Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Switch Review
There obviously seems to be a trust between Nintendo and Koei Tecmo’s development division Omega Force, as we are now onto the fourth Musou/Warriors (I will call them Musou from now on) game dedicated to a Nintendo IP. The previous titles were the two set in The Legend of Zelda universe, and then there was Fire Emblem Warriors on Switch back in 2017. Omega Force has become experienced at bringing properties to their hack-and-slash formula. Some of these have been great implementations for that existing franchise and adapting what that series is known for and capturing it within or around the frantic real-time action. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is the case where Omega Force has managed to make the game feel like an extension of its source material rather than being a straightforward Musou. Omega Force did this with Persona 5: Strikers to great success, and once again it shows how flexible the Musou games can be.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is not a direct sequel to Fire Emblem Warriors, nor is it a sequel to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but in fact is set in an alternative timeline. In this version, the once hero, Byleth, who was the star in the original, is now an antagonist, with the new hero, Shez, taking over. They are a mercenary who ends up meeting Byleth in battle but losses in the process. Shez swears to gain revenge after a mysterious being named Arval helps Shez survive the encounter. The story moves forward six months and Shez ends up rescuing the three noble leaders of the Three Houses from a bandit attack. This spins the wheel of fate in motion, as Shez is invited back to the monastery and ends up enrolling into one of the Three Houses to become a student, with a goal to become stronger so that they can take down Byleth and another band of mercenaries that Shez has a feud with.
This does not last for long, as the game jumps a couple of years into the future and each of the three houses, Golden Deer, Black Eagles and Blue Lions, are at war, with the player picking an alliance with one of these houses to follow their side of the conflict. It follows in a similar style to 2019’s Three Houses, in that to truly get the whole story, you need to play through each of the game’s houses. This is not exactly a short time investment, as completing one side of the story can take around 30+ hours. This is shorter than Nintendo’s tactical role-playing game, but still not exactly a brief date when you think there are another two to get through.
The story works for fans of Musou games and for Fire Emblem: Three Houses fans. You do not need to have played the Fire Emblem entry to enjoy the story here. That said, the story does play a key part, with plenty of character interaction and cutscenes between characters and villains, and the heavy political war plot the game focuses on, bringing the traditional twists and shocks that these stories produce. This helps keep the player interested in how the war and its combatants may end up at the end of it all. If you are coming from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, then the story will be more rewarding, mainly because you are seeing how the alternative timeline plans out against the original game, seeing how the characters change, plus there are drops of fan service in here to make it more enjoyable for Fire Emblem: Three Houses fans.
In terms of how the story is, apart from the excellent Persona 5 Strikers, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is probably one of the best stories in any Musou so far. There is clearly a focus on delivering that fire Emblem feel – those games make their story and characters part of the whole experience, and this game offers the same amount of investment in that area as a Nintendo-developed Fire Emblem title. This game has no other game modes, leaving the story mode as the main play, but there are so many features in this mode, and it’s a lengthy game, that I don’t mind that it does not have some of the bonus modes that are often featured a typical Musou release.
Moving over to the action, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes can be split into two major components, the action on the battlefield and then all the content surrounding that main core, which is probably the best place to talk about because this is what inherently makes this game more Fire Emblem-esque than the previous Fire Emblem Warriors. This is down to the camp element that is brought up after each battle and where all the social activities happen between team members. This feels as if it was ripped straight from Three Houses, as building bonds between characters, something that became big with Fire Emblem: Awakening, and even more so with each successive sequel and their emphasis on relationships, are all featured here, but not as far as to bringing back romancing options. Relationships here remain strictly work-related, improving bonds to make them better at supporting each other in battle.
What does it entail to build relationships? Well, fans of the series will already know, but to newcomers, building those relationships from the bottom D tier to the top tier requires the involvement of a few interactions and campsite activities. Most actions will cost some sort of resource, be it an activity point or a training point, a way to manage time in the game so that players cannot abuse building relationships from the get-go. Activities with friendly units include things like going on expeditions with them, offering presents, cooking meals and eating with them, and doing volunteer work. Once certain levels are hit, dialogue options also unlock to keep increasing the bond between units. There are many scenes that could be missed since most characters have short scenes together and they are bespoke between the hero and the other units involved. With all these ways to increase relationships, plus also bringing those characters to battle to gain more experience, it is easy to get your favourite heroes to the top end of the spectrum and see more of their personalities and friendships blossoming. Some fans love this part of Fire Emblem, and they will find it gratifying here.
But the camp is not just for chitchatting with buddies and making friends, as there is a more serious matter to attend to, the war that is brewing across the land, and the army needs to prepare themselves as best as possible to improve their chances of winning. Better weapons can be gained from the Blacksmith, Training Grounds can be used to level up characters and improve their classes/unlock new ones, the Supply Depot helps with gaining items, and there are other features that help improve the power of each warrior. All these can be upgraded over time by earning materials from missions, with each upgrade making them gain a new feature. There are plenty of features in the camp that in the early game, for the first 10 or so hours of the game, this can be a little overwhelming as new features seem to unlock after every mission to help keep all your team members alive.
