I’ve held of writing this post as long as I could. For those of you who follow me on social media, you’re likely well aware that around a month ago, I picked up Fire Emblem: Three Houses. As a big fan of the Fire Emblem series, I was excited to see a new game coming out. The early reviews for the game were spectacular, though considering how far the series dropped off from Awakening to Fates (nevermind the trainwreck that was Shadows of Valentia), I was a bit skeptical for how good Three Houses would actually be.
Considering the fact that I’ve been able to get around 110 hours of gameplay in since the game came out, I feel pretty confident in saying it’s a great game. While I haven’t played through enough of the game to give a full-fledged review1Seriously. Without getting too spoliery, I’ve played through two of the games four paths in full, as well as having started a third path. I would legitimately estimate that to truly finish the game, I’ll need around 200-250 hours of gameplay., there’s still quite a few things I’ve been able to develop an opinion on to this point.
In this post, I wanted to give my thoughts on a few things from Three Houses I like, as well as some thoughts on dislikes of the game. I’ll come straight out and say that while the two lists in this post are pretty balanced numberwise, there are far more things I like about the game than I dislike. Additionally, I’m not going to hit on every single feature I have an opinion on in this game, as that would make this post far too long to read. Plus there are a few topics2Unit customization, the lack of child units, the support system, and the entire Edelgard arc, just to name a few. that I want to talk about in deeper detail in other posts.
Spoilers WILL occur from this point forward. You’ve been warned.
1. Weapon/Class Relationships
I’m going to do a lot of comparison of Three Houses in this post to Awakening for a few different reasons.
- It’s the game I have the most comprehensive knowledge of3I’ve played Radiant Dawn, Awakening, Fates, and Shadows of Valentia, as well as translated versions of Mystery of the Emblem and Thracia 776. Of these, the only ones I’ve liked enough to want to replay them were Awakening and Fates. Admittedly, the replay value to Fates is just the differences between the Revelation line and the other two lines, so take that for what it’s worth..
- It’s the game that I have the most time invested in to — probably ever. According to my 3DS, I’ve played around 800 hours of Awakening over time4The next closest I can find is Civilization V, where I’ve played about 450 hours over time. Granted, my Xbox 360 doesn’t track play time for games, otherwise I’d think NCAA Football 12 would also be up there.
- It was the last great Fire Emblem game before Three Houses.
In Awakening, like most Fire Emblem games, the class that your unit is currently in dictates the weapons they can wield. For example, Noire starts out as an Archer, meaning she can use bows. She also has pretty good proficiency with bows when you recruit her. That said, because her mother is a Dark Mage, you can reclass Noire to a Dark Mage. Doing so means that that Noire can now wield tomes — but that she can no longer wield bows. Even more annoying, there isn’t a class in the game that allows Noire to use both her bow skills and magic, as you’re limited by the class you’re in. On the plus side, you do still retain that previous weapon experience, though it’s still of no use to you.
Three Houses recognizes this flaw and actually builds a way around this in most situations. Weapons (mostly) aren’t locked to a specific class, meaning not only that most classes can use any weapon, you can also build off of your previous weapon experience if you change classes. As an example to this I had intended to make Ingrid a Holy Knight. In order to pass the class certification5Three Houses way of allowing class changes, I needed to level up Ingrid’s skills in Riding, Lance, and Faith. Unfortunately, midway through this process, I realized the unit I wanted to become my Dancer couldn’t actually be reclassed into Dancer6I just wanted Shamir to be a Dancer. Is that too much to ask?, meaning I had to pick a new unit for this on the fly. I chose Ingrid, which would have meant that all of her previous training would have gone to waste in old Fire Emblem games. That said, Three Houses allowed me to retain her skills, meaning that I now had a Dancer running around defending herself with a Lance — and eventually brawling gauntlets, as Ingrid punching people in the face amuses me.
There are some classes that lock you out of using a particular weapon or skill. Obviously non-mounted/flying units won’t use the Riding or Flying skill sets. Similarly, classes like the Paladian class prevent you from using magic while in that class. But this is a huge improvement over previous games.
2. Unbalanced Classes, Weapons, and Skills
One of the biggest complaints about Awakening can be summed up in a single sentence:
Galeforce is broken.
And to be fair, the Galeforce skill was broken as all fuck. And once you knew that, you could choose how hard or easy to make your game by building around (or building for) units with Galeforce. While Galeforce wasn’t the only broken thing in Awakening7The Vengence and Armsthrift skills, killer-type weapons, and the Dark Knight class as a whole all come to mind., it was the one that was the most obviously so.
