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Yexin

Have you ever felt like FE's general gameplay lacked... something?

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So, uhm, this is meant to be a "free" discussion about how me and everyone reading this feels about FE's general gameplay, but feel free to analyze a specific game's gameplay too, if you feel like doing so.

Anyway, getting to the point:
I thought about making this topic for a while now, when I started thinking why I like JRPGs, Action RPGs and Fire Emblem games so much, strictly from a gameplay perspective, trying to figure out what features these game genres share. I managed to do so for JRPGs and ARPGs, but, surprisingly for me (although it actually shouldn't be a surprise), not for FE games.

So what is this feature that JRPGs and ARPGs share, but FE lacks? For me, that's requiring the player's "active skill" and learning capability.


"But Yexin, what are you talking about? FE is all about learning from your mistakes and improving your strategies. Also, what the hell do you mean by 'active skill'?"
1) You're right, FE is all about improving your strategies; 2) By "active skill", i mean the players' ability to "actively" learn from the mistakes they're doing while fighting a boss, and learn how to win the battle at the same time

 

Ok, I'll try to explain myself better:
So, I think we all can agree on the fact that FE is basically "Math: The Game", don't we? The game in all about looking at the enemies' stats, equipment, skills and so on, and figuring out the most efficient way to defeat them with the stats, equipment, skills and so on our units have at their disposal (while also praying for the RNG not to screw our plan), along with the game's overall mechanics, such as movement, range, terrain, Weapon/Magic Triangle and more.
In JRPGs and ARPGs the same thing happens, although in a different way: in JRPGs we decide what our characters will do (attack, cast spells, maybe using special and stronger techinques), and see what the enemies' attitudes and tendencies are, so that we can exploit them efficiently. Same thing goes for ARPGs, except we have to act and react quickly because everything happens in real time, and more elements are added to the formula (start-up frames, end-lag frames, hitboxes, hurtboxes and more).

What's the substantial difference, then?
It's that in JRPGs and ARPGs you get an instant feeling of yourself learning and improving, while FE games fail to deliver this feeling, because it's spreaded out much more slowly, during the whole chapter, and not mainly against boss fights, which should be a game's peak of battle design and challenge (see Rufus from FFVII: Remake).
In FE you don't need to improve your skills, because you just have to look at the enemy's features and act consequently (ex. "the enemy's a paladin, so I'll just oneshot him with my warrior's halberd", or "the enemy's a slow axe general, so i'll face him with my speedy swordmaster whose evasion's so high he's never gonna take a single hit").
Eventually, it all comes down to "some units can do this, some others can't".
Taking all that I've said until now into account, the way you play an average FE game is "bringing forth your strategy move by move, piece by piece", and the satisfaction you feel comes from the simple fact that you "solved" the situation the game showed you.
From this PoV, FE games look much more like puzzles, meaning that once you've completed one, you basically know how to complete every others, even if the pattern and the pieces are different.

Mind you, I don't mean to say I dislike FE games, I just wanted to point out what in my opinion makes them different from other RPGs, beyond the clear surface level, and how different the feeling of satisfaction they convey is.

What do you think about this? Do you agree with me? Have you ever stopped for a moment to actively think about it? Or do you think it's too obvious? Do you have any idea on how the player's "active skill" could be added to a FE game, or do you think FE bosses are fine the way they are?
Please do let me know, I'm really curious to see what this discussion can become.

Edited by Yexin

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Fire emblem is a great game but:

Boss battles like ones in xenoblade

Complex castle designs (or a realistic design like the kempf map)

Rage- I mean enemies and allies hit harder and get more fragile due to their rage towards the enemies. This adds a sense of realism#

An rng system for enemies like for example an enemy can roll 16-18 strength like in thracia how enemies sometimes have different move to the other units of the same class

They're just minor nitpicks though ^^

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I guess I've always felt the AI is a little too dumb, it says alot that (Only played some of the games so I could be dead wrong) that Echoes in on the 3Ds feels like the only FE game with good enemy AI, since that's the only one in my experience where they actively try to go get healed when injured that is actually falling back to a healer/healing tile instead of just using a health item in their inventory.

