The ambition that Nintendo is showing since the Switch’s launch is unprecedented and we have attended the launch of authentic masterpieces that have been a turning point in the trajectory of consecrated series, reinventing and evolving them without losing their true essence. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are two clear examples of this, and now we have to add Fire Emblem: Three Houses to that list, developer Intelligent Systems has given it absolutely everything in order to take the series to a new level, giving us one of the best role-playing and strategy games ever made and a must-have title for any Switch owner.
This time game takes us to Fódlan, a continent divided into three great nations that after years of war has managed to find peace . In the center of this territory is the Garreg Mach Monastery, where the most important families in each region send their children to study and prepare to lead and govern in the future.
Like Fódlan itself, this Academy of Officers is divided into three houses, each corresponding to the aforementioned factions. We will be a mercenary who, for reasons we will not detail, ends up arriving at the monastery and becoming a teacher.
As you can guess, the first decision we will have to make will be to choose the house we want to take care of. This is very important since the characters of our faction and history will change completely depending on what we choose, which gives an unequalled replayability to the adventure.
And since there are not only three routes, but four, and each of them allows us to make certain decisions of great importance that will alter the development of the script in one way or another, with characters that will live and die depending on our acts
The best of all is that at the narrative level it is one of the most elaborate installments of the entire series, immersing ourselves in a complex and very well built a world full of political intrigues and conflicts between noble families. The story is full of unexpected twists and knows how to keep all our interest while playing surprisingly adult and delicate subjects, such as religion and the damage that fanaticism, class struggle or, of course, the horror of war.
Obviously, there are plot routes that are more interesting than others, but they are all exquisitely written (except for the final stretch, where things get too fast) and we discover new details about Fódlan and its inhabitants that will make us understand the rules and the nature of this magical world much better.
But we have the real triumph of Three Houses in its characters, the real culprits that will keep you entertained and glued to your controller more than hundreds of hours.
At first, these characters seem like a collection of clichés very unattractive, but you will soon discover how far this is from reality. When we begin to interact with them, to sink in their stories and see the relationships they have with each other, they will surprise us with very careful and detailed backgrounds.
Almost all are marked by some kind of drama and some of them become even overwhelming, getting us to empathize easily with our students, understand them and care about them. To highlight the delegates of each house, whose past and motivations are among the best that has been written in a Nintendo game ever, surpassing, at times, even the main story itself.
In general, it is the largest Fire Emblem ever made and the volume of dialogue lines leaves everything previously seen like a mini-game, which has allowed screenwriters to develop their ideas like never before and create some of the best conversations of support of the series.
The teaching week
Entering what is its playability, say that we meet again in a role-playing game and turn-based strategy in which we will have to move our heroes through a map divided into squares while facing real armies of enemies that will not put us Things are not easy.
However, now it is not all about fighting and a deep part of social management and simulation has been included that has reminded us a lot of what you would expect from a game in the Persona series, a series that you drink without any dissimulation.
So, we will follow a school calendar that will mark the progress of the script and the type of activities we can do. Of course, here we will not play every day and the weeks are organized with a fixed structure that rarely varies.
To start, Mondays are the tutoring days, being able to give personalized classes to each of our students to help them improve their mastery of their different competencies. This is very important, since raising these disciplines is essential to gain access to new professions and skills.
Of course, teaching a character will spend a point of action and these are limited, so we will have to choose very well who we want to teach each week. In addition, there is also very important the level of motivation they have, since we can hardly help them improve if their morale is low, so it is usually vital to give them rest days, give them small details, respond with judgment when we talk to them and allow them to stand out on the battlefield to optimize our tutorials.
In case it is not enough, these days we can also assign “duties” to work on their own to improve one or two skills of our choice. In the same way, we can select two students to do an activity as a couple that will help them increase their level of support and improve their riding, armour or flight skills.
Once we have organized the teaching week, the calendar will automatically advance until Saturday, the day on which we will show the results of the training we have planned for you.
