Following the success of both the Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors series, Omega Force is back once again, partnering with Nintendo and Intelligent Systems on Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes.
The first two Nintendo Warriors games were more of a celebration of their respective franchises as a whole. Much like the well-received Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, which was set in the Hyrule from Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes tells a new tale within the familiar world of Fódlan.
Three Hopes tells a sort of side story to ‘Three Houses’, taking place in an alternate timeline to the original tale about the young lords and ladies of Garreg Mach, and the land of Fódlan's future. Similar to the gameplay of the mainline series and its predecessor, Three Hopes offers a choice of game styles at the beginning of your adventure. These take the form of Classic Mode, which follows the Fire Emblem tradition of unit permadeath, or the more forgiving Casual Mode, which lets your team members return after defeat. It also includes some quality of life features to help with the flow of the game, such as an option to have readable tutorials shown in gameplay or menus only, as well as more in-depth level-up screens. In short, would you prefer to pause the combat for a moment, to understand your unit’s growth, or a simplified version which only plays the iconic Fire Emblem Level-Up jingle to keep the gameplay running smoothly if you’d prefer to focus on the action. As I did in my many playthroughs of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, I began the game in Casual Mode in order to get to grips with the story. This way, I could enjoy playing with my favourite students and faculty members, free from the worry of losing a unit to a stray arrow or a poor enemy match-up.
Following an intense visual feast of an intro, showcasing a battle between gods, monsters, mages and knights, we wake as a mercenary about to take part in the first battle of the Three Houses storyline. Only this time, we’re fighting against Jeralt’s Mercenaries. We pick our character, and the Byleth we wish to fight against, and the fun begins.
Following the usual Warriors hack-and-slash style, you fight your way through a fairly large network of tunnels and arenas filled with puny enemies who fall to your blade in a small number of hits. The power trip is almost intoxicating as you steamroll the oceans of bandits, mercenaries, soldiers or cultists, taking out captains and foot soldiers alike as you blaze your way through the camps until you meet the boss of the area. A final, worthy contender.
Being on the other side of the story is truly harrowing, despite barreling your way through crowds of foes, coming up against the Protagonist of Three Houses really makes you feel insignificant. Byleth is far too strong to take on initially, and you truly understand why they are dubbed the ‘Ashen Demon’ as they easily best you in combat. A rivalry is born in your first defeat, and lays down a marker of how strong you’ll need to be to one day avenge your comrades. So begins our hero’s journey, a story of revenge and a ticket through the gates to the illustrious Officer's Academy in Garreg Mach.
As with its parent game, Three Hopes asks you to pick which house you wish to join during the prologue. On my first playthrough, I picked what looked to be the most balanced house, in terms of skills and class types, "The Golden Deer." Luckily, Three Houses retains the social aspects of past titles, so I spent some time getting to know my classmates and pestering the teacher of my house, Jeritza. Yes, he's here too and still a joke of a character. His line delivery is borderline comedic and his actions equally absurd. I love it.
The house you chose is now your side in a battle for the whole land. Whether you side with the Black Eagles, The Blue Lions or The Golden Deer, these teams will contain base characters, with some others popping up from time to time. You won't be able to recruit all the characters from the other teams like you could in Three Houses, but you can bolster your army through hard work and calculated persuasion if you spare your opponents.
The gameplay loop is almost as satisfying as the attack animations. Player input largely takes the form of different strings of the “X/Strong Attack” and “Y/Light Attack”, with “B” button dodges, and ZL to guard. Attacks can be chained together into lengthy combos, which rack up damage and add more style and nuance to the relatively simple control scheme.
Unlike Three Houses, this is a hack and slash game with some minor tactics and unit management, via upgrades and deployment. Playing on Casual mode, so that none of my units stayed permanently dead if they were defeated, I rarely felt in any danger of completely losing a mission, and that speaks volumes to how accessible this game is.
Sadly in my time with the game, I didn’t have anyone available to try the couch co-op gameplay with me which becomes available from Chapter 4 onwards, which was a little disappointing, but the sheer breadth of content and my digital friends at my war camp more than made up for that.
Giving orders to the NPC controlled fighters is really simple, and the maps are easy to understand. I remember in one mission, I didn't even play as one of my chosen characters, purely because I was confident enough that they'd be able to complete my orders without being in danger. Pleasingly, if a unit is struggling, you can instruct them to run, or call for back-up, and they'll drop everything to follow your commands. Such choices are not especially detrimental as each character you use gets a lump of EXP at the end of a mission, though characters you use more in that mission do seem to gain more EXP and a higher chance of being your MVP. This does also make them more likely to receive a coveted MVP experience boost to help your progression with your favoured lord or lady.
The real diversity in combat comes down to the characters, who despite there being only a handful of weapon archetypes, each have their own unique set of combos and affinities. They bring a refreshing change in set-up and visual splendour to the game, with their elemental skills and flashy techniques.
A fun new mechanic that Three Hopes has brought to the Warriors series is the Adjutant system. Lifted straight out of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the adjutant system lets you pair up two of your playable characters for stat bonuses (depending on their support level) and combat assistance.
