Fire Emblem: Three Houses is and always will be one of my favourite Nintendo Switch games ever, as should be readily apparent from my article on the top 10 pair ups from its many units. I was already well and truly prepared for the demo of its spiritual successor to drop sometime soon — but what I wasn’t expecting was quite how extensive this demo would be, with well over three hours’ worth of play time for a single house alone.
The demo came at quite a distracting time, too, what with it releasing alongside the hotly anticipated otome title even if TEMPEST. So I took my time with the demo over the weekend just gone instead. Before we really get into it, I’ll sum up my feelings simply: the demo has amplified my excitement for the game’s full release tenfold. It’s looking like one of the many releases from this year that you absolutely shouldn’t pass on!
Something old, something new
In Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, players take on the role of the mysterious mercenary Shez, whose very existence is only one of many parallels to Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Players select either a male or female Shez, a character who embodies an otherworldly being named Arval — a contrasted with Sothis from Three Houses.
Arval keeps Shez safe from countless situations where their death would have otherwise been inevitable — usually as a result of Shez’s hot-headedness, fumbling or straight-up bad decision-making. There are many humorous back-and-forth conversations between the two — but things also get a little messy.
Shez clashes against a now antagonistic Byleth — who also has a selectable name and gender, and who retains their identity if players have a save file from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. With Byleth now being identified as the “Ashen Demon” of Jeralt’s group of mercenaries, they defeat Shez’s band, and this spurs on their desire for vengeance as the story kicks off — it sets Shez’s motivations as the new main character.
Shez soon meets Edelgard, Dimitri and Claude after this initial run-in, which plays out in a similar fashion to Byleth’s first ever battle in Fire Emblem: Three Houses: taking out Kostas and being recruited into joining Garreg Mach Monastery shortly thereafter, making for quite the feeling of alternate reality right from the prologue.
This time, our player character becomes a student of the Monastery, with the professors and leaders of each house now being Manuela, Hanneman and Jeritz — with the latter always teaching the house Shez ends up in. After a snappy time-skip, we see the three young rulers of their respective regions come to terms with their own personal conflicts such as uniting nobles, growing accustomed to becoming leader, or, who can forget, making plans to overthrow the Central Church. If you haven’t already played Fire Emblem: Three Houses, please turn back now!
An excitingly promising follow-up to Fire Emblem: Three Houses
That’s the setup — and, comparing it to other musou efforts, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is already looking like a step up from the original Fire Emblem Warriors and the most recent musou release, the somewhat lacklustre Touken Ranbu Warriors.
The original Fire Emblem Warriors was limited in its storytelling due to its all-star roster. The story made little sense, as it was primarily an excuse to bring together characters from different eras in the series, but thankfully with Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, we have a promisingly solid plot. It appears to run parallel to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, while adding to the setting’s lore and overall sense of scope. Several characters from Three Houses return with plenty of screen time, including Nader and Monica.
I am a simple woman: upon starting up the demo, I wasted no time in picking the house that captured my interest the most in the original Three Houses: The Golden Deer, because Claude. But regardless of which house you pick, you’ll see more from characters whose fates were previously sealed for plot reasons, plus all-new characters who may or may not have been previously name-dropped. For example, in The Golden Deer’s demo playthrough, we meet Holst and Shahid, and there are sure to be plenty of others.
These characters help make the setting and stakes of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes feel all the more believable, and the use of the musou genre emphasises how action-packed the storyline is. The timeline differences compared to Fire Emblem: Three Houses makes Three Hopes’ “alternate history” feel all the more unpredictable — and hopefully we’ll end up with an entertaining story that uncovers plenty of mysteries and answers to be discovered. It’ll be interesting to see how all these characters end up being involved in the grand scheme of things.
As in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, committing to a specific house will lock you out of playing as certain characters who are staunch in their loyalties — Monica, Manuela and Jeritza for the Black Eagles, Rodrigue for the Blue Lions and Shamir for the Golden Deers. This ensures plenty of replay value — and it seems safe to assume that their narrative paths will diverge much as they did in Three Houses, particularly with the new characters involved.