Planning the days off
After this arrive on Sundays, where we will have the opportunity to decide if we want to explore the monastery, perform an optional battle or detour, attend a seminar or just rest.
In the event that we decide to explore, they will allow us to tour the academy on foot and with total freedom , being able to talk and interact with the characters that live there, participate in certain activities and mini-games, accept secondary missions, collect materials, buy and sell in stores specials, ask for help to improve some of the competencies of our protagonist, etc.
There is much to do here and we can assure you that as soon as you start exploring, the hours will pass you almost without realizing it, whether fishing, talking or trading, to mention just a few examples. The most interesting thing is that all the dialogues and the type of events that we can find are adapted to what is happening in the plot, so it is worth exploring at least once a month.
Of course, here we will also have to make decisions and manage our time, since most of the activities we can do consume a point of action, and these are very limited, especially at the beginning, so try to organize yourself correctly.
Regarding the seminars, each one will allow us to raise both our skill level with certain competencies and that of the students who are interested. In addition, with them, the motivation of all the participants will also increase, although we can only attend a single seminar per Sunday.
On the other hand, optional battles do not need much presentation, as they are just what they promise. These confrontations will serve us, mainly, to gain some extra experience, and the maps in which they are developed are somewhat generic, although sometimes we will also encounter deviations, secondary missions focused on certain characters that are usually as elaborate as those of The main story, both in script and design, so we recommend you not to miss them and give them priority.
Finally, if we choose to rest, the motivation of our entire army will increase and we will recover part of the durability of our legendary weapons, saving us materials in the forge and allowing us to give more effective tutorials.
Characters and classes
Another of the great novelties of this delivery we have in the inclusion of a tremendously versatile new class system since we can unlock new professions among which we can change whenever we want.
You will easily understand how it works if you think of games like Octopath Traveler or Bravely Default since our character will level up regardless of class and we can change from one to another whenever we want before starting a mission, which will come to us fable to adapt To each map.
Obviously, this system is much more complex than it seems, since if we master a profession we will obtain a passive ability that we can equip with any other, and our skills will allow us to use weapons that, in principle, do not marry well with certain classes, allowing us Develop very unique and special units.
Of course, to unlock these works the characters will have to pass some exams that require them to have a certain range in some skills. For example, if we want someone to aspire to be a rider, we need to be good with spears and riding, while those who want to be murderers will need to stand out with a bow and sword.
In the end, all these systems of competencies, skills, classes and tutorials give us an overwhelming freedom to evolve and control even the smallest detail of the progress of our troops , offering us a freedom of management without equal that is as addictive as satisfactory, especially when we start to get the results we were looking for and see how all the time we have dedicated to our students pays off on the battlefield, making the connection we feel with them even greater than in previous installments.
Play as you like
But don’t worry, if you are not friends of doing so many efforts or the social aspect of the work, you will be happy to know that Intelligent Systems have thought about everything and have included various options so that we can focus only on the battles, automating the tutorials to Let it be the game itself that decides the evolution of our students.
In fact, we even have the possibility of selecting the calendar day we want to play, so it is perfectly possible to choose the dates on which there are history battles and jump directly to them.
It goes without saying that this is not exactly the most optimal way to play , since the AI efforts are not as efficient as those we can do manually, and if we skip days we will miss certain events, but they are still options that Many players will appreciate and allow us to adapt the gaming experience to our tastes and preferences.
As far as the fighting is concerned, we still have the same old formula: you move your units in turns on the map, attack the enemies and receive a counterattack if they have you shot.
However, the opportunity has been used to provide a good number of new features that give the clashes a new flavour. Probably, the most prominent is the elimination of the classic triangle of weapons, a feature inherited from Fire Emblem Gaiden and its remake for Nintendo 3DS that might seem risky, but that has allowed to adjust and balance the damage numbers much better.
