The Girl Who Died

The Girl Who Died

Permadeath in games isn't always easy to deal with, and then there's Fire Emblem.

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And this is exactly why I played all 3 of my playthroughs on Casual mode. I just didn't want to deal with characters I liked perma-dying because of my incompetence. I ended up restarting most missions upon character "KO" anyway (because I felt it was kind of cheap to sacrifice pawns with no repercussions).

Since I first played some of Lyn's Story of the Fire Emblem (7) GBA cartridge my cousin got for Christmas for the first time over a decade ago, I have played though a sum of games in the series several times each and eventually made an ironclad rule to never continue with casualties (or to use Jeigans) but I always remember the people who died the first time I beat a game but didn't respond. Rebecca, the Wildflower when you very first get her in FE7, Vanessa the Pegasus Knight in FE8 along with Moulder the Priest.

I rather enjoyed the way I ran with it. I'd let characters die off when it felt befitting. Like Ricken really was being foolhardily venturing out into the battlefield like that or Virion took a hit to save someone else.

This rather reminds me of the only Fire Emblem game I've ever played... on the Game Boy Advance, according to Wikipedia it's the second in the series, and in Japan it holds the title Rekka No Ken or The Sword of Flame.

I restarted so many chapters to avoid character death, went back through loooong fights pretty damned often... but in the last battle I wound up losing Dorcas the axefighter to a critical hit. Wasn't the first time he'd been struck that fight, I was actually using him to run distraction and then get healed. Little did I know the toughest member of my team could be one-shotted.

The very next move, Eliwood struck the final blow against the dragon who just ended his brother-in-arms' life. Then I realized the weight of what had just happened. Dorcas joined the team to repay us for saving his wife, and now we had nothing but a corpse and a story to deliver back to her.
Didn't help that I was playing the game while deployed to the middle east. Never picked up another Fire Emblem game...

There really needs to be more games that have meaningful perma-death modes.

I know Xcom lets you train pretty much an army of soldiers you can make look like each other, but play through with the same squad for a dozen or so missions, you start wanting to make sure they come back safe.

And then everyone turns into zombies, the last one alive, the highest ranking soldier has a grenade throwing last stand on a rooftop, rocks fall, everyone dies kind of scenario.

That will tell you why I haven't played Xcom since I first bought it.

The deepest circle of hell is reserved for save scummers...

I like permadeath, its why I love xcom (and play ironman. It makes anything over normal difficulty stressful). Deaths on fire emblem always rang hollow with me. Its an rpg but no one says a word when a friend or comrade dies. There's no impact passed "my squad is now weaker". The game just carries on like they never existed.

bjj hero:
The deepest circle of hell is reserved for save scummers...

I like permadeath, its why I love xcom (and play ironman. It makes anything over normal difficulty stressful). Deaths on fire emblem always rang hollow with me. Its an rpg but no one says a word when a friend or comrade dies. There's no impact passed "my squad is now weaker". The game just carries on like they never existed.

While true, I guess there are different strokes for different people. For instance, on my first playthrough, I let donnel and nowi die, because I was sick of constantly restarting and trying my best not to let anyone die. Except that last one was a bit of a bust, because I just can't get over the fact that I let someone die.

At the same time though... I think the writer is onto something here with cheap deaths in FE, as far as I'm concerned. You see, you get a warning that things are arriving as reinforcements for the enemy. Unfortunately, there's no way to predict how many, what kind of units and where will the units be standing. In that respect, I feel the game has to answer those questions to make it fair in my eyes.

Maybe they went for some kind of thing where war is chaos, so you just can't figure everything out from the outset ever. But to me, I like to have some hard numbers, not just 'oops reinforcements appeared and now someone in your army died!' Crits I can take, but not an unfair situation.

I sacrificed a couple of characters in 9, specifically Rolf and Reyson. Technically Reyson just got hospitalized, but it did cost me his services and filled the remander of the game with moments where I had a scenario in which everything would be perfect if I had him around.

In Awakening, I sacrificed one of the endgame Paralogue characters to get another, as the first one had two royal dynasty members of her exact class, had just been recruited last mission, and was kind of a jerk.

