Each blow from my sword vanquishes more than a dozen enemy soldiers, but my forces are scattered across the battlefield as enemy reinforcements arrive in droves.
Luckily, I have the perfect stratagem that I uncovered before the battle, which should help give me the edge I need to claim victory.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes feels much more like a mainline entry in the franchise than a spinoff. This is far and away the most ambitious “Warriors” game ever made, and so much of that ambition pays off in phenomenal ways. In fact, Three Hopes is an even more satisfying experience than the game it’s based on, Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Essentially an alternate retelling of Three Houses, Three Hopes stars a brand new character — a mercenary named Shez whose body, like Byleth’s, is home to a mysterious and powerful being named Arval. After a brief prologue, Shez joins the Officer’s Academy at Garreg Mach Monastery, and you choose which of the three houses you want to join, which once again means three different stories to experience. Unexpectedly, each of those stories sees Byleth propped up as a major villain, and Shez’s main goal is destroy them.
My expectations were lowest for the story of Three Hopes, but it’s also where the game impressed me the most. Unlike Three Houses, this game virtually skips over the cast’s student years at Garreg Mach and instead focuses on the massive war between the nations of Fodlan. This game isn’t bogged down by all the lore and origin stories present in Three Houses. Such freedom allows it to tell a gripping story of warfare and the people whose lives are inextricably changed by it.
Three Hopes does a phenomenal job of further fleshing out Fodlan and war’s impact on it while still offering plenty of time with a wealth of new and familiar characters. Shez is a surprisingly likable hero, a happy-go-lucky mercenary with a heart of gold and a sharp sense of humor. It was a great choice to have Shez fully voiced — it gives the character much more agency than Byleth in Three Houses. Make no mistake, this story is every bit as detailed and lengthy as what you find in Three Houses — a single playthrough of one route took me roughly 60 hours.
Three Hopes’ systems are every bit as robust as Three Houses, with a huge assortment of options for customizing your units and base camp. Each chapter shows a number of regions on the world map, and each region has one battle to play through, and once you’ve beaten that battle, you can interact with spots of interest in that region for various effects, like gaining materials or a rare item.
Between battles, you’ll explore your base camp, home to all of your units and a variety of facilities, like a Training Yard and Blacksmith. Although not as complex as Three Houses, there are social elements in Three Houses, and raising character’s support levels grants bonuses in combat and support conversations. You can do chores with your allies, cook meals, give presents, and go on expeditions that function exactly like Three Houses’ tea parties.
Each facility in your camp can be upgraded using materials, unlocking new and better options, such as allowing more units to train and receive class experience at once. Instead of each character having a different moveset, Three Houses instead uses a similar class system to that of Three Houses. Any character can use any class if they’ve unlocked it, but each character has their own unique ability (or abilities) and special attack. Characters rank up classes and proceed through a class tree by using Seals, and new jobs unlock higher stats, extra abilities, new weapon abilities, and more.
There’s a staggering number of ways to customize each character between the variety of classes, dozens of weapon abilities, upgradeable weapons, class abilities, and tactics. It’s important to consider each and every character, as you’ll need to use up to eight of them in the main battles.
Battles feels far more dynamic and tactical than the first Fire Emblem Warriors, and though the game never feels particularly hard, missions are satisfying and memorable because they require you to juggle multiple objectives at once. It’s absolutely essential that you keep in mind what classes have advantages over others — the battles are utterly massive and you simply can’t do everything yourself. Three Hopes really leans into Fire Emblem elements rather than the straight hack-and-slashing of Warriors games, and it pays off enormously. (If you want an even deeper dive into Three Hopes’ combat, you can read our preview of the game.)
Too much of a good thing
The only weak point of Three Hopes is that it feels a bit too padded. You’ll play through different regions on the world map in each chapter, but these chapters get bogged down by formulaic battles and side missions that pale in comparison to the main missions and paralogues.
As you make your way through various regions, you’ll unlock Stratagems and Strategy Resources, which are used in the main battle of each chapter. During the preparation screen, you’ll pick the Stratagems you want, such as convincing an enemy general to defect, periodically spawning reinforcements, or even mission-specific events like building a bridge.
Main missions are fantastically designed, consistently offering unique elements or challenges. One of my favorite missions in the Golden Wildfire route had my army rushing to capture enemy strongholds to cut off the enemy general before he could escape. While story and gameplay come together in exhilarating ways during the main missions, it’s a shame that you have to grind through dozens of mindless battles along the way.
Three Hopes’ presentation elevated the experience. The game clearly uses the same engine as Three Houses but it runs incredibly well. Past Warriors games, even the recent Age of Calamity, consistently suffer from slowdown and technical hiccups. Yet Three Hopes runs like an absolute dream — even in handheld mode, I experienced almost no slowdown whatsoever, even in moments with dozens of enemy units and a flurry of visual effects. It makes the already quick gameplay of Three Hopes feel even faster, and the over-the-top animations add a layer of visual spectacle.
I’d absolutely be remiss to not also mention Three Hopes’ soundtrack, which in Koei Tecmo fashion brings an electric guitar slant to the music of Three Houses. The tunes really add to the intensity of battles, and there’s a small little detail I absolutely love. During battle, the rock versions of songs play, but whenever you pause and open the map screen, the music seamlessly reverts to the original Three Houses version. It makes the strategy of the game feel even more important.
As someone that thoroughly enjoyed my 200 hours with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, I never expected Three Hopes to meet, let alone surpass that experience — but it does. Three Hopes’ systems all coalesce into something truly special, and the war-driven story allows the world and characters to shine their brightest. Though it could do with less padding, Three Hopes represents Koei Tecmo firing on all cylinders, and it’s easily another title to add to the growing list of essential Switch games.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes will be released on June 24 for Nintendo Switch.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.
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