Fire Emblem Should Make Permadeath More Appealing

fire emblem joshua death

For over twenty years, permanent death was an essential part of the Fire Emblem experience. Your units were forced to live and die by your choices. If you made a strategic error — or fell afoul of the RNG gods — your characters would pay a permanent price. Countless players wept as their beloved characters fell in battle, while many more reset their games in frustration.

When the series made permadeath optional, it caused a lot of controversy, even among Fire Emblem‘s developers. Some argued that permadeath was the thing that made Fire Emblem special, while others claimed its absence cheapened the game. Even Fire Emblem: Awakening seems slightly derisive of permadeath-free games, referring to this style of gameplay as as “Casual Mode.”

fire emblem casual mode

While I enjoy permadeath in theory, I tend to be frustrated by it in practice. Yes, it can make battles extremely intense, but it can also make them mind-numbingly tedious. I’m the type of person who forms attachments to pens; I don’t have heart to let any of my characters stay dead for good. For me, permadeath isn’t about preventing loss; it’s about not playing lengthy maps over and over again.

At the same time, I think the people who complain about Casual Mode are completely right. Permadeath is a huge part of what makes Fire Emblem special, and playing turning it off does cheapen the game. In older Fire Emblem games, I obsessed over every single move. In Awakening and Fates, I’d let characters drop like flies without so much as a shrug.

Still, the issue with Casual Mode isn’t that it exists; it’s that the game gives you no reason to avoid it. Playing without permadeath doesn’t result in any kind of penalty, and playing with permadeath offers no benefits (aside from some heart-wrenching dialogue). There are no bonus endings, no ultra-rare items, no unlockable characters. You could argue that the additional challenge is its own reward, but I think permadeath players deserve a little something extra.

fire emblem fates permadeath

If players are willing to risk losing units forever — or are cramping their fingers as they spam soft reset — they should receive something in return. When permadeath is optional, it feels like a gamble, and there’s no point in gambling if there’s nothing to win. Players need some kind of dangling carrot, an extra incentive to give permadeath a try.

Casual Mode has made Fire Emblem far more accessible, which is indisputably fantastic. Awakening introduced thousands of gamers to Fire Emblem, and Fates drew in more new players. The series has a bigger fanbase than it’s ever had before.

But it’s time to push these new players — and veteran ones — into leaving Casual Mode behind. Players have gotten a glimpse of what makes Fire Emblem fantastic. Now, they just need a reason to take off their training wheels.

fire emblem deathPermadeath can be tiresome, but when executed well, there’s nothing else like it. Killing one of your characters is incredibly painful, even when you know they can be saved with a press of the power button. Close calls are terrifying, then exhilarating, and victories feel like a genuine triumph.

Players need to be enticed into experiencing permadeath, into putting the lives of their units on the line. Casual Mode is extremely convenient, and as it stands, there’s no compelling reason to leave it behind. The next Fire Emblem should motivate players to risk it all.

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