I agree. The reinforcements in Awakening felt really cheap, due to the fact that they got their turn immediately after they arrived. At least in FE7, while it was still distressing when they arrived, you had a turn to react to them.

zerotkatama:
I agree. The Reinforcements in Awakening felt really cheap, due to the fact that they got their turn immediately after they arrived. At least in FE7, while it was still distressing when they arrived, you had a turn to react to them.

Awakening is relatively mild in that regard compared to New Mystery, since it gives you fair warning that they'll be showing up and indicates the general area. Also I'm pretty sure it only once dropped several high-movement units in the area you started in and warned you about that one in the briefing.

hickwarrior:

bjj hero:
The deepest circle of hell is reserved for save scummers...

I like permadeath, its why I love xcom (and play ironman. It makes anything over normal difficulty stressful). Deaths on fire emblem always rang hollow with me. Its an rpg but no one says a word when a friend or comrade dies. There's no impact passed "my squad is now weaker". The game just carries on like they never existed.

While true, I guess there are different strokes for different people. For instance, on my first playthrough, I let donnel and nowi die, because I was sick of constantly restarting and trying my best not to let anyone die. Except that last one was a bit of a bust, because I just can't get over the fact that I let someone die.

At the same time though... I think the writer is onto something here with cheap deaths in FE, as far as I'm concerned. You see, you get a warning that things are arriving as reinforcements for the enemy. Unfortunately, there's no way to predict how many, what kind of units and where will the units be standing. In that respect, I feel the game has to answer those questions to make it fair in my eyes.

Maybe they went for some kind of thing where war is chaos, so you just can't figure everything out from the outset ever. But to me, I like to have some hard numbers, not just 'oops reinforcements appeared and now someone in your army died!' Crits I can take, but not an unfair situation.

You should try xcom. There is fog of war so you can be methodically clearing out an alien site to find out youre sniper at the back has been flanked by crysalids or a flying disc. At that point youre in reap trouble. The maps are also not as scripted so its harder to predict than in games like shining force or FE.

bjj hero:
The deepest circle of hell is reserved for save scummers...

I like permadeath, its why I love xcom (and play ironman. It makes anything over normal difficulty stressful). Deaths on fire emblem always rang hollow with me. Its an rpg but no one says a word when a friend or comrade dies. There's no impact passed "my squad is now weaker". The game just carries on like they never existed.

I feel like the normal save scumming argument doesn't hold up when it comes to Fire Emblem games. There's no option to save mid-battle in Awakening, so your only checkpoints come in between chapters. Many chapters have enemies that spawn at the beginning of the enemy turn, which makes them impossible to prepare for, and many times a single death would start a chain reaction that leads to even more dying. If even a relatively expendable unit like Maribelle can alter the team dynamic, imagine what losing a top hitter would do.

Not to mention there's the timesink. If you're half an hour into a battle and wind up with an unlucky death, you have to be willing to make up that half hour of gameplay if you want to save the character. It's not a case of "I'm just going to redo this one mistake". Radiant Dawn on the Wii let you save mid-chapter, which I refused to do when playing because it took all the tension out of the game. If you're playing on one of the harder difficulties in FE, keeping as many squadmates alive as possible is almost required.

Also, for clarification, I was playing Awakening on hard, not normal. I'm a seasoned veteran of the series, and Fire Emblem 7 on the GBA is one of my favorite games of all time. It was only natural I would skip the normal difficulty.

Kalezian:

I know Xcom lets you train pretty much an army of soldiers you can make look like each other, but play through with the same squad for a dozen or so missions, you start wanting to make sure they come back safe.

I know how you feel, man. I lost my favorite sniper when I assaulted the alien base for the first time, and I had to turn the game off for a while.

R.I.P. Colonel Daniel "Longbow" Martin.

Even the Happiest of the Fire Emblem games have the most depressing ending depending on how many, who, and in what circumstances, some one died, because you live knowing what was sacrificed for your over all victory.

Also on the Xcom side, I treated it like Fire Emblem.

