We had been looking forward to the release of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, and when it launched last week we jumped right into it for a review – it’s a Switch exclusive, and we tested in both handheld and big screen modes.
When you look at Omega Force as a developer, they’re one of the closest things to a first party developer you can get on the Nintendo Switch. They’re not, but outside of Nintendo themselves they’ve been responsible for some top exclusives for the system, with games like Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem Warriors. Sure, they all stick to Omega Force’s roots as a musou specialist, but they’re some of the most ambitious projects for the Switch and a big reason why we were looking forward to Three Hopes.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes casts you as a young mercenary whose fellow warriors have been slain by an antagonist called Geralt (no, not that one). This goes against the mercenary code of honor, which prompts a powerful being called Arval to side with you in your quest for vengeance, which leads you past the owners of the three great houses who own the majority of the world you live in. The Garreg Mach Monastery holds a neutral position as a training ground, and will be the location where you get stronger and more powerful.
You’ll eventually align yourself with one of the three houses, and of course a large scale war erupts – one where the monastery is claimed and becomes a major source of conflict. You’ll evolve to role of army commander in this war, but at the same time you still have your personal quest to fulfill. The end result is a nice mix of a grand story of war and betrayal on a large scale and personal developments with characters you meet along the way.
You can play the game through a “classic mode” or a “casual mode”, which isn’t just a matter of difficulty. Classic retains the old mechanics of Warriors games where your heroes permanently die when they fall in battle and need rest in between them, so troop management is important. If you don’t want to bother with that then you can just play in the casual mode – which despite the name you can play with fairly challenging combat settings.
At its core, Three Hopes is very much like other musou titles from Omega Force. You head into battle with a small group of warriors and try to take down hundreds or even thousands of enemy soldiers on the battlefield though hack and slash gameplay, while also claiming key locations on the battlefield by clearing it of enemies. While this can still get repetitive, more recent games in the genre have specific mission objectives, which can range from claiming a certain number of spots on the map to taking out a strong enemy general, as well as smaller (optional) objectives that bring extra rewards if you choose to complete them.
But while the genre always gets associated with the battlefield, there’s plenty to do outside of that as well. Your base is home to countless little stores and workshops where you can engage in trading, buying upgrades and crafting with the resources you’ve gathered on your travels – providing an incentive to go for those optional objectives. What’s also a fun thing to do when at your base is the option to take care of your troops by feeding them or tending to the horses. These tasks may seem like busywork, but the rewards are loyalty and happiness, which goes a long way on the battlefield. You can also train your troops while at the base, strengthening the special skills associated with their character class or upgrading them – but besides the obvious advantages this also has a social benefit, improving relationships between your forces. It may not be what every musou-fan looks for, but all this adds a nice extra layer to the gameplay.
Visually, Three Hopes looks great, especially during close-ups and quiet scenes. We love the visual design and style that’s on display, which isn’t too different from the latest Hyrule Warriors game we reviewed with its anime-styled characters, and obviously doesn’t stray too far from Fire Emblem: Three Houses either. Thing take a turn for the worse once you engage in combat though, especially in handheld mode, where the resolution drops in order to maintain a decent performance level. Things look better in docked mode, but although the game targets a consistent 30 frames per second it has noticeably frame drops – both on the battlefield when things get busy and in your busy when there’s a lot on screen at once.
It’s a shame for an otherwise impressive presentation layer, which also features both an English and a Japanese dub and a sweeping soundtrack. And with solid musou mechanics, an engaging story and lots to do outside of the battles, this is an easy recommendation, even though we’re keeping our fingers crossed for a performance patch.
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