Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes (NS) - ReviewThomas Froehlicher , posted on 26 July 2022 / 2,079 Views
As a big fan of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, I was quite looking forward to returning to the world of Fódlan. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes does just that, taking us back to Fódlan, while at the same time embracing the "Warriors" formula made famous by publisher Koei Tecmo. This action-RPG orientation has already been successfully applied to Intelligent Systems' IP in Fire Emblem Warriors, but can the two companies work together to provide the same amount of fun in the latest Fire Emblem universe?
People familiar with Fire Emblem: Three Houses will feel quite at home at the start of Three Hopes. The main character, an average mercenary named Shez, randomly assists Edelgard, Dimitri and Claude against a group of bandits. The latter three being heads of class at the prestigious Garreg Mach Academy, Shez is invited to join one of their groups. That's where Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes completely departs from Three Houses even in narrative terms. While the first game had several chapters that developed the scenario and character relationships, during a "student era", this title immediately jumps to the "war era", when the characters are older and have left the school. Without you even having spent five minutes at the academy, Edelgard announces that there's no time for class because she has to seize the Empire's throne. The best I can say is that it's rather weirdly paced compared to Three Houses.
And it's not just this initial section. The writing is very dull in nearly all of the chapters that follow. Most of the time, the characters simply discuss alliances, which local lord will join or betray, which area is worth taking, and so on. Rather than following a storyline, I had the impression of fighting through a series battles that were barely linked to each other. I don't even recall Edelgard clearly saying why she was waging war on neighbouring countries. I'm invading countries and killing people (including main characters from Three Houses), with zero goal in sight and zero reasoning behind it. I found the story development incredibly lacking and unpleasant.
There's a secondary narrative or sorts, with Shez having demonic abilities and his/her rivalry with Byleth (the protagonist of Three Houses), but even this is little more than tiny bits of dialogue and text. Ultimately, after clearing the game, I was left with the impression that almost nothing of real consequence had happened; the narrative is so poorly told that nothing stands out. By contrast, Three Houses had a lot of memorable moments.
While I'm on the subject of Three Houses, there's an old score I want to settle, and it involves Three Hopes. Before that, I want to make clear that I love the Fire Emblem series, and Three Houses in particular. I think it's the best game on Switch. But it's been three years and the Three Houses "universe" still doesn't have a good ending. Intelligent Systems had the chance to add one with DLC, Koei Tecmo also had the opportunity to include one with this title, and yet all we're left with is another set of conflicting bitter ends with too many good souls gone silent. Why is there nothing similar to the epic Revelation route for Fire Emblem Fates? Instead the lore is now totally confusing, and yet we're already seeing leaks for the next mainline entry in the series. Are they really going to leave the Three Houses world like this, when nothing is canon and so many questions still remain? I personally think that would be a shame, although I still hold out hope that the narrative will be properly concluded one day.
The same goes for characters and their development. You start out with characters from your class but have the chance to persuade opposing or neutral fighters to join your army during battles. However, whereas in Three Houses you could invite nearly every character from other classes, in Three Hopes the game selects a few characters that can become playable on your current route. It means that you probably won't be able to build your dream team and may even be forced to slaughter former comrades (poor Ingrid).
Some of the conditions for getting new characters are also so complicated that they're almost nonsensical. I tried to get Byleth to join by looking at the walkthrough while I was playing and I still couldn't! There are so many prerequisites that it ends up being a chore. In Three Houses you had clear conditions and time in which to complete them, while in Fire Emblem Warriors there was that "all-stars" feeling of everyone getting together, which made it entertaining (Three Hopes takes us light years from that and often results in the opposite sensation). In terms of cast, it lives up to neither of its predecessors.
Three Hopes at least takes a lot from Three Houses in terms of character interactions. Even with fewer characters in the team, it's a pleasure to meet the Empire's crowd again. Bernadetta is as fun as ever; she hasn't lost her shyness and still has terrific voice acting in Japanese. The same goes for Hubert. It's worth mentioning that Monica is a fully playable character now, which is a positive. I appreciate her personality, and she's fully dedicated to her country and leader. There are a bunch of side activities like picnic and cooking, although they quickly feel redundant. Idle talk when increasing the support level proves quite recreative, as do the side stories popping up during the main story. You can delve deeper into your favorite characters' personality and that's definitely a plus.
