Koei Tecmo is well known for their Warriors games, Musou titles that form the backbone of the hack and slash subgenre of 3D action games. This isn’t the first time they’ve collaborated with Intelligent Systems, as they did with the spin-off title Fire Emblem Warriors and main series entry Fire Emblem Three Houses. Three Houses had large maps and battalions behind every unit, just like the Musou games Koei Tecmo makes.
So to see them doing a Three Houses follow-up, but as a Warriors game, is both expected and exciting. How will they build upon the casts and narrative of the original?
You play as a create-a-character purple-haired insert-name-here Mercenary, default name Shez, who is part of a mercenary corps that gets utterly slaughtered by Byleth von Fire Emblem Three Houses. However, saving you from an untimely death is Arval, a strange amnesiac and vaguely draconic being that shows up in your dreams who thinks that Shez is neat and wants to help you get revenge on Byleth. Before that happens, though, the alive Shez stumbles their way to the main lords of Three Houses, who are under attack by a comically large amount of bandits.
Three Hopes as a Musou game is much more in line with Fire Emblem Warriors, with some terminology changed for consistency, such as pair-ups becoming adjuncts. You run around big rooms performing flashy weapon swings that strike tons of enemies at once, with fancy combos that possess huge range and cover the screen in explosions (without tanking console performance). And somehow, the game isn’t a pushover. There are lots of powerful units for you to go up against, and you’ll need to direct the units you can’t control to other areas to seize command of the map’s strongholds.
With the tutorial over and the bandits gone, the main lords of the game cannot pay you because they’re students without cash right now. The church also won’t pay you in cash, but they will pay you in free tuition to save face, which is almost a solid deal considering how expensive that generally is. With Shez at the monastery, as opposed to Byleth, in a student role instead of a teacher’s, the stage is set for a domino effect that will cause the original story to go off the rails. Our first significant difference is that Shez is instantly a much better protagonist than Byleth.
They speak, for one, and they’re a laid-back but enthusiastic character, thus giving them enough personality to bounce off of anyone. With Arval now not being a ‘mascot character to make up for mute mc’ like Sothis was, the duo is now free to banter with each other for a bunch of fun scenes, and Shez can form fast friendships with one of the main lords beginning the main story arc and the eventual conflict between the three nations.
Knowledge of Three Houses is assumed, and Three Hopes spoils everything off the bat. For example, the opening cutscene spoils stuff only implied in a sidequest in the original game. In addition, various conversations throughout the game by some characters are reflective of lore that isn’t mentioned in Three Hopes but came up in Three Houses.
The core gameplay loop of Three Hopes takes the basic idea of Three Houses and tightens it. During each chapter, you’ll find yourself in a base camp, with activity and training points at your disposal. You can use the activity points for small volunteering duties or having meals with your allies and use training points to boost your class level, learn new passive skills and unique attacks, or gain access to new classes.
You can, from here, go to the conflict map and see available missions, take down a bunch of enemies within them to capture regions on the map, and make your way towards the main battle of the chapter.
These smaller missions will net you several rewards, often money and, weapons, resources to improve your camp facilities, but sometimes including more training or activity points, allowing for variety in how you manage each chapter, going back and forth from base camp. You can sink a ton of time into this game without things getting stale.
This is great because this game has three main story paths with different main casts to take on. Unlike the original game, major divergences occur immediately with enough unique flair to warrant trying them all out. Each one is a whole story in its own right, and each can easily run you a good 30+ hours each. The casts and interactions between them are solid across the board, but the stories are not. The Crimson Blaze and Golden Wildfire routes are quite good and do a lot to make up for flaws found in their respective routes in Three Houses.
However, the Azure Gleam route is a trainwreck with some real nonsensical decision-making to justify the same finale as the other routes. It’s frankly absurd that to make Dimitri the definite ‘good guy’ of the route, they have to kneecap the Adrestian cast in ways that are incredibly out of character.
However, you’ll still likely enjoy the climax thanks to some insanely ‘fire’ music and strong main characters. Even if the cast has homogeneous movesets based upon class, the combination of unique active skills and equitable attacks allows for filling out differing niches, so you can take advantage of the ones you like most.
Some characters got the obvious shorthand of the stick in terms of wider interactions. Still, they have tried to make up for it with paralogues (sidequests) with specific groups of characters. In addition, the overall support conversation quality has improved thanks to the under-reliance on using character gimmicks.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a fantastic action game that delves further into the world of Three Houses. While it’s easy for anyone to pick up, it’s definitely aimed at veterans who have extensive knowledge of the original, and you’ll get some just as ample playtime. Of course, it’s a Warriors game, so expect everything that comes with that genre, a non-issue because this game is so good.
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