Fire Emblem: Three Houses asks lots of you. Every piece, from battle to friendships to coaching your models, have to be managed each individually and as half of a complete. It may be intimidating, however when all of it clicks collectively, it actually clicks. Mastering the artwork of considerate lesson planning as a professor improves your efficiency on the battlefield, the place success depends on calculated teamwork and deft execution. Cultivating relationships throughout battle in flip attracts you nearer to every of the characters, who you then wish to make investments much more time into within the classroom. Every piece feeds into the following in a rewarding, engrossing loop the place you get misplaced in the entire expertise, not simply within the trivia.Three Houses casts you as a mercenary who, whereas out on a mission with their father, runs into a bunch of teenagers beneath assault. After a short introduction and battle tutorial–which you should not want, because you’re apparently already a longtime mercenary, however we’ll go together with it–you study that they’re college students at Garreg Mach monastery. Each of them leads one of many college’s three homes: Black Eagles, Blue Lions, or Golden Deer. At the behest of the church’s archbishop, who positively provides off nefarious vibes however can also be a mild mother determine, you find yourself changing into a professor and should select which of the homes to guide. There is lots of thriller to the setup, with constant hints that one thing shouldn’t be fairly proper, and it is easy to get absorbed in attempting to determine what the archbishop and numerous different shady figures are as much as.Your major position as professor is to instruct your college students in issues of fight and put together them for story battles on the finish of every month. Battles in Three Houses function the identical turn-based, tactical fight on the coronary heart of the sequence, albeit with some adjustments. The basic weapon triangle is downplayed fairly a bit in favor of Combat Arts, which have been altered considerably from their introduction in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. Combat Arts are assaults tied to a weapon kind and may enhance a unit’s assault energy on the expense of weapon sturdiness; some are efficient towards particular enemy sorts, like armored models. You may also unlock abilities exterior of Combat Arts that grant you higher stats with sure weapons, like a heftier enhance for utilizing an axe towards a lance consumer, much like the outdated weapon triangle. It’s the identical complexity the sequence is thought for however much less abstracted, making it a bit simpler to strategize with out sacrificing depth.One of the massive fight additions is battalions, mini armies you’ll be able to equip that present numerous advantages to a unit throughout battle. They additionally provide you with a brand new kind of assault referred to as a Gambit, which varies based mostly on the kind of battalion–magic-focused, brute power, and so on–and stuns the enemies it hits. Gambits are limited-use and may be extremely highly effective towards the fitting enemies. You can enhance a Gambit’s effectiveness even additional if a number of of your different models are inside assault vary of the goal, a tried-and-true Fire Emblem idea that applies to all types of assaults. There’s additionally an anime-style splash display screen as you assault that exhibits every character concerned within the Gambit trying fierce, which provides a pleasant little bit of drama.How a lot you utilize Combat Arts and Gambits will depend on what issue you are on. On Normal issue, well-trained models will probably have the ability to dispatch most enemies in a single or two hits with out the assistance of Combat Arts or Gambits. On Hard, nevertheless, enemies hit tougher and stand up to your assaults higher. You should assume rather more fastidiously about unit placement, the most effective time to make use of a Gambit and make the most of its stun impact, and what number of Combat Arts you’ll be able to fireplace off earlier than your weapon breaks. This is the place issues get thrilling; after just a few turns of cautious setup, you (hopefully) get to knock out tons of enemies as your plans fall into place.Some of the early-game and elective battle maps are open areas that do not require you to assume too laborious, particularly on Normal. But the story battles all through function quite a lot of map layouts–from pirate ships to what seems to be a lava-filled cavern–that problem you to think about the place your models should be, each within the subsequent flip and several other turns down the road. Many of them have totally different routes, enemies coming at you from a number of angles, elective treasure to chase, and different quirks that require you to separate your occasion up or change their geared up courses to swimsuit the state of affairs. Thieves, for example, can open chests and doorways with no key, whereas flying models do not take injury from floor that is on fireplace.The depth of technique in these parts actually shines on Hard issue, however particularly so when coupled with Divine Pulse, one other limited-use capability. Divine Pulse means that you can rewind time with the intention to redo all or a part of the battle, often if one in all your models dies. Rewinding with Divine Pulse exhibits simply how vital unit placement and assault