Edelgard's story took me 36 hours to complete, which I actually consider too long for just one route, especially given that I skipped a lot of side content. The progression system is clearly guilty here and I'd like to explain why. In Fire Emblem, every chapter is usually a main chapter with a big battle, but here KoeiTecmo decided to insert intermediate missions between main battles, which destroys the pace and wastes your time. The map features several areas to be conquered before getting to the one with the main scenario battle. That means you have to go through at least three or four battles where nothing is at stake, and where the objectives are samey (seize some strongholds and beat the boss), before you can get to the heart of the matter.
Main missions on the other hand are longer, tougher, and feature varied rules and bigger maps. They're a lot more enjoyable, and notably closer to the feeling of a classic Fire Emblem game, with sudden turnarounds like reinforcements, necessary rescues, defensive gameplay, etc. I would have preferred going directly from main mission to main mission and leaving the leveling to the training facility, which by the way is designed exactly for this. As it is, I think that a large part of the game is needless and repetitive fighting, which takes up time that could be better spent on a new route.
On the gameplay side, Three Hopes is quite serviceable. It lives up to the "Warriors" genre thanks to vigorous and speedy battles against huge melees of enemies. Facing up to large and aggressive crowds with your favorite hero provides a thrill like no other. It's all the more interesting that you have many ways to win too. You can, for example, pick the class you prefer for any character (a much appreciated freedom). In my case, Monica arrived as monk, but I already had too many magic users, so I shifted her to Falcon Knight, which fits her well.
Each class has a personal set of combos, plus up to four manual skills and an ultimate attack. You can also pair two fighters for stronger support between them. Depending on the level of relationship, the supporting character can attack and cover the active one more or less often. The gameplay is therefore fairly rich and entertaining, even though you only have four playable characters on the field. A bigger attack team would have been better, especially as you would then be able to wield all six types of weapons.
The introduction of a bit of strategy is also a good idea. True, it doesn't turn it into an SRPG, but you can organize your offensive by giving various orders to your teammates. You can send them defend a base, attack in different directions for quicker progress on the map, or protect a key person. All these gameplay features are managed in parallel, which makes intense battles extremely lively and stimulating. Unfortunately, the enemy AI is certainly lacking; all opponents, including bosses, are slow and imprecise. The challenge level is therefore less than that in other Warriors games, which hurts the overall experience.
Visually, Three Hopes looks significantly held back. The battlefields, and even your own base, are drab and bleak. The graphics are seriously rough, plagued by low quality textures and an equally low level of detail. Looking back at recent Warriors games I've played, as well as Samurai Warriors 4, they're incomparably prettier and more colorful. Samurai Warriors 4 was released eight years ago, in 2014, when the PS4 was still getting unsophisticated ports from the PS3. Fortunately, the characters look fine, and the battle animations have been made with care and ingenuity. The strict technical visual aspect of the game is underwhelming, but in motion it can look cool. When we've seen breathtaking sceneries recently in titles like Genshin Impact and Elden Ring, the lacklustre visual performance here becomes all the more disappointing.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a fun action game with solid gameplay. It takes just enough from Fire Emblem: Three Houses to please fans of the renowned strategy RPG, but dubious writing and a wobbly progression system darken the mood. Visually it also lags well behind recent action-RPG hits, despite the effort that's clearly been put into the characters and animations. It will likely prove good fun for Fire Emblem fans, but it fails to be entirely convincing in its own right as a result of numerous drawbacks.
After graduating from a French business school, Thomas felt an irresistible force drawing him to study Japanese, which eventually led him to Japanese Profeciency Test level 1 in 2012. During the day, Thomas is a normal account manager. But at night he becomes Ryuzaki57, an extreme otaku gamer hungry for Japanese games (preferably with pretty girls in the main role). His knowledge now allows him to import games at Japanese release for unthinkable prices, and then tell everyone about them. Feel free to contact on twitter at @Ryuz4ki57
This review is based on a digital copy of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes for the NS