Therefore, now the weapons will come better or worse according to their own characteristics and not by their type. The swords tend to be light and precise, facilitating the performance of double attacks, the axes are very heavy and do not have much precision, but their blows are devastating, and the spears find a very sweet balance between damage, precision and weight.
As expected, details such as bows are very effective against flying units are maintained, and special weapons with increased damage against riders, armoured soldiers, dragons and beasts also return.
In the end, everything is resolved depending on our class, our skills and abilities, our statistics and the weapons we use, which favours more strategic and satisfying duels in which we have to take many more things into account when moving and plan ourselves
Obviously, the terrain also plays a fundamental role and depending on the type of box in which we find ourselves, we will gain some advantages or others, and can negatively affect our mobility. In fact, this is so important that we have recovered the possibility of dismantling our riders to go on foot in areas that are harmful to horses, something that also applies to flying classes and that will be great when there are too many archers nearby.
The magic has also received a deep revision and now instead of having grimoires or canes with their own durability, like the rest of weapons, we find that each spell has a limited number of uses per mission. The more powerful it is, the fewer times we can put them into practice.
Thanks to this change it has been possible to balance this resource much better than in previous games since it is still an extremely useful and powerful tool, but we must manage with more head so as not to be sold at the most inopportune moment.
The news does not end here since in addition to attacking and casting spells we also have the techniques and tactics. The first, as its name suggests, will allow us to unleash special movements with certain weapons, being able to enhance with them things like our ability to impact with critical blows, our effectiveness against certain types of units or our damage, among other things. Of course, using them is not free, since they consume more durability points than normal, so the wear suffered by weapons when using them is much greater. In total, we can equip our students with three techniques among all that they have learned, so choose them well
Regarding tactics, these depend on the battalion of soldiers who lead our units. Each hero can be accompanied by a small detachment that will boost our statistics, level up and give us a specific skill that we can use a very limited number of times on each map.
Most of them are usually attacks that affect several squares, prevent counterattack and punish rivals with altered states, although there are also support tactics with which to cure all the units we have nearby or increase their range of motion during a turn.
As you can see, we have a huge amount of tools and strategic possibilities so that we can always adapt to any type of situation , the mechanics have been revised and balanced as never before, and the randomness and luck factor of the series has been reduced to the minimum expression, offering us its most round and satisfactory delivery at playable level.
An exemplary map and mission design
All this would fall in a sack broken without a good design of levels and missions, something in which the new of Intelligent Systems stands out again, thanks to exquisitely studied maps and with which they always manage to surprise us. At least, in relation to deviations and the main story, there are no two missions or similar, with large, very different scenarios and with many special conditions and secondary objectives that will force us to rethink our tactics constantly.
As soon as we cross a forest full of fog that we will defend a position or escort someone, to mention a few examples, something to which we should add the mechanics of each scenario, giving a lot of variety to the development of the adventure and preventing us from getting bored by More hours to pass.
In addition, it has recovered the large scale that had the maps of titles such as Path of Radiance or Radiant Dawn, so you can expect battles that easily exceed the hour and a half duration.
Monsters and Beasts
But the news does not end here, as new enemies have also been introduced in the form of giant beasts that completely change the way we face battles. While this way it might seem that they are simply much stronger and more resistant units than usual, the truth is that they have unique mechanics that we must take into account if we do not want to be liquidated.
From the outset, these monsters occupy four squares and in each of them, they have a shield that protects them and reduces the damage that we do to them, forcing us to break them in order to stun them and really harm them. Luckily, if we use a tactic against them we can make them focus their attention on the character that has used it, thus facilitating the diversion of their attacks to the positions that best suit us while with the rest of our army we take care of destroying their shields
In case it was not enough, they usually have more than one life bar and they are strengthened with each one we take away, forcing us to take extreme precautions and completely change the way we face these beings, giving rise to very tense and tricky situations. Without a doubt, one of the novelties that we liked the most.
