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Fire Emblem: Three Houses

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So I'm playing the fuck out of this.

I enjoyed Fates but it was deeply flawed:

  • Birthright had boring characters, boring map design and an uninteresting story
  • Conquest had annoying characters, good map design and a fucking moronic story
  • Revelations had all the boring and annoying characters, bad map design and an uninteresting story

What go me through is it's mechanically sound. Birthright was fine, and Conquest had some spectacularly well made missions that were really fun and challenging. Still, the game overall was a let down, filled to the brim with fanservice. The other big problem was the writing. Fates basically had no world building at all, the continent didn't even have a name. Most characters are never seen again in cutscenes after introduction unless you raise their support levels, meaning they're all 1 dimensional caricatures nobody could ever give a fuck about anyway.

Three houses is pretty much righting all that. The game feels like its steeped in lore and tells you more about its world in its first 10 minutes than Fates did across three whole games. The characters are so much better rounded, since you regularly interact with them in between missions. Even the characters who do come across as simplistic turn out to have good reasons for it, usually driven by the lore. Much of this revolves around magic crests passed down through bloodlines, and nobles who disown/mistreat those who do not have crests, and so on. There's a lot going on.

There's a lot going on in the gameplay too. The game uses a calendar with the conceit of your character becoming a professor at the military academy. There's three houses (of course), and you pick one very early on. The game is in two halves, before and after a 5 year time skip. The faction you choose determines the units you have available, and once the time skip occurs apparently the game diverges massively.

At the end of every month you go on a story mission. Between the beginning of the month and then you spend time how you like. The weekend usually has a free day, on which you can either Explore, Battle, Seminar or Rest. Explore lets you wander around the academy, interacting with various people and running errands. This raises support levels, gains items, and so on. Raising support levels with characters from other factions makes it easier to recruit them into your faction (each has certain stats they want you to have in order to join, but raising support levels reduces them), so it's worth doing. You can raise motivation of your students by doing tasks as well, which has benefits when it comes to the rest of the week. You have a limited number of action points to spend on the exploration activities, so you have to choose what you get up to wisely. Some stuff can be done for free though, like fishing and gardening which are well worth doing since they raise your professor level and give you more AP.

Battles are as you would expect - on normal you can do as many as you like on a rest day, but on Hard each costs an AP, and its a separate AP pool to exploring. I've only just unlocked the ability to do 2 battles in a rest day. These battles are a mixture of side story missions and generic "wipe out the enemies" fare. Seminars let you pick a teacher at the academy and depending on who you pick, different students will attend and improve their skills and motivation. Resting restores all your student's motivation.

Outside of the free days, at the beginning of the week you determine the instruction for the students. Each student you instruct costs AP, but the more motivated they are the more you can instruct them off a single AP. You can pick any of their skills and instruct them in it to improve their abilities. Some have hidden talents you can unlock by repeatedly training them in a skill.  They also have obvious things they're better/worse at. You also set "goals" which are a pair of skills you want the student to focus on that week. At the end of the week, they'll gain points in those skills. I'm using this to level up secondary skills to improve their reclassing options as all classes require certain combinations of skill levels to use. Any character can otherwise be any class save for one or two gender specific ones.

Battles are fairly standard Fire Emblem but with some interesting changes. There's no more weapon triangle, which actually works really well. No more rock paper scissors, you just worry about damage output from you and the enemies and your damage resistance to physical and magic attacks. Some weapons still affect certain types of enemy more though - bows still murder fliers for example. Weapons now have durability and weight. On the former, each attack reduces durability by one, or you can use a combat art to hit harder/deal extra effects (these are learned by levelling skills) at the cost of 5 or so durability. Weight affects your attack speed - using a worse weapon that's lighter can raise your attack speed enough to hit an enemy twice, for example.  You can also equip batallions, which raise your character's stats and give a limited use move that enemies cannot respond to. Often these knock enemies back a tile or prevent them moving next turn,  so its worth equipping a battalion to everyone. You can also rewind turns now - initially 3 times per battle. It's invaluable on hard, no more characters getting one shot killed on the last turn and forcing me to restart because I don't want to lose anyone.

There's a ton of stuff here, plenty of depth and a quality of writing/worldbuilding that the series hasn't had in yonks.

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Switch?  Sounds good. I really enjoyed the DS one i played ages ago so may give this a whirl. Only switch game on my horizon at the moment is Luigi’s Mansion. 

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Yep. It's fucking great. It's also fuck ugly but who cares.

I expect Astral Chain to be worth a look next month if you're into Bayonetta-em-ups. I'm also looking forward to DQ11, Link's Awakening and Pokeymans over the next few months too.

Edited by Duffman

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