Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the first home console release for the series since Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance – a direct sequel to Radiant Dawn on the GameCube – in 2007. A sister series to the developer Intelligent Systems’ Famicom/Advance Wars series, Fire Emblem was considered something of a niche title amongst RPG fans.
It wasn’t until Fire Emblem: Awakening on the Nintendo 3DS that the series finally hit its stride with mainstream gamers in 2012. This is significant because Awakening was designed to be the last outing for the series but the critical accolades and good sales numbers secured the series for more entries.
This of course, was great news for fans of the series and strategy RPGs in general and the series continued its success with Fire Emblems: Fates, Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and now Three Houses. With this new entry on the shelves let’s take a look at the 5 best and 5 worst things in the latest Fire Emblem.
10 Best: Most Accessible Fire Emblem Yet
Fire Emblem: Awakening introduced the option of playing through the story without the permadeath feature in place. That wasn’t to say that it made the game any easier but it did remove the stress and worry of permanently losing the characters that you’ve become attached to if and when they fall on the battlefield.
Naturally, Three Houses have included this option too but the normal mode is far easier to play than previous outings. In addition, this entry introduces the Divine Pulse mechanic allowing you a limited number of rewinds to correct your mistakes on the field.
9 Worst: The Interface Is Difficult To Navigate
As stated, Fire Emblem: Three Houses may be the most accessible entry in the series. It is surprising then that the interface is so unwelcoming to new players. Even experienced players may find the need to navigate different menus before every battle tedious.
No doubt some players will love being able to meticulously plan every encounter, but some players that want to dive right in may feel frustrated when they are spending more time in a menu screen than they will be participating in the battles.
8 Best: Excellent Story
In typical Fire Emblem fashion, Three Houses have a lot of story and lore to get to grips with. It’s an ambitious game with an incredible amount of depth as you character balances life at the school and overarching world conflict centering around the Monastery.
Three Houses narrative progresses on a month to month basis and varies depending on which of the three schools/houses that you have sided with. This new entry in the series treads a familiar path of warring kingdoms and betrayal through the use of anime-based melodrama but the execution in Three Houses is arguably the best it’s ever been.
7 Worst: The Visual Presentation Is Disappointing
Visually, the cell-shaded character designs in Fire Emblem: Three Houses may be the most impressive the mainline series has ever looked in 3D – The 2D sprites on the 3DS hold up much better. Unfortunately, outside of the nice looking designs, graphical performance is something of an issue.
Resolution seems to dip below its intended targets of 1080p docked and 720p in handheld mode. In addition, the action can slow down during some of the busier moments on the battlefield as you zoom in on the action.
6 Best: The Tactical Gameplay Is As Brilliant As It Ever Was
The Fire Emblem series along with Intelligent Systems Advance Wars series is deep and addictive games. Yet for the incredible amount of depth, the developers have managed to make their offerings easier to pick up and play than other popular turn-based tactical RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and the Ogre Battle series.
The series like most tactical RPGs play similarly to chess but grid-based combat in Fire Emblem: Three House is surprisingly fast-paced and simple to pick up. Even if you’re jumping into the game at a higher level it isn’t too hard to get into. Some of the deeper aspects of the gameplay will need to be explored in the in-game manual accessed through the menu but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment.
5 Worst: Permadeath Isn't As Impactful As It Used To Be
Those familiar with the Fire Emblem series will know about the Permadeath feature in the series. Only the X-Com series rivals the kind of loss and an impact on the game’s story when you lose one of your favorite characters/units in battle.
Three Houses though has taken a slightly lighter approach to this mechanic. You’ll still permanently lose the use of a character if they fall in battle so this does create a sense of anxiety. However, the stakes are lowered significantly when you bump into these felled characters around the school. Additionally, the use of Divine Pulse to pull your characters out of sticky situations definitely makes battles easier.
4 Best: The Character Building
As a professor in a Hogwarts-inspired academy, you will be interacting with students from all walks of life. Each character has their own unique story arch and the conversations with them throughout have a context within the story.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses sets a new standard for the series as far as character development is concerned. Each character is voiced, well-written, and most importantly believable in their reactions to your choices and the events around them. As a result, key moments in the story outlining betrayal, friendship, loyalty, and loss feel far more personal and impactful.
3 Worst: Lackluster Side Quests
The focus on character development and their interactions in Fire Emblem is some of the best we’ve ever seen in the series. Romance and dating options have been refined and the characters seem far more focused than in previous titles.
In addition, Three Houses have taken clear inspiration from the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series and bonding with your favorite characters play an important role in the overall experience. Unfortunately, some of this bonding requires you to run a lot of monotonous and repetitive fetch quests that consist of finding lost items and buying gifts.
2 Best: Tons Of Replay Value
As RPG experience there is just so much to do and so much freedom in Fire Emblem: Three Houses that very few players will have the same playthrough as each other. The choice between the three houses The Black Eagles, Blue Lions, and The Golden Deer yields different outcomes, relationships, and narrative choices.
In addition, there’s a New Game Plus option which will allow you to carry over your Renown points, Shops, Hired Battalions, and Saint-Statue Levels. Through the use of a journal, you can spend your Renown points on your professor level, Combat Arts, and more.
1 Worst: Being Forced To Take The Tutorials In New Game Plus
The replay value in Fire Emblem: Three Houses is outstanding and the addition of a new game plus mechanic is a welcome one. This is especially useful for those who will likely want to experience the different options and narrative paths that are available.
However, the biggest downside of participating in the NG plus option is that it forces you to replay the unskippable tutorials all over again. It’s possible that the developers will patch in an option to skip this, but right now it’s an unavoidable nuisance.