I finally finished Fire Emblem Three Houses! While I stand by a lot of what I said in my initial impressions video, I have a lot more thoughts on the game now that I’ve finished my first playthrough. It took me around 70 hours or so to finish, and this will focus on more spoilery things that happened beyond those initial impressions.
So here’s your SPOILER WARNING!
Even after 70 hours, I still enjoyed Fire Emblem Three Houses’ characters and turn-based, tactical combat. However, a lot of the rest of the game started feeling long in the tooth. As I was getting toward the end, I was ready to move from big story battle and meaningful cutscene to the next big story battle and meaningful cutscene much faster than the game was allowing.
However, in between these big story battles, the game still proceeded with its standard weekly/monthly structure of allowing you to explore the monastery, have conversations and try to teach your students to become better in their chosen form of combat.
I certainly reached a point where I had completed all the meaningful character interactions that I wanted, but still had tons of time to burn. So I tried to create more pairings in activities to see if I could get other interactions between characters who hadn’t spent much time together yet. It started feeling more tedious the longer it went on. I’m sure I didn’t spend the time in between major story battles most efficiently for building up my characters and their combat abilities, but much of the monastery exploration started feeling like cruft preventing me from getting to that next important story beat.
Each month you have to spend time interacting with characters at the monastery, but these interactions play out in normal conversation or static animations. The other thing you have to do every month is teach your students, which by the end, I also grew tired of. I got to the point where I was just letting the game do all of it for me automatically.
Fire Emblem Three Houses’ greatest weakness is its lack of true side quests and other activities to partake in while at the monastery. The activities that use energy are limited to eating a meal (with two students of your choice), choir practice (again with two students of your choice), a monthly combat tournament, and asking for special training in a particular area of combat (which doesn’t involve an animation or mini game, just clicking a button to take your XP and move on).
In my initial impressions video I defended Fire Emblem Three Houses’ rather lackluster visuals due to how much game there was and how little the Switch it’s running on is. And to an extent, I still hold that that’s likely true. Yet the game could have done a better job of pacing the big story beats, cutting down on some of the repetitive cruft, and giving us a few more engaging activities to take part in while at the monastery. I mean even a simple card game where you could challenge yourself against a few characters of your choice would have added some variety to the mix while allowing you to continue getting to know your students.
At around the halfway point in the game, the three main houses, that had been living and learning together at the monastery, have suddenly gone to war with each other. The decision seems to be due to the rather sudden actions of Edelgard (the leader of the Black Eagles house), who we knew to be the eventual leader of the Adrestian Empire. Apparently she wanted to take total control over Fódlan (the continent where the story takes place). Yet due to previous story beats, we suspect there’s a dark secret looming.
Then there’s a battle you only hear of, that happens completely off screen, in which Edelgard is injured and forced to flee, Dimitri (the leader of the Blue Lions) dies, and Claude goes missing. This is just the path I had chosen (I chose the Black Eagles at the beginning of the game and eventually sided with the Church of Seiros), things could look very different by this point in another play through. But the mysterious thing is that Claude is said to have gone missing, and then the game never mentions him again. Obviously, things play out differently if you side with Claude from the beginning, but the game should have done a better job of bringing closure to the three heads of the three houses. And that goes without mentioning that by the time you’ve reached the halfway point, the rest of the students you used to be able to interact with, are completely gone without mention for the rest of the game.
It’s no surprise that the big battles toward the end of the game involve taking out Edelgard’s henchmen, Hubert and the Death Knight, and then of course, Edelgard herself. And while that felt like the main event due to the relationship you’d established with her throughout the game, the aforementioned dark secret leads to another battle underground. Yet the location and the emergence of this threat goes completely without explanation. You do battle and that’s the end of it. There is no explanation whatsoever as to who “those who slither in the dark” are, where they came from, or even why Edelgard chose to work with them.
And after you finish that battle you may assume, as I did, that that was the end, yet the game has one more battle to throw at you. It feels a bit tacked on and again, without explanation. But Lady Rhea randomly loses control of her powerful dragon form (this is never foreshadowed as a possibility, so it seems as random as it sounds now), and you’re forced to kill her and become the new leader of the church.
Fire Emblem Three Houses’ greatest strength is its characters and commitment to allowing you to get to know them. They all feel unique and interesting in their own way, despite how large the game’s large roster of characters is. Yet the second half of the game loses track of way too many of them.
Nevertheless, the game should hold up well to multiple playthroughs due to the variety of possible paths to take, and the fact that each path will allow you to concentrate on getting to know a different set of characters.
Despite my complaints of some of the storytelling shortcomings late in the game, I still think Fire Emblem Three Houses is very much worth playing. The game feels like it cuts some obvious corners, but it feels like a throwback to some of my favorite character driven games of years ago. This sort of game is a dying breed. Enjoy it while it lasts.
And if you’re interested, there are DLC’s coming that will add more missions and characters. These DLC’s could expand on the story that’s here, thus fixing a few of my complaints, or they could simply add more lovable characters to the mix. Either way, if you’ve played the game and liked it, it’s worth keeping an eye out for those DLC’s.