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?