The header image for this review could be better; I certainly have enough quality screenshots to allow for a clearer, more suitable replacement, and yet I chose to use the one above for whatever reason. If that kind of unimaginably dumb decision bothers you, Fire Emblem Fates games probably won’t be your cup of tea, especially when it comes to the DLC-only “true path” that is Revelation. Put simply, there are a staggering number of of issues it suffers from, the kind of things so glaringly obvious that even a second-rate indie dev would know better, and this somehow manages to be true of everything from the mechanics to the story. Revelation is a train wreck so profoundly dumb and patronizing that my loyalty to the series has finally reached the breaking point, a pale shadow of Fire Emblems past coated head to toe in bad anime fan fiction where everything magically works out once the hero gives a lame speech about the power of friendship. Every facet of this game is a disaster, and while it’s hard to say whether it or Conquest is the worst game in the franchise, both are at the absolute bottom of the pile.
Bad in new ways
You’d think that I’d have run out of stuff to criticize after my reviews of Conquest and Birthright that weigh in at something like a combined 7,900 words, but my complaints still managed to run up against the character limit in my notes three times. I even had to cut out some of the profanity to keep from having to use a fourth memo section, which would be a first. In fact, this is only the second time in this site’s history that I’ve had so many things worth pointing out that it required three separate memo sections on my phone. I won’t even cover everything that’s wrong with Revelation here; my reviews of Conquest and Birthright should suffice to give you an idea of the many things wrong with the changes the Fates trio have brought with them. No—this game invents entirely new problems and exacerbates many of the old ones, and there’s sadly a lot to talk about because of it.
I made the mistake of expecting decent writing
Conquest’s writing was a mess, an incoherent apologize-a-thon littered with nonsensical decisions and unrealistic expectations on the part of the playable character. Birthright’s story at least had the benefit of seeing you side with the “good” guys, leading to a more traditional kind of setup, and the main character showing much more resolve than their limp-wristed Conquest variant made up for some of the story flubs. I don’t think it was unreasonable to assume that Revelation, being the true path, would sport the best writing of the three games, but it instead manages to rival Conquest in the amount of contrived stupidity shoveled into the game’s story. Let’s start at the beginning—when you’re asked to choose who to side with six chapters in, Revelation begins with your character choosing to side with no one. One would assume that this is because the player-created main character (I named mine Grapeshot for his purple hair) correctly deduced that something else was happening behind the scenes, but he instead waffles around, tapping into his Conquest character as he shuffles his feet and apologizes profusely to everyone. That’s not even the dumbest thing that happens in this chapter; immediately after declaring that he’s not joining either, both older brothers denounce the main character as a traitor as though he had openly sided with the other. This would be all well and good if the three games didn’t also prominently feature the neutral kingdom of Izumo, which both royal families are shown to respect the neutrality of. This kind of random, convenient inconsistency that exists solely for the sake of forced drama is frustratingly common.
Azura makes no sense in these games
Immediately after almost everyone in the entire world decides that the main character is the worst person in the history of life, mysterious princess Azura takes him to the magical land of Valla to hide and uses the opportunity to finally explain everything. That’s not an exaggeration, either—you learn more in Chapter 7 of Revelation than in the whole of Birthright and Conquest combined. It’s a huge info dump, and here’s the part that really bothers me: while she couldn’t explain anything for most of the other two games because talking about Valla outside of it causes you to disappear thanks to an absurdly convenient curse (let’s be honest, this is just bad writing), this isn’t the only game where the main character and Azura end up in Valla together. Chapter 15 of Conquest sees him or her follow Azura through a portal to Valla, and yet she refuses to actually explain in that case. Instead, she tosses out a few cryptic bits of information and you’re pretty much left to forget about the whole thing despite being in an arguably better position to unite everyone against the figure masterminding everything. It makes no sense whatsoever given her motivations and history for her to remain silent there.
Characters join for asinine reasons
Becoming an enemy of everyone is a contrived bit of storytelling, but the ways they stop being enemies somehow manage to be even worse. For example, Takumi refuses to join early in the game, only for a random other character to insist. Then out of nowhere, that character gives you a bit of vague, completely unneeded advice on what to do next and subsequently drops dead, at which point Takumi decides to honor their dying wish by joining. There are so many things wrong with this that I don’t even know where to begin. The most obvious problem here is that it’s an absolutely unnecessary death included not because it makes sense or carries any kind of emotional weight, but because the writers are so stunningly incompetent that they couldn’t come up with a more natural way of having a character distrustful of the main character join their group. This is true of a surprising number of siblings joining, with the other one that really bothered me being Camilla. In Birthright, Camilla failed to kill the main character on two separate occasions and still went back to the castle without worries (Elise verifies this when you catch her selling flowers). In Revelation, however, she joins the main character’s group the very first time she fails to kill them because she fears that Garon will kill her for her failure. Except there’s no evidence that this is actually true, and she clearly had no such fears in Birthright. It’s just sloppy writing, and even that’s arguably trumped by the characters who join you because Garon conveniently starts going on maniacal public rants about destroying the entire world rather than showing restraint around others like in Conquest.