Something I particularly appreciate in Three Houses is the efficiency and clarity of the menus and info displays. You can track your character’s progression, stats and three closest social bonds all via a single page in your unit menu. This menu also lets you change outfits, classes and weapons when you’ve finished the prologue and reached the first camp. It’s an especially handy guide for determining each deployed character’s preferred adjutant. It even goes that extra mile and showcases the characters' likes, dislikes and also paths they’re taking alongside your mercenary, as well as a brief timeline of their life and major events; such a small, but satisfying touch.
Unlike the original Fire Emblem Warriors, Three Hopes adds social areas, last seen in Three Houses. These are areas where you’re free to walk around and interact with the cast, whether that be the mysterious Arval, or any of your old classmates from your chosen house. It’s a massively welcome change of pace and it’s nice to be able to enjoy the stellar characters that we all fell in love with in Three Houses outside of combat scenarios.
The tea party feature is back, so you can flirt with your favourite character (Ferdinand Von Aegir), and the gifting mechanic also makes a welcome return. Don’t forget to shower your favourite character (Ferdinand Von Aegir) with gifts. You can also do mundane things like chores or train together with your team which increases your support rank to gain access to some very nice combat buffs. If you don’t feel like doing chores, you can have your team do it instead! There are also side missions you can do to get upgrade materials and experience for your classmates. This is usually a win-win situation though you are limited to 4 units per map, with no secondary units unlike the main quests.
Sadly, some of the level environments in Three Hopes are relatively bland. The first few missions have you stomp through muddy battlegrounds surrounded by wooden fences, pitched two-men high, as trenches in the battlefield, or musky castles built of greys and coloured carpets that get flooded with an ocean of various colour clad NPC fighters. Thankfully, the stark colours of the main characters, and very flashy combat effects really pop; each special move could be regarded as a piece of art in its own right. In a lot of cases, this was the reason I didn't use the same units constantly, even when they made some missions a breeze. I wanted to see what other visual treats my other units would give me. Get ready to feast your eyes on humongous fireballs spouting from axes, a tornado whipping a horde of enemies from the ground, huge pools of ice spreading outwards from your character, rendering puny foes vulnerable to several arrows to the face. It's as big a rush as it is a visual buffet. Luckily, there is very little to no stuttering, and for the majority of my playtime I enjoyed a steady 30 frames per second, both in docked and handheld modes. The resolution also looks great, with very few jagged edges or suddenly spawning trees. Some minor issues, like a poorly aliased shadow, can be spotted occasionally but it's nothing that should detract from the overall experience.
The voice actor who narrated the chapter introductions in Fire Emblem: Three Houses returns here to great effect. In-fact, most of the voice cast from Three Houses are back, along with newcomer Damian Haas (who voiced Saul in Fire Emblem Heroes) as the male voice of Shez and Dawn M. Bennet voicing female Shez. Either way, the line delivery is fantastic in this game, whether it be a snarky retort or a polite reply or deep exposition.
Having the cut-scene conversations fully voiced was a great choice, and even though the auto-advance option sometimes leaves lengthy gaps between line reads, it’s not too much of a bother. It’s a pleasant experience to have the protagonist voiced as well, regardless of which speech option you choose from, there are several available responses to each prompt. In my playthrough, I planned to make my character as difficult to converse with as possible, opting for sarcastic, flippant or plain ridiculous answers when available, often choosing the fantastic “...” option. Needless to say, the other characters were unimpressed with my lack of engagement.
The sound work in this game is really crisp and satisfying. Even on higher volumes in handheld mode, the audio is really solid with very little drop in quality even with the more tinny sound effects, such as the EXP tally at the end of a mission. The game’s original soundtrack is masterful, consisting mostly of orchestral sweeps that would be at home in any medieval war drama. The music often twists into an epic symphony of strings, brass and piano that sounds like it belongs in a final boss battle. There’s a real palpable depth to the sound, each track could easily sound like an imperial march. A lack of synthetic noises really works in the composer’s favour.. The camp, which is the first social hub, really evokes a triumphant yet precarious feel to the situation your characters find themselves in. Even in dire circumstances, the music urges you on. One more step, one more foe, one more victory.
Overall this was a game I’m glad I didn’t miss out on, it was fun and though sometimes the missions felt just that little bit too long, and some of the maps were less than eye-catching I still really enjoyed my time with it. It would have been nice to have had access to the Co-Op mode from the start, even though I lack a couch-co-op partner, but it’s still great to have the option relatively early into the game. I think Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes does have something for most fans of Fire Emblem Three Houses, even though the gameplay style won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the jump from being able to take your time planning moves can be somewhat jarring if you’re not prepared and having an option to rewind time is a nicety you don’t have here, it’s not a game you can walk away from for a few minutes in combat to think your options through.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes feels like an evolution of the Warriors formula, and a fantastic bridge between the sheer power-trip gameplay of Warriors, and the brilliantly realised world and characters of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. It's also a fantastic addition to the mythos of Fódlan and our friends from Garreg Mach. With great visuals, brilliant characters and multiple storylines, it’s a game that’ll suck you in for quite a while!
I won't shy away from picking up my swords and marching back into battle for Fódlan, shoulder to shoulder with Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes any time soon.
Where to Buy
ShopTo - £39.85
Currys - £39.99
Use the code "SWFNDD" at checkout.
Review written by Luke Young
Edited by Mark McAllister and Paul L. Russell
Review Graphic by Paul L. Russell