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Fire Emblem: Three Houses Review – Study Hall

Fire Emblem: Three Houses challenges many of you. Each part, from combat to friendships to the training of your units, must be managed individually and as part of a whole. It can be intimidating, but if everything fits together, then it really clicks . As a professor, mastering the art of a well thought-out lesson plan will improve your performance on the battlefield, where success depends on calculated teamwork and skillful execution. Maintaining relationships during combat brings you closer to the characters you want to spend more time in the classroom. Each piece moves on to the next one in a rewarding, deepening loop, where you lose yourself in the whole experience, not just in the little things.

Three houses accuse you of being a mercenary, whom you encounter while you are on mission with a group of teenagers. After a brief introduction and a combat tutorial that you should not need, since you seem to be already an established mercenary, but we are dealing with it ̵

1; learn that they are students of the Garreg Mach Monastery. Each of them leads one of the school's three houses: Black Eagles, Blue Lions or Golden Deer. At the behest of the Archbishop of the Church, who in any case spreads vile whims but is also a gentle mother figure, you eventually become a professor and have to decide which of the houses you should run. The setup is very puzzling and indicates that something is wrong. One can easily focus on finding out what the archbishop and various shady characters are aiming for.

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Your main job as a professor is to instruct your students in combat matters and to prepare them for battle stories at the end of each month. Battles in Three Houses offer the same turn-based tactical combat at the heart of the series, but with some changes. The classic weapon triangle was downplayed in favor of the martial arts, which have been slightly changed from their introduction to the Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. Martial arts are attacks that are tied to a weapon type and can increase the attack power of a unit at the expense of weapon durability. Some are effective against certain enemy types, such as armored units. You can also unlock abilities outside the martial arts that give you better values ​​with certain weapons, such as: For example, a greater boost to the use of an ax against a lance user, similar to the old weapon triangle. It's the same complexity that the series is known for, but less abstracted, which makes strategizing a little easier without losing depth.

One of the great additions to the battle are battalions, mini-armies that you can equip and that provide a unit of combat advantage. They also give you a new kind of attack, called Gambit, which is battalion-type-magically focused, brute, and so on-and stuns the enemies it hits. Gambits are of limited use and can be incredibly powerful against the right enemies. You can increase the effectiveness of a Gambit even further if one or more of your other units are within range of the target. This is a proven Fire Emblem concept that applies to all types of attacks. There is also an anime-style splash screen where you attack and every character involved in the gambit looks fierce.

How often you use Combat Arts and Gambits depends on the level of difficulty you are in. On a normal difficulty level, well-trained units can eliminate most opponents with one or two hits without the help of Combat Arts or Gambits. On Heavy, however, your opponents will hit harder and better resist your attacks. You need to think much more carefully about the placement of units, the best time to use a Gambit and use its stun effect, and how many martial arts you can fire before your weapon breaks. It's going to be exciting here; After a few careful rounds, you can (hopefully) turn off tons of enemies when your plans come into effect.

Some of the early game cards and the optional Battle Cards are open spaces that you do not have to think too hard, especially on Normal. However, the Story Battles offer a variety of card layouts – from pirate ships to a seemingly lava-filled cave – where you need to think about where your units will be in the next turn and in multiple moves. Many of them have different routes, enemies coming at you from different angles, optional treasures that you can hunt, and other quirks that require you to split your group or change your equipped classes to suit the situation. Thieves can, for example, open chests and doors without a key, while flying units do not suffer any damage from the ground that is on fire.

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The depth of the strategy in these elements really radiates on the Hard difficulty level. But above all in connection with Divine Pulse, another ability that can only be used to a limited extent. With Divine Pulse, you can rewind the time to repeat all or part of the fight, usually when one of your units dies. Rewinding with Divine Pulse shows how important the placement of units and the selection of attacks can be, as even minor changes can affect or interrupt the encounter. It's also just a nice quality of life feature when playing in classic mode, where units that die in combat are lost forever and can no longer fight or train. You can still do a soft reset from time to time, but it's great if you can fix a bug right away and look forward to instant gratification when the task is well done.

Fighting is of course only part of life in the monastery. The backbone of Three Houses is the monthly school calendar. If you enjoy organizing things, planning ahead or attending school in general, this can be the most exciting part. On Sundays, there are free time activities that you can use in four ways: exploring the monastery, participating in secondary battles, holding a seminar to improve your students' skills, or time off. Monday is a lesson where students are selected from a list and some of their skills are selected to improve them. The rest of the week passes automatically, with a professor's sprite going through the calendar, occasionally stopping because of random events or story cut-scenes. It sounds a bit uncomplicated, but there is a lot to think about, and the structure from week to week rather than day to day keeps things moving and you never have to wait too long to make progress.

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The predictable structure of each month – and the fact that you can see the entire monthly plan with pre-listed events – provides the foundation for effective planning. All of the time management can be overwhelming, at least at first sight. You'll need to keep track of your students' abilities and learning goals, their own abilities, all student inventory and various other displays and menus as you plan forthcoming lessons and fights. But you are confronted with an almost constant stream of positive reinforcement as these counters fill up week by week and your students improve their skills. They always move on to the next: the next level, the next skill you need to develop, the next month, and what may develop.

