Fire Emblem Heroes is now my go-to time-waster at work. I’m sure it is for you, too. Although it is easy to play, Heroes tends to hide useful information in places you likely wouldn’t look. Here are five pointers to remember as you play.
Mapping & Bottlenecking
Unlike any other Fire Emblem game, Heroes has incredibly cramped map design. Part of this is out of necessity; the game runs on 8×6 grids. However, this is also intentional, for the map is your biggest enemy. Heroes often cramps your party in such a way as to force bottlenecking — that is, squeezing your party through narrow choke points one at a time. Your party as a fighting force may be formidable, but the game likes to force you into uncomfortable positions. When the AI actively attacks, you are often started in an indefensible position. When the AI wants to wait you out, you have to strike an unassailable position. For this reason, flying units, healers, and ranged units are very important to party composition. Even your best tanks can only absorb so much damage before they go down, so striking in multiple places to break the AI’s bottlenecking strategy is critical to long-term success.
Rolling (D)20 Orbs
As you know, I have very strong views on microtransactions. Currently, the game will allow you to buy three orbs for $2 and up to one hundred and forty orbs for $75. Orbs have a variety of uses, but their most fundamental purpose is to summon more heroes. The game strongly encourages you to roll for a new hero every time you get five orbs, but that is inefficient. Instead, as the game reluctantly concedes, you can and should amass twenty orbs if you intend to summon heroes. Why? Because you are mathematically summoning one hero for free if you do.
The game requires you to have five orbs to summon the first hero. If you have enough orbs, you can summon a second, third, and fourth hero from the same tablet for four orbs apiece. You can summon a fifth hero for only three orbs. In the alternative, you can summon one hero at a rate of five orbs apiece. In both scenarios, you are using up twenty orbs, but in the first scenario you have summoned five heroes whereas in the second scenario you have summoned only four. If you want to maximize efficiency while rolling the dice on summoning, the lesson is clear. Save your money; roll twenty.
Stars and Skills
Heroes’ star ratings are one of the more inscrutable elements of the game since it is ill-defined. In short, each hero you get has a star rating from one to five. As you might expect, the greater the number of stars, the better the hero is, but why? Well, that comes down to skills.
Skills are unlocked when heroes amass enough Skill Points (SP). You acquire SP when your heroes level up or complete other actions like killing enemies or healing. You then cash in SP by selecting Learn Skills from the Allies menu. Skills give useful boosts to your heroes’ tactical worth. However, heroes with fewer stars can learn fewer skills. Thus, a two-star Virion has less potential than a four-star Virion because the latter can learn more skills.
How you raise a hero’s star rating depends upon what the hero’s current star rating is. To raise a hero with one, two, or three stars, you need to cash in hero feathers and badges. To raise a four-star hero requires hero feathers and great badges. Badges are dispensed in different strata of the Training Tower but great badges are only dispensed from strata 6 through 10 in the Training Tower. When you raise a hero’s star rating, that hero is reset to level 1 in terms of experience but now has more potential viability in the field. That is why high star heroes are worth more. These stars aren’t hollow.
Expansionism and Experience
Apart from the obvious summoning use, orbs have a less obvious purpose: building your total experience income. In the Shop menu, there is an option to Upgrade Castle. That’s naturally where you’d look for something like that, right? In fact, by investing orbs, you boost the experience all heroes earn, regardless of star rating, level, or party. This is such an understated benefit and one tucked away in the recesses of the game. Invest orbs in expanding your castle as soon as possible. You will not be disappointed.
You can also choose to invest orbs to expand your barracks. Expanding your barracks raises the maximum number of allies you can have at any one time. Think of it like the Backpack Expander from Team Fortress 2. That said, you frankly do not need to do this at this stage of the game’s life cycle. The game affords you space for 200 heroes up front. If you exceed 200 heroes this early, you’re merely hoarding duplicates. As the game continues to cycle through available heroes, the practicality of expanding your barracks may rise, but for now, save your orbs for upgrading your castle.
If you played Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, you’ll remember the bonus experience points that went into a pool for you to distribute to party members however you saw fit. A similar concept exists in Heroes. You can use shards to level up characters up to level 20. The shards are color coordinated, so you can only use blue shards to level up blue-type heroes, etc. The yellow shards are universal, so you can use them on any hero regardless of color. In the same way, crystals work to level up heroes who are level 20 and higher. Like badges and great badges, shards and crystals are available in the Training Tower, with crystals only available from strata 6 through 10. This is a quick way to give lower-level heroes a boost to make them more viable.
These are just a few, quick tips for Fire Emblem Heroes. Have you come up with a secret strategy that you want to share? Let us know in the comments!