Nintendo's second mobile game is far better, and here's why
Let me just start by saying that I am not that familiar with the Fire Emblem franchise, but I'm a sucker for good turn-based tactical jRPG. Especially one that lets me play on the go, with Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon being a prime example.
With that out of the way, I feel the urge to congratulate Nintendo for a job well done. Fire Emblem Heroes is probably the perfect example on how to make a free-to-play game with microtransactions. And I certainly hope that more developers learn from it than not.
But this is not the only thing Nintendo did well, so let's go through the game's different elements and discuss them in a bit more detail.
The game revolves around creating the ultimate team of heroes, also called allies, then pitting them against various enemies. In order to create said party of legendary warriors, you will need to summon new heroes and level up existing ones. This is all done through the out-of-combat interface, where you can review the allies you have available, switch out heroes in existing teams, or customize their skill loadouts.
Each team consists of a total of four heroes that you will have at your disposal in battle. The battles themselves play out just like any other turn-based RPG – you move your characters around a small battlefield, while trying to reach your enemies without letting them attack you. In reality, though, the combat system feels rather dumbed down, compared to other games in the genre. There isn't too much tactical skill involved, and it's more about your heroes' stats, but that would be expected from a mobile game.
In order to start a battle, you will need stamina, though, and this is where we talk about the game's monetization. Fire Emblem Heroes doesn't come with ads, and it doesn't ask you to pay 10 bucks to unlock the whole game. Instead, it relies on the popular timegating method, meaning that as you play, you lose stamina. And in order to regenerate it once it runs out, you must either wait, or pay up.
Of course, there are microtransactions for a few more things, such as expanding your barracks to hold more heroes or upgrading your castle for faster leveling, but all IAPs are completely optional and you'll be perfectly capable of beating the game and other players without paying a single cent.
The UI and controls of the game are easy to comprehend and completely intuitive, so you won't struggle too much there. As for the various hero management aspects, the basics are explained pretty well in the tutorial and there are pop-up hints for everything else. So, Nintendo has really done a great job with polishing the game's user experience.
Graphics and sound truly excel, with beautiful retro-styled art and good voice acting for all the characters. The UI elements, battlefields and backgrounds are also quite pleasing aesthetically. The one thing that I truly dislike about the game, is the cheesy storyline. However, that's typical for a jRPG, so it does stick true to the genre. And my inability to understand what's going on and who's fighting who probably stems from the fact that I am relatively new to the Fire Emblem franchise.
All things considered, Fire Emblem Heroes is a pretty good free-to-play RPG. I would prefer it if it was more challenging when it comes to tactics, but no game can be perfect, especially on mobile.