Who ever i got was a person, only ever altered their hair or armor color, and so many sad stories have come out of that. From the sole survivor from the tutorial mission becoming one of the first majors I had with the first sniper and assault trooper, How that same soldier was the first to die against the mutons. And later on the fresh medic that I got as a reward from one of the abduction missions bravely charging in to the heat of battle quickly becoming a captain but tragically had to be put down after a Crysalid infected her while she saved my assault man. and the All rookie mission when my best people were out with critical injures that was a bloodbath but produced the second of my two best snipers.

Fire Emblem, Xcom, and other games with that kind of permadeath can realy add so much more involvement in to the games, I see here that it can really bring out our emotions because it makes every character that much more precious. You dont just have a horseman, you have Stahl or Sully, you never have just a sniper, you have Col. Hwang Kim or Maj. Adriane Romanos

... and this is why I put sold my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced after three battles.

Fuck permadeath. It serves no useful purpose other than to ruin a game.

If you disagree - good for you. There is clearly a following for such games. Enjoy them.

I will never, ever play one.

Aww, I'd really come to like Maribelle during the game; she's uptight, but quite grounded, and always intends to help (her bonds with Frederick were hilarious as well). Not to mention, she found her niche in Sage; using high magic growth as Troubadour for offense, plus her naturally high skill made her a boss.

I managed to lose several main characters in chapter 3 during my first playthrough; Sumia, Kellam, Miriam, AND Lissa (about half your force in that chapter too!) I was steeled not to lose anyone else during the game.

I kind of wish there was some sort of relief from the fact that you lose both a comrade and a valuable part of your force in FE:A. Casual I'm aware of, but I'm finding it too easy to just move on with missions. Classic pushes me to the other end of the spectrum in a sense, that I found it too easy to restart a mission for a loss. I show the weakness of my will there, but maybe their ghosts still serve in battle, but it changes/prevents relationships between the living forces? I dunno.

Double Fine's Massive Chalice reminds me of FE:A, what with the multi-generational campaign; I have hopes that it can do something different with that!

It would be awesome to see games make permadeath more meaningful, as opposed to just something that the player chooses to become invested into. I can't imagine how impossibly hard it would be to weave characters firmly into a story when each and every one of them can become expendable but it would be quite amazing if done right. Mass Effect seemed to be getting at the very beginnings of such a concept with Ashley and Kaiden but that wasn't mid-gameplay and the characters were very interchangeable.

Occasionally, Fire Emblem does recognize a character's death. Like with a poster above mentioning he lost Rolf in FE9, that's actually discussed with his two surviving brothers. If any of the other brothers die, the survivors will always at least have a line of two somewhere about them.

Although I get the spirit of the comments.

I usually do my first run of a Fire Emblem game on it's highest difficulty available, restarting after every death, and then play again on normal without ever restarting. I've only ever broke that pact once, when my Rolf died, because he was A) Blessed unto God-tier with the RNG and B) Like, twelve. I can't let this kid die, he's like the little brother I always wanted. That ended up getting 2nd most kills in the game. :P

This was a very interesting article. I never played the games out of fear for something like what Bob went through, the constant save scumming in order to get the best endings for every character. That would just infuriate me if I ever hit a major obstacle.

I've never beaten a Fire Emblem game. I'm a terrible tactician and I refuse to continue with casualties, so I restart until I give up. I get invested, and everytime a character dies I feel like I've failed them, so this article was one that I could really relate to. The fear of death, and the knowledge that it would haunt me if I continued is too much for me to ever finish a game. Great article, really good.

Captcha: broken heart.
Oh so many times, when playing these games.

Bara_no_Hime:
... and this is why I put sold my copy of Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced after three battles.

Fuck permadeath. It serves no useful purpose other than to ruin a game.

If you disagree - good for you. There is clearly a following for such games. Enjoy them.

I will never, ever play one.

Tactics Advance only had permadeath if you fought in a Jagd. Otherwise you could go the whole battle with everyone except one character down the whole battle and everyone would still be alive afterwards. Which I actually did several times during story battles, using only Marche to make the battles seem more difficult.

OT: Yes, the Fire Emblem games are nerve-wracking. At least the original Tactics gave you three turns to revive characters. Of course, if you failed to revive them and they died anyway it felt much more like the death was your fault, as opposed to Fire Emblem where it feels like it was out of your control.

