Fire Emblem: 3 Houses review

October 5, 2019

 

The continent is on the verge of war. Three bordering nations have maintained an uneasy peace for several hundred years, but things are beginning to shift.  The teenage heirs to these three kingdoms have been accepted as students at The Officers Academy, an elite military school that holds powerful secrets. Arriving with them is a mysterious mercenary, who might hold the key to saving, or destroying, the balance that has been held in place for so long.

This is the world that Fire Emblem: Three Houses thrusts the player into. Taking the role of Byleth, a mercenary turned teacher at the Garrag Mach Officers Academy, players must teach their students military and battle tactics, transforming them from a ragtag group of young adults into the future leaders of Fódlan. As expected, the interactions are where the game shines. At the beginning of the game, the player needs to decide which house they will lead, with the different houses corresponding to a different nation. Will you go with the Adrestian Black Eagles, led by Edalgard? The Blue Lions, headed by the Crown Prince of Faerghus, Dimitri? Or perhaps you will be swayed by the charms of Claude, and decide to ally yourself with the Golden Deer and, by extension, the Leicester Alliance? It is an important choice, which comes very early in the game and one that has lasting consequences, affecting the missions that the player can take later on. But this can be an issue, especially since the three storylines massively diverge in the second portion of the game. For my first playthrough, I allied myself with the Black Eagles and had no idea what was happening with either the Golden Deer or Blue Lions, making me feel that another playthrough would be mandatory. At nearly 40 hours per playthrough, this time commitment could be a deal-breaker for some people.

Another potential deal-breaker is how easy the game is. Like all Fire Emblem games, the majority of gameplay comes from the top-down tactical combat, and a few key changes in Three Houses have simplified this significantly. For example, gone is the weapon triangle, the rock-paper-scissors aspect of combat that would make some units useless in certain situations. The most notable change is the inclusion of the ‘Divine Pulse’, an ability exclusive to Byleth that allows them to rewind time. This has a variety of useful applications, allowing you to try new unit positions and even save the lives of your favourite characters on the battlefield. However, it does make the game very easy. If you want a tactics game that challenges you, I would look somewhere else.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Fire Emblem: Three Houses. A solid tactics game slightly let down by some of its mechanics, the true joy comes from the characters and writing. Give it a try if you are a Fire Emblem fan or are waiting for the next Persona game.

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