When it comes to strategy games, Nintendo Switch owners are pretty lucky. We have entries in the Fire Emblem and Valkyria Chronicles series here, as well as Advance Wars on the way and Square Enix SRPGs like Triangle Strategy and the upcoming The DioField Chronicle. But when it comes to Fire Emblem, not all of them are traditional. We have the actual port of the very first game in English, yes. That’s great. But Fire Emblem: Three Houses and the Fire Emblem Warriors games are very different. Which is what makes an upcoming indie port so appreciated. Dark Deity brings with it more classic Fire Emblem elements.
There are many ways in which Dark Deity evokes the Fire Emblem spirit while remaining its own, unique entity. The first is its presentation. This is a strategy game that relies on its sprites and grids. When you head into a map, everyone is on their own square, with the traditional sort of appearance you’d expect from such a game. Some maps can involve gimmicks like being adjacent to certain people or objects for special interactions or being on top of portals for movement. But you have the classic look and movement scheme that calls to mind 3DS, DS, GBA, and SNES installments.
Dark Deity is also a game in which the distinct classes really feel as though they matter. In this way, it can feel more like the Fire Emblem entries we played between the NES and GBA eras. Characters’ skills stick with them and define them. So while you can shift around when you promote them at levels 10 and 30, it isn’t as though you can cobble together an army of Galeforce users who will wipe out most of the opposing forces during a single turn. People sit comfortably in their niches. You need to work with that.
This can mean Dark Deity demands the same sort of smart decisions as early Fire Emblem entries too. Yes, there is an “easy” difficulty level called Mortal. It makes enemies less intimidating and bolsters your own forces. But knowing you must work with the characters and classes you get, while also potentially dealing with stronger than usual enemies and fewer rewards on the Deity difficulty could prove intimidating. I’d almost even say the Grave Wounds system, which appears in place of permadeath and randomly cuts into one ally stats by 10% each time they fall in a fight, could end up being more harrowing than dying. Because at least if someone is gone, you know you can focus on other units. An impaired unit could gradually become worse and worse if you aren’t cautious.
I also appreciate that Dark Deity includes a feature that folks online cobbled together unofficially for Fire Emblem games. Some people in the community made it possible to, say, randomize what people are capable of or when you’ll get them. Think of it as a way to up the challenge or add replay value. When you begin a Dark Deity run, you have that option. You can change aptitudes, randomize enemy classes, items, and weapons, and alter the recruitment order for party members. You can also modify stat increases, the amount of gold you’ll earn, and experience earned. It’s exhilarating. It takes every possible player into account.
The downside is, there is some awkwardness with the Switch version of Dark Deity. In some cases, it involves the input choices. For example, when advancing after a battle or choosing a promotion, you’re pressing the minus symbol to accept, rather than A. Which can take getting used to, since A is used to confirm otherwise in the game. You’ll also spend some time staring at loading screens. Which can feel like a bit much, given this is a 2D, sprite-based game.
Still, Switch owners who take a chance on Dark Deity get a new Fire Emblem-like that respects the “old” ways. It may offer modern conveniences, like dispensing with weapon durability or seals to promote. However, at its heart it respects the traditional approach in terms of art and gameplay. It’s another great option for people who like to think critically and are searching for a challenge.
Dark Deity will come to the Nintendo Switch on March 17, 2022. It is also available on PCs.