By far, the biggest difference between playing a game during the review period and playing a game after it has launched is the ability to use guides. When you’re playing a game for review, you are completely on your own. There is nothing you can quickly Google. If you’re lucky, someone else at the site may also have a code and therefore be able to help you, or a peer at another site may know of a solution, but I try to avoid these kinds of discussions as it can colour your view of a game to know what others think. Playing Fire Emblem Engage, I felt this gulf in experience more than ever.
There was nothing that particularly stumped me with Fire Emblem Engage. I understood all of the mechanics from previous games and from following the tutorials. I had a good grasp on who were my best fighters and understood why, and there were no battles I struggled on so severely that I was crying out for a guide. I was met with failure that necessitated starting a skirmish over a couple of times, but nothing that would have driven me online in desperate search of a solution, even if one existed.
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However, away from the battles I was in dire need of assistance. My Alear was lovelorn, and I had nowhere to turn. I played as the female Alear, and my preference would be for a lesbian relationship, so I tried my hand at a few. I gave gifts and shared meals with all sorts of characters to try to find the spark. Channelling Three Houses, I flirted with important characters (a la Edelgard), shy characters (Mercedes), and flirtatious characters (Dorothea), to no avail. Queer coded characters had their shot too, but I’ve been burned by Shamir before.
I tried characters who had been with me since the start, characters involved in major story beats, and characters who arrived late in the game. No dice. It may have been that I gave up on some too early – I had a lot of wild oats to sow, so if by B rank Support there was no spark or hint of romantic interest, I often moved on. The most promising ones were carried on to A rank through ceaseless and expensive gift giving however, and still Alear remained maidenless.
Eventually I tried the men. Again, I experimented with a range. There were the ladies men, the dedicated soldiers, the star heroes, and the older daddies. No smooching in sight. Obviously, I had a job to be getting on with, and limited time and funds with which to achieve this job, so I didn’t have time to max out every option. However, no character, regardless of Alear’s emotional investment in them, had the S rank Support option. It could be that it’s a secret, only unlocked if you keep up with the gifts and friendship post A rank Support, but that would be a break from the norm, and a rather stupid one.
I have no idea whether romance isn’t part of the game at all, or whether Alear had the unfortunate habit of chasing lovers who were never going to be interested. It seems unlikely, given how desperate to swap spit my Alear was, but there’s always a chance I barked up the wrong 17 trees, I guess. Should I have pressed on after maxing out? Did I need to give them a specific gift, or finish a particular story beat? Are there any lesbian options at all? I have no idea, I’m not a guides writer.
Maybe when it’s out in the wild and TheGamer has guides racked up, I’ll have a second playthrough and marry Merrin. Until then, Alear is a 1,000 year old virgin.