Thursday, 22 August 2019

Fire Emblem: Three Houses ★★★☆☆

‘Fire Emblem’ is one of Nintendo's flagship titles but I’d say is probably the least widely appreciated.  It has, however, always had a cult following in the gaming world because of its amazing strategy gameplay and the wonderfully challenging permadeath function. The newest release, ‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ has garnered a lot more interest from mainstream audiences and really seems to be a push for Nintendo to make it a mainstream success.

I’m going to say from the start that this is not your typical ‘Fire Emblem’ game. There has been so much added to it to make it meatier and appealing to RPG fans, and I’d say that this is mostly a good thing. In previous games, almost 80% of the game was focused on battle, with the remaining content being story elements, upgrading characters, and so on. In ‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ I would say this contributes to only 50% of the game.

The other half is probably best described as being a ‘Persona 5’ system. Within the story, you are drafted in by certain events to be a professor at an Officers’ Academy for promising military-based individuals from three different countries on the continent. You get to choose which house to teach out of the Golden Deer, Black Eagles, and Blue Lions, and then from there you will interact with and guide certain individuals in your house in battle and socially.

There has been so much work gone into the social and teaching aspect of the game, such as every line of dialogue being voiced in both Japanese and English. This really adds to the immersion of the game and becomes especially important if you are playing on Classic Mode where permadeath is active. This means that if a character gets defeated in battle, they are gone forever from all parts of the game. Of course, if you don't feel like having this constant worry and anxiety over your characters’ lives (I found it really stressful, personally) then you can play on Normal Mode where if a character is defeated then they will be available in the next battle (and your rocketing levels of guilt are dissipated).

The battle system in the game is very well done like in previous games. You will level your characters up by fighting and then can upgrade and transform them into better types, such as mages transforming into priests to get better stats and magic.

My main complaint with the game is the writing, as it is trying to mirror ‘Persona 5’ but never really reaches the same heights. The story is good and has some excellent twists but many of the characters irked me as it went on, making me not care as much about the outcome of each story arc.

In the end, ‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ feels like an experiment by the developer which on most fronts has worked.  It is a marvellous strategy game that suffers from some occasionally lacking writing but is saved by some truly epic moments within the story. If you are looking for a strategy game with the social system of ‘Persona’ then you really can't go wrong with it, and with the potential of hundreds of hours of content by playing through the story of all three houses then you will be kept busy for a while!

Hannah Read

Fire Emblem: Three Houses at CeX

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