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Zerxen

Would the quality of writing for FE improve if the conflict were low stakes?

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Most FE games feature a relatively simple plot where Nation A conquers Nation B, only for it to escalate into a scenario where a higher being (usually a dragon) endangers the world. Would writing benefit if the conflict for future games had been more personal and were toned down to being more of a national crisis where the characters did not have to save the world and simply had to save/protect their country? Of course this does not mean that stories have to be perfectly realistic, you could still have factors such as dragons and magic be part of the world building process but not have the whole plot revolve around them.

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I personally don't think the scale of a conflict is ever a limitation on the plot; large or small, it is down to the execution, which is always IS' key downfall.

I like large scale conflicts, though. I think the smaller conflicts you suggested can be woven into a larger narrative, but I'm not sure if I'd want an entire FE game to be in that smaller circle.

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I would say it is more difficult (for IS, at least) to write about a conflict where the fate of the entire world is in danger yet still have the story retain its quality. When you have a huge conflict in a Fire Emblem game, the story tends to become repetitive, boring, less detailed, and less game-specific (the story usually ends up devolving into evil dragon/god wants to destroy the world for no good reason). The Tellius games are an example of a large conflict being handled relatively well, but for most of the games, the parts of the story where it focuses more on local conflicts are better.

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Not really. I think the quality of writing would only improve if the writers realized what they want their story to achieve instead of just mindlessly writing to pander to the player. For example, if the writers wanted to write a story about how good and evil are not always what they appear to be and the real world is shades of gray, then they shouldn't have the avatar (or main character, or really any character) be genuinely praised for "doing the right thing" when said character is really being a weak, selfish brat and the things they're doing are objectively bad or stupid.

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No.

Awakening and Fates don't have bad writing because the stakes are too high, they have bad writing because the writing's just bad and the pacing is awful.

You can make the argument that Radiant Dawn's writing goes to shit once the stakes get raised, but that's mostly because the moment you learn that you're in the middle of a battle between gods is around the same time you learn about the Blood Pact nonsense, which is arguably what really causes RD's quality of writing to dip(That or the constant Ike fanservice. Depends on who you talk to.)

Inversely, there's Sacred Stones, where once you scrape away a lot of the secondary plotlines, is ultimately about two siblings trying to save their friend. A lot of people actually do like this story, and it's certainly a bit lower stakes/smaller scope than other stories, but SS also has some of the weakest world building and the secondary stories aren't that good(Outside of maybe Orson). This just makes the Magvel story outside of the Ephraim/Eirika/Lyon story really lame.

Point is, I don't really think there's a correlation between scope/stakes and quality of writing.

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I don't think it would necessarily help the writing to make the conflicts smaller. Really, it would help to make the villains and the characters more ambiguous in their roles. We need less good/bad sides, since not everything in war is clear-cut. In most of the games the main enemy just tends to be an external force at the end and it gets rid of what the plot was building up to for the game.

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The Last Story is an RPG that restricted its world to one city on an island for the most part. The story had some world-saving aspects, but it was focused more on the individual characters. The end result? Nothing incredibly amazing I will say. The Suikoden series tried small scale too, to some success, but it could at times be weighed down by things it didn't need (Neclord).

I'd be totally interested in a smaller scale FE, but I'll admit that would not be a cureall. Good writing is good writing, bad writing is bad writing. A history of global trade across the millennia can be as nuanced and thrilling, or as illogical and dull, as a history of cloth production in a small medieval English town from 1238-1248 can be.

Fates technically was small scale. Only two major countries involved, with some smaller powers tossed in. There was the potential to make everything centered on these kingdoms and a bunch of their royalty. Yet the plot we got despite this small scale was Fire Emblem: Dragon Song (to reference the game that killed the once-great Lunar RPG franchise).

