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A (spoilerfree) review of Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn

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First of all: I've never ever done a reiew before, so constructive criticism is appreciated to learn from it.


I think it's time to review the videogame which has inspired me probably the most in my life yet. It introduced me into one of the most exciting videogame franchises and to this forum.
It is Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn, the 10th part of this series, and the sequel of Path of Radiance.


Story
RD plays three years after Daein's and King Ashnard's fall. 

In this game you control different parties who have their own independent task and intentions. Each party has a lord, to be more precise a main character who may not die in their part. 

The first part deals with Daein. The Dawn Brigade with their leader Micaiah tries to free Daein from Begnion's cruel occupation. Begnion's leader tries to prevent it with all the possibilities he has without any consideration towards the Daeins and his own men. Micaiah has the hard task to stop Begnion's cruel schemings. His childhood friend Sothe (familar character from Path of Radiance) fights along side with her. Otherwise you'll see some new faces in the beginning and some familar characters later on.

Part two is about Crimea's restore after the war against Daein. Elincia, the new and still unexperienced queen of Crimea, tries to look for freedom with Daein. However the nobles are scared that Daein takes the chance after its recovery to start a war against Crimea once again. This scepticism and fear propagate to the simple folk who start a rebellion against Elincia. The leader of the rebellion tries by all means (including hostage taking) to dethrone Elincia. The Crimean Knights have the task to stop this guy and to bring freedom back among the Crimeans. All units except for one are familar.

In part three you control all three parties including the last one, the Greil's Mercenaries with their leader Ike. They also fight against Begnion but for a different reason. They support the Laguz because it came to light that Begnion is responsible for the burning in Serenesforest and the death of the former empress. As consequence the established Alliance of Laguz declared war against Begnion.
The problem is that Daein's new king is helping Begnion quite suddenly who was Daein's biggest foe before its liberation. Micaiah, as loyal she is, follows his advices and fights for Begnion and against the Alliance of Laguz which means that Micaiah and Ike will become opponents. 
The result is that a total war is going to happen in Tellius. If you played the prequel, you will know what might happen...


Gameplay
RD has pretty much a similar gameplay to its prequel with a few improvements:

  • skills can be removed without losing them
  • third tier class system
  • ledge feature which gives you a massive hit bosst / nerf when you attack from a platform above / below
  • a few more mission objectives are added like defeaing certain number of enemies, destroying things in a turncount 
  • skippable battle animations
  • biorhythm is more important
  • dark magic exists
  • knives are an own weapon type
  • new weapons (a few were removed)
  • introducing of authority stars (= leadership stars)
  • unlimited forging in each chapter

     

I'm pretty sure RD has the largest number of main story maps in FE with 43 and their variety is also large. A mix of defat, seize, escape, turnlimit and defend missions. Especially the defend chapters are really fun and challenging. Of course there are few less enjoyable chapters in the game but overall the map design is really good.

However this game also has its issues. The main problem is the units's and difficulty balance. The difficulty curve isn't constant straight and the availibility of several units is horrible.
The Dawn Brigade is that this is the party with the hardest chapters. The main issue is that Micaiah and some other DB members are really squishy and you lack on tanky units who can withstand several hits. Sothe is the only one who can, but he's basically your Jeigan, a prepromoted unit who steals the exp. early on. Micaiah herself is really squishy and sorta slow. Keep her out of any enemy attack ranges to keep her alive because she may not die at any time of this game. Same goes for all the other DB members till the fourth map. In general: This game has different Game Over conditions than the other parts. Many (side) characters may not die in certain chapters, so make sure to read the losing conditions every time not to get a bad surprise. Another issue is that Micaiah is the only one who has no authority stars so she can't grant her allies any hit / evasion boost which makes it for her group even harder.
The other two parties start already second tier who even fight first tier units partly so they have a much easier time with the enemies. 
Now about the units's availibility, FE10's main weakpoint in terms of gameplay: Some units are going to leave in midgame and return (unautoleveled) close before the endgame. It's pure pain to let them catch up the others. It's really sad because it disqualifies some potential good units with a nice character. Also two allies for the DB join either underleveled or with below average bases. On harder difficulties it's very bothersome to train them.

The graphics are really improved compared to FE9. The battle animations aren't static anymore, but they're really authentic now. Still my favorite animations in Fire Emblem up to date. The maps and characters are really well designed.
Same goes for the soundtrack. Some tracks from FE9 return remixed and lots of new tracks are added. Most of them are enjoyable to listen and fit to the situation. Not my favorite soundtrack in FE but still a good one.

Radiant Dawn has a better gameplay than Path of Radiance (close tied with Thracia 776 and Conquest) despite mentioned issues (there are still a few more minor issues).
Storywise it's really good too but it has a few plotholes and it's a bit rushed mainly part 3. I don't really care for this because I prefer the gameplay over the story in a FE game.
The main issue could be it's not really the best game for a newcomer to this series. Not because you have to play PoR first to understand the story, but because the difficulty of the DB chapters can cause you serious trouble. A few of your allies are so "weak" that they can be oneshotted. I highly recommend for any newcomer to read the really well explained tutorial guide. Radiant Dawn was my first game too and its difficulty almost made me want to ragequit it but the tutorial helped me to get into this game and series. If you're not aware of PoR's story and characters, RD has a dictionary about all the existing characters and some terms reagarding Tellius, so it will help you to get into the story.
Overall it's a really enjoyable game especially if you play FE because of its gameplay. However it has not a massive replay potential (however still one replay guaranteed) because several units are really hard to use because of their limited availibility.

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