It’s hard to overstate the impact of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. It took an excellent but comparatively niche franchise and threw it into the mainstream, and did so without diluting any part of what made the series special to begin with. (Heartthrob characters and tea dates are the perfect gateway to Fire Emblem‘s rich storytelling and tactical depth, I guess—a lesson I hope every other developer learns from.) With that kind of reception, and the strong relationship Nintendo already has with Koei Tecmo, a Warriors spinoff of Three Houses seemed all but guaranteed… and it’s hard to overstate the impact of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, too.
As I write this review, just shy of two months since its launch—please forgive my tardiness!—Three Hopes has just passed the million units sold milestone, putting it on track to be one of the best-selling Warriors titles ever. And that’s for good reason: it’s everything that made Three Houses such a stand-out game, and everything that makes Warriors games as compelling as they are, mixed together in a way that elevates both aspects of that equation. Or, to put it more simply, it’s one of the best Warriors games to date (and one that easily finds space alongside Dragon Quest Heroes and Samurai Warriors 5 as my personal favourites).
The most crucial aspect of Three Houses, in my view, are the characters. Fire Emblem games have always had a rich casts with deep characterisation, but the combination of particularly stunning designs, a greater degree of intimacy in the social aspects, and the “school life” framing of the opening act helped Edelgard, Claude, Dimitri, and everyone around them really get their hooks in. That laid the foundation for a tale of war and conflict where the stakes felt higher than ever, and favourites personal.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes strikes that same balance. A new, alternate-timeline story sees events playing out a little differently, but the richness of the characters remains front and centre. Everything that made this cast so lovable in Three Houses rings true here, with similar bonding mechanics that let you get up close and personal with your favourites. At the same time, the perspective of a new protagonist—Three Houses star Byleth is still in the game, but in a very different role—you also get to see some different sides to them all.
On top of that, the very nature of a Warriors game invites a degree of intimacy that even Three Houses couldn’t match. There’s inherent sense of distance between player and character in a tactical RPG, as you command each battle from on high. In a Warriors game, by contrast, you’re right in the thick of the action, directly controlling a character (and in a sense, fighting alongside them). There’s more chance to see how personalities unfold in their movements and fighting style, and more opportunities for more dynamic on-field characterisation through battlefield chatter, partner attacks, and the like. Few genres let characters come alive like an action game, and that’s something Three Hopes absolutely capitalizes on.
That isn’t to say the combat isn’t tactical—quite the opposite. Three Hopes takes the action-strategy flourishes of any Warriors game to be heights with a particular focus on character placement and issuing commands. Even on easy difficulty, you’ll struggle if you try to just dominate a battle with one character, and even frequent switching between party members is often insufficient. Instead, using the battle map to command other characters—both inside and outside your playable party—to attack or defend certain targets, heal NPCs who are in danger, capture bases, or engage with interactive aspects of the battlefield is crucial to victory. Its Fire Emblem tactics by way of Warriors action, brilliantly combined in a way that brings out the best of both worlds.
Three Hopes also throws in a lot of other little details from the original game (and Fire Emblem more generally), like adjutants, battalions, and most importantly, the weapon triangle. It works a little differently here, in that advantages are tied to a character’s class rather than the specific weapon they’re wielding, but the general idea is the same: sword-oriented classes have an advantage over axe-oriented ones, axe classes beat lance-wielders, and so on. In practice, attacking at an advantage gives you much more effective at depleting an enemy’s stun gauge so that you can unleash a powerful “critical rush” attack. Playing to those strengths can make a big difference, and coordinating your party accordingly—both in unit selection and in how you command them mid-battle—adds another layer to the game’s already robust tactical framework.
To round out the strategic touch, there’s an element of light conquest strategy, too. It’s no Nobunaga’s Ambition, but in short, each chapter involves conquering a series of map regions—through shorter side quest battles—in order to get to the final goal and complete the chapter’s main mission. Many of these zones are necessary stepping stones towards the goal, but there are often a few that are out of the way and more optional, too. Completing these missions earns helpful resources to improve your base, and in some cases unlock strategies that can help turn things in your favour in the main mission; as such, you generally want to conquer them all. That said, leaving areas untouched has its own little perk in greater Renown earned for completing a chapter—something that’s not such a big deal in an initial playthrough, but becomes particularly relevant in New Game Plus. Again, it’s a very light touch—you don’t have to worry about regions being taken back, for instance—but it adds an interesting strategic dynamic to a game that’s already rich with them.
Individually, all these pieces are fantastic: the Warriors action is as exciting as ever, the tactical elements are satisfying and cleverly designed, the story is engrossing, and the characters are as delightful and compelling as ever. But what really sets Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes apart is how expertly it weaves them all together; a sublime blend of action, strategy, political drama, and character work that all work effortlessly in tandem. A chance to spend a few more dozen hours with Edelgard and the rest was always going to be welcome, but Three Hopes took that idea and turned it into one of the best Warriors games yet.