In a few long weeks, the latest Fire Emblem game will finally be available. Titled Fire Emblem: Three Houses, this newest entry is set to be one of the most innovative games in the entire franchise, bringing with it some incredibly intriguing ideas. Some are entirely new to the franchise, while others are updates to more traditional mechanics.
Soldier of three armies
Three Houses offers you the choice of siding with one of a few different sides. In this case, three nations reside within the game’s continent, each with its unique political system. Fire Emblem previously took this split approach with Fire Emblem Fates, but this time, you don’t have to buy separate games to experience everything.
We don’t need no education
One innovative feature of Three Houses is undoubtedly the school system. From the beginning of the game, you align yourself with one of the three factions. Students from all three nations attend the monastery where you teach; however, you only teach students from the faction you selected.
This portion plays out much like Persona or Final Fantasy Type-0. During the limited time you’re given, you can train, teach classes, or get to know your students better. Everything you do during this period affects the later, more traditional portion of the game. Teaching courses can train your students so they can access certain classes. Spending time with your students improves your relationship with them. You can even recruit students from other houses to fight for your side if you can impress them enough!
If this portion of the game doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry. You can skip it. However, the game will pick activities for you to do, so chances are you’ll miss some cool stuff like character development and side quests.
Run to the hills
At some point, the school section ends, and you’re whisked five years into the future. Much has changed during this gap, and you come to find the three houses at war with each other. Your choice at the beginning of the game comes into play here. You align with the faction you selected and will fight alongside them in the conflict. Of course, this means you’ll be battling the other houses and, thus, against the students you didn’t instruct.
Regarding combat, Intelligent Systems upgraded several aspects of the system in Three Houses. First is the removal of the weapon triangle in its more traditional form. A staple of combat in previous Fire Emblem titles, the weapon triangle is a system that gives weapons an advantage and disadvantage over another, similar to the typing system found among Pokémon’s starter creatures. In place of this system are Combat Arts, special moves that your units can learn with experience. Similar to those in Shadows of Valencia, Combat Arts may be advantageous against a particular unit type. Students can equip multiple Combat Arts, making them versatile against numerous enemies.
Another novel change to the combat system is the ability to switch a unit’s class at will. In previous games, units were locked into a single class at a time. Most classes could eventually be changed, though with several restrictions in place. In Three Houses, however, each unit is capable of being every class.
This feature is where training your students comes into play. Assuming a unit has the skills needed to pass a certification test, you could reclass before every battle if you wanted to. For example, if you’re up against archers, you can change your pegasus knights into something else to avoid the disadvantage. In the following chapter, you can change them back to gain the bonuses inherent to the class. Some students have better proficiencies than others, making specific unit types more suitable for them. But it has been said that with enough work, a student can be taught to be any class in the game. The ability to swap classes at will provides a higher level of strategy to the battle stages and is one of the things I’m most looking forward to utilizing.
One last significant change is that your battlefield units aren’t alone anymore. Each student has with them a battalion that provides support. These battalions fight alongside the students and can even level up to provide more significant benefits. Where this system comes in handy, however, is in its customization. The battalion members have a class of sorts, which allow them to provide unique bonuses. These can range from buffs, such as increased movement or healing, to higher defense and then some.
Overall, there are a lot of elegant changes to the combat mechanics of Fire Emblem: Three Houses that I can’t wait to experience. As someone familiar with the mechanics of Awakening and Fates, learning this new system should prove to be a rewarding challenge.
When I kissed the teacher
Of course, it wouldn’t be a modern Fire Emblem game without romance. One of the newest and most divisive features of the franchise, your squad can find love on the battlefield. Unlike in the last few games, however, these marriages won’t lead to children. In Awakening, the children entered the world via time travel. While I appreciate the ingenuity of the idea, it doesn’t appear that such a system would fit in with the setting of Three Houses, so I’m glad they’re leaving it out this time.
A change will do you good
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is quite possibly the most innovative game in the franchise thus far, and it’s got me more excited about it than any game this year. At this point, the 23 days between now and release might be the longest days of the year.
Though a lot of changes are coming to the typical format, I’m very optimistic about what Intelligent Systems is bringing to the table with this title. All the new features are bringing about layers of strategic options never before seen in the franchise. These additions are exciting by themselves, but I really can’t wait to see how everything meshes together to create what is sure to be one of my favorite Switch titles.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses launches for Nintendo Switch on July 26.