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Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Almost Keeps Hope Alive to the Very End

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes provides a fun tactical spin on the musou genre with characters you love, but runs out of gas too soon.



Fire Emblem Three Hopes

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Review

Developer: Omega Force | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: Hack and Slash
Platform: Nintendo Switch | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch

2020’s Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity showed that applying the 1 vs. 1000 Musou-style gameplay to a more narrow scope of an IP can be successful. Now Nintendo and Omega Force have revisited their other Musou spin-off with Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Like Age of Calamity, Three Hopes bears the same visuals as its progenitor and benefits from the more focused vision with a story that is in some ways better than the original Three Houses, and in some ways worse. The story supports the familiar Musou combat with some neat strategic additions, but the game ends up far overstaying its welcome.

Three Hopes tells an alternative version of the Three Houses narrative where instead of Byleth, the protagonist of the original game, getting involved in the affairs of Garreg Mach Monastery, a new protagonist with the default name of Shez does instead. Like the original, you will choose between which of the three houses to pledge your allegiance to at the start of the game which will completely change the story and missions you do for the rest of it. Since I played through the Golden Deer route in the original Three Houses, I decided to pick a different house and brought the knee down for Edelgard of the Black Eagles this time around.

The academy arc that took up half of the original game may as well not exist here, as after compressing its events into a single chapter you’re thrust headfirst into the war arc that pits once friendly classmates against each other in an all-out gambit for control of the continent. On one hand, this does mean you miss out on the bulk of the time learning about and growing to care for characters in your group. Players who haven’t played Three Houses may find the lack of context especially awkward as high emotional stakes play out with seemingly no build-up.


On the other hand, Three Hopes focusing on the war for nearly the entire game does allow the story to expand on it in ways the original couldn’t, particularly in how the war affects the noble houses and the ways they’re forced to navigate through it from both political and humanitarian standpoints. This presents an interesting political hotbed for most of the game that is unfortunately sidelined towards the end when world-altering stakes are ramped up more quickly than they probably should. It’s also worth noting how frustratingly easy it is to miss an important condition that sets you on the path for the good ending, locking you into a very sudden bad end without you truly understanding why.

Caught in the middle of all this is our new protagonist, Shez, who brings some much welcome agency to the proceedings that was sorely missing from the Three Houses story. That’s because, unlike Byleth, Shez is not a silent protagonist. You still choose Shez’s gender and the occasional dialogue option, but they have their own thoughts, concerns, and mental growth that is nice to witness throughout the journey, even if it’s a little simplistic. You do get to see some new sides of the returning cast of Three Houses, but having Shez around to inject some new blood really helps mix things up a bit.

The story never keeps you away for long from the main attraction of Three Hopes, though: blowing away swathes of enemies as if they were foliage to a leaf blower. Three Hopes is divided into chapters, each with a number of side missions leading up to a large-scale main story mission. Missions will put you on sizable battlefields with strongholds to capture and enemies to rack up the KO count with. Carving paths through the battlefield remains a cathartic pleasure of the Musou genre as you pull off flashy, two-button combos that make you feel like a vengeful war deity. Attacking fills up your Warrior Gauge to unleash a devastating Warrior Special, and waltzing into an enemy stronghold then clearing it out all at once with a special is an empowering feeling that never gets old. That’s all standard Musou faire, but Three Hopes infuses enough of its Fire Emblem DNA to add a little more strategy to your hacking and slashing.

Fire Emblem Three Hopes Battle
Battlefield conditions often change numerous times over the course of a single battle

Instead of the usual Musou style of making each playable character unique with their own move set and abilities, Three Hopes elects for the flexibility of the class system of its original game; any character can be any class, with a handful of exceptions. Leveling up multiple classes on a character has the benefit of allowing them to use more skills and weapon arts while also allowing you to mold the composition of your army to your liking.

The downside to this is that unique move sets between characters are basically nonexistent outside of important story classes. One archer plays the same as another archer and one swordmaster plays the same as another swordmaster. Each character does have a unique active and passive ability that somewhat distinguishes themselves from others, but they’re rarely enough to drastically change how you play them. This really dampens the excitement of recruiting new characters as you already know more or less how they’ll function before even controlling them.

“…adapting to these tumultuous circumstances on the fly is one of the most satisfying parts of Three Hopes

You can take direct control of up to four units in most missions and freely switch between them at any point. By pausing the game you can order the units to move, attack, or defend certain locations, allowing you to divide and conquer the battlefield. Three Hopes often throws multiple objectives at you at the same time, so you’ll want to strategize appropriately who does what and when. You’ll also want to take the classic Fire Emblem weapon triangle into account when making those decisions. Sending a sword user to dispatch an axe-wielding commander will deal more damage and reduce the enemy’s stun gauge faster, which when depleted opens them up for a deadly critical flurry.

With this in mind, you might assign Shez to seize a stronghold while you send Edelgard to disable some ballistae, only to find one of your other units ambushed by an enemy and in dire need of reinforcements. Main story missions can get particularly hectic and chaotic, with battlefield conditions seemingly changing every minute; adapting to these tumultuous circumstances on the fly is one of the most satisfying parts of Three Hopes.