AbsoluteVirtue18:
Tactics Advance only had permadeath if you fought in a Jagd. Otherwise you could go the whole battle with everyone except one character down the whole battle and everyone would still be alive afterwards. Which I actually did several times during story battles, using only Marche to make the battles seem more difficult.

Maybe it was just Tactics, not Tactics Advanced? It was the one ported to PSP. I honestly can't remember - like I said, I traded it almost immediately.

This article makes you think doesn't it? Then again most games with perma-death elements do. We will go out of our way, to ridiculous lengths in some cases, to save a character from the white light at the end of the tunnel.

Yet these characters are only bits of code...

Why do we do it? Why do we 'save scum'? (I believe that is the proper derogatory nomenclature)

For example, why did I reload a save and lose almost four hours of my life to keep Dogmeat from Fallout alive?

Maybe it's because we fear death.

Maybe we hope that when it's one of our own real loved ones that is in danger or near death, maybe the almighty will throw them a mulligan.

Or maybe it's just me, and I just have a hard time letting go. I, for one, have buried a lot of friends, family, and loved ones. If given a thin sliver of a chance to go back and save anyone, I'd take it in an instant.

Certain characters are destined to die, yet we rage against it.

How hard did people try to save and/or bring back Aerith Gainsborough? (Final Fantasy 7) Even going so far as to hack/mod the game to get her back.

How about Shinjiro Aragaki? (Persona 3) The outcry was so loud that in the PSP re-release the creators gave us a way to save him.

We fight it ruthlessly even at play. I think the best way I can sum it up is with, as with most things, a quote.

"There is only one god and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: "Not today."
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Isn't it a bit redundant to pick the permadeath option and then reset every time a soldier dies? That just means you're playing normal mode, only it's a bit more complicated to reload an autosave ( assuming it works similar to ironman in XCOM )

Not sure what difficult level author is playing on, but archers are complete trash past normal and any dragon units (including Nah) are incredibly powerful in the midgame (only outpaced in lategame/DLC maps because their super low speed cap prevents them from double attacking anything).

In normal, who cares? You can get through with mostly unpromoted units.

But yeah, on topic, FE has never done permanent death well. It feels hollow, forced and very very artificial, like they heard once on the phone what difficulty meant but never quite grasped the concept in full. Protip; replaying the first 20 minutes of a mission because 4 guys spawned within walking distance of your backline units and got kills on the very first turn before I could even react is not "challenging," it's "utter bullshit, go the fuck back to game design 101 before making any more shitty games."

FE could learn a hell of a lot from XCom, too; the earlier FE games with fog of war were absolute bullshit, because it was like the spawned units but you just couldn't see the entire map and thus a single unit could get picked off from 9 spaces away from gargoyles flying in from waaaay out of vision range. In xcom your choice of cover actually matters, and the game gives you tools to deal with unknown enemy locations and lots of fog. FE didn't, and suffered greatly because of it. At least they figured that out and didn't put any fog in awakening - at least one person in that company still has a working brain. He needs to lead an armed insurrection to overthrow all the dipshits that think permadeath from spawned units/walls opening up at random is good design, cos that shit is still holding FE back from being a truly great series. It's right on the cusp; a little improvement could go a long way. But they keep bringing back all the stupid bullshit from the earlier titles in service to brand, completely ignorant of what makes a "good" TBS game.

You want to blindside and permakill units? Okay, let me recruit them from somewhere. You want to throw fog of war everywhere? Okay, give me cover to hide behind (and 1 castle per map that the boss is afk on doesn't count). It's not that FE is a "hard" game, because it really isn't; most of the strategy is dealing with the outdated rock paper scissors faffery and making sure your dudes skirt around the edge of enemy attack range so they don't get buttfucked. The game just becomes complete shit in a waffle pan when they decide "hah, fuck these players, I'm just gonna kill that healer because I'm feeling vindictive, and there's nothing they can do about it except soft reset and play that first 20 minutes over again."

