There's little doubt that Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest delivers on every front that it promised fans, serving up an interesting narrative and tough-as-nails gameplay.
Being bad has never felt so good, at least, that's what players that opt to go down the dark and twisted path featured in Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest will quickly learn. Despite siding with the evil kingdom of Nohr, however, the player's protagonist (who's default name is Corrin) is still a rather nice gal/guy, so there's no substantial slip to the Dark Side as some fans may have initially suspected. That said, gamers that find themselves taking that route are in for one of the toughest campaigns the series has seen yet.
For those new to the series, they'll quickly find that the narrative is one of the more engaging aspects of Fire Emblem Fates. Along the way, players are introduced to new friends, loveable companions will die, and allies will turn on you. It's almost like a friendlier version of Game of Thrones, with an addictive style of gameplay that will pull gamers in for multiple hour-long sessions in any given day.
It's an incredibly pickup-and-play friendly turn-based strategy game, but it still offers those hoping to sink hours of their time into a single playthrough a wide range of different battlefields and foes to conquer. That's the beauty of this Fire Emblem though, as it allows fans to jump in and jump out at a moment's notice. It's not possible to save mid-battle for those playing on Classic mode though, which is a silly oversight given how long some of the battles turn out to be.
Veterans curious as to whether the gameplay holds up will find solace in the fact that it sticks to the tried and true turn-based antics of its predecessors. As a result, those that played through the previous entry in the series, Awakening, will feel right at home, as it's largely the same. Every class features a weakness, a certain amount of movement spaces allotted to them, and friendships amongst fellow soldiers that can be built up to make them a better team on the battlefield. It's all still there and it's all largely untouched, which is exactly what longstanding fans will want to hear.
Still, a lack of upgrades has made Conquest feel like an expansion of its predecessor more than a real evolution of the series. Anyone that played the aforementioned Awakening won't be surprised by what's offered here, and that may present itself as a little disheartening for anyone looking for something new. Those simply hoping for more of the same, however, are in for just that, and will almost certainly enjoy their time trying to invade the kingdom of Hoshido.
That's not to say that it's without its additions though, as Fire Emblem Fates has implemented a base-building feature. Within this mode, players are able to construct a kingdom with preset buildings, stat-raising statues, defenses, and various resource generators. As players progress through the campaign, they'll receive points to build up their base, and, eventually, they'll be able to fight off invading troops. This is where construction comes in handy, as a well-built base makes it much harder to lose an ensuing battle.
This isn't an overly engaging feature, especially since we weren't able to utilize the title's StreetPass aspect given that the game was still pre-release. Still, it sounds like carrying Fates around may end up making the game even more engaging than it already is through its 'My Castle' battles. These mini-wars will pop up from time to time in-game regardless of passersby, but encountering other players, besting them by taking out their troops or capturing their throne, and then purchasing units and the like from their defeated ranks sounds like an enticing option with some serious payoff.
In the end, Fire Emblem Fates is exactly the kind of game that fans of the series will love, because it feels like an extension of what was offered in past iterations. Building relationships with characters that fall in love, have children, and then die in battle has a profound impact on the player as they trudge through the heat of battle, and the narrative keeps stringing the user's avatar along on a quest to end all of the bloodshed. It's a very well-made and impactful turn-based RPG, and it will handily suck hours of time away from anyone that gives it a chance.
Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest and Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright will arrive exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS on February 19, 2016.