Today we shall explore the game Fire Emblem: Awakening, specifically the characters and the way the narrative of this game buillds into and out of gameplay.
The Fire Emblem series of games are a what can be called a Tacticle JRPG in a High Fantasy sort of setting with magic and dragons, where people fight with swords and axes. In Fire Emblem: Awakening we play as a stranger (default name is Robin) who wakes up with no memory and help Prince Chrom.
Just look at the number of them – I am not going to rattle off about each and every one of these guys, but I will mention that all of them are different, can grow differently, fight with different styles and depending on your style of play are either indispensible or completely useless to your party build.
What is interesting though is the idea that each of these characters has a story to tell, and this story is told not by a bunch of character specific side quests or cutscenes but comes out by growing the relationships between the various characters.
A lot of games try to do this as well, Persona2-4 being the obvious choices. So what makes Fire Emblem Awakening stand out so much?
So to start of not only does building up relationship status allow for a bonus stats during the actual tatical battle system but it also permeates into a lot of the storylines of the children that the characters can have… yeah the main characters have kids – awesome right the amount of influence you have on these characters’ life.
Well, if you play it long enough you will realize that the kids are always the same for the mothers and it is simply the father who changes but at the same time the child’s skills are based on what the parents skills were going into the story mission for that child so…. some amount of affordance on part of the players chaoices for marriage pairings. It does create an interesting min-maxing for the best skill combos for the child’s skills.
At the same time it makes players invested in protecting and playing with certain characters in order to progress not just the story line but to take advantage of the various boosts and buffs that good chraters relationships create. So in games that are played out in the classic style where death is permanent, each character has meaning and wait especilly if the player is going through the game optimizing his/her gameplay for the best outcomes. It should also be noted that if done properly all of the children can end up more powerfull than their parents.
As players play through this game not only do their actions directly develop the narrative of each character through this epic journey, but alsoopens up avenues of further narrative and character development of other characters.
While I do go on about how great the narrative building is a unique experience of each playthrough there are some flaws. Initial ‘premise-oriented’ character traits are maintained. This means that even if you get two people married to different people, if their intial relationship setup was to be that of a stalker and the stalked then that dialogue kind of still occurs.
This does kind of break down the idea that the player has some agency over the relationship storylines and creates some expectancy that the choices would be far more meaningful and can affect even the dialogue. It could be something that could be developed and implemented into future Fire Emblem games.