(Switch) **** Age: 12+
So there’s this evil dragon, right? And an amnesiac hero. And a bunch of rings to collect so you can save the world.
Engage doesn’t spare the cliches in this latest entry to the tactical turn-based Fire Emblem series but the story carries less weight than usual while maintaining a high level of intriguing gameplay.
Coming just seven months after the last Fire Emblem entry in the canon – an action-oriented slash-em-up – Engage returns to the more conventional set-up of the franchise, in which a band of warriors take turns fighting a wicked villain and hordes of underlings. Unfortunately, though, the narrative framing leaves a fair bit to be desired, bogged down in anime banalities and unconvincing voice performances. Even the costumes – some of which look as if they’re on loan from the Rio carnival or a Mardi Gras – prove more distracting than attractive.
The hero needs to assemble a team of characters – seemingly drawn from the greatest hits of Fire Emblem’s history – and chase down the rings of power, each of which contains a powerful spirit ally. These ghostly new friends (or Emblems as they are dubbed) can pair up with one of your characters and be summoned on the battlefield for super-abilities, albeit for a limit of three turns.
In between battles, Engages indulges in a little less of the socialising and bonding that is the hallmark of the series but compromises with a raft of mini-games that help to level up characters. Like me, though, you might find it hard to care as much about this party of fighters as you have in the past.
Redemption arrives in the complex push-and-pull mechanics of the tactical skirmishes. Engage brings back the rock-paper-scissors triangle of attacks, meaning you need to carefully choose whether to deploy a character with sword, axe or lance depending on your enemy’s weapon. Failure to select wisely will leave your fighter vulnerable and unable to counter-attack.
Plenty of other nuances – particularly the pleasing depth and animation of the spirit allies’ special moves – mean that battles are rarely straightforward nor dull waves of attrition.
You might be tempted to skip some of the more vapid conversations among the party so as to, ahem, engage sooner in renewed battlefield confrontations. By my reckoning, you won’t be missing much and will enjoy this Fire Emblem all the greater.