Same with design I guess, I really think that in a strategy game, hit rate and maybe critical hits should be the only random factors (So not a big fan of Pair-up, especially with how dual-strike/dual-guard stats cannot be viewed freely and only when attacking and only with a particular HUD type), while they were way too rare, I really like how in FE7 mines and Light Runes were added, even if the AI never really used them, Strategy games tend to sometimes have defend missions where you can construct structures or maybe having have to deal with minefields but FE doesn't really have any of that, for how potentially versatile fliers could be for transporting units, FE tends to be fairly reluctant to actually use it in it's level design, generally flier rescue is more for saving time with slower moving units than anything else in my experience, so honestly FE Echoes/Awakening/Three Houses actually feel a bit like a downgrade from FE7 to me since these great ideas for equipment to add gameplay (That would add even more if we were avoiding minefields via fliers or thieves) were replaced with...mechanics I am less than fond of. (Like Batalions, which I thought would be extra controllable Generics but are just glorified super moves.)

I'm not too big a fan of the "puzzle" design I guess? it depends on the game ,FE6/7/Echoes don't really bother me but bits like Chapter 7 of Awakening, where it's a nightmare of trying to remember who isn't terrible unpaired up, the dual pair stats you can't actually easily freely check and trying to not get any weak units one shot by the enemy wyverns don't feel fun since it feels less like a strategy game and more like a glorified point and click series of events where one wrong mis-placement equals someone dying with no real way to actually approach it in different ways, I'm not a big fan of battles in strategy games where you pretty much do everything in exactly the right spot or it's basically death. (Also because I think this is not a good fit for a game where hitting, damage values since critical hits and avoid are all luck-based and quite random since growths aren't consistent.)

 

Edited by Samz707

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I completely agree that Fire Emblem is not a game that you improve at. More like a game of sudoku or Picross. Once you understand the information the puzzle is giving you, the method by which you solve it is the same. Furthermore, in an easy sudoku/picross puzzle, the amount of ways you can make your next (correct)move could be dozens or hundreds, while the hardest ones have one, maybe two possible moves to progress - ditto for the hardest fire emblem maps where only one solution is correct barring miracles with the RNG. There's no skill involved in checking enemy stats before making a move, just a time investment. Players get impatient, and that impatience leads to a reset. The difference between a "good player" and an impatient player is that the good player takes way longer to finish a map, and the impatient player may never have to reset thanks to good luck with the rng. And both players will fail when the game isn't giving you all the information, like when ambush spawns show up.

I don't know how to solve issues with engagement when it comes to fire emblem beyond just having constantly unique and competent map design. Varied objectives, incentives to push forward and take risks, competent enemy formations that you can't abuse. All of these feel like such an afterthought in Fire Emblem. And as far as I've seen it only gets worse in other strategy rpgs where grinding is the only solution beyond self-imposed challenges that the game clearly wasn't built to accommodate. 

Edited by Glennstavos

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I think after playing a game/series for enough time, we all start to feel that way eventually. 

The game can be great sure, but it could also always be more. Whether it be complexity, balance, general core gameplay mechanics, we usually would like to see more of these things. Which makes it seem lacking, I think.

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I think i kinda get what you mean would say it comes down to enemy and Boss design. Especially the latter.

Instead of giving Enemies and Bosses interesting skills and abilities to make the player think about how to approach them, it's usually just stats and positioning, as you said, Math in the end.

The games that do what you want right i say are Conquest and to an extent Radiant Dawn and Three houses.

Radiant Dawn has some of the most unique Boss designs in the series, especially endgame. Radiant Dawn endgame feels more like RPG than a SRPG for than reason, you have to approach ever Boss in Endgame maps in a different way. Radiant Dawn is still what i consider the best final Boss in the series.

