We haven’t touched the Musou genre since the PlayStation 2 generation, and after playing Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, we regret it. So far, Three Hopes is a lot of fun to play and has an engaging story. If what we’ve seen so far is any indication of what the remainder of the game has in store for us, we think Three Hopes will be one of our favorite gaming experiences of 2022 when it arrives on Switch on June 24.
Three Houses’ identifying characteristics are, coincidentally, threefold. They include the friendships we formed, the political fight at the center of the plot, and the choices that led to each character seeming like our own. So far, Three Hopes has all of that baked right in, and it has us hooked. We put protagonist Shez in the Black Eagles’ house, just like Byleth in the 2019 game. Our stay at the Garreg Mach Monastery, however, came to an end swiftly, since Three Hopes moves immediately into the post-school age following the time jump in Three Houses. From then on, it’s a war map and hard-fought battles rather than textbooks and lessons.
We won’t go into detail about how this has all played out so far, but we will say it has us hooked. We feel quite at home with the characters in our house as a Black Eagle now heading on the Edelgard-led “Scarlet Blaze” Empire route (rather than Dimitri’s “Azure Gleam” Kingdom route or Claude’s “Golden Wildfire” Alliance route).
There’s the mysterious Hubert, the optimistic and easygoing Caspar, the anxious Bernadetta (we feel you, girl), and others like Ferdinand, Linhardt, Dorothea, and Petra. We’ve enjoyed spending time with all of these characters, and we appreciate that Three Hopes uses the same methods for getting to know them, such as presents, support ranks, and so on.
Furthermore, you may use seals to unlock additional classes for each character, and each battle pays participants with experience, which they can use to level up. If you remove the combat, Three Hopes is nearly identical to Three Houses.
The fight is where Three Hopes truly distinguishes itself from Three Houses. It’s still very much a Musou in the sense that you’re primarily assaulting big mobs of foes and seeing a damage number increase into the thousands in the hopes that the KO number rises as well. Fighting off waves of opponents never gets old, and the thrill we had the first time we did it lingered in the closing moments of my hands-on time.
We believe this is due to how heavily Three Hopes’ fighting pulls on the Fire Emblem formula. Characters can perform class-specific actions, which include massive and showy animations, as well as several meters to fill, which result in greater and more powerful assaults or even whole new forms.
Fire Emblem’s classic rock-paper-scissors gameplay makes an appearance. Certain classes deal more damage to specific types of foes, quickly destroying their armor and exposing them to a massive and particular attack. You can also slow things down by using the battle map to provide instructions to your friends (that you can also switch to at any time).
You can route them to an extremely tough enemy on the horizon who is vulnerable to ranged attacks like Bernadetta’s arrows or Hubert’s fire magic. If you have a specific target to protect, you can instruct Edelgard to do so. On that screen, you’ll also see the percentage of victory that unit has when confronting an adversary. All of this contributes to the impression that you are commanding an army rather than a single character, which is consistent with the Musou genre.
But Three Hopes isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for us. While the game is enjoyable to play, the aesthetics are woefully inadequate. It runs perfectly, which is arguably more important in a game like this. However, other than the character graphics on the screen when there is dialogue, you’re largely seeing jagged and boring castles, forts, and forests.
There are certain highlights, such as your main camp, but NPCs lack the depth of clarity and contrast that we believe would make these sights scream. We wished Three Hopes’ graphics had received as much attention as the rest of the game because Omega Force appears to have intended it to feel like a must-play alongside Three Houses. That was also our biggest surprise during our hands-on preview time — this is more Three Houses, but with a new combat style.