Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the tried before the review
We finally got our hands on the final code and played a few hours at the new strategy for Switch Fire Emblem: Three Houses: here are our first impressions
In recent months we have talked far and wide about the new Fire Emblem: Three Houses. We examined the new school approach that, spanned over the course of weeks and months, recalls Persona 5, and we looked with curiosity at the new path taken by Intelligent Systems. Young cadets learning to fight in a castle that looks like Hogwarts, this is the initial impression that the new title of the famous series made us Nintendo. Then, over time and with the succession of trailers and information, we discovered that Three Houses could be the most strategic Fire Emblem of the saga, thanks to a strong management component that is expressed, in fact, in the school interludes, but also the most epic, such as would suggest the five-year gap in which the protagonists grow up and go to war with each other. Code review in hand, we started our adventure in the Fódlan: in the next lines we will focus on the first hours of the game and on the academy that made us doubt Intelligent Systems so much.
Which is not that Persona 5 – and its two predecessors – are the only role-playing games in which a group of young heroes join forces against some supernatural threat: in some ways, the narrative structure of Three Houses refers more to titles like Trails of Cold Steel or Valkyria Chronicles, which not the Atlus series. However, that’s how this canvas turns into gameplay which is very reminiscent of Persona. A calendar marks the time we spend together with students, time that we must strategically exhaust by choosing who to train, who to attend, who to improve at the expense of someone else. Let’s start from the beginning, however. After the long and spectacular introduction to cartoons, we immediately found ourselves in the shoes of Byleth: he is the protagonist – but the name, if desired, can be changed, as well as the *** – and he is the son of a former knight of the monastery of Garreg Mach, now a mercenary.
While walking through the forest in the company of our father and his gang, Byleth runs into three cadets from the monastery and sacrifices his life to save them. At that moment, our protagonist meets in a kind of dream a girl who responds to the name of Sothis, the only detail that remembers its own identity. Sothis mysteriously binds to Byleth’s thoughts and empowers him to rewind time and thereby save Garreg Mach’s cadets without dying. He will turn out that the cadets in question are actually the young people represented by the three houses that divide the Fódlan: impressed by Byleth’s ability, the boys take him to the monastery, where he will be offered a teaching position. Once we have chosen the house we want to support personally, it will be our task to train its members, but also to get to know them better to understand what direction they want to take in life and on the battlefield.
The first hours of the game are, of course, a long tutorial that gradually introduces us to the various possibilities it offers Garreg Mach. Our fear was that the calendar would end up dominating the experience right away, forcing us to manage the training of the boys on a day-to-day basis in a loop that could have been heavy and repetitive right away. In reality, Fire Emblem: Three Houses doesn’t quite work like that, and the management component in the early hours is much less pronounced than we thought. Indeed, to be honest, our first two months in the monastery reminded us of a traditional JRPG. The unprecedented possibility of exploring this vast scenario in the third person is not the only point of contact between Three Houses and the real role-playing games. The calendar it automatically skips entire days, pausing on the free days in which we can move undisturbed to carry out some secondary activities that consume an indicator destined to increase and guarantee us, little by little, greater control.
The cadets and teachers of the monastery could entrust us with assignments, appropriately indicated on the notice boards hanging around Garreg Mach. These assignments are not just for explaining to us some secondary activities – such as fishing or gardening – but also to scrape together money, consumables and other useful items. Thanks to this linked trick, we cultivated our first vegetables and used them to make us prepare a delicious dinner that we ate in the company of some students, increasing a level of confidence which, of course, is then reflected on the combat system. The point of all this school life, in fact, is to prepare the children for the battles, optional or not, that they will have to face from time to time during the weeks, but above all for the most important mission that takes place on the last day of the month and which basically carries on. history. Obviously, after so few hours, the plot it still remains rather hazy, but the presence of mysterious masked enemies and the memories that slowly surface in the minds of Byleth and Sothis as echoes of another era promise interesting developments.
In these initial hours, however, we immediately became familiar with the management component that fits perfectly into the game’s structure. Our fear that Fire Emblem: Three Houses reserved too much space for this aspect of the gameplay would seem to have eased thanks to the calendar which requires us to study sessions on certain days. The various possibilities granted to the player intertwine with each other in a mess of parameters and statistics that could confuse newbies to the series. In reality, our profession as a mentor can be entrusted to an automatism that will instruct the children following their predefined predispositions; however, by taking control of the lessons we can decide to invest time and resources on a certain student’s skill rather than another, perhaps unlocking specific skills or special moves. Princess Edelgardfor example, she is particularly gifted in Command and Axes, but by changing her curriculum we have made it so that she improves her proficiency in Reason instead.
By doing so, we were able to change them to level 5, turning it into a Monk capable of throwing fireballs at enemies. Fire Emblem veterans will have to get used to this new mechanism that allows units to change classes at will, as long as they pass a real exam based on certain skill levels. It is a much less cumbersome procedure than it appears and guarantees great freedom in the composition of the armies that we will send to fight. On the battlefield, in fact, a multitude of factors must be taken into account: we already know most of them, for example the power ratios between the different types of weapons, but others – such as battalions and its tricks – are completely new. We will return to this aspect of the gameplay of Fire Emblem: Three Houses in the review, since we still have to deepen it, but the battles we played, however simple as tutorials, have entertained and thrilled us thanks also to the artistic direction and the choreography of the clashes.