original voice actors, like Yuri Lowenthal as Marth. Sadly, Laura Bailey does not return as Lucina. Instead, the role was taken up by Alexis Tipton, who has been the voice of the character since the mobile-exclusive title Fire Emblem Heroes. The sound effects are excellent as usual, and the game’s overall sound quality is crisp. The game is best enjoyed with headphones, with the game even recommending headphone usage for a specific feature at the Somniel.


2022 was a fantastic year for fans of turn-based strategy games, with heavy hitters like Triangle Strategy, Reverie Knights Tactics, and Tactics Ogre: Reborn. With Engage, Intelligent Systems pushes the genre into 2023, setting a high bar in the process. Engage delivers the signature blend of turn-based strategy and Persona-like character interactions that the Fire Emblem series has become known for ever since Awakening on the 3DS. Granted, the series’ shift towards “dating sim”-like gameplay has been divisive, so many long-time fans of Fire Emblem will be delighted to find that these elements have been significantly toned down in order to give the turn-based combat a chance to shine. Engage feels much closer to pre-Awakening entries in the series than more recent releases in terms of structure and gameplay. Given that the game is a celebration of Fire Emblem’s history, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, though the lack of side activities or branching storylines might be a bit of a letdown for those that joined the series with Three Houses.

Fortunately, any shortcomings are more than made up for through Engage’s battles. The maps are expertly crafted and the roster of available characters is well-balanced, allowing players to hone their tactical skills in new and exciting ways. If you’ve never played a Fire Emblem game before, then Engage provides a fantastic entry point into the series, and although the main gimmick involves an array of characters from previous titles, no prior knowledge is needed. Combat follows the same basic formula where you select a handful of characters from the roster you have recruited. You’ll then take these characters to a grid-based battlefield where you try to achieve specific goals in order to claim victory, whether it’s by killing the enemy leader, claiming an objective, or simply slaying every enemy. The classic weapons triangle, a hallmark of the series, has been amped up to eleven. Now, if you beat an enemy that you have a weapon advantage over, they will “break”, meaning they won’t get to perform a counter attack. It’s a blade that cuts both ways, and your own troops can “break” as well. This alone provides an additional layer of strategy, as you need to be aware of which enemy is able to reach which of your own troops, but Engage doesn’t stop there.

The main gameplay gimmick comes in the form of the Emblem rings. Equipping these rings to your characters lets them be accompanied by the associated ‘Emblem’. As characters fight alongside Emblems, they’ll deepen their bond and are able to learn skills from the Emblem. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, a character can merge with an Emblem for a limited time, gaining a massive boost in power in the process. Knowing when and how to get the most out of this mechanic is usually the key to victory in Engage. It’s a welcome addition, especially since Engage’s difficulty level is a lot higher than that of other recent Fire Emblem games. The ability to rewind time makes a welcome return here, especially since permadeath is still present. Activating permadeath is optional.

After each battle, you’ll be able to explore the location that you just fought in a third-person perspective, allowing you to talk to NPCs, adopt animals and collect items. This is a neat little addition that increases the feeling of immersion. The majority of your time in between battles will be spent at the Somniel, an island floating in the clouds that acts as your home base. Here you’ll find the standard array of shops and side activities as well as improve character bonds through support conversations and arena training. Initially limited in what it has to offer, the Somniel expands as you progress through the main story and new facilities start to open up. Having a hub area that you can walk around in freely isn’t new to the series of course, but it’s handy to have all facilities located together, and the added inclusion of a fast travel feature makes the Somniel an incredibly handy location for all your pre-battle preparations.

No matter how you slice it, Engage has a lot of content to offer, and playing through the main story will easily occupy you for dozens of hours. That’s without even getting into the random skirmishes, optional story paralogues, and online relay battles. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, relay battles were bugged and we weren’t able to test these out properly, but the issue has already been addressed by Nintendo and a fix is in the works. So while the base game definitely is worth the asking price, we still should mention that a significant amount of content is locked behind a paywall. Fan-favorite characters like Tiki, Edelgard, Claude, and Dimitri are included in the €30 expansion pass. If previous Fire Emblem games are anything to go by, the expansion pass will end up being good value eventually, but right now it’s a barebones affair, and the fact that the first DLC launched directly alongside the base game does leave a bit of a foul taste in our mouth. Engage also offers amiibo support, with exclusive cosmetic content locked behind Fire Emblem-specific figures. By no means does the base Engage experience feel like an incomplete or unfinished game, but the way non-base game content is being handled does put a damper on what would be an excellent release otherwise. Nevertheless, Enage is a fantastic addition to the series that is well worth picking up, whether you’re a series veteran or are simply curious to find out what all the fuss is about.


With high accessibility, tons of fanservice, and excellent turn-based battles, Fire Emblem Engage will delight newcomers and long-time fans of the series alike. The focal shift towards combat lends a completely different feeling to Engage compared to other recent Fire Emblem games and puts it more in line with games prior to Fire Emblem Awakening. This does mean that Engage will resonate differently with anyone that joined the series in the 3DS or Switch era, but of course, different doesn’t mean worse. The only real downside is that you’ll need to shell out a significant amount of additional cash if you’re a completionist, although the base game still has plenty to offer if you decide to skip out on the extras.

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Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)
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Fire Emblem Engage - Review, 9.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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