In our first ever "Who Would Enjoy" series, we take a look at Fire Emblem Three Houses, and share our thoughts on the different types of gamers who would enjoy one of the most anticipated Nintendo Switch games of 2019.
Fire Emblem Three Houses is set in Fodlan, where there are three main empires - the Adrestian Empire, the Holy Kingdom of Faergus, and the Leicester Alliance. The game begins with a choice - deciding the gender of Byleth, the main character of this story. As male or female Byleth, you'll become a professor in the Officer Academy in Garreg Mach Monastery.
Here, you'll choose from three houses - the Black Eagles, the Blue Lions, or the Golden Deer - to instruct and to lead in battle. As a tactical role-playing game, the story unfolds as you build relationships with the students and other professors, and progress with the story.
An Immersive Tactical Gaming Experience
We'll jump straight into our spoiler-free review of the game. If you're unfamiliar with the game play, scroll down to our "Game Play Overview" section for a summary.
The Fire Emblem series have been known for a few things that are once again featured in Fire Emblem Three Houses - turn-based tactical game play, and character perma-death (in Classic Mode only!)
The turn-based tactical game play is perhaps one of the best systems yet. Battles usually involve defeating all enemies, or defeating the commander of the enemy. Depending on your character's class and stats, they are able to move differently across the battlefield and inflict damage across a variety of ranges.
We chose to play the game in Classic mode, and what we found so far was that character death can be avoided with smart tactical decisions, and not just due to any unfortunate roll of dice.
What we like about the game play here is that you are able to see the level of damage a character is able to inflict based on her abilities and weapons, before confirming the move. There is still a chance where she could miss or get a critical hit, but the RNG is not as extreme as what we see in the XCom series.
Plus, the game allows you to customise each character's skill sets and class. While each character comes with his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses, levelling up certain "weak" skills may unlock dormant talents that allow you to achieve even more.
Yet, what makes this game really stand out is the setting, story-telling and characters.
As many have pointed out, the setting is reminiscent of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. That aside, the game's characters are split between Commoners and Nobles, which set the stage for an even deeper set of more serious discussions and relationships - that of power, birthright, burden, and opportunity.
What we love is that while each House may seem predictable, almost stereotypical, of an anime-styled game (good looking characters, seemingly perfect personalities, etc.), every character harbours a deeper backstory that are interlinked with each other. Only by achieving stronger bonds with the characters can you unlock these stories.
The topics are varied - from developments of each characters's personality, to characters engaging each other on their past histories that were entangled in war, genocide, abuse, betrothals, and more.
To us, this is the key factor that makes this game fantastic, especially when compared with other recent tactical RPGs such as Valkyria Chronicles 4 (which had a great story and well-established game play, but a lot less depth).
That said, one has to be patient with the pace of the story as the game mechanics follow a Calendar system, which puts a limit to how fast you can move the story along. In addition, you'll need to play the game a couple of times as the lead of each House to really find out about each character, and to take on all the battles.
Game Rating: 4.5/5
Who Would Enjoy: Fans of tactical games, People with patience, People who love hot anime characters
Who Would Not Enjoy: Fans of fast-paced action games, People who hate having too much information, People who hate making decisions
Fire Emblem Three Houses is an extremely in-depth game. The stories are layered across the many characters, and the tactical style that you wish to adopt. The classes that you want your characters to take on, or the way you want to move across the battle grid changes the style of play. Outside of the battlefield, the relationships you choose to develop opens up more to discover. Overall, it's been a long time since we last played such a layered, rich and colourful tactical RPG game.
Game Play Overview
The story mainly takes place in the Garreg Mach Monastery, where you instruct your students, develop bonds through activities and battle, and receive your missions.
The events are dictated by a calendar - there are "Free Days", where you choose between exploring the compound, attending a seminar by another professor, going to battle, take certifications to change character classes, or rest. By exploring the compound, you get to chat with students from across the three houses to better understand them, and give more colour to the story.
There are "Lesson Days" where you instruct students so that they improve on their skills and unlock or achieve goals. Finally, there are special battles and missions that you undertake each month, which progresses the stories between the characters.
In between the different event days, you celebrate the characters' birthdays by buying flowers or inviting them to tea, giving you additional chances to bond.
Battles are done in a turn-based tactical style, where you move characters across a grid-like map. Characters have various strengths and classes, which allows them to utilise different moves and have different levels of efficacy, depending on the opponent.
Developer: Koei Tecmo Intelligent Systems
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Type of Game: Tactical JRPG
Release Date: 29 July 2019
Number of Players: 1
Our Rating: 4.5/5 Great for fans of tactical games and deep story-telling