A challenge suitable for everyone
With regard to the always tricky issue of difficulty, there are two levels from which we can choose: Normal and Hard. The first one offers a very affordable challenge for everyone, even having the possibility of “farming” everything we want through certain optional battles, which does not mean that the final stretch will not make you strive.
For its part, Difficult poses a much more interesting challenge and close to the classic installments of the series, punishing our mistakes very hard and forcing us to play as real strategists, but never reaching the point of frustration of games like Fire Emblem Fates.
As a concession to the players, Intelligent Systems has included the Dragon Pulse, a mechanic with which we can go back several turns a limited number of times per battle , something that we already saw in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and that in difficult play we have finished using more times than we would like to admit to correct errors and save units that we had condemned to certain death by a bad movement.
Obviously, it is a totally optional system, so if this seems to make things too easy for you (we will not be the ones who deny how immensely useful it becomes), you can always choose not to use it and restart old-fashioned levels. use (or accept your losses and continue forward despite it). Speaking of casualties and errors, the Rookie and Classic modes return, thus being able to deactivate permanent death with the first or keep it in the second.
We are great enthusiasts to play in Classic Mode, since it is much more satisfactory at the tactical level and helps us to get more involved with our characters so that we do everything we need in order to free them from the grim reaper’s embrace, but it is always Good news that there are numerous options for each player to adapt the experience to their tastes, preferences and needs.
A long trip
With so many options and possibilities, you will find it easy to imagine how variable the duration of the game becomes. To us, our first route lasted 80 hours playing in Hard and Classic, making all optional detours and commissions, talking with everyone every time we explored, managing our entire army manually, devoting personalized attention to each unit and without omitting Or speed up animations during the fighting.
Logically, if you skip days, you deactivate the animations and let the game do the steps manually, the thing accelerates a lot and its duration can be reduced between 30 and 40 hours.
Add that there are four very well-differentiated routes and that all of them are more or less as long (there are a couple in particular that do extend somewhat more) and you can get an idea of the authentic brutality of hours and content that it offers us. Without a doubt, a game for months and even years.
The Art of War
On a visual level, if there is something that is clear it is that it is not a technical portent, with scenarios that, without being bad, are not anything from the other world, explorations in the monastery full of slowdowns and animations during the conversations that they could give much more of themselves and those who see the trick quickly, with 3D characters and 2D backgrounds.
However, and despite its flaws, it is a very attractive title for the eyes thanks to its character design and the cel-shading modelling of which they show, something that does nothing but improves as the plot progresses. In addition, the artistic style for which it has opted fits very well with the type of story that we want to tell and knows how to maintain aesthetic coherence at all times. And be careful with the spectacular CGI anime videos that appear in the most important sequences, because they are a real wonder.
Finally, we have the obligation to say that the soundtrack is simply fantastic and a great gift for our ears. It adapts like a glove to each situation, alters its instrumentation dynamically according to what is happening, has a variety of overwhelming themes and is extensive as she alone. And the best: we can listen whenever we want from the extras menu.
The effects maintain the same line and the character voices comes to us in both English and Japanese. And watch this, because all the conversations, even the most inconsequential of the monastery, have voices.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses marks a before and after in a saga that seemed reluctant to change and great innovations, but with which Intelligent Systems has had no qualms about experimenting and offering endless innovations in order to take it to the next level.
It is a work that distills ambition everywhere and in which the study has left the soul, demonstrating the experience that they have accumulated with the series in the last 30 years. It has everything you could ask for and more: content for months, outstanding narrative values, varied maps, simply perfect gameplay, spectacular mission design, one of the best soundtracks of recent years, playable to the core, a number of possibilities when developing our unheard of heroes and a multitude of options when it comes to configuring the gaming experience to our tastes and preferences.
Do not hesitate, we are facing what is possibly the best Fire Emblemever made and probably the best game of the genre. An essential jewel for any holder of a Nintendo Switch that you should not miss.
We have prepared this review with a digital review code provided by Nintendo.