There’s a lot to love about Fire Emblem Heroes. Nintendo’s latest mobile entry packages one of its most well-loved series into a parcel that can be digested on the go. It’s easy to jump in and out of the game, and it offers some light SRPG fun when you’re, say, waiting for the bus. But that easy-to-access Fire Emblem goodness comes at a cost if you’re looking to beef up your character pool and a pretty high one at that.
Fire Emblem Heroes is a Japanese-style gacha game. To get some of the truly powerful characters, you need to “summon” them with at least five Orbs. You can earn Orbs slowly by completing missions and logging into the game, or you can expedite that process by buying packs of Orbs for real-life money. One individual Orb costs 66 cents, but you can purchase them in bunches — the biggest bundle comes with 140 Orbs for $74.99, or about 54 cents per Orb.
140 Orbs grants you 28 pulls, which is a decent number. If you’ve got some cash to burn, that sum might not sound so bad until you consider the odds of pulling a character that’s a bit more rare. You up your odds of drawing a rare character when you pull multiple times in a row without one, and pulling five at a time very gradually lowers the Orb cost until it restarts after five. Even following those strategies, success is far from guaranteed. There are reports of players spending thousands of dollars on in-app purchases — players categorized as “whales” — without pulling the hero they were looking for even once.
Paying $74.99 for the mere chance to win the character you like seems like a bit much. You could also purchase a full AAA video game with some change to spare (enough, in fact, for another full game on the likes of Steam). When it comes down to it, the value isn’t really there.
Fire Emblem Heroes is a perfectly fine game for what it is: a free-to-play mobile title. It’s not, however, a full-fledged Fire Emblem game. The story’s not there, and your main draw to the characters stems from nostalgia for the main games, not their characterization in Heroes. Put simply, Fire Emblem Heroes is a nice bit of fan-service in a SRPG-lite shell. The game keeps you hooked with the prospect of unlocking new heroes, but without coughing up cash repeatedly, that can become a very slow, practically impossible process. After a while, it can get tiresome, and, at its worst, feel a bit exploitative.
While there are many free-to-play models that work — I’m perfectly happy to pay for some in-game goodies to support a mobile game I’m enjoying — it feels as though Fire Emblem Heroes is overstepping a bit. Stacking random on random when pulling heroes is just no fun.