Three houses tried some new stuff with Monsters and Battalions, and it brought interesting stuff to the FE gameplay, but once you get it down all monsters do eventually feel a bit samey, and it becomes just math and positioning.

Conquest is the only game so far that tried to give enemies, mobs at that, interesting skills and having the player adapt differently to every map. It was the right approach in my opinion and how FE gameplay should evolve, making it more about new skills and abilities you meet rather than just pure stats (even if they should still stay important), and the player adapting and thinking about how to approach them. 

Of course legit good map design also helps, which conquest imo excells at. 

3 hours ago, Yexin said:

learn from the mistakes they're doing while fighting a boss, and learn how to win the battle at the same time

The problem with this is that in FE mistakes have permanent consequences, especially if you are playing Classic. So people do their best to not do any mistakes while fighting a boss.

So how can the developer balance a boss that can punish the player mistakes and make the play learn from them, but not harshly as to make the player retry an hour of gameplay? That's a question i don't think i can answer. But good Boss design instead of just giving  bosses 30 Avo thrones and killer weapons and making the player pray for good rng as to not restart will go a long way in making players ''learn'' against bosses.

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6 hours ago, Yexin said:

In FE you don't need to improve your skills, because you just have to look at the enemy's features and act consequently [...]
Eventually, it all comes down to "some units can do this, some others can't".

Identifying which units can do X and which can do Y is how one improves as a player. Only after experiencing how units and classes behave in different situations is that the player can anticipate which units will be used for certain approaches. I do not know how you play the game, but I do not move my entire party and simulate attacks with all units until I get the desired outcome; I pick units for certain tasks and move them accordingly. I do not always succeed, obviously, but I know beforehand what each unit should do and where it should go. It is less about arithmetic and more about knowing your offensive and defensive thresholds. The better one knows how units and classes behave, the less numbers one calculates, the less simulations one does, and the faster one advances. It is a feeling.

 

6 hours ago, Yexin said:

Taking all that I've said until now into account, the way you play an average FE game is "bringing forth your strategy move by move, piece by piece", and the satisfaction you feel comes from the simple fact that you "solved" the situation the game showed you.
From this PoV, FE games look much more like puzzles, meaning that once you've completed one, you basically know how to complete every others, even if the pattern and the pieces are different.

I often say that I play Conquest as a puzzle, and that is exactly why I prefer it over every other Fire Emblem game that I have tried. Precisely because I must find a solution is that I enjoy it so much.
In contrast, in Four Houses there was never an incentive to know how the units or the classes behave. They could be used interchangeably, wield any weapon and attack any enemy without ever being in real danger. There was nothing to analyse, just move forward. The awful map design did not help either.


I do not agree with you in that once one completes a map, one knows how to complete others. Hell, completing a map does not even guarantee that one can complete it again with a different party. Even if one repeated the exact same approach, different units and different classes would behave differently in battle, forcing one to adapt and learn. The fact that chance is factored in every battle ensures that every replay of a map is unique, even if one repeated the exact same party.

I can play (and have played) Conquest dozens of times and still enjoy every campaign. Sure, I increase the challenge through some restrictions, but numerous sections and maps are always thrilling and make me think about how to tackle them with the tools at hand. This thrill, this challenging emotion is something that other Fire Emblem entries that I have tried fail to deliver.
(Note that the way I play the game, it takes place almost exclusively on Player Phase, which increases the player input and grants more control over the development of the battles.)


Having said that, I agree with you in that Fire Emblem's general gameplay lacks something: Challenge and thrill!

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8 hours ago, Samz707 said:

I guess I've always felt the AI is a little too dumb, it says alot that (Only played some of the games so I could be dead wrong) that Echoes in on the 3Ds feels like the only FE game with good enemy AI, since that's the only one in my experience where they actively try to go get healed when injured that is actually falling back to a healer/healing tile instead of just using a health item in their inventory.

