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Fire Emblem Three Houses Review

7 min read
The Fire Emblem series will never be the same.

The Fire Emblem series will never be the same.

What They Say:

  • The Officer’s Academy is home to three houses: The Black Eagles, The Blue Lions, and The Golden Deer… Which house will you choose?
  • As a professor, lead students in their academic lives and on the battlefield
  • A turn-based, tactical RPG that puts new twists on strategic battling
  • For the first time in series history, battalions of troops follow individual units to support them in battle
  • Freely roam Garreg Mach Monastery, interact with students in a variety of ways—over lunch, even—to bond and gather intel
  • As a female or male professor, you’ll meet House Leaders and future rulers Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude


The release of Fire Emblem Three Houses is the first main console release in years and it doesn’t waste the opportunity. Three Houses is the single biggest shakeup in franchise history and the series will never be the same after this release.

Beyond the addition of marriages and children, the series has been roughly the same for years but Three Houses shakes up the typical formula entirely. To start with, you play as a teacher who picks between three houses to teach.

This single move injects Three Houses with that same school life gameplay that has made the Persona and Trails of Cold Steel series so popular. But what makes Three Houses unique is its emphasis on the fact that you are the teacher and not a student.

From a glance, this could sound like an uninteresting twist but it’s actually done really well. The general gameplay of the school portion of the game revolves around a weekly cycle. On Sunday, you’ll have your free day to explore, teach or learn from a seminar to raise stats, grind battles, or simply rest.

Exploration is the deepest of these options, allowing you to speak with all of the fellow teachers and students (not just your own), complete side quests, fish, plant, eat with people, and so on. There is a ton of depth to the game that will keep you busy for hours.

There is one main story mission per chapter and I would regularly go several hours between each main mission, goofing off and having fun doing various activities. What makes the game so great is that every little detail ties together into the bigger picture, making those activities worth the time.

For instance, even the fishing mini game is key to the overall gameplay in that it grants you fish (of course) and experience for your professor level. The fish can be used for cooking and eating with the other characters to raise your bond levels.

And the professor level is useful for how many activity points you have to use each free day, how many missions you can do, the ability to unlock adjutants who accompany you on the battlefield, and much more.

Then the bond levels are used for strengthening your companions on the battlefield, getting new plot details, and even recruiting students to your house. And the crazy part is that’s just talking about the fishing mini game and what it does for you.

There are plenty more features in the game that allow you to further your gameplay on the battlefield and beyond. It’s a deep and rich experience that is engaging, entertaining, and rewarding all around. But at the same time, it does start to drag, especially in the second half of the game where the war begins.

In a lot of ways, it’s like many people’s experiences with actual school. The beginning is exciting and you are gung-ho but then it starts to die down as time goes on and you just want to see it through to the end. The first half of the game is fantastic and focuses more on the school aspect (at least in my experience) but I felt more drawn to the story in the second half.

That’s because the plot in Fire Emblem Three Houses does take a while to get going. The first half, at least for most of the routes, is nothing special but the gameplay more than makes up for that to the point where it didn’t even bother me.

But the game smartly puts more focus on the plot once the time skip happens and the war gets going. The same school mechanics are still there for those who are interested in it but the plot is much more engaging to the point where I would skip most weeks just to see the next plot point.

Thankfully, the game does allow you to skip and go through everything as fast or slow as you want. As for the turn-based gameplay itself, it is by far one of the least changed aspects about the gameplay. Minus some visual improvements, it’s largely the same combat that fans know and love.

The traditional weapon triangle is gone but it’s not missed as the strengths and weaknesses of different classes make more sense now. You also have the combat arts back and better than ever, allowing you to go above the limitations that are normally there when fighting.

In addition, you have battalions now that accompany you and allow you to do new attacks, which is useful for when you’re out of weapons to use but I ended up honestly using it less than 10 times throughout my entire experience with the game.

The changes for Fire Emblem Three Houses, in terms of combat, mostly come from how open the class system is now. There are classes that students prefer to do and are more geared towards but you can make even a tank like Dedue a magic user if you really want to.

This extends to your own character as well as there are numerous ways of increasing your various stats. And what’s even better is that this game makes even the useless stats you don’t care about important to the game, at least for your main character Byleth.

This is because almost all of the students that aren’t in your class are recruitable beyond the main leaders and their most trusted companions (for the most part). To recruit them, you can either raise your relationship level high enough or the stats that they like.

This allows you to create your own role play scenario where you were able to recruit one person but not another and then they have to meet on the battlefield. It’s a compelling formula that is only made better by the excellent characters.

Though there are well over 20 main characters that you can have on your team altogether, nearly all of them are well-written and complex. You might think you know the ladies man Sylvain, for instance, but if you get to know him, you’ll find that there’s so much more to him than just his flirtatious attitude.

And that’s just Sylvain. There are so many other characters who are just as interesting as him and well worth getting to know. This is key to making the story more engaging because, quite frankly, there are one or two paths that don’t have the best story.

At the same time, though, the Blue Lions, in particular, floored me with its intricate and harrowing experience that I didn’t see coming even though it was my second play through. But it is a difficult situation because a player might only play one path and find it not nearly as enjoyable as another would have been.

This is also in large part due to the fact that many of the missions and plot points are shared between some of the paths with only the endings being the defining parts. This can make playing through all of the paths a little bit repetitive even though I do believe that it’s the best way to enjoy all of the game.

Though the uneven balance of story between the paths does exist, it still gives me hope for a sequel that will follow up on the ideas presented here like the school aspect and expand upon it even further. Especially since there do seem to be a lot of loose ends that need tying up even after beating all of the paths.

In Summary: 

It will be interesting to see the next Fire Emblem game since Three Houses changes up everything as we know it. The combat is by far the most unchanged portion of the game but even it is stronger than ever before with smart changes that elevate it.

Where the game excels in its changes is with its school portion. What could have been a mess ended up being a brilliant way of making teaching fun as every little feature and action builds to a greater whole as you get to know the characters who are the best in the series yet.

Though the stories of the paths can become repetitive and some are much better than others, Fire Emblem Three Houses is a must-have game on Nintendo Switch and certainly the best game to release on the console this year thus far.

Grade: A-

Developer: Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo Games
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date: July 26, 2019
MSRP: $59.99
Platform: Switch (reviewed)

This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.