This is my favorite FE game since Echoes and it really isn’t close. I definitely understand the muted response to it thus far as it’s basically the polar opposite of Three Houses, which was one of the most popular modern FE games. Three Houses went all in on hub activities, social links, the class system and the story whereas Engage halfassed at best most of that stuff. But as someone who got so sick of the Monastery halfway through my first playthrough of a game that wants you to replay it three more times, I did not care about the dropoff in quality with the Somniel.
What Engage does get right is what I care most about in these games and that’s the combat. The break mechanic is a brilliant update to the weapon triangle and the Emblems are such a cool way to make you feel incredibly powerful. You basically get to go Super Saiyan for three turns and break the game; it’s a feeling I’ve never had before playing FE.
And the game pushes back on you still with very inventive maps and unique bosses. Outside of a few exceptions, “boss fights” in FE are basically just the victory cigar you get to smoke after clearing a map. In this game, especially in the Emblem Paralagoues, you are challenged to Beautiful Mind your way into one-turning bosses with three health bars and skills as broken as the ones you have.
I’ve always hated the addition of the rewind mechanic in modern FE games but it’s a must in this game and I have no issue using it given how challenging some of these levels can get. In Three Houses it felt like a get out of jail free card cause you really never needed it unless you made a dumb mistake.
One thing that threw me off initially was the steady stream of incredibly strong units you get throughout the game; I’m so used to the mid- and late-game units coming in as weaker versions of whoever you started out with as a fallback just in case you let them die. But in Engage they’re almost all cracked out of their mind and are wholly unique. I always have a hard time letting go of my OG squad so I’m pumped to go back on a replay and try out a lot more of the new units.
It’s unfortunate the story is so incredibly dumb (so far at least, I’m on Chapter 20 but I’m not expecting much from thie finale) and the characters feel really flat, a trend that’s gotten worse and worse with every new installment. And for that reason, I think Engage still falls short of some of my favs (the GBA games and PoR) but to me it’s the best the series has ever been from just a gameplay perspective.