Fire Emblem: Three houses is definitely one of the contenders for Game of the year 2019, and will remain one of the top games I’ve ever played in my hearth. Great plot, mechanics, charming characters, and dialogue are mixed together to the amazing Game that is Three Houses. I felt really attached to my students in both of my playthroughs of Black Eagles and Golden Deer houses. I will talk about all the good things I loved, and a couple minor flaws in the game.
Three Houses takes place in Fódlan, currently divided into three rival nations: the Adrestian Empire, the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Leicester Alliance. As Byleth, we rescue 3 nobles representing all 3 nations, and suddenly get a promotion from being a mercenary to teaching at Garreg Mach Monastery, home of the Church of Seiros. From this point on we start to discover various mysteries about students, teachers, and locations while leading life of a normal professor.
The story is well-paced and has a lot of plot-twist. The writing is a typical dialogue you can find in any anime, which might discourage some people. I personally love both, watching anime and reading more serious books and I found Three houses to be a perfect mix between these two types of writing. Everything is polished with great voice acting, and I didn’t find too many “cringy” moments. But now I ask you, why our main protagonists doesn’t get any voice acting or personality at all? Well except some short lines after combat. The only choice I have is between male and female Byleth, and perhaps name change, that’s all. It is a huge step back from previous fire emblem games and it was really difficult for me to care about our “empty shell” of a hero at all. Any degree of customization options like in Fire Emblem: Awakening or Fates, and dedicating at least some voice acting effort to our hero would greatly improve the game and make you feel attached to the character you create.
The story is on avg. 60 hours, and unfortunately it usually means that the story is dragged out or lower quality in some places. The game would greatly benefit from cutting out at least 5-8 hours, making the game more compact and alive. I do not know where this trend of big empty worlds and lower-quality stretched out stories came from, but thankfully Three Houses is very low on the list of offenders and the story is still amazing, even if you need to do some mundane tasks for a little while, it is worth “paining trought”
Audio and graphics :
I listened to the original Theme song and OST for weeks while painting illustrations. The music is hypnotizing and fitting to all situations in the game. I personally loved all the animated cutscenes and Anime-style graphics, but some people really dislike this type of aesthetic. In my opinion, if you’re holding off or hesitating just because of that, make this one single exception for Three Houses and you will not be disappointed. And let’s not forget that we have one of the best designs of female armor I’ve ever seen in video games. I hope it will be a trend from now on.
Mechanics and Combat
Fishing, gardening, eating meals with your students, cooking together, talking to all NPC, giving gifts and finding items students lost around the monastery. And let’s not forget the classy tea-parties! Soo much stuff to do every single day, and of them contribute to your relationship with your students or give useful items, making all this effort feel productive. All 3 playthroughs with different houses are unique and interesting. You would think that doing this same stuff you do during school/university and normal life would be mundane and plain out boring, but it is far from it.
The combat is well balanced, requires a lot of strategy and there are tons of mechanics, items, terrains, and enemies to discover. It is especially true for harder difficulties or classic mode (which I highly recommend trying out!) The only obvious con is the inventory management. You unlock tons of passives, battalions and Combat Arts you need to check and change for most optimal strategy, buy and change new weapons because of the durability, and in case of most important characters – relics. The game does an amazing job at optimizing it and reducing the time you spend in the inventory to a bare minimum, but it is still annoying at times. However, let’s be honest – inventory management will always be a hindrance and very small amount of games do it “right”
Unfortunately, the idea of rock-paper-scissors was abandoned. In previous games, swords were good against axes, axes against lances, and lances against swords. Unfortunately with bows and magic, the whole triangle is essentially non-existant in Three Houses, eliminating a potentially interesting strategy element from the game. The marketing reason for removing it was that this mechanic was “unrealistic, but most likely it was to make it more accessible to new players to the franchise.
There’s plenty of room to play around with your students! recruit all characters you want, and play around with changing their learning “focus” and decide which class you want to make them! ofc there’s plenty of guides for most optimal “builds” for all characters, and the game naturally pushes you towards the “story class”, but where is the fun in that? In my opinion, the game is very forgiving in this area and that what made it fun for me, creating my own builds.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a mix between the old and the new. It abandoned some great ideas from previous games in the franchise, but adds a lot of new mechanics in their place. It is definitely tailored to bring new players and make them try out all previous Fire Emblem games. It has a lot of great plot-twists, story, and lovely animated cutscenes, which anime fans will love and other people will just “like”, but if you’re not playing the game just because of art-style, believe me, you are missing out. I wrote this review a long time after I finished my 2nd playthrough, and for some reason, the music, title or simple screenshot invokes a strong emotional response in me. As of now, it has 4.5/5 on Gamefaqs, 9.5/10 from IGN and 89% from MetaCritic, and all these scores are well deserved. This game is a strong contender for Game of the Year, and will remain in hearts of many people for years to come.
Final Score: 9.2
Initial release date: July 26, 2019
Composer: Rei Kondoh
Series: Fire Emblem
Developers: Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo Games, Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Genres: Tactical role-playing game, Turn-based tactics