Just a few days ago Fire Emblem Three Houses released on the Nintendo Switch. As a long time fan of Fire Emblem, this game made me a little nervous. After all, I had disliked the direction Fates took the franchise, and wasn’t sure if this game would change things. Overtime however, watching the trailers got me to the point where I was fairly excited to see where it went. Needless to say, I was cautiously optimistic yet worried.
The first thing that I took note of was the story of the game. I’ll keep things mostly spoiler free here, since it certainly progresses in interesting ways. It starts of with a cutscene featuring a war, which you won’t understand the full context of. You get introduced to your player character in your dreams, where you meet some kind of mysterious spirit. She takes the form of a somewhat scantily clad young girl because of course she does, calling herself Sothis. You are a son of a mercenary named Geralt, and you soon run into some bandits attacking some kids. You save them, with them introducing themselves as Edelgard, Claude, and Dimitri, the leaders of the three main houses of Fodlan, the continent this all takes place on. They take you to the monastery of the Church of Serios, the primary religion of Fodlan, where the role of teacher is thrust onto you, with you needing to pick a house to teach.
I personally really enjoy the plot for the game. It starts a bit slow, but it manages to remain engaging with nice twists along the way. It’s fairly simple, but it does the job nicely. Depending on the house you pick the story will deviate. Early on it stays mostly consistent, but by the end routes are completely separate from each other, which gives the game loads of replay value. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but it does more than enough to keep things interesting.
Graphically, the game falls flat unfortunately. It ranges from bordering on acceptable in its visual fidelity to just flat out bad. Textures aren’t well detailed, antialiasing is nonexistent and models are lower quality than one would like. At some points I had to do a double take and wonder if my game had just failed to properly load textures or if it was really this bad. The game runs around 30 FPS most of the time with occasional dips down to 25 fps levels. This is also disappointing, as I’d expect it to run better considering the low graphical quality, but it simply doesn’t. Regardless, these are problematic but they aren’t the worst things in the world. They don’t impact the gameplay much, so it’s something I am willing to look past.
The best part of this game by a long shot is the gameplay. In battle it’s your classic Fire Emblem formula with a few twists – namely the removal of the weapon triangle and a change to how magic works. Now, when you enter battle, each spell has a set number of uses that replenish every battle, which succeeds to make them feel a lot more balanced. Weapon durability returns, making you maintain your inventory slots to make sure you’re prepared. You also have battalions, armies you can equip to your units. These raise your stats and allow you to pull off a super move that won’t let the enemy counterattack. Overall the battle formula is mostly the same as we’re used to, with small modifications that I feel go a long way to improving things.
Where the game really shines is in the Monastery. You get to explore this wide area that has tons of activities to do. By completing quests and interacting with students you can raise support levels, which will make you fight better together. If you’re dedicated enough, you can even get students from other houses to change over to yours, giving a whole new significance to supports. You can also gather items and do many other things with the Monastery, making it well worth exploring.
On top of all of this, you have an immense degree of customization with your class. You can change any student into any class, and while they all have strengths and weaknesses sometimes with enough training a weakness can turn into a hidden talent. This customization means every playthrough can be different. The biggest problem is the difficulty. I was playing on Hard mode, and for the most part, the game was very easy. The only times the game presented a challenge was when the enemies would call reinforcements without warning, which felt like less of a challenge and more of an unfair scenario. Regardless, you can plan around these things so it’s not too troublesome.
I personally really enjoy the gameplay here. It gives me the room to explore and experiment, while still having a solid structure. It’s a little easy, but Nintendo has said that they plan to add a higher difficulty option in a future update, so hopefully this resolves my complaints. It’s a little disappointing that anyone can be any class, as the limits of previous games almost felt like they added character into the gameplay, but this offers more replay value so it’s a fair trade off.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised with Three Houses. The game excels in the gameplay, with it truly being a really fun time from start to end. The visuals leave much to be desired, but it’s the kind of thing I can totally look past. Overall the game is well worth the time, and I’m really looking forward to starting a second playthrough in a different house!