The Fire Emblem games have the uncanny ability to make you care far more about their characters than any other series out there. Perhaps that’s because of the series’ penchant for permadeath, offering the ever-present danger of actual eternal rest for those same characters. Or maybe it’s the emphasis on relationships and support; the nurturing, coaxing and caring that makes them feel like fully-realised entitities.
The hardest thing about Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes for returning Fire Emblem: Three Houses fans to swallow will be that previous player character Byleth appears to be, if not ‘the’ big bad, certainly one of them. They’re referred to as the Ashen Demon though, so perhaps it’s going to turn out to be someone wearing their appearance. You however are new character Shez – you may be glad to know that you can change their name to something that sounds less like an extra from Eastenders – and as with most of the modern FE games, you can choose between a male or female form.
Shez is a mercenary, and while they’re shooting for mercenary stardom, they don’t seem to really have a shot at reaching it. In fact, they’re about to die at the hands of Byleth, before being given a second chance by the oddly sci-fi form of Arval.
While they’re plotting a way to face off once again with Jeralt’s mercenary company, which has Byleth at its head, Shez falls in with the three future leaders of Fodlan’s largest states. If you’ve played Fire Emblem: Three Houses, this will feel like coming home, running to the welcoming arms of characters that you’ve likely spent many hours coaxing through potentially lethal battles. I loved seeing them again.
Claude heads up the Leicester Alliance to the East of Fodlan, Edelgard is the head of the Adrestian Empire, while Dimitri rounds out the trio, watching over his home country of Faerghus. Just like Fire Emblem: Three Houses you’re brought into the fold at the Garreg Mach monastery, and you can choose which of the three houses you’d like to join.
Depending on your choice, you’ll then meet a host of returning characters loyal to that house, and if the romance with Three Hopes begins when you see the three leaders, it’s cemented by joining the ranks of your former companions. Fans of the last mainline Fire Emblem game will adore catching up with them – as a Golden Deer main I primarily wanted to spend time with the Leicester Alliance, hanging out with Hilda and Raphael at the top of the list, but of course Claude continues to steal the show.
Most importantly, you’re returning to Fodlan, and becoming embroiled in the political dramas and intrigues that the country seems beset by. There’s also the fourth pillar to consider – the church – and while it’s yet to play a huge role in the narrative, it seems likely that they’ll be back to promote their interests further down the line.
A big question is just where Three Hopes fits into the FE canon, and thus far it seems as though this is a completely alternate timeline. It plays the same time hopping trick as Three Houses, though in a much shorter space of time, and its not long at all before you’re adulting with your companions rather than attending lessons.
After Touken Ranbu Warriors I had some slight concerns about Fire Emblem: Three Hopes, though I shouldn’t have worried. This has the almighty power of Nintendo behind it, and given that Koei Tecmo were involved in bringing Three Houses to life it’s no surprise to find that Three Hopes has much higher production values.
This is still a Musou/Warriors games though, and there’s lots of smacking people about the head with a sword, or another violent implement. The action is snappy, flashy, and the death toll is regularly in the thousands so fans of the franchise will be well served. Like the original Fire Emblem Warriors, there are plenty of nods to the wider Fire Emblem series as well, from levelling up different jobs in order to expand your character’s abilities to the ability to strategise mid-battle and send your teammates off on missions of their own.
The possibility of permadeath in the Classic mode opens up after the fourth stage. Just like the mainline games it changes the way you play, rushing around the map making sure that no one is looking likely to drop. If you’re playing it properly you need to choose this mode. And if you’re playing it properly you can’t allow anyone to fall. Not on my watch.
There are questions of performance hanging around Three Hopes, and just like the other Nintendo Switch-bound Warriors games they are pushing the system to its limits with the expansive battlefields and hundreds of foes. While the art style is fantastic – you will feel like you’re taking part in the grandest of anime adventures – the price you’ll pay is an inconsistent framerate. There’s still some chance for optimisation here before the game hits release, but some areas, particularly the home base, chug to the point that it might make you feel a bit unwell. Koei Tecmo have some work still to do here and, unlike the last Fire Emblem Warriors game, there appears to be no option to opt for performance over graphics.
It’s safe to say that Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is going to delight fans of Three Houses, while building on the ideas that the first Fire Emblem Warriors game brought to the mix. I can’t wait to delve further into the narrative, and see just where it takes me and all of my returning friends.