Although Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a spin-off to 2019’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the game is a bit of an odd sibling. The series’ slow-burn turn-based combat has been traded in for an intense third-person hack and slash experience, and Three Houses‘ gorgeous soundtrack has been bolstered with some searing guitar covers. It’s nothing new – Nintendo published the first Fire Emblem Warriors back in 2017 – but for fresh fans coming over from the success of Three Houses, it’s sure to be a surprise.
However, the real surprise doesn’t lie in Three Hopes‘ differences – it’s how much this fast-paced thrill manages to retain from Three Houses. The most obvious connection is that both games share the same cast, with a few welcome additions. This time around you’re playing as plucky mercenary Shez, who is invited to join one of Garreg Mach Monastery’s three student houses and build rapport with their classmates.
Whether you’re itching to revisit your favourite characters or you can’t tell Claude from Edelgard, Three Hopes boasts a colourful and charismatic cast that’s a pleasure to become acquainted with between battles. Along with the game’s cast, Three Houses‘ delightful bonding system also made it across to Three Hopes in peak condition – when you’re not mercilessly cutting down your enemies, you’ll be spending quality time sharing meals or training with friends. These quieter bonding moments serve as wholesome palate cleansers that help steer Three Hopes‘ campaign away from feeling stale, and will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played Persona 5 Strikers, which transported another turn-based RPG into hack and slash territory in a very similar manner.
While fighting consists of taking on thousands of troops in combo-based combat, each level in Three Hopes is a plate-spinning exercise that requires you keep an eye on the battle’s bigger picture. This often means pulling up a full-screen map to command your forces and see where you’re needed most: you can individually order each officer (all characters from Three Houses) to defend key points or fight for an objective, or you can issue generic orders such as an all-out assault to send every available unit in for the kill. When each level ramps up and victory hinges on the success of a plucky attack or last-minute defence, there’s a giddy thrill to pulling off your master plan like a Joy-Con-toting Hannibal, and the strategic layer gels nicely with Three Hopes‘ intense combat.
While a mind for strategy can take you far, make no mistake: this is still primarily a hack and slash title, and that’s exactly what you’ll need to do to win the day. As with other Musou games (Hyrule Warriors, Dynasty Warriors), Three Hopes‘ levels involve fighting your way through thousands of soldiers to dispatch high-value targets and capture strongholds on the battlefield. Though Three Houses doesn’t experiment with that formula too much, each playable character you can cycle between has a unique combat style that’s better suited to different situations – for example, archers will make short work of flying troops, which in turn will quickly dispatch of heavier melee-oriented characters. Not only is another great sample of Three Houses‘ compelling mash-up of action and strategy, it’s enough to prevent battles from getting boring.
When you’re cutting down endless warriors, heavy metal competing with the roar of battle for your ears’ attention, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes can feel like an offshoot fever dream of Doom. Combined with a surprisingly compatible strategic layer, Three Hopes is shaping up to be a satisfying second serving for Fire Emblem fans, one that newcomers will have no issue enjoying without any prior knowledge.