This story was written for children
Fire Emblem Fates thinks that you’re stupid, and your created character will therefore demonstrate the kind of stupidity expected out of you. The most obvious example of this is when a playable character is suddenly killed off for the first time in all three games (before this point, story deaths have been all NPCs) by a traitor in your party, only for the killer to stupidly recount a small detail they weren’t present to know about, outing them as the killer. You then have to sit around for an entire chapter waiting for the killer to screw up again before your character actually puts 2 and 2 together in an incredibly patronizing flashback and calls them out on it. Making all of this even more frustrating is the fact that they have no reason to mention the small detail that outs them in the first place. They weren’t cornered or otherwise compelled to bring it up—they actually steer the conversation in that direction entirely on their own, yet again highlighting the maddening incompetence of the writers. This only serves to highlight something I noticed about the story in general: this wasn’t written to be a good story. This was written to be an accessible story that all demographics (including children) could easily follow. As a result, the plot ends up lacking any kind of nuance or cleverness, coming across more like bad fan fiction than anything remotely professional.
Not convinced yet? That’s fine; I have another similarly appalling example. Later in the game, you come across an NPC in distress and the main character decides to trust this completely random character implicitly, even when everyone else is channeling their inner Admiral Ackbars and insisting that it’s clearly a trap. Then it ends up being a trap, and what does everyone do? They tell the main character that they only follow him because of how trusting he is, and encourage him to continue being as stupid and gullible as he’s been up to that point.
Still need more? Well, there’s always the fact that the bad guy behind everything that happens in all three games—a figure supposedly blessed with “unlimited knowledge and foresight” (that’s a direct quote)—came up with a plan for achieving his goals that makes no sense whatsoever and that consistently fails to take into consideration the main character’s ability to whack at him and others with a sword. An enemy possessed by him even fails to kill the main character while they’re unconscious and no one is around to witness the deed, not even bothering to try for some inexplicable reason. You’d think that a character with foresight would be able to see all of these things coming back to bite them in the end (after all, that’s what foresight is), or at least come up with some creative ways of eliminating the main character that take into account what they’ll do, but the villain’s plans manage to be consistently underwhelming and disappointingly bland, more on par with a regular grunt baddie than any kind of scheming mastermind.
YOU DON’T EVEN GET ALL OF THE STORY HERE
Revelation has plenty of time for the main character to get into random speeches about the power of believing in each other and friendship. Grapeshot even managed to break a curse with the power of his belief in a friend (again, this has “bad anime” written all over it). You know what the game doesn’t have time for? Relevant story details. For example, Fates has three characters from Awakening in it. How did they get there? Who sent them? I found the answers by wiki-hopping, and that’s not all I found. It turns out that a huge detail about the main character’s lineage is hinted at, but never actually explored in any of the Fates games. If you want to have the game elaborate on that detail or explain why Severa, Owain, and Inigo are in the game (using the pseudonyms Selena, Odin, and Laslow), then guess what? You have to buy even more DLC! Keep in mind that I’ve already purchased three games, spending something like 80-100 dollars on Fates because of the idiotic, anti-consumer decision to needlessly split the game into three paths. Locking important story details behind yet more DLC in addition to that is some of the scummiest behavior I’ve ever seen on the part of a developer. If you have any self-respect as a consumer, don’t support these con artists with your money.
Revelation is the king of gimmicks
Conquest had an unhealthy reliance on gimmicks, but Revelation turns this up to 11 and rips the knob off. Every level seems to have a stupid gimmick attached: obstacles you pick up and then use to block the advance of enemies, mandatory dragon veins that have to be activated to continue, elevators and other moving platforms that can only transport some of your team, and even a level where enemies are hidden under snow (seriously) and you have to slowly break one piece at a time to uncover them and work your way to the boss. That last one’s particularly egregious because ending the turn by breaking a block risks a bunch of enemies coming out from under the snow once you’ve already used your characters, giving them a bunch of free attacks on everyone. Because of this, I found myself constantly ending turns before everyone had seen use, only clearing the snow when all of my other characters were nearby and hadn’t been used yet. This kind of “enemies are hidden and pop up out of nowhere” gimmick is used a few times, actually, including in Chapter 7, where enemies are obscured by darkness, forcing you to advance at a painfully slow rate.
It even reuses gimmicks from the other two Fates games. That level in Conquest where you use a dragon vein to clone your army? That’s back. So is the Wind Tribe level where the wind currents move your characters all around. The Fort Jinya level with healing tiles from Birthright is also reused, playing out just the same as it did there with the only difference being that you’re the attacker instead of the defender this time around. All this serves to do is demonstrate how bad Revelation’s gimmicks are compared to those that came before; if given the choice between that Conquest level with the “good” and “bad” pots and the stupidity of later Revelation levels, I’d take the pots level every time. Let me give you a few tastes of Revelation’s insufferable gimmickry. First, Chapter 16 and 17 play out back-to-back without the ability to save. You have no way of knowing this ahead of time, and while this has been used before for Fates games’ endgame chapters, having a no-save limitation hit you out of nowhere midway through the game is incredibly aggravating, especially since Chapter 17 gives you a bunch of mandatory retainer characters who are under-leveled. Keeping them alive while enemies charge at your group proves to be a serious hassle, and this is doubly frustrating for those of us who play with permadeath on and refuse to allow any characters to die because a small mistake can mean replaying the previous level all over again.
