It's been three years since we saw Fire Emblem: Three Houses' plucky youngsters evolve into battle-hardened soldiers, and Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a familiar refrain. Nintendo and Koei Tecmo have teamed up once more for a musou game in the Fire Emblem series, focusing on hack-and-slash combat and hordes of enemies instead of slow and steady tactical gameplay.
The result is a dramatic improvement on the original Fire Emblem Warriors, and a must-play for anyone who’s been dreaming of more Edelgard, Dimitri, Claude and their charming students. My time with the fast-paced musou title encouraged me to keep my Switch at hand for another battle during any spare moment. It’s safe to say that the game is not only enjoyable, but downright addictive. Read on for our full Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review: Story
If you enjoyed Fire Emblem: Three Houses, it's almost a given that you'll find something to love about Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. While there's no tactical, turn-based gameplay, Three Hopes features the same framework that made Three Houses such an excellent game. And if you dove headfirst into Fire Emblem Warriors with a smile on your face, you'll be thrilled to find an even deeper, more nuanced game here.
Three Hopes isn't a retelling or reworking of the Three Houses storyline you may be familiar with. It is, however, an extension of the existing narrative that follows a major timeskip event from Three Houses. Without spoiling what that entails, it means a whole new scenario for Three Houses newcomers and diehards alike.
The story gets underway after introducing former mercenary Shez, who can be either a man or a woman, like Three Houses' Byleth. Unlike Byleth, however, Shez becomes a student at Garreg Mach Monastery in a much more roundabout manner. You can choose to enroll Shez in one of the titular three houses from the previous game: Dimitri's Blue Lions, Claude's Golden Deer or Edelgard's Black Eagles. This choice will ultimately alter the narrative, so it's worth playing Three Houses before Three Hopes.
Shez may be an unfamiliar face in the Fire Emblem continuity, but they're ultimately a welcome one. They slide right into the story as if they’ve always been just another student. And, unlike Byleth, Shez has the opportunity to make their own destiny, which is ultimately up to you. Shez is the coolest new Fire Emblem character I’ve seen in a long time.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review: Gameplay
Fire Emblem: Warriors is about a raging war, and the missions you carry out could change the course of the conflict. It's a much more fast-paced, chaotic affair than in Three Houses. Instead of planning your every move, you'll jump into massive battles with dozens of soldiers surrounding you. You can choose which units you want to take into battle, as well as outfit them with the skills and equipment they need to excel. But after that, it's off to the races as you cut down countless enemies.
While that usually means fighting nameless baddies, you'll also need to kill off enemy commanders, special units and boss characters as they come in. It's all about staying flexible and being able to adapt to changes in your mission objectives. You need to capture enemy outposts and various areas throughout the mission locations. These help you hold your own strategic points, and capture new ones to reinforce your troops.
The enemy can do the same. But with everything you have at your disposal, your foes don't typically stand a chance. You can control Shez directly, or swap between additional troops to give the bad guys a hard time. If you don't want to continually change out units, you can strategize by sending troops to defeat certain targets. When you have to deal with timed mission objectives, these tactics can mean the difference between passing and failing.
There's more to gameplay than just slashing away at enemies, though. The classes from the previous Fire Emblem are here, complete with skills and the branching trees that help make each character feel a little more customizable. Three Warriors doesn't feel like many other musou games, where every unit seems like the exact same person with a different weapon. You do have to consider your weapon loadouts, though, as certain arms are more effective against some enemies than others.
Each and every mission has interesting wrinkles, from weapon durability to recruiting enemies, no matter how bland a task may seem at the onset. While the mission objectives themselves can be a bit repetitive after your fifteenth foray into the world, the way you approach them isn't. You can always make the best of a seemingly same assignment.
Meanwhile, Shez whiles the hours away between skirmishes in the war camp, a hub area similar to the monastery's sprawling campus. There are merchants, a trainer, chores, cooking projects, gifts and optional character interactions between missions. After that, you go to the War Map, which replaces the calendar system from Three Houses. From your base, you can choose to play story missions, or branch off into side missions. Completing these other missions will net you additional supplies and points to use to recruit new units, but you can just as easily focus on only completing the main storyline.
Though Three Hopes isn't as intricate as Three Houses, the older game's intricate network of mechanics are present here. If there's something particular you enjoyed about this tale's predecessor, chances are you'll find it here as well. These systems take what could have been an extremely run-of-the-mill musou adventure and elevate it to something fantastic.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review: Performance
Using my Nintendo Switch OLED system, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes ran well. I saw a strong 30 frames per second docked and undocked, with a jump to a solid 60 fps during missions as I ran from place to place. Even in situations where the screen was filled with dozens upon dozens of soldiers, the Switch had no issue with Shez cutting them all down.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review: Visuals and sound
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a great-looking game. While it isn't as sharp as you would expect from a console such as the PS5 or Xbox Series X, the game features a bright, dynamic color palette and crisp character portraits along with their accompanying models. The animation is stunning, as are the new additions to the team. Shez's design makes them stand out, with their neon purple hair and outfit. The recurring color palettes, fonts and layouts from Three Houses remain visually dazzling.
Voiced dialogue returns as well, for the most part. Unfortunately, not every single line is fully voiced, but there's enough to avoid the RPG pitfall of "read text, character spouts one line" for the better part of the game.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review: Verdict
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes transcends its predecessor in every meaningful way. Taking the trappings of Fire Emblem: Three Houses and combining them with winning strategic elements is a definitive victory. Three Houses fans get more time to learn about the land of Fódlan and its inhabitants, while newcomers can jump aboard the Fire Emblem train and dive into the existing lore.
Complex character development, base management, and skill tree exploration work in tandem to make Three Hopes much more than just a hack-and-slash fantasy. It's a full-fledged addition to one of Nintendo's beloved franchises. Whether you've been waiting with bated breath for a new Fire Emblem game, or you're ready for your next musou experience, you can't go wrong here.