My general assertion is that RD had good writing until 3-11/12 brings in the Blood Pact. And if you look at things closely, Parts 1, 2, and 3, up until Daein entered the picture a second time, were generally small scale. Part 1 was wholly contained in Daein, Part 2 was even smaller scale in that there was no foreign foe. Early Part 3 is just two Laguz nations vs. Begnion with the GMs tossed in. (And just to defend some of the latter writing and not condemn it wholesale, Part 4 did well with most of its revelations and individual conflicts, if not all of them, and not to excuse certain elements and pieces of the writings and other faults.)

Also, Tellius does cut some corners by leaving the laguz nations, half the continent, free from being battlefields and leaving the countries as a whole a bit undercooked. Jugdral, the other greatly developed macrocosmic FE game, did so partly via artbooks and other things not directly in the game. Plus it leaves the half of the continent not in each generation. Elibe, I'm not sure what I'd say of it. But I will say Lycia in FE7 didn't get great additional development, in spite of being at the center of the plot and most of the other countries being left unvisited.

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17 hours ago, Interdimensional Observer said:

But I will say Lycia in FE7 didn't get great additional development, in spite of being at the center of the plot and most of the other countries being left unvisited.

Lycia indeed didn't get any additional development but I found that it quite competently portrayed the country based on what we already knew of it. Binding blade established it as a loose alliance of small countries and that's what we got, only this time in a period of relative peace. Each Marquez we see is also notably different. We got warmongers, racists, wise old men and wise young men. 

I think FE7 did a good job on the world building. Lycia seems different from Bern and both countries are very different from Sacea. 

I don't really think the stakes being lower would affect anything though a smaller scale could make something more interesting. Its stakes aren't low at all but its small scale makes the story of FE7 stand out among the others. 

 

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22 hours ago, Sunwoo said:

 they shouldn't have the avatar (or main character, or really any character) be genuinely praised for "doing the right thing" when said character is really being a weak, selfish brat and the things they're doing are objectively bad or stupid.

Dude, brutal, but so, so true.

Personally, I feel the scale is only partly to blame. It's an element of it. In the more recent games especially, we're given lots of characters that - stop me if this makes zero sense - aren't really equipped to be facing such large-scale wars? Don't get me wrong, I love having characters that are more relatable and become closer to the player, instead of having a huge portion of them be kind of cold or two-dimensional because they're copy-paste warriors. But, that being said, Awakening and Fates (especially Fates) have this weird dissonance where the cast doesn't seem to be taking the conflict all that seriously because there's so much focus on their cutesy anime quirks. As a result, a lot of the Bad Stuff That Happens™ feels either cheapened by association, or really, really jarring, and not in a flattering way. It's a balance between having these hyper-immersive one-on-one interactions with the characters and not dipping into Edgy Slice-of-Life territory that they haven't figured out yet. 

Of course, that's just my own opinion, and I'm sure a lot of people disagree. This, though:

19 hours ago, GenericZero said:

I don't think it would necessarily help the writing to make the conflicts smaller. Really, it would help to make the villains and the characters more ambiguous in their roles. We need less good/bad sides, since not everything in war is clear-cut. In most of the games the main enemy just tends to be an external force at the end and it gets rid of what the plot was building up to for the game.

This I can agree with fully. 

And of course, the whole series has a problem with ass pulls and general nonsensical plot devices. If we never have to deal with the blood pact stuff again, good. 

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25 minutes ago, Tibarn's Distracting Lisp said:

Dude, brutal, but so, so true.

Personally, I feel the scale is only partly to blame. It's an element of it. In the more recent games especially, we're given lots of characters that - stop me if this makes zero sense - aren't really equipped to be facing such large-scale wars? Don't get me wrong, I love having characters that are more relatable and become closer to the player, instead of having a huge portion of them be kind of cold or two-dimensional because they're copy-paste warriors. But, that being said, Awakening and Fates (especially Fates) have this weird dissonance where the cast doesn't seem to be taking the conflict all that seriously because there's so much focus on their cutesy anime quirks. As a result, a lot of the Bad Stuff That Happens™ feels either cheapened by association, or really, really jarring, and not in a flattering way. It's a balance between having these hyper-immersive one-on-one interactions with the characters and not dipping into Edgy Slice-of-Life territory that they haven't figured out yet. 

