Fire Emblem: Three Houses is straight fire on Nintendo Switch. All hail, Edelgard!

When details on Fire Emblem: Three Houses were first released by Nintendo, I honestly didn’t know which house I’d swear my allegiance to. I suggested to my editor that I needed to research the topic a bit further before making my decision for this review, and he allowed me to do so. As I weighed my options, I learned that the studious Edelgard would have taken a similar route before plotting a course of action. At that point, I knew I had to select the axe-wielding heir and her house the Black Eagles—a popular destination for nobles from The Adrestian Empire.

This was the first of many difficult decisions that Fire Emblem: Three Houses placed in front of me. As I learned, therein lies the beauty of the latest Fire Emblem game: your choices deeply matter. Had I chosen to side with Dimitri and the Blue Lions or Claude and the Golden Deer, then my adventure would have changed drastically. From small decisions to large, each choice matters when you inevitably enter the battlefield. And the battlefield is where everything is ultimately settled.

Siding with Edelgard and The Adrestian Empire lead led to a thrilling story filled with twists and turns. I made this decision as a new character named Byleth, who is introduced in Three Houses as a player-controlled mercenary with a murky past. Like past games, the main player character can be lightly customized through selecting a name (Byleth being the default) and gender. The relationship you hold with Edelgard can alter drastically as her motives and plans shift throughout the story.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses Info

  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developers: Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo
  • Genre: Strategy RPG
  • Modes: Single-player
  • ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

The relationships

Hello, Professor

Byleth first meets their future comrades after becoming a professor at the Garreg Mach Monastery. This is where the scene is set for your playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. You’ll teach members in the Black Eagle house and influence everything from their combat strengths to their romantic relationships. Heck, you can even persuade members from other houses to join you if they respect your skills enough. The shape your forces take and the relationships you make all start at the monastery.

You can tweak the capabilities of your allies through events that unfold on a weekly basis. Here, you are granted side quests and a limited number of activity points as you wander the campus and engage in activities. There’s a real strategy in deciding how to balance your time between cultivating relationships and building Byleth’s skills. Between tea time and training sessions, your time management skills are put to the test as you grow with those around you!

With that said, the interactions wouldn’t be so gripping if the developers at Intelligent Systems hadn’t placed such an emphasis on voice acting. Giving each character a voice elevates their personalities substantially and makes each interaction that much more enjoyable. Not only did I get to see Edelgard shine in cutscenes, but every alternate path led to dialogue that further shaped her character. Past Fire Emblem games have featured limited voice acting, but having every interaction fully-voiced gives a new dimension to the story. Plus, it makes it so much sadder if and when a beloved character dies.

Screenshot of castle grounds from Fire Emblem 3 Houses Golden Deer video game

The gameplay

Black Eagles

Despite Three Houses being the first home console iteration of Fire Emblem since 2007’s Radiant Dawn on Wii, the turn-based action of the series remains intact. You will still take turns moving your units into strategic positions, with various Combat Arts and weapons holding advantages over others. However, the major change made by Intelligent Systems is the removal of the Lance-Axe-Sword triangle. Instead, units are now more useful with certain weapons based on their skills. Yes, the same skills taught to them by you and further polished on the battlefield.

The gameplay is also made more thrilling by enabling the franchise’s trademark permadeath option. There is also a way to prevent your favourite unit from meeting an untimely demise through a new ability called Divine Pulse. The power features limited uses so that you’re unable to spam it, but you’re able to rewind time to rethink moves that led to the passing of an ally. This makes the adventure more forgiving than past installments and removes the need to reset your game when someone bites the dust. If that challenge sounds unappealing, then Three Houses also offers a Casual mode so that none of your units perish upon defeat. Of course, this only lends itself to battles outside of cutscenes or narrative arcs.

The final major addition to Fire Emblems: Three Houses‘ combat is Battalions. These groups of militia will surround characters that have built up enough Authority and they can be used with devastating efficiency. They also help to cover weaknesses of a given unit, while simultaneously giving them the chance to inflict damage without risking their lives. Battalions need to be replenished after use, but they are life-saving mechanics that can change the tide of a battle.

Byleth and Pirate fighting in Fire Emblem 3 Houses Black Eagles video game

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a fantastic evolution of the series

Final Thoughts

Fire Emblem: Three Houses delivers on everything that fans had hoped for. The quality of life changes in the turn-based battle mechanics (i.e. the removal of the weapon triangle) make for a nice upgrade to the longstanding formula. The additions of Battalions and the Divine Pulse also both make the adventure more accessible to newcomers. There’s enough content in this game that it can take upwards 80 hours to finish a single playthrough, so there’s ample replayability for anyone that wants to see all sides of this story.

The battles are engaging and lead to some white-knuckle moments if permadeath is enabled, but there’s so much more to Three Houses this time around than just the next battle. The real enjoyment I experienced came from interacting with the students of the Black Eagle house. Each character is filled with personality and every interaction shows you a different side to them as you better acquaint yourselves over time. It’s this ability to bond through fully-voiced dialogue that makes the fear of losing them so prevalent during the adventure.

Edelgard’s Black Eagles is an engaging route that you should take if you want a road filled with intrigue, betrayal and action. Siding with The Adrestian Empire shines a whole new light on the events of the game, and at times you may even question your allegiance. At the end of the day, there can only be one ruler of Fódlan and Edelgard is the right choice… at least for your first playthrough.

Birds eye view of battleground in Fire Emblem 3 Houses Black Eagles video game

Fire Emblem: Three Houses – Pros:

  • Ample replayability as a result of all the choices you can make.
  • Smart accessibility additions to gameplay like Divine Pulse and Battalions.
  • Fully voiced dialogue for every interaction.
  • Customizing your units and preparing them for war is a blast.
  • Plenty of side quests that further flesh out the world.
  • An engaging storyline that will have you guessing “what’s next” until the very end.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses – Cons:

  • The Garreg Mach Monastery is a little bland in its design (and you spend a lot of time there).
  • Claude isn’t Edelgard.
  • Dimitri isn’t Edelgard.

Game score:

  • Gameplay: 9/10
  • Graphics: 8/10
  • Sound: 9/10
  • Replayability: 10/10

Overall Rating:

36/40 (90%)