Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Review – A Great Fire Emblem, A Decent Warriors

When I previewed Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t entirely sold on the Three Houses spin-off. I called the musou title ‘musou-so’, because I am just that clever. In the time I’ve had with it since, it has felt so much more like a Fire Emblem game, and while the gameplay flaws still exist, they don’t seem to matter as much.

After the prologue (which is what the preview was restricted to) you and whichever of the three houses you chose to ally with will be split from the others, and all of the great elements of Fire Emblem come into their own. It’s here that you can talk to students and staff, offer gifts, train together, go out on expeditions, earn support events, and generally connect with your characters on a deeper level.

Fair warning – Fire Emblem: Three Houses was my GOTY in 2019, so I think your mileage may vary on how engaging you find this side adventure if the main game wasn’t for you. Even for me, there were too many different merchants, finding specific characters takes forever, and while the downtime was my favourite part of the game, I still think everything is a little too long and drawn out. There is a Blacksmith and an Armourer, but with each battle earning you a handful of free weapons anyway, I struggled to see why I needed one, let alone both.

The game also throws a lot of roadblocks at you without all that much cause. I had every character (including a couple of fresh recruits) with one Intermediate Class maxed out through training, and several with two. Bernie, for example, was maxed out as Archer and Thief. Yet I couldn’t move them up to the next rank until I progressed in the story which takes an age. There aren’t really side quests, just lots of supporting missions you need to unlock the main mission. I suppose when there are only four training types and the first one is entirely restricted to the prologue, the game needs to slow you down to accommodate its 60 hour runtime.

Nintendo has given reviewers a checklist of what we can and cannot say in terms of Three Hopes’ narrative in order to avoid spoilers, but in my case it needn’t have bothered. The story is a little silly, tries to be heartfelt (and fails, on a wider scale), and has classic JRPG twists-that-don’t-entirely-make-sense. I also don’t think it ever justifies existing in the middle of Three Houses’ time skip, but I recognise that doing so is the easiest design choice. Set it before Three Houses and it negates all of the work you did as Byleth training them in the original one. Set it after Three Houses and you have to deal with a lot of canon deaths. This was the only solution to keeping the titular three houses, but I think it could have played with dramatic irony a bit more.

While the story itself is weaker than you’d like, it’s just a backdrop for the characters. They remain brilliant, and I appreciate that the mid-timeskip narrative lets them all have new designs. Bernie’s hair is still terrible, but it’s better than it was post-timeskip. Even with a lot of the mid-battle phrases being generic canned lines, the fact characters interact with one another, have support conversations and expeditions, and each of them are so well defined means they have the personality to keep you interested even as the story drifts.

Let’s finally get into the gameplay. Say it with me kids – it’s musou-so. Yeah, gameplay hasn’t really changed much from the prologue chapters, except it gets a lot more chaotic. Persona 5 Strikers did an excellent job of mixing the scale and carnage of the musou genre with precise goals and a set focus. Three Hopes just throws a lot of stuff at you. Frequently you’ll be asked to route (they use this instead of ‘kill’ as you often force a retreat/surrender) specific captains, but targeting them gets very messy. You have specific abilities that might do damage across different areas, but a lot of times you’re just hoping for the best. Manuela surrounds herself with a glowing magic circle in battles, so whenever she’s around it’s virtually impossible to see what you’re doing.

Goals also change way too much in any given battle. I realise it’s to replicate the unpredictable nature of war, but when you’re playing Classic and trying to keep everyone alive, it’s frustrating to be told ‘Win Conditions: take out three keeps’ then when you do it, get the message ‘take out three more’ then ‘defeat this specific narrative character’ then when they retreat halfway through ‘defeat this monster’ then ‘protect this NPC’. Especially as some missions come with timers and, when you have multiple goals at once, it can be hard to tell which one to prioritise. It’s not even like you can prepare for the goal to change six times, because sometimes the goal is just the goal, no fuss, no muss.

Minute to minute, if you disregard the goals and everything else, gameplay is decent, but the maps are uninspired and everything is a little too busy. Each character’s unique attacks do give it a little flavour, and it doesn’t feel fair to mark Three Hopes as Pass/Fail against Persona 5 Strikers… but it’s not as good as Persona 5 Strikers.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a great Fire Emblem game and a decent Warriors game. If you’re looking for the next great musou, you might not find it here, but you’ll have a nice enough time. If you want a continuation of Three Houses, albeit one in the middle, you’ll instantly connect with all of the great characters on offer. But if you’re looking forward to Three Houses getting the Strikers treatment, the game will be found wanting.

Score: 4/5. A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher for this review

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