This "running away to heal" happens in Tellius, too. Enemies will even trade Vulneraries with one another!

8 hours ago, Glennstavos said:

I completely agree that Fire Emblem is not a game that you improve at. More like a game of sudoku or Picross. Once you understand the information the puzzle is giving you, the method by which you solve it is the same. Furthermore, in an easy sudoku/picross puzzle, the amount of ways you can make your next (correct)move could be dozens or hundreds, while the hardest ones have one, maybe two possible moves to progress - ditto for the hardest fire emblem maps where only one solution is correct barring miracles with the RNG. There's no skill involved in checking enemy stats before making a move, just a time investment. Players get impatient, and that impatience leads to a reset. The difference between a "good player" and an impatient player is that the good player takes way longer to finish a map, and the impatient player may never have to reset thanks to good luck with the rng. And both players will fail when the game isn't giving you all the information, like when ambush spawns show up.

I was about to object by saying that I have gotten better at Sudoku (i.e. discovering processes-of-elimination that I wasn't aware of at first), but I think your general point is sound here. Also, I can take refuge in that last part, when I feel slow for taking thrice as long to beat a Three Houses campaign as my friends.

8 hours ago, Yexin said:

What do you think about this? Do you agree with me? Have you ever stopped for a moment to actively think about it? Or do you think it's too obvious? Do you have any idea on how the player's "active skill" could be added to a FE game, or do you think FE bosses are fine the way they are?
Please do let me know, I'm really curious to see what this discussion can become.

Hm... I think there can be "learn, and improve, from your mistakes" moments in Ironman-style settings. Where you let a unit die, and need to get creative to fill the gap they leave behind, all witout losing their replacement. The counter, of course, is that you just have to be sure to check the numbers, but... well, FE is a game of numbers.

As for encouraging "active skill" in boss battles, maybe their could be more interaction between unit actions and enemy skills? Say, the boss has "Ancient Dragonskin" that halves all damage received, but this is negated for the rest of the turn if you hit them with Light magic. What you find out near the end of one turn, might decide how you order the next turn. Three Houses kinda did this, with monster armor breaks, wherein stuff like turn order and ally positioning came into play. Just an idea!

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6 hours ago, Shanty Pete's 1st Mate said:

This "running away to heal" happens in Tellius, too. Enemies will even trade Vulneraries with one another!

 

Honestly it's getting kinda silly how modern FE insists on mechanics like Pair-up or that Monestary that's literally killed my desire to play Three Houses constantly, yet something as simple as "AI enemies actually trade healing items" is something that apparently isn't important, because why have an intelligent enemy in a strategy game?

I really hope the next FE game actually does improve the AI instead of focusing on a terrible hub system that just adds incredibly obnoxious padding, I kinda play strategy games for the strategy.

 

Edited by Samz707

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2 hours ago, Samz707 said:

Honestly it's getting kinda silly how modern FE insists on mechanics like Pair-up or that Monestary that's literally killed my desire to play Three Houses constantly, yet something as simple as "AI enemies actually trade healing items" is something that apparently isn't important, because why have an intelligent enemy in a strategy game?

I really hope the next FE game actually does improve the AI instead of focusing on a terrible hub system that just adds incredibly obnoxious padding, I kinda play strategy games for the strategy.

There can be both though...?

Still, agreed about trading and self-healing enemies coming back. It came across as weird and disappointing, too, that in Three Houses enemies never used support gambits. Seems like a "kill boss" map would appreciate being surrounded by support units with "Impregnable Wall". Or a well-placed Stride could give some enemies range beyond what you initially see. Oh, and will the enemy army ever find anyone to Dance for them? Certainly, such threats should be used sparingly (so as not to overwhelm the player), but I could see them giving us more to think about, and reinforcing the established strategic tools in the given setting.

