Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -

Alright Giant Bomb, it’s that time of year. The time when we all sit down and collectively ponder what is our Game of the Year. My game is Fire Emblem Awakening from earlier this year since I just bought a 3DS this month. The game encapsulates to me all that we love from Persona 4. Hilariously marvelous yet dumb writing from our ex-patriots living in Japan (Konichiwa 8-4!). It manages to be difficult without being punishing and your characters mortality brings weight to every decision you make. Now I don’t have any history with this series. The revolutions and evolution are oblivious to me. From this vantage point, I can say without a doubt that Fire Emblem Awakening is the most engaging and fun game I've played all year. Not only that but this trend that Fire Emblem is responsible partially for popularizing of adding a heredity mechanic to the RPG aspects of the game is by far the most intriguing trend in games for 2013.

This is all well and good but I didn't come here to pulverize this game with praise. I came to propose a question: What would Fire Emblem Awakening be like with a hexagonal map? Before we examine this, let me talk about the difference between diagonal and hexagonal maps in strategy games. In a square grid the distance linking the center of each cell is only constant with half of it’s neighbors, while in a hexagonal grid, the hex cells are constant with all six of its immediate neighbors at any given time. This restriction of diagonal movement is undesirable for games of logistics. The one disadvantage of a hex map as opposed to diagonal map is of course the lack of a true east and west cardinal movement, but this is unimportant to Fire Emblem so the point is in itself superfluous.

Now how would a hex map change the game? Fire Emblem restricts movement diagonally but allows ranged heroes(archers and mages) to attack diagonally. Now when you talk about strategy games, the old adage is that all the best ones are ‘easy to pick-up and difficult to master’, ie chess. Allowing the player’s the ability to accomplish this attack in this way undermines ‘difficult to master’ adage. Now my argument I’m going to put forward is that all the best strategy games are secretly about logistics. Whether you look at the best strategy video games like DOTA2 or Civilization V, the resources are what dictate your strategies. Each move you don’t make is potentially a move the opponent is making to obtain more resources than you. As such your positioning and movement in these games is everything.

When a knight or piece of the environment obstructs the enemies movement to move diagonally, an archer or mage has a free diagonal hit on the opponent. This makes it too easy to defend your range characters movement, allowing you generally to move forward on a map uncontested sometimes. Now the reasons for implementing the diagonal map originally is clear, it’s less work for the programmer. We’re talking about the difference of six possible directions to move versus four. Now being new to this series but not new to this genre, I would like to see Fire Emblem move to a hexagonal map. It not only hampers the combat, I would argue the diagonal map hampers the role-playing aspect of the game. Since characters who fight next to each other gain an assortment of attack and defense bonuses, but more importantly their relationships strengthen while doing so, the hex map is clearly superior. At any given time half of your potential neighbors are not gaining the needed relationships with their comrades(and potential lovers) in this diagonal map.

What do you think Giant Bomb?

#1 Edited by Draxyle (1793 posts) -

I can see how someone new to the franchise would really gravitate towards Awakening. As someone who loved the Radiant arc FE games, I did feel that Awakening took some mechanical steps backwards (reinforcements moving on the same turn they spawn on hard difficulty, lack of height dynamics, class system is a bit clunky, items are way too easy to acquire, etc), but I still loved Awakening for what it was. The character to character interactions in that game are superb; they definitely made that their focus for how crazy dynamic and elaborate they went with the system this time around. It's definitely worth playing for that side of things alone.

I definitely wouldn't mind a move to a hex grid. I'd only worry about how they handle AI though, as the Civ developers could never get it working perfectly well with the added complexity involved.

#2 Posted by ILikePopCans (746 posts) -

Awakening is fine but did not love it like a certain other FE game. i would still like to stick to squares personally. Having bridges would get mess up with hexs. And also changes to hexs would be like changing Halo to COD. Also it would never happen.

Now lets get @video_game_king and @arbitrarywater in here.

#3 Posted by Hailinel (23928 posts) -

Fire Emblem doesn't need hex grids to evolve. Square grids work as well as they ever have, particularly for the needs of a strategy RPG. Hex grids don't necessarily represent a positive change.

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#4 Posted by Video_Game_King (36051 posts) -
#5 Edited by ArbitraryWater (11485 posts) -

Ah, I have been summoned. Good to know I'm considered some sort of authority on Fire Emblem.

