When I first heard of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, for whatever reason, I wasn’t too interested in the game. As a result, I limited my intake of news for this game until shortly before the game’s release. A little before the game was released, I started to look into the game play features much more ravenously. I did my best to avoid story based spoilers, and still managed to get hyped for the game much closer to release than I usually do. It took me 80 hours to see one of this game’s endings, and I am now ready to review Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
The main selling point of Fire Emblem: Three Houses is that your character chooses to teach as a head professor for one of the “Three Houses” in the Garreg Mach Monastery’s Officer’s Academy. The houses are the Black Eagles, Blue Lions, or Golden Deer houses. In essence, your character ends up allying themselves with one of the game world’s three distinct countries, and the story changes based on this early game decision. Each house offers different playable characters with differing strengths and weaknesses, offering a different experience depending on your decision. I chose Blue Lions for my first play through, and my review will only cover my impressions from this experience.
So, for a game that sells itself on story based decisions, how well does the game deliver on story? From what I’ve seen, quite well actually. Each house gives you 8 playable characters to start (on top of the player character), and all of them have their own personality and story. Impressively, the game features a total of around 35 characters, and from the looks of it, all of them contribute to the main plot. (It should be noted that some characters cannot be recruited based on the house you choose, and it requires multiple save files to see everyone’s story. I have yet to see what happens in the other two houses, so I can’t verify this.) I have found that there are some story gaps at the end of the story I chose, but it looks like some of those gaps may be filled in if you make different decisions.
Now, how does the game play stand up? Well, like many other Fire Emblem games, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a tactical turn-based RPG. On your turn, you move your small army of characters on a map similar to playing pieces in a board game. You command them to attack the enemies on the map in order to complete a mission. Like the more recent games in the series, you have a choice between causal and classic modes.
Classic mode functions like older Fire Emblem games, where if a character falls in battle, they are lost for good, unless you reset the game and restart the mission. Like the previous entry of the series, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, there is an option to undo a portion of your actions in a mission, which is an alternate way to save a character. The game allows you to do this a limited number of times per mission, but it is more convenient than restarting the game and doing the mission all over again.
In Casual mode, a character that falls in battle is simply unable to fight for the rest of the mission, and will be back in the next battle. I personally feel this option makes the more recent games in the series much more approachable for new players, and can even be a relief to long time players who never liked the permanent death feature of older games. The fact that the player gets to choose between both modes still allows hard core fans to challenge themselves in the classic Fire Emblem way, in case they feel that casual mode is too “soft” on players.
Of greater note are the character customization options. Unlike previous Fire Emblem games, this game is much more flexible in terms of a character class system. Just about anyone can become anything the game offers you, and the character classes offered have fewer limitations on the weapons and actions they can use. All classes can use most weapon types, although magic can only be used in certain classes. Each character’s strengths and weaknesses help determine which classes work best for the character. If a character has enough proficiency in a certain weapon type, they will have an easier time changing to a specific new class. It is a little overwhelming at first, so a little bit of research is recommended. Most players should also focus on a character’s strengths to get used to this new system.
While battling is the most fun you will get out of this game, this Fire Emblem game focuses less on the battles than usual. Since your character is a professor, there is some focus on teaching the other characters, as well as portions of the game where you explore the monastery. The exploration makes the game feel more real, and less about moving from battle to battle, and simply having the characters talk in between, unlike some previous entries in the series.
However, this feature also slows down the pacing of the game, and may extend the length of your play sessions by roughly an hour (at least for someone like me who tries to limit my game sessions to about an hour at a time). There are some load times though, and the game occasionally has some trouble loading some parts of the monastery as you explore. Thankfully, this part of the game isn’t action packed, and you just have to wait behind a doorway as the game loads that area of the monastery for a few seconds.
The game also breaks a number of conventions of the Fire Emblem series in a number of ways that might not be noticed at first, but are good for the game nonetheless. This includes anything from increasing the required experience points per level up to well beyond the usual 100 experience points per level, to more handy changes, like being able to repair any broken weapon. Also neat is that spell casters have a number of spells per battle that refills between fights. This change makes magic feel like an innate power that character has, as opposed to having to obtain a book that breaks after a number of uses. This system seems more natural, although these characters are more powerful due to this change.
