As a lot of people know, 2019 was a great year for games. Bringing us titles such as Control, Sekiro and The Outer Worlds. All of which received game of the year nominations. However, there is one game that is just as fantastic.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses puts you straight into the shoes of the main character, Byleth. Who happens to be the child of the “former” captain of the holy knights. You end up having a “dream” talking to someone you don’t know. Then it breaks you out and introduces you to the House leaders of the school at Garreg Mach Monastery.
The game does this to get you to start thinking about which house you want to lead. Yes, you are going to have to choose. You end up saving the kids from the bandits and have to go back to Garreg Mach. Where you get recruited as a teacher while your father helps Lady Rhea, with some particular jobs. Pay close attention at the start, because not only does it give you a great introduction video that will make a lot more sense later on. But it also preludes crests and a particular ability that will be a lifesaver down the track.
Now I’m not sure how this compares to other Fire Emblem games because this is my first, but the story in this game is absolutely brilliant. It doesn’t overwhelm you at the very beginning however it doesn’t give you nothing. It hits the perfect middle ground. The story expertly flows from one crisis to the next each month. All while having your own story lines with each character growing and changing at different times.
The information you get is fed to you intermittently leaving you wondering and asking questions all through the game. This just makes you want to keep pushing for that one last battle, that turns into 2, and then 3. That is why this story is so great, it’s gripping. It’s like reading a really good book where you keep saying to yourself, one more chapter, just one more chapter.
Now I’m sure a lot of people would be sitting there being like. Yeah the story is good but that means I play it once and I’m done. Right? No, not by a long shot. The amount of replay-ability in this game is insane. But how is there replay-ability in a story rich game? Let me explain.
As I said before there are three houses at the school. Each with their own unique characters. You choose to lead one house while the two other teachers, Manuela and Hanneman, lead the others. Honestly, my favourite character is Claude. He has such a sarcastic attitude. All while having a brain that loves to scheme. He always puts forward a sense of not caring, when actually he cares a lot.
The whole story itself is split into two parts. The first part is basically the same in every run. You just get slightly different people you interact with, depending on the house you choose. The second part, however, leads off into 4 completely different and unique story lines, also depending on the house you choose. Enticing you to go back and play through again to see what happens.
This is an absolute masterstroke. No matter which house you choose, by the end you’re going to be thinking, what happened with the other houses? How did they turn out? Suddenly you have sunk 250 hours into the game and you’re sitting there trying to convince your friends this is the best game of 2019.
The interesting thing with starting a new game after finishing a play through is that it offers a New Game+. This is fantastic because it allows you to use your renown to level up Byleth to where you were before and kit him/her out in the best weapons of the game. It’s done in a way that allows you to go back and be a god, destroying enemies left and right with ease. This means you can enjoy all the other stories without really having to worry about combat and grinding your players up.
As most people know, this is a tactics game, meaning that the game play involves moving players around a grid to take out the enemy. From the ability to tag along characters with another party member so they can both get experience. To the ability to zoom in and see the battalions that each of your characters are moving with. To all the advantages and disadvantages you get from stepping on a particular tile. The game play is done in a rather simplistic but incredibly enjoyable way that you can win without knowing too much, and yet you can still find it entertaining on your 3rd run through.
The awesome thing with Three Houses though is that there is more than one gameplay style. In between battles you have the option to explore Gareg Mach Monastery and interact with almost everyone there. This is a brilliant idea because it breaks up the tactics gameplay with some more RPG style aspects, to make the game feel like there’s more to it.
Half the fun of this title isn’t even in the battles. It’s running around the monastery boosting your support levels, increasing your professor level or by learning something from the other professors and leaders at the monastery. It adds so much to the game and satiates the need to explore every nook and cranny, leaving you with gameplay that is surprisingly very well rounded.
Music and Graphics
There isn’t really much to say about the graphics except that it is perfect for the style of game that it is. The characters all look incredible and all have their own little styles and idiosyncrasies. The Monastery looks fantastic, as well as each map that you fight on. If there is any criticism, the maps you fight on can start to repeat themselves. However, that is an incredibly small blemish on an otherwise perfect game.
The music also does an awesome job. I found myself enjoying the soundtrack more and more with each play through. Especially with the fact that the music changes according to the intensity of the battle. However, when you’re running around the monastery it just has a nice peaceful tune playing in the background that is just hard not to enjoy.
Now let’s talk about the DLC, yes there is even more story content added onto this game. The DLC introduces a fourth house called the Ashen Wolves, who all live in a dirty place below the monastery, in a locale called The Abyss. Basically these four characters were brought together by a guy named Aelfric because they were the “black sheeps” of society. You then find them and decide to help them in their hour of need.
Now the story of this DLC is good. Does it compare to the base games story?… No it doesn’t, but I think that has to do with the fact that the DLC is very short, it doesn’t have the time to flesh the story out like the base game. The other thing that you will find with the DLC, is that it can be harder to get through than the base game. If you usually grind through regular battles to make yourself overpowered to then breeze through the story it will be increasingly difficult because you don’t get that option. It just sticks you into story battles with dialogue between them.
This forces you to think a lot more about the tactics you’re going to use – surprising for a tactics game, I know. All in all, it is a thoroughly enjoyable DLC to play through because it forces you to rethink your playstyle, while still giving you a good story. Not to mention the fact that once you complete the DLC, you can then recruit every member of the Ashen Wolves.
As a whole, Three Houses is one of the most enjoyable games I have ever played. It had me enthralled from beginning to end and constantly itching to go back. So Should you play Fire Emblem: Three Houses? YES, yes, yes, yes. In fact, stop reading right now, turn on your Switch and go get it. You won’t be disappointed.
Review by Dillon Van Der Putten
The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.