I feel like I’m a little behind the hype train for this game and for that I largely blame this game. Fire Emblem Three Houses is absolutely excellent. This is honestly the very thing I crave from the RPG genre. This is going to be a general spoiler-free review where I mostly just talk about mechanics and overall impressions of the game. I’ll do a spoiler review where I get into the various story routes and compare them in a later post.
I’m just going to dive right into a list of things that I love about Three Houses as a whole.
Multiple story routes. This is one of my favorite things in any RPG. I love when you cannot see the entire game in a single play through. I am deeply appreciative of games that require and encourage multiple playthroughs. This is one of the things I love most about Bioware and Bethesda games. It makes me really happy when a game forces you to make decisions that lock content and require you to play through the game again to see what you passed up on. I love the feeling of, “what would have happened if I’d done this instead?” Three Houses really delivers here because not only are there four distinct storylines in the game, but it is (as far as I know) just about impossible to see all of the character dialogue in one playthrough. It’s also worth noting that each of the four story routes are very different. The game does a really good job of tricking you into thinking you’re just doing the same thing again, but then goes way off the rails and carries you into a very different storyline after certain points in the plot.
Compelling characters. When you first start playing Three Houses, you’ll get a feel for each of the various characters. Most of them seem one note at first, but as you spend time talking with them and watching them become friends with other characters you really get the feeling that these are dynamic, complex, and interesting people. Even the ones that seem really boring at first have story arcs that elevate their nature and reveal a lot about the world you find yourself in during the game.
No pigeon holing. In Fire Emblem Three Houses, you can make any character into any class you want. You are also not forced to bring any one class because you can’t win without it. Sure it helps to have some healers, and a thief to open chests, but if you wanted to have an army of all wyvern riders or an army of all samurai-wizards (yes that’s a class) you are more than welcome to do it. The game also has a really cool mechanic of rewarding you for pursuing classes that aren’t the obvious choices for the characters by giving them hidden talents in skills that they initially aren’t very good at. I like this because it really rewards experimenting and trying out new things. For instance one of the characters is basically a tank by default, but they are actually really good at magic which makes them play like a very different character if you switch them into that build.
Awesome class system. I love a game with lots of classes. One of my favorite games of all time is Final Fantasy Tactics. In many ways the class system in this game invokes that same feeling of building up your team by focusing on what class you want a character to be in from the very beginning of the game. You can make any character into any class, but it does take work. I think this game really makes it feel like you always have something cool and new to strive for whether that is unlocking that awesome master level class or maxing out a skill to get a sweet new ability.
The Monastery. Every other Fire Emblem game I’ve played (which is not that many admittedly) basically just has you either go straight from battle to battle or lets you wander around on a map from battle to battle with no non-combat areas. I’ve seen that some of the newer games in the series do this, but honestly, I haven’t played them. The ability to just run around and talk to everyone and do activities with the other characters is a lot of fun and gives the player a lot of opportunities to enjoy the fruits of their efforts. Grinding all of those friendship points in battle leads to more dialogue with characters and grants training opportunities and other fun things you can find around the hub.
A great new game plus system. I actually wish more games did what Three Houses does in new game plus. In your playthroughs of Three Houses you can unlock classes and skills for your characters. Once you’ve mastered those skills you unlock the ability to buy those skills back in your future playthroughs with points you get from doing battles and side quests. You can also buy back your support levels (friendship points) with characters which eliminates grinding. It’s basically a system that allows you to eliminate a lot of the grind from past playthroughs and lets you focus on getting new abilities or just pushing past all of the skill gain and go straight to classes you like playing with so you can enjoy seeing the story routes you haven’t seen yet. It allows both casual and hardcore players to focus on things they want to spend time on. The casual player can just buy his way back up to maxing out his favorite skills so he can just blow through the story in his second playthrough while the hard core player can buy back enough of her old skills to give her more chances to power up new skills she didn’t use last time to ultimately end up having every single skill at that mighty S+ ranking.
I’ve said a ton of good things about this game so far and I appreciate you sticking with me past all of the gushing. I’ll say a couple of negatives about the game next, but honestly, these are little things and kind of nitpicky if I’m being totally honest.
The ending kind of sneaks up on you. In each of the play routes, there isn’t a good indicator that you’re about to reach the end of the game. If you don’t look up how many chapters are in the game, you probably won’t realize you’re about to hit the point of no return. This is especially frustrating in a game where you’re always kind of on the clock trying to maximize your time. Not really knowing when you’re actually going to run out of time to stop and do something before the game is over is kind of aggravating. Many other RPGs will tell you with some kind of warning message that you’re about to cross the point of no return. I kind of wish that Three Houses would give you a little warning at the start of the last month so you can choose what you want to do with your last few activities.
There are some classes that don’t have a logical master level class. One of the strangest things about the class system is that certain character types don’t have a master level class. For instance, there is no master level rogue class. There is also no master level pure swordsman, pure knight, or pure tank type classes. They all become these hybrid mage or horseman versions of those classes. They’re cool, but I wish there was a super powerful non-mage swordsman, or a master level of the hero class, or a master level paladin/cavalier even if they had really high skill requirements. I feel like it would give you more options if you didn’t have to make your best knight character suddenly have to learn black magic or your tank suddenly have to learn riding to be optimized. The master classes are cool, but I do think there should be more of them since not every character archetype is represented in the master classes.
Those are my general feelings about Fire Emblem Three Houses. I would still give this game a 10/10 because it’s absolutely the kind of game I love and will play hundreds more hours of it. Don’t look at my total play time. Don’t judge me. If you’re a JPRG, RPG, tactical gamer, or really just someone who enjoys a game with a good story, I think you’ll find something to love in Three Houses. If you have a Nintendo Switch, I honestly can’t see a reason why you shouldn’t get this game.
I’m planning to post a new blog post like this about something I love and want to share with you every month around mid-month so check back here soon for more posts like this one.
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Thanks for reading. See you next month!