Edelgard discourse will never end.
Fire Emblem Engage is finally here, and with it comes the first wave of the Expansion Pass DLC in the game’s day one update. A single purchase of $30 (US price) grants you access to all of Engage’s future DLC, though content will be delivered piecemeal over the course of 2023. Though there are some minor goodies like new cosmetic options and some extra consumable items, the real meat of the DLC comes from the Emblem Bracelets—characters from previous Fire Emblem titles who can be equipped to fight alongside you in battle like the base game’s Emblem Rings. The first of Wave 1’s Emblem Bracelets is what the game refers to as “Edelgard (with Dimitri and Claude)” from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Edelgard (with Dimitri and Claude) is distinct from the other Emblems in that three characters are represented by a single Bracelet. This is somewhat similar to Eirika from Sacred Stones, who shares her Emblem Ring with her brother Ephraim. Unlike Eirika and Ephraim (who you can manually swap between in battle), Edelgard (with Dimitri and Claude) selects one of its three characters at random each turn, meaning you’ll never know exactly which one will be active for your next move.
Like all Emblem Rings, Edelgard (with Dimitri and Claude) has unique skills that recreate mechanics from their original game. In this case, each of the three house leaders has access to a unique Gambit skill that can be used while attacking opponents. Edelgard is able to set spaces around her target aflame, Claude is able to poison foes adjacent to his target, and Dimitri is able to negate damage from ranged attacks. Engaging with Edelgard (with Dimitri and Claude) grants access to Combat Arts—powerful skills that grant an advantage in battle at the cost of consuming entire turns from your Engage meter.
Edelgard (with Dimitri and Claude) is a powerful Emblem that can help fill your roster in the early parts of Engage’s story when you have a limited number of Emblem Rings, but they do feel a bit disappointing for someone who’s already finished the game since they do not come with an additional paralogue chapter. You receive Edelgard (with Dimitri and Claude) in a cutscene on the Somniel, and they come with the ability to upgrade your bond with them to the maximum level of 20 instantly. This means that they’re the only Emblem in the game that doesn’t have a paralogue tied to them—and there’s reason to believe that includes future DLC Emblems. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t plan on playing Fire Emblem Engage more than once, then Edelgard (with Dimitri and Claude) will have little value to you if you don’t get them before finishing the game.
The second Emblem Bracelet in Wave 1 is Tiki from Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. As a manakete, Tiki has the ability to transform into a dragon; a power which is given to any unit which Engages with her. This makes Tiki unique to the other Emblems available, since her draconic attacks completely replace your other combat options for the duration of the Engage. These draconic attacks are a little weak compared to the weapons other Emblems carry, but Tiki’s unique Engage attack, which grants an auto-healing revival stone to an ally, more than makes up for it.
The sync skills Tiki grants just by having her equipped are also incredibly powerful, with many being based off the jewels of the Binding Shield from Mystery of the Emblem. The Starsphere, which is available from immediately at Bond Level 1, grants enhanced stat growth when leveling up to whichever unit has Tiki equipped, so you’re heavily incentivized to unlock her early if you want to make the most of her abilities. Her later sync skills improve her power as a support unit even more, such as the Geosphere giving extra protection to adjacent allies, and the Lifesphere giving a massive heal to its user. Overall Tiki might not be much of a fighter, but the extra protection she gives your army makes her one of the most valuable assets you can have on the battlefield.
Unlike Edelgard (with Dimitri and Claude), Tiki isn’t simply given to you; you’ll need to earn her by completing her paralogue chapter, which is a near-1:1 replica of the Ice Dragon Temple from Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. The chapter’s difficulty scales with your progress through the story, making it a worthwhile challenge whether you play it at the very beginning or very end of the game. This map takes the shape of a trident where you must travel down each fork in the path to press buttons that dispel magical barriers elsewhere in the map. The chapter also features Phantom Wyverns: a brand new enemy type that can’t be seen anywhere else in Fire Emblem Engage. These are similar to the base game’s Corrupted Wyrms—sharing their ability to entirely ignore your defensive stats—but the added mobility they gain from being able to fly makes them a more urgent threat that has to be dealt with quickly.
Tiki’s paralogue is not one of my favorite maps in the game; the long choke point at the temple’s entrance leaves little room for strategizing, and traveling down multiple dead-end paths just to press a button and immediately turn around felt tedious. It’s a bit of a weak start for the expansion pass, but I am pleased to know that each future DLC Emblem will almost certainly come with a paralogue chapter of its own. After completing Tiki’s paralogue, five additional Divine Paralogues appear on the world map. Each is currently just an empty node that can’t be accessed, but they match up perfectly with the five empty pedestals that now remain in the Ring Chamber on the Somniel.
I’m optimistic about where Fire Emblem Engage’s expansion pass is heading, but I can’t say I think it puts its best foot forward. As much as I loved the chance to play an additional chapter, Tiki’s paralogue doesn’t live up to the standard set by base game maps, and the Emblem Bracelets themselves don’t add much to a completed save file—though it was nice to see Tiki and the house leaders get a chance to talk to Marth and Byleth since the Emblem characters never actually talk to each other in the base game. The expansion pass is a better value if you purchase it early in your playthrough, but you’ll likely be stuck in the same position I am now for the remaining five Emblem characters to be added throughout 2023. Ironically the DLC is likely to be more enticing for players who pick up Engage late after all of the additional content has been added, since it’s tough to say you’ll get your money’s worth now unless you’re confident you’ll still be playing Fire Emblem Engage at the end of this year.