Nintendo and Koei Tecmo have teamed up once again to turn one of Nintendo’s IPs into a Musou (Warriors) style game. Announced during a Nintendo Direct back in February this year, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes gave Fire Emblem: Three Houses fans a new game to look forward to and explore the world of Fódlan once again. Three Houses, which Koei had a hand in developing, is a solid game, but unfortunately left some loose plot threads in the game’s four routes (even with the addition of DLC). With the announcement of Three Hopes, fans were definitely hoping that lore gaps would be filled and other details found in interviews and datamines would be addressed. Thanks to the release of a demo weeks before its release, it appears that’s the case for the world of Fódlan, even if this is shaping up to be from a “What if?” perspective due to the introduction of a few new characters.
Before I get too ahead of myself with discussing the demo, I must address the following. It is highly recommended that you play Fire Emblem: Three Houses first. Ideally, it would be best to complete Three Houses’ four routes (including DLC), but you’re looking at a time sink of at least a few hundred hours. For reference, I’m at 345+ hours and only completed three of the four routes when you take into account the “new” characters that were added in via its Expansion Pass seven months after launch. You can, technically, skip Three Houses altogether and go into Three Hopes blind, but you’ll be spoiling yourself of plot points/the twists and turns of Three Houses and you’ll miss the importance of certain scenes/character interactions. Heck, the opening cutscene includes a few big spoilers!
If you don’t care about that at all, feel free to give the demo a go… but I wouldn’t recommend it.
The demo released by Nintendo contains almost the first “five” chapters of the game, gives you eight save slots, and promises to transfer your progress to the complete game. Chapters 0 – 3 are considered the game’s Prologue with Chapter 4 acting as the first chapter in Part 1. Side missions/levels are repeatable only in Chapter 4 (which has three side missions). Sadly, the main mission for Chapter 4 is unavailable.
There are also three difficulty settings (Easy, Normal, and Hard), plus the option of Casual or Classic modes. Casual Mode will see playable units who have fallen (reached 0 HP in battle) revived after missions whereas they’ll be gone for good in Classic Mode (starting with Chapter 4). You can always change the game’s difficulty via the Settings menu, and can do the same for game modes but with a restriction. You cannot change Casual to Classic Mode, ever. So if you decide to start out on Classic Mode and want to switch, that’s fine, but you can’t return to Classic Mode again (on that save file, at least).
As for the replayability of this demo, it triples thanks to the route split that happens in Chapter 2. There, you’ll be prompted to go into one of the game’s three routes – Scarlet Blaze (Black Eagle House), Azure Gleam (Blue Lions House), and Golden Wildfire (Golden Deer House). Each route has its own cast of playable characters, and no matter which route you pick, you’ll have access to “Shez” (male or female playable main unit/character that you can rename).
Similar to The Legend of Zelda series, Fire Emblem has been given the Warriors treatment before. Akin to Hyrule Warriors (Wii U, 3DS, and Nintendo Switch), Fire Emblem Warriors (3DS and Nintendo Switch) featured characters from different Fire Emblem games, but was set in a new land. This time, Three Hopes is solely focused on the world of Fódlan and utilizes Warriors’ controls and combat with some changes. If you played Fire Emblem Warriors, it’ll feel very familiar to you, but luckily with more Three Houses’ mechanics and flair.
Just like the original Fire Emblem Warriors, you can level up your cast of characters in two different ways. Characters can earn experience by partaking in the hack and slash free-for-all missions or you can skip the battles and pay with gold instead. The caveat to paying with gold is you can only level characters up to the highest leveled character on your team (i.e.: Shez is level 10, therefore you can only max out other characters at level 10). Grinding missions for enemy gear/items to level up a character’s moveset and more is thankfully gone. This is instead replaced by the class system that Three Houses utilized. You can change characters’ classes with seals, advancing to the next class in a particular group when a specific class is mastered. While we’re limited with seals during the demo, there’s enough to use to test out different classes for different characters. Already mastered an intermediate class? Cool. You can go back to a completely different beginner class (via the Convoy menu), master that, and proceed to its branching-off intermediate classes.
