Fire Emblem Heroes是怎樣從1000萬用戶中賺取1億美元的

本文原作者:Anil Das Gupta 譯者Willow Wu

任天堂的的第二款手遊,同時也是第三款移動應用,在app store上架已經近6個月了。當日式傳統RPG遇上Intelligent Systems公司(任天堂旗下)的經典的Fire Emblem系列,其結果是Fire Emblem Heroes與之前的Super Mario Run和Miitomo相比更加手遊化。極其有趣的對戰獎勵機制給玩家帶來了十分流暢和愉快的遊戲體驗,事實也證明了也非常吸金。

儘管Fire Emblem Heroes已經在全球區域的Apple Store和Google Play Store上架,但是它的下載量只有1000萬左右,暴露了其缺乏用戶獲取量和商機。雖然下載量不多,但是這並沒有給遊戲的收益拖後腿。

Fire Emblem的相關介紹

大約在1990年的時候,日本人發售了Fire Emblem,當時只能在紅白機(西方稱爲NES)上操作。2003年,Super Smash Bros.問世,兩個主人公是從Marth and Roy系列而來。此遊戲的大受歡迎程度也說服了任天堂開始在西方市場發售商品。

Fire Emblem Heroes (from gamasutra.com)

Fire Emblem Heroes (from gamasutra.com)

始於2003年的Fire Emblem:在Gameboy Advance平臺上的The Blazing Blade,Fire Emblem利用任天堂的硬件設備向世人展現了設計優良的回合制RPG的流暢遊戲體驗。雖然遊戲的每個系列都有不同,但是核心配方一直都是由許多任務構成的回合制的RPG模式。作爲玩家,你可以招募英雄,在後續的戰鬥中派遣並隨着時間提升技能。然而,玩家們需要謹慎管理好他們的團隊。因爲當某個角色在戰鬥中死掉了之後,這個角色就不會再回來了。(毫不意外,這個功能沒能在移動平臺上實現)

其中一個Game Cube版本的遊戲,這個系列不得不轉爲3D模式,並且提升複雜性。

僅用話語來形容Fire Emblem系列的吸引力是有難度的,但是本質上來說,這種核心玩法爲玩家提供了多種多樣的戰術策略。這個玩法有很多優勢。你可以組建一個的團隊來爲你執行自制的戰術策略,另外,遊戲中也有海量的潛在戰術供你使用。從根本上說,這種理念並不一定會讓遊戲成爲主流,但是會收穫一批非常穩定,堅定的忠實玩家。

Fire Emblem雖不會被看作是像Mario, Zelda或者Pokemon這樣Nintendo IP中的王牌代表作,但是絕對是引領潮流的一大作品。並且,在任天堂每發佈一款新設備之後的1至2年,Fire Emblem都會跟着在該設備平臺上架。因此,看看Intelligent Systems公司會如何發展移動產品是一件很有趣的事情。

核心循環

Fire Emblem中的核心循環

此遊戲採用了一種對玩家十分熟悉的循環結構,可以在其他很多日式RPG遊戲中看到,例如Brave Frontier, Final Fantasy Exvius, Summoner’s War等等。大體上,遊戲的貨幣體制也是一樣的,玩家可以通過PvE或者PvP模式戰鬥獲得財富。無論是通過哪種模式升級英雄都可以讓玩家繼續投資、升級英雄。玩家可以通過玩扭蛋(遊戲邦注:Gacha)來加速上述過程,獲得更加稀有、強大的遊戲角色,雖然這不用花錢就能得到,但是可能要花費更多時間才能成功。

相比較於其他競爭對手,Fire Emblem Heroes的最大不同之處在於它的核心玩法細節豐富,不盡相同,讓玩家感受到樂趣,而不是無聊。也正因爲如此,Fire Emblem Heroes中沒有基礎建設進化系統。這種系統在其他遊戲,例如Summoner’s War和Brave Frontier是有的。取而代之的是遊戲通過定製不同的個人技能,讓角色在深度刻畫上有着很好的效果。組隊策略也成了遊戲中非常重要的部分。

我打算在這篇文章裏花費大篇幅來談談這款遊戲的核心玩法,因爲這就是它的閃光點所在。對於大部分RPG手游來說,這是一種不一樣的途徑,大概是反映了該遊戲的主機傳統特性。從個人角度來看,我認爲某些競爭對手遊戲比它多了一些枯燥,因爲這遊戲的核心玩法給了玩家很多樂趣。如果你只是RPG的路人粉,對於元遊戲、進化系統、塑造你最喜歡的遊戲角色這些方面更感興趣,遊戲中也提供了自動戰鬥和跳過動畫的選項來加速進程。

Fire Emblem Heroes (from gamasutra.com)

Fire Emblem Heroes (from gamasutra.com)

PvE模式和英雄們

在覈心部分,遊戲採用一種非常直接的模式用於PvE上。玩家可以選擇自己的任務,每個任務都會隨着時間提升難度,增加體力消耗。如果玩家完成某個章節,也可以解鎖該章節中戰鬥的困難模式。瘋狂難度模式增加了可玩性,也可以幫助玩家積累經驗值,解鎖後期的新角色。

遊戲會慷慨地贈給玩家的魔法球(Orbs),幾乎每個任務之後都會給一個魔法球,而不是像其他大部分日式RPG遊戲一樣,等到整個章節完成之後纔給。這有可能會減少潛在的平均每付費用戶收入,但是可能會更符合任天堂的總品牌理念,並且也有可能更好地留住玩家。

正如其名,Fire Emblem的重點就在於英雄。發佈時大約有60位英雄,後續會有更多角色定期加入。英雄有各種類型,不同顏色屬性,角色差異也體現在覈心玩法上。每個任務可難可易,仔細斟酌你會遇到的敵人和你手上的英雄。要成爲主宰遊戲的真正高手,久了之後你就會想要一個面面俱到的團隊,擁有各種類型的強大英雄。這就意味着你需要經常回去打之前的任務,返回training tower升級你的英雄。

戰鬥機制

Fire Emblem Heroes中的戰鬥模式和主機副本很相似,但是進行了一定優化來適應移動平臺。戰鬥是在6*9的格子中進行的,比主機版本小了很多。遊戲本可以利用多屏模式來製作更大的戰場,但是很顯然遊戲的設計初衷是單手操作,耗費時間少,能夠比主機版本更快地解決戰鬥。

遊戲中的戰鬥有很多細微差別,所提供的戰術策略中有很多奧妙值得深究。有些角色需要提供支援,讓其他成員的的技能增強,但是最終還是會變弱。有些角色能發出deadly ranged attacks,但是近身戰鬥就會死得很慘。有些角色擅長減益敵人的能力,意思就是你可以讓敵人暫時變弱直到己方開始攻擊。這些是頂級遊戲決策的其中幾個,但是也能給你個關於遊戲走向的想法。

我特別喜歡研究不同英雄和技能組合之中的妙處。例如,我有一個叫Tiki的角色,當她發動攻擊時能夠治癒相鄰的成員,但是速度相當慢。然而,如果使用我贏來的其中一個騎士,我能用他的能力把Tiki“推”進戰場的更深處。有了兩個強大的飛行角色,我可以利用Tiki治癒並支援他們,同時也能保證Tiki的安全。遊戲中充滿了戰鬥,像這樣的團隊協作真的非常容易讓人玩上癮。我時不時發覺自己在思考手下的英雄怎麼組隊,隊友之間怎麼互動,這就形成了一個強大的召回機制來讓我返回遊戲。

大多數角色也有自己特有的招數,當觸發器準備好的時候,就能自動觸發。這就意味着你得經常提前計劃一些應變讓你的團隊發揮出最大的潛能,而不是把特殊招數浪費在一個無論怎樣都能殺死對方的攻擊上,這等同於輸掉了一場你本該贏的戰鬥。有些特殊角色也有像區域攻擊或者治癒鄰近成員的技能,所以核心玩法能讓你時刻保持警惕。

升級英雄

儘管遊戲中有劇情模式,但是劇情並不是最引人入勝的部分。本質上來說,它只是個門面,引誘你進入另一個令人滿意的部分,就是核心玩法。隨着時間,你對角色的投入越來越多,角色的實際發展就來源於此。英雄的屬性值開始增長,時間久了以後你的角色還能學到新的技能。你可以使用新技能來改變角色的戰鬥方式。

跟主機版本對比有一個有趣的小區別,角色獲取經驗值的主要方式是通過輸出傷害和/或者勝利完成對敵人的最後一擊。這就意味着當你要對角色進行屬性升級時,你必須要計劃一下戰鬥方式。不要用攻擊力很強的招數一下消滅敵人,而是要把他們打到足夠虛弱的狀態然後讓你團隊中級別比較低的英雄去發動最後一擊。另外,英雄死亡的時候是不會得到任何經驗值的,因此你也得把這點考慮到。角色們能在戰鬥中升級,這很特殊,但是能爲你的戰鬥中添加很多樂趣。

在遠征和training tower中能獲得名爲水晶(Crystals)和碎片(Shards)的物品,可以用來快速升級英雄。這些就是基礎的經驗值藥劑(遊戲邦注:XP potions),特定顏色的碎片需要對應顏色的角色,普通的碎片可以用在任意角色上。這些道具只會在特定的某幾天出現在training tower中,也就意味着在遊戲中後期,你需要留心一下游戲週期。

不久之後,玩家就會在升級英雄的過程中遇到更多障礙。鑑於水晶是用於低於20級的角色,一旦他們過了20級,就需要碎片了。另外,要讓英雄屬性值最大化,你可能會想要解鎖他們潛在的合體技能。這些東西彌補了傳統合體系統的缺失,而且還不是最直觀的。然而,它們是有目的的,並且有效地爲遊戲後期的大部分玩家做了決策——那就是在戰場上取得勝利,去training tower獲取所需的稀有資源,升級角色,讓他們的屬性達到最大值。

