Fire Emblem: Three Houses First Impressions and Hopes

So Tuesday was kind of a weird day for me. I woke up at 8 a.m. because I needed to be at work by 9:30, and I also had big plans for the rest of the day. A trip that had… suddenly come up but I really wanted to go on loomed large over my shortened shift that day, and I wanted to get right to it. I got to work, worked, but then my plans were cancelled.

And, listen, plans are hard. Plans change. And that particular plan had been a pain on all sides to pin down. But still, when you fight hard to make something happen, it sucks when it all doesn’t work out. I got home crushed and oddly guilty.

Then, like a beacon of hope, my best friend frantically messaged our Fire Emblem Discord chat:

DiscordFEChat

It had finally happened. The moment we had all silently known was coming for us. It made sense, after all. We knew we were getting a main-series Fire Emblem game for the Switch ever since Nintendo did a Fire Emblem-centric Direct last January. (Yeah, it was that long ago). It seemed like now was the time to finally get news on that new game.

But then, here it was. Confirmation. A title and our first look at a game we had all been eagerly anticipating for more than a year.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

The purpose of this post is not to speculate on what this game is going to be like. We really haven’t seen enough of it for me to feel comfortable publicly speculating about features (not to say I haven’t been, our Fire Emblem Discord server has been abuzz with all sorts of “educated” guessing about this game). All we’ve really seen at this point has been a few character designs, some gameplay, and a vague hint at the story.

Regardless, I want to comment on what we have seen. And I want to use this post as a little wishlist, as it were, for what I hope to see in this game. To reiterate – these aren’t features I expect to see, but rather features I hope to see.

The Aesthetic

One of the things that I think really set “Fire Emblem: Fates” apart from the rest of its series was the attention to detail the creators gave to its setting. This was, of course, for the purpose of differentiating the two kingdoms (well, technically three, but the third kingdom less so) from each other. Nohr was gothic and European, while Hoshido was bright and Japanese-inspired.

I think the lessons learned from Fates have carried over to this new installment. While the setting of Fódlan has definitely returned to the generic European fantasy setting, I’m seeing a lot more specific influences here than have been in these types of settings in the series before. The character names all draw specific ties to different European countries, which makes me think that their respective kingdoms will perhaps draw inspiration from those same countries. For example, Edelgard is a German name, and much of the character costumes and setting we’ve seen so far evoke a German aesthetic far more than a just sorta fantasy Europe like we’ve seen.

I think that’s a great sign that this series is learning, and makes me feel like Fódlan is going to be just as interesting a setting as Nohr and Hoshido were in Fates, with its own distinct identity.

The graphics of the game, of course, must be noted as well. We knew that this game was gonna be gorgeous thanks to the improved graphics engine in the Switch, but it already looks clear, crisp, and smooth. Also, the battles are doing away with the sprites altogether for this installment, using dynamic 3D models and perspective changes instead, which is really exciting.

Finally, the art style. It’s definitely changed since Fates, but I’m a fan. I think it still evokes the storybook-esque art style I’ve come to know Fire Emblem for but puts a new spin on it. I love the focus on the characters’ eyes.

The Characters

Speaking of the characters… this is something I want to go into in more detail at a later date, but I think the one aspect of the Fire Emblem series that keeps me coming back again and again is the characters. I think this series does a fantastic job at making you feel a connection even to the least important of characters, an important thing to do when their lives are on the line (in Classic mode, that is.)

We’ve only seen a few characters so far of this new installment, and we’ve only gotten clear renders of three of them, but I wanna talk about them all.

Edelgard von Hræsvelgr

My dudes, I already love Edelgard. Based on what we’ve seen, she’s probably our main Lord character, which is the most exciting thing I could ever tell you guys. Because not only is she a female lord… she has pants! Pants! In a Fire Emblem game! Can you imagine?

I’m joking, of course, but there is a lot to be said about the exciting ways she differs from not only previous main lords we’ve seen, but also female characters we’ve seen. A big and very valid criticism of past games has focused on the way this game designs female characters with skimpy, impractical armor. So Edelgard’s very practical outfit is a breath of fresh air, design-wise.

Speaking of her design, I adore the pastels in her hair and eyes. I also am surprised at how well the lilac and pale colors of her face and hair match with the red in her outfit. It gives her a striking, regal look that I find intriguing and really makes me want to know more about her.

Plus, she’s an axe wielder, which is another interesting way she differs from most lords. We don’t know much else about her at this point, but from the way she looks and from what she’s said in the trailer, I am guessing she’s a serious, driven person. But I also can’t help but wonder if what she said about the goddess’s “crests” means she may have a rebellious streak… if that’s the case, that might be another interesting direction her character will go.


Dimitri Alexandre Bladud

He’s a string-cheese man. Yeah, okay, I know I’m just stealing all the character design memes at this point, but come on. His hair really does resemble string cheese!

We don’t know as much about Dimitri or the next characters as we do about Edelgard, but we do know that Dimitri is a lance wielder. Based on his design, he’s giving me Leo from Fates vibes, which is making me project Leo’s personality onto him. Serious, ambitious, perhaps even to a point that he may play a more antagonistic role? I have no idea because we literally know nothing about him.