Then you have later levels where you have to stem the tide of endlessly-spawning enemies by using a bunch of dragon veins. I was so sick of the game by this point that I instead found found ways to abuse my hoard of rescue staves in order to clear these maps in a single turn. Nothing was quite as annoying as the endgame level, however. When starting the level, you see nothing but your units and the boss. I figured it must be an incredibly difficult boss and brought along a bunch of healers armed with nothing but staves to keep my stronger units alive. Then I started the level and the game warped in six enemy units before I had moved a single character. And remember, this was the endgame chapter, so when those enemies found and killed the healers who couldn’t protect themselves, I had to play through the chapter before it all over again. This is unforgivable game design.
Speaking of unforgivable design, there’s a level where you’re going through three separate areas, each blocked by two colored doors. An NPC is guiding you through this area, and you have to decide whether she’s telling the truth about which door to go through or not. If you choose the wrong door, a bomb goes off and reduces your characters’ health to a single hit point as a bunch of enemies mob them. It’s pretty much an instant death for any nearby characters because of this, and if there was any doubt before about Fates games being balanced around permadeath being off rather than on, this level does an amazing job of dispelling it.
Many mechanics are explained poorly
Let’s start with something that’s true of all three games: weapons with stat reductions. This is most notable as it concerns katanas—one katana will reduce your defense and resistance stats by 1 without telling you, whereas another will reduce both by 4 and actually inform you about it. As it turns out, all katanas reduce those attributes by at least 1, which is something you can only learn by reading the description of an entirely different katana that you may have never actually used. Needless to say, this is communicated poorly. Also communicated poorly is the order of events when you get to the part of the game that has automatically-moving platforms. Since these move during the enemy turn, I found myself wondering if landing near enemies would cause them to attack me during that very same turn. This is the kind of thing that can only be figured out through trial and error, and when these stages also happen to be filled with mandatory dragon veins, experimentation becomes a really tedious thing. In case anyone’s wondering, the platforms move at the very end of the enemy turn, so it becomes your turn right after they finish moving rather than giving enemies a free shot at your characters. That’s actually a surprisingly not-terrible decision, unlike the decision to have your cloned units in that level where you clone your army not actually use the skills they have; if you have a unit that has the Renewal skill (godly HP regeneration each turn) but the “real” version is backing up another unit, the clone won’t regenerate health like the original would. Revelation is filled with these kinds of stupid, counter-intuitive discoveries thanks to its reliance on endless half-baked gimmicks.
The perspective is terrible
I play 3DS games on a 2DS, which makes it incredibly annoying when certain levels’ attempts to add a sense of depth instead make them a confusing mess of squares. As another example, would you believe that Elise is actually out of enemy range in this screenshot? Of course you wouldn’t—she looks like she just entered the purple area that shows where your character can be attacked by an enemy. She didn’t, though. The attempt at depth here caused the squares below to overlap those above them, making it appear that way. Yet more sloppy design.
All the previous games’ flaws are here, too
I told myself when I started writing this that I wasn’t going to write out another 4,000-word rant highlighting every single thing wrong with the game, but that doesn’t mean that the things wrong with the other games aren’t a problem here, too. The lack of weapon durability still gives you no sense of weapon progression. The amount of grinding involved in upgrading weapons, leveling up Lilth, unlocking support conversations, and all of that other fluff is still embarrassing. Some enemies still have random skills that are a giant middle finger (most notably, some Faceless can hit you with a Freeze staff effect simply by landing a blow on you), and while this is far rarer than it was in Conquest, it’s still annoying. The reliance on stat debuffs to succeed is still the farthest thing from fun, and using tanks so that enemies debuff their own stats to 0 is still a cheap strategy that trivializes parts of the game that should be hard. “Spy” weapons still allow you to play cheap and kill many bosses without them ever attacking you. There’s just too much wrong with this game to be able to cover it all in a single review.
The graphics and music have grown old
My Birthright review didn’t cover the game’s graphics and music because I commented on both when I covered Conquest, but three games filled with the same art, same music, and many of the same levels have really taught me to hate most of those things. I hate the jaunty, repetitive music that plays in Chapter 27 of all three games. I hate the slow, unskippable “Lilith eating” animation that you have to watch ~70 times per game if you want her to actually help in the castle battles. I hate that Revelation shamelessly reuses the “divine weapons coming together” pictures from Conquest and Birthright. I could go on and on, but I feel the need to end on a positive note if only for the sake of my sanity: if there’s one thing Revelation does right, it’s including new cutscenes and background pictures that are of a high quality. There’s a bit of both in the previous two games, of course, but it definitely struck me as being a bit more prevalent here. So there’s that! Sigh.