Terrain (Japanese: 地形効果 terrain effect) is a mechanic which influences how units interact with and are affected by the terrain of the world around them as they progress through battles. Different types of terrain can impair how far a unit can move across the battlefield in a single turn, but conversely hiding in rougher terrain also helps units better defend themselves from enemy attack.
Every space/tile on a chapter's map is classified as a type of terrain, and accordingly brings with it a set of properties which influence the stats of a unit who stands on or passes across it in several ways. Some recurring terrain types include:
- Plain or Grassland: The default terrain type; a neutral terrain with no effect on units' stats that allows them to move unhindered. Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light and Mystery of the Emblem give Plain tiles a small avoid bonus.
- Floor: Tiles that serve a similar purpose to plain tiles, mostly appearing in indoor maps. In Mystery of the Emblem and Thracia 776, mounted units cannot move when on floor tiles and must dismount.
- Forest or Woods: A forest-covered tile which hinders movement through it, but in exchange the trees grant a unit defensive cover. In indoor maps, Pillar tiles perform a similar role.
- Mountain: Hilly terrain which can be crossed by infantry units, but hinder movement even more than forests; they also give defensive cover. Horse-mounted units cannot cross mountains at all until promotion, while armored units such as Knights and Generals are entirely unable to cross them in most titles.
- Peak: Large, towering mountains which cannot be crossed by the majority of units who fight on the ground. Only flying units, Brigands, and Berserkers can cross peaks.
- Sea: Bodies of water can only be crossed by a handful of infantry classes, although very slowly and often only one tile per turn. Pirates and Berserkers have a much easier time crossing water, and flying units are again able to cross. Select maps label these tiles as Lake or Water.
- Desert: Sandy terrain that is difficult for most units to cross. Magic-using infantry, such as Mages and Clerics, and flying units generally suffer no movement penalty, while other infantry move with more difficulty, while armored or horse-mounted units such as Knights or Cavaliers can barely move at all. Most games feature one or two chapters with this type of terrain.
- Fort: These small defensive fortresses can protect a single unit, boosting their defenses and healing them slightly at the start of every turn.
- Wall: Solid stone walls which cannot be crossed at all, except by flying units (and even then, most of the time they are disallowed). Usually they can only be crossed by unlocking doors or breaking cracked sections to clear a path. In outdoor maps, Thicket tiles—particularly thick forest tiles—perform a similar role and also cannot be crossed.
- Stairs: This terrain type, which only appears indoors, offers no bonuses but is notable as frequently being points where reinforcements appear.
The primary effect terrain holds on gameplay is the concept of movement cost or terrain penalty, the effect it holds over a unit's movement range. The movement cost value, associated directly with the terrain type, determines how many movement points held by a unit are consumed when attempting to cross a tile. The standard cost for basic plains terrain is 1 movement point per tile, and thus has no tangible penalty. Other terrain types such as forests have a higher movement cost, typically requiring 2 movement per forest tile crossed, and thus limit the unit's movement distance should they be moved in that direction.
- For example (pictured): Lewyn possesses 6 movement. On normal plains terrain, this allows him to move a maximum of six tiles away from his starting point, at a cost of one movement per plains tile (pictured: his movement range to his left). However, were he to cross through two forest tiles, he would only be able to move a maximum of four tiles as each forest tile has a cost of two movement per tile (pictured: his downward movement range).
Different classes typically have different movement costs depending on the terrain. Typically, armored units like Knights and horse-mounted units like Cavaliers and Troubadours are penalized more for crossing forests and are incapable of crossing mountains at all, flying units like Pegasus Knights and Wyvern Riders are not hindered at all by terrain penalties, and non-mounted magic units are significantly less affected by the severe movement cost of desert terrain.
Unique to Genealogy of the Holy War is the road terrain, the only terrain which has a movement cost less than 1: for all non-flying units, the terrain cost for roads is 0.7 movement per tile, boosting their movement by a factor of nearly 1.43 while traversing roads in comparison to typical terrain. With the assistance of an unbroken stretch of road terrain, a unit's movement can be boosted by 2 or 3 tiles.
Stat boosts and reductions
Acting as compensation for the movement impairment, various terrain types offer temporary, minor bonuses to a unit while they stand on the terrain. These typically come in the form of stat increases to avoid and defense, and less frequently, resistance; this encourages players to have their units end their turns under the cover of defense-boosting terrain, and is a valuable asset to units with inherently low defenses. The most common forms of defense-aiding terrain are forests, mountains and forts.
Less commonly, certain terrain types will heal a small amount of HP to units who stand on them at the beginning of their turn, often in addition to defensive boosts. The most frequent form of terrain to do this is forts, with most chapter maps having several forts scattered across them. Gates and thrones, the typical goals of seize-objective chapters, also restore HP to their occupier, adding to the challenge of defeating the bosses situated on top of them. Some other games have their own unique HP-restoring terrain, such as the healhedges of the Tellius duology and the castles of Genealogy of the Holy War.
Some terrain may damage units that start their turns atop it. Swamps in Gaiden, for example, deal 5 damage to units at the start of their turn, while lava in Fates reduces a unit's HP by 10%. Damaging terrain rarely has any direct benefits, as it is typically also more costly to move through and imposes penalties to defense and avoid. Like other penalties, flying units generally do not suffer damage from terrain. Damage from terrain cannot reduce a unit's HP to 0.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is the only Fire Emblem game which takes varying heights of different parts of the map into account, giving further boosts and penalties against units depending on their level of elevation; this mechanic tends to be common in other strategy RPGs, but is absent from Fire Emblem outside of Radiant Dawn. When a unit attacks their foe from a higher elevation on the map, their damage output, hit rate and avoid are all boosted, while their foe's hit rate and avoid are lowered; conversely, attacking a foe who is positioned higher up than the unit will reduce the unit's hit rate and avoid, while their foe benefits from the height advantage. Attacking an enemy on the same plane will award no height bonuses either way.
Terrain stats by game
Etymology and other languages
|Names, etymology, and in other regions|
|Language||Name||Definition, etymology, and notes|
Icon for forest terrain from Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light.