Zapp Branniglenn Posted Sunday at 05:59 AM Share Posted Sunday at 05:59 AM I've been thinking a lot about low manning, which is the practice of playing through Fire Emblem chapters using only a few units (let's say 5, not counting utility units like thieves and staff users). The theory of this style of play is that you end up with a small squad of high level, all-star units that can self-sufficiently spread out, kill what needs killing, and more efficiently play through a map than if you had 10+ units with lower stats and trying to manage all their health and exp gains. It takes less mental power, it takes less IRL time on player phase and it's a natural extension of people replaying a fire emblem game and stress testing what's possible with however many units. Kind of like an LTC, but not sharing the ultimate goal of a low turn count. Many LTCs incidentally low man wherever it makes sense. And it's worth mentioning that low manning might be a short term strategy for any person's playthrough. Maybe the early game units are trash and you're waiting for better ones in mid-game to slot into your long term squad. There's little debate that low manning is "optimal" in many fire emblem games, but does that make for a well designed, open-ended strategy game? I'm not coming at this question from a Game Balance or Unit Balance perspective, I'm coming from a "Fire Emblem should cater and respond to all styles of play" perspective. Is a game where low manning is clearly better than deploying 10+ units a lesser game? In my opinion, (don't feel like you need to agree or disagree with me) I think so. Because players like using lots of units but also don't want to feel like that decision made the game harder on them. If I low man and the game gets arbitrarily easier than the alternative, then the game has failed to respond to that mode of play. I want to survey how different FE games addressed low manning as a strategy (intentionally or unintentionally. I can't very well speculate the reason(s) certain things change game to game, even three developers would likely provide three different answers). FE2: This is the first game whose exp calculation better reflects most FE games. Instead of enemies giving you a fixed amount for damaging or killing them, now it's a complex calculation influenced by your unit level vs the enemy's level (and class tier). Therefore, there's a strain on how quickly units can reach higher levels. FE3 would revert to a modified FE1 formula, but since half of the game is a remake of FE1, this is an understandable revision. FE4: FE4 is the rare game to not have deployment limits along with FE2, so if you want to use and raise every character, nothing is stopping you. However, what's really worth mention about FE4 is its child pairing system. Where the mothers and fathers are encouraged to get as many stats and good items as possible to pass down. That's minimum 16 units in Gen1 you're thinking about beefing up and optimizing to some degree, assuming your pairings are already planned out. There's also a Ranking system. Granted, only a small fraction of players are playing for a good Rank, it definitely informs what is "optimized play" in a FE4 context. To max out the Experience requirement in a ranked run, you need to raise every unit. I think I heard the average level you're aiming for on each unit is 20 for both Generations, though I'm not about to do the math myself, since I know a unit's initial level does not count, only levels that they gained during a playthrough. FE5: Fatigue fatigue fatigue. Units not named Leif will accrue fatigue from every combat. And once that number exceeds their Max HP, they have to take a break for a chapter. If you have a rare, valuable S Drink, this can be subverted, but you may need them later (mostly for staff users, who accrue fatigue faster as they use higher level staves). This results in a game where you're encouraged to use even more than the standard 10-16 deployment slots. Having extra units trained up lets them sub in when someone else is taking a break. I haven't played through all of FE5 myself, but it seems clear this is a low man-unfriendly FE game. Thracia does also feature a ranking system, however it does not track experience gained as one of its criteria FE6 and 7: The Experience criteria in Ranked runs makes a return, this time concerned with the actual amount of experience points rather than level. That might not sound like a distinction, but it does further encourage the use of more, lower leveled units that accrue greater amounts of exp from each kill. It's true that Nino will never be a good unit, but if you're playing for Rank, it makes too much sense to level her up on those late game enemies. Furthermore, FE6 offers Bonus rewards for getting a high rank, So I think that encourages a slightly higher fraction of players to try out a Ranked run. While FE7 has the Tactician Bonus boosting your units performance the more you maintain high rankings throughout a playthrough. FE8-FE12: No Ranking system and no new developments I can think of. Bad games lol. (feel free to add whatever is relevant to the discussion) Awakening/Fates: Oh hey kids are back and there's a lot more mothers to manage. I know Awakening is basically the poster child game for low manning. Just pair up Robin with Chrom and grind your way to untouchable stats and skills. Conquest is probably interesting because of the handful of ninja chapters that will throttle your low man attempts, but since it's not a game that allows for endless grinding (outside of DLC) I don't know how thin the game encourages spreading experience. Three Houses: Okay, now we're back to really addressing the Low manning situation. The first new game mechanic that really decides victory in this game is battalions and gambits. Even generic offensive gambits from an untrained unit can be a potential game changer on certain turns, and someone's gotta hold Stride. So you may as well raise up good units to carry them. By choosing to deploy under the maximum, that's how many battalions you're robbing yourself of. The second new thing is monster battles. These enemies have multiple health bars, and excess damage from the first health bar does not carry over to the next. You need a minimum of one attacker for each. Monsters are best met with a crowd of units and a full loadout of gambits in order to break their armor pieces before they get replenished. But at the same time, I see people low man in this game because their units see more rounds of combat. More class mastery and skill experience, which is easily as important as gaining combat exp from battles. Both modes of play are catered to, neither is easier or more optimal than the other. We will never fully grasp how perfect this game's systems were. What else warrants mention from individual games? Do you enjoy low manning? Do you agree that Fire Emblem games ought to discourage low manning to some degree? Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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