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Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Evolution of the Fire Emblem Soldier

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - From LOL GBA Soldier to a respectable class.

The Fire Emblem series has seen many Soldiers employed throughout its history... and they've had a very spotty reputation that is only relatively recently being repaired. They were so bad that they were mocked for years among Fire Emblem players... which isn't very nice. This article will examine the Soldier class throughout history and the pressures they have to deal with... and how they eventually became seen as equals.

The Role of the Soldier


Depending on how cynical you are, you'll either define the role of Soldiers as defending their country and its way of life from threats... or you'll define it like how this Grado Soldier did to a new Recruit:

Fire Emblem Sacred Stones Grado lot of a soldier pawns games kings emperors
Koopa Kingdom's Troopas aren't pawns in our games!
They're patriots and we're committed to their development.


I'll get to this later in the article, but Soldiers are what happens when an army needs a lot of warm bodies to accomplish something and at relatively low cost. They're Lance wielders, which are cheap and can be effective and even simple to lethally poke people with. Soldiers won't be the boss or head of any army, and it'd be wrong to really call them critical to success. They often have abusive superiors that want to kill them when they screw up. They're the epitome of quantity over quality. As Fire Emblem games get past midway and beyond, Soldiers stop appearing. Perhaps they died out, leaving only the elite troops behind.

Despite all of this dismal talk about them, Soldiers have gotten better over time, too. Let's explore in detail.

Soldiers Over Time


While Soldiers first appeared in Fire Emblem: Gaiden, that game was weird and atypical, so let's skip to their second appearance as the first discussion point: Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, where their first appearance was in Book 2's Chapter 2: Rebellion at Macedon. The most memorable part of that chapter are the three Wyvern Riders (alternatively named Dracoknights). But there are a trio of Soldiers there as well. They look like this:

Fire Emblem Mystery of the Emblem Soldier class stats
For context, these stats are awful. You can get a comparison to the Dracoknights in the next section.


That's less a competent individual (and definitely not a threat to Marth) and more of a walking Iron Lance. But they got even worse from there in the Game Boy Advance games. Here's a Soldier from the middle of Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones, right before they're gone. ...Though these humans are later replaced by magic-made monsters:

Fire Emblem Sacred Stones Soldier stats GBA Game Boy Advance hard mode
This Soldier is probably carrying an Iron Lance, which has 8 weight.
In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, your Constitution stat determines if you can carry a weapon without speed loss.
In this case, pretty much all Soldiers will be weighed down by the basic Iron Lance, bringing his effective Speed to 1.


The only thing the GBA Soldier has going for them is HP and some Strength... their bulk is otherwise nonexistent, they can't even lift up their weapon, and they can't hit their targets either due to their low Skill and Luck. They pretty much are walking Lances. While the general quality of their peers is objectively low as well, no one's stats get as low as the Soldier's, reducing these guys to experience points fodder for your weak units. This guy above is at level 10! ...And so is this Daein Soldier below:

Fire Emblem Path of Radiance Daein Soldier hard mode stats
These are much more balanced stats.


The Tellius games (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn) are when the average Soldier started getting respect. Before, Soldiers were treated as below-average expendable units. Starting with Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Soldiers were treated like the Lance-wielding counterpart to the Sword-using Myrmidon, the Bow-using Archer, and the Axe-using Fighter. That put them pretty much equal to those classes as THE Lance-using infantry (on-foot, no special characteristics) class. In previous games, there wasn't a competent, basic Lance infantry class on their level. Through Fixed Mode, we can see that the “essence of a Soldier” is in their HP and Defense stats, though their stats were fine all around.

This coincides with Soldier becoming a playable class, with Nephenee being the first playable Soldier since Fire Emblem: Gaiden. If she had stats like GBA Soldiers, no one would use her. Instead, she had decent stats, though she was infantry. Still, Path of Radiance didn't treat Soldiers as true equals to their other-weapon-wielding infantry counterparts. Enter Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn:


Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn level 9 Begnion Soldier hard mode stats
At the cost of slightly less HP, this Begnion Soldier has MUCH higher stats than the Daein one did. And they're all quite balanced.
This guy can realistically kill Micaiah, the lord, in one hit... and with an actually high chance to land that hit.


Begnion knows how to train their Soldiers, apparently. Well, besides Oliver's goons from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. But these Soldiers are a threat (and the one in the screenshot happens to have good Biorhythm) and not just a joke.

