A Surprisingly Fresh New Start: Thoughts After a First Play-through of Fire Emblem Three Houses

Fire Emblem Three Houses is the hottest new success from Nintendo’s line-up and as a old time fan, it has been a pleasure to see the series evolve. When the series first reached mainstream appeal with Fire Emblem Awakening, the game introduced a series of Quality-of-Life Chances to remedy the slow and repetitive nature of these turn-based strategy games, and adding a fun way to make their “Supports” system more meaningful by allowing for children to result from support pairings. The next entries from there on seemed to inhabit an identity crisis, with the Fates line-up doubling down on the Support system, unique effects and side activities, and Shadows of Valentia focusing on character builds and added new experiences to the classic formula, Three Houses feels like the culmination of their lessons and efforts for this last year and a return to form all the same, combining both accessibility, with having much less abusable mechanics. Adding in an almost Persona-like balance of gameplay acting as refreshers between each chapter’s step into the story.

So while the fresh slice of life mechanics where extremely charming at first, as the endgame neared, I found myself less intrigued by it, it was definitely becoming less meaningful as all your characters where already in the positions you wanted them to be in. The professor and teaching systems became less valuable as you were needing them less and less and time went on. Making the time between missions more of a chore than meaningful character building. As I heard that the first act of the game between all the three play-throughs were very similar, only really differing at the second act, I was disheartened that maybe the game would have lost it value as you would have to do the activities that I had grown to dislike once again.

The traditional level grind has been remedied by taking on a teachers role

I clocked in about 62 hours in my first play-through with the Golden Deer, and began my second play-through with the Black Eagles and I can happily report that the magic still retains. I was surprised to say the least that the game remains to still be engaging even after playing the game to a pulp.

I was expecting to be discouraged to have to revisit those activities that I have skimmed across for the last quarter of the game, but really it kept its charm, the thrill of growth and discovery of your new units still remained and despite roughly 62 hours in, the game still managed to make the same mechanics fresh again. With this I felt as if the series finally discovered the balance that its resurgence has been seeking for. Awakening introduced a polished experience, but was too abusable, with Fates leaning in too hard into these same formula but lead to a series of bad decisions that just served to hinder the experience. Three Houses is already the game that Fates tried to be but without the growing pains. It may leave some of the hardcore strategy fans wanting more, but its undeniable, the marriage between the strategy and slice of life has been ordained.

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