Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia launched on May 19th and I’ve been playing it whenever I can in-between my adult obligations. This entry in the series is definitely something unique, just as Fire Emblem Gaiden was back in the day. For “new generation” Fire Emblem fans (those who have played only Awakening and/or Fates), this game probably feels like culture shock – many familiar mechanics are gone and some of the new ones make this game quite a bit different than those two titles in particular. For “old generation” fans (I tentatively include myself in this category), there will be some familiarity here. But unless you actually played Gaiden back in the day, this game has a lot of new concepts to grasp. That’s why this guide is here: to help those just now picking up the game to grasp the new mechanics as quickly as possible.
In this guide, I will be covering the following topics: Statistics, Battle Calculations, New Battle Mechanics, the World Map, Items, and Class Changing. If you’re looking at this guide with a computer, use the handy CTRL + F to find whichever category you’re looking for. If you’re on mobile, the categories will be in that order, so scroll down to whichever one you’re hunting if you came here looking for something specific.
There are seven main statistics in this Fire Emblem (not counting movement), down from the usual eight. Those statistics are Health Points (HP), Attack (ATK), Skill (SKL), Speed (SPD), Luck (LCK), Defense (DEF), and Resistance (RES). Many of these work the same as usual but if this is your first Fire Emblem, an overview can be helpful.
Health represents your life force. If a unit’s HP drops to zero, then that unit will be defeated, either leaving the rest of the battle (Casual Mode) or outright dying (Classic Mode).
Attack represents how powerful your unit is in battle. It’s most straightforward application is that it directly influences the damage that you do with physical or magical attacks. However, it also affects the potency of healing magic and the range of certain magical spells.
Skill is the measure of your unit’s precision. It directly influences the accuracy of physical attacks and has a small influence on critical hit rate as well.
Speed is pretty straightforward, representing how fast your unit is. The unit with the highest speed attacks twice in a battle. Speed also directly influences your ability to dodge physical attacks, and has a small influence on your ability to dodge magical attacks.
Luck does not directly influence any one thing but partially influences many things, helping to increase stats like Critical Hit, Critical Dodge, and Magical Avoid. It also affects the activation rate of certain items.
Defense and Resistance represent your ability to endure damage from an opponent. Defense protects you from physical attacks, while Resistance protects you from magical attacks.
Understanding how the numbers work when comparing two units can help you make decisions in combat. These calculations are the behind-the-scenes work that make battles play out the way they do – knowing how your stats affect them can help you to fight smarter.
A quick note here: I am going to be referencing a specific stat called “support bonuses.” These are the bonuses you get for having two units with a support relationship close to each other. These bonuses are character-specific and may or may not be tied to support conversations between the characters. For full details, I highly recommend you check out Serenes Forest’s support bonus guide.
Let’s start off with attacking. For a physical attack, you add your unit’s ATK stat to the MT of the weapon they are wielding. If the weapon is particularly effective against that enemy type, you multiply MT by 3. You then subtract the target’s defense stat to see the final damage of a single strike. Here’s the equation written out:
Physical Damage = Attacker’s ATK +(Weapon MT (x3 if Effective)) – Defender’s DEF
Magical damage is very nearly the same – you just replace Weapon MT with Spell MT and replace Defender’s DEF with Defender’s RES. Like this:
Magical Damage = Attacker’s ATK + (Spell MT (x3 if Effective)) – Defender’s RES
Critical hit damage is really easy – all you do is take the final result of the appropriate equation above and multiply it by three:
Critical Hit = Damage x3
As for the chance of actually landing a critical hit? That’s a bit more complicated. It takes a little bit of skill and a little bit of luck – half of each, to be exact. It’s also affected by the critical of your weapon or spell, and can even be increased by applicable support bonuses. Enemies can’t have support bonuses and most don’t have critical dodge either, so when figuring this up for an enemy, those numbers will be zero. So that calculation is:
Critical Rate = Attacker’s (Skill + Luck)/2 + Weapon/Spell CRIT + Support Bonus – Defender’s Critical Dodge
And what is critical dodge, exactly? This stat reduces the attacker’s chance of scoring a critical hit. It relies primarily on LCK but also benefits from support relationships.