It’s my personal opinion that not only does Three Houses have broken classes, weapons, and skills, it doubles down on what Awakening did. Here’s a brief summary of how to make an absurdly overpowered unit in Three Houses. These steps are in no particular order, but do try all of them.
- Start with a unit that has good black magic spells. Think Dorothea, Linhardt, or Lorenz8You could also use Sylvain for this strategy if you want truly hilarious results, as his budding talent gives him an additional +20 avoidance when using black magic. That said he won’t hit quite as hard as some others on this list.. Lysithea or Hubert would work too if you prefer dark magic users.
- Focus train them on Flying skills until they get to an A+ in Flying to get Alert Stance+. This grants +30 avoidance if all you do with your unit is Wait.
- Build your unit’s skills up in Lance and Riding until they can pass the Dark Knight certification.
- Charge into battle and press Wait.
Don’t like to use magic users? Get a bow user up to at least C rank to get Close Counter, follow the same steps above, except using Bow Knight instead of Dark Knight, and counter-kill everything. Prefer directly attacking? Canto might be the most broken single skill in ANY Fire Emblem game. The only downside is that you can’t take advantage of the strategy above. My point is that you can make the game super easy for yourself by doing some of the things I just talked about. Or you can make the game harder by making Ingrid and Bernadetta hand-to-hand combat specialists. This is a good thing.
3. Monestary Exploration
I’m not saying a third of my time on Three Houses has been solely dedicated to exploring the monestary and doing quests/building unit supports therein. But the only reason I’m not saying that is because I haven’t actively kept track of the amount of time I’ve devoted to it.
There’s quite a lot I like about the monestary, even if initially exploring it is a bit of a slow go. As stupid as it is, the fishing minigame can be quite fun when you run into some of the rarer fish. The weapon tournaments in the training grounds require more strategy than you’d think, particularly once you get out of the beginning tournaments. And of course the dining hall is a great way to build up support between units without having to grind up every single one of your unit’s stats for recruiting.
My only real gripe with the monestary is how many rooms you randomly have to check for dropped items — they literally made a room for every single student character. I mean, it makes sense. Good on the monestary for planning student housing appropriately. But come on. Let me find the items I’m looking for already.
1. Weapon Crafting
Even in previous games in the Fire Emblem series, the wepaon crafting system has been tedious at best. It has ranged from fine but annoying (Fates) to objectively annoying (Awakening) to accidentally broken (Path of Radiance). There were attempts to make it better with Three Houses, but to say they fell short would be an understatement. This is because of one primary feature — the Rusted weapons.
They’re EVERYWHERE. They’re rarely good weapons, they can’t be sold for any value unless you forge them, and they don’t get any bonuses from being forged aside from being exactly as good as a weapon you can buy in the shop. They solely exist so you can grind money to by selling them.
You’re also limited to one forge level per weapon, which means that there’s not a ton of inherent value in doing so for most weapons. If it was a situation like Awakening where you could forge an iron weapon up a few times to give it extra might and critical rate, that’d be one thing. But the boosts are minimal. There’s also no renaming of crafted weapons. Somewhere, Odin Dark is crying softly into his trembling sword hand.
2. Lost Items
I don’t like consulting online guides in my first playthrough of games. While I don’t mind being spoiled on the game itself, I do want to figure out how to play it on my own. That said, I had to look up a lost items guide. There’s just so many of them, several of which have very little logic to who they belong to — especially if you’re on your first play of the game and don’t know every character’s backstory. They’re great for little one-off motivation boosts, but as a whole, lost items are more troublesome than they’re worth.
3. The Instruction System
One of the core tenants of Three Houses is that you’re a mercenary turned professor who is enlisted to lead/teach a group of students from one of the continent’s three major countries. You’re apparently a good enough of a mercenary that your father — the greatest mercenary who ever lived according to several people — felt coumfortable letting you be a mercenary with him. And yet, when you instruct your students, even in subjects or weapons you’re well-versed in, the impact you make towards your students’ skills is negligable.
I get it. We’ve reached the point where part of the appeal to Fire Emblem is the story9Easily my favorite part of any Fire Emblem game. and the shipping you can do between the characters. Hell, I’m guilty of it too. But if you’re going to make your main character a teacher — one whose main story purpose for the first half of the game is to teach — at least make their instruction matter.