Musou meets Fire Emblem once more, but with more polish
Let’s talk about the gameplay now, as this is the one aspect of the game we can formulate a strong opinion of from the demo alone. And it’s been greatly enjoyable so far!
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes makes good use of the musou formula and simultaneously respects its IP’s origins as a strategy RPG. For example, Pegasus and cavalier classes can mount and unmount at any given time, flying units can traverse certain types of terrain, magic attacks can result in status ailments — and demon beasts put in an unexpected appearance as big HP tanks who need multiple takedowns to completely defeat.
The intricacy and size of the maps captures a good sense of the scale of the war depicted in the narrative — plus the chaos of having to backtrack for other missions or to save comrades. There’s a real sense of having to strategise, not just during boss fights, but also through the constant element of issuing orders to units.
It complements Fire Emblem’s strategy RPG mechanics and the way they’re often compared to chess — even if this is an action-packed musou title. Commands such as defending, attacking en masse, securing base takeovers and pairing up units are all of great importance. It’s vital to think carefully about your strategy — particularly on classic difficulty, which features permadeath for characters who are defeated.
You’ll need to keep a good eye on the overall strategic situation in the main menu in order to capitalise on all the mission objectives that become available. Not only will you need to clear the main objective in a timely manner and with minimal damage to ensure yourself an S-rank, there are plenty of side missions that offer additional experience and other rewards. There are also treasure chests, with keys held by enemy units; if you don’t defeat these key-holders before they reach the chests, you’ll have to finish them off before they abscond with the treasure for good!
Then we have character classes, weapon durability and the all-important weapon triangle to consider if you want to put yourself in the most advantageous position in battle. All in all, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a notable improvement over the original Fire Emblem Warriors — as well as handling certain aspects of Three Houses in a more enjoyable way. For example, the fact that Three Hopes presents unit level ups at the end of battle rather than breaking the flow in the midst of the action is a welcome change.
The gameplay aspects we saw in the monastery portion of Fire Emblem: Three Houses make a return in the smaller but more refined camp base of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Shez’s personal quarters let you change Shez’s appearance, and you can also collect documents around the camp to read in your journal. Plus you can be snarky with Arval, of course.
There are plenty of other activities to do, also. For example, units can eat together to increase their support levels, increase their mood and gain bonus experience. They can also train, change classes, volunteer and give gifts. There are plenty of ways to customise your units, build bonds and increase stats.
The support system remains an important feature, and is involved during battles in various ways. It’s important to make sure you raise those support levels both inside and outside of battles, as this makes for improved adjutant assignments with unique support and tactical abilities such as follow-up attacks, guarding and specials. It’s a shame we aren’t able to marry our favourite husbandos and waifus a second time, but at least there’s always time for a tea break during expeditions.
The war map is a really nice feature that feels reminiscent of older Fire Emblem games — I’m thinking of the world map in Shadows of Valentia specifically — where players can pick up rewards from bystanders and select where to attack next. And the cherry on top is the addition of achievements that give increased incentives to fulfil certain requests and hit milestones. Naturally, the more of these you accomplish, the better the rewards.
In short, there’s a lot to like here in terms of the gameplay and structural side of things!
There’s a lot I’m already enjoying about Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, especially with how its main characters — including Byleth — are fully voiced, adding so much more personality, emotion and humour to how their lines are delivered, making them feel all the more well-rounded and appealing. Then there’s the always eye-pleasing fact that most of the returning characters have had a redesign, allowing us to appreciate them in a whole new way.
I’m really excited to see where Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes goes — particularly with regard to the relationship between Shez and the dramatically sarcastic and troublesome Arval. And for those who are still yet to experience Three Houses’ 250+ hours of story, you still have time to see for yourself — do yourself a favour before it’s too late!
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