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August 2022

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: June 24, 2022


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Switch Review - 'Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 29, 2022 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Join Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes characters as you engage in massive turn-based, tactical RPG battles across a war-torn Fódlan.

Buy Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes

In Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, a mercenary helps three students who are lost in the woods. The merc is subsequently invited to the academy to join one of three houses. The mercenary turns out to be Shez, who's survived a band of mercenaries wiped out by Byleth before the game begins and is out for revenge. Their mere presence sets off a chain reaction that causes Garreg Mach to close early, war to begin, and sets the fate of the land on a different track.

I found Three Hopes to be an interesting alternate version of the story. Taking Byleth out of the main character slot means characters end up in very different positions. For example, Claude ends up far more distrusting and scheming, often engaging in tactical plans that are clever but terrible. Edelgard is in a position with more allies than before. Even minor characters have different outcomes based on the changes, including some characters surviving where they died in Three Houses and vice versa. I was shocked by how happy I was to have a protagonist who wasn't a blue-haired lord. Likewise, Byleth works well as an enemy. Without the "softening" they experience in Garreg Mach, they end up as an inhuman and shockingly cold foe, something The Three Houses touched on but always rang a little false since you were in control of their dialogue choices.

It relies too much on The Three Houses knowledge. The game glosses over anything that characters would be expected to know about that game, and if your memory is faulty or you didn't play multiple routes in the original, you may be bewildered by the cast of characters who are introduced as if you knew them. It's very much a game for fans first and foremost.

Three Hopes builds on the basic ideas of Fire Emblem Warriors, but it goes much further. At its heart, it's the same basic Warriors gameplay. You take your character into a massive swarm of enemies and hit the X and Y buttons to perform combos until enemies explode in massive numbers. Three Hopes sticks to the gameplay of "take a base and hold it" from titles like Hyrule Warriors, and it feels familiar in that regard.

The biggest improvement over Fire Emblem Warriors is in a much-improved tactical map. Other Warriors games have some version of it, but Three Hopes easily has the most map-based tactical choices outside of an Empires spin-off. You have a party of four playable characters who you can control, including issuing orders to attack or guard areas. The Fire Emblem weapon triangles are in full effect, so choosing the appropriate character for the correct situation can go a long way. In larger stages, you can order your NPCs around, have them ally up with characters, or execute special strategies that require you to collect resources from earlier levels.

In a lot of ways, you can finish Three Hopes stages without needing to be in control of the action. Characters are extremely good at functioning on their own, with many characters having passive bonuses that make them better at certain roles. Very often, characters that I had sent to clear a base did everything on their own without my help. It keeps the "tactical" feel of Fire Emblem in a game that's largely based around killing a billion enemies with every slash of a sword.

Special skills are tied to different characters and classes, but they all share one rule: Using them uses Weapon Durability. Durability resets at the end of each stage, but within the stage itself, you only have the limits of the weapon that you brought into the stage. Each skill takes more Durability, and powerful skills can use up one-third of your Durability bar in one go. As the game progresses, you get more ways to boost Durability, which turns rare abilities from a treat into a core part of combat.

In true Fire Emblem style, there are a set number of generic classes and a few character-specific jobs. Your class determines the weapon you can equip and your basic skillset with that weapon. As you progress, you can advance into different jobs, some of which are enhanced versions of an existing move set and others that change your entire move set. For example, the sword-wielding Myrmidon can go into the Mercenary, which plays like a more advanced version of the same class, or the Thief, which has a brand-new skillset. From there, the Thief can continue to grow into more advanced versions of the same class, while Myrmidon moves toward an evolved Swordmaster. Any character can be any class, with the exception of a few gender-locked choices, like Pegasus Knights and Grapplers.

Where things get interesting is in how each character modifies those classes. Each character has a unique set of skills that they bring to job class. These include a character-specific unique action and two different sets of passive skills, all of which are usually tied to the character's personality and history. As the skilled mercenary Shamir, if you time button presses instead of mashing them, she'll do more damage with each attack. Mage Lysithea can inflict the Dark status effect on enemies and force them into a small area.

Skills often mesh directly with the character's class. Lysithea is heavily geared toward magic, so you'd be tempted to keep her as the powerful Gremory class. However, if you take her down a sword-wielding skill tree, she'll unlock Witstrike, which causes all attacks to run off her Magic stat instead of Strength stat, turning her into one of the game's most powerful swordspeople. Her passive skill goes from a useful bonus to something that allows her to eviscerate entire groups. Likewise, ax-wielding Hilda can charge attacks to do more damage, and giving her a spear can go a long way.

This ends up making the relatively limited number of classes go a whole lot further because two characters in the same class may not play the same way. One character may specialize in getting faster with each attack, another can leave musical notes that explode on impact, a third can temporarily buff themselves, and so on. Figuring out the right combo of character and class can take some time, and it offers a rewarding reason to take characters outside of their comfort zones.

Unfortunately, the combat system does have one significant flaw in the late game. Once you have durable weapons, it's relatively easy to create a build that spams one high-damage/low-durability combat art or spell. For the harder challenges, I was rewarded for figuring out the single button to spam over using the more unique aspects of the character. It's too easy to make any character so durable that you almost never need to attack. While Warriors games are known for being button-mashy, they are at their best when you feel like each character has a unique play style, and the combat arts being so spammable somewhat overshadows that.

There is also the unavoidable fact that the move sets aren't quite as diverse as they were in Age of Calamity. There are some very fun ones, but only the unique classes have any personality. They're still fun, but they're a bit more standard, likely because Fire Emblem trends toward "realistic" combat — if realism can be found in magic swords and fireballs. It works for Three Hopes due to its design choices but makes it less replayable.

In terms of replay value, Three Hopes is more geared toward doing New Game+ runs, where you play the other two houses instead of a more grindable campaign. The campaigns are very lengthy, 25-30+ hours each, assuming you're following the plot, so this game doesn't lack content. It just doesn't have the "zone out and grind for gear" mindset of most other Warriors titles. It's not a flaw but worth keeping in mind when deciding whether the game is for you.

Three Hopes looks pretty darn good. It's slightly better-looking than the game it is based on, with all of the characters translated almost perfectly into their action combat counterparts. The performance is relatively good but far from perfect. It's an improvement over Age of Calamity in that regard. The voice acting is quite good, with almost every actor reprising their role and some new ones knocking it out of the part. Likewise, the soundtrack is largely excellent, with a mix of new and old songs that give the game a solid mood.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is an interesting "what if?" direction for the franchise. It genuinely feels like an alternate universe take on Three Houses with action combat, rather than feeling like a mere license. The core gameplay is a lot of fun but becomes one-note as you get more powerful, but it's not enough to sour the experience. Overall, it's a good Warriors game and a big improvement over the first Fire Emblem Warriors.

Score: 8.0/10

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