selection may be, as even a slight change could make or break the encounter. It’s additionally only a good quality-of-life function when you play on Classic mode, wherein models who die in battle are misplaced endlessly and may’t combat or prepare anymore. You would possibly nonetheless delicate reset every so often, nevertheless it’s nice to have the ability to rectify a mistake straight away and get a shot of instantaneous gratification for a job properly re-done.Battling, in fact, is just one a part of life on the monastery. The spine of Three Houses is the month-to-month college calendar, and when you like organizing issues, planning forward, or college typically, this may be probably the most engrossing half. On Sundays, you have got free time you’ll be able to spend in one in all 4 methods: exploring the monastery, collaborating in facet battles, holding a seminar to enhance your college students’ abilities, or just taking the time off. Mondays are for instruction, which consists of choosing college students from an inventory and selecting just a few of their abilities to spice up. The remainder of the week goes by mechanically, with a sprite of the professor operating alongside the calendar and stopping often for random occasions or story cutscenes. It sounds a bit hands-off, however there’s loads to consider as it’s, and the week-by-week slightly than day-by-day construction retains issues shifting and ensures you by no means have to attend too lengthy to progress in any space.The predictable construction of every month–and the truth that you’ll be able to see the complete month’s schedule with occasions listed forward of time–gives you the muse to make efficient plans. All that point administration can positively be overwhelming, not less than at first. You should hold tabs in your college students’ abilities and examine targets, your individual abilities, everybody’s stock, and numerous different meters and menus whereas planning for the teachings and battles to return. But you are handled to a near-constant stream of optimistic reinforcement as these meters replenish week by week and your college students enhance their abilities. You’re at all times shifting towards the following factor: the following stage up, the following ability you have to develop, the following month and what could unfold.To complement this, your actions when exploring the monastery (in addition to what number of battles you’ll be able to take part in, when you select to battle in your time off) are restricted by exercise factors. You get extra as your “professor level” will increase, which implies it’s important to steadiness actions that enhance your professor stage with ones that assist your college students develop. Activity factors additionally be sure that the month continues at a wholesome tempo, stopping you from lingering on anyone Sunday for too lengthy. Seminars and relaxation days simply eat up the entire day with out consideration for exercise factors, which might break up the extra concerned weeks and supply their very own advantages.How you select to spend your time additionally comes all the way down to how motivated your college students are to study. Each of your college students has a motivation gauge that is drained whenever you instruct them, and so they cannot be instructed once more till you work together with them and get their motivation again up. You can do that most successfully when exploring the monastery–where you get to speak to totally different characters, give them presents, and share bonding time with them–whereas battle solely not often will increase motivation ranges. While you’ll be able to skip lots of the varsity life bits and even automate instruction, you will not get the most effective outcomes. You’re immediately at an obstacle in fight when you do not find time for your college students, which is by design.Like all latest Fire Emblem video games, preserving you invested in your models and their relationships is the glue that binds the entire expertise collectively. It’s extremely efficient in Three Houses, the place your direct involvement in almost all features of a unit’s progress trajectory provides you a particular stake of their success. After spending effort and time to assist a personality obtain their full potential, you are not simply glad once they win a fight–you’re proud. And the extra you spend money on someone–both emotionally and thru months of lesson plans and instruction–the extra cautious you may be about placing them in hurt’s means, and the extra you may work to provide you with a strong battle technique.Considering you are a instructor, it is good slightly than disappointing that there is nearly no romance to talk of. Some college students are flirty, however primarily, you are fostering camaraderie slightly than enjoying matchmaker or romancing them your self. As you unlock new assist ranges with totally different characters–both by interacting with them on the monastery and through the use of teamwork in battles–you get cutscenes that flesh them out extra. Some are charming, lighthearted conversations between two mates, whereas lots of them provide you with perception into extra critical matters–a father forcing his daughter into marriage, discrimination inside the monastery, the darkish motive behind somebody’s lofty ambitions. For probably the most half, every assist dialog is only a piece of who a personality is, and as you slowly construct assist ranges