the good, the bad, the disinterest

Fates is, at the time of writing, the latest Fire Emblem venture, released in 2016 outside of Japan. Fates was divided into three storylines (Birthright, Conquest, Revelation) and instead of being packaged into one full game, split into three, which meant consumers would pay twice as much for what was one full game.

Iíll be upfront with you, reader: I donít like Fates, and though Iíll remain objective in explaining my reasons as to why, this page isnít Fates positive. If you want to move on to about or skim, I wonít be offended.

There are aspects of Fates I do like - the backgrounds for each map were top notch, the castle as an idea (not so much in its execution), the improvement on the 3D fights from Awakening, the music, select characters, and I really like what Iíve seen so far in Revelation. But these are only parts of the package that is Fates, and itís not enough to save it.

Hereís the thing. Radiant Dawn is my favourite, and it has problems - the relationships between characters are scarce due to the stripped supports and Iím not a fan of the spotlight characters. But I love the plot, the music, the gameplay, the switching back and forth; parts of it are weaker, but the whole is wonderful. For Fates, the music and the visuals (sprites and backgrounds) are the only things I hold no complaint for. Thatís it, and itís just not enough. I like plenty of games with bad plots and the widest of plot holes if the characters engage me; contrarywise, I like plenty of games with bad characters if the plot engages me. When I donít like the plot nor the vast majority of the characters, thereís a problem.

A lot of people love Fates regardless. A lot of people love the parts of Fates that I do not. Thatís fine; we all enjoy different things. Fates is just not for me. If I was younger, if Fire Emblem was new to me, maybe I would feel differently - but Iím older now, and it isnít, and Iíve come to expect more from my games.

I think disinterest, as well as disappointment, have a lot to answer for when thinking about why Fates doesnít work for me. So many little things stacked up in the opening hours of the game that left a bad taste in my mouth that when I reached the end of Birthright by sheer tenacity, giving time to the units I did love, I promptly ran out of steam to plough into Conquest thanks to the wafer-thin plot. Since I was adamant about playing in order, I thought Birthright was the standard - until I played Conquest and saw glimpses of the true machinations behind the narrative. Until I started Revolation to create my final Corrin and saw that this was where the plot was hiding - and I was shocked that Birthright contains none of this. To understand the plot of Fates, you have to play all three of the gamesÖ understandable, because itís a package. What isnít acceptable is that to get the gist of the narrative, of that single important event in a characterís life (Corrinís choice), you have to buy three games.

Thatís not how stories work. That shouldnít be how packaging a game works. If it were DLC, maybe, maybe I could overlook this for giving another perspective to the mainline story - but no. Thereís DLC for Fates too, just like Awakening. And itís not like Fire Emblem hasnít had a split story before, or split between two armies. All of this? Really grinds my gears.

Aside from the graphical improvements, I also donít feel that Fates builds upon Awakening. It sits comfortably on its success - same artstyle. Marriages returned, as did children... but children being shoved into a deeprealm until they were old enough to fight trivialises the urgency behind the kids in Awakening. Same gendered supports are still wishy-washy, two token bisexual romances were included for all the wrong reasons, Soleilís entire set of supports, the strange touching minigame that stuck about in the Japanese versions... I was getting tired of what had already bothered me in Awakening. This time, Intelligent Systems knew better, and were making more things for me to squint at. You canít defend your favourite series when they make such a kerfuffle.

Tank: Effie
Choosing someone to talk about in Fates was difficult. Fates is such a current thing in my Fire Emblem history that itís not a memory I need to share - itís been shared as Iíve played, with others doing or having done the same. I could easily talk about my favourite Birthright trio (Kagero, Orochi, and Oboro). Oboro is a continuation of a trend that I was happy to see, Orochi is a magic user that shines, and Kagero is the surprisingly strong ninja that fulfills every want Iíve ever had for a thief. I love them dearly as characters, as units, bright spots in my Birthright experience. I could talk about Mozu and how in my Revelation run, I want her to befriend a certain someone so she can echo my Amelia experience. I could talk about Odin and Laslow and the genuine tears I cried during their supports. But Iíve chosen to talk about Effie instead, because I donít own a site for her, and though already spoken of, my love for Effie is quiet, just as she is steadfast.

Effie is a must for Conquest in a way Iíve never really seen an armoured unit needed before. Youíll get an armoured unit early on - theyíre slow, with limited movement, and soon benched for whichever unit they show up with. Arthur, in this instance, is all about being a gamble, and he doesnít have the luck for it. Effie is a guarantee. Round one goes in favour to the Knight. Second, a Knightís use is heavily restricted, as youíll soon leave behind the halls and doorways which suit them. Maps are not made with them in mind, and I was all about moving forward as soon as an opportunity presented itself, as fast as possible. Open maps often have endless directional points for your army to be approached, and even those with limited access still have a couple of squares for you to fill to block the enemyís advance.

Conquest was not like that. The maps were made for Effie to be useful and used - sure, the multiple strategic options remain, but there are obvious chokeholds which the AI like to head towards. The game coaxes you to stick Effie in that gap, as Conquest has a notable difficulty curve compared to Birthright - Birthright is not only easier than its counterpart, it has access to skirmishes and to level as much (or as little) as you please. In Conquest, you are often several levels behind, or middling out, with the enemies on a map. And thereís a lot of ninjas. Notorious doublers with speed who youíll want to stop somewhere. However, Effie is slow. She cannot double.

