Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes on Switch
I must admit, The Dark Knight was the last thing I expected to pop in my head as I was powering through Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. And yet, the more I played and the further I got into the game, that little voice in my head just kept going, “Stop pretending to care. Just get the job done and move on.” I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, my brain started to shut out all the pleas for help from faceless citizens, and my sole focus was on trying to reach the end point as quickly as possible.
But I suppose I should start from the beginning.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, as the name suggests, is a Warriors-style spin-off game based on Fire Emblem: Three Houses. It’s not a prequel or a sequel, though; it’s more of a retelling of the events of Three Houses, allowing players to view the story from a completely different perspective.
Instead of playing as Byleth, the kindly professor who just wants the best for all their students, you take control of a new character named Shez, a mercenary who finds themselves recruited into Garreg Mach as a new student. From there, you can then choose a house to join: the Black Eagles, the Blue Lions, or the Golden Deer.
The other key difference lies in the style of combat. Three Hopes makes use of the hack-and-slash action combat we’ve seen in all of Koei Tecmo and Omega Force’s Warriors games. You have a light attack and a heavy attack, as well as a special Warrior attack that you can use whenever your Warrior gauge fills up. You’ll spend most of your time spamming the attack buttons and cutting through waves and waves of enemies, while seizing strongholds and taking down enemy boss units.
Just like the original Fire Emblem Warriors, Three Hopes also sprinkles in a few tactical elements to keep the Fire Emblem spirit alive. You can have four playable characters on the battlefield in every stage (eight in main story battles, but you’ll only be able to switch between four of them), and you can swap between them anytime you want. While you’re in control of one character, you can bring up the map and issue orders to your other three characters, instructing them to defend a position or seize a stronghold, or guard or attack a unit.
There’s quite a bit of micro management involved, especially in the story battles, which often come with multiple main objectives for you to pursue. As your goals are constantly changing in the middle of battle, you’ll often find yourself going back to the map screen to hurriedly issue orders to your units. Someone needs to prevent this stronghold from falling, someone needs to take down this Gremory to stop the fire orbs from pelting our troops, someone needs to escort that citizen to safety, the list goes on.
There’s plenty to do outside of combat as well, and there were way more team-building aspects and upgrade components than I was initially expecting. Class promotions are back as expected, where you can upgrade a character’s class once they’ve mastered their current one. Going further than that, however, you can also upgrade each individual character’s tactics.
Once you’ve gained access to the Tactics Instructor back at your camp, you can spend money to strengthen your characters in various ways. For instance, you can give them up to three Warrior gauges, give them access to more Vulneraries in battle, and eventually you’ll even be able to unlock unique passive skills for each one of them and limit break their stats.
With the ability to recruit characters from other houses along the way, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes quickly turns into a team-building dream where you can party up with your favorite students and strengthen them up to become unstoppable powerhouses. A lot of the usual Fire Emblem-isms help to keep Three Hopes enjoyable, and even the story came as a pleasant surprise.
While I was most definitely bummed that we wouldn’t get Byleth as the main protagonist, the other Garreg Mach students more than made up for it. During my playthrough, I sided with the Black Eagles (because of course I did), and it was wonderful to reconnect with my faves all over again. There aren’t quite as many support conversations as there were in Three Houses, but the ones in Three Hopes are still really fun to watch.
Dorothea’s still a total sweetheart who will never pass up the chance to show off her singing chops, Bernadetta’s still ridiculously terrified of everything that moves, and Hubert’s still a total dick. I’ve missed my Black Eagles, and while I’m not the biggest fan of new protagonist Shez –who’s just a little bit too over-the-top anime in design– for my liking, it was nice to watch the characters bounce off them as a fellow student, instead of as a professor that they looked up to.
I should also note that most of the characters have new post-timeskip designs, some of which look way better than their Three Houses counterparts, while others are kind of a miss. I’m a huge fan of new emo Hubert, for instance, but Edelgard’s new look is significantly less badass than that whole awesome Adrestian Empire look she had going for her in Three Houses.
Without giving too much away, the story itself is serviceable for the most part. The story beats will feel very familiar to those who have played Three Houses, but there are a few significant differences that stem from the change in protagonist. I’m in the camp of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and personally, I found the Three Houses storyline to be pretty much perfect the way it was. As a retelling of that story, I couldn’t help but feel that Three Hopes really fell short in some aspects, though it does try its damndest to throw in a few surprises and twists to mix things up.
Ultimately, it’s a fun romp, but the bland main character (both in personality and in design) made certain bits fall a little flat for me.
