Omega Force is in a unique position. As the developer of the long-running Warriors series, the company has had the opportunity to work on a variety of brands, from Gundam to Zelda. Today, however, we’re taking a look at Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, which takes on the world and style of the incredibly popular Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I was curious to see how the change of location affected the gameplay this time, and whether this Switch game would fare better than the pretty but notoriously low framerate Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
Before we get into performance, let’s talk about what the game is actually like. Three Hopes is a warriors game through and through, with massive levels to explore. With enemies that you decimate and with special abilities that you unleash in the process. But it expands the formula by putting more focus on the story than any other Warriors game I’ve played. The story follows a mercenary named Shez who joins one of the three eponymous houses. The choice changes the course of the story, which is told with character talks after each scenario and camp sequences where you can walk around and interact with your team. There are also changes in combat. You now have access to a map, which you use to send out important units to attack enemies and complete objectives. Overall, it’s a more detailed and complex approach that feels surprisingly satisfying.
The more complex gameplay is supported by performance improvements compared to the last Warriors title on the Switch – Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Said game uses up to 810p dynamic resolution when docked and has reasonably strong anti-aliasing for a clean look, but the frame-rate regularly drops below 30 fps when there’s a lot of action. That’s a disappointment for a Nintendo-related project, even if developed by Omega Force.
Three Hopes is significantly more stable, running at 30+ fps, which is matched by a similar dynamic resolution of 810p when docked (and ~540p in portable mode), albeit with relatively weak anti-aliasing and poor texture filtering. Texture filtering isn’t ideal given the predominance of wide open spaces with flat surfaces, nor is anti-aliasing ideal given the anime style. The thin black lines surrounding the characters would really benefit from TAA, for example. However, the higher framerate makes for a better gameplay feel and stays more consistent even with special attacks that slowed down performance in Age of Calamity. This applies to both docked and handheld modes, which in turn means dynamic resolution is often higher too.
However, not everything is perfect on a technical level. The biggest visual criticism I have of this game relates to the movement and animations, a problem it shares with the first Fire Emblem Warriors. Basically, there’s a large frame for the character to walk around in, making the movements feel weightless. Also, the running animation feels sped up and the attacks lack power.
Perhaps even more confusing is the decision to ship the game at a completely uncapped frame rate. The game tends to run in the 33 to 36 frames per second range, which translates nicely to a fixed frame rate of 30 frames per second for much of the game. Instead, we have a variable frame rate that can occasionally reach up to 50 frames per second in small indoor scenes, but is much lower in combat. The game would feel a lot smoother with a 30fps cap, but at least if we ever get a Switch successor that runs the same games with increased performance, Three Hopes would be a good candidate for hitting a solid 60fps.
Those technical shortcomings aside, there’s a lot to like for fans of the latest Fire Emblem game on the Switch. Three Hopes feels pretty authentic compared to Three Houses. The dialogue style, image quality, and menu systems all feel like a sequel, which underscores Omega Force’s ability when it comes to graphic style adaptations. Of course, the developers had an advantage in this case because Omega Force is a division of Koei Tecmo and Koei Tecmo was responsible for the technical development of Three Houses. Intelligent Systems focused on the writing, art, and game system, but outsourced the programming and engineering to the Koei Tecmo team. I would imagine that this partnership has facilitated the development of Omega Force in terms of consistency with the original artwork.
There’s also a two-player split-screen mode worth talking about. To support this, the graphics have been scaled back a bit: shadows are disabled for characters and distant enemies are significantly reduced, but surprisingly the performance doesn’t really suffer as a result. It seems to settle more at 30 frames per second, so it feels a little less choppy than in single player. Of course, performance can drop below the 30fps line in certain situations, but it’s a solid way to enjoy the game and one that makes combat even more enjoyable.
After spending some time with the game I have two conclusions. First, in terms of overall design, this is one of the more interesting Warriors games to come out. It feels like Omega Force really has a plan. The non-combat expansions add a lot to the gameplay experience, and the added strategy allows for easier battlefield domination. Second, there is the state of the technology that powers these games. This studio has produced so many games over the years and their work has certainly improved in certain areas, but the technology seems to need an overhaul. The performance, rendering quality, and animation work could all use some improvement.
Ultimately, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a solid Warriors game that has a lot to offer Fire Emblem: Three Houses fans – it’s probably one of the better titles in recent years, in fact, and shows that Omega Force continues to improve on the Warriors formula . While a major technical overhaul will be needed sooner or later, Age of Calamity’s biggest problem has been solved, making Three Hopes a lot more fun.
Originally written by John Linneman, Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry