Fire Emblem Engage is an enjoyable SRPG with incredibly polished gameplay mechanics, but is its pricey expansion pass worth the extra cost? To answer that question, I’d like to talk more about the fourth and final expansion pack: the side-adventure Fell Xenologue campaign that tasks players with diving into an alternate reality of the FE Engage world where enemies are friends and you must cross blades with allies in battles to the death. Fell Xenologue is worth the price, not only because of its separate storyline that seeks to connect previous waves of the expansion pass into the game’s mythos but also the likable characters at its core and how it carries over into the base game proper. Brian Mackenzie wrote in his review of Fire Emblem Engage’s base game that while the story may not impress, the game mechanics do. While I appreciate Fell Xenologue’s story slightly more, there’s no denying that Fire Emblem Engage fans stand to get the most out of Fell Xenologue, as the DLC is essentially more of the same.
Players must purchase the entire Fire Emblem Engage expansion pass to play through Fell Xenologue. By acquiring the expansion pass, you get access to the added story campaign and open up Divine Paralogues that give you additional helpful gameplay-boosting accessories known as Emblems, powered by spirits of previous FE games’ heroes. These DLC Emblems are in bracelets instead of rings to differentiate them. You don’t have to acquire these new Emblems before attempting to play Fell Xenologue. Still, they’re a boon if you’re attempting the expansion early and can be beneficial in the primary story campaign when you’re light on Emblems.
At any rate, you must play through the primary story campaign’s Chapter Six before acquiring access to Fell Xenologue. There will be an Ancient Well on the extensive Somniel grounds. Approach it at the appointed time, and the game will give you a helpful prompt about starting the Fell Xenologue campaign. Fell Xenologue has difficulty settings, apart from the base game. These difficulty adjustments allow you to tailor your playing experience further. Aside from a small portion of interconnected battles fought in a row during the campaign, you can exit out of the Fell Xenologue at any time to continue your base game or Divine Paralogue adventures whenever you see fit.
Fell Xenologue begins with the player character Alear getting summoned to aid an Elyos not unlike their world, but different in crucial ways. In this new reality, both the Divine Dragon and the Fell Dragon Sombron have already fallen against one another in combat. However, a mysterious and deadly new force is attempting to finish what Sombron began by gathering the Emblem bracelets to use their power to plunge this Elyos into ruin. Alear, ever the helpful sort, readily agrees to assist Fell Dragon twins Nel and Nil in preventing this calamity, even if it means misunderstandings that force them into battle with previous allies from their original reality.
The twins aren’t alone in restoring peace to what’s left of their Elyos. On their journey, Alear soon encounters the Four Winds aiding them. These characters are helpful counterparts to the antagonistic Four Hounds who continually battle against Alear in their reality: there’s the kindhearted and earnest mage dragon leader Zelestia who serves as cruel Zephia’s opposite; the supportive sage Gregory whose fear of pain is a direct counter to Griss’ love of it; the stalwart, young knight Madeleine who is separate personality-wise from the horrifically gleeful Marni; and the loyally direct knight Mauvier who is honestly pretty similar to his Four Hounds counterpart save being not quite as blunt. Along with Alear, Nel, and Nil, these four characters take up the lion’s share of the expansion’s plot. You’ll see familiar faces across the battlefield. While their reasoning for fighting isn’t nearly as compelling or in-depth as one might hope, how your allies differ in their usual personalities in this alternate reality is at least interesting.
Aside from Alear and the new Fell Xenologue characters, players can access any recruited characters or Emblems acquired throughout their base game journey to complete their battle party. Because Fell Xenologue is a separate campaign, there are differences in how it approaches battle across the world map. All party members have set levels and classes that you cannot alter for the fights, regardless of what gear you equipped before starting the DLC campaign or party levels. These restrictions help streamline the expansion for everyone regardless of when they start playing it. I’d just started FE Engage and began Fell Xenologue right when it became available, so several of my party members were at higher levels and more advanced jobs than they were in the base game. Knowing how these versions of the characters play is a vital strategic element to playing through the DLC battles.