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I don't really have any issues with this part of FE tbh. I honestly think they've been adding too much to combat trying to make the game something it's never been. The franchise sets itself apart from many other games and its unique. It feels closer to a tabletop game in the format of a video game rather than a typical jrpg. I hope they do away with battalions and combat arts after this tbh. I understand why many people would like these kinds of additions and I think many see FE as a bit dry. Not me though.

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To me it sounds like you look at FE from the perspective of it being an RPG instead of it being a strategy game – both views are correct I guess, but yeah it boils down to completing a puzzle. I wonder, if you beat, let´s say DS bare fisted with parrying only – is that peak RPG skill? I can tell you right now, Fates had some maps that felt pretty good when beating them – chapter 10 still has me going in with a plan that walks the plank by turn 3 and then I beat it and wonder what the hell just happened?

On 9/27/2020 at 8:26 PM, Yexin said:

Do you have any idea on how the player's "active skill" could be added to a FE game, or do you think FE bosses are fine the way they are?

The only measurement of “active skill” for FE would probably be having a player beat a mode that switches up the enemies, their inventories, skills and stats whilst ironmanning the whole thing and see how far they get – you already have some of this in Awakening (stats & skills) and look how that was received with the fans.

I also disagree on the whole boss thing for FE. In most cases for strategy games the boss or final battle tends to be a strong enemy as well as a map full of bs – dealing with all of that should be something you only get to achieve by applying most of whatever the mechanics of the game are.

On 9/27/2020 at 8:38 PM, Samz707 said:

I guess I've always felt the AI is a little too dumb, it says alot that (Only played some of the games so I could be dead wrong) that Echoes in on the 3Ds feels like the only FE game with good enemy AI, since that's the only one in my experience where they actively try to go get healed when injured that is actually falling back to a healer/healing tile instead of just using a health item in their inventory.

On 9/28/2020 at 2:00 PM, Shanty Pete's 1st Mate said:

Still, agreed about trading and self-healing enemies coming back.

I fail to see why Echoes AI is being praised for running away to heal – they will happily ignore player units that they could have killed in order to get healed from my memory. Another thing to be kept in mind is the value of units – why should the AI care about losing units when they essentially have a large or near unlimited supply and its goal is to stop the player – the player does not have that luxury. Unless it´s some kind of “but it´s more realistic that soldiers want to live” argument.

There would certainly be something to be said about enemies trading weaponry – especially effective weaponry – but they would have to have these weapons to begin with and in most games enemies tend to have any of the bronze-iron-silver weapons and maybe a 1-2 range option, no? In FE:TH the only effective weapon I remember – not having played it a lot - is a guy in Solons final moments with, I think, a Hammer? And remembering some discussions about enemies in Fates, said enemies having effective weaponry wasn´t met with much appreciation and was described as yet one more of the many things hard to keep track of, even with a big fat red exclamation mark when a vulnerable unit was selected to warn the player.

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I think one thing I find difficult to accept is that certain FE games forces you to adopt only a certain playstyle. This results in certain characters or classes almost being completely useless.

For example, armour units in games with big maps like Genealogy of the Holy War and Echoes have limited usage.

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On 9/27/2020 at 2:26 PM, Yexin said:

So, I think we all can agree on the fact that FE is basically "Math: The Game"

Never Before Have I Been So Offended By Something I One Hundred Percent Agree  With | Know Your Meme

On 9/27/2020 at 2:38 PM, Samz707 said:

I guess I've always felt the AI is a little too dumb

It's definitely improved over time. In the old days of NES AI, FE1 has abusable AI in the sense that

-they would always move in a predetermined order

-they would fall back and never attack if they wanted to heal

-they would attack Marth over literally anything else.

Gaiden at least fixed the attacking the lord over everything else, but still had really dumb AI

In the GBA games, it got a lot better.

In path of Radiance, I was actually really impressed when an enemy fell back and traded for a vulnerary.

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