扭蛋

扭蛋是所有RPG遊戲的命脈,製作人員創造出了許多2D的有利道具,並且能夠快速得到,也是玩家們迫切需求的。實際上,Fire Emblem給它的遊戲引入了一個相當特別的系統,當玩家一次性召喚5個英雄時,就可以得到折扣。玩家也是可以對扭蛋結果產生影響的,通過選擇Legendary英雄或者Devoted英雄(取決於他們的類型),和預先看看他們能獲得的顏色是什麼。如果你特別想要Marth,一位紅色英雄,你去召喚但是沒有紅色的了,你只需要搖一次就能知道在這個召喚週期內是沒有辦法得到他的。

有趣的是這意味着作爲一個玩家,你的目標通常是拿到20魔法球,那樣才能瘋狂地玩扭蛋來召喚新的英雄。這能幫助你設立日常目標和周目標,讓遊戲變得公平合理。看到別人只用了你一半的次數就搖出3個5星角色當然是件很痛苦的事,但是這真的是運氣問題,扭蛋遊戲就是這樣的。儘管玩家手上的魔法球不到20個,但是遊戲不會鼓勵玩家去購買。所以這能不能提升平均每付費用戶收入或者增加兌換20魔法球捆綁包的玩家,是個很有趣的問題。

Fire Emblem Heroes (from gamasutra.com)

Fire Emblem Heroes (from gamasutra.com)

此時此刻,我也得大力誇讚一下游戲中的扭蛋片段實在是太棒了。有些角色得到他們的時候會播放一個小影片,這是我玩過的所有扭蛋遊戲中最佳體驗的之一。遊戲的質量級別和精細程度都有非常的高水準,即使它是2D的,我也得說這遊戲比起Clash Royale從很多方面來看更像是一個3A級別的典型佳作。

PvP/競技場決鬥

遊戲中有種模式稱爲“Arena”,競技場決鬥,這是目前最接近PvP模式的部分。其他玩家使用Duelling Swords,一種Arena貨幣,派遣鬼魂來和玩家決鬥。玩家每天可以獲得3個Duelling Swords,也可以選擇花費一個魔法球補充。這個系統幾乎和其他遊戲,例如Brave Frontier的沒有什麼差別。

遊戲中沒有全球排行榜,但是玩家會在每個季度末獲得獎勵,獎勵的多少是跟玩家掙得的決鬥點數掛鉤的。玩家最想要的獎勵就是英雄羽毛(Hero Feathers),所以競技場決鬥是玩家後期的必做之事。利用指定角色獲得連勝的玩家還能獲得額外獎品,這也增加了遊戲樂趣。尤其是在級別更高的時候,玩家更傾向於選擇可以獲得額外點數的英雄,意味着你可以通過增加單次攻擊效果來打敗贈送點數的敵人。這本身並不是什麼創新,但是能夠給Fire Emblem的玩法錦上添花。對於遊戲發燒友來說,這種模式更加欲罷不能。

然而,值得注意的是PvP模式可能是遊戲中最無力的部分。這遊戲在機制和人物刻畫上讓人驚豔,但是缺少玩家之間的直接對抗,這就讓遊戲失去了這種潛在的能獲得無限樂趣的遊戲體驗。我認爲任天堂應該學一學Summoners War,市場上最成功的RPG遊戲之一,它就有同步的1v1 PvP模式。這種模式能給那些最投入、最具競爭力的玩家提供動力,促使他們去完成遊戲中的其他關鍵發展進程。

Home Hub

現在的很多RPG遊戲都可以發展小鎮,或者是其他什麼玩家可以隨着時間投入更多的東西。Fire Emblem就有類似的東西,儘管它可以升級的次數不多。玩家擁有一座城堡,一些英雄可以駐守在那裏,還可以進行互動(向劇情更精緻的主機遊戲致敬)。玩家也可以升級城堡的外觀來爲所有角色獲得永久經驗值效果。這是一個想都不用想的決定,我推薦所有玩家都要升級,儘管這個功能相當隱蔽。這也體現了遊戲中的hub做得不錯,並且很有趣,而不是像其他某些遊戲,它只是一個無聊的菜單選項。Hub也可以用來和好友列表中的好友互動。

朋友和社交

如果要說Fire Emblem做得最不盡人意的部分,那就是缺少社交功能。事實上,所有任天堂的遊戲都是這樣。我個人感覺這是因爲任天堂考慮到他們的品牌,害怕給他們的遊戲加入聊天功能,但是這也有可能只是因爲他們疏忽了這個功能。

我之前已經在Super Mario Run解析那裏談論過了,但是在任天堂所有的移動應用裏,添加好友這個機制實在是很無力。要添加這項功能有個高摩擦式屏障(遊戲邦注:high friction barrier),因爲這需要代碼,不是簡簡單單用上Facebook或者Game Center就可以了,雖然現在絕大多數遊戲都是這樣做。

一旦你連接上了,跟朋友打個招呼就可以獲得英雄羽毛,但是這種互動畢竟還是十分有限的。不像其他絕大多數日式RPG遊戲,Fire Emblem沒有“向好友借一位英雄”這樣的功能,儘管這個功能聽起來跟遊戲很搭。玩家也沒有辦法向好友發送消息,遊戲中唯一的“自由”邀請就是在競技場上。社交這方面確實可以納入開發者日後要發展的功能之一。但是目前來說,缺少公會服務,不能聊天也沒有聊天的慾望(比如說交易物品或者組隊完成目標),這絕對是一個弱項,不然的話這會是一個非常傑出的遊戲。