Similar to the casual mode for the base game, characters who fall in combat in Fell Xenologue fights retreat from battle and are available for combat during the next fight. Three exceptions exist: Alear, Nel, and Nil must survive most fights. You get an automatic game over if one of them falls in battle. Because those three characters are crucial, you should watch their health and enemy range throughout combat, adding another layer of strategy to battle.
Fights can often be prolonged and grueling in Fell Xenologue, providing a hefty dose of challenge, especially in the more complex difficulties. Two of the last battles in particular, one where you must keep a defenseless Alear who has been separated from the rest of the party alive and the final where you fight your way through a series of disappearing islands while gradually weakening the main boss, are some of the hardest in the entire game. However, I felt accomplished when I figured out their winning strategies! Despite the restrictions placed on you through preset levels and classes, Fell Xenologue’s gameplay is very reminiscent of what you find in the base FE Engage game, save that supports between characters and bond levels with Emblems cannot level up while fighting through the expansion.
From a storyline stance, aside from some occasional rushed pacing to condense the plot into a handful of battles, the storytelling for Fell Xenologue is stronger than the base game. The sibling storyline between Nel and Nil is compelling. As a twin myself, I always enjoy those kinds of plots! Nel’s initial reluctance to connect with Alear due to her tragic connection to her world’s version of the Divine Dragon is believably conveyed, and the Four Winds are likable characters who stand separate from their Hound counterparts. Their found family dynamic is surprisingly touching, and the reveal of who Fell Xenologue’s true main antagonist is and the reasoning behind their actions is well-done. The Elyos of Fell Xenologue is a bleak world, so it’s no wonder that the characters jump ship to Alear’s Elyos when given the opportunity.
In this carryover between the relatively separate Fell Xenologue and FE Engage, I’m most impressed as the Four Winds and the Fell Dragon siblings integrate seamlessly into the base game once the gorgeously illustrated ending theme for the DLC rolls. All of the Fell Xenologue characters have supports not only with Alear, several of whom can reach romantic S Support if you’re so inclined, but also amongst themselves and other party members. Their supports seem written more extensively overall when compared to others. Their characters are welcome additions to battles, and I especially love seeing their reactions to meeting up with their Four Hounds opposites. Truthfully, the DLC characters never left my main combat party upon joining up officially because I found them all very useful!
In addition to adding more capable fighters to your roster, completing Fell Xenologue also grants you access to two new specialty job classes: Mage Cannoneer and Enchanter. Mage Cannoneer is a helpful long-range job class that can physically or magically damage enemies. You can even inflict adverse status effects on enemies from afar. Enchanter is a helper class that not only boosts stats for all weapons of a specific type within range on the field (so long as the said weapon is in the Enchanter’s inventory) but can also increase the range of items and affect multiple characters with their benefits at once. It took a while for me to raise the needed proficiencies for that job class, but once I had it, my Enchanter Framme never left my party either, as she became an even better healer than my staff users.
Visually, I like the overall look of Fell Xenologue and the visual novel CG art used at times to help move the plot along. FE Engage is undoubtedly a colorful game, which remains the case with this expansion. I particularly like the minute differences in the characters’ designs between the Four Winds and the Four Hounds to differentiate between them despite their visual similarities. The battle music, particularly for FE Engage, is phenomenal and remains valid for Fell Xenologue. The English voice acting is top-notch too. I love Nel and Nil’s emotional performances and how their voice cadences changed with differing reveals and later character development, especially with Y. Chang’s portrayal of Nil. The voice actors for the Four Winds do an incredible job illustrating the differences in personality between these kinder versions of the characters and the more menacing Four Hounds.
I liked my time playing Fire Emblem Engage, and adding the Fell Xenologue campaign with its endearing characters and new job classes are vital components of that enjoyment. Still, the expansion pass is undoubtedly pricey, and I can easily see where some might be hesitant to pick it up on top of already spending money on the base game. On the other hand, the DLC adds welcome additions to a solid SRPG experience, so I can easily see those already enjoying FE Engage finding more to be entertained by with the expansion pass and playing through Fell Xenologue.