Fire Emblem Warriors:
(available for Nintendo Switch only)
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is the latest collaboration between Koei Tecmo and Nintendo to once again adapt one of their famous franchises into a game similar to the style of Dynasty Warriors. The last time that this was done was Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a game which, despite its flaws, I greatly enjoyed. That was attempting to expand the story of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is attempting to expand the story of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Houses, a game I really enjoyed when it came out and stand by my belief that it is one of the best entries in the Fire Emblem series.
The biggest issue I had when this game was announced was the fact that it was a bit unclear with how it was going to play out, considering that if you look at the last two games that were adapted to Warriors games, they did some interesting things with their world. Age of Calamity is a precursor that sheds more light on the events that led up to the war in Hyrule, and if we go to another collaboration, Persona 5 Strikes is a direct sequel to the events of Persona 5. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes just seemed like it was going to be another Three Houses recap. Considering how the events of Age of Calamity went (which I will not divulge because I think that some of the events are going to play a part in the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild) I will say that I was hoping that given the fact it is impossible to get a truly good ending- and I don’t mean that in a narrative sense, I mean that in video game terms – I was hoping that this one potentially could be that.
Three Hopes does a very similar thing to Age of Calamity, but instead of being in control of the main character of Three Houses, you’re put in control of Shez, a mercenary who develops his powers thanks to being possessed by another being who seems to be a sort of mirror version of the being that possesses Byleth in Three Houses.
I’m going to be a bit coy in this review because I don’t want to spoil the events of Three Houses because I think you should absolutely check out that game, but the storyline will play out quite similarly this time around.
Shez and Byleth actually get into a rivalry in this game and Byleth becomes quite an antagonistic force, you can’t actually play as him unless you recruit him which does require fulfilling certain criteria (for the record in the playthrough for this review, I did manage to recruit him, so I can talk about the gameplay with him).
The storyline plays out mostly the same, you’re taken to the monastery and you are asked to pick from one of the Three Houses: the Black Eagles, the Blue Lions, or the Golden Deer. Since I chose the Black Eagles in my playthrough of Three Houses, I chose the same this time around, too. I’ve not gone back and played that game with a different house choice at this point. Though, you can recruit members of different houses into your party.
The game then largely plays out the same as before, one of the significant events in the storyline of Three Houses actually happens very early-on, to such an extent that I actually got up to it in the demo that does the first few chapters of the game. The other difference is, Chez, while he’s in a position of power, isn’t a professor like Byleth, he’s another member of the student body which I thought was an interesting choice!
As for gameplay, it’s your typical Warriors game. It plays incredibly similar to a lot of these games, especially to Age of Calamity. It’s not as much of a shake up as Persona 5 Strikers was.
As mentioned, this is very typical of a Warriors game, but it is in really good form here. The map design is really well thought out, the gameplay works very well for combat, I loved all of the combos that I could pull off. The game gives you a very good idea of all of the characters’ different combos and abilities, and it does have a very good move set list in the menu if you want to try some more out. Characters’ abilities will alter over time as you can actually upgrade their classers, for example, Archers become Snipers who can then become Bow Knights.
That being said, it’s not as difficult to upgrade characters’ classes this time around. Mainly because there’s no fear of failing the exam. You cannot use a seal this time, be it beginner, intermediate, or master seal, take the exam, and then fail. If you’ve revealed the criteria in combat and have levelled up that class enough, the other ones become open. The only thing that’s holding you back is the new expanded facilities idea. This involves collecting items from the battlefield and residents on the war map in order to upgrade your blacksmith, your general store, your kitchen, your training instructor, etc. If you do most of the side content in the game, you’re never going to be short of materials to upgrade your facilities. I did a lot of side content so most of my facilities were completely upgraded as a result.
The side content is usually a lot of regular battles, though occasionally they’ll add in a criteria, for example, not being able to use certain abilities or female combatants. Though they do replicate some of the side contents that are character driven from Three Houses, don’t get too excited about that because these don’t develop characters nearly as much as Three Houses did.