在線運營和重要升級

在發行第一週,這個遊戲就得到了許多新活動的支持,並且定期加入新的遊戲特色和挑戰,讓人激動。很多日式RPG遊戲早已鋪好了通向成功的道路,規劃好事件頻率,設計好遊戲特色,因此Fire Emblem不需要在這方面進行創新。但是,考慮到這遊戲的魅力,我還是會期待之後的轉機和原創內容,所以,拭目以待吧。

在玩了幾個月之後,我把很多角色都升到40級以上了。我還是非常享受玩遊戲的過程,但是我注意到目前還有許多地方,應該會在不久的之後就會引起開發人員的注意,進行改進。

這遊戲還是缺少內容。我在5天內就完成了所有的劇情任務,雖然還有困難和瘋狂難度模式可以玩,但是我覺得作爲一個製作精良的遊戲,終點線是不是太近了?其實加入更多內容和遊戲模式的話就可以解決了,但是我覺得開發人員還得在其他方面加把勁,因爲mid-core是個頗具競爭力的地方,如果你不給玩家一個留下來的理由,那麼他們可是很樂意去玩另外一個遊戲了。如果開發人員可以在遊戲中加入高水準的同步PvP模式,那就會好玩到瘋掉。因爲核心玩法已經很棒了,如果還有什麼東西能讓我的遊戲體驗隨着時間持續變好而不是變差,那就能讓這個遊戲永不過時。因此我希望隱藏的遊戲模式是跟多人玩法有關的。

PvP模式的競技場戰鬥曾經是由Takumi和Hector利用Deadly Counter Attacks這樣的攻擊主導的。

有些角色在PvP模式裏非常強大。5星弓箭手Takumi正在PvP裏進行大規模破壞。雖然是有可能打敗他,但是有些團隊用了好幾個Takumi,那就幾乎不太可能打敗了他們了。同時,還有一些角色是處於金字塔頂端的。當他們發動大規模傷害時,看見起來有點太過於無敵了。攻擊範圍大,沒有哪種顏色可以克他們,而且還能用deadly counter attack,意味着就算你接近進行伏擊,也還是會死。所以要得到這種角色,得靠自己去努力爭取(我還沒得到),或者就是花錢去買了。我得說跟這種角色對打不是一件很有趣的事情。我希望他們能夠在一定程度上削弱這種角色的力量,轉而在日本的扭蛋系統裏增加難度,但是我感覺他們不會這樣做。

有幾個煩人的問題。沒有什麼遊戲是絕對完美的,Fire Emblem Heroes也得聽聽一些小牢騷。我最在意的問題主要有兩個:首先,我沒辦法按照我的意願在戰鬥中展開陣型(在主機版本可不會這樣),角色都是隨機站位,比如當healers和dancers被放在tankier角色前面,我的作戰計劃就被毀了。看不到戰場地圖的話會讓這種情況更加惡化(特別是在PvP和Training Tower),例如等到開戰時你纔看到一個Cavalry角色在樹林裏發起攻擊,這種地圖就能坑死你,讓人沮喪。幸虧這種情況不是很經常出現,但是遇到的話就會很讓人抓狂!

幸運的是,由於這篇文章的獨創性,開發者們好像已經注意到了一些問題,對遊戲做出了許多優化提升,包括讓玩家在戰鬥開始時自由調整站位,把體力值增加一倍讓玩家可以戰鬥得更久。玩家還可以看到新增的一些新遊戲特色,例如The Voting Gauntlet和the Skill Inheritance。

Fire Emblem Heroes裏的The Voting Gauntlet

The Voting Gauntlet就像是迷你版的統治世界活動,在GREE公司的Modern War和Crime City中出現過。玩家們可以和另一個派系(或者是英雄,根據情況)結盟,然後通過戰鬥因爲團隊積累分數。獲得最高分數的團隊在挑戰結束後會獲得獎勵。有趣的是,在此類戰鬥過程中玩家沒有辦法使用金錢(也就是說,他們不能花錢去買能多的能量),但是它卻成功地留住了核心玩家羣體。這又是一個典型例子,明明任天堂能夠從這個環節賺錢,但是他們卻選擇保持他們的品牌價值,做個慷慨大方的製作商。

Skill Inheritance可以讓玩家定製出自己想要的英雄角色,技能可以從別的英雄身上轉移過來。

遊戲新增的第二大特色就是Skill Inheritance。有個可能會讓玩家感到惱怒的情況是有些英雄們在PvP模式中會變得過於強大,把遊戲變成一個變味的元遊戲。Skill Inheritance能讓玩家幾乎是無止境地創造遊戲角色,打造屬於自己的團隊,設計自己的團隊協作風格。這也意味着當玩家把一些十分強大的能力從其他英雄身上轉移並集中到一個英雄身上,這遊戲的理論輸出可就突破天際了。這個遊戲特色對超級發燒友羣體接受良好,他們享受這個特色帶來的理論計劃和試驗。