Another neat change is how this game handles combat arts. The previous game, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia introduced combat arts, which added power, accuracy, or added effects to weapon based attacks. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, these actions return, but instead of sacrificing HP to use them, this game has the weapon use up more durability. This is a smart move, as it lead to me using them in the right situation, such as when I needed a little extra damage, or more accuracy to ensure a hit or KO without fear of losing health.
In addition, there are the occasional monster type enemies, and a new system of battalions. The monster foes are so large, they take up multiple spaces, and require the player to KO them multiple times. The new battalion system helps you fight these tough enemies, as using a battalion’s gambit prevents counter attacks, as well as providing a means to attack multiple spaces. This is the best way to break a monster’s guard as well. While battalions provide a passive stat bonus, I only found myself using a gambit while fighting monsters. That being said, the extra characters the battalions add to fights on screen do help make the game feel like you are controlling an army, which is ideal for a game based on medieval warfare.
If there was anything to critique in a somewhat negative light, it could be the difficulty level of this game. Yes, I was playing at the lowest available difficulty of normal, but around the halfway mark, I noticed my best characters were taking foes out in one hit, with minimal risk of taking damage in return. It wasn’t until near the end of the game that my characters were at any risk of being lost in a fight. Incidentally, the final battle of the route I chose did have multiple characters get KO’ed in the fight, and it was due to a nasty bit of trickery from the enemy characters. In all, this is one of the easiest Fire Emblem games I ever played, which is a little strange, as the series is known for being anywhere from hard to incredibly challenging.
In all, I still enjoyed Fire Emblem: Three Houses quite a lot. I feel it is an excellent game, both in game play and story. While I’m a little surprised there are some story gaps by the end of one of the three stories offered, I am still looking forward to playing more. I’d like to see if there is anything I missed when I play through one of the remaining scenarios, and I may share a new article when I finish these stories in the near future.
Here are some game play recommendations:
- Choose your house based on personal preferences and early impressions of the characters, it may be more fun that way.
- Play when you have ample free time, as play sessions can be 1 and 1/2 to 2 and 1/2 hours long.
- In general, don’t go into the game knowing how the story plays out for any of the game’s routes.
- Be sure to complete as many quests as possible, they offer nice rewards and some grant access to new features.
- You may want to research this game’s customization options using an online guide, as the options may be a bit overwhelming to new and seasoned players alike.
- Plan how you customize each character early on, and continue to work towards these goals as you play.
- You may need to pick favorites to focus on for battles, so focus on around 10 different characters.
- Be sure to recruit some characters from other houses to make sure you have a full army.
- Be sure to play some auxiliary (optional) battles per month for enough experience points to make the game easy enough.
- If you enjoyed this game enough, feel free to play again in new game+, but be sure to play another house for more of the game’s story and for a different experience.
- The DLC may offer neat perks, but the best content this offers isn’t available as of this writing (9/10/2019).
And time for the Pros and Cons:
- Good Visuals.
- Excellent sound and music.
- Stellar voice acting.
- Solid game play.
- Impressive storytelling and character building.
- Can repair weapons.
- Can choose between permanent deaths (classic mode), or temporary deaths (casual mode).
- Divine pulse feature can help you redo your mistakes.
- Elaborate character customization options.
- Game has loading times.
- Lengthy play sessions (possible con, based on how long you like to play).
- Game took 80 hours to complete just one route (possible con, and possible play time).
- Game might be too easy on normal difficulty (possible con, based on skill and difficulty tolerance).
- Customization options can be overwhelming at first (possible con).
- Takes multiple playthroughs to see everything the story has to offer (possible con).
9.2/10 Excellent story driven game
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a good entry point into the Fire Emblem series, and is a must play for fans of story driven fantasy games, as well as for players that like turn based strategy games. Those without much patience might not like this game, though they may not like any game in this genre. The game could be an 8.6-9.5 based on personal preferences, if you do like this type of game.
And that was what I thought of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. What did you make of this game? Which house did you start with? Have you played all of the game’s routes? Which route was your favorite? Let me know in the comments below, just don’t post spoilers please. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to hit that like button. To keep up with That’s All Games, you can also subscribe via email below. Until next time, have fun gaming!