I really enjoy the Warriors style combat action games and this game is no exception. I really enjoyed levelling up my characters and going into combat. It’s actually really easy and I only had trouble with my final mission. I barely ever lost, and most of the time it was due to failing escort missions from AI who have no idea how to defend themselves or it was tactical errors that I made- I did fail one mission because I moved all of my units to one area thinking that I was in the final segment of the game only to them not be able to get to a bunch of thieves trying to reach a certain area of the map in time.
Your enjoyment of it will depend on how much you enjoy the Warriors games up until now, but on the whole, if you enjoy it it’s more of the same. There’s only a few changes here to reflect Three Houses’ world and aesthetic.
- Graphics and art style
It’s no surprise that this game really looks and feels like Three Houses world and the aesthetic of the world is kept mostly intact. No surprise since Koei Tecmo was a large part of the production of Three Houses. The thing that surprised me was that the game looks great in action. I wondered how the action was going to translate considering that there weren’t many character animations to play off in terms of how combat worked – it was your typical Fire Emblem zoom in to see very basic attacks happening. It both looks and feels great this time around. The characters are very well handled. I thought that the game did a very good job bringing them to the warrior’s style. Of course, there are a few issues with the graphics if you didn’t like Three Houses (particularly the Monastery segments) and I am aware that some people didn’t think that that game looked good graphically, but I think that the art style makes up for it!
If there’s one thing that I think is lacking, it’s the CG cutscenes. They don’t feel as good as Three Houses to me.
- Game length
I personally think that while Three Hopes has a decent gameplay length, around 33 hours, which is relatively similar if not shorter than what you would expect from a single player playthrough of Three Houses. Here’s the thing, because Three Hopes’ gameplay is a lot more repetitive and doesn’t have the same depth as Three Houses, sometimes it felt like the game length dragged on! That’s not to say that I thought that the game length was bad, but I kind of think that they should have made it shorter.
My gameplay time was really extended because I did a lot of the side content and I did more battles that I expected, and I also did a lot of expeditions (the new version of tea parties from Three Houses) – which I think are a lot easier than tea parties to get conversations going, there’s a lot more of a repetitive nature to them which means that they don’t really work as a whole in my opinion. I do like the fact that they give you more hints on how to progress in conversations but considering I could be answering the same questions over and over again, that’s not really meaningful.
The bottom line is, I did probably artificially extend my gameplay time out, but I think I felt the game play time a lot more because some of the gameplay aspects this time around were a lot hollower.
- Story and support conversations
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes isn’t a sequel to Three Houses, nor is it a prequel. It’s an alternative take on Three Houses. The best way to describe it is that it feels like an abridged version. Most of the great character moments feel really watered down, in fact, most of the story does as well. There is some real intrigue due to the fact that the main character of this game is opposed to Byleth who now plays a very different role in this game compared to the first game. By the way, when I said recruit Byleth, I really mean it, whether you choose a male or female Byleth, once you recruit them it really breaks the game. There’s also some intrigue that the story is playing out very differently to begin with, but the downside is that they never really follow through on that.
It really baffled me how much of the story has been drained of its likeability and its sense of tragedy that the Three Houses gave us. I did feel bad about killing certain characters, but I think I only felt that because I knew their backstories from other games. This game really struggles to deliver those backstories. If you went into this thinking you were going to get real character arcs, you’re really going to be mistaken. I think that the dialogue in this game is really bad.
I didn’t want them to just repeat the dialogue from Three Houses, that was clearly never going to work. I can only really count a couple of the support conversations (which are so skippable this time around) where it felt like the genuine character interactions from the original games were there.
You’re also not going to have that many options. It doesn’t matter what gender you pick Shez to be, there is no romance in this game. And despite the fact that levelling your support with certain characters leads to battlefield advantages, that’s about it! This game has clearly been made for people that have played Three Houses. If you haven’t played that game, this games’ storyline and characters feel a lot hollower. I really recommend you do all three routes on Three Houses as a result.
