So the last post I did was a general, spoiler free review of Fire Emblem Three Houses. This post contains spoilers. I repeat spoilers ahead. If you haven’t played this game yet and don’t want to be spoiled on the plot abort mission now. You have been warned.
I’ve seen a lot of posts around the old interwebs that fascinated me about this game. It seems like everyone who has done reviews about this game has had their opinions colored pretty heavily about the characters through the lens of the house they played through first. If you played Blue Lions first, you love Dimitri and hate Edelgard. If you played Black Eagles first, you feel like Edelgard is a saint. If you did the Golden Deer first, you think the other two are idiots and should just get over themselves and their bickering over Crests because Crests are horrifying.
With that in mind, this is the order I’ve played through the story routes. First up was Black Eagles, second was the Blue Lions, third was the Golden Deer, and last was the Church of Seiros route. After playing through all four, I realized that the Black Eagles and Blue Lions routes are kind of like two sides of the same coin. I also couldn’t help but notice how the Golden Deer and Church of Seiros routes were nearly identical other than the final boss battle. Because of those dualities and similarities, I’ll pair up my likes and dislikes below. Then at the end, I’ll come back and tell you which route I liked the best.
Let’s start with the Black Eagles since I played through that route first. I have to say, I really enjoyed where the story goes after you reach the decision to side with Edelgard. Her motivation is largely centered on undoing a system of government that relies on the power of Crests to decide who is worthy to rule. Edelgard has been personally victimized by this system. All of her cousins and siblings were murdered to try and give her the power of the Crest of Flames so that she could be worthy of leading the Empire. This personal tragedy is what put her on the trajectory to destroy the Kingdom, the Alliance, and ultimately the Church of Seiros. In some ways she is a villain in that she is destroying society, but she is ultimately doing that in the hopes of building a better world without a nobility system. She just plans to murder thousands of people and remove organized religion on the way to that goal.
The real tragedy of that story is that once you’ve seen the Golden Deer route, you learn that the relics and crests are weapons made from Sothis’ body. In reality, Rhea doesn’t seem to be a big fan of crests or the nobility system either since they flaunt these items and powers that are a reminder of the death of her mother Sothis and all of her siblings. Edelgard is ultimately just being used by the Agarthans to kill Rhea so that they can fulfil their objective of destroying the last remaining descendants of the goddess. If Edelgard only knew the true nature of the Crests, it begs the question of whether or not she would have been able to be allied with Rhea. Ultimately, they both want to destroy the Agarthans for the terrible things that were done to them. I’m left fantasizing about an alternate reality where Edelgard and Rhea could have teamed up against the Agarthans and Nemesis.
Say what you want about it, but this is a well written tragedy. Family problems, childhood trauma, misunderstandings that lead to people hating and murdering each other. You’ve really got it all in the Black Eagles route.
My biggest complaint about the Edelgard route is that it is much shorter than the others. It only has 18 chapters compared to the 22 of the other routes. It seems really strange to me too because throughout the story, Edelgard and Hubert talk about destroying the Agarthans after they defeat Rhea, but that never happens during the Black Eagle storyline. The game ends before Edelgard gets to put an end to the people that are really responsible for the deaths of her family members and the other terrible things that happen throughout the game. Since the story ends so early, I really wish they would have gone ahead and included another 4 chapters where Edelgard gets to fight the Agarthans and maybe even put down Nemesis like Claude gets to in his storyline. Since Edelgard also has the Crest of Flames that could have been an interesting yin yang, opposites clashing kind of battle. It really just feels like a missed opportunity there and making her route so much shorter feels like you get jipped if you picked that route first.
The second route I went through was the Blue Lions. I do think the Blue Lions route is enhanced by doing the Black Eagles route before it. A big part of Dimitri’s storyline revolves around his relationship as a child with Edelgard. In the Black Eagles route you do learn a little bit about how Edelgard and Dimitri are step-siblings and how they did grow up together for a while. Knowing that going into Blue Lions really drives home how much Dimitri is hurt by Edelgard turning on the church. You also get a better idea of why Dimitri was basically just insane in the Black Eagles route. In general, these two storylines feel like two sides of a coin. They show how both Edelgard and Dimitri were shaped the Tragedy of Duscur and the Agarthans manipulating Fodlan from behind the scenes. They are both victims of the events that took place in their childhood. It’s powerful showing how they took different paths to right the wrongs that drove them apart.
Dimitri ended up being a really good character on his own as well. I feel like he is a bit generic at first and feels like your traditional fantasy main character, but once he gets into that dark, depressed, possibly even schizophrenic phase, he really is terrifying in a badass way. I think his super edgy attitude begins to get a little annoying towards the end, but right before I felt like it became too much, he gets help from his friends and snaps out of it. After that, I feel like he had a very Aragon in Return of the King vibe and I really liked that. It made him feel like he’d really grown and overcome his personal demons to try and become the best version of himself that he could. In the end when he has to strike down Edelgard, I think he is more sad than angry at her. That shift is really one of the most important things about his characters because in the end, he is only doing what he thinks he needs to do to set things right, not for a personal vendetta or because he hates Edelgard.
