On paper, a Dynasty Warriors type ‘musou’ game set in the Fire Emblem universe doesn’t sound like it should be a particularly good fit.
The Fire Emblem games, in all their turn-based tactical glory, are generally synonymous with patient, measured gameplay, something that’s certainly at odds with the all-swinging, all-lancing action you’re guaranteed to get in every Omega Force action game.
And yet, when Fire Emblem Warriors was released in 2017 it was generally well received, its more action-packed take on the series considered a welcome (if inferior) alternative to the main series.
Now, five years later, Nintendo and Omega Force are having another crack at it with a second Fire Emblem musou game, and fans should be very happy with what it has to offer.
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While the first Fire Emblem Warriors was an attempt to celebrate the series’ past by mixing in characters from a variety of games, Three Hopes is firmly focused on a single title – 2019’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Just as in that game, players choose which of the three houses they want to join – Edelgard’s Black Eagles, Dimitri’s Blue Lions or Claude’s Golden Deers – and as before, the house you choose determines which of the three different narratives you’ll follow.
Replay value is immediately a given, then, because you’re looking at three distinct plots with their own playable characters, meaning you’ll need multiple playthroughs to see everything this game has to offer.
On the battlefield, it’s your typical Warriors game for the most part, with players carving through endless hordes of enemies with relative ease, save for the few occasional more powerful ones who require a bit more work to take out in order to gain a stronghold or what have you.
While it’s technically possible to focus on controlling a single character and run around the sizeable maps taking on all the missions and side missions yourself, it’s much more satisfying to make the most of the other characters in a party and control them (either directly or indirectly) during battle.
The Fire Emblem weapon triangle comes into play here, so there may be some enemies that one character is weak against, meaning it’s easier to switch to another party member with a more appropriate weapon (assuming there was enough foresight to assign them to the party in the first place, of course).
It’s also possible to pause the game and bring up the map screen, showing the locations of each fighter as well as all the main and side missions. Here certain characters can be assigned to go and deal with specific incidents, though AI teammates aren’t always as savvy in battle so it’s worth keeping an eye on their energy in case you need to switch control over to them and get them out of a tight spot.
In true Fire Emblem style, players can choose whether they want to have permadeath, or play in a more ‘casual’ mode where characters are revived at the end of a battle. Purists will no doubt sneer at the latter option but the joy of modern Fire Emblem is that there’s no right answer here.
“Players can choose whether they want to have permadeath, or play in a more ‘casual’ mode where characters are revived at the end of a battle. Purists will no doubt sneer at the latter option but the joy of modern Fire Emblem is that there’s no right answer here.”
Naturally, the tension is significantly greater when permadeath is on, and on higher difficulty levels there can be real nail-biting decisions to be made when trying to figure out whether to send a much-valued colleague to sort out an issue on the other side of the map when you know it might be the last action they ever take.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, if the idea of anxiously fretting over unit placement doesn’t appeal as much as simply wading through seas of enemies as a one-person killing machine, just turn the permadeath off and whack the difficulty down and it becomes a completely different game. A better one? That’s completely down to personal taste.
It’s off the battlefield where Three Hopes is potentially most interesting, however. The Fire Emblem series thrives on the relationships between its characters, and the main area where the previous Warriors game fell flat was that relationship-building was watered down, as was the plot (which at times ended up resorting to a Greatest Hits package of “remember when this happened?” retellings).
Three Hopes certainly can’t be accused of scrimping on the lore this time, however. We don’t want to get into too much detail surrounding the plot, given that it’s a game that revolves quite heavily around it, but it’s a completely original story that has nothing to do with Three Houses, other than the fact that it uses the same characters and regions.
As such, fans of Three Houses will likely enjoy getting an entirely new story set in the same universe, while anyone who’s never played Three Houses before and is worried that prior knowledge is needed to enjoy this one can rest assured that this isn’t the case at all.
Of course, those who already know these characters will get more out of revisiting them, but people coming into it completely fresh are given ample opportunity to meet and warm to them, while the plot is new to everyone regardless of past experience.
Perhaps the main criticism some may have of the game – and it’s one that some will actually consider a benefit – is the sheer number of options and activities available. This is a game that’s still introducing new mechanics to you long into the story, which itself can consist of some lengthy dialogue between battles.
The home base lets you chat with your entire party, and visit a wide range of facilities which continue to increase in number as you progress.
Training your units, learning tactics, hiring infantry battalions, taking on chores like caring for horses or managing the pantry – it’s possible to spend an exceptionally long time off the battleground in this game. There’s even a facility that lets you upgrade other facilities.
That’s before you even take into account things like the dating sim-like Expeditions, where you can wander off with a party member to try and build your relationship with them, or the returning Support Conversations which let you strengthen the bonds between allies.
It can be possible to have too much of a good thing though, and we found ourselves overwhelmed at times at all the things we were juggling during our downtime between fights.
“It can be possible to have too much of a good thing though, and we found ourselves overwhelmed at times at all the things we were juggling during our downtime between fights.”
One minute we’re learning how to make peach sorbet and making a meal for our fellow students, the next we’re expanding our blacksmith stall with better smithing equipment, and all the while copious helpings of stats, numbers, money and the like are flying all over the place.
Don’t get us wrong – if you can stay on top of it, this is one of the deepest Warriors games released to date, with a huge number of layers to its progress system and plenty of scope for multiple playthroughs.
There’s just so much to see, and while that’s undoubtedly a good thing on paper, in practice some players may feel like they’re spinning too many plates and may ultimately ignore a lot of these options to avoid drowning in them.
Three Hopes is one of the best musou spin-offs released to date, combining its tried-and-tested gameplay with a level of story depth that was missing in the first Fire Emblem Warriors. Its sheer scope may be a bit much for players simply looking for a hack-and-slash action game, though.
- A new detailed story set in the Three Houses universe
- Typical musou gameplay is as satisfying as ever
- A wealth of things to do at base camp between battles
- Plenty of replay value with multiple storylines
- Has the tendency to bombard with new mechanics and features