Fire Emblem: Three Houses was an important game for Nintendo. It was the title that turned the series from a Japanese staple to a full-blown global phenomenon, taking the slow-build success of hits like Fire Emblem Awakening to the finish line. A major piece of Three Houses’ success (aside from the Nintendo Switch’s high adoption rate) comes from its memorable cast of characters. Its cast of misfit students proved to be the series’ most lovable collection of heroes yet, perfectly positioning it for success in the age of fandom.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, a new spin-off title that hits Switch on June 24, looks to capitalize on that strength. The Dynasty Warriors-like Musou game once again takes players to Fódlan, a continent embroiled in war. While the combat may be as different as can be, the faces and atmosphere are all pleasantly familiar. Think of it as a reunion special
For my preview period, I played eight chapters of the Black Eagles route. So far, I’ve found that Three Hopes is a great excuse to catch up with my favorite characters. Though even better, it has allowed me to meet some students I never got to spend time with in Three Houses, all without making me start a new save file in a game I’d already played to death.
From a pacing perspective, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes (a follow-up to 2017’s Fire Emblem Warriors) is about as far from a tactics game as you can get. Rather than slowly moving units in turn-based combat, it’s a full-on action title where you’ll slice up hundreds of soldiers at a time with exaggerated attacks. The format better emphasizes the war at the heart of the series. Rather than taking out a few soldiers on a grid, players quite literally face entire armies.
While the combat isn’t as flashy as Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, there’s a lot of RPG depth to its systems. Like Three Houses, characters can master a host of classes that give them access to different weapon proficiencies and bonuses. By chapter eight, I found that I was doing quite a bit of party management before each mission, as I carefully customized each of my heroes by mixing and matching buffs and skills acquired by mastering multiple classes.
Prep work is key. Like Three Houses, players spend downtime between battles in a hub where they can train troops, improve gear, cook buff-granting meals, and more. So far, I’ve found it to be the most effective hook in the experience. Every vendor and facility, from the general store to the kitchen, can be renovated via resources to add more functionality, reduce costs, and more. The town-building touch goes beyond what Three Houses did with its teaching system, adding a wider sense of progression that steadily deepens the combat and customization.
What’s perhaps most surprising to me so far is that the game still feels tactical, even with more frenetic action. Players directly control up to four characters at a time during missions, swapping between them via the D-pad. When players aren’t controlling a character, they can open up the map and issue commands to troops. In busy missions where I have to fight off enemies on multiple fronts, I find myself directing traffic. I’m sending Edelgard to one end of the map to defend a stronghold, while my archer Bernadetta heads to the other side to take down some flying units. With everyone in place, I can easily switch between them and juggle objectives.
Like any Musou, you can expect a fair amount of repetition in battle. While each character has a small gimmick that makes them unique, troops are largely interchangeable thus far. That’s a necessity though, as the game wants players to have ultimate flexibility in how they build troops. The deeper I get, the more I’m appreciating how just about every little nuance from the mainline series has made its way here. It still feels like a Fire Emblem game, rather than a Dynasty Warriors game wearing a costume.
The gang’s all here
Three Hopes is part of Nintendo’s newfound appreciation of the Musou genre, which has allowed the company to revisit its most compelling worlds without forcing it to rush out a sequel. That strategy worked for the excellent Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and it seems to be a winning formula here so far too. I smiled as the game loaded up and I was reintroduced to my favorite students like Hilda and Lysethia.
I had always wanted to delve deeper into the world of Three Houses when it first launched, but my Golden Deer path took me over 50 hours to complete. The idea of doing that again two more times, repeating some similar plot beats to get there, just wasn’t feasible. But with Three Hopes, I get to see more of the world in the context of an entirely new story — and I can do that without feeling like I’ve betrayed Claude.
Rather than continuing the Golden Deer story, I decided to align with Black Eagles for the preview period. That decision has already given me a newfound appreciation for Three Houses, as I’ve gotten to know heroes I initially never crossed paths with like Hubert and Caspar. With a new batch of fully-voiced support conversations to unlock, I’m able to retroactively expand my understanding of each house.
The dynamics are slightly different this time too, as I’m not playing the role of teacher. Instead, I’m following Shez, a mercenary who becomes something of an honorary student at Garreg Mach Monastery. Unlike Byleth, Shez is fully voiced and has more of a distinct personality. Dialogue interactions feel a little less one-sided as a result, as characters get to bounce off Shez’s quick wit rather than monologuing at a silent protagonist. You also might be excited to learn that “dates” return here too, though players go on a scenic horse ride instead of sitting down for tea.
So far, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes feels like a notable step up from Fire Emblem Warriors. It’s a more in-depth spin-off that retains a surprising amount of details from Three Houses. Like Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, this is a high-effort side game that feels built for those who just want to spend more with their digital pals (by leading them into more deadly battles).
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes launches on June 24 for Nintendo Switch. A free demo is available right now on the Switch eShop.