I don’t mind as much that we don’t get into the Agarthans at all in the Blue Lions route, but it does kind of make me wonder if when the story expansions come out later, if we’ll see Dimitri go against Nemesis or have to kill Rhea. After seeing the Golden Deer and Church of Seiros routes, I’m left with the feeling that deposing Edelgard didn’t really fix the greater problem. The Agarthans and Nemesis are still out there along with the possibility of Rhea going insane and turning on everyone. There’s definitely room for there to be future problems for the Kingdom.
I honestly can’t think of any major complaints for the Blue Lions route. The story is a bit generic and that’s probably the worst thing I could say about it. I also didn’t like or understand why Edelgard becomes like a giant demon as the final boss. I like the fight against her more in the other routes because she is basically just her master class with her hero relic. Those are pretty small things honestly and overall the route is very satisfying and hits a lot of the notes you want from Fire Emblem or really any fantasy RPG.
Let’s talk Golden Deer and Church of Seiros routes. Again, these are almost identical except for the final boss. In the Golden Deer route you fight Edelgard and then go onto destroy the Agarthan city of Shambala just in time to fight a resurrected Nemesis, the guy with the Sword of the Creator that Rhea kills in the trailer for the game. Instead of fighting Nemesis at the end of the Church of Seiros route, after destroying Shambala, Rhea loses her control over her Crest Stone, transforms into a giant dragon, and goes insane. Fighting a giant dragon at the end is a bit more epic, but fighting Nemesis, who is talked about constantly throughout the story is also a pretty awesome final boss.
I feel like you learn more about the lore of Fodlan through these story routes than you do in either of the other routes. In both you learn about how Rhea, Seteth, and Flayn are all children of Sothis. You learn how there are people who live underground called the Agarthans that have a separate lineage from the rest of Fodlan. You learn about what really happened to Sothis and how she and her children were carved up to create the Hero's Relics and Crest Stones. You also get to learn who Byleth really is in the Church of Seiros route. S/he is basically a homunculus that Rhea created to house the soul of Sothis so Rhea could bring her back to life.
When you play these two routes, most of the cutscenes feel like exposition being discovered by either Claude or Seteth depending which you pick. It’s a lot to take in, but it does make the world feel more complete and fleshes out the history enough that you get a feeling that you really know what’s going on in this world after finishing these two routes.
I’ll say this much about Claude’s route specifically, I do appreciate his motivation to essentially end racism and Fodland’s isolationist foreign policy. I don’t feel like that storyline gets as much attention as I feel like it deserved because you kind of get swept up into Rhea’s issues with the Agarthans and Nemesis showing up. I don’t feel like until the epilogue, did I really get a sense that Claud got to spend any time working on his own goals.
My biggest complaint about Claude’s route is that I don’t feel like his character concept carried through well. He was supposed to be the roguish, trickster character, but in the end I feel like he abandoned that almost entirely in the war phase. He seemed almost like a historian trying to uncover mysteries more than a schemer who’d do anything to achieve his goals. He basically drops his goals and takes on the Church and Rhea’s problems in the war phase. It just doesn’t quite make sense for me. He also gives a really cheesy speech about the power of friendship during the cutscene fighting Nemesis at the end. You kind of expect that sort of thing in anime and anime-inspired games, but it made me eye roll pretty hard.
In the Church of Seiros route, my biggest complaints are of course how similar that story is to the Golden Deer one and how Rhea’s transformation at the end just kind of happens for no reason. I know dragons going insane is kind of a staple of Fire Emblem, but I think I would have liked to see them play up her going crazy a little more. Rhea seems much more crazed in Edelgard’s route than she does when she actually goes insane in the Church storyline. I think if they would have had some scenes with her prior to that where she was starting to lose it or partially transforming or something, it would have made that change feel like it was more expected. The way it comes across is like Rhea was just done giving her last chunk of exposition and ready to become the last boss.
So which route do I think is my favorite route? I honestly am torn. They’re all really good and together form an excellent game. Each has things about it that expound upon the story and make the world feel complete and alive. You really do need to play them all to get the full experience. For me personally, I would have to say the Black Eagles is my favorite still. I think it’s probably because it was the first one I played through, but it’s definitely the one I would want to play through again and I think that says a lot. I would also say that if I was going to tell someone else where to start with the game, I would say Blue Lions. I would then tell them to do the Black Eagles and then Golden Deer and finish up with the Church of Seiros route. I think something like that is the best way to go through it.
This ended up being really long and I appreciate you hanging in here with me. I won’t post multiple times a month very often, but I obviously really enjoyed Three Houses and had a lot to say about it. If you have a Switch, pick this game up. It’s a great game and has an excellent story and cast of characters.
See you next month where I’ll talk about something else awesome.