This also marks the end of all the good things I have to say about Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, because it’s time to address the elephant in the room: the stale, one-note combat and gameplay structure that never change throughout the 20-hour runtime.
If you’ve ever played a Warriors game, then you’ve played them all. You’ll press Y for a light attack, X for a heavy attack, and A for a super powerful attack when your Warrior gauge is charged up. There are plenty of different classes to play as, including mages, archers, mounted warriors, and your usual melee units who wield lances, swords, axes, and fists. But really, they’re all the same.
Every single stage has you running through a level, defeating stronghold captains to seize a stronghold, defeating thieves who have looted your treasure chest which ultimately holds nothing of real import, and rescuing nameless citizens who randomly pop up on the map in the middle of battle just to give you an extra chore to handle. The repetition is made even worse by the fact that you have to get through several side battles in each chapter before you can move on to the main story battle.
In each chapter, you’re tasked with moving forward on a map towards your main goal. You’ll need to slowly take over each enemy region that lies between you and your destination, and that involves clearing a battle stage with basically the same objectives you’ve seen a hundred times before. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the maps are smaller and your only tasks are to seize a couple of strongholds before the main bad guy shows up.
Other times, the maps are a bit bigger, and you’re required to protect incompetent NPC fighters as they very slowly, and painstakingly make their way to another random stronghold in the area.
Thankfully, you don’t have to liberate every single region in order to progress; you just need to take over the ones that are directly in your path towards your end goal. However, liberating a region will reward you with Strategic Resources, and may also reveal new strategies that will aid you in the main battle. These aren’t insignificant; some of the revealed strategies may allow you to utilize level shortcuts, or even recruit enemy characters.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes really wants you to liberate all the regions so that you can have the best possible advantage in the story battles. Normally, I’d be down with that because I’m a completionist, but the battles are just so damn boring.
I remember my first two hours with the game: I was beyond ecstatic to be reunited with the Black Eagles and I was ready to do whatever it takes to help Edelgard with achieving her admittedly fascist goals. I was liberating every region, rescuing every citizen, and knocking out every single side objective.
Fast forward to 10 hours later, and I was just completely exhausted. I distinctly remember making my way through yet another battle, just trying to clear the objectives as fast as possible, and yet another random ass citizen popped up on the map, crying for help. My eyes glazed over, my heart had turned to stone. The citizen had said something along the lines of, “We’ll never make it without your assistance!” I don’t really remember, nor do I really care what that NPC had to say. But I do remember –very vividly, I might add– the immediate thought I had after seeing that new side objective come up: “Then perish.”
Truly, I had become the villain. I should also add that prior to that moment, I’d mostly been playing as Edelgard because she’s a boss ass bitch. But swiftly after that, I started playing as a certain other character who’s known for being one of the most obviously evil people in Three Houses. One of their catchphrases is, “Only death can make me feel alive.” I mained that character for the rest of the game. I don’t know. It seemed appropriate.
Weirdly enough, I did start having fun again once I embraced my villainous nature. Slashing my way through the game while ignoring every single side quest that came up made the game much more enjoyable (and bearable), which I’m assuming wasn’t the intention of the developers. But hey, a villain’s gotta do what a villain’s gotta do.
Jokes aside, the repetitive nature of the combat and gameplay structure really is par for the course when it comes to Warriors games, and Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is no different. I’d foolishly jumped in, hoping that it wouldn’t bother me as much when I’ve had the exact same complaint in the first Fire Emblem Warriors, the first Hyrule Warriors, and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
Look, the Warriors-style combat is fun. It’s a really easy game to hop in for an hour at a time, and you can just put it down for a while once you get bored. I did also appreciate Omega Force’s clever way of encouraging players to liberate as many regions as possible, especially if you didn’t want to miss out on potential recruits. The stages just need to be much shorter, or there need to be fewer repeating objectives.
There are a very small handful of stages that truly engaged me, including one that tasked me with carefully dividing my team into two, and I had to swap between them constantly to achieve certain goals. Those are great, those are fun. More of those please, and fewer nameless NPCs screaming for help.
Ultimately, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes basically turned me into the Death Knight, who yearned for nothing but cold, heartless bloodshed as I hacked my way through a bunch of levels, ignoring every side objective that came up. Three Hopes serves up a fun story that will definitely please a lot of Three Houses fans, and despite a few character missteps here and there, it’s well worth experiencing. Just be careful not to fall to the dark side.
The formulaic nature of these Warriors-style games gets old really quickly.
The game is fun when you skip every side quest.