Koei Tecmo’s Warriors games use a tried-and-true formula spanning dozens of entries, pitting players against hundreds of enemy units in massive battles. 2017’s Fire Emblem Warriors managed to put a unique spin on the formula, integrating the weapon triangle system from Fire Emblem and allowing players to strategically command units during combat. But even with those tweaks, it still felt like a Warriors game more than a Fire Emblem game.
Three Hopes stars a new character named Shez, a mercenary whose body is inhabited by a mysterious otherworldly entity, similar to Byleth and Sothis in Three Houses. In terms of story, this is essentially a “what if” tale that puts Shez in the spot of Byleth, seeing what would happen if they sided with one of the three houses at Garreg Mach Monastery. We won’t dive any further into the story, however, as the general structure of the experience and gameplay is much more interesting.
The prologue introduces you to the basics — the real meat of the game comes later. If you’ve played Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you’ll immediately be familiar with the way Three Hopes plays out.
Three Hopes feels startlingly similar to Three Houses, just with action battles replacing the tactical ones. Even with that, however, the combat system is a massive improvement over the first Fire Emblem Warriors. You can control up to four characters in battle, but additional characters can be brought in as AI units that you can order around. The allied AI has been improved tremendously, which is necessary to contend with the bigger, more complex battles.
These are honestly some of the biggest battles I’ve ever seen in a Warriors game, with dozens of generals on each side and a wealth of bases and strategic locations that need to be conquered. On top of that, most battles tend to throw a lot of curveballs at you or come with unique objectives.
In one battle I had to conquer enemy bases to rescue an allied general at the center of the map. Once I achieved that objective, I was betrayed by other comrades, forcing me to cut an escape path and escort allies out. In the first Fire Emblem Warriors, giving your allies commands simply felt like an option. This time around, it feels like a vital component of battles.
Outside of battle, many of the elements from Three Houses make a return. Although it’s smaller than Garreg Mach Monastery, you can explore your base camp between battles. There are two different time management resources, Training and Activity. By talking to the Training Instructor you can do training sessions to raise the class level of your characters. Meanwhile, Activity points are used to do things that boost your character’s support levels or have other effects. You can cook meals, do chores, or go on expeditions that work just like the tea parties of Three Houses.
Three Hopes’ most interesting new feature is its world map. Each chapter has a “main mission” to complete, but in order to get there, you’ll need to conquer sections of the world map, each of which has a smaller side battle.
Claiming a section of the map also lets you claim valuable resources that can be used to upgrade your main camp, or gain Strategies that are used during main missions. These Strategies are fascinating as they let you implement unique bonuses in combat, like convincing an enemy general to defect or launching a surprise arrow attack. It’s a dynamic system that makes battles feel even more like strategic affairs.
Three Hopes feels fare more like a Fire Emblem game than a Warriors one, and even though the structure is incredibly similar to Three Houses it brings enough new to the table to feel different. Where Three Hopes has an advantage is in how it displays the scale of the war, making each battle feel like an epic conflict with thousands of soldiers. Three Hopes feels like one of the most complex Warriors games Koei Tecmo has ever made, but after a handful of hours, that’s definitely in a good way.
Fire Emblem: Three Hopes comes to Nintendo Switch June 24, 2022.