Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
“Sweet! I’ve got this map nearly sewn up. I’ll just move Ike into this building, over here… Bonus! 10,000 gold! Yes! That’ll come in handy. Hmm, I need some new gear. Half of my force’s weapons are about to fall apart. That’s not good. Now, on to Boyd. He’s looking a bit beat-up, but the healer’s too far away, so I won’t bother fixing that; I’ll just move him over here, out of harm’s way. Easy. Only a couple of turns left.
McTank is coming along nicely. This knight could withstand a ten-tonne truck, let alone some tiny barbarian’s axe. I’m just gonna send him over there, to lay the smackdown on the last couple of units. Great. Lookin’ good. Now, just gotta end the turn. Done.
Enemy’s chance now. Hah! They’re gonna learn the meaning and shame of a true spanking… Wait, what’s this? Enemy reinforcements? What? No worries. Breathe deeply. Boyd is far enough. No… What?! That barbarian can’t cover that much ground! He’s in fighting range already?! I haven’t been able to heal him up yet! No! They’ve entered combat…
BUUUHHHGGGAAAHHH! No! Crap! No way! Dead?! Reset! Reset!”
That, my friends, is a typical scene of someone playing a Fire Emblem game. A turn-based strategy series, with strong RPG elements (if you think Final Fantasy Tactics, you’d be on the right track), Fire Emblem games are known for two things: their addictive, turn-based, strategy gameplay, and PERMANENT CHARACTER DEATH. Yep, that just happened.
That’s developer, Intelligent Systems, for you. They create a bunch of side-characters, which you want to care about (and not just for their work on the battlefield), and make it possible for them to be killed, for good, from the game’s world. That’s right, no spells or potions to bring back your fallen comrade. They’re gone.
In the case of Path of Radiance – Fire Emblem’s first appearance on the GameCube – there’s a whole new story and cast of characters to bond with. Set on the continent of Tellius, a land where three races co-exist: The humans, the beasts, and the Laguz (a race of half-human, half-beast creatures), the story centres around youngster, Ike, and his coming of age in his father’s family business, Greil Mercinaries.
There’s a war afoot, and in war, some people close to you can die. Even worse, some deaths, you just can’t reset. What follows, is a bunch of mission, mainly set around righting the wrongs of a few evil men.
Given the series’ Western home on the GBA, having Path of Radiance on a powerful, 3D capable home console meant that Fire Emblem got the full 3D treatment for gameplay screens and stunning, fully-animated cut scenes for the story bits in between. It certainly is a great looking game.
As part of a turn-based, tactical RPG series, which began almost twenty years ago, Path of Radiance closely follows a finely tuned formula. You get a bit of story exposition, featuring character interaction, and snippets of the plot, then you dive straight into a mission. Given a handful of combat-ready units, you move them across an imaginary grid, to do battle against the enemy. Each unit has limited range that it can cover, and one action that they can perform, before moving on to your next soldier. Once your turn is over, the enemy gets a chance to do the same.
Units come from a variety of combat classes, some are highly armoured melee units, while others are cloth-wearing, firebolt-hurling magicians, capable of doing damage from afar. The key to winning is to know where to put your men, to maximise their strengths, and protect their weaknesses.
Added to this, is a straightforward weapon triangle to consider. Here, Sword beats Axe, Axe beats Lance, and Lance beats Sword. You can still win without taking this into consideration. The triangle just makes it a helluva lot easier.
Part of what makes Fire Emblem games so engaging is the RPG-style levelling system that goes on in the background. Each battle earns that character experience points, and after enough experience is gathered, that character will go up a level, and be given boosts in certain statistics as a reward.
All of this can add to the sense of grief that hits you, when a character that you have spent hours trying to level up, suddenly dies on you. Sure, it’s frustrating, but you really have to go back and restart the mission, in order to get it right. Which really speaks volumes about a game.
SCORING IS OUT OF 5
For players wanting some good, deep tactical action, look no further than Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.