Fire Emblem Three Hopes Map
Sometimes your tactical map can look like a Chutes & Ladders board with how many arrows you have going at once

In between battles, you’ll tend to the logistics of your army at the base camp which acts as a stand-in for the academy portion of Three Houses but to a much smaller degree. This works in Three Hopes’s favor as sometimes you just want to get back into a battle ASAP. At camp, you can freely walk around to handle a multitude of tasks such as talking with your party members, cooking battle beneficial meals, and buying and selling items. By using gold and materials gained from battles you can upgrade the effects of various facilities such as increasing the lineup at shops, increasing the weapon upgrade effects at the blacksmith, and increasing the success rate of cooking.

You can give gifts, go on outings, and do activities with party members around camp to increase support levels but Three Hopes, fortunately, leaves out the annoying fetch quests part of the original game. Increasing support levels unlocks support conversations between the characters involved which are all fully voiced, as well as most of the entire game, by the original voice actors reprising their roles.

The main drawback of these conversations is that it feels like you’ve already heard many of them before if you’ve played Three Houses. Hearing Lysithea go on for the umpteenth time to not treat her like a child and trying to not get Bernadetta to run away at the drop of a hat has run its course. Still, there are a handful of conversations that bring something new to the table, particularly those that involve Shez and ones between characters that didn’t previously have supports in Three Houses.

Fire Emblem Three Hopes Shez
Shez having their own voice does wonders for the story and support conversations

Most importantly, raising supports unlocks paralogue quests as you progress through the story which are easily a highlight of the game. Unlike traditional Fire Emblem games, these paralogues involve a group of characters instead of just one and offer satisfying insight and closures to character arcs not previously given in Three Houses, as well as a handful of truly comical situations. These battles also offer unique and interesting objectives beyond the standard, “Seize this stronghold and defeat this commander.” 

One paralogue involving the opera duo Dorothea and Manuela required identifying who amongst the ruffians was a fan of whom and then sending the appropriate songstress to give them a firm reminder that parasocial relationships are dangerous. Another paralogue pits Caspar and Lindhart against their fathers in a competition of who can route more of the poor bandits caught between them. It’s in these battles that it feels like Three Hopes is having the most fun with itself, and they’re a welcome break from the more straightforward missions of the main game.

Performance-wise, Three Hopes manages to maintain a steady 30 FPS for most of the game although there are definitely moments where the frame rate takes a noticeable dip during particularly chaotic moments. It’s not too much of an issue but even weirder still is how the framerate will even occasionally tank when simply moving about camp. It’s an odd technical hiccup that doesn’t feel like it should happen, but fortunately, it doesn’t affect enjoyment much at all.  The same applies to the visuals which, while faithful to the original game, definitely sport blurry textures and abundant pop-in to accommodate the sheer amount of activity on screen at once.

By far Three Hopes’s greatest weakness, however, is its length. Length within a single route at that, not even counting all three of them combined. One route is simply too long for the progression track it provides. 

Fire Emblem Three Hopes Special

One of the purest joys of a Musou game is being given new ways to cleave through hordes of enemies whether that be from a new character, a new combo, or even simply adding an extra bar of special to let you chain them back-to-back. The fact of the matter is that once you unlock the final tier of camp facility upgrades, including Master classes, about two-thirds of the way into the game, Three Hopes runs out of ways to provide that satisfaction for the last third. New characters don’t provide it since all of them play similarly nor does leveling up units and upgrading weapons as those are just back-end number crunching. The best you can do is continue to cross class characters to see which set of abilities might jive well with which class, but even that becomes tedious to micromanage when there are so many units to choose from.

The result is a final 10-15 hours that just sort of melt together into an amorphous blob. Normally the relatively tame difficulty of Musou games isn’t a problem, but without any sort of pushback here the monotony of using the same character pasted 20 times becomes extremely apparent. Not even the looming threat of permadeath or cranking the difficulty to hard is enough to offset that. Only the paralogues and main story missions proved to be fun anymore at this point, as their unique victory conditions and evolving battlefields were fresh deli in between old, stale bread. Even though the game gives some neat features to make subsequent playthroughs of other routes faster in a New Game+, I had no desire to do so by the time credits rolled on my first.

It’s a shame because the first two-thirds of the game is very strong. The strategy elements of Fire Emblem suit the Musou formula well. Shez is a good protagonist that lets you see a cool “what if” story with the characters you had grown to love in Three Houses. The main story missions are wonderfully chaotic and bring the frenetic carnage of the battlefield into clear focus. Those elements simply aren’t supported properly through the entire game, though. It would have benefited greatly from either lopping off parts of each route or pacing its power progression better throughout them. As it stands now, though, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes doesn’t have the gas to see its journey through, puttering out and leaving you to push it the rest of the way to its destination.

Heralding from the rustic, old town of Los Angeles, California; Matthew now resides in Boston where he diligently researches the cure for cancer. In reality, though, he just wants to play games and watch anime, and likes talking about them way too much. A Nintendo/Sony hybrid fan with a soft-spot for RPG’s, he finds little beats sinking hours into an immersive game world.