日下載量5000,一日收益50萬美元

從產生穩定收益的角度來說,Fire Emblem大概是任天堂手裏最安全的一張牌了。這種遊戲模式再加上知識產權,已經被證實能夠在後期的在線運營中永不衰落。它不會因爲大膽創新或者獨特性獲得任何獎項。但是,總體來說Fire Emblem還是給我帶來了很大驚喜。這是一個品質傑出,玩法有趣的遊戲。即使把升級系統撇開來看,核心玩法也是令人享受的,並且遊戲還有很多餘留的設計空間讓玩家隨着時間的投入其中。

Fire Emblem Heroes大約有66%的收益都來自日本地區,這並不意外,鑑於日本民衆對RPG類型和系列的熱愛。

收益1億美元卻沒有營銷花費,Fire Emblem證明了把系列遊戲做成功是多麼“簡單”的一件事,即使是在非本地區市場也是一樣。雖然主要收益都來自日本,但是事實證明它在西方也是一個不小的成功。我覺得最可怕的事情還是任天堂還是不把移動市場當回事。顯然這遊戲擁有很高的平均每付費用戶收入和生命週期總價值,如果任天堂選擇在這個遊戲的用戶獲取上下功夫,也是能賺錢的。他們做了一個Tier 3級別的IP,半年內就產生1億美元的收益,這就體現了任天堂在移動平臺也是有很大潛力的。更讓人難以置信的是,跟其他競爭對手比起來,這遊戲還有一些短板,但是依然不影響它的市場。角色在40級就達到上限,城堡升級也有限,也沒有符文系統來優化、調整角色的屬性,達到像Summoners War這樣的級別。考慮到遊戲後期可乾的事太少,補充上述那些功能的話,就能夠很容易地提高遊戲的平均每付費用戶收入,也能挽留住更多玩家。

至於西方市場,這遊戲對他們來說還是相當複雜的。儘管遊戲價值很高,但是在某些方面用戶體驗比較差,這一大堆遊戲特色是怎麼運作的,戰鬥又是怎麼打的,都沒有表現清楚。
有時候你的角色輸出的傷害一點效果都沒有,你只能撓頭自己煩惱,我們有好幾個人都花了好幾天來搞明白這些特殊攻擊並是不隨機的,而是有邏輯可循的!這樣雖然可以增加遊戲中自我探索的機會,但是最終還是會損耗遊戲的吸引力和熱情。儘管如此,我懷疑這並不是Fire Emblem系列的真正目的。

就我個人來說,我認爲這是一個非常優秀的遊戲,給製作團隊再多嘉獎也不爲過。我很期待,到底還會有多少新東西會加入到遊戲中,還會給這個遊戲多大力度的支持。這遊戲已經收穫了一批忠實的玩家,但是還有無限的潛能。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Nintendo’s second mobile game (and third mobile title) has been available on the app store for nearly 6 months and visits more familiar mobile game territory compared to Super Mario Run or Miitomo as the classic Japanese RPG model meets head-on with Nintendo subsidiary Intelligent Systems’s classic Fire Emblem console series. The result is a very slick and enjoyable experience with some really fun and rewarding combat mechanics, which has also proved to be very lucrative.

Despite Global featuring on both Apple and Google Play Stores, Fire Emblem Heroes has only had around 10M downloads worldwide, suggesting a lack of User Acquisition and niche appeal. Despite a lack of installs, revenue for the game hasn’t slowed down.

An Introduction to Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem has actually been around since 1990 as a Japanese only title on the Famicom (or NES in the West). In 2003, the game Super Smash Bros. featured two characters from the series called Marth and Roy and their popularity in the game persuaded Nintendo to start releasing the titles in the West too.

Starting with 2003′s Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade for the Gameboy Advance, Fire Emblem introduced a slick and very well designed turn-based RPG experience to Nintendo hardware. Though each series varies and changes, the core formula is always a turn-based RPG consisting of a number of missions. As the player, you earn and collect heroes who you use in battle and improve over time. However, the player has to carefully manage their roster as losing a character in battle means the character is lost permanently (a feature which unsurprisingly does not make it across to mobile).

^ One of the Game Cube versions of the game, where the series has moved to 3D and started to ramp up it’s complexity.

It’s hard to explain the appeal of the Fire Emblem series with just words, but essentially the core gameplay offers a wide variety of tactics and strategy to the player. There is a lot of gameplay mastery in that you can build a team to execute on a specific strategy that you create for yourself, whilst also providing a vast myriad of other potential tactics and strategies you can use. Ultimately this results in a game that isn’t necessarily mainstream but has a very core, loyal and deeply engaged audience.

Fire Emblem would not be considered a “tier 1″ Nintendo IP such as Mario, Zelda or Pokemon but definitely has a big following and a Fire Emblem game usually arrives for every device that Nintendo release after about 12-24 months. Thus it’s with great interest to see how Intelligent Systems have gone about creating a mobile experience

Core Loops

^ The Core Loops in Fire Emblem

This game uses a very familiar loop structure that can be found in one of many Japanese RPG games such as Brave Frontier, Final Fantasy Exvius, Summoner’s War, et all. Essentially the game has a twin currency system where the player can battle PvE or PvP. Battling in either mode levels up their Heroes which allows them to continue to invest and upgrade them. Players can accelerate the process by playing the Gacha to get rarer and more powerful characters but can make their way through the game without spending but taking a lot longer to do so.

