Since late January (yes, I snagged the game early thanks to the infamous shipping fiasco that resulted in tons of preorders going unfulfilled), I’ve been playing Fire Emblem: Awakening almost constantly. I’m a huge fan of the series, so there was never any doubt that I was going to love the game, but for previous games in the series, I usually spent about 60 hours (not all at once!) beating the game and then put it on the shelf for a few years. All of them have long, deep campaigns, but little in the way of replay value. Perhaps a New Game Plus with a few new characters or maybe the thrill of Lunatic difficulty, but nothing in the way of additional story chapters.
Being a game of its time, Awakening was supported with weekly DLC from a week before release (Day Zero DLC, if you will) to almost four months after its original ship date. I bought every single one of these DLC packs, which were, on average, about $6.50 for three half-hour-long maps. I spent double the price of the vanilla game on DLC. And if they had kept releasing DLC, I probably would’ve spent even more money.
Every week, I’d get a mix of free characters, free sidequest maps (which, despite occurring chronologically before the final boss fight, felt a lot like cool little epilogues), free rare weapons, and paid DLC maps. It was an overwhelming amount of extra content for a game that was already easily the most feature-packed of the entire series, and it was enough to keep me playing for months on end.
Of course, the well had to run dry sooner or later, and the final piece of DLC was released a few weeks back. The ridiculously difficult Apotheosis episode took me almost a full night to beat, even with my maxed-out characters (carefully nurtured over months of grinding). When I finally laid the last enemy Hero to rest, I sighed. My total time clocked in at about 200 hours. I knew that I would probably never have the patience to start a new save file. A younger version of me might have gleefully subjected himself to something like that, but alas, 200 hours is too much for these creaky old bones to endure twice.
If you follow me on Twitter, you probably think that I hate almost everything. I love video games a lot, and unfortunately, I’ve come to hold them to a very high standard as of late. A lot of my complaints are in jest, but I genuinely feel that many games fall short of excellence. I can probably find something I don’t like in nearly every game I’ve played, but please don’t mistake my criticisms for actual hatred; I pick these things apart because I care. Fire Emblem: Awakening is one of those rare games that are difficult for me to find fault with. Even things that should be easy targets in a JRPG (cookie-cutter story, braindead dialogue) don’t really apply to Awakening, which is all the more surprising considering past games in the series were pockmarked with cliched anime end-of-world scenarios and horrible mock-medieval dialogue (Awakening does include these tropes to some extent, but they’re subverted pretty well).
When I play games, I always look forward to the end. I want to greedily consume the experience and then move on to the next meal. With Awakening, I wanted to savour it as long as possible, which was entirely weird for me. It’s been so long since the last time I played a game that made me feel that way; I hope it’s not too long until the next one.