Review – Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes
Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a massively popular and successful game in a massively popular and successful series. Generally, I consider myself a Fire Emblem fan. I liked Shadow Dragon, LOVED Awakening, enjoyed Shadows of Valentia, and beat all three of the Fates games. For some reason though, Three Houses never clicked with me. To be fair, it did release alongside games I was very excited for, so it was overshadowed for me a bit. Ultimately, I only played some of it and never found found time to come back around to it. So when Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes was announced, I was conflicted.
I may not have been a Three Houses devotee, but I loved the original Fire Emblem Warriors. It took the Warriors formula and applied a solid (if simplistic) tactical layer to it. Given I’ve always felt the franchise desperately needed some vertical depth, it was exactly what I asked for. It worked so well that every Warriors game I’ve played since uses mechanics from it. A proper sequel could take and evolve those mechanics into something even better. My only hang-up was the Three Houses theme, a game I already wasn’t sold on before. But after Persona 5 Strikers, I was ready to give a Musou sequel to a game I didn’t love a chance.
I’m very happy I did, as Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is exactly what I hoped it would be. It’s a Musou re-imagining of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, with strong tactical and strategic mechanics that evolve its predecessors. All alongside a solid adaptation of core Fire Emblem features and mechanics. It also features the same diversity in character playstyles that gave Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity its strong combat variety. It’s such a well rounded game that uses Fire Emblem’s strengths to cover traditional franchise weaknesses to create the best Warriors game I’ve played yet.
To start with, Three Hopes is a re-imagining of Three Houses, not a sequel. Same characters, very similar plot, but a few details that make things play out vastly differently. Biggest of all, Byleth isn’t the protagonist anymore, they’re the enemy. You play as a new mercenary named Shez (or whatever you choose), who can choose to be male or female. After an encounter with the three future leaders of Fódlan, you join Garreg Mach’s Officers Academy as a student. Not as a teacher as in Three Houses. Finally you are possessed/partnered up with a mysterious being known as Arval, who possesses similarly mysterious powers. Three major changed, three houses, three story routes, three hopes, this game loves three.
In many ways, the core game experience is very much Fire Emblem. Which is a good thing, as Persona 5 Strikers showed how well you can make a themed Musou makeover look. Specifically, this game is like Three Houses, and features many of the same features. There’s three main story routes, one for each nation. The customization and class system is the same, if streamlined and simpler. The Support system is intact, although there are no romances here. The camp returns, as does it’s side activities all intended to make your party closer and stronger. It’s all here and not just superficially, but just as important and fleshed out as it was in the original game. It’s basically just as much an official Fire Emblem game as Three Houses is. The biggest change mechanically is of course the combat.
Three Hopes switches out Three Houses’ traditional turn-based combat for traditional Musou action. It does however retain the famous weapon triangle from Fire Emblem, which does an amazing job giving the game a tactical bent. Combined with how each class fights very distinctly, Three Hopes’ combat has more variety then any other Musou I’ve ever played. Each class has a combo set, a distinct special ability, and their own movement speed and feel. When combined with a weapon (each class has access to a few) and character specific crests and traits, it all adds up to a lot. So much so that the game has a setting to automate all of this for people less inclined with RPG mechanics. For me though, I was in my element.
Difficulty and performance surprised me most here. Warriors games are never particularly hard, and while the minute to minute combat is usually easy here too, the battle isn’t. You have so many objectives to capture, protect, and defeat, alongside a veritable army of characters to command. You can’t be everywhere at once, and that means you have to use the command menu regularly. It’s a genuine mechanic here, one you ignore to your own detriment. Likewise I was impressed by the performance. Unlike Age of Calamity, Three Hopes runs very smoothly during combat. Shockingly, the only times the game hiccups are when you’re taking leisurely strolls around your camp. Why it struggles there I couldn’t say, but much better then in the midst of combat for sure.
Don’t get me wrong, I would never say that Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is any kind of future for the franchise like I did with Strikers. I wholly believe in turn-based combat in general, and certainly for any game with Intelligent Systems’ name on it. They are very good at what they do, and their style has always flourished with Fire Emblem. Still I would love to see more of this, maybe a whole series of re-imagined classic Fire Emblem games in this style. Or hell, even a proper original one. The traditional fun Musou combat properly combined with the tactical and RPG elements of Fire Emblem creates a Musou game with genuine depth and difficulty, which has always been a Warriors‘ game Achilles heel.
Much like Age of Calamity with Breath of the Wild, Three Hopes does a perfect job recapturing Three Houses’ art style and look, although performance does occasionally hiccup.
Combining Age of Calamity’s diverse character combat styles with an evolved version of Fire Emblem Warriors’ tactical systems creates the least repetitive and most complex Warriors game yet.
The music mostly consists of remixes of Fire Emblem: Three Houses tracks and the voice cast is largely the same, which I wouldn’t have any other way.
Fun Factor: 9.0
While the core Musou gameplay is always fun in short bursts, it’s the depth of the combat, customization, and strategic systems that makes this game special.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes was provided by the publisher.