Also, I’m just going to come out and say it… Shez is not that good of a protagonist. While I do get the whole ‘brothers in arms’ aspect to the character and the way that they will interact with the group, they don’t really have much of a character arc and they just feel like a diet Byleth. There are a few good moments in the game, but as a whole, the story felt really lacking in my opinion. It didn’t feel like revisiting these characters that I really liked, it just felt like someone trying to show me a Wikipedia article of the story and what the characters were like.
If you compare it to Persona 5 Strikers which is a sequel to Persona 5, that one actually managed to give the characters new arcs and while it did repeat Person 5’s plot points, it still felt like there were new things for these characters to do. I think that there should have been a bit more thought put into the character arcs this time around.
- Not enough variety in combat styles
The thing that I really liked about Age of Calamity and Persona 5 strikers was that the different characters had very different combat styles, so you could really think about which ones would suit your gameplay style to bring into the tougher battles. There’s certainly some of that here but because the game developers are trying to replicate the different characters that were in Three Houses it’s at the cost of the combat. Caspar and Edelgard are both axe wielders and as a result their move sets are almost exactly the same, they only differed when I changed them up slightly- I made Caspar a dragon rider and I turned Edelgard into an armoured knight. Similarly, Bernadetta is a very skilled bow fighter but when I recruited Ash to the party I noticed that she didn’t play much different to him. The major differences came in that case from the special all out attack. Until I turned Bernadetta into a bow knight she had the best special all out attack in the game.. But I may be biassed because she’s one of my favourite characters in the game.
I don’t think that some of the characters are able to show their personality. For example, I particularly like Hubert’s personality that came through in some of his attacks when I turned him into a dark mage.. But as a whole, I didn’t see a difference between many of the characters. This was hardly the equivalent of all the characters that came into the Age of Calamity. As a result, it didn’t feel as good when I recruited new characters. I felt inclined to try them out once only to find that they didn’t play out differently.
Fire Emblem Three Hopes is good on paper. The gameplay works well and it looks great. But as a whole it doesn’t really work because I felt like that story and characters were really lacking, and as a result, the 30+ hour length felt really dragged out. I think unless you have played Three Houses and know the tragedy of that game, it won’t provide much context for what’s going on in this game. In fact, I think because of Byleth’s absence in many of the events of the story, I think it actually shouldn’t play out the way it does in many regards. It’s mechanically all there but the substance feels lacking. I do think that it’s a good game, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t feel the immense joy I got from Age of Calamity or Persona 5 Strikers.
Overall, if you liked Three Houses, it’s more of that. But if you turned down Three Houses because you don’t like the turn based RPG tactical element to it, I don’t think you’re going to get that same story without that gameplay this time around. I would still really recommend Three Houses and I would really recommend you only play this if you’ve completed ALL of the routes in that game and you wanted a bit more time with those characters.
Final Score: 7.5/10
And now Elliot’s review
To say that Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a great success for the series would be an understatement. Not only is it the second highest rated game in the series (only being beaten by Fire Emblem: Awakening), it currently holds the title of most sold Fire Emblem game to date. Since then Nintendo has been doing a lot more content based around the game, starting off with adding Byleth to Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and now has released a spin-off title with Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, developed by Omega Force and Koei Tecmo and released on 24th June 2022 for Nintendo Switch.
The story takes place in an alternate timeline from Three Houses. The game follows Shez, a mercenary who finds himself in a battle against a warrior called the Ashen Demon (Byleth), in which his entire mercenary band is slaughtered. He barely survives his encounter with Byleth and only then thanks to the power of a being known as Arval. Months later he runs into the three house leaders of the Officers Academy at Garreg Mach Monastery, Edelgard, Dimitri and Claude, who are on the run from a set of bandits. After aiding them in battle he is offered the chance to enroll at the Officers Academy. After which you choose whose house you’ll join and the story will differ from there. If I’m being entirely honest, the story isn’t that great. I was more expecting it to go down an entirely different route from Three Houses, but instead it just does mostly the same as that game except with a slightly different outcome and with a different protagonist. It’s especially obvious that the game expects you to have played Three Houses before this one as well as characters get little development and most of the dialog seems to focus on war strategies, it’s ultimately uninteresting.
