‘Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes’ review: royal rumble

A thrilling combination of action, strategy and character exploration makes 'Three Hopes' one of 2022's best games

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is going to take a lot of Fire Emblem fans by surprise. A violent hack and slash spin-off may seem like the last thing Three Houses‘ strategic RPG needs, but developer Omega Force’s latest title is a near-mandatory play for any Three Houses fans.

Of course, there is one big caveat: Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes land firmly in the musuo genre popularised by Dynasty Warriors. This means that far from the series’ typical conflict resolution – polite turn-based scuffles – fighting entails mercilessly combo-ing hundreds of enemies, conquering strongholds, and besting enemy leaders in third-person combat. When you take to the battlefield, Three Hopes does an incredible job at making players feel like a ferocious force of nature: on your mission to take out high-priority targets or sweep through enemy bases, your character will casually cut down hundreds – if not thousands – of foes without batting an eye. Cutting your way out from the thick of battle is intoxicating and as each of Three Hopes‘ three initial campaigns progresses, it becomes increasingly rewarding to get to grips with each character’s skillset.

This savagery is sweetened with a deceptively deep layer of strategy. Scratching beneath the surface of Three Hopes, there are plenty of tactical options that are integral to getting a win. Before each fight, players can select which characters – most taken straight from Three Houses – they want to field and see how they will fare against the enemy’s visible units. Depending on their classes, some will be better suited to being positioned at different deployment points, while other battles will call for leaving certain classes off the board entirely.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Credit: Nintendo, Koei Tecmo.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Credit: Nintendo, Koei Tecmo.

At any moment in combat, you can direct your forces to wherever they are needed most using the in-game map. Three Hopes demands that players pay attention to each battle’s bigger picture, as while you might be an unyielding killing machine, you can’t be everywhere at once. This means you will sometimes have to trust your strategy to an underling or jump into their shoes to carry it out yourself, but both of these approaches require keeping an eye on the ebb and flow of the conflict via the map.

While Three Houses‘ tactics were all about thinking two steps ahead, Three Hopes requires quick thinking and reactive battlefield assessments. Three Hopes is a fast-paced hack and slash, but it’s the strategy that really brings each level to life: an enemy general’s spearhead could capture a vital stronghold if you’re not quick enough on sending backup, and your playable characters can meet a messy (and permanent) death if they get caught out of position. There are a thousand ways each battle can go wrong, but Three Hopes gives you every tool to come out on top – which means that when you pull off the right strategy, every hard-fought victory feels like a genuine cause for celebration.

With that said, you won’t spend every waking minute in Three Hopes chopping people to bits. Between battles, a much harder task awaits: getting people to like you. Though the monastery of Garreg Mach – the hub area of Three Houses – has been swapped out for a muddy staging ground, it’s pleasantly surprising to see just how much of Fire Emblem‘s social elements are woven into the fabric of the game. From sharing meals with allies to assigning mundane chores and taking your favourite characters out for expeditions – which are re-skinned tea parties from Three Houses – there are plenty of worthwhile opportunities to get to know this cast, who are just as charismatic and colourful as they were three years ago.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Credit: Nintendo, Koei
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Credit: Nintendo, Koei

Without spoiling anything, Three Hopes‘ plot takes these characters in a different direction to Three Houses. Besides offering up a compelling political blockbuster filled with backstabbing and plotting, the alternate timeline-style approach gives Omega Force room to show these characters in a different light. This can be a flare of previously-unseen ruthlessness, the slip of a cold exterior, or insight into relationships that previously didn’t get much screentime, with a personal highlight being more time with Hilda and her protective older brother. Even better, there are several campaigns available to play, depending on which faction you choose at the start – besides offering plenty of replayability, the difference in perspective each pathway brings makes multiple playthroughs worthwhile.

These stories are thrilling, but can sometimes lack depth. Reflections on the cost of war and value of human life are cheapened when you murder-romp through thousands of soldiers every five minutes, and one or two twists are hammy enough to feel like lost Attitude-era WWE scripts. Additionally, nearly all of the students you encounter in each battle can be spared and recruited for your own cause, which diminishes the emotional impact that fighting former friends should entail.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Credit: Nintendo, Koei Tecmo.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Credit: Nintendo, Koei Tecmo.

On the topic of faults, there were also some issues with performance – luckily, this only seemed to turn up in larger main quest battles. Framerate can plummet when there are too many characters getting battered on screen and although it’s never bad enough to seriously hinder the experience, it can make dodging attacks and inputting combos tricky.

In the face of Three Hopes‘ considerable highs, these problems don’t come close to being dealbreakers. From the outset, Three Hopes might look like a mismatched spin-off, but the heart of Koei Tecmo is alive and beating in this outstanding adventure.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes launches on June 24 for Nintendo Switch.

The Verdict

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a terrific home run for Omega Force. Whether this is your first foray into Fire Emblem or you’ve spent the last three years romancing every character in Three Houses, this mix of blood-pumping action and thoughtful strategy means you’re in for a treat.

Pros

  • Fast-paced hack and slash is elevated by an engaging tactical side
  • A charismatic cast of heroes and villains
  • Magnificently metal soundtrack

Cons

  • Bigger quests can suffer from minor lag
  • Not every story beat hits the mark
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