I have always been a fan of the original GBA Fire Emblem games, to the point of despair when the localization of the Roy centred Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade never happened. I remember being hyped about the trips my grandma would take down to the pharmacy, so I could stay in the car while she shopped around.
The series is known for its incredible attention to map details, beautiful sprite artwork, and sprawling narrative that spans multiple continents. Enter, Dark Deity. A title that borrows all the aforementioned things to love from the GBA Fire Emblem titles, and successfully pulls on nostalgia memory strands, but is far more than just a clone.
Dark Deity starts by introducing you to four innocent-enough characters still in military school, that have dreams of joining the army of the Kingdom of Delia. The main character, Irving, is your traditional JRPG protagonist, with pastel red hair.
King Varic is desperate for soldiers to fill his army, so he recruits Irving and co. earlier than graduation to serve and to wage war against the neighbouring kingdom. The beginning of the narrative kind of drags its feet a little but picks up with more sense if the player pays attention. A massive plot awaits over the 28 linear gameplay chapters, but the title’s gameplay is FAR from linear.
Fire Emblem fans will fall into this title like greeting an old friend, and strategy RPG enthusiasts will feel at home, but there is much more than just brilliant sprite work and addictive gameplay. Each character comes outfitted with four weapons that can be upgraded.
“Dark Deity is loaded with personality, solid audio, and everything else a strategy RPG fan could want in a title.”
Each weapon serves its own purpose in battle. A longsword is a traditional damaging weapon, that can be upgraded to a claymore, and the short sword is more focused on being a light weapon that promotes the unit to attack more than once. Each weapon needs to be utilized by the commander to fit different battle confrontations. A fast enemy might make you miss with a regular weapon, so one suited for more accuracy will work better.
Although it still feels strange to hit an axe wielding character with a lance — Fire Emblem’s tactic system used a sword beats axe, axe beats lance, lance beats sword weapon triangle — the damage types are easy to figure out once you know where to look. A spear character does pierce damage, a sword character applies slashing damage, and each type is good against a different type of armour.
This adds a larger field of depth to the tactical experience, that is only brushed upon in Fire Emblem. Players can also choose how to promote each character on level 10, and 30 between four different class choices, which adds a degree of customization to each character. After the first couple of chapters, this title becomes hard to put down.
When a character loses all their health, the unit cannot be used again for the remainder of the map. This also leads to an ‘injury’ that reduces a unit’s random stat by 1. Garrick, an archer unit, during my play through received a shattered kneecap and suffered a -1 permanent speed stat loss. This can be deterring for players familiar with permadeath utilized in inspiration, but can save the player precious time by not needing to restart an entire chapter due to the untimely death of a beloved unit.
An addition could have had the player unable to use the unit for more chapters too, but this doesn’t happen. It’s hard to believe my archer recovered so quickly after a shattered kneecap. The thought almost made me sideline myself for a chapter. This punishment seems slightly lacking, but I can tell if a unit continuously perishes, they basically become unviable in the middle-end game.
Each character has a distinct personality to them, and they become trusted companions over the length of the story. Garrick is a sarcastic quipster who presses all the buttons on an elevator to get a rise out of his comrades, while Sloane is a spoiled brat born with a silver spoon in her mouth who acts like a tsundere type. When characters battle next to each other, their support level increases, which leads to fun conversations that give depth to the character’s personality, and the Dark Deity world. My favourite character is easily Benji, who speaks in the third person, and thinks he’s the greatest. A literal cartoon character that feels like he fits right into the world. Benji smash indeed.
There are a few issues I have with Dark Deity, however. There is no ‘give all items to the convoy’ selection when managing inventory. This makes it difficult to know exactly how I can outfit each character, and is present in many other SRPGs, a small quality of life improvement that can do wonders for the player that catalogues inventory between missions.
When a character levels up, Dark Deity lags just a bit, but it makes me feel like the title crashes each time. This could be a me problem, but that small panic happens every time. Lastly, there is no ‘Suspend’ option on chapters. This is remedied by the Switch being able to go into ‘Sleep mode’ to take a break between long 30 or more-minute chapters, but suspending and being allowed to do other things with the freedom to come back would have been a worthy addition. Benji likes being allowed to suspend.
Dark Deity is loaded with personality, solid audio, and everything else a strategy RPG fan could want in a title. The narrative is linear, but the choices the player makes during a battle make no two playthroughs the same. Certain other SRPG’s can take notes from the map design and winning conditions, as this title features some of the most varied in SRPG, gone are the days of simply ‘rout the enemy.’ Dark Deity gives enough to be a solid entry into the SRPG landscape, and seeps with personality that can make any gamer stick around for the conclusion, a worthy and challenging entry to the SRPG genre.