A beginners guide to Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is an utterly fantastic strategy RPG – our review will tell you why. It can be a bit daunting starting out though, so here’s a beginners guide that’ll help make you more valedictorian than class clown.

Choose your house

One of the first things you’ll have to do in the game is pick which of the titular three houses you will lead and mentor through the game and decide the fate of Fódlan. Each house is tied to one of the three empires in the game, the Black Eagles coming from the Adrestian Empire, the Blue Lions hailing from the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Golden Deer filled with those from the Leister Alliance. Each has a different strength and style in battle, such as the Black Eagles’ proficiency with Magic, or the Golden Deer’s long-range bow skills.

Your job as a professor is to pick a house, taking the heir to an empire under your wing and lead them and their fellow classmates and followers through study and tactical battle. Don’t stress about making the decision too much though. Before making a choice you can talk to the different students and get a feel for what they’re like. Like any real teacher you’re probably going to be saddled with at least one annoyance – the Deer’s Lorenz is a right so-and-so to start with – but you do get the opportunity to recruit students from other houses later on. Go with who you’re most drawn to – you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them.

Talk to everyone

Fire Emblem has placed plenty of emphasis on relationships since its resurgence with the 3DS’ Fire Emblem: Awakening, but Three Houses is by far and away the most social game in the series so far. Every time you choose to explore the monastery you’ll be surrounded by students, colleagues and pretty much anyone else, and they all have something to say to you. They might offer a snippet of information about Fodlan, or talk about how it’s going to rain, but it’s just as likely that they’ll give you some information that’ll give you a better understanding of them as a person. In a game that’s built on relationships it’s invaluable, and when it’s actually interesting too? Get chatting.

Explore the monastery

Garreg Mach Monastery is more Hogwarts than Grange Hill, and you’ll be running from pillar to post in a way that would definitely have landed you in detention in my day – luckily you’re a professor, not a school kid! The sprawling corridors play home to a number of important areas, from the canteen where you can take students out for a meal (or have them cook for you), to the cathedral where you can take part in choir practice to raise your healer’s Faith skill.

Once you’ve been to a location you can hit the right shoulder button and fast travel there, with the added bonus of being able to see which characters are in that location that day. It’ll save on shoe leather anyway.

Lost & Found

When they’re not learning to stick pointy things into bad people, the students of Garreg Mach are also a downright lazy and forgetful bunch. As you wander the halls of the monastery you’ll come across hundreds of sparkling blue pick-ups, which turn out to be all sorts of lost items, gifts and instruction manuals, all of which help with levelling up your character and your students. Reuniting lost items with their owner also relies on your knowledge of each character as well, so it has the handy benefit of feeding into the game’s excellent characterisation.

Fight together on the battlefield

Every Fire Emblem game since Awakening has made a big deal about battlefield relationships, and while eating dinner or singing in the monastery will improve these things, you can’t beat being side by side as you lop the heads off some bandits (there’s no gruesome animations, that bit’s just in my head). Though it’s not as direct as in Fates and Awakening, keeping your units together will slowly increase their friendship, making them increasingly more effective in combat when they’re nearby. You’ll also get a Gambit Boost with compatible units close together.

After each battle make sure to head to the Support option in the menu and watch through the sometimes lengthy skits as each pair slowly get to know each other. Some units will never like each other that much, but they’ll at least get on OK. In the long run, who knows what might happen if a pair spend all their time together?

Battalions and Gambits can turn the tide of battle

In Fire Emblem: Three Houses each character can have their own Battalion. Straight off the bat, you’ll want to give them one, as it increases your character’s stats, but it also adds another attacking option in the shape of Gambits. A Gambit sees your Battalion storm across the battlefield, and if they successfully hit your target they can scupper their movement, and stop them from using their own Gambit. What’s great about a Gambit attack is that there’s no countering them either, and while they’re not always the most powerful in terms of hit points their benefits make them a option you should never forget.

Keep the enemy’s range in mind

Fire Emblem – and the Wars series for that matter – has always made it really easy to check out your enemy’s range. Just click on each enemy unit and the red marker will show how far they can travel and if they can hit you. A key battle tactic is baiting the enemy AI to attack who you want. Move your units right up to the edge of their range, and then stick one of your most powerful units in a spot that the enemy can hit. They’ll often come running to take you out, and instead find themselves repeatedly impaled on your best unit’s pointy bits!

Get schooled

In a game that’s largely set in a school, it should be little surprise to find that it runs on a timetable, and every week there are a number of opportunities to train your students, as well as yourself. Selecting Seminar as your weekly activity gives you the chance to dig down into some specific skills for a select group, with a faculty member leading the lesson. You can also choose specific characters to personally tutor, or let the game do it for you if you’re in a hurry. Just don’t be upset though when it chooses to train someone in a skill you’re not interested in them having.

You’ll also find the Group Task feature hidden away in here, where you can help level up a pair’s friendship while having them learn flying, riding or heavy armour skills. They’re three of the more unusual skills to have early on in the game, but it’s worth thinking about who you’re going to want to become a Pegasus Knight or Paladin later on.

Play the waiting game with Certifications

Certifications are how you change character class in Three Houses, and you have to spend Seals to take the exams to earn them. Just beware that while you can take the exam for any of the classes you have even vaguely the required skills for, the further away your skills are from what’s needed, the lower your chance of passing. With Seals being far from the cheapest items you can get early on, it’s probably worth waiting until your pass rate is 100% before taking the plunge.

It’s tempting to change to a shiny new class at the very first opportunity, and thanks to Three Houses adaptive levelling system, you can. However, it’s also worth hanging on until you’ve maxed a character’s first class out, as gaining mastery over it usually comes with a very useful final skill. An Archer will gain a Hit +20, a Paladin will gain +2 Defence, and so on. If you do make the change as soon as possible, you can always go back to an earlier class later on to finish it up by selecting Reclass in the menu.

Get in some R&R

Deciding to rest one weekend here and there may seem like the most pointless thing in the world, but it’s invaluable if you want to make strides with your training elsewhere. All of your teaching and training relies on your student’s motivation and the longer they go without a rest the harder it is to keep that up.

There are ways of helping to boost it, like taking them out for their favourite meal – alright, sitting in the canteen with them – or reuniting them with their lost items, but eventually you’re going to need to have a snooze. There’s also the added benefit that it rejuvenates some of the game’s weaponry too, so you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out if you have a bed day now and then.

Don’t forget about gardening

The Greenhouse is a lovely little spot full of luscious flowers and plants, but it has a use beyond being a sweet-smelling place to chat to other people. If you hand some seeds over to the gardener they’ll churn out an array of goods that you can use to woo the students into liking you, but if you take the time to cultivate them you’ll generally grab an upgrade orb that you can use to permanently enhance a member of your team. The fact that gardening doesn’t count as one of your daily activities means there’s really no excuse not to develop green fingers.

Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.