Compared to rival games, the biggest difference with Fire Emblem Heroes is that the core gameplay is a lot more nuanced and enjoyable and less grindy. As a result, there is no real base building progression system which has crept into titles such as Summoner’s War and Brave Frontier, but instead, there is a good deal of depth in character customization with skills and party composition playing a large part in mastering the game.

I am going to spend most of the article talking about the core gameplay of the title, as this is where it really shines. It’s a different approach to most mobile RPG’s and probably reflective of its console heritage. From a personal perspective, I would say that the game feels less grindy than some of its rivals because the core gameplay is more enjoyable. There are also options to auto battle and skip animations to speed up proceedings if you are more of an idle RPG fan who is more interested in the metagame, progression systems and min / maxing your favorite character.

PvE and Heroes
At it’s heart, the game uses a very straight forward model for it’s PvE mode. Players are given a selection of missions to play through, each ramping up in terms of difficult and stamina costs over time. If the player completes a chapter they can also unlock the same battle on hard and then lunatic difficulty settings for extra replayability value and to help them accumulate XP for new characters they will acquire over time.

Players earn Orbs fairly generously in this game, with pretty much every mission giving an orb instead of requiring a whole chapter to be completed like most other JRPG’s. This likely decreases ARPPU potential but likely fits more into Nintendo’s overall brand and is also likely to improve retention.
Just as its name would suggest, Fire Emblem really is all about its heroes. There were around 60 at launch with more coming in at a steady pace. The Heroes come in multiple colors and types, which greatly impacts the core gameplay. Each mission can be min/maxed by carefully thinking about the enemies you will encounter compared to the Heroes you own. To truly master the game, over time you will want a well-rounded roster with powerful heroes of multiple types. This means a lot of going back over old missions and the training tower to build up the level of your Heroes.

Combat Mechanics

Combat in Fire Emblem Heroes feels very familiar to its console counterparts but well suited with good optimizations made for mobile. Battles take place on a 6*9 grid which is considerably smaller than on console. The game could have used multiple screens for larger battlefields, but it seems obvious that the game was designed to be playable with one hand and for short sessions, with battles resolving faster than the console equivalent.

Combat in the game has many nuances and there is a ton of depth in tactics and strategy available. Some characters have to assist abilities that allow you to buff other party members to make them even more powerful but are weak as a result. Some characters have deadly ranged attacks but die horribly if someone gets close. Some characters are good at debuffing the enemy meaning you can weaken them before attacking them with your own. These are just some of the top level gameplay decisions you make but give an idea of where the game leads.

I particularly enjoy the depth of combinations you can come up with your Heroes auto and their skills. For example, I have a character called Tiki that heals adjacent party members when she attacks but is generally quite slow moving. However, using one of my Knight characters that I won, I can use the knights “shove” skill to push Tiki further into the battlefield. Supported by two powerful flying characters, I can use Tiki to heal and support my flyers whilst keeping her safe. The game is full of combinations and team synergies like this and makes the game really addictive. I often find myself thinking about combinations of Heroes that I own and how they would interact with each other, which creates a powerful call-back mechanism to make me return.

Most characters also have a special move which is activated automatically when their trigger is ready. This means that you often have to plan a couple of turns ahead in advance to maximize the potential of your party as wasting your special on an attack that would have killed anyway could mean losing a battle you would otherwise have won. Some specials also have abilities like an area of effect or healing nearby units, so core gameplay keeps you on your toes!

Hero Progression

Though the game has a story mode, the story isn’t the most riveting and essentially is just a facade to lure you into the satisfying gameplay. Actual progression comes from the investment you make in your characters over time. Heroes’ stats increase to begin with, but over time your character can learn new skills which you can equip to your characters to change the way they can be used in battle.

An interesting nuance which has made it over from the console series is that characters primarily gain XP by dealing damage and/or pulling off the finishing blow on an enemy. This means that when you want to invest in new characters that you have acquired, you have to plan the battle such that your powerful units don’t completely kill off enemies, but do leave them weak enough for your lower level heroes to commit the last blow. Additionally Heroes don’t gain any XP at all if they die, so you need to formulate this into your plan too. Characters gain levels during battle, something that is quite unique but adds a lot to the enjoyment to the battles when you play them.

It’s also possible to acquire items called Crystals and Shards from quests and the training tower to invest into characters to level them up at a faster rate. These are basically XP potions, with a colour specific shard required for each colour character, and a universal shard also being available which can be used on anyone. These items are only available on certain days in the training tower, so it means that in the mid and elder game, you need to pay attention to the weekly game cycle.

After a while, players face more obstacles when trying to improve their characters. Whereas Crystals are used for characters below level 20, Shards are needed once they pass that point. Additionally, to truly maximize a character, you may want to unlock their potential of merge heroes. These systems make up for the lack of a traditional fusion system and are not the most intuitive. However, they serve a purpose and effectively determine the elder game for most players – grinding the Arena and training tower to gain the rare resources you need to improve your characters to their highest capability.