Critical Dodge = Luck/2 + Support Bonus
When it comes to accuracy, physical and magical attacks work differently. Physical attack accuracy relies on the attacker’s skill and is lowered by the defender’s speed. Support bonuses help with this, but enemy terrain bonuses can also mess with the numbers. And again, enemies won’t benefit from support bonuses, so that number will always be zero for them. When making physical attacks, it’s important to focus on the defender’s terrain.
Physical Accuracy = Attacker’s SKL + Weapon HIT + Support Bonus – Defender’s Physical Avoid
Physical Avoid = Defender’s SPD – Defender’s Item WT + Support Bonus + Terrain Bonus
Magical accuracy is rather wonky and, as best as I can tell, works differently for player characters versus enemy units. Specifically, while player stats can help them avoid enemy magic, enemies don’t seem to have anything that can help them dodge magical attacks. So in the equation below, the Defender’s Magical Avoid will always be zero when attacking an enemy with magic. Magic ignores terrain bonuses but also doesn’t benefit from the attacker’s SKL, so the accuracy of magic relies almost exclusively on the spell’s HIT.
Magical Accuracy = Spell HIT + Support Bonus – Defender’s Magical Avoid
Magical Avoid = Defender’s (Speed + Luck)/2
NEW BATTLE MECHANICS
Understanding how Echoes works differently than other Fire Emblem titles is key to success in battle. Specifically, the absence of certain mechanics and the presence of others forces you to think differently when it comes to the strategies you use in battle.
Perhaps the most significant impact comes from the absence of the weapon triangle. The rock-paper-scissors relationship between different weapons in Fire Emblem normally makes it much more likely that certain unit types will be more successful against others. The triangle increases accuracy and damage when wielding the advantageous weapon – without that bonus, units are relying more on their raw stats and on any kind of bonuses they can receive. I’ve found that this makes it much harder to dodge attacks in this Fire Emblem, even for speedy units like Mercenaries or Pegasus Knights. This also results from the fact that the base accuracy of most standard enemy units is 90, meaning enemies will be hitting the average unit with 80% accuracy or so for most of the game.
Again, this makes taking advantage of terrain bonuses incredibly valuable. Some spaces will offer an extra 40 points of avoidance, drastically reducing the chance of getting hit by attacks. Of course, enemies can do this same thing, so it’s important to watch their placement in battle. I’ve had multiple occasions where I didn’t pay attention to an enemy unit’s location and expended three or four units before landing a successful hit. While terrain may have had a small beneficial effect in past titles, managing it skillfully is key in this one.
Speed works differently in this game in the sense that you don’t need an advantage of 4-5 points to double-attack the opponent (or vice versa): the unit whose speed is even one point higher will get to attack twice. This makes it much easier to double attack but also much easier to BE double-attacked. In a typical Fire Emblem, your fastest units never have to worry about being struck more than once, because it’s almost impossible to find an enemy with a 5 point speed advantage over them. In this game, it happens a lot more often because finding an enemy unit with 1 speed more is common even for your quickest characters.
Unless an attack misses, the minimum damage dealt in this game is 1. So even if your defense is double the opponent’s attack power, you still take a point of damage. This is significant in that it makes all combat a battle of attrition – even a mighty knight cannot stand against an endless tide of enemies. While death by chip damage is still far less prevalent in this game than it was in Fates, it is still something to be careful about.
This particularly applies to your spellcasters, who not only lose HP by taking damage but also by using their powers. Almost every spell has an HP cost to cast, meaning that each attack a mage makes wears them down a bit. This makes mages poor tanks even against enemy magicians, because they can’t fight for long without draining themselves dry. You always want to keep a magician close to your healer, and equip them with an item that grants regeneration whenever possible.
Navigating the world of Echoes has some similarities to other Fire Emblem games, but there are clear differences too. Most navigation occurs on the world map, where you can move your party between points of interest like towns, shrines, and battlefields. On the map you’ll be able to see where enemies are stationed – moving onto an enemy-occupied space will trigger a battle. Most story battles occur in this manner.
Places where significant enemy commanders are positioned can spawn small squads of enemies that actually travel towards you on the map. If such a squad occupies the same space as another enemy force when you encounter that force, you’ll fight them both all at once. If such a squad gets to one of your own parties while you are moving another group around, the enemy will get the jump on you. This allows them to move first and prevents you from choosing your unit placement or making any other preparations.
