Playing video games has been one of my favorite hobbies since I was little. Honestly, though, I never played a “Fire Emblem” game in my life up until I started “Fire Emblem: Three Houses” in early 2020. (Want to know the funniest thing? This game was a birthday present for my partner, and I play it way more than he even does!) I claimed for years that turn-based or strategy games that required me to think were not my thing and never tried the older games. This game, though, was perfect for getting me out of that mindset and making me want to explore past games in the franchise.
What got me so hooked on this game? Keep reading to find out!
THE FOCUS ON RELATIONSHIPS
I totally admit that, when I started my first run in this game (Azure Moon), I had no intention of getting involved with the game functions or its characters aside from battles; this was mostly due to my lack of prior “Fire Emblem” experience and not knowing what to expect. By the end, though, I became invested in everyone at Garreg Mach regardless of house because of the monastery missions, tea parties, and gifts/lost items. Each character is written with unique personalities and diction when they speak. The supports between you and the characters as well as between the characters themselves let you get to know them well enough that they are almost like video game family.
Do you want to know how much I love all of the students? When I played every run after my Crimson Flower route run, I did everything I could including spending my new game+ renown to make sure I recruited everyone I could and save everyone I could possibly save. Their personalities are great, and it is also wise to have multiple units to rely on strategically anyway.
(I loved everyone, but I totally S supported Seteth in two of my four route runs…fight me.)
THE SOUNDTRACK IS A BANGER
I am a music journalist, so of course I have some sort of commentary about the music. The orchestration in every piece of music is beautifully arranged, and a lot of creativity and thought went into making it. (For instance, “The Edge of Dawn” is supposed to be a song written from Edelgard’s perspective; I find that really cool.) I am a classical music nerd and have some classical background in woodwind instruments, so great arrangements make my heart flutter and wash a sense of zen over me.
The only thing about the soundtrack that makes me sad about this soundtrack is we cannot purchase it here in the United States. One of my favorite pieces covered by the amazing purpleschala is above.
THE MECHANICS ARE “JUST RIGHT”
When I first began playing “Three Houses”, the thought of all the tools available to me made me want to freeze. I had no idea what to expect in the first place, and then I had no clue what anything did when the game gave me tools. The whole monastery with professor lessons, quests, missions, and more get to be a lot also. As you play, though, everything begins making sense. I figured out rearranging my units on the battle maps, equipping items, weapons, and battalions, training my team, and choosing active units and adjutants fairly easily by the time I was halfway through my first route.
The abilities in this game tend to trip people up because this game does not heavily rely on the “weapon triangle”, but players are fine as long as they go into their “Abilities” section and make sure their units have appropriate abilities to match their strengths/class. All of these little things add up and make your brain work that much harder to strategize without it being as painful as a “Dark Souls” game.
THE LACK OF BOREDOM IN REPLAYABILITY
One thing “Three Houses” nailed is making sure players can spend hundreds of hours in this game if they so wish. The base game itself has four different routes to choose from, three difficulties, and the choice for casual mode (where units retreat if their HP hits zero) or classic (where units die forever if their HP hits zero). The Cindered Shadows DLC pack provides an additional route with even harder difficulty levels, the same casual and classic modes, and a whole new environment with four additional characters that you can add to your team in the base game once Cindered Shadows is completed.
The final best part that ties into the replayability is…
EACH ROUTE HAS A (MOSTLY) GREAT STORY
I will not go into spoilers here just in case someone reading wants to get into the game. What I will say is that I had a great time playing every single route/story in the game including the DLC. There were some plot holes or seemingly rushed writing/development depending on which route you took, but the stories were enjoyable regardless. They grab you and pull you into the world of Fodlan to the point where you may or may not forget that sleep is a thing you need.
The most amazing thing about the writing is that there is no real “bad guy” except for Those Who Slither in the Dark. Even though Edelgard is shown as an enemy in three of the four routes, her Crimson Flower route gives a different perspective of why she does what she does along the way in a way that makes sense. Every choice and road in life has pros and cons, and that real-life ambiguity is truly something special about the game.
Have you played “Fire Emblem: Three Houses” or plan to? Let’s chit-chat about it in the comments! (Also, a review of its newly-released spin-off “Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes” is coming here soon.)