That’s what you get if you don’t read very carefully what you’re getting yourself into. “Oh, cool, Fire Emblem, after counting something Triangle Strategy hit the spot!”. Sometimes reading helps, then you can also see that Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is not a sequel to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which like Three Hopes is only available on the Switch, but a Dynasty Warriors game, like Fire Emblem Warriors before. Mass slaughter, here painted Fantasy-Medieval. How mean, the sequel to Three Houses serves a completely different genre? Then I have to hate this game now, even if it’s my fault if I just cross out the “Warriors” in my head. No of course not. why. Three Hopes can do something.
Omega Force has proven time and time again that they can adapt their very Japanese winning concept to any franchise. Here you’re closer to the originals anyway – just with more western weapons and armor – than in a Zelda, it all fits. Already proved Three Houses. What can I say, if you know one, if you know all, that was always the motto for the Musou genre. Of course, that’s only true to a limited extent, almost every one has a few small peculiarities, but sometimes you have to delve deep to really appreciate what it is.
There’s a charm here for sure that, as a fan of Three Houses, I get a very personal spin on the story. Basically, it’s a very similar starting point of three-party conflict in a very traditional fantasy world, only this time events unfold differently. So don’t worry, you’ll know the locations and the actors – at least most of them – but it’s a story of its own. In the center of this you stand with a mercenary as an avatar, with which you decide very much for one of the houses.
This means that there are also three different stories to experience in Three Hopes. These often use the same cards in battle, and the basic gameplay isn’t that different, but with a completely different set of followers and motivations, a second and even third run can be well justified. Not that any of them are short. It can take 20, 25 or even more hours, depending on how thoroughly you exhaust all the possibilities here.
This time, your own base is a somewhat run-down fortress, which you are gradually pimping up. This requires a lot of resources, which you collect in numerous side quests. You build up the forge, improve weapons, train your fighters, unlock new classes, upgrade the canteen, and, and, and. Your army’s infrastructure can cost you hours or give you hours of pleasure, depending on how open-minded you are about these things. Much of this is largely optional, at least on medium difficulty. Or rather: It has to be done, but what is necessary goes quickly and soon becomes a fixed routine.
You can also treat the relationships between the characters in this way. Again and again you have the option of conversations and even trips to the heath. There, two mass butchers sit together in friendly unity – 600 kills each and only in the last battle – and confirm each other’s views in order to get that familiarity bonus. It’s all nice, even if it’s a bit simplistic. After all, in the end it’s all about the relationship bar, if it’s higher, then the AI fights better and the characters complement each other. All not new, all thrown into a big blender here so you have something to feel like you’re building some kind of army and welding it together.
What can I say, it works. In the beginning I was completely a solo fighter, but gradually I began to get to know my fellow combatants and appreciate them a little. Not too much, my mercenary was about 15 levels higher than my next fighter, but they were useful for slowing down the enemy for a while and that’s what this and many other Musou games on the battlefield are all about.
The basic concept should be familiar. Thousands of harmless, lethargic mass troops cluster around their leaders and you vaguely hack your sword in that direction. A series of simple combat combos later will drop a standard officer, it will take a little longer for a real enemy who has also been given a name and a story. That’s basically it. You repeat that a thousand times. ten thousand times.
Well, not that simple after all. The numerous classes are all based on a simple rock-paper-scissors principle of the weapon types, which is also quite easy to read. With this knowledge, you go on the map and issue orders to your NPC companions. The right unit to the right enemy, and that’ll be done while you take care of key objectives yourself. This is where a trick of these games comes into play, which is by no means just loved. The battles are scripted so that certain events wait for a trigger, such as a defeated officer. A lot of things are time-consuming and you can’t be everywhere alone. You also can’t know what’s going to happen on the first playthrough, so in the end it doesn’t have much to do with planning, just reaction.
It’s a bit of a gamble then. If you happen to be near an event or if your friends are in the right place, then it all fits. This is also ensured by the overpowering specials, which rightly let even fights against dinosaurs and giant golems degenerate into short-term affairs. If, on the other hand, it doesn’t fit, then an almost unsecured, because meaningless position at the other end of the map is quickly overrun. And if you’re really unlucky, the reset point has been saved in such a way that you no longer have a chance to change anything. Happened twice, then I learned again not to plan. That in these games you don’t follow the plan at all, but take care of the blinking circle on the map immediately and without delay, no matter what it might be exactly.
The fact that it’s fun is due to the fast movements. Three Hopes plays much smoother than its predecessor Warriors, the frame rate is higher and the hits are powerful enough for the quite monotonous carnage to bring the gaming fun that is based on basic instincts. Is working. It would be bad if not, after all, the Omega Force studio hasn’t done anything else for 26 years…
The fights are kept relatively varied, at least within the scope of the genre’s possibilities. Sometimes you defend points, sometimes you go straight into the offensive, every fight always comes up with a few mostly smaller and here and there a bigger surprise. It’s just a solid flow of gameplay that goes from five minutes to 20 minutes. Those are the big story missions that you work your way towards on a small, multi-area map. Each of these has a mini-mission to offer, then some resources are collected nicely wrapped in micro-story events. Then it’s on to the next round.
Each of these rounds can also be played in co-op, which simplifies coordination a bit, but also makes the fights much easier. The AI is more or less semi-effective as I mentioned at the beginning and that’s not just because of their slightly lower levels. She is too hesitant with the specials, hits slower, often takes too long to complete even simple tasks. That puts your role in the foreground, of course. But knowing that I can clear a stronghold myself in less than a minute, I don’t always bother going to the map and giving the commands and hoping the computer will do it in five minutes. So I mostly used them as a brake to intercept an enemy unit and keep it in one place. That works well too, so they’re anything but useless. But they could do more if they wanted to.
Oh yes: Fire Emblem also has permadeath as Three Hopes. That’s one of the first questions the game asks you, and I’m very grateful to be able to say no. I’ve never been a big fan of it here as even on the NES it really meant just reset button and not tactical depth.
What applies to the AI, that more could be done here, somehow applies to everything in Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. It is a good representative of the Musous, that was to be expected. You have to have a certain enthusiasm for the genre, but if you’re looking for a game to find out if it’s for you, then I would recommend this one. At least if Zelda and Dragon Quest are too cute for you. Here you have a good variation of a good story, a very well-rounded overall structure of army, base, map and battlefield. Everything feels routine, polished. Well, the graphics are what they are. The Switch is aging, fans can deny that as long as they want, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
This routine is perhaps also the biggest problem. You play the main role, dashing around the battlefield and taking care of everything that matters. Even the fact that many things are not foreseeable quickly becomes foreseeable. With the knowledge that you have to take care of everything that pops up in the text field below, you also have the solution to all battle questions at hand. But the mix of kindergarten game of thrones, polished structure and fast combo attacks on absurd hordes of opponents works just wonderfully. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is definitely a game that’s more than the sum of its parts. And they’re not bad now.