I went back to Fódlan and had a great time. Three years after our first visit to this warring continent, Nintendo is once again taking us back to the world of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Unlike the original Warriors spin-off, however, this isn’t another “best Fire Emblem” mashup. You’ll find the Fódlan Wars faster-paced, revisiting familiar story beats and fresh twists in a way that’s likely to please Three Houses fans. It’s not necessary to play the original, although there’s no denying you’ll get more out of it. Honestly, I’ve never had such a good time playing a Warriors game before.
Set in another timeline, this time we don’t control Byleth, though they’re not completely absent. Playing as a new mercenary named Shez, an unexpected encounter makes you a student at Garreg Mach Abbey, and as before, your choice of student housing determines your storyline. This is a split between the Black Eagles of Edelgard, the Blue Lions of Dimitri and the Golden Deer of Claude, and I chose Claude. You won’t get the whole story without playing each route, so I’m glad they didn’t take that much time to complete – eg Golden Deer took me 35 hours, and I felt invested in the whole thing. Don’t get too comfortable in college life, though; our student days proved short-lived before jumping two years early.
After leaving the fight, Shez spends her free time in the camp, walking between facilities on foot. There are no side quests, and fishing is tragically gone, but you’ll find a faithful reproduction of the three-room social mechanics, which have been slightly pared down. In addition to camp conversations, you can invite allies to join camp meals, explore together, do camp chores, offer gifts to allies, and more. Just don’t expect romance this time, as the support level is capped at A level. Still, even if your relationships aren’t always the most important thing, I appreciate how Three Hopes makes sure everyone gets their moment in this new environment, never forgetting how much we love these characters. It’s worth noting that you can’t recruit characters from different houses before the time jump, although choosing a battle offers options.
Once you’re ready, our next stop is the war map, which usually requires you to conquer two regions before reaching the chapter’s main battle. Going straight to the main goal is certainly an option, but not necessarily the most beneficial. Each area offers different loot once conquered, including new weapons, items, money, and new strategies, meaning there’s a lot of incentive to explore, rewarding anyone who is thorough.
Strategic Resources – Points used to pick strategies for big battles can be earned by each region that claims strategic resources. Similar to Dynasty Warriors 9: The Secret Project in Empire, this offers some interesting options that can get pretty creative. You can take a practical approach by strengthening strongholds, destroying enemies or assigning allied units for protection, as well as more creative opportunities such as adjusting formations. I won’t spoil what some of them have to offer, but since you can’t choose all options, it’s a great opportunity to get creative with your commander.
As for the main battle, anyone who’s played a game of Warriors knows what’s going on here. Let’s pick four playable characters in each mission, and we’re still mowing the grass from countless tribes with a few button presses, charging up the warrior meter for a ridiculously powerful blow. Each character also has something called the Awakening Scale, which takes longer to fill. When you’re done, activation puts you in a boosted state: you don’t die, bonus damage is awarded based on enemies killed, and like a warrior meter, you can trigger special attacks to deal massive damage. You become an unstoppable force, and it makes you feel stronger, which is quite a feat for a game that already treats you like a super soldier.
Each map has enemy outposts that need to be captured to strengthen your position, usually by a powerful enemy commander. Don’t forget those new goals that keep popping up, which require you to adapt. Unlike the main battle, these skirmishes don’t diversify things, so this becomes a bit repetitive. Thankfully, three hopeful strategic approaches help to quell this. Troops can be ordered to certain objectives, defend key areas or go all out on specific units. This requires pausing the action and selecting from a menu, and while it might sound like it might interrupt the action, it actually feels pretty good here. Not only does this add some necessary depth, it’s really refreshing in the spirit of Fire Emblem’s turn-based action.
Additionally, special attacks are limited by durability, like we’ve seen in most Fire Emblem games. Fortunately, this doesn’t work with standard attacks, and let’s face it, it’s going to be a nightmare fight. Depending on your class, each unit has specific weaknesses against certain weapons or attacks, making it clear who has the advantage on the map – don’t say you weren’t warned when you decided to send flying units to the archers.
Three Hope is smart, creative, keeps life outside of combat entertaining, and its strategy gameplay has surprising depth.
The three academies also showcased the ways in which each unit can be passed exams to study new courses. This time, there is no chance of passing the above exams, so once they do, they will teach your chosen character class-specific moves, fighting arts, and more. While the three hopes suggest a recommended class for each unit, you can place them in any class tree you wish, gradually working your way up to more advanced classes.
Three Hope doesn’t drastically change the Wushuang formula, so if you’re dead set on this fighting style, it probably won’t change your mind. However, it feels like a reinvigorated approach to the genre, and I love how it balances strategy with more action-driven combat. Three Hope is smart, creative, keeps life outside of combat entertaining, and its strategy gameplay has surprising depth. Best of all, it’s fun — far from cashing in on the success of Three Houses quickly, which may be a concern for some.
Better yet, if you’re concerned about performance, don’t. No doubt it’s aiming for 30 frames per second, and between handheld/docking modes, three hope that’s usually achievable. When the action got particularly heavy, I noticed some framerate drops even by Musou standards, but it was rare. This is a major improvement over Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and apparently, Omega Force has heeded previous complaints.
I’ll probably be playing Three Hopes for a long time – I’ve started my new Blackhawk+ run – when I said earlier that it’s not just Dynasty Warriors with Fire Emblem skins, I Seriously. Three Hopes is really impressive. It walks well between the freshness of existing fans and the approachability of new players, and I’ve invested in it from the start. I’d love to see where Nintendo’s Warriors spinoff concept goes next.