Gacha

Gacha is the lifeblood of any RPG based game, with developers making large numbers of 2D assets that can be created fairly quickly but that are in high demand by players. Fire Emblem actually introduces a fairly unique system to its game as players get a discount on their summons by summoning up to five heroes at once. The player also has some ability to influence their rolls, by being able to choose from either Legendary or Devoted hero (these determine their type) and by getting a preview of what color they will earn. If you really want Marth, who is a red Hero, then if you go to summon and see that there is no red available, you only have to make one roll and know that it’s not possible to get him in that specific summoning period.

Interestingly this means that as a player, your goal is usually to play until you get 20 Orbs so that you can go crazy at the Gacha to summon new heroes. This helps create daily and weekly goals and makes the game feel quite fair. Of course it’s painful to see someone roll three 5-star heroes in half the number of rolls you make, but that’s literally the luck of the draw and how Gacha games inherently work. It does also men though that players are not incentivised to buy orbs if they are getting less than 20, so it will be interesting to see if this increased ARPPU or conversion on the 20 orb bundle.

At this point, I must also call out the AWESOME Gacha sequence the game offers. Some characters play a movie when you get them, and this is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in a Gacha in any game. The level of polish and quality throughout the title is of an extremely high standard and even though this game is 2D, I would argue it’s a clear example of a “Triple-A” game in much the way that Clash Royale is.

PvP / Arena Duels

The game currently has a mode called Arena, which is the nearest thing the game has currently to PvP. Players battle against ghosts of other players using an Arena currency called Duelling Swords. Players only get 3 of these per day but can spend one orb to replenish them. This system is almost identical to ones used in many games such as Brave Frontier so is about as proven as they come.

There isn’t a global leaderboard, but players do earn arena points which tie into rewards they will get at the end of each season based on how any points they acquire. Rewards are of the highest desirability being Hero Feathers, so Arena is a must for elder game players. Bonuses are awarded for win streaks and for using specific characters, which makes the game interesting. At higher tiers especially, it poses an interesting question as players are likely to use the heroes that offer additional points, but means you can beat them in the meta game by picking units that counter the ones giving bonuses. This isn’t an innovation per se, but given the brilliance on the Fire Emblem gameplay, means that this mode can become moreish to the hardcore players out there.

However, it should be noted that PvP is probably the weakest area of the game. This game nails the mechanics and character depth but without a mode to battle other players, the game loses the potential for an infinitely fun gameplay experience. I feel that Nintendo should take a leaf out Summoners War, one of the most successful RPG games on the market which has a synchronous 1v1 PvP mode. This would give the most engaged and competitive players something to do and provide a real motivation to go through all of the other core progression systems in the game.

Home Hub

Many RPG games these days have a progression based element of a town or base that the player can invest in over time. Fire Emblem has something similar, although the amount of progression it offers is very little. Players have a Castle where some of their heroes stand and where they can interact with them (a nod to the more sophisticated stories of the console games). Players can also upgrade the appearance of their Castle to get permanent XP boosts to all of their characters. This is a no-brainer purchase and recommended for everyone, though it’s fairly well hidden away. This means that the hub for the game is well presented and fun, and not just a boring menu, like some other games. The hub is also used to interact with friends from your friends-list.

Friends and Social

If there is one area that Fire Emblem is weak in, it’s definitely in its lack of social. In fact, this could be said of all of Nintendo’s games so far. I have a feeling this is because Nintendo is scared to add a chat system to their games given their brand but it’s equally possible that it’s just an oversight.

I’ve commented on this in my Super Mario Run deconstruct, but the mechanism used to add friends in all of Nintendo’s mobile products is exceptionally weak. It has a high friction barrier because it requires a code and not allowing an easy way such as using Facebook or Game Center as pretty much every other game in these day does.

Once you are connected you can greet friends to receive Hero Feathers, but interactions are very limited after that. unlike almost every other JRPG, there is no “borrow a friend’s Hero” mechanic which seems like it would be really well suited to this game. There is no way to send messages to each other and the only “free” invite you get is when you play someone in Arena. This could be an area which the developer is looking to expand upon in the future, but currently, with no guilds service, no way to chat and no reason to want to chat (such as trading items or working together to achieve a goal), it’s a definite weakness in an otherwise great game.

Live Ops and Notable Updates

It’s encouraging to see that in launch week the game was getting heavy support with new events, game features and challenges being added at a regular intervals. Many JRPG’s have already paved the way for successful roadmaps for event cadence and new features so Fire Emblem doesn’t need to innovate in this area. However, given the charm of the game, I am expecting to see some twists and originality in what comes next, so look forwards to seeing what comes next.

After playing the game solidly for a few months, and having grinded a number of characters up to level 40 and beyond. I’m still really enjoying my time with the game, but there are a number of issues I can find at this point in time that may be areas of concern in the not so distant future.

The game is short of content. I finished all of the story missions in about 5 days, and although there are Hard and Lunatic difficulties available the game, I feel like the finishing line is way closer than a good service game should be. This is easily rectifiable with more content and game modes, but I think the developer needs to get a move on with it because mid-core is a competitive place and players will happily move to the next game of the week if you don’t give them a reason to stay. If the developers could add a good synchronous PvP mode to this game, it would be insanely addictive as the core gameplay is fantastic and if anything my experience of it has improved over time rather than diminished and would give the game evergreen gameplay, so I am hoping the hidden game mode is something related to multiplayer.

