Fire Emblem paid downloadable campaigns often aren’t extensive. The Fire Emblem Awakening The Future Past series consisted of only three episodes. Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ Cindered Shadows took place over seven chapters. Perhaps it shouldn’t feel like Fire Emblem Engage’s Fell Xenologue is so abrupt, but a number of factors leave it feeling like speed-running through a campaign to get the story over with and new characters added.
Editor’s Note: There will be spoilers for the Fire Emblem Engage Fell Xenologue campaign and main storyline below.
Perhaps part of it has to do with its integration. Those who completed Fire Emblem Engage or acquired its DLC Emblem Bracelets before attempting it are aware of it taking place in a multiverse setting. It’s established there are other worlds. One just so happens to be in the Somniel’s Ancient Well. Investigating it abruptly finds Alear summoned to another, fallen world where Sombron and their Divine Dragon Alear both fell in battle at the same time. You quickly accept the mission to help the Fell Dragon children Nel and Nil reclaim the seven Emblem Bracelets so the corrupted warriors within can be put to sleep and granted peace.
While there is this connection between “our” Alear and the Alear that fell in that world, and we are in an alternate Elyos, it lacks the same sort of foundation and connections that Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ Cindered Shadows or even Awakening’s The Future Past possess. The story is quite different here, and the conversations before battles don’t often provide enough context to identify with Nel and Nil. When we meet the Four Hounds of this world — here known as the Four Winds — we again don’t get time to socialize with and meet them. The introductions to many of these chapters’ scenarios are too perfunctory. They can rely on exaggerated or assumed characteristics to determine “new” character personalities, such as for Zelestia or Gregory.
It also means seeing the alternate versions of the royals who act as our allies in the main game can feel like a let down even when conditions are optimal. If you take their counterparts into battle against them and ensure they fight each other, they’ll comment on facing each other. It’s fun enough. But in some cases, we get an “Oops, guess we were accidentally evil, but we’ll be better now!” Granted, this does basically only happen twice, due to the brevity of the expansion, but it still weakens this add-ons’ narrative and makes it feel like a missed opportunity.
This applies to the Fire Emblem Engage maps present in this expansion as well. There are some good ideas here! Corrupted Wolves with Cursed Fangs that permanently drop a character’s max HP for the battle unless you heal that status effect! A map where Ivy and Timerra’s forces are not only targeting you, but each other! Races to get to positions before outnumbered and unarmed characters are killed! It’s exciting and they have potential. But the problem is that some of these ideas only come up briefly, then we never get to see them explored further.
Not to mention that, as interesting as these maps are, there are balancing issues here. The Normal difficulty level is too easy. Especially if someone is coming to the Fire Emblem Engage Fell Xenologue after already completing the main game. Late-game units, such as Mauvier, Timerra, Pandreo, or Veyle, can be comically overpowered in these situations, while ones that can be quite powerful in the main campaign with investment like Jean falter due to preset classes, levels, and equipment. Go into it on Maddening, and even the first chapter is practically unbearable.
All of this culminates in an ending that feels rushed. The major plot points and “twists” lack foreshadowing or the weight to make them feel like they matter. Nel’s admitting to assaulting the royals after the fight happens too abruptly to make it feel truly mysterious or threatening. Likewise, Nil’s sudden heel-turn and reveal as Rafal falls flat. His behavior prior to all this felt too forces, just as some other dialogue did, in an attempt to more quickly convey emotions or tone while trying to speed through this short story.
It’s a shame, because if things had been addressed a bit better, the Fire Emblem Engage Fell Xenologue campaign could have offered a lot more potential. The maps themselves involve some great ideas. They force you to think, so long as you’re on the Hard difficulty or higher, and the concepts can be imaginative. There are some real threats here. But it feels like there isn’t enough of them and like the preset units could have been handled a bit better. Surround that with a narrative that rushes you through everything happening, and it doesn’t get enough time to come into its own.
Fire Emblem Engage is available for the Nintendo Switch, as is the Fell Xenologue DLC.