The embargo just lifted on Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, the musou-based follow-up to Nintendo’s critically acclaimed strategy game, Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Most reviewers seem to agree that Three Hopes is a worthwhile successor to Three Houses, though many seemed to burn out on the repetitive-feeling combat. Some critics welcome the return of a robust social links system in which players can unlock special conversations after building up enough friendship points. Others think that the plot, which skips Three Houses’ academy arc and jumps straight into an alternate version of that game’s war, makes for a fascinating approach to a sequel. Those who enjoyed Three Houses were just happy to see their old Three Houses schoolmates again. While some found Three Hopes to be a successful fusion of Three Houses’ focus on worldbuilding and the Warriors series’ signature large-scale combat mechanics, others found the execution to be lacking.
Some just wanted Three Hopes to be a continuation of Three Houses’ powerful storytelling, which they felt the game delivers. Those who don’t enjoy tea parties and the social aspects of Three Houses, however, are probably in for a bad time, as they haven’t gone anywhere. There are a lot of social systems to engage with, and reviewers are divided on whether or not the game succeeded in capturing the same charm of Three Houses (one critic actually thought that Three Hopes had a better plot than Three Houses for cutting out the school aspect).
And then there’s the combat, perhaps the game’s most divisive element, which may not be that surprising if you’re familiar with the history of critical responses to the musou genre. Some argue that the game marks a significant upgrade from the Dynasty Warriors series. And while other reviewers were satisfied by how the developers added more strategy to Three Hopes, a lot of critics found the combat itself to be repetitive. One critic particularly dinged the system for limiting its colorful cast to “a narrow field of total move sets” despite how the game gives each character unique passives.
The Fire Emblem-inspired strategy layer has been greatly improved since the first Fire Emblem Warriors game, and engaging with it is a lot more fulfilling. You can get as granular as you want, commanding your individual soldiers to attack and defend specific zones and enemies, but I found great joy in sending my whole army on singular missions to take out the bases I was ignoring, or telling them to all follow me as I sprinted toward particularly powerful foes. The team is truly helpful, and your relationship with all of them grows alongside their power levels as you interact with them between missions. Chatting everyone up and learning about them makes it exciting to see them succeed on the battlefield.
Three Hopes doesn’t revolutionise musou’s formula, so if you’re dead set against this style of combat, it probably won’t change your mind. However, it feels like a reinvigorated approach to this genre, and I loved how it balances strategy with more action-driven combat. Three Hopes is clever, inventive, keeps life entertaining outside of battles, and there’s surprising depth to its strategic gameplay. Most importantly it’s a lot of fun - far from a quick cash-in on Three Houses’ success, that may have been a concern for some.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a perfectly reasonable game. There’s nothing about it that screams “new and exciting,” but there are also no flaws so glaring that I was tempted to put the controller down, throw up my hands, and walk away. The more investment any given player has in Three Houses in particular, the more likely it is that the good moments in Three Hopes will outweigh the bad, and the mysteries of the game’s slow-burn story will doubtless keep some people interested enough to power through some of the more boring, busywork-like combat maps.
These improvements [in how characters can quickly move around the battlefield] are needed, as Three Hopes expects you to go to war quite a bit. Each primary mission has several unskippable side missions and many more optional story quests. There’s a war map where your army has to advance towards the objective by completing smaller skirmishes, and it’s here where the formula starts to buckle under its weight. You come to any musou game for the combat, but Three Hopes packs in too much filler even when you ignore everything optional, leading to some obnoxious repetition over the course of its 25-ish hours. Unless you plan on experiencing the story piecemeal over the course of one to two months, you’ll likely grow tired of doing these same battles long before the end credits roll. I recommend pacing yourself.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes almost pulls off what should be an audacious crossover – frantic large-scale, Dynasty Warriors-style battles with some of the tactical depth which made Fire Emblem so famous. Where Three Hopes slips is in its ability to properly breathe new life into the characters that were so clearly at the heart of the Three Houses experiences. Support Links are a nice touch, and demonstrate that there’s more to Three Hopes than hacking-and-slashing across big open battlefields, but the sidelining of such a beloved cast of heroes is difficult to square away. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes threatens to break new ground for the Warriors series, and is a solid new venture for the Fire Emblem series at large, but the melding between the two concepts isn’t as seamless as it could have been.
There’s flashes of mechanical brilliance in Three Hopes, that show how the game’s combat could have further differentiated itself from the games before it; but [developer] Omega Force doesn’t fully commit. Specific levels have concepts like “no dodging” as a forced challenge, which, on higher difficulties, showcase some more moment-to-moment subtlety. Builds can sometimes get as fine-tuned as utilizing a cursed sword that poisons you: while circumventing it by upgrading your healing capabilities. It’s almost there in terms of evolving the Warriors baseline, but it’s not quite enough to get people on board if you’re not a fan.
Yes, where the original Fire Emblem Warriors felt a little anaemic when it came to the story side of things, here you’ve got a veritable feast to get tucked into and it’s all backed up by a plethora of systems and activities that you’ll indulge in between battles which allow you to spend lots of quality time with the members of whichever house you’ve sworn allegiance to. You’ll get to wander off on private expeditions in order to improve relations with whomever you fancy, make dialogue choices, hand out gifts, indulge in “support conversations” and even head out into the wilderness on short little trips that see you converse, answer questions and make jokes all while moving the camera around freely to have a good old look at the current object of your affections. You just can’t beat a good old chinwag.
For what the game is — a sequel to Three Houses with real-time Musou combat — it delivers what it promised. There’s a mystery to Three Hopes that can only be unraveled with dozens of hours of combat and cutscenes, and the game assumes substantial preexisting knowledge of Three Houses. Fans will enjoy reuniting with their favorite characters, but the derivative plot and built-in grind make it a tougher sell to anyone else.
It seems like returning fans of Three Houses will feel right at home in Three Hopes—as long as you don’t mind musou combat. But the game also appears to be a more strategic overhaul of Fire Emblem Warriors, which is a welcome upgrade that I eagerly anticipate.