The last word, alive, is crucial, well that is unless you decide to play in Casual Mode because like the recent Fire Emblem games, this one has both Casual and Classic options to select when starting the story. If you do not know what this means; Fire Emblem has been known for having permadeath in which any character to die in battle is forever dead, missing from the rest of the game’s story and not to be seen again. Casual resurrects dead characters after the battle, while Classic will make sure you cannot use your dead characters. This should give you an idea about how many characters are in the game, as each house has plenty of units, so while losing a hero is awful, especially if they are at a good level, they are plenty to take their place, unless you begin to lose all of them, then it might just be worth reloading an old save and trying again. Some people don’t like losing their favourite characters, but I feel playing Classic gives them more importance, making the player willing to do more things in the battle to make sure they stay alive, as there are some great characters that were originally crafted in Three Houses that retain their same qualities in Three Hopes.
This is a Musou game, so fighting involves the hero taking on thousands of units on the battlefield by placing simple combo strings together from light and heavy attacks. There are super moves to perform, called “Musou”, which are flashy, high damaging moves, and even transformations that power up characters to do more damage and increase their area of attack to the point that a sea of soldiers is being carried across the screen. I do not even want to know how a walk in the park Easy difficulty is, as I played the game on Normal and it was mostly straightforward until the last third of the game, where a mission or character has the potential to die. This is because, like traditional Musou games, standard enemies are dumb, it is the special units and enemy heroes that do the most damage to your character, and so those are the ones that should be the focus when participating in the battles. I recommend going straight on Hard to get the best from the game’s, flashy, over-the-top combat.
Building on top of the standard Musou formula is some nice additions and refinements to the core action. This title is more focused on juggling multiple heroes at once, as the battlefields will need each one splitting apart to successfully beat missions with all their side objectives accomplished. Characters can be quickly switched between using the d-pad, but the map screen can also be used to issue commands to hero units and the AI will follow these instructions. This helps with spreading heroes around the map making it easier to get to places of interest faster, especially if that involves a hero unit about to die or an objective that is about to drop. There are some strategies incorporated into this, and with abilities unlocked further into the campaign, these can be used in battle to convert enemy heroes to your side, summon additional support or buff units, there are quite a few buffs that can be called upon if unlocked through the camp’s facilities, all giving that core Musou gameplay a bit more involvement.
One thing to note is that classes define a character’s move set and not the character themselves. All the popular Fire Emblem classes come across here, such as Fighter, Soldier, Thief, Pegasus Knight, Archer, Paladin and many, many more. These fit into the rock, paper, scissor gameplay that comes across from the tactical mechanics of Fire Emblem. Some units will have high defence and need breaking with a class type they are weak against. Breaking units puts them in a weakened state that enables them to be hit by a special stun combo, which has a wide arc to scoop in a lot of units while doing big damage numbers. Mounts are not as freely available in this game, since only the classes that come with mounts can ride mounts, so any other characters will have to sprint around the map to get around. One neat edition is that, once it is unlocked after a few fights into the story, there is a feature that enables Shez to teleport up to three times to any other friendly unit or zone on the map, great for arriving at areas in danger in a timely fashion, more so now with most characters not having mounts.
All these mechanics help make this one of the more engaging and active battlefields in a Musou game, giving it a bit more urgency in tense situations when playing on Hard difficulty. Missions feature objectives and side objectives that do not stray far from the typical “capture this” or “kill that” or “defend this” and if it wasn’t for the constant switching of objectives, these would become stale much faster than they do, which is good for a game of this length.
Switch hardware and Musou games have been known to suffer performance issues, and Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is no different in that regard, although not as bad as previous titles. More care seems to have gone into this to make it more bearable, but there are hiccups that crop up when there are many bodies on screen at once. It seems more stable than Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, as this game does well to keep above 30fps much easier with its unlocked frame rate. Dynamic resolution is in use to achieve the current performance and is just above 720p (Digital Foundry confirms this is around 810p), which leaves aliasing on models and geometry. The anime aesthetic helps the game present a given style in which these plain visuals do not hurt it as much, but typical the battlefields and units within them are rather standard and plain.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a nice direction to take the next entry in the Fire Emblem Warriors series. It keeps the tried and tested Musou action and sprinkles it with some small incremental improvements through the additional mechanics that keep the battles switching up. The biggest enhancement is the fact that it goes deep in the Fire Emblem elements, bringing across a lot of the character engagement and story interactions that have become critical to the mainline Fire Emblem games. All that content that features outside of the tactical gameplay has come across to make it into this hack-and-slash title.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a slow burner, but once everything comes together, it provides some of the better Musou madness, but now with a better story and much-improved character development, which shows how short the Fire Emblem element was in the original Fire Emblem Warriors. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a recommended title for Musou and Fire Emblem: Three Houses fans, which will keep you entertained until the next entry hits.