Fire Emblem has always been brutal, but even by series standards Echoes is just downright nasty – especially for new players. Failure is a harsh teacher, but I've brought back many lessons from my time with the game that will hopefully help keep you in one piece.

General Gameplay Tips

  1. Do not be afraid to play on an easier setting. Yes, it's hip and cool to play Fire Emblem on Classic, where your characters die for good once they perish in battle. However, Echoes gives you less characters than you had to work with than in Fates and Awakening. Every unit loss is a crushing blow to your army and resources. It's likely that if you make a bad decision followed up by a poor save, you could very well make your game unwinnable. If that doesn't bother you, great! Just know what you're getting yourself into since you can't change difficulty once your game has started.
  2. Level up all your characters. In Awakening and Fates, you could get away with have one or two powerhouses surrounded by middling units. This is not the case in Echoes. All of your units more or less need to have the same relative battle rating in order to function properly. Don't expect Alm or Celica to get through the game on their own power.
  3. Grind. Grind grind grind like there's no tomorrow. If you're going up against a powerful enemy in a story mission and getting wrecked, chances are you're under leveled. Go to a dungeon and grind levels for all your characters, not just your favorites.
  4. Class change as soon as possible. Class changes are available early on for your units and each class shift marks a substantial boost in power for a character so be sure to return to shrines often to get your character to the next power level.
  5. Save often. Yes, I know: baby tip. But look: This game is ridiculously hard. All it takes is one mistake to lose hours of progress, so save often. Before every major battle. Whenever you're on the overworld map. In a town. Create multiple save files. Just do it.
  6. Examine every environment you come across using the hand icon. There are usually useful items (like health restoration foods, valuables, and even rare weapons) hidden about. Leave no place unexplored, whether it's a dungeon or village.
  7. There are memory prisms everywhere for you to find. These don't give you any gameplay benefit but they do unlock cutscenes you can watch that help fill in backstory for characters. Look for glowing sparkles in the background of dungeons and villages and click on them with your cursor to unlock the cutscene. You can view cutscenes in the Timewheel menu.
  8. Memorize where things are. That village that has a blacksmith in it? Remember where it is on the map. You will return to that blacksmith many times over to upgrade your weapons. Upgrading equipment is just as important as leveling up in Echoes.
  9. As you're switching between perspectives during the campaign, be sure you're leveling up both Alm and Celica's armies at about the same pace. Keep their battle ratings on equal level. Trust me: in the final levels of the game, you do not want one of the two armies underpowered. It will come back to bite you hard.
  10. Consider save scumming if you're playing on Classic. If you really want to do an Iron Man playthrough where you live with your losses when they happen, cool, but you're probably going to find yourself in an unwinnable gamestate if this is your first run.

Battle Tips

  1. Your characters can hold one item. It's usually best to make this an upgraded weapon for combat characters. When you get access to rings that grant stats buffs, give those to your mages and clerics and spellcaster types. In the early hours of the game, it's best to give your characters food they can use to heal themselves until upgraded items come along.
  2. You can make your characters hold on to food if you want them to have a healing item on hand, but eventually you'll want everyone to have upgraded weapons and items. To heal people after that, you can either do it the old-fashioned way with set spellcasters being healers, or you can just keep your units close to Alm/Celica, which then opens up a Provisions menu, giving anyone adjacent to your leader the ability to access all the food in the convoy and eat it to restore health.
  3. The Timewheel, which lets you go back turns in battle, is useful but it won't save you all the time. It has a limited number of uses and is best used to fix a mistake and save a unit or take another shot when your character misses in battle. Also: if Alm/Celica dies, the Timewheel can't fix that and it's an automatic game over.
  4.  Pressing X on your 3DS during battle will let you see everywhere the opposing army can move and strike. This is essential to surviving the game.
  5.  Every unit has skills that are defined by their class and also proficiency with special weapons. So, your fighter class character will have abilities that focus on dealing damage because that's their class. However, that rad lightning sword you have will also eventually gain the ability to be used as a ranged weapon once the character has used the sword in battle enough. Learn your units' skills and make sure your party has a diverse range of abilities: healing, defense and offense boosters, and so on and so forth.
  6. Flyers' worse enemy are arrows and ranged attacks, so keep that in mind for both your archers and fliers.
  7. Try to have several units with healing abilities in your party, even if they're only minor healing powers. Never rely on one unit to be that healer because things can get hectic and it's always a good idea to have two or three healers who can be anywhere on the battlefield to heal your units.
  8. Some levels have poison and lava patches that deal damage to your units. If the ground is purple or red and your unit is standing on it, they're going to take five points of damage per turn. Prepare for this by having healers nearby, strong flyers, and archers who can hit enemies who are across the damaging terrain.
  9. It's often a good idea to let your enemy make the first move. Try grouping up behind the pink tiles that indicate how far they can move and let them get in striking range before attacking.
  10. Archers will often carry battles for you. Keep them safe: you don't get that many.

Dungeon Tips

  1. Explore as many dungeons as possible. Several of them seem optional, but they hide useful items and make grinding go a lot faster.
  2. Look for cracked walls and loose bricks. This usually means Alm or Celica can break through that wall to discover a new area containing secret items or the way through.
  3. Monitor your fatigue. A character who is tired will begin battles with a chunk of their health missing. You can heal fatigue at shrines, by using items, or by discovering certain fountains that will recover that.
  4. You can often run past enemies if you're quick enough. This is helpful in later dungeons with puzzles that send you back to the beginning of the dungeon when you fail them.
  5. Look for shrines. Here you can save your game and change classes, as well as heal your fatigue and recharge the Timewheel by sacrificing food to the shrine.
  6. Be sure to look behind the shrine before you leave. There are often fountains that give you one to two small stats boosts in various categories for any character of your choosing.
  7. Explore for treasure chests. Some of the most valuable weapons in the game, like the Lightning Sword and Ladyblade (which doubles damage dealt when it's equipped to a female character).
  8. Don't be afraid to use the Evacuate option. Yes, you might lose some progress in the dungeon, but it's better than losing all the efforts you made leveling up your characters.
  9. While exploring a dungeon if you can strike an enemy first before they see you or attack you, they'll take some damage before the fight even begins. If they hit you first, they'll go first.
  10.  The map is rudimentary but helpful when it comes to finding paths in the dungeon. Be sure to look at which bits seem unfinished or partially obscured while you're exploring.

For more on Fire Emblem be sure to read our review and guide to what using Amiibo figures with the game will get you.