Though, just as a note, it’s interesting that his surname is “Bladud” because according to Wiki (the expert on these sorts of things, of course), Bladud was the name of a Briton king who encouraged the practice of necromancy. Dimitri isn’t a magic user, but we have seen menus that suggest perhaps all the characters in this game have magic abilities. Could that mean Dimitri will have dark magics up his sleeve?

…I’m doing a really bad job of not speculating, huh?


Claude von Regan

Every time a new Fire Emblem game is announced, it kicks off a magical time in every FE fan’s life where they get to pick their next Fire Emblem husband or wife. Sure, we don’t even know yet if romantic supports are an option in this game, but that’s never stopped anyone before, right?

There’s just something about Claude… maybe it’s his lovely warm color palette, or the content smile on his face, or the textured hairstyle that sets him apart from the other trio of lords we’ve met. I don’t know. I’m smitten.

Plus! He’s a bow lord. How cool is that? I’m pretty sure this is the first time that’s ever happened in this series! Hopefully that bodes well for archers’ usefulness in this game, since that’s not always a guarantee.


Byleth/Player Character

Now onto a characters that was shown in the trailer but not given official sprite art yet. Byleth is the default name given the player character.

It appears that Byleth is going to play a teaching role to the other characters. Edelgard refers to them as “teacher” in her dialogue in the trailer. I think this is a believable and also really interesting direction to take the player character, and I’m a fan.

What I’m not a fan of, though, is Byleth’s default design. I know there’s a good chance we’ll probably be able to customize the player character like we have been able to, but even those characters we could customize – Robin and Corrin, both still had striking default designs that worked well as mascots of their respective games. Byleth, on the other hand, just kinda looks… plain.

He’s just wearing a plain dark robe, he’s got plain teal hair, he’s got weirdly mismatched blue eyes… I don’t know. It just doesn’t much appeal to me. Here’s hoping to see the female version of this design, or even some customization options, so I can get rid of this bad taste in my mouth.

The Gameplay

The next two features I’ll be discussing have very little revealed info about them, and since I really am trying not to speculate, there won’t be much to say.

Gameplay-wise, it looks like the regular battle mechanics are structurally similar to what we’ve seen before, with a few new options. Most notably are the addition of the generic soldiers fighting alongside the regular unit characters.

I’m aware that a common critique of this series is its lack of realism (You know, realism. In a series with dragons and magic. Realism).

I kid, but people have pointed out that in a series based often on grand, huge wars, the battles in these “wars” only appear to be fought by a handful of soldiers completely wiping out a usually larger but still just as tiny group of enemies. To me, this has never been a problem, because I always felt the battles in Fire Emblem represented larger, army vs. army battles. But apparently it was problem enough to address. I’m sure the mechanic will be interesting but I worry we’ll be seeing a smaller cast of actual characters because of it.

I am interested in some of the new abilities given to the fighters – in a menu on the trailer, it appears that magic abilities have been separated from weapons, possibly meaning that all characters will have some sort of magic abilities, no matter if they are a magic-using class. That’s a really interesting concept that could make use of mechanics already introduced in the games, like special abilities.

The Story

Again, we don’t know a lot about the story. It appears to involve some sort of powerful church, that probably is worshipping the goddess talked about in the trailer. Echoing what many other people have said, the goddess is probably some sort of Naga-like or draconic goddess, and there’s a good chance that the blonde/green-haired woman we see in the trailer is some sort of manifestation of this goddess.

What Edegard says to the player character in the game suggests once more some sort of conflict between this goddess figure and the main characters. There’s a lack of trust in what Edelgard says, which makes me wonder if the story might have to do with rebelling against the might of the church.

It’s still unclear whether the three lords in the game will all be on our side, or if it will be a similar situation to Fates where the player must choose a side. If that’s the case, I’m very much hoping they don’t try and do the multiple game versions again. As much as I love Fates, it’s a huge barrier for new people to enter the series if it requires buying two (or three) games just to get the whole story.

Hopes

Overall, I’m really looking forward to this game. From what we’ve seen it looks great, and it feels like it’s been all too long since I was excited about new additions to this franchise I love so dearly. I expect whatever news comes out about this game going forward will only heighten this anticipation.

I am hoping for a return of the support system. I wonder if perhaps Echoes will influence them to do away with romantic supports, but I hope they keep them, personally. I really like the freedom of choice and replayability the supports system gives these games, and I think they’re great avenues of learning more about the characters.

On a similar topic, I really hope that if the supports make a return, they are way more broadly available. I want supports between every possible character combination, and if there are romantic supports available, I want romantic supports available for every character combination (except for family members, obviously). It’s high time this franchise embrace the potential of allowing every character to interact and/or eventually fall in love with every other character, regardless of gender.

As for kids, I really actually do hope they put kids back in. I have loved the kid characters from both Awakening and Fates, and though I’m not sure they were integrated as well as they could have been into Fates, I think the character development and gameplay opportunities they grant far outweigh potential plot weirdness. Plus, with time skips, they can be easily fit into the actual plot of the game without weird “baby realms” or whatever. I won’t be heartbroken if kids don’t make a return, but I do love them as a mechanic.

And I think that’s about it! I’m not even close to done talking about this franchise, though, so keep your eyes peeled for more Fire Emblem content, especially as the release date for this game comes ever closer. Next week, I’m planning on taking a step back and observing what about this series keeps me coming back, so if you’re interested in that, I’ll see you next week!

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