To be fair, I do not think half the characters in the entire series are meant to face large-scale wars at all. A vast majority of FE characters are rather young and shouldn't have too much combat experience. And yes I do agree that a good chunk of Awakening and Fate's cast are rather one-dimensional, especially when compared to older titles. Overall, I can agree that quality of writing stems not from the scale of the conflict, but how the writers go about introducing it.

Remember the narration that happened between chapters in older titles? If the 3DS games had that, the quality of writing, especially for Fates, would have significantly improved. Seriously, that needs to come back; no idea why that was taken out.

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1 minute ago, Zerxen said:

Remember the narration that happened between chapters in older titles? If the 3DS games had that, the quality of writing, especially for Fates, would have significantly improved. Seriously, that needs to come back; no idea why that was taken out.

Yes! I even didn't think about that, but you're right. It refreshes and grounds the player in the overall plot between gameplay segments and it's so effective. Maybe having that happen every chapter conflicted too much with the animated cutscenes? (Rather than just the...I'm going to call them "talking heads", I don't know what that VN dialogue style is actually called, oops!)

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I would like that personally, I mean conflicts being "low" stakes in terms of threat to the world. I would love a Fire Emblem game about a political conflict, instead of "Heroes vs. Dragon/God", and a few almost achieve this but throw in a "complete surprise twist" that a dragon/god and their followers were behind it in the last couple chapters.

I would not mind seeing a FE6 style story just with Idenn/Jahn omitted. Imagine if the story were just Zephiel wanting to take over the world for political reasons (like Hitler as a real-world comparison) and Roy and allied countries had to stop him. Yes the stakes wouldn't be over who controls a gold-mine or something that low, they would be higher, but it wouldn't be the entire world collapsing in to darkness if a god/dragon isn't taken down.

FE4 is another example of this, until the Loptyr possessing Julius is thrown in. Generation 1 is almost entirely political conflict, there are a couple mentions of the Loptyr cult, but from the characters PoV it's just a nutty cult wanting to gain power by controlling rulers (not unlike the real-world). Generation 2 starts much the same via liberating countries and such, it's at chapter 10 that it takes the "big bad evil god ruling the world" turn (notice that's when almost every boss becomes a dark bishop?). If FE4 ended with Alvis and Manfroy (the cultist tricking him) I think that would be kind of cool. Or maybe Julius still (Since he would be the next Emperor after his father's death), but a non-possessed version being manipulated by Manfroy.

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Just finished half of Echoes, and I starting to wonder: Is there ever a time, in all of Fire Emblem history, does a war really has that crushing effect upon one character? I means, the worst thing that could be happened to a playable character would be unrequited love (the P,alla - Abel - Est triangle), or exile, or suicide (Robin).

 

Come on! Where is my child soldier? PTSD? POW treatment?

 

But then again, has there been any Turn-based Strategy games which make you actually feel the tragic of war? Because becoming a God and controlling your troop from above denies you, the player, to become sympathy of the characters?

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Radiant Dawn managed to be highest stakes stakes men-vs-gods AND politically driven conflict AND high quality writing. All-in-one.

Its not rocket science and I.S. knows how to do it. Its just a matter of where they choose to cut corners, and where they choose to focus development efforts on storytelling and world-building.

Pleasantly surprised, btw, that after the unmitigated shit-show of Fates and all the heat they took for it. They actually took the time to produce a polished, character-driven story with a charming, fleshed-out cast of characters for Echoes.


...now if they could bring the writing team from Echoes together with the map design team from Conquest, they'd have a perfect game.  

Edited by Shoblongoo

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1 hour ago, lecongvu said:

But then again, has there been any Turn-based Strategy games which make you actually feel the tragic of war? Because becoming a God and controlling your troop from above denies you, the player, to become sympathy of the characters?

Uh... Tactics Ogre?

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Warhammer 40K comes to mind. But the whole premise of 40k is in the grim darkness of the future, there is only war.

Fire Emblem doesn't do grim-dark. Its kid friendly.

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