To complement this, your activities in exploring the monastery (and how many) battles you can participate in are limited by activity points. The higher your "professor level", the better it gets. This means that you must balance activities that improve your professor's level with activities that help your students grow. Activity points also keep the month moving at a healthy pace, and you do not spend too long on a Sunday. Seminars and days of rest only devour the whole day without consideration of activity points that can resolve the more complicated weeks and provide their own benefits.

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How to set your spending Your time also depends on how motivated your students are to learn. Each of your students has a motivational indicator that is exhausted when you instruct them. He can not be taught again until you interact with him and restore his motivation. You can do this most effectively by exploring the monastery – where you talk to different characters, give gifts, and share time with them – while fighting rarely increases motivation. While you can skip many parts of school life and even automate the lesson, you will not get the best results. You are directly at a disadvantage in combat if you do not give your students the time they want.

As with all recent Fire Emblem games, it is the glue that prevents you from investing in your units and their relationships all the experience together. It is incredibly effective in Three Houses, where your direct involvement in almost all aspects of a unit's growth course gives you a special share in its success. After spending time and effort to help a character reach his full potential, you are not only content when winning a fight – you are proud. And the more you invest in someone-emotionally as well as through months of lesson plans and instruction-the more cautious you will be to endanger them, and the more you will work to develop a solid fighting strategy.

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Considering that you are a teacher, it is rather good than disappointing that there is almost no romance that you can talk about. Some students are flirtatious, but mainly foster comradeship rather than playing matchmaker or romanticizing themselves. When you unlock new levels of support with different characters – both interacting with them in the convent and teamworking in battles – you get cutscenes that they work out even more intensely. Some are charming, carefree conversations between two friends, while many of them give you insight into more serious matters – a father forcing his daughter to marry, discrimination within the monastery, the dark reason for a person's high ambitions. For the most part, each support conversation is just part of who a character is, and as you slowly build up support levels over time, you begin to uncover the full picture of each person. As a result, progress is rewarded with learning more about each character and their place in the convent, as well as the level bars that keep ticking up.

Each NPC is fully voiced in both English and Japanese. That brings a lot of life in the short support talks. Disappointingly, the professor is silent. They have a voice – they sometimes say a line when improving or improving a skill – but in cutscenes and when they talk to students and faculty, they just nod or shake their heads flat. For conversations, there are short dialogue options, but one or two sentences with subtitles can be replaced by the professor, leaving only the reaction of the other character. However, characters refer to the personality of the professor and how they appear in the course of the game, which is strange when you consider that they mostly nod at things. This creates a certain distance between you and the characters you connect to. This is a missed opportunity in a game where the protagonist has a different look, personality, and background story.

It's not hard to like many characters. even though. They entice you with anime archetypes – the lady-man, the brutal prince, the awkward but well-intentioned girl – and surprise with more nuances below the surface. Some of the funniest scenes from the beginning are Bernadetta, a staging with extreme reactions to normal social situations, but their inner life is much darker and more complicated than those early conversations. You might discover a character that you thought was one of your favorites, or slowly stop using a less than preferred character in combat. You also have the opportunity to have tea with someone. You have to choose the topics of conversation to your knowledge and arrange a sim style. Knowing which topics you will like is actually much more difficult than it sounds, and successfully speaking with a favorite character – even though the tea setup may be a bit inconvenient in practice – is a small win.

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The campaign of a house feels different, but not so different, that one seems to be much better than the other. Each house has a mix of personalities and abilities, and all have their own advantages and disadvantages. Students from different homes can also make friends, and you can eventually attract students from other homes. Instead of repeating yourself, a second round of recruitment gives you access to various relationship combinations. You can see another page of one character through another set of support interviews. And while the overall configuration of the game in the three houses is largely the same, each one has its own network of B-plots, and the second half of the game will look very different, depending on who you are with and what decisions you made.

The first half concerns the church, its secrets and the fact that the professor knows very little about their own identity. As the bottom loop of each month brings you forward, as does the promise to know the truth about something, whether it's the reason the archbishop wanted you to be a teacher or a suspected masked person. These threads, however, remain fairly open after at least one and a half play through. Each route has different details, and so far it has been a long process to put it all together.

Knowing more about each character and their place in the convent is a reward for progress as well as for the level bars that tick Always up when you leave.

After a five-year leap in time, you enter the "war phase" of the game. While the structure of the game is the same – you even assign your units as you still need to train for combat – the focus shifts to the house-specific stories. They involve a lot of difficult decisions, turning old friends into enemies, people you do not want to kill, and students who have changed despite or because of your leadership. Late game battles are especially challenging, with higher stakes and multi-lane layouts that require a lot of care. Success in these fights is incredibly rewarding as you invest tens of hours in your students to achieve a crescendo, but they are bittersweet in context.

When all was said and done, I could only think of starting another playthrough. Of course I was curious about the unsolved riddles, but I also hoped to undo my mistakes. There were characters I did not talk to enough, students I did not recruit, and far more effective methods of training my units. A second round is known at the beginning, but also feels fresh after learning and growing so much in the first. That speaks to the mechanical complexity and depth of Three Houses, as well as the connections it maintains with its characters – and whether you manage inventories or battlegrounds, it's the kind of game that's hard to beat even after the end.

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