Fire Emblem: Three Houses Ashen Wolves’ house has opened its doors. With the arrival of Cindered Shadows comes a new group of students. As you might expect, it is a story-heavy campaign. But this time, we’re in a unique situation. By looking at four people who have been ostracized, but aren’t letting it get them down and are standing tall against their opponents.
First, let’s talk about acquiring the Ashen Wolves! You need to have the Fire Emblem: Three Houses DLC first. From there, you have to begin playing through the side story. As you go through certain battles, you’ll unlock different elements. Getting through the first part unlocks Abyss as an area in the campaign. After that, beating certain battles and making progress will give you the opportunity to add the characters to your house. Constance can be recruited first, then Balthus, then Hapi, and finally Yuri. From there, you need to have a game where you are in the academy phase. You can then meet the four Ashen Wolves and recruit them to your class. If you load a save file after the timeskip, you will have no way to recruit them. So, try not to do that.
The thing about the Ashen Wolves is that all four members haven’t had the easiest of lives. Each one has had something happen that has driven them down to the Abyss. Some people’s incidents were bigger. Families fell, leaving the survivor with a drive to restore her honor and her position. Someone’s life was spent trying to run away, but always caught and stored away. We have people who realize they weren’t cut out for the life planned for them and couldn’t go down that road and do the things a “noble” life would require, so they abandoned it. Balthus, Hapi, Yuri, and even Constance (who I did not care for) had circumstances that didn’t leave them many other options. Forces like society, people in power, and the church abused or used them.
But none of them let this get them down. Each one of them excels. Partially, because of their Crests. Each one happens to have one that could be exceptionally useful and makes them Important. But that isn’t really important to them. Rather, all four of them feel they have something to defend in Abyss. They trust one another, because that’s all they had. They have their home, because it is a place that is safe and accepts them. And, even though they are being targeted and have forces plotting against them, with no one they can really completely trust until Byleth comes down, you have a feeling that it would always work out for them. With Yuri’s intelligence, Balthus’ strength, and the magic both Constance and Hapi possess, paired with the bonds they have with one another, there’s this sense that this smaller house could take on any opponent. I mean, they certainly manage to do some damage to Byleth and the students when they tussle.
It also helps to explain the decisions regarding which additional students joined Byleth, Claude, Dimitri, and Edelgard in Abyss. It might have seemed surprising for Hilda to be the only retainer to show up. But once you start spending time with these new students, it seems like other people wouldn’t have been appropriate. Each one has the sorts of backgrounds and connections that help support Balthus, Constance, Hapi, and Yuri’s storylines. Some connections are made immediately obvious. Hilda recognizes Balthus right away and makes clear their connection after the first battle. But with the others, you need to invest time to see how they fit. Still, considering the nature of a certain character’s Crest, having a Crest expert like Linhardt around makes sense. As for Ashe, getting to know another member means more details about his past.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ Cindered Shadows is an empowerment story. It’s like a recommended reading suggestion for the main game: enlightening, but not essential. What Balthus, Constance, Hapi, and Yuri went through individually and what the people of Abyss and Ashen Wolves are subjected to as a whole are more evidence of what both the church and people in power throughout Fodlan have been doing and the negative effects those wrongdoings have had on innocent people. But, perhaps even more important, it’s a tale of hope. Because even though bad things did happen to all of the members of the Ashen Wolves, they have come through it. They are happy in Abyss and fighting to protect their home. They have each other. And, once you finish it, they have Byleth and their fellow students as well.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is available for the Nintendo Switch. Cindered Shadows, the final DLC, is available via the Expansion Pass.
(Header image credit: Jun Suemi.)