By bonbolapti 2 Comments
Three houses, the latest game in the Fire Embull series, is a game about family. A game about the friends you make along the way. A game about the separation of church and state. You play as either the male or female version of Byleth, a young merc with the least amount of dialogue in the game. (But don’t worry, they’re a blank emotionless canvas, so it makes sense.)
Just before you set out on a job with your father, you have to break up a fight between a bunch of school kids, which actually turned out to be a job interview for a teaching gig at the local church. It’s there, where you decide which band of misfits you want to have under your wing.
Then you live out your days instructing in the art of combat and worry about which one of your students you should take to the prom.
I’m kidding, that last part isn’t really a thing. To anybody that buys this game only so they can say out loud, “Which character are you going to MaRrY?” probably isn’t aware how much this game is actually about War and politics and mysterious god-dragon-people-things. But I’ll get into that relationship building in a minute.
The first thing you will SURELY notice when playing this game is the structure being different. Instead of just travelling to points on a map, going story beat to fight and so on, you spend most of your time at Garreg Mach Monastery. It’s where you do everything from fishing, eating, singing hymns, having seminars and generally running around bonding with students and teachers alike.
Actually if you play it a lot like I did, you find way too much missing items on the ground and annoy every single person until one of those items happens to belong to them. I DON’T KNOW whether or not this foreign coin belongs to Dedue but I keep getting told he’s from Duscur! I figured that was a pretty big hint, BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE WANTS IT!
(ahem). At the end of the month you take your class go out on a mission where you have to deal with bandits or other lords that will have one of your students emotionally traumatized. This happens enough times where war is inevitable and everyone has the final exam of their lives.
But whoever the Valedictorian is, is up to you.
Okay. Let’s talk about relationships.
From what I’ve known about the series since Awakening, is that relationship building has always been the most shallow part of the games. They seem to give this impression that if you talk to someone a couple of times you just get married and have a child fall into your lap from a wormhole. You don’t build up a real bond with any character, they’re just your reward and you get to touch their face.
In three houses there’s a lot more effort is trying to showcase the important parts of everyone’s personality. While the support conversations are still very much a thing, the length of each conversation and the vocal performances take a step further in caring about everyone in the class rather than the typical players instinct of “Well I want to marry her because she’s cute and/or has breasts.”
Over the course of the game, you learn so much about anyone that you might be interested in. Their likes, fears, problems with nobility, family, cooking or whatever before the time comes for you to put a ring on their finger. It’s these bits of character development, over objectification, that are so important. A clear example of this is Bernadetta.
Her social anxiety takes control of her at every moment, so much that she never wants to leave her room. Has a hard time talking with people, who she believes are worlds apart in approachability. Yet every single classmate deals with her/helps her out in the best way that they can. Eventually you learn about why she is the way she is and you realize just how she’s basically the most relatable person in the game.. You come to terms with your own inability to leaving your house or talking to others, and because you see so much of yourself in her, you walk by her room every day in an attempt to get her out of her shell. I don’t know, maybe there’s cake outside? As the months progress and the bond grows deeper, you have no choice but to kill her because she’s now the enemy.
And a little bit of yourself dies too.
All in all, this game is fantastic and I’ve never been so quick to have another play-through with any other Fire Emblem game. Each house has a cast that is so unique, being lead by a character who has their own wants and needs hiding under their sleeve. There's been political unrest for years and a church is somehow in the centre of it all. In some ways it's par for the course, but in others I was surprised or overjoyed with wherever it was going.
As it is the latest installment in the franchise, a lot of the changes they made from class building to story progression are smart and make sense for the game that it is. Which makes it surprisingly unique and I would be happy if it was the only FE like it.