Hackin' & slashin' & bashin'.
It’s been five years since the Fire Emblem and Dynasty Warriors franchises last collaborated on Fire Emblem Warriors, back in 2017. While the original title set itself in a new world with various franchise characters guest appearing, Fire Emblem Warriors Three Hopes is a Demonic Beast of a different type.
Three Hopes places you in the land of Fódlan, just like 2019’s Three Houses, but in an alternate-history twist: instead of playing as Byleth, the mute Goddess-blessed mercenary who decided the path of the war, you play as Shez – a different mercenary, blessed by a different godlike being.
After a merc-on-merc showdown with Byleth leaves Shez floored, he is invited into Garreg Mach monastery’s Officer’s Academy – but as a student rather than an instructor. After spending some time at the monastery and choosing a house to study under, the original game’s war soon descends and the three houses of Garreg Mach become the three key forces in the continent-spanning war. After choosing between the Black Lion, Blue Eagle and Golden Deer houses, you’ll find that the story of the game diverges greatly after the first few chapters (just like with Three Houses). As the war begins your initial force will be made up of the members of your house at the Academy, with the opportunity to expand your ranks and recruit additional members over time.
As you play through your chosen campaign, your gameplay cycle will be broken up into three main categories: your central camp, the war map, and then your individual battles. If that sounds like a lot already, just wait! Within your encampment you can explore, check in with your various companions, and perform a number of army maintenance tasks to help you in the battles ahead. This includes training sessions to help your party members level up their job rank and obtain new jobs, chores to boost the support rank between folks, cooking meals to provide in-combat buffs, collecting provisions, upgrading your camp’s facilities, upgrading weapons. Like I said, there’s a lot going on in camp.
Thankfully, this is all doled out at a gradual enough pace that it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming chore list, and fast-travel points in camp mean you can plop yourself directly in front of the NPC you need. While it may feel reductive at first to just teleport from A to B, the sheer volume of between battle visits you’ll be making to camp during the game’s entire story make it a necessity (and very appreciated). On-screen tips also point you to newly available options – facility upgrades, support conversations, achievement rewards – meaning you’re never out of the loop on what to do.
Moving out of camp, the war map presents the available regions to conquer during each chapter of the game, laid out like a game of Risk (or an actual war map, I suppose). Typically, you’ll need to complete a few skirmishes to conquer regions leading up to the chapter’s major battle. Each region conquered offers new points of interest to check for rewards in the form of money, skill boosts, provisions and other boons to help you in your quest to control Fódlan.
While you can make it to the final fight without completely taking every region, they do offer boosts to your strategy resources – a currency you can use to buy special assistance to the chapter’s final bout, allowing you to turn the tide of battle in your favour, or even opening up the option to recruit extra party members. The selection of options each time is always more than you can afford all at once, but the more time you spend completing each war map, the more you can spread your options.
Once in battle, you’ll find yourself moving a lot more quickly. Typical of the Warriors series, each battle will see you controlling and directing multiple characters, either by direct control or by ordering them around on the game’s map. Objectives shift and change constantly with the flow of battle, and I really enjoyed how actively I needed to keep a handle on all the characters I had with me in battle. Given the number of skirmishes you’ll play between every major story battle, each fight skews a lot shorter than the usual Warriors game – some missions will set their goal completion time for as little as seven minutes, a far cry from the average half-hour battles of the past. It keeps things moving rapidly and in my experience, definitely makes each fight short and sweet, so you don’t burn out on long-form missions.
Previously with games like the Hyrule Warriors titles, I’d find myself only wanting to control Link – only switching to other characters when I absolutely had to. Here however, I enjoyed flipping back and forth from Shez to any of the other members in combat, depending on who was in the best position for my next objective. The ability for every character to swap job classes means that whether it’s a new party member or just a new job, you’re always switching up your play style from match to match. Three Hopes even expands on this by having two members of your party “energised” before each battle, and if deployed in the next fight they will gain bonus experience. It’s a great tactic to encourage playing with a greater breadth of characters, so nobody stays inactive for long.
In all honesty, I found that Fire Emblem Warriors Three Hopes re-invigorated my enjoyment of the Warriors genre as a whole. The game take the base-conquering and crowd-destroying combat I love, and dials up the speed to make every fight feel like a whirlwind. It was actually great to feel how rapidly the tables could turn on me, compared to the slower, inevitable victory of games past. Bunching all my characters together only to have a threat appear on the opposite end of the map was intense, and it felt great to make choices like sending cavalry units to face them, knowing they’d move faster. It increases the active strategy element of this type of game, and it hits just the right spot.
Add to that the deep layering of Fire Emblem mechanics to be able to fine-tune the build of every character. All the Three Houses details are here for those who love to build their perfect loadout, across equipment, job classes and setting passive/active abilities for every single character – or if that isn’t for you, there’s an Optimise option to do it all automatically in a single button press. Like the inclusion of Fire Emblem’s usual classic and casual modes (permadeath versus a less final version), these options all work to make this a game perfect for both the min/maxers and the folks who just want to have a good time.
While staying faithful to the mechanics fans loved from Fire Emblem Three Houses, Three Hopes takes that all in and offers a fresh twist both with its more active combat, and the all-new ways in which the story branches due to Shez’s involvement. Seeing Byleth presented as a terrifyingly unstoppable enemy will resonate with player of Three Houses, given how easy it was for Byleth to become an unstoppable one-man army during your playthrough.
Seeing all that strength from the other end of the sword puts in perspective just how your enemies felt last time around. That said, Fire Emblem Warriors Three Hopes feels like a great return to spending time with a gang of characters who drew me in over dozens of hours, but with an all-new tale keeping me on my toes at the same time. You’ll undoubtedly enjoy hanging out with your friends again, as you decimate the battlefield hand-in-hand.
Fire Emblem Three Hopes was reviewed using a promotional code on Nintendo Switch, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.
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