Fuck you, Fire Emblem: Awakening. When you actually get good, give me another call; until then I'll be playing far superior TBS games.

zanzarra:
Isn't it a bit redundant to pick the permadeath option and then reset every time a soldier dies? That just means you're playing normal mode, only it's a bit more complicated to reload an autosave ( assuming it works similar to ironman in XCOM )

Just because you like the added tension of having the possibility of losing a character forever, it doesn't mean you want it to happen.

And this article really hit home here, as I've been restarting the same chapter for around 2 weeks now trying to get around it

EDIT: Dammit man, you really had to put Maribelle's umbrella on the grave too, didn't you? ;_;

But there is no tension when a character death has the same consequences as in normal mode - none, if you choose so.

zanzarra:
But there is no tension when a character death has the same consequences as in normal mode - none, if you choose so.

Restarting a chapter isn't the same as saving mid-battle. To save a character, you sometimes have to be willing to lose up to 45 minutes worth of progress.

Bara_no_Hime:

Maybe it was just Tactics, not Tactics Advanced? It was the one ported to PSP. I honestly can't remember - like I said, I traded it almost immediately.

That was the original Tactics. And Tactics was amazingly generous when it came to permadeath. It's a measly 90 JP to get Phoenix Down, they're cheap to purchase in large quantities, and even if the character is offed again you've still reset the turn count. Even if you had someone die in the middle of battle with absolutely no one who could revive them in almost all circumstances you could just finish the battle in 4 turns and you'd be golden. In Tactics permadeath was actually set up in YOUR favor, if you waited for enemies to die and crystalize you could steal their abilities for free or use them as full heals. With the small maps, the many paths to make optimized characters, and the relative speed of fights Permadeath is never an issue.

As for Fire Emblem it's more of an issue, but especially for Awakening you're given more than enough tools to prevent that. It's not merely casual mode either, FE13 lets you buy rescue staves and grind up stats and skills. In many ways with the exception of Lunatic and Lunatic+ the game is one of the easier FE games. Fire Emblem in general touts permadeath, but really they do expect you to get everyone out alive. It's a massive departure that FE11/Shadow Dragon had secrets unlocked by intentionally killing characters and even replaced death characters with generic allies. Oh and if you killed enough of them eventually the generic allies would be mocking names like "wymp", "owend", "laime" and "auffle"

Omnicrom:
It's a measly 90 JP to get Phoenix Down,

Wasn't there a very strict time limit on using Phoenix Downs? Like 3 turns or they're gone? There was something about I had to get over to a character in so many turns to use the Phoenix Down or Permadeath.

This has been a while ago. I'm trying to remember exactly how it went, but mostly what I remember was a character falling, my remaining characters all rushing over to help, no one making it in time, and my rushing over opening my flank up and losing another character. I was also annoyed by how slowly everyone moved.

Also, I seem to remember a battle where someone fell. I raised them. They fell again. I raised them. This went on until I ran out of Phoenix Downs.

My experience with this game was absolutely awful.

And it isn't that I dislike Strategy games. I love Jeanne d'Arc (also on PSP).

I was never able to finish a Fire Emblem game. They all had to live, and I had to recruit every person possible. Granted, I've only played two of them, on the GC and the Wii, but I didn't finish either of them. I'd get reckless, or ambushed, and favorite characters would die (with the fancy and expensive weapon I'd just bought them, no less), and it would be twenty to thirty minutes I'd have to start anew.

That said, I commend you for your decision to let one die, to finish. That you didn't lose more is fine, and I like that her death had unexpected consequences for your team. Thanks for sharing.

Why is Permadeath such a popular mechanic in Tactical RPGs?

There's also Suikoden Tactics. Fallen combatants are immediately removed from play during that battle, but are also subject to a single roll of the dice to determine if they were injured with a recovery time or permakilled. Characters significant to the main story were exempt from permadeath, and this encouraged their usage much more so than others. Suikoden gives an effort to try and make permakilled characters signficance to the atmosphere by having a graveyard you can choose to visit just to remember, but other than that there's no significance to their death other than to be a statistic.

I like that the OT mentioned XCOM. I you can invest so much energy in a character, but they can die easily without the frustrating loss of potential narrative.

 

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