I played Fire Emblem Engage on easy mode, and it got me back into gaming

I allowed myself to play Fire Emblem Engage on the easiest possible mode, and it finally got me back into gaming. The first time I picked up a Fire Emblem game back in 2010, a friend told me that the only correct way to play is in Classic mode with permanent death. For some reason, I took that to heart, and I played each subsequent game ready to restart my console during every skirmish and story battle so that I didn’t lose any of my friends. Due to unexpected upheavals in my personal life over the past few years, I mostly stopped gaming, even though I kept buying new titles I’d typically play. That included Persona 5: Royal, which I have yet to even touch, and Fire Emblem Engage, which sat sealed in my cabinet for over a year.

I wanted to play Engage since I got my pre-ordered copy, but the mere thought of having to find the best class for all my units and having to grind by fighting one skirmish after another so that they can maximize their stats and not get killed in the battlefield was overwhelming. It felt like a chore and not at all appealing for someone who’s trying to get back into gaming. One day, though, I decided to pop the cartridge into my Nintendo Switch and see if I could get anywhere. Upon being asked to choose a difficulty, I squashed the persistent voice in my head that kept saying: “If you’re not playing with permadeath, are you even playing Fire Emblem?” As quickly as I could, I chose Normal difficulty, the easiest option available, and Casual mode that merely pulls units from a fight instead of killing them completely after they get defeated in battle.

I had no idea whether I’d end up finishing the game when I started, but I did — and I had tons of fun. The biggest reason why I was able to keep playing was because I didn’t feel stressed like I did when I played Fates and Three Houses. I didn’t have to plan out every single move on the battlefield, and I didn’t have to look up other people’s class choices for their units because a character that started as a swordsman might do better as a Wyvern Knight. I didn’t have to keep notes like I usually do for strategy games. The only information I searched for online was the same-sex romance options for this installment’s protagonist. It truly felt like I was playing to relax, which is something I’ve never said before in relation to a Fire Emblem game.

In the grand scheme of things, having an internal conflict over a game’s difficulty is really quite silly. But it’s a reflection of how we tend to be harsher on ourselves than on other people, because I would never judge anybody else on how they want to play their games. Sure, winning battles and matches in more difficult modes will feel more rewarding, but not every gaming experience has to be a challenge. It’s okay to play to decompress, to have some joy in your life and in my case, to get started after years of being in gaming limbo. Someday, I might pick up Engage again and play in Maddening difficulty, most likely in Casual mode now that I’ve broken free from the shackles of permadeath. That is, however, a long way off — for now, I want to get through the titles I missed over the past five years one by one. I’ve started with the newest one in my collection, Eiyuden Chronicle, which I’m absolutely excited to play as a long-time Suikoden fan. And, yes, I’m still taking it easy on myself by playing it in the least difficult mode possible.

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