over time, you start to uncover the complete image of every individual. As a consequence, studying extra about every of the characters and their place within the monastery is as a lot a reward for progress as the extent bars that tick endlessly upward as you go.Every NPC is absolutely voiced in each English and Japanese, which brings lots of life to the transient assist conversations. Disappointingly, although, the professor is silent. They do have a voice–they’ll often say a line when leveling up or bettering a skill–but in cutscenes and when speaking to college students and college, they only nod or shake their head flatly. There are transient dialogue choices throughout conversations, however the place they might give technique to a full, subtitled sentence or two from the professor, you are simply left with the opposite character’s response. Characters do, nevertheless, check with the professor’s character and the way they arrive throughout all through the sport, which is odd contemplating they principally nod at issues. This places distance between you and the characters you are bonding with, and it is a missed alternative in a recreation the place the protagonist has an in any other case set look, character, and backstory.It’s not laborious to love lots of the characters, although. They draw you in with anime archetypes–the women’ man, the bratty prince, the clumsy however well-meaning girl–and shock you with rather more nuance beneath the floor. Some of the funniest scenes early on contain Bernadetta, a shut-in with excessive reactions to regular social conditions, however her interior life is loads darker and extra difficult than these early conversations let on. You would possibly uncover a personality you thought was a jerk is definitely one in all your favorites or slowly cease utilizing a less-than-favorite character in battle. You even have the choice of getting tea with somebody, throughout which it’s important to select dialog subjects in line with what you realize about them, courting sim-style. Knowing what subjects they will like is definitely loads tougher than it sounds, and efficiently speaking to a favourite character–even if the tea setup could be a little awkward in practice–is a small victory.Each home’s marketing campaign feels distinct however not so totally different that one appears means higher than the opposite. Every home has a mixture of personalities and abilities, and so they all have their very own benefits and drawbacks. Students from totally different homes can type friendships with one another, too, and you’ll ultimately recruit college students from different homes to affix yours. Rather than being repetitive, on a second playthrough, recruiting provides you entry to totally different relationship combos; you’ll be able to see a special facet to a personality by a special set of assist conversations. And whereas the general setup of the sport is essentially the identical throughout the three homes, every has its personal internet of B plots, and the second half of the sport will look very totally different relying on who you are with and the alternatives you have made.The first half issues the church, its secrets and techniques, and the truth that the professor is aware of little or no about their very own id. As the fundamental loop of every month pulls you ahead, so too does the promise of studying the reality about one thing, whether or not it is why the archbishop needed you to be a instructor within the first place or who a suspicious masked particular person is. These threads stay fairly open, although, not less than after one and 1 / 4 playthroughs. You get totally different particulars in every route, and thus far it has been a protracted course of to piece the whole lot collectively.Learning extra about every of the characters and their place within the monastery is as a lot a reward for progress as the extent bars that tick endlessly upward as you go.After a five-year time skip, you enter the “war phase” of the sport. While the construction of the sport is the same–you even instruct your models, since you continue to want to coach for battle–the focus shifts to the house-specific tales. They contain lots of laborious selections, with outdated mates changing into enemies, individuals you would like you did not have to kill, and college students who’ve modified both in spite or due to your steering. Late-game battles are particularly difficult, with greater stakes and multi-lane layouts that require lots of forethought. Success in these battles is extremely rewarding, as you are seeing dozens of hours of funding in your college students attain a crescendo, however they’re bittersweet in context.When all was stated and carried out, all I might take into consideration was beginning one other playthrough. I used to be curious in regards to the mysteries left unsolved, in fact, however I additionally hoped to undo my errors. There have been characters I did not speak to sufficient, college students I did not recruit, and much simpler methods to coach my models. A second playthrough treads acquainted floor at first, however after studying and rising a lot within the first, it feels recent, too. That speaks to Three Houses’ mechanical complexity and depth in addition to the connections it fosters with its characters–and whether or not you are managing inventories or battlefields, it is the form of recreation that is laborious to place down, even when it is over.