Just like with Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity this game mimics the original game’s presentation perfectly. The character models and cutscenes look like they were taken straight out of Three Houses and thrown into this game, Omega Force and Koei Tecmo have done it again. Unlike Age of Calamity though, outside of the startup menu, this game hasn’t copied the menus, instead opting to create their own, which considering the different genres is understandable. The voice actors of Three Hopes returned for this game and once again they do a pretty good job, once again making it seem like the characters were pulled straight out of the main game and into this one. The music in this game is downright epic, while I don’t really recognise any of the songs as remixes of the original game’s soundtrack (mind you I haven’t finished the original game) the songs in this game wouldn’t be out of place in another Fire Emblem game. Those that are played a battle feel grand and heighten the action, meanwhile the others help to lighten the mood during the calmer moments of the game.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes plays like any other Dynasty Warriors-like (Musuo) game, you go through large maps as seemingly overpowered characters capturing keeps and demolishing an entire army’s worth of enemies. Unlike other games like Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity or Persona 5 Strikers this game definitely feels more like it’s taking inspiration from the main Warriors series rather than the games from it’s main series; as this game has more of a focus on protecting and capturing keeps as opposed to the other ones. That being said though, this game does still bring along a few mechanics from the Fire Emblem series.
One of the main ones being the weapon triangle. The weapons wheel is basically like Rock, Paper, Scissors, characters who wield a sword for example will be strong against axes or bows being strong against mounts, each weapon has a strength and weakness. This game tries to mix that into the game, and in my opinion does it quite well. It pretty much works like you’d expect, if you use a weapon against an opponent that wields one it’s strong against you’ll deal more damage than otherwise and will be able to weaken its shields faster, as well as the opposite if the weapon is weaker. I do actually like this, it adds more strategy to this game and helps it to resemble the series that it’s representing more and really makes you think about who you take into battle and where to place them at the start.
The class system however I’m a bit more mixed on. Just like in Three Houses your characters have a large list of classes that they can train with and unlock. Each character has a set that they’ll rank up faster with, however they’re still able to unlock almost any class you want them to, seeing as each class can only use one weapon it’s really the only way for your characters to use different weapons. Each time you unlock a class of a higher tier, you’ll unlock a new attack or combo. While some classes that link into one another will have a fixed moveset, some will be entirely unique and even if you don’t like the new moveset you can still go to a previous class and still have whatever attack that class unlocked with that other one. While I do think that this is a good idea, I can’t help but feel somewhat negative about it. For starters it takes away a lot of the characters individuality, yes while they still have their own unique abilities, outside of Shez – whose class is entirely unique to him – each character just feels like a clone of one another in some way. What makes this a little worse in my opinion is that it means that enemy generals will also have to follow this class system, meaning that not even the bosses are unique to your playable characters. It just takes away some of the fun I would have with these characters and makes the game a bit more boring.
There are a couple of bosses that aren’t just generals in the form of large beasts. These bosses, I’m not gonna lie, are quite boring. Their attacks are way too easy to dodge, as it’s shown where the attack will land and the build up time is insanely long, and they have a ton of health. The only way to take them out quickly is to whittle down their shields. They have four of them, three that can only be damaged by a certain weapon type and one whose weakness is a certain magic element. This in my opinion just makes the fights more annoying, as if you don’t have a warrior that uses the weapon required you could see yourself fighting the boss for way longer.
