Several weeks ago I had a chance to go hands-on with Fire Emblem: Three Houses – a Nintendo Switch Game at a special event that I was invited to. After 60 minutes, I was hooked. Little did I know, that I had only begun to scratch the surface of the game. Developed by Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo Games, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the 15th game in the series.
As a fan of the tactical role-playing genre, I’ve some how managed only to play a few games in the series. However, with Three Houses, I found myself not being able to put the game down. As of the time of this review, I’ve put somewhere in the neighbourhood of 50 hours into the game—and there is still more to see and do.
Let’s take a look at Fire Emblem: Three Houses and see why this tactical role-playing game appeals to both newcomers and veterans of the series alike.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses Details
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo Games
Genre: Tactical role-playing
Modes: Single player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
A war is on the horizon
Fire Emblem: Three Houses takes place on the content of Fódlan, which is divided up into 3 different nations. Now at peace, the Adrestian Empire is located to the southwest, the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus to the north, and the Leicester Alliance to the east. At the centre of Fódlan is the Garreg Mach Monastery, home of the Church of Seiros.
The church acts as the peace keeper between all three nations and is home to the Officers Academy. This prestigious establishment is where all 3 nations send their brightest to attend and train at the academy. The Officers Academy is made up of 3 houses, each composed of students from their respective nations: The Black Eagles, Blue Lions and Golden Deer.
You begin the game as a travelling mercenary, which is lead by your father. And, after a series of events, you discover that your father was once a member of the Knights of Seiros in the Garreg Mach Monastery. As a result, your father is asked to join the Knights of Seiros again and you are invited to teach and become a professor at the Officers Academy.
What I really like about Fire Emblem: Three Houses‘ story is that you can choose to become a member of 3 different houses and each house gives you a unique experience. And, you do not have to play all 3 houses to enjoy the game.
Join the Officers Academy and prepare your students for war
Intelligent Systems and Koei Tecmo Games have shaken up gameplay. Previous games in the series were structured so that each chapter consisted of a brief dialogue between characters, followed by turn based combat and then ended with a little bit more dialogue. However, in Three Houses, the game is divided into 2 distinct phases—School Phase and War Phase.
You start the game out in the School Phase and your job as a professor is to prepare your students for battle by teaching them the rules of combat. This phase runs the course of a year, in game time, and is divided into months. The School Phase encourages building relationships with your students, which I highly recommend doing. By investing the time to get to know your students, you learn their interests. As a result, these interests can then be evolved into skills that ultimately become useful on the battlefield.
On Sunday, your only day off of teaching, you can roam around the academy and do a variety of things. For example, you can level your own stats up by taking seminars from other professors. Or, you can grind it out in one of the free battles to level up. Other activities include fishing, gardening, and sharing a meal with your students.
I was surprised at just how big the academy really is. There are multiple levels, many different locations to explore, and people to meet.
Lead your army into battle
The second part of the game is known as the War Phase, which takes place 5 years after the School Phase. War has broken out and former students who were friends in the academy are now mortal enemies.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses features a class-based system where your characters unlock new sets of skills and abilities as they level up. In Three Houses you are not stuck with one class. And, as you accumulate levels, you take certification exams to gain access to new classes. Moreover, unlike previous games, there is no penalty switching between them.
One of the biggest changes to combat in Three Houses is the shift away from Fire Emblem’s traditional “weapon triangle”. Correspondingly, combat feels more fluid and you have a greater selection of weapons and magic than in previous games. Gambit Skills allow you to deliver a powerful blow to your enemies. Relationships you’ve built during the School Phase come into play as up to 3 additional characters can join together to deliver powerful blows.
One of my favourite new features in Fire Emblem: Three Houses are Battalions. These hired-hands fight along side your students and strengthen your offence and defense. I found that these additional fighters become really useful when taking on some of the bigger enemies.
Missions in the War Phase play on a variety of maps, each with their own objectives. Quite possibly the biggest change to gameplay in Three Houses is the ability to review time step by step during battle. While this can only be used a certain amount of times, it certainly comes hand during the latter battles.
Stunning cinematics and a fully voiced cast of characters
Fire Emblem: Three Houses features visually stunning cinematics that look like they are ripped right out of an anime. The game is fully voiced and you have a choice between English or Japanese. Combat animations feature cel-shaded 3D character models that are appealing to the eye.
I mostly played Three Houses in portable mode and while some might consider the text hard to read. However, I didn’t have an issue with it. Although, I did encounter a few performance issues while exploring the academy and the monastery itself. For example, I noticed frame rate issues from time to time. Though, they weren’t anything that stopped me from enjoying the game.
Exchange students with friends and get items by scanning your amiibo
While Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a solo experience, you can send and receive exchange students with a Nintendo Switch Online membership. You can use these exchange students for healing or selling discounted items.
If you’ve got amiibo you can scan them in at the amiibo Gazebo in the courtyard of the monastery. Scanning amiibo will net you items and if you scan any of the Fire Emblem series amiibo, a bonus music track is unlocked for use in optional battles.
As with the Nintendo 3DS games in the series, Fire Emblem: Three Houses will have DLC. Currently there are 4 waves scheduled that include outfits, additional auxiliary battle maps, more quests, and new story content.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one of the best tactical-role playing games in recent memory
Without question, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one of the best tactical-role playing games I’ve played in recent memory. The core changes made to gameplay make this a game that both newcomers and veterans of the series will enjoy.
Furthermore, the amount of content included in the game is staggering. After putting in 50 hours into the game, I can probably put at least another 50 more before I’ve completed all 3 story lines. Gameplay is so addicting that I often found myself up into the wee hours of the night. Furthermore, the game’s story is full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
All things considered; I highly recommend Fire Emblem: Three Houses. If you’ve ever been interested in the Fire Emblem series or are a fan of tactical-role playing games, you can’t go wrong.
+ Massive story that will keep you on the edge of your seat
+ Deep, rich and satisfying combat system
+ 3 distinct storylines
+ Characters are fully voiced
+ Ton of content that will keep you coming back for more
– Occasional performance issues while exploring the academy and the monastery itself
– Some may consider the text to be too small in portable mode
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF FIRE EMBLEM: THREE HOUSES
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5