It doesn’t hurt that different classes will give characters different abilities too, some even staying in their learned pool when classes are swapped. Throw in the fact that characters have their own exclusive unique abilities, it’s fun to see how they can fair in battle in an entirely different class and other learned abilities.
Combat Arts/Magic also returns in Three Hopes. These moves are locked behind certain classes and weapons, but once learned they’re available to your units forever. You’re limited to assigning two per character at a time, but can swap them out in between battles. Leveling up these moves do require a bit of grinding thanks to them using up a weapon’s durability. So you’ll have to maximize your usage of these moves during battles to level them efficiently. There are also cooldown times involved to minimize spamming attacks, so read up on these attacks before charging into battle.
The demo, thankfully, eases players into all of these features and slaps on a level cap of 15 so that we’re not breezing through each mission. Unfortunately, due to how everything progresses (missions from Chapters 0 – 3 aren’t replayable in the same save file), you’ll find yourself with multiple characters at Level 1 or 2 at the start of Chapter 4. Thankfully, the AI is not completely dumb and will heal units you aren’t controlling once they hit a certain threshold. Thus, you’ll avoid permadeath if that’s enabled. Also, you’ll have time to try out every character thanks to Chapter 4’s three different side-missions being replayable. Here, players can learn to master the basics and even venture into experimenting with different builds.
Thanks to the addition of Shez and Arval, plus a new starting time, the political landscape of Fódlan will unravel faster than it did in Three Houses. This “What if?” scenario is keeping character goals/motivations the same (on the surface at least), but will take root in different ways due to Byleth (the main unit/avatar character from Three Houses) not being a professor and building close friendships within a school year.
This time around, Byleth is viewed as Shez’s rival thanks to a clash between their mercenary groups (Chapter 0). Following their defeat, Shez is hell-bent on surviving thanks to help from Arval (a rather strange and mystical being that only Shez can see/hear), and hyper-focused on becoming strong enough to take down the Ashen Demon.
Before Shez can accomplish their goal, they get tangled in the scenario where Edlegard, Dimitri, and Claude are fleeing bandits (Chapter 1). What was the turning point in Three Houses with Byleth, Shez slips into their place instead. After defeating the bandits and testing out different characters (Chapter 1 manually has you switching to Edlegard, Dimitri, and Claude during the fight), we’re whisked away to the Garreg Mach Monastery. Here, Shez is given the opportunity to become a student at the monastery’s Officers Academy, an offer they can’t refuse (Chapter 2).
Those who enjoyed the monastery/school grounds hub portion of Three Houses may be disappointed that it doesn’t return (at least at this part in the demo). Instead, we’re given the trade-off of a very short Prologue arc (Chapters 0 – 3). After flushing out the remaining bandits in Chapter 2’s mission, we’re only a student for one more chapter. Chapter 3’s focus is dependent on which house you pick. To be as spoiler-free as possible, here’s a short summary of each:
- Black Eagles: Thanks to Chapter 2’s closing cutscene, Edlegard decides to return to Adrestia’s capital for a mission of her own. Before leaving, she asks for assistance from the Knights of Seiros and select members of the Black Eagle house.
- Blue Lions: Due to a dispute with the succession in the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, Dimitri must return home to quell the issue. After sending a portion of their troops with Edlegard to Enbarr, the Church of Seiros sends nearly the rest of their forces to join Dimitri and select classmates of the Blue Lion House.
- Golden Deer: Claude, the future leader of the Alliance, receives a missive from Duke Goneril (Hilda’s older brother). Due to the events happening elsewhere in Fódlan, an Almyran army is seen approaching Fódlan’s Throat. The Golden Deer house is preparing to intercept the army, but will have to secure additional troops on their own due to the Knights of Seiros already being spread thin across the kingdom and empire.
