A beginner’s guide to Fire Emblem Heroes

We’ve helped you get into Fire Emblem, but Fire Emblem Heroes? It’s a whole separate thing. It can be a lot of fun, but it’s also a bit intimidating to start! So after lots of requests, here it is: our guide to getting into Intelligent Systems’ mobile title.

What to know before starting

It’s a “gacha” game.

It’s random, it’s free-to-play and it’s nothing like Nintendo usually does. Or wants to do, if their many statements are to be believed. It’s territory entirely too common in the mobile space but less familiar to Nintendo fans, and it’s good to know what you’re getting into when you start. That said, you can totally play and have fun without spending much (or even any) money! It’s just a matter of choosing what you want out of it. High-level arena play? Yeah, that may cost you. But the solo play with challenging maps and intriguing team building is easy enough to do without funds. In that way, it’s a lot like a CCG, actually.

It’s Fire Emblem. Sort of.

The game isn’t quite a traditional Fire Emblem game, but it leans on many of the franchise’s traditions, like grid-based movement, weapon triangles and special weapons and skills. Where it most diverges is in its lack of permanent death, the series hallmark that has recently become optional but nevertheless defines its tactics. This version of the idea ends up feeling more like Advance Wars, with ideas like sacrificial pawns and trades becoming viable. The thing to know going in is that all units have one Attack stat, but mages’ attacks go against Resistance and physical attacks face off with Defense. It works like this because units don’t get multiple weapon type options, so their alignments are set. (Also, unlike core Fire Emblem, the magic and weapon triangles are consolidated into one: Red beats Green, Green beats Blue and Blue beats Red. Colorless units, like archers and healers, consistently deal neutral damage.)

What to do first

Re-roll. (Or don’t.)

The concept of “re-rolling” is big in gacha games: starting over repeatedly until you get the random units you want. You can do that in Heroes by uninstalling and reinstalling the game before you’ve linked to your My Nintendo account (a thing you’ll want to do for the free items). It’s time-consuming, and frankly not very fun, to redownload and play through the tutorials just to get different starter units, so we don’t recommend it unless you really have a lot of time on your hands and not much cash. We went ahead with our initial set of units, none of them five-star, and handled the game’s battles just fine until we could save up for more.

Upgrade your castle. (Or don’t.)

The first thing you should do, unless you already know you’re planning on crafting top-tier competitive units, is to spend the Orbs to upgrade your castle to accelerate experience gain. It’s a decent chunk of the base currency to do it, but it’s really worth it to make building up units a lot more painless. The reason not to do it: gaining SP, the points needed to learn skills, is easier at lower levels, and you’ll need more of that to wade into the high-level competitive world of “skill inheritance.” There’s a lot of fun to be had elsewhere in the game’s offerings, though, and it’ll be a lot easier to start with that leg up. (You can also learn skills on units of the same name and merge them to have them already learned, thanks to a recent game update.)

Save those Feathers and Orbs.

Feathers and Orbs are the two premium currencies in the game, in the sense that you’ll always be wanting more of them than you have. Badges are never really a problem, and the other items are more situational, but Orbs let you get new units and feathers let you upgrade the ones you like to the five-star tier. Use the others as much as you want, but know that those two don’t exactly flow like water. The game’s updates have allowed more ways to get feathers, but you’ll still want more than you have.

Grab the free units.

Outside of the gacha summoning, you can grab a base set of (admittedly very weak) units through rotating daily challenges. All are good to have just in case in-game quests ask you to complete maps with these characters (which you can do with three strong units and that one hiding in the corner), but two are particularly important: Olivia and Draug. Olivia is one of the few Dancer units and really needed (though you have to train her to three-star to unlock the Dance command), so spend some time training and upgrading her. Draug is… not a great unit at all, but there’ve been multiple times when we needed a party full of armored units for a quest and those are just not that common.

What to do next

Work on your arena team(s).

There’s a ton of stuff to do to fight against pre-made teams, but the Arena is where you can scratch that competitive itch. You build a squad and challenge an AI-controlled crew built by another player, and doing well earns you those oh-so-valuable feathers. Your attack squad will often need one of a rotating set of special units to earn decent points, so keep an eye there, but the other three can be anyone, and balancing between colors and magic and ranged attackers is important to be prepared for anything.

Your defense team, however, is a different story: you generally just need to upset another player once a week to get top points, so filling your first team slot with something wholly unbalanced is the way to go. Overload with one color so they can’t handle it. Put in a dancer so your range of attack is less predictable. Definitely put your weakest link in the first slot so that’s what they see when picking a foe, then surprise them with stronger compatriots. Basically just look at what makes your life harder when you’re attacking and try that.

Dip into the world of skill inheritance.

This recently-added game feature breaks open the competitive scene and makes customizing units a possibility. (And often an expensive one.) Instead of sending units home, you can use them up to add a few of their skills to another unit, then spend a (higher-than-usual) amount of SP to learn and equip those abilities. There’s a lot of information out there and wading deep into the process isn’t for the faint-of-heart, but hey: if you want to spend a lot of time with the game, this is certainly a way to do that.

Where to look for more help

FEHeroes Wiki tier list
Available with or without skill inheritance factored in, this chart represents the general consensus about which units to invest your time and effort into training.

@FEHeroes_News twitter account
Not all the game’s news is shared on the big Nintendo of America feed. This account translates the news from the Japanese feed, and that’s really helpful with keeping up with the game’s latest developments.

YouTube user Mkv.’s three-star strategies
Whenever there’s a difficult map to tackle, this player manages to beat it using those free units only leveled up to three stars! It’s impressive enough to watch, but it also provides some solid strategies for tackling the map yourself, either by mimicking the exact team with your own free units or substituting in stronger alternatives and deviating from the script a bit.

Fire Emblem Heroes subreddit (filtered)
For the latest help and information about the game, this can be a good source, but that filtered part is important simply because you’ll otherwise have to wade through a bunch of memes to get to the good stuff. This helpful option lets you cut straight to answering questions like “how do I beat this boss map” and “should I summon from this latest banner,” all-too-common queries for this game.

For more helpful advice for new players, check out our Guides section.

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