The previous entry in the Fire Emblem series, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, was an extremely popular Nintendo Switch title. And now the new Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes revisits, in a way, the same Garreg Mach students we met in Three Houses. But eager players biting at the bit to head back to the continent of Fódlan should know that they’ll be dealing with some major changes.
Three Hopes presents an alternate universe version of the world of Three Houses. The characters look and often act the same, but interactions and combat are both drastically different. Gamers play as a sell-sword guy or gal with some specialized sword-swinging abilities who once again runs across the leading students of the Garreg Machtraining monastery. And your character is asked to align with one of the three houses before leaping into war.
The main story-driven thrust is about the battles for power between the three major kingdoms of Fódlan—The Adrestian Empire, the Kingdom of Fargus and the Leicester Alliance. And, of course, the central Church and an evil magic-focused group that “slithers in the dark” are both closely stitched into the conflicts.
Oh, and Byleth (the character who gamers played in the previous game) is back this time as well. But he or she is actually a very powerful evil enemy in this version, and our hard-fighting hero is dead-set on finding and defeating that foe.
It should also be noted that each of the possible houses we can join has its own perspective on the warring story on hand. So, our game-beginning choice opens up its own characters and storylines to play.
The first four chapters of play quickly establish the plot points and relationships within your chosen student group, but it’s not as leisurely paced or as relationship-focused as the previous game seemed. You can still have meals, give gifts, train and have conversations with other characters throughout the game, but Three Houses is much more interested in your connections on the battlefield than off. And there are no romance options in the mix this go ‘round.
The most noticeable change in Three Hopes is the game’s approach to battle. This title employs a hack-and-slash style, also known as a Japanese Musou. That means that rather than play with a turn-based tactical approach, Three Hopes allows you to switch between several of your characters on the battlefield and wade in with a fast-paced slashing, smash-and-bash style of play, leveling hundreds of opponents in button-mashing conflicts. There’s still a certain amount of strategy in the mix as you decide who you should place on the field and how you parry and defend against certain enemies, but the battles are far more frenetic.
Gamers can choose between Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulty settings and whether to play in Casual mode (where characters can be defeated in battle but don’t die), or Classic mode (which allows for permadeath if a character falls in battle).
Besides its solid gaming play, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes gives players a variety of perspectives on war—communicating the fact that deadly conflicts are rarely black and white. Ultimately, though, gamers must face, and defeat, a very clearly evil side.
Although this game’s storyline hews closely to the characters and story of the previous Fire Emblem game, you don’t need to have played that title in order to jump in with this one.
Just the very nature of a hack-and-slash style game can make things feel more repetitive and grinding on the battlefield. Battling and beating scores and scores of tumbling and flying foes can feel empowering, but if you pause to consider, you realize that this style of battle actually kills thousands upon thousands of foes with various sharp-edged or projectile-launching weapons. (There’s no blood, but the deaths involve impact sounds, light effects, and cries of pain.) And that constant button-mashing can also result in finger fatigue while playing the Switch in handheld mode.
Some cutscenes depict people being impaled and slashed, and a just-off-camera foe is publicly beheaded. We find some dark demonic magicking and monsters in the fantasy mix, too, as evil characters cast spells that swirl around themselves and others and materialize massive beasties. Some characters transform into dragons.
In addition to the deadly conflicts, there are also discussions of swigging back alcohol. A few of the female characters wear armor and outfits that boost their feminine curves. And exclamations of “d–n” can be heard during battles.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes delivers a new batch of battlefield conflicts for fans of a past series entry. But your enjoyment will hinge on how much you like to hack and slash.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.