Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a Musou game that asks a lot of “what ifs.” What if Byleth didn’t come to Garreg Mach as a teacher? What if someone else ended up aiding Claude, Dimitri, and Edelgard when the three encountered bandits? What if, instead of a traditional tactical game like Three Houses, Three Hopes was a more active one? The answers to all of them, perhaps not shockingly, are rather fascinating.
Shez is a mercenary. Who were they working for? It doesn’t really matter. What does is that they face the Ashen Demon Byleth and Jeralt’s mercenary company on a battlefield, and things go awry. Everyone Shez worked with is killed, and they nearly fall. However, a being named Arval’s fate ends up intertwined with theirs. This grants them extraordinary power. It also leaves the two with a mission. That is, get revenge on Byleth. However, as they go about finding Jeralt’s group again, they end up in the same position as Byleth did in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. That is, they wind up at Garreg Mach and tied to one of the three houses. However, in this case Shez is a student alongside the other characters, and their fate intertwines with Claude’s, Dimitri’s, or Edelgard’s.
What’s intriguing about Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is the alternative history it offers compared to the original Three Houses. Because Shez replaces Byleth as the “main” character, so many things also change. Certain character behave differently. Events we saw in the academy before don’t go as “planned.” It’s fascinating. Which isn’t to say it makes one telling “right” or the other “wrong.” It’s a case of “what if.” As for how the stories compare, it will depend on the person. I think I liked the Golden Deer storyline in Three Houses more than the one in Three Hopes. But both have their own merits. Though given how much political talk and plot comes up, I sort of feel like someone coming into Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes that didn’t play Three Houses will be a little lost.
As a Musou game, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a more active experience than the traditional installments. When you head into the field, you’ll see a map with varying objectives. More will be added as you play, as well as side-quests. You will be able to directly control four of the characters you assign to the fight. (Though in some cases, an additional four can also be deployed as unplayable allies.) When in the field, you’ll button-mash to attack units. Tasks tend to involve named units. Their guard will often need to be broken to deal more devastating damage and defeat them. Also, you’ll need to capture certain points, guard allies, open closed spaces, and even go after chests.
What I really appreciated about Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is how much more strategic it feels than other Musou games. The weapon triangle system is in full effect, and there is a noticeable difference in damage when you play to characters’ strengths. Obtaining extra abilities via changing classes also visibly affects everything. The game very much encourages you to constantly bring up the menu in a fight to direct characters you aren’t controlling or who appear as NPCs on a map to handle certain objectives. Getting strategy points to implement certain actions to alter a chapter’s major battle, perhaps by making an enemy commander recruitable or to add extra NPC allies, is also pretty great. Not to mention the Adjutant system is in place to add partners.
Though, I will say that the tutorials are sometimes not handled well. First, there are a lot of them. Which can be handy! Some people might not be accustomed to Musou games, and Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes’ handholding could assist with that. But also, they can be a little overbearing. Especially when you’re over five hours in and still seeing them. I also felt like some of the tutorials didn’t do as good of a job explaining things. The aforementioned Adjutant system is a good example. I almost felt like it was more of an aside than anything, and I had to look up online to figure out how to actually properly implement it.
There are also a number of general quality of life changes here, from what appeared in past Musou games and the original Fire Emblem Warriors. Shez can fast-travel a limited number of times in-battle. It definitely helps with achieving goals. Getting characters on par with each other is fairly easy, due to the training facilities and leveling options. You’re constantly getting rewarded for actions, which also helps with getting people prepared for battle. It’s very easy to control. Even though it might eventually wear on the hands a bit, I didn’t feel like it is as much of a button-masher as other installments.
I also loved how much Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes draws from Three Houses. The support system remains in place. Characters get closer via gifts, expeditions, performing chores, eating together, training together and fighting together. Which, well, happened in the original game too! There is an optional permadeath option, which kicks in after the fourth chapter. A morale system is in play. There is also the aforementioned class and ability system, with certain items needed to take “tests” for more advanced roles. Not to mention that, like Three Houses, there are multiple routes to take. As I played it, I felt like it understood why people enjoyed the original game and tried to pay tribute to that.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is the sort of Musou game that not only gets what is special about Fire Emblem in general, but about Three Houses specifically. It’s a very involved title. The story gets quite detailed. So much so that folks who don’t have that Three Houses experience might not get the most out of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. But it’s generally an incredibly solid Musou game and a lot of fun if you are aware of everything going on.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is available for the Nintendo Switch.