In 2019, I obsessively sunk hundreds of hours into Fire Emblem: Three Houses, doing runs with the Black Eagles, Golden Deer, and Blue Lions squads. I loved strategizing over the game’s turn-based combat, but I absolutely lived for the Garreg Mach Monastery segments, where I took Dorothea (and her dumb little hat) to choir practice, talked about napping in the library with bisexual icon Linhardt, and attempted to entertain my greasy son Hubert over tea. I often spent combat time trying to boost support relationships in order to enjoy new dialogue scenes — even if it meant the battles themselves didn’t go as well as they could have.
So far, I’ve played Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes the same way. In the lead-up, I slurped up all of the character design trailers, and once I got my grubby little hands on the game, I immediately dug into character rosters. I’ve since pored over Reddit, combing through others’ arguments over the ways characters have changed, and which cutscenes were the most rewarding to work toward. (Will Claude tell Hilda she can grasp his neck in this one? We can only hope.) I’ve since mapped out my approach for which relationships I’d like to foster, plus who I think should be friends, and who I’d try to set up — with a little actual combat strategy on the side. I have not one regret.
In Three Hopes, you play as a mercenary named Shez who becomes a student — a relief after playing as a teacher in Three Houses and trying not to be a massive creep. Three Hopes’ time jump happens much earlier than in its turn-based predecessor, though, setting the game at a base camp rather than Garreg Mach Monastery. Luckily, you can still do a lot of relationship building through camp activities. I’ve shared meals with Bernie and Petra and assigned Ferdinand to wonderfully dorky camp chores like horse tending, document organizing, and equipment managing. As in Three Houses, I’ve enjoyed collecting as many support conversations as possible, before lavishing myself with an hour of unmitigated dialogue content. Characters fight, flirt, pine, and share a lot of personal history.
I’ve also learned to love expeditions — definitely dates — even more than Three Houses’ tea times. Three Hopes leans into what made these interactions a delight by simply making them longer. During an expedition you go on horseback to a beautiful (read: romantic) location, have a “pleasant stroll,” and plop down onto a picnic blanket to answer questions. If all goes well, you get to “observe” your expedition partner, which the game notes you should do “respectfully, of course.” It’s a great way to learn more about characters’ personalities. And it’s also a great way to date Claude specifically. Not that I have preferences.
These features are a boon, especially considering that the combat portions of the Musou game have made me motion sick more than once. I’ve worked around it by setting the game to “casual” (to avoid permadeath), and then focusing on base tactics and assigning combatants to individual enemies. But even within these limitations, I still make a point to pair up students in order to improve their support levels with each other — because I only want one thing, and it’s disgusting. I want to be everyone’s friend, and I also want to set everyone up with one another. Nothing will stop me. Not even my own nausea.
Three Houses made me into a person who spends hours poring over wikis to determine characters’ favorite gifts and meals. And Three Hopes already has me watching YouTube videos of dialogue exchanges, and then shaping my own recruitment efforts around getting to those tidbits. I plan on playing with the Blue Lions next just because of the internet sleuthing I’ve done — from learning Dimitri had to swim in full armor for combat training to a number of excellent Felix and Sylvain cutscenes. Three Houses taught me, more than anything, to be prepared.