Way back in February Nintendo released its follow-up to their iOS debut Super Mario Run in the form of Fire Emblem: Heroes. A gatcha game where you try to form teams of four various heroes and types to take on foes, the game had immediate success and moderate legs after initial launch. Jump ahead half a year (plus an extra few months) and the game is still around. And somehow I’m still playing it. Taking the prize for longest iOS game I’ve ever played, how has Fire Emblem: Heroes managed to maintain its hold on me for all this time?
Seriously. It’s been the updates. The core gameplay hasn’t changed since release. You’ll still want certain heroes on your team because they are better suited than others, meaning you’ll want to keep playing to earn Orbs to summon more heroes. Once you get said heroes, you’ll want to start finding the right skills for them to acquire so they can be even more formidable, meaning you’ll have to get more Orbs to summon more heroes in hopes to pull the one you want.
It’s a great system for a mobile game, rewarding you for daily log-ins and repeatedly playing. But the real kicker here, aside from my actual liking of the source material, are the updates and support the game has.
Every week there is something new in the game to do. Usually it’ll be a new set of quests or levels to try, but they offer you a great reward for completing. For example, currently you can enter into a hero battle against a set of story-related enemies to earn some extra Orbs. Also, there is a “Voting Gauntlet” going on, which lets you send just one of your heroes into battle with two other heroes offered up by other players around the globe to duke it out 3v3. This gives you not only a taste of what you’re missing by playing characters you may not have, it also gives big rewards like Feathers which you need to better equip your team.
I found myself a daily player after a few summons and I wound up having some characters who were decent in combat. My focus shifted from getting Orbs to get more people in my team, to getting specific skills for the characters I had already to make them even more devastating in the PvP Arena mode. After I started wiping the floor with the intermediate teams (the middle difficulty level), I moved on to the advanced and hardest difficulty to strut my stuff.
And I was quickly disposed.
I started to go up against teams that were stacked. Teams that literally had all of the best characters, all the way leveled up, and with all the most ridiculous and overpowered skills. I was losing, and I didn’t want to lose. So I kept at it, earning more Orbs, getting more pulls, and getting more heroes on my team.
And suddenly I realized I was hooked. There wasn’t anything wholly new about the game, albeit updates which incentivized to play the game more. Instead it was my own personal goal to make something of what I had. I’ve yet to mention you can pay physical cash to purchase Orbs in the game instead of earning them via quests, but I have not spent any money on the game. I’m playing in hopes of becoming some unknown free to play leader of the masses, who won’t succumb to the tyranny of microtransactions.
But mainly I’m playing, eight months after the game’s release, because it is fun. Like I said, I really enjoy the Fire Emblem series as a whole. I’ve admittedly not played all of the games, only really starting with Awakening and every game released since, but I’ve come to love characters I’ve only met in Heroes. Lyn, Hector, Tiki, and Olivia are just as memorable to me as Ike, Marth, Robin, and Xander.
Here’s hoping Nintendo and Intelligent Systems keep at it with Heroes for a long time. I know some day the updates will end, and the game will be left alone for the fans to enjoy, but for now I’m happy with my time spent on it. The game does an excellent job giving the player rewards no matter what they are doing. The player-created end game goals and the PvP arena make for an exciting achievement once you get there. It’s kind of like beating a game that doesn’t actually have an end. It feels good.
If you haven’t played Fire Emblem: Heroes yet, check it out. It is free, and it will be a fun use of your time. Just don’t get discouraged when you get destroyed by some rich player who bought all the good stuff early on. Work up to it and it will be very rewarding.