Note: Mild spoilers ahead for Fire Emblem Fates Birthright and Conquest. You've been warned.
No matter which path you initially took, Fire Emblem Fates' two campaigns left a number of open questions around what's really happening in the world. Where did all those shadow enemies come from? Who is Azura, really? Why didn't the titular Fire Emblem make an appearance? And what's up with being able to make babies with your alleged birth siblings?
You've got questions, and Fire Emblem Fates' DLC campaign, Revelation, has answers. Yes, even to the baby thing.
Fire Emblem Fates hangs its hat on one crucial player choice with three potential options early on in the campaign. So much so, in fact, that two of the options are sold on their own as alternative versions of the story: Birthright and Conquest. It's a fun idea that had real impact on how the game played. Birthright's "new-school" approach to the Fire Emblem formula offered a path with bountiful resources and straightforward objectives as you took up arms with your blood siblings of Hoshido. Siding with your adoptive family in Conquest brought an old-school take on the series' gameplay that brought the challenge via seemingly insurmountable odds and objectives to cause this writer to break into a cold sweat.
In our Fire Emblem Fates review, we pondered which of these paths the series would take going forward. Having completed Revelation, we're pretty confident that Intelligent Systems won't have to betray either side. Revelation strikes an interesting balance between Birthright and Conquest's campaign styles for a veritable cornucopia of Fire Emblem goodness.
Revelation's choice has player-character Corrin striving for peace between the two families by refusing to side with either. This plan blows up spectacularly and immediately — instead of uniting the kingdoms through their sheer love of their favourite sibling, Corrin is branded a traitor by both sides and is forced to go on the lam to survive.
A number of the broader story beats were pretty much constants between Birthright and Conquest — a major switcheroo, one character's cartoon villainy, the Sage's quest, etc. — and Revelation also hits some of these same notes, underscoring the game's theme of fate versus choice. Some of these constants emerge in Revelation as well, but the story told here isn't afraid of going its own way — with a title like "Revelation" you'd expect a few fiction megatons, and the tale does go deeper into the lore and history of the world. By the time Revelation has shown its final hand, you'll have a greater understanding of the scope and severity of the conflict between the two kingdoms and how it fits in with the rest of the world of Fates. We appreciate the scale of Birthright and Conquest's tales, but Revelation's broader view of the world has the opportunity to dive into all the cool stuff bubbling under the surface.
There are few allies willing to fight with Corrin for the first few missions of Revelation, as their choice to not side with either family made them virtually no friends. This narrative is smartly not wasted by the gameplay and sets the stage for initial missions that are straightforward in objective but challenging in execution — with only a handful of units at your disposal, you have to be more deliberate and cautious when engaging enemies. The mission design will do you no favours as it throws new map-design challenges and novelties, too. Even the most veteran of Fire Emblem players will find the opening chapters of Revelation testing their skills.
Really, Revelation's map and encounter design is a clear step above that found in Birthright and at times even eclipses Conquest. Some maps will restrict visibility in some way, forcing you to go down paths that you can't tell what's on the other side or unblock areas where the number and type of enemies are initially obscured. Others might include moving platforms to navigate or locked doors in need of keys. These new wrinkles help keep Revelation fresh and exciting, even if you're feeling a little fatigued of Fire Emblem after just finishing back-to-back playthroughs of Birthright and Conquest (like we did — holy moly, that's a lot of Fire Emblem). Some of these map quirks were so refreshing that we wished we had seen more of this kind of stuff in the other two campaigns.
While Corrin starts this campaign low on units and resources, that won't be the case for too long. As the campaign goes on more and more allies from both sides eventually come around to trusting Corrin's vision. You'll be rolling deep with siblings and characters from both sides about halfway through, which can at times feel overpowering. Sibling units like Ryoma, Xander and Camilla were heavy hitters in their respective campaigns, and having them all together on the battlefield will allow you to completely steamroll the opposition at times. Of course, you don't have to send your most overpowered units into battle every time, but the option is almost too tempting to pass up — not just for the pleasures of victory, but because it's just darn fun to see them paired up with each other. By the end of the campaign, though, you'll need all the help you can get: the challenge ramps up considerably thanks to stronger and greater quantities of enemies that can do you right in. It's important to have not just strength but depth to your roster by that point, so having a varied line-up is not just helpful but downright necessary.
By the time you've finished Birthright and Conquest, you'll have spent dozens upon dozens (upon dozens) of hours with each family and their respective allies and gotten to know them pretty well. Having this knowledge makes forming Support relationships between units even more fun — just pair up some unlikely allies or mismatched personalities and allow them to interact with each other. It's fun stuff to see Sakura be intimidated by Xander's strong leadership qualities, or watch Takumi and Leo be total jerks to each other. The game's excellent writing really shines in these moments and makes for a very nice payoff after getting to know everyone separately.
Out of all three campaigns, Revelation has the most to do outside of the main story missions. Its overworld matches the features of Birthright, allowing you to grind out Challenge missions to boost your unit levels and supports, or simply to continue enjoying the fun of Fire Emblem Fates' gameplay systems. As well, My Castle has a buttload of stuff at your disposal: whether Hoshidan or Nohrian, everything you could build in Birthright and Conquest is also available here. Invasion mode players will have the best opportunities for building a robust fort here. All in all, if you're going to spend significant post-game time with Fates, Revelation is quite possibly the best place to do so.
So, if you're picking up what Revelation is putting down, the big question is at what point should you pick it up? The game itself recommends you not venture down this path until having finished Birthright and Conquest, and we're inclined to agree. Playing the other two campaigns first will give you the most context for stories and characters, greater appreciation for the changes in gameplay, and the story told here includes spoilers that run the risk of undermining your enjoyment of those narratives if you haven't gone through them already. Revelation offers cohesion and closure to this story and so should be enjoyed last.
Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation does an excellent job at tying together the multitude of threads in this massively ambitious entry in the franchise, all while carving out its own lovely niche in gameplay and setting. Revelation's varied mission design and firm challenge is an excellent continuation of Birthright and Conquest, and offers a wholly satisfying conclusion to this story. Plus, getting the entire gang together for a huge third game is a blast. Revelation is simply required playing for Fates fans.