Fire Emblem doesn't need hexes to do what it does. I mean, there was Berwick Saga, but that game apparently is different than FE in a lot more ways than just 6-sided spaces. I'm sure there's some sort of deep, nuanced argument to be had in favor of either, but I'll just go with "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" in this particular case.

#6 Posted by Hunter5024 (5546 posts) -

Hex grids seem like kind of an unnecessary complication. I think rather than making it a more strategically rewarding game, it would probably just make archers even worse than they already are. A lot of your units killing is done through counters, which Archers rarely ever get to do. Making it more difficult to cover your ranged dudes and giving your melee guys more fronts to attack the enemy from would probably just exacerbate this issue.

#7 Edited by Quantris (237 posts) -

Your arguments are pretty much "FE should have a hex grid because I like hex grids better". First you argue that square grids make it too easy because they give ranged chars an advantage and then you say hex grid is better because it lets you do more pair-ups at once...both make the game easier but square grid is a negative while hex is a positive? Both of these are design decisions and I don't think it's honest to claim that one is objectively better than the other based on such arguments. In terms of logistics, this is a difference in kind not in quality (IMHO).

Also, you may be conflating imperfect character balance with the choice of grid; if you think the ranged characters are too powerful then it would make more sense to address that directly instead of using it as an excuse to change the grid system. Been a while since I've played this game so I shouldn't get into that, but IIRC it was pretty easy to out-strategize the AI.

BTW I really doubt they went with square grids because they're "easier to program". I think it's more guided by tradition and aesthetics, esp. with the many indoor fights with straight hallways etc.

All that said, I think I like hex grids a little better generally speaking, especially for outdoor environments where the level designs tend to look a little more natural. But I don't think it is a problem with Fire Emblem.

#8 Posted by Pr1mus (3818 posts) -

@draxyle: I don't think the move to the Hex grid was the problem itself for the Civ 5 AI but rather the removal of unit stacking. That's what made the complexity of movements and positioning skyrocket for the AI.

#9 Posted by ILikePopCans (746 posts) -
#10 Edited by granderojo (1778 posts) -

@hunter5024: @arbitrarywater: @hailinel: @ilikepopcans: @draxyle:

@quantris said:

Your arguments are pretty much "FE should have a hex grid because I like hex grids better". First you argue that square grids make it too easy because they give ranged chars an advantage and then you say hex grid is better because it lets you do more pair-ups at once...both make the game easier but square grid is a negative while hex is a positive? Both of these are design decisions and I don't think it's honest to claim that one is objectively better than the other based on such arguments. In terms of logistics, this is a difference in kind not in quality (IMHO).

Also, you may be conflating imperfect character balance with the choice of grid; if you think the ranged characters are too powerful then it would make more sense to address that directly instead of using it as an excuse to change the grid system. Been a while since I've played this game so I shouldn't get into that, but IIRC it was pretty easy to out-strategize the AI.

BTW I really doubt they went with square grids because they're "easier to program". I think it's more guided by tradition and aesthetics, esp. with the many indoor fights with straight hallways etc.

All that said, I think I like hex grids a little better generally speaking, especially for outdoor environments where the level designs tend to look a little more natural. But I don't think it is a problem with Fire Emblem.

This was sort of my point in writing this blog post. The example I gave of the archer was but one example of the ways in which the diagonal grid allows you to "out-strategize" the ai, as you would say. This isn't such a huge issue to say it's even a major problem of the game, I love the game. Civ V was brought up and I don't see the switch in Civilization to be an apt comparison for what I'm calling for. Unit stacking isn't an issue with Fire Emblem.

Nothing I propose here is about punishing the player or making the game easier. I'm just proposing a system that would clean up movements on the map. Right now the player's characters can move more aggressively forward on a map than they really have any right to.

Just remember when I'm criticizing the game, that at the end of the day this was a thought experiment.

#11 Posted by Hailinel (23928 posts) -


Nothing I propose here is about punishing the player or making the game easier. I'm just proposing a system that would clean up movements on the map. Right now the player's characters can move more aggressively forward on a map than they really have any right to.

I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at here. Movement in Fire Emblem is already clean. And as for characters being able to "move more aggressively forward on a map than they really have any right to," this argument doesn't make sense. The player and enemy units all move based on the same rules. And moving too aggressively with the wrong units can cost you dearly. That's not something that hex grids would make better.

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