^ The PvP Arena was once dominated by characters with deadly Counter Attacks such as Takumi and Hector.

Some characters are too strong in PvP. A 5-star archer called Takumi is wrecking havoc in PvP right now. Though it is possible to beat him, some teams run multiple Takumi’s which are almost impossible to beat. Whilst there was always going to be some characters that end up at the top of the pile, he seems possibly a bit too good as he does massive damage, hits from long range, has no colour weakness AND has the deadly counter attack meaning that even if you get up close and ambush him, you still die. This means you either need to get him yourself (I don’t have him) or spend to get him and it’s not very fun to play against. I hope they nerf the character somewhat, but given the tough rules on Gacha in Japan, have a feeling this won’t be rectified.

There are some annoyances. No game is perfect and Fire Emblem Heroes has its share of minor gripes. My biggest problem is two-fold. Firstly, I can’t deploy my team into battle in the way I want to (this was not the case on console), which means that often my tactics are ruined by the random placement as healers and dancers are placed in front of tankier characters. This is exacerbated by not being able to see the map you are going to fight on (especially true in PvP and Training Tower), which makes it extremely frustrating when the map screws you by having a Cavalry character start among the trees or similar. Luckily this doesn’t happen too often, but it is annoying when it does!

Fortunately, since originally writing this article, it seems like the developers were paying attention, as a number of quality of life improvements were made to the game, including allowing players to re-position their units for free at the start of a battle and doubling the stamina cap to allow players to keep fighting for longer. The game also saw notable features added, The Voting Gauntlet and the Skill Inheritance.

The Voting Gauntlet feature in Fire Emblem Heroes

The Voting Gauntlet was a mini version of a world domination event seen in some GREE titles such as Modern War and Crime City. Players allied themselves with a faction (or hero in this instance) and battled to accumulate a score for their team. The team with the highest score got a reward at the end of the gauntlet. Interestingly there was no way to further monetise during the event (IE they could not pay for more energy), but the event seemed to succeed in terms of increasing retention for the hardcore players of the game. This is yet another example of a game mode where Nintendo could easily have increased monetisation but opted to keep to their brand values and be more generous instead.

Skill Inheritance allows players to build their own custom Heroes by taking skills from one hero to another.

The next biggest feature added to the game was Skill Inheritance. Players were likely annoyed that some heroes were Over Powered in PvP and led to a stale meta-game. Skill Inheritance allows players to make an almost infinite series of character builds to create their very own team and team synergy. This also meant that the theoretical spend for the game went through the roof as players could take all of the really strong abilities from powerful heroes and put them onto a hero that didn’t have it. This feature has gone down well with the super hardcore players of the game who enjoy the theory-crafting and experimentation that such a feature brings.

5 Thousand Installs and Half-a-Million of Dollars a Day

Fire Emblem is probably the “safest” game Nintendo could have made in terms of generating solid revenues. It’s a proven game model with an IP which can have a long tail through live ops. It won’t win any awards for daring innovation or uniqueness. However, overall I have been very impressed with Fire Emblem. It’s a high-quality product that is genuinely fun to play. Even if you stripped the progression systems away, the core gameplay is fun and involving and there is plenty of design space left for the game to grow into over time.

Around 66% of Fire Emblem Heroes’ revenue has come from Japan, a largely unsurpsiing facet given the immense popularity of both the RPG genre and the franchise there.

With $100M in revenues from zero marketing spend, Fire Emblem proves how “easy” it can be to take a franchise game and make it a success even on a platform that is not native. Whilst the majority of this revenue comes from Japan, it’s till proved to be a reasonable success in the West too. I think the scariest thing is that mobile is still at the very back of Nintendo’s mind. This game clearly has high ARPPU’s and LTV’s and Nintendo could profitably run a User Acquisition on this game if they choose too. The fact that they can make a mobile game that generates $100M in half-a-year with a Tier 3 IP shows you the potential Nintendo has on the mobile. Even more incredibly the game has obvious shortcomings compared to rival RPG’s. Characters cap out at level 40, the Castle progression system is as limited as it possibly could be and there is no Rune based system to optimise or min/max characters to the level of Summoners War. These additions could easily increase the ARPPU of the title and would probably improve the retention too given the lack of things to do in the title at the end-game.

For the western market, the game is still rather complicated. Though the game has high production values, there is poor UX in places, as it’s not clear how a lot of the game features function, and often it’s unclear how the battle works. Sometimes when your characters do 0 damage, you are left scratching your head, and it took a group of us a few days to work out that special attacks weren’t random and that there was a logic behind it! These things increase the self-discovery when playing the game but ultimately hurt the genre and title from really going broad on appeal. However, I suspect that’s not really the goal of the Fire Emblem series.

For myself personally, I think the game is great and think the rewards are richly deserved by the team developing the title. How much more they choose to add and support the game will be interesting to see, but the game retains a loyal audience and almost endless potential.(source:gamasutra.com