A few weeks ago I started playing this DS game Fire Emblem (Shadow Dragon). You guys ever played this? It was a bit hard to get into at first, because I was trying to play it as a strategy game. The unit movements were just so large, and there wasn’t a whole lot of strategy. The enemies generally sit there until you come into their movement range, and then they attack you, not a whole lot more goes on. This meant that I had two choices: either stop on the edge of the enemy’s range, then run in attack them next turn, or stop within their range, and let them attack me, before I attack them back.
About three or four levels in, however, I realized that it is less of a traditional strategy, and more of a party RPG. The tactical decisions come in the form of choosing which of your party members can best face the situation at hand, and letting that unit spearhead the rest. As I started getting a diverse selection of party members, my interest got hooked. Each new unit type was a new interesting facet to incorporate into my battle plan.
As I cut a swath through the levels, playing hours at a time, I noticed a few things. There is no way to know specifically what the stats do; you only get a general idea. Units have about six character stats, usually numbering between 1 and 25 each. You get a general idea of what each does, but I had a real craving to know more. Strength probably had something to do with attacking, but how much damage per extra strength point? Speed and Skill were probably somehow related to accuracy and evasion, but how was it calculated? I had an initial guess that resist was related to magic resist, a stat used in LoL, which I used to play, (this guess was correct). Even the weapons had weird acronyms to figure out. There was one stat on each weapon, Mt. This was what confused me most. Mountain? No, it’s actually might, and it’s multiplied by the user’s strength to determine attack power. I was told that swords best axes, axes best lances, and lances best swords, but I was never given a numerical value of what that advantage is. When I matched up these weapon advantages, I just had to assume that the damage I was doing was greater than what I would normally be doing. I did learn all the stats eventually, after looking them up online, but it took a long time due to my lack of internet, so I was fighting blind for a long while.
There is an interesting feature in the game, where between battles, you can turn almost every unit into a different class. You can change them as many times as you want, to half the units in the game, depending on what they started as. This just made me feel like I had waaay too much power as the player, almost like I was cheating. It also put some extra pressure on me to try to have a class to cover every occasion, or optimize classes for each battle specifically, which would have taken forever.
Marth, the main character, turned into a super tank after only a few levels. I trained him specifically because I knew by default I’d have him the whole game, but it got too easy with him able to hack and slash his way through armies.
The game had an interesting feature, wherein when any character (besides Marth) dies, it dies permanently. This was nice and new, but it got problematic for me, because I got attached to some of the characters, and didn’t want them to die, so I would restart the level like 10 times to stop their death from occurring. I had an awesome archer that I kept since one of the early levels, and one day a sniper (second tier archer) decided to join me. I suddenly got pissed off like “what, this first one’s been here with me forever, I’ve trained it all this time and then you just come along twice as strong? No, fuck no, this one’s my archer, not you, you don’t get to just replace someone who’s been here the whole time.” I ended up keeping them both, but making sure to give the original archer most of the kills, until it was able to upgrade to sniper too.
I was really having fun going through this game, taking down the diverse challenges with my strategic wit, until one level turned me off. It was called “a knight filled sky.” In the level, the enemy is able to spawn seemingly infinite amounts of Draco nights (second tier units) and send wave after wave of them at you. The problem is that they have staggered positions, and high movement, so when you attack the first one, you have to put yourself in range of the other ones, there’s no way around it. Then, they always send every unit to attack the weakest unit in your party. They don’t care what’s strategically smart, or about winning the battle, they just want to kill one of your guys permanently at all costs, out of spite. This is when I started feeling cheated; I had to spend multiple levels and painstakingly give lower level units kills to get them to evolve to tier 2, while the enemy could spawn waves of nameless tier 2 units at will. I tried this level probably 10 times, each time restarting because my favorite units were being killed, until I decided that I’d just send in Marth, the super tank, alone. I sent him in, and he ended up massacring everyone. That’s when I realized that my strategy was really for nothing, in the end, Marth is never actually in danger, and my other units don’t matter at all. I could go through the game with any number of interchangeable units, and nothing would change, some would die off, but Marth would always win, no matter how strategically bad I was. For some reason I just didn’t feel like playing anymore, so I set the game down, and haven’t picked it up since.