These squads can be rather frustrating as they discourage exploration. Want to go back to an old town to visit the smithy or complete a quest? Chances are your backtracking will spawn an enemy squad. If it’s for the party you’re currently controlling, that’s not too bad – just head where you need to go and hope the squad isn’t hanging out with some powerful enemy commander when you get back. If it forms for the other party, you’ll either have to switch who you’re controlling and take the offensive, or suffer an ambush. These types of conflicts discouraged me from exploring as much as I wanted to, forcing me to keep the offensive lest I keep getting dragged through pointless battles that artificially extended my playtime. My recommendation is that unless you are prepared and patient enough to handle this constant barrage of enemy squads, you should just keep moving through the story so they don’t get you involved in uninteresting/unnecessary conflict.
As for moving around towns and dungeons? My main recommendation is to check everything. Destructible walls in dungeons are pretty obvious and often hide treasure or useful fountains you can drink from to raise a unit’s stats a bit. Random food will often be lying around in town, but you can also find weapons or cogs for Mila’s Turnwheel by searching around. Talk to every villager, as many have quests to complete that, at the very least, will earn you some silver marks and a bit of renown. Those marks will be useful for upgrading equipment down the line.
Items function much differently in this Fire Emblem than they have in other titles. The biggest difference? You can only hold one! The one item you hold can be a weapon, a shield, or another useful item like food or a ring. Now if you aren’t holding a weapon, it doesn’t mean you are literally unarmed – every weapon wielding class automatically carries a generic weapon with no damage bonus and high accuracy. Carrying a weapon on your person generally increases attack power at the cost of accuracy and speed. Shields increase your defense and sometimes even resistance – again at the cost of speed. Food items heal your HP when consumed and also counteract fatigue, keeping units healthy in dungeons.
Item selection is valuable because items are the primary method of creating distinctions between similar units. Different weapons grant different Arts, special skills which cost HP but give advantages. Two units of the same class can play differently when wielding different weapons because the arts they wield are different. Some arts increase accuracy, others damage, others change the range – there are a lot of options when it comes to arts. Weapons can also be upgraded by spending marks at a smithy, increasing their stats and making them even more valuable.
While I may do a more detailed guide on item recommendations in the future, for now here’s a general suggestion:
Defensive units (soldiers/knights) are great recipients for Shields. The increased defense guarantees that they’ll only take 1 damage from physical attackers, and the decreased speed matters little partly because of the massive defense stat.
Magicians benefit most from Rings that grant the Regeneration skill. Mages/Clerics will use up HP every turn that they cast a spell, so having something that restores their HP at the beginning of their turn increases their survivability and keeps you from having to follow them with healers.
Most other classes benefit from holding a weapon. Generally it’s better to give your heavier, stronger weapons to fast, weak characters, as they are more likely to still be able to double attack and the damage bonus is much needed. Lighter, weaker weapons are good for characters that already have pretty high attack power, as these weapons generally grant arts that increase accuracy, which is pretty valuable.
Class changing and promotion is a familiar feature from other Fire Emblem titles, but the big difference here is in how it works. Rather than using special seals to change classes at level ten or higher, different classes unlock their class changes at different levels, and then you can change their class at a statue of Mila inside of a shrine. Because class changes unlock at early levels for many classes, it can be tempting to change classes as soon as you are able. But is that the smartest move?
Just like a typical Fire Emblem game, it is statistically preferable to wait until you max out your class level before promoting. More levels of leveling up equals out to higher maximum stats when your character reaches their final level. A character that leveled up thirty times is going to have higher stats than one that leveled up only twenty.
However, unlike your typical Fire Emblem experience, it isn’t necessarily as important that you maximize your level up potential. Particularly if you are playing in Normal difficulty (and even more particularly in Casual mode), the battles generally aren’t difficult enough for you to truly need to maximize the potential of every single character. It would honestly be a serious pain to grind levels up to 20, and unless the higher difficulties necessitate the extra power, you can get by without squeezing out every tiny level up. My recommendation is to wait until around level 10 to change classes (for those classes that can actually class up before that time).
There you have it, adventurers, my beginner’s guide to Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia! I do plan to do more guides for the game, so be sure to check back here on Adventure Rules for more info on FE Echoes. Thanks for reading, and I hope this info is helpful in your journey!