Fire Emblem Engage may be turning its back on Three Houses

A new trailer for the upcoming tactical RPG Fire Emblem Engage has been revealed, teasing the game’s main story.

Set to launch on January 20th for the Nintendo Switch, Fire Emblem Engage is the latest entry in the long-running series of tactical fantasy RPGs. While not a sequel to the Fire Emblem Three Houses story, Engage follows in the footsteps of its critically acclaimed predecessor. As with other titles in the Fire Emblem series, expect a gripping, high-stakes storyline, turn-based battles, and engaging character relationships.

However, judging by the trailer, it looks like Engage will take a more traditional route in line with previous games in the series. It clearly seeks to tell an older fantasy story, having its protagonist, Alear, travel across four nations on a quest to defeat an evil dragon – classic stuff.

This is in stark contrast to the plot of Três Casas, which had its main character putting down roots and becoming a teacher at an officers’ academy. While epic and high stakes, the story of Three Houses was based on the history of the academy, its students and their experiences.

Going back to basics is certainly a bold move, and we’ve yet to see if it’s the right choice for the series.

Safe like houses?

Fire Emblem Three Houses added something magical to the series’ formula. In your role as a teacher at the officer academy, you not only lead your students into battle, but also teach and befriend them outside of combat. Three Houses also introduced a time management mechanic, where you can only socialize or teach a certain number of students per month.

While this was a new direction for the series, Persona 5’s limitation on how you could spend your time made every moment feel all the more precious. What’s more, it gave you an opportunity to get to know the cast beyond the usual unlockable dialogue (known as “support conversations”), traditionally triggered by just fighting near a given ally in battle.

While support conversations always added a welcome sense of depth to relationships in Fire Emblem games, the officer’s academy added a rich, engaging backdrop to the story and offered something truly distinctive.

Something borrowed, something new

Engage is seeing a return to some long lost gameplay mechanics. The rock-paper-scissors-inspired set of strengths and weaknesses that made up the weapon triangle of previous games is ready to return. Furthermore, judging by the first trailer (opens in new tab)it looks like the battalions of soldiers that supported characters in Três Casas won’t be returning either.

I’ve been a Fire Emblem fan for an embarrassingly long time, and I count myself among those who are happy to see some of these old features return. However, it would be a shame to drop positive, newer features as part of this effort to return the series to its roots.

That said, there is hope. The first trailer showed Alear walking through an area that felt reminiscent of the Three Houses officer academy, and while we still don’t have concrete details about that “Somniel” area, it’s possible that Intelligent Systems isn’t abandoning the path they took in Three. Houses. Only time will tell.