One thing I do really like though are the Skills and Combat Arts. To add a bit of individualism to the characters, each one has its own Skill that they can use in battle. There are three different types of skills, Action, Support and Tactical, and each character has one of each. These include abilities like imbuing attacks with a certain spell, an increase in stats or the character’s own unique attack. Combat Arts and Magic on the other hand are mostly dependent on what weapon you use. Most of these are a type of attack that can be used by sacrificing some of your weapons durability. If that worries you then don’t worry as unlike in Three Houses your weapons durability is restored at the end of the mission.
Also to add to the monotony is how each chapter is laid out. Every chapter gets its own map with a myriad of side quests for you to complete and the big main mission to lead to the chapter’s conclusion… or at least they should feel like side missions. To start off, not all of these are unlocked right at the beginning of the chapter, actually only one or two are. Every time you beat one of the side quests you unlock whatever quest is next to it and you continue doing that until you’ve unlocked the main mission or you’ve beaten all of them. If I’m being entirely honest, I hate this. In Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, you did have a lot of side missions to do, arguably more than you do in this game, but I didn’t mind it there as if I ever got tired of doing them I could just move on to the main mission before playing more of them. This game doesn’t give me that option, sometimes it can take only a couple of side missions in order to unlock the main one, other times it requires me to beat all of them. These side quests do get tiring after a while, and the fact that it won’t let me move on to the main one meant the game really dragged at times. It’s also because of this that the main quests will often be at ludicrously high levels which will require you to beat a large number of these quests to even stand a chance. And to make it worse, completing these side quests don’t just get you new items and help you to level up, they also give you advantages in the main missions, meaning that I feel even more inclined to do them and thus the grind drags even further.
Outside of combat you have your camp. Your camp is a general hub where you’ll be able to access numerous facilities that will aid you in battle. At camp you will have a number of Activity and Training Points for you to spend. You gain these points at the start of the chapter however they will not carry over into the next one. Activity points can be used at the Kitchen Master and the Chores Master, where Shez and two other members of your warband can spend time with each other and strengthen their bond as well as increase the unit’s morale. Activity Points on the other hand are spent at the Training Grounds, using these you’re able to train up units in a certain class and increase their ranking with said class. It’s also here that you’ll be able to level up troops by paying gold and unlock more classes for your troops. You start off with only a few of these points, but they can be increased by increasing the rank of your camp.
The Tactics Academy is one of the more vital parts of the camp as it’s here that your character gets a number of near essential upgrades. Most notably things like extra Warrior Gauges or more Recovery Items.
To help get your camp up to a higher ranking you can upgrade each facility at the Facilities Master. To upgrade a facility you will need certain materials that you can obtain either by doing side missions or by collecting them from the Supply Master. Upgrading facilities is very highly advised as if you don’t you won’t gain access to certain upgrades if you don’t, being able to unlock certain classes of tactic for example.
The final thing (well final important thing anyway) brought back from the Fire Emblem series are the Support Conversations. During battles and activities back at camp characters will grow closer to one another, leading to a cutscene with the two of them as well as some character development, maybe even into a romance… or at least it does in the main games. Sadly in this one the support conversations mostly just feel like they’re there because it would feel off putting if a Fire Emblem game didn’t. To start off romances aren’t possible which puts a damper on it, but also, there’s little character development in these cutscenes, as previously mentioned, the game basically expects you to have played the main game where most of the development would have happened, making these near pointless. Eventually I just tuned out these conversations and near the end I just skipped them entirely, which is definitely a bad sign.
Out of all the Dynasty Warriors-like spin-off games we’ve gotten since Hyrule Warriors started the trend, this one feels the most pointless. I can accept the others being small fun side games or as expansions of the world and story, meanwhile this one just doesn’t feel like that. It doesn’t expand the world of the characters in any way and instead feels like it was made for the sake of making it. While the game isn’t horrible, it’s still fun to wipe out legion after legion of enemies, it just feels really bland and has little life to it. With Fire Emblem: Three Houses I feel like I can play that game right from the very start after beating it to experience the other storylines, but I have no motivation to return to this game and play the others here. If you are a fan of these kinds of games then I can say that you will have fun as it’s more of the same. As for me, I’m gonna pass.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
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