The next chapter in the Fire Emblem series has begun. Welcome to the Three Houses. Jump into the shoes of a former mercenary and use your experience and knowledge to become the monastery’s latest professor. In Three Houses you’ll be tasked with selecting and teaching one of the Officer Academy’s three houses. Namely, Black Eagles, Blue Lions and Golden Deers. Each house also possesses a house leader, which you’ll become their close confidant.
As you live out your days at the monastery, you’ll soon realise that one of the first quests you’ll need to take on, is Time Management. Equipped with a calendar, a mini avatar of your character will scroll across the calendar stopping at certain days to complete various tasks. Make sure you use your time wisely as you’ll need to attend or host seminars for extra-curriculum, which increases certain stats on attendees of the seminar. You can also stock up on items, repair or purchase weapons and armour at the marketplace and explore the monastery grounds.
Make sure you use your time wisely as you’ll need to attend or host seminars for extra-curriculum, which increases certain stats on attendees of the seminar.
Inside the monastery grounds, which houses the Three Houses, Black Eagles, Blue Lions and Golden Deers, you’ll have access to the many facilities that the monastery holds. Residential quarters of the many students from across the three houses, also known as the dormitory, a library, dining hall, stables, training area to practise your fighting skills, fishing pond with a greenhouse close-by and cathedral. Each area is filled with NPCs and students that often accompany you on battles. So it is the perfect way to interact with them and build upon your support points or motivation level with them, which increases their stats and abilities during battle.
The most intriguing part about all this exploring is the fact that you’ll do it in a free-roam type of style. During your free roam across the monastery, which has no time limit I might add, you’ll also be able to find lost items and gifts that in turn can be given to the NPCs which will also increase their support points and motivation. Keep in mind, that although the exploration is quite fun at times, the game does offer you a fast travel option throughout the monastery which really helps if you’d like to skip past certain places. Or in most cases reach a destination quickly to complete a quest just given to you by one of the NPCs.
Apart from exploring the monastery and hosting seminars, you’ll also be able to use the selection days in a week, which is always the Sunday, to participate in a battle which is either related to a side quest or just used for grinding levels. You can also choose to use the day to rest, which allows the player to skip on ahead to the following week. However, you still gain motivation among the students for the rest day as well as restore some of your more extravagant weapons. Go directly to the marketplace instead of running there in the exploration mode. And lastly, have your students take on certification exams. These exams will allow your students to change their class. Example, changing from a mage to a warlock.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses fully retains the battle system offered in previous titles. A top-down view of a grid map overseeing the battlefield or location in respect of the storyline. However, the game does allow you to zoom in and out from the character and their battalion. In this view, you’ll be able to see the stats of the unit and their surroundings. During the top-down view though, you’ll be able to see diamond-shaped profile images of the units face to easily identify which unit it is as well as identify what type of weapon they’re currently equipped with. The turn-based tactical battle system has always been one of the key features of enjoying a Fire Emblem title. This is, of course, inclusive to the incredibly well written out story and social building you do with the units you recruit to fight alongside you. As it is in previous titles, each unit will possess their own set of skills and class. Some wielding axes while others wield magic, swords and lances. Not to mention that each unit also has its own movement capabilities. With some only being able to move about four blocks forward, whereas others such as wyvern riders and horse riders who’re able to move twice the number of spaces that the units on foot are capable of.
Strategy, as always, is your best option at winning in a Fire Emblem game. This still remains true even in Three Houses. Selecting which player or unit takes on an opposing enemy is key to victory. For instance, an archer will most likely always be able to take out a Pegasus rider in one swoop or round. And then there are heavily armoured knights who are weak against magic users. Be warned though, a weapon will break if used continuously without visiting the blacksmith. So make sure you keep your eye on the weapon durability. A broken weapon can still be utilised, however, your attack and hit rate will also be reduced. Another point to take into consideration on the battlefield is terrain effects. Facing an enemy shrouded in fog or hidden away in a forested area will grant the enemy more defence and evasion. This works both ways and will also grant you the player the same effects. Other terrain types allow the player or enemy unit to heal so knowing your surroundings and how to use it is highly beneficial. Just as it is in previous Fire Emblem titles, attacking with support is also a great advantage. Linked attacks will grant the player the ability to deal more damage to an enemy if both your units are in range of the enemy. While your allied units are grouped, their avoid rate and hit rates will increase.
The Battalion Guild
The Battalion Guild is a type of vendor you’ll find in the marketplace. Here you’ll be able to hire battalions that will assist your units in battle. During your unit’s attack phase, they’ll be able to choose from multiple attacks. Be it with an axe, sword, bow and yes you guessed it, a battalion. Although the battalion attack option isn’t always the most accurate of attacks, it certainly does deal a ton of damage. In addition to the battalion attack, units also possess a powerful technique known as Combat Arts. These attacks are much stronger than basic attacks but come at a cost: they utilise more of the weapon’s durability and don’t grant a follow-up attack.
All in all, the flame continues to burn brightly for me with this new instalment of the Fire Emblem series. Three Houses grants the player the option of selecting a house to follow and teach, which will, in turn, allow you to focus solely on building relationships and connections with the members of that specific house. However, unlike more recent Fire Emblem games such as Fire Emblem Fates, Three Houses allows the player to continue to socialise and even recruit members from the other houses. The game also looks, feels and plays beautifully in both docked and hand-held mode, with stunning backdrops in the free-roam and superb soundtracks whilst on the battlefield. With its thrilling story attached to it, it’ll keep you pushing forward hour after hour to see what rabbit hole you’re about to dive into next. There are also plenty of activities around the free roam given to the player around the monastery, however, if you find yourself becoming impatient and would just like to skip past this option, you’re given the ability to do just that. With its Persona type of gameplay (everyday slice of life) Three Houses offers both the slow-paced, sit back and relax play style, as well as the tactical strategically enforced play-style you’ll have grown in love with from previous instalments such as Fire Emblem Awakening. The only question left to ask is, which house will you choose?