As a youngster I used to love playing Battle Chess on the old Macintosh computers and though I am terrible at the game itself the thrill was to watch those little digital pieces come to life, walking across the board and then attacking each other, knights slashing with their swords, the bishops using the power of god to disintegrate the enemies. I think that's why I love Fire Emblem: Awakening so much as yet again I am not very good at it but it is so pleasing to sit back and watch as the many battles unfold in front of you.
Set in a fantastical land that seems to constantly be in turmoil, your character is found lying motionless in a field by a group of shepherds; awoken by them and with apparent amnesia you soon realise that these shepherds are wearing heavy armour, with it soon becoming apparent their flock isn't the usual fluffy baa kind but the inhabitants of the Halidom of Ylisse, a peaceful kingdom constantly under threat by a group of villainous rival warrior clans. Very quickly you are accepted into the inner circle by Chrom, the apparent leader of the shepherds, inviting you to become their tactician against many threats, not only from the neighbouring nations but also from across the oceans and from a desolate future, with battles spanning generations.
Though hard to tell from all of the screenshots and fancy videos, Fire Emblem: Awakening is a tactical RPG, in fact the basic action is very indicative of pretty much every other game of this genre, you move a unit then attack whatever enemy is in its range, then wait for the enemy to take their turn and repeat. That is it in the most simplistic of terms. Where the game really separates itself from the other titles is the attention to detail of the characters. Your main two characters, Chrom and your own avatar must survive each encounter; death of either will result in a game over. However this does not apply to the huge roster of all the other characters, who each have their own personalities, some annoying, some becoming friendly and familiar faces like a mage that likes death a bit too much, an Eastern European sounding sword for hire, constantly getting misheard or the huge knight that no one ever seems to notice. Each one you will start to love or hate, either way, you have a feeling for them, which makes the game that little bit more interesting as you start to really care for them on the battlefield, praying that you made the right choice as you send them to battle. The idea of friendship not only applies to your feelings for your units but also how they react with each other, with opportunities for them to interact, making friends and having conversations, which in turn will make them work better together on the battlefield, as with each unit they make allegiances, fighting better side by side or even pairing up, resulting not only in stats being increased but also plenty more opportunities for an assisted attack or even a partner stepping in and pushing their friend out of the way of an incoming attack. Something I learned way too late in my initial playthough is that at a certain point characters can even marry, resulting in extra levels appearing that grant you the chance to save your offspring from the future, who will then join your fight in the present.
Though I mentioned I am not very good at this game, dropping far many of my favourite characters and struggling loads o the later levels with no healers of archers, the game will try and help at every turn with what I can say is one of the easiest to follow and most satisfying stat screens, everything is labelled very obviously, never leaving you to any guess work, it's all on screen, scanning though lists of powerups and numbers on the bottom screen, trying to work out what does what is simplified and never gets confusing with pros and cons of basic weapons, swords being better than axes etc., each showing little arrows as to who will have the advantage in battle, plus a no nonsense breakdown of the up and coming battle, showing what your hit points are, your health; with the same going for the enemy, making it very easy for you to decide the best cause of action. Even the inventory is well managed, with you either auto filling vital potions or getting a bit deeper and selecting the five items each can take onto the battlefield youself.