Some thoughts on Fire Emblem: Awakening

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I’ve been neglecting this blog. I forget why. Funny story though, about why I came back.

I was doing this survey at the Nintendo website about Fire Emblem: Awakening, which I love with 85% of my heart, when I came across this:

“Please tell us in your own words any other opinions or thoughts about this game (500 character max)…”

So I started on my answer,

“The choice between “Classic” and “Casual” mode so wildly changes the game that I don’t think the rest of it stay the same after the choice is made.”

And I realized this might be a really interesting opinion I have. Also, it might not fit into the 500 character limit. So I’ll put it here instead, with a little editing for clarity. a lot of editing.

At the start of a new game, you’re given a choice between “Classic,” where death in battle is permanent, or “Casual,” where death in battle means they’re just gone until the end of the fight. I tried Classic Mode, thought to myself “It will be a much more immersive experience, it’ll be totally legit, etc.” But I didn’t like it. I found myself in too many battles where someone dies but it took 20 minutes to get where I am, and I could finish the fight with the people left but I just didn’t want anybody dead. So I tried Casual Mode, and I loved the game.

I think that the choice between “Classic” and “Casual” mode so wildly changes the game that it wouldn’t make sense for the rest of the game should stay the same after the choice. The choice changes the player’s concerns and methods too much. (At least, for a player like me.)

Here’s an example: the most challenging stages in the game became worthwhile to me because I enjoyed the challenge. I really like trial and error. If you gave me a Rubik’s Cube, I’d sit down for a few hours figuring it out instead of hopping on the Internet and having someone tell me how it’s done. But in Classic Mode, if every stage were as challenging as the ones I really enjoyed in Casual, my team would be decimated within just a few stages. I don’t think making easier stages would be a good solution to this.* (Oddly enough, after playing through some of the harder stages, I found that a lot of the main story stages are… extremely easy.) I think a better solution would be good tutorials. Give players a sense of danger but show them how to maneuver around the challenges they face.

Thing is, though, I don’t think Awakening really did that. Who knows, maybe I’m just terrible at JRPGs. Maybe I should pay more attention to things. Know what? Scratch that, I don’t think any game should assume players already know what they’re doing. If I’m not given the tools to solve the problems I face, it’ll feel like things are just being taken away from me. Even if the tool is as simple as “Remember not to make any mistakes whatsoever,” I still feel that it needs to be enforced in a non-irreversible way. Otherwise, I don’t feel like I’m in control. I don’t like that.

And I guess I sound like a child when I say that, because life doesn’t always give you control. It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I think that’s what games are for: to give you that illusion of control.

I  could go on and on about the topic, it seems. But I think I’ve somehow made the point I wanted to make (in a very roundabout way). I’ll summarize.

A good game gives you the illusion that you’re in control. For the both the Casual and Classic Mode to do that, they’d have to be pretty different games. Buuut, I guess I could look at Classic Mode more like a challenge mode. The challenge is to keep from making any mistakes. But first, I’d have to get to know the game better. For that, I’ll stick to my Casual. I like to explore without leaving a blazing trail of irreparable destruction behind me.

Even if Classic Mode was “fixed” like I think it should, I would probably still prefer Casual Mode. But this is just based on how I like to play the game. I like to explore. I like the feeling of finding things out on my own. Epigenetics is fascinating. That wasn’t a digression.

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