The Switch makes me feel old. It’s been out for more than five years now with two revisions and so many fantastic games. Not only did we see three eras of Fire Emblem collide in 2017’s Fire Emblem Warriors, but three houses come to blows in 2019’s aptly named Fire Emblem Three Houses. Completing the rule of threes and marrying together the two existing Fire Emblem titles on the system, we now have Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, a new Warriors title set in the universe of Three Houses, blending elements of both of its predecessors and coming out as what feels like a union that was made to be.
For those who missed the news, a demo recently released onto the eShop that’ll let you play the first few chapters of the upcoming Warriors game, with progress carrying over to the final release. You get around three hours worth of content along with the ability to make as many files as you’d like and replay a few maps to grind levels and class mastery if that’s something you’re interested in. Having just gotten as far as the game would let me with my man Claude and his Golden Deers, I wanted to share some initial thoughts and feelings as a devout fan of both Fire Emblem and Koei Tecmo’s Warriors games.
The plot is a little odd when compared to Three Houses. You play as a mysterious purple haired mercenary and come against a character referred to as the “Ashen Demon” for your first mission. This demon turns out to be Byleth, the protagonist of Three Houses, and after they wipe out all of your mercenary band, you vow to get revenge. You then meet up with the three lords: Claude, Dimitri, and Edelgard, and get invited to Garreg Mach Monastery as a student. The only real important part of academy life is picking your house, with a two year time skip happening after only a few battles. After this you’re in the nitty gritty of a civil war between the heads of the three houses, each leading one of Fodlan’s powerhouse countries. We’re not reinventing the wheel here; you basically have an expedited version of Three Houses’ plot with a larger focus of the game being set to the wartime that follows the time skip, which makes a lot of sense for a Warriors game. There is a slight disappointment to me that this seems to be more of a retelling than a supplement to the original game though. I have no doubt I’m going to enjoy getting to know these characters again, but I can’t help but feel there was a missed opportunity to just make a game out of Three Houses’ time skip period that would just slot nicely into the larger lore. Due to the nature of the story, expect rampant spoilers for Three Houses’ plot. While playing it doesn’t necessarily appear to be a prerequisite, it is something worth keeping in mind if it’s in your backlog and you’re considering grabbing this.
Looking to gameplay there’s a lot to like. To get this out of the way though, it’s a Warriors game. If you’ve played one, you’ll have a fundamental understanding of what’s on offer here, and if you don’t get on with the 1 vs 1000 style gameplay, this game probably won’t be the one to sway you. Having said that, it does a great job in iterating on what I would already call one of the best Warriors games, and does so by really seamlessly blending in elements of Three Houses. Where in the first Fire Emblem Warriors game you found your characters restricted to their relatively canon classes, Three Hopes throws caution to the wind and lets you decide how you want your characters to play. Somewhat in line with the modern mainline Warriors games where every character can equip any weapon but has preferences for certain types, Three Hopes brings in a familiar class system, along with both class mastery and promotion. To me this is probably the best way of handling Fire Emblem’s limited weapon options without completely breaking out and just making things up. The end result isn’t quite the same kind of character diversity you might have seen in the Hyrule Warriors games, but it’s a clear improvement on its predecessor. Classes manage to feel unique despite sharing weapons, and promotion and progression feels rewarding while keeping characters you like feeling fresh. The demo only gives you up to the first line of class promotions, so I’m excited to see how the later ones play out.
Much like the first Fire Emblem Warriors, you also keep some of the strategy elements from the main series, albeit somewhat expectedly scaled back. While you can only control a character at a time, you’re able to issue orders to your allies from the map screen. These can be moving to areas, interacting with objects, or attacking and defending a target. This can be incredibly useful in saving time on larger maps, allowing you to position units at key objectives and switching control to them to clear out a target, or even letting them handle it themselves if you're confident in the AI. Something that I believe is new to this game is the ability to have adjutants, that is being able to pair up units. This is something that’s been possible since the 3DS revival of the main series, so it’s great to see it in action here. Characters being paired up means they’ll team up for special attacks, occasionally defend each other, and be able to be switched out on the spot. This gives you a huge number of options and allows you to plan better for the game’s weapon triangle without having to trek back and forth or have a string of units ordered to defend each other. It’s seamless, and being able to call out an armour knight to take out lance foes while my speedy thief moves through the battlefield at pace feels great. The whole battlefield feels great, and appears to run well to my untrained eye. That isn’t to say the whole game runs well though.
Oddly, the game’s framerate absolutely tanks in the free roaming camp areas. For my life I cannot fathom why, it’s not as though the game is pushing any graphical limitations. I can’t figure it out, and while it really isn’t great, it is at least limited to areas of the game where you can fast travel to all the important bits. I haven’t noticed anything else while playing in both handheld and docked mode.
I think I’ll cut this short for now though. The demo has me far more interested than I was expecting to be; it was going to be a game I played a bit while I waited for Monster Hunter Rise’s Sunbreak expansion to drop, but it’s been bumped up my list considerably. I can’t wait to play more when the the game drops later in the month, and I’m excited to talk more about it when there’s frankly more to talk about. It won't cost you anything to try, so I really do recommend downloading the demo for yourself.