Once Chapter 3’s mission is over, we’re treated to some exposition of what’s happened with the other two houses and enter a two-year time skip. Depending on which route you’re on, Chapter 4 will open with you preparing to start a war or defending your region and hoping to not be betrayed in the process.
Other than some slight date and height hiccups in character bios and a particular wording choice in the English localization (Leonie’s C-Support with Shez), Three Hopes’ story seems really promising. While, yes, we’re going on a different adventure here, right from the start we can see Three Hopes is closing gaps present in Three Houses. Plus, given how some routes ended in Three Houses (with major battles happening off-screen), there’s hope that won’t happen this time around… even, if in typically Warriors’ fashion, that gets added in via DLC.
Chapter 4 is also where you’re able to explore a bit more thanks to the introduction of the base camp hub. Smaller than Garreg Mach Monastery’s hub, the camp is easier to move around in, especially with fast travel unlocked. Over the course of this chapter, we’re introduced to different features – merchants that sell different goods, training grounds with an instructor, chores, cooking, and more. The amount of training and social activities (chores and cooking) we can partake in are limited in each chapter thanks to an activity point system. Participating in these activities can increase a character’s class mastery (training), increase their Support with other characters (all), or even increase their mood, which means better battling with them during missions (chores and cooking if done well).
This camp is also filling in as Warriors’ “collect all these items to upgrade x” staple. Currently, three areas of the camp can be upgraded thanks to goods found after completing side missions. So far we can upgrade the following areas: the merchant stalls to offer more items, the training grounds to allow for another slot (pair of characters) to train during a session, and the kitchens to cook more dishes. At this early in the game, this leveling-up feature feels fairly easy and I can’t wait to complete more side missions to trick out the entire camp. Hopefully, we’ll be able to earn more activity and training points along the way.
Concerning the large cast of characters in Three Houses, it looks like everyone is returning and more! The demo doesn’t feature the entire cast (we’re missing a few characters affiliated with the Knights and Church of Seiros plus the Ashen Wolves who are only namedropped), but we’re treated to some new additions. A number of characters that were mentioned in passing in Three Houses (or only vaguely referred to in interviews) appear onscreen this time around and some show up in battle as supportive units (or enemies).
The social-sim Character Supports are here too. They’re available starting in Chapter 4, but compared to Three Houses, there are some changes here. Not every level (C, B, and A) guarantees a cutscene, and characters that may have had a Support chain that ended in A in Three Houses might only go up to B or less here. Plus, some C-Supports are also plot locked, which means you can grind enough points for that level in the demo, but you’re not seeing it until the full game is out (R.I.P. Marianne and Hilda fans).
Thankfully, these interactions are fully voiced. I mention this because, unlike Three Houses, not all of Three Hopes’ character dialogue is voiced. Talking with characters at your base camp (and other camps featured earlier in the demo) will give you a text box and a voiced line if you’re lucky. More often than not, it’s a word or two or something like a sigh. Typically, Warriors games are not fully voiced, but this was such a fantastic feature in Three Houses that it’s sorely missed here. I really wish Koei Tecmo and Nintendo were able to invest in a larger budget in this department. The entire voice cast for this universe of Fire Emblem has helped make these characters shine.
The release of the Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes demo is a smart move from Nintendo. Three Houses fans who aren’t familiar with Warriors-style gameplay can try out the game for themselves and see if it is the right fit for them. Fans who are familiar can dive right in and start exploring which route they want to move forward with first and can grind for gold, items, and Support points if they wish to do so. Regardless, everyone is devouring the new lore that’s been dropped in (confirming some fan theories) and making fan art and memes. And for those Nintendo fans who aren’t familiar with Three Houses and just want to try out the demo (and snag the 100 My Nintendo Platinum Point bonus), maybe you’ll be persuaded to give Three Houses a go or pick up Three Hopes on release day.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes launches worldwide on Friday, June 24th, 2022, and only on Nintendo Switch.