While a ton of new features and quality of life improvements have been added to the game since launch, Fire Emblem Heroes’ core gimmick is still one of greed.

The story got a big update last year. It has its moments....sometimes.
Image: Nintendo UK

Fire Emblem Heroes had it’s version 2.6 update yesterday and with it, Intelligent Systems added one of the most important aspects of gaming; fashion accessories.

At the top, Sigurd has a owl on his head. It is who-tiful.

Yes, now there are small accessories that players can give to their heroes, adding an extra element of optional fashion. At the moment, players can equip the FEH owl mascot to a character’s head, or give a mysterious mask. There are even new quests that can provide an additional three items! Wow!

The update also added the text underneath the options in the castle hub, as well as reorganize the allies menu to consolidate many of the options into new headings.

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Notably, this has only been the tip of the iceberg in terms of updates. Other earlier updates added new limited time (but still recurring) events, including the Tempest Trials, Tap Battle, Grand Conquests and Blessed Gardens. New training maps have been added, as well as a rotating list of Grand Hero Battles, giving new players a chance to obtain last year’s Grand Hero exclusive heroes. There have been quality of life updates as well, including the ability to refresh the training maps so that players can refresh the set of enemies in a given stratum, as well as the ability to position heroes before a battle begins.

Old, boring menu from launch.
Screenshot: Polygon

Given all these updates, Fire Emblem Heroes has become a much better game since its launch February 2017. Truly, Intelligent Systems has been generous with adding new modes and new heroes.

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The most up to date menu now. It’s definitely changed.

Yet underneath the veneer lies the sinister mechanic known as....gacha.

But...I was looking for a green unit....
Screenshot: Samurai Gamers

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For the uninitated, “gacha games” refer to games where recruiting additional characters is through random drawings. However, to do a drawing (or “summoning” in Fire Emblem Heroes), you need orbs. When you press “summon”, there are 5 colored circles/orb - opening the first circle is 5 orbs, then 4 orbs, 4 orbs, 4 orbs and finally 3 orbs.

So it costs 20 orbs to open all 5 circles.

Alternatively, after opening one circle, you can close the pool and try a new set of circles, but it’ll still cost 5 orbs.

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Orbs are given as a daily log-in gift, or by completing quests. Generally, the log-in gets you one orb, and each monthly quest can reward another one orb. It takes a while to accumulate many orbs, but it takes just a moment to blow them all on a summoning focus. You can also buy orbs, which is the big caveat.

Yes, some people do buy the 140 orb pack. I have not. Sometimes I wonder though.

The worst part is that new heroes that get added into the game fall into two categories - special event heroes and regular new heroes. Regular newbies will get added into the summoning pool after their summon event is over (they’re no longer the “focus” so they’re harder to get).

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With regard to special event heroes ....they go away until the next year (or they show up in the Legendary Hero summoning event. It’s weird). So if you don’t get all the special heroes, you’ll have to wait a year for them to reappear (if they do).

For completionists, this game is the worst.

I’m missing the blank heroes. Some of those blanks are event heroes. @^#*&!!!!

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Summoning new heroes is entirely random, with very poor initial summoning rates. For a given summoning focus, the “focus” heroes have a 3% chance of appearing, getting a random, non-focus 5* (the highest rank) is another 3%, while the rest of the 94% is split between 4* and 3* heroes. For every 5 pulls (20 - 25 orbs), the chance of the 5*s increases by 0.25% (so it goes up to 3.25% for both focus and non-focus).

Did I mention there are some heroes that only appear as 5*? It’s not cool.

Sometimes, you can spend over 100 orbs and still not get any focus heroes (or 5*). One of my friends, BenignChaos, plays Fire Emblem Heroes as well. We both like to chat about which heroes we’ve been getting. Sometimes he gets some 5* heroes that I want, and sometimes I get some heroes that he wants. Case in point: the Christmas focus had Tharja, (male) Robin, Lissa and Chrom decked out in Holiday clothes. As special event heroes, they would go away after the event was over. I got super lucky and managed to pull all 4 of them within 75 orbs.

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My friend got zip.

The Christmas summoning focus was not fun for my friend. Ho ho aw...

He spent over 100 orbs and got no focus units (he got Nowi though, I guess). The game was unforgiving. Similar things happened during earlier special events, with me getting Azura in her Conquest outfit, while he managed to pull Summer Tiki. It’s aggravating!

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But there is a chance for salvation! As mentioned before, you can spend money to buy more orbs! More orbs mean more pulls! I’ll admit, sometimes I’m tempted to, especially when a new hero appears that I really want. Just a few dollars to get some orbs so I can pull again, aren’t the new heroes so tempting? They’re so cool. Look at those clothes!

Nino so cool....but can’t be irresponsible with money....but Nino!!!

And that’s the greed of it all, the temptation and enticement to spend money at having a random chance to summon my favorite character – and my favorite character continues to change with each new set of heroes. It’s not just greed on the players’ part though. As covered on the main site, these tactics definitely prey upon our own worst tendencies, but they also make the developers money. It’s the unfortunate reality that greed plays at all parties involved; the developers, the publishers, and the players, all over a bunch of 0s and 1s.

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Do you play Fire Emblem Heroes? Have you spent money on it? Are you a whale (spending more than you should and making obscenely powerful heroes)? Are you playing any other gacha games?