But the all-around competence increase among all of the enemies isn't why Soldiers have greater parity in Radiant Dawn versus Path of Radiance. It's also not because Radiant Dawn actually has the infantry classes have equal or better stats than their mounted counterparts. (Other Fire Emblem games often don't recognise that horseback Paladins shouldn't be the best at everything AND have high movement.) In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, the physical weapon specialists—Swordmaster (Sword, promotion of Myrmidon), Sniper (Bow, promotion of Archer), Berserker (Axe, promotion of... Bandit, but let's pretend it's Fighter), and Halberdier (Lance, promotion of Soldier)—all had a 15% critical hit chance bonus... except for Halberdier. With Radiant Dawn, the critical chance bonuses aren't equal, but at least the Halberdier gets a +5 Crit while Swordmaster and Sniper get +10. ...The Berserker doesn't exist, and it's not too fair to compare the Warrior or its next promotion, the Reaver (which does get its own +5 Crit bonus) to it because they aren't a weapon specialist with their ability to use Crossbows. It's reasonable the bonuses aren't equal because Lances are much better weapons than Swords or Bows (they have good 1–2 range options), so it's more fair and balanced that way.


Fire Emblem Three Houses enemy Western Church Soldier stats Maddening
Now here's the latest Fire Emblem game, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and an early-game Soldier.


Lastly, Fire Emblem: Three Houses puts the Soldier class right at the start of a unit's journey, as a Beginner Class alongside Myrmidon, Fighter, and Monk. Soldier will slightly increase HP, Skill, and Charm growths... but despite that, when the Soldier class is mastered, it grants the Defense +2 Skill. That hearkens back to what the Soldier was good at back in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Soldier is now totally on an equal footing to its other Beginner Classes, and quite a number of your own units will progress through it, especially if they ever want to use Lances. Which brings me to the last part of this article...

Soldiers’ Upward Mobility


Soldiers are the basic Lance infantry class. But there are a number of other Lance-using classes. Here are some of them as portrayed in the Recruit's promotion path:

Fire Emblem Sacred Stones Amelia Recruit Promotion Options
Image credit from Serenes Forest.


Not included above? Flying units, which for a long time involved Pegasus Knights and Wyvern Riders—both Lance users. Here's how a Soldier's stats can improve just by taming a mount:

Fire Emblem Mystery of the Emblem book 2 level 1 Macedon Dracoknight Chapter 2
Just compare this to the Mystery of the Emblem Soldier above. These are in the same chapter. Both level 1.


Until Tellius, if a Soldier wanted to improve their efficacy and reduce the risk of being fodder, they would have to don heavy armour and become a Knight; learn how to ride a horse and become a Cavalier; or tame a Pegasus or Wyvern to become a Pegasus Knight or Wyvern Rider. All of those paths increased stats and utility in some way, but there wasn't a way to continue being a normal infantry Lance user.

As I've alluded to, Tellius finally gave upward mobility to Soldiers who wanted to just be really good at what they do, with the Halberdier class. Halberdiers were even allowed to become bosses in the army, including General Jarod of Begnion's occupation army over Daein. And Radiant Dawn allowed Halberdiers to promote into a third-tier Lance infantry class: The Sentinel. Sentinels can just Impale their foes in what's very likely to be a one-hit kill, and their characteristics are extremely respectable. They can be even more terrifying than the Seraph Knights, the final form of a Pegasus Knight.

Of course, most Soldiers die long before they can become a Sentinel. But at least it's a possibility to work towards, which is a far greater prospect than the dark GBA days. I think that's a very real motivating factor in Soldiers, which might be why they collectively got their act together in the games where they have upward mobility paths just like other classes. Because not everyone is suited for being decked in armour or riding a horse. Besides, those can carry big weaknesses to weapons like the Rapier and the Wing Spear, which is how Marth (sort of) and Caeda (definitely) dominated Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon.

When you believe in and enable the capability of the common Soldier, they can come through for you!



This was published on Veterans Day, but has applicability far outside of that! Thank you to those who have served, especially to those in Koopa Kingdom's defence. Also, it can't be understated how pathetic the Soldiers of Game Boy Advance armies like Bern and Grado were. Don't make fun of them too much in the comments section, though. They tried their best with the limited training they were provided, despite their countries’ armies being known as the best in their continent. It probably isn't a coincidence that Ludwig, being a Tellius fanboy, portrays those games as the positive turning point in Soldiers’ lives.

4 comments :

  1. Meanwhile in Wars World, infantry units are so good that the meta works with them and around them despite being low cost and dies very quickly due to every other unit having to take time to take them out. Sami is a high tiered CO with only have her specialty buffing the infantry units and this is despite having weaker direct attack vehicles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd say Sensei is even more of an infantry specialist than Sami is.
      Besides Victory March, of course.

      Unlike in Fire Emblem, Soldiers (Infantry and Mechs) in Advance Wars ARE critical to actually winning, since they're the ones who go out and capture things.

      Delete
  2. I appreciate how in-depth you go into things like this whilst also having a bit of fun with it. It’s (kinda) a niche I’ve come to appreciate.


    Fire emblem is too much for me at this point but I’ll check it out in the future. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get over those perma deaths. How do you do it, or are you do good nobody ever dies?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We call it... truth and levity. ^.^

      I reset if someone dies. Unless I'm doing a no-reset run. Then we keep going. Sometimes the game is easier that way, actually.

      Delete

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