She does, however, gain what seems to be a senseless skill that stops enemies from doubling too. Suddenly her use soars, because though ninjas might pile up around her, she has the defense - and the guaranteed lack of a double - to keep her safe.

Round three for the Knight. Effie is a must.

I really wanted to like Fates. I tried to look past these things in the hope I would find things to like. Some of the characters I enjoy a lot; theyíre up there with my other favourites. I wouldnít own several fanlistings for characters from Birthright if I didnít enjoy them as individuals. However, most of these characters are delegated to the sidelines, because Fates is a story about Corrin, Jakob or Felicia depending on Corrinís gender, Corrinís two sets of siblings, and the role Azura takes depending on the side youíve chosen.

I like the siblings well enough individually. But not enough. As a group, forced to pick a side? I realised then that they were not working for me.

This is, firstly, because Corrin is built to be an avatar like Robin, but also not Robin, and Robin only works as Robin, once.

Second, is the branch of fate itself. As a construct, itís fine. I think I can blame this one on the trailers - I was built up to expect such greatness from this decision, that when it occurs a mere six chapters into the game (following the prologue, which was also about this decision) and Iíve not built any affection towards most of the characters Iím supposed to be choosing between? I am going to be more than a little disappointed that my expectations - built up by the marketing strategy - are not being met.

This choice was a big deal. It is a big deal - no getting round it - but the build up just wasnít there. It works the second time, because I know the characters. But if Iím going to genuinely believe Corrin is struggling to choose a side, I need to feel it the first time, and I didnít.

I might buy games, but I am selling my time and investing my feelings, and both are valued commodities. Trailers, blurbs, reviews - all give me insight to what I should spend my time on. Some things, I will give the benefit of the doubt - something thatís a favourite - even if the trailers donít promote whatever the thing is very well. Fates, however, poured all of its promotion into this decision. It tried to make it epic, and itís not - the focus of all these games actually sits on what happens after you make your decision. This is not reflected in the marketing. And this is when we come to the problem of distributors ďlyingĒ to their audience in their trailers.

Iíve studied this as part of my degree, because as I got older, this was something I noticed more and more. Fire Emblem had never known this level of success, so it chose an angle - the branch of fate angle - because they knew the veterans, and those who had played Awakening, would come back anyway. Its new angle was to draw entirely new people in, because it had enough of a guaranteed audience for it to do so. Where Fire Emblem was once niche and more honest about its content, now it was not niche. It was - is - popular. It could afford to spend money on its angle.

Disneyís animated features are the most obvious example to get this point across. I donít watch trailers for Disneyís features anymore, because their marketing is aimed very specifically at an audience. Take Tangled. They knew girls would watch it - so they marketed all the trailers towards boys, with a focus on Eugene, it doesnít reflect the tone, and the trailers dismantle the deeper messages of the film. Take Zootopia, even more obviously aimed at small children who had not experienced animals in people clothes doing people things, when the film doesnít even go into this at all. It tells you nothing of the plot or the story, and was massively unexpected to be a movie about isms and prejudices.

In games, unknown franchises and unknown developers have only this trailer to sell their property, as they are without a fanbase. To do the opposite, because you have a fanbase, is not clever marketing. This is a ďlieĒ.

In none of the advertising that I saw did Fates really make big of the rest of its plot, because its plot doesnít exist until you roll around to Revelation. Which is DLC.

My gears are very wound up right now.

And as soon as you pick a side, well, you might lose one or two siblings which did make me sad, but Corrin is guaranteed a win. The branch of fate works, was a great idea, but there were better ways to be doing it. You needed to go along to a point, having lost all but very few, and to be given the choice again. Instead itís very trite and very small, and really only has the biggest impact in Revelation where you stick it to your siblings and choose to do what is right (and is the only time I can see them fighting you where it isnít massively uncharacteristic. Props to Birthright Elise being the only one to refuse, full stop).

As Fates is relatively new and my favourites are, at this time, quite well known - Iíll likely come back to this in the future to expand on it - Iíll leave you with my Corrinís instead, made with the Kamui Customizer. From left to right, Cyanea (Hoshido), Piper (Nohr), and Subaru (Valla).

In closing, writing this site off the back of Fates is a trip, because itís the only other games aside from Marthís that I dislike. As separate entries, I could like it. I do. But as Fates insists itself a package, I do not like it as a collective. My enjoyment is very much overshadowed by all the parts I do not.

I think I learned a lot of lessons with Fates - I could enjoy the strategic content of the current Fire Emblem, but felt uncomfortable when it comes to the rest of it. Iím not sure how Iíll feel about Valentia - itís a new art style (thank goodness), but it is a remake. Fortunately, itís not Marth. However, I am hoping that Insty has learned their lessons, and this will be a step forward in the right direction.

Maybe I'll come back to Fates properly - as a game or in this tribute - and rework my feelings towards it. It's still has its newness, and it has the potential of time and its context in what comes after for my thoughts to change. We'll see.

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