I'll be brief.

Aren't hobbies supposed to pass time, instead of filling it? What it means to finish a game? Specifically, I almost never finish a game at 100% for lack of practicality, but if you consider the games I play, like Tactics Ogre, and their inane prerequisites for a 100% clear, you can see where I come from. One thing is achievement hunting, one thing is saying "yep, there's nothing else left". Hope I make sense.

Why then does Fire Emblem: Three Houses, or as the fans call it, 100% Walkthrough, ALL ROUTES, keep locking content behind routes? I understand the need to have a complex and definitive experience, with no clear canon, but the clumsiness and game design show another picture. There's three routes in the game, of which ... only one could be considered necessary. Repetitiveness of gameplay loop between monastery trips, fun for the first five minutes, and recycled battle maps can do only so much good for enjoyment.

I felt like I had to play this game just to be done with it and it's not a good indicator of enjoyment and fun. I stepped back, took a break from games altogether, came back last week and cleared all routes. It's frustrating, yes, because there's merit in it. There's a sparkle of good characterization, clear understanding of what makes a good Fire Emblem, but then it's snapped back to reality thanks to awkward choices.

Here's a couple examples:

- I feel like this game is bloated with content, while keeping to a single route and developing that single one Blue Lions would've done wonders, it would've addressed so many odd moments in the other routes as well. No spoilers, but if you know, you know.
- There was no need to choose the route to pick so early in the game. I hope you enjoy playing the same 10-12 chapters each new game!! when there's also BUILT IN a way to borrow units around your level. Huhhhh let me PLEASE have all units have that standard build and let me skip half the game please.
- Map design is barren. There are probably two or three good maps, and while other games in the franchise like Awakening like to at least present you a set piece, Three Houses really likes to put you through unimpressive ground and grass textures all the time.

These kind of flaws really shine through once you realize, in order to experience the full brunt of the game, you have to play through all three four routes. It leads to confusion, it leads to frustration; for goodness' sake choosing the Golden Deer faction because you like their characters (fair enough) is paramount to NOT understanding important plot points because it takes for granted that you've played the other two routes, and now you're ready for a third point of view.

I understand where the love for the game comes from. The soundtrack is stellar, the game's very accessible and the battles and classes are very hands-off, reward experimentation and being able to influence units' growth is also very fun. The characters and themes of the game give a lot of think about and offer interesting counterpoints to each other in their support conversations and there's no clear best or worst unit in terms of balance, characterization (except a very dull middle aged man) and build. Still, no reason to put permadeath when all characters are supposed to be important, but you do you, "Intelligent" System, this kind of game design doesn't incentivize iron man runs, at all.

I don't want to be bitter, I think I liked this game. I'll talk about the DLC in another review, at least I'll be able to skip all the monastery chicanery and jump straight to the maps, which made me not want to play the game ever again after 200 hours.

Reviewed on Apr 19, 2024


1 month ago

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1 month ago

Mentioning Tactics Ogre, I do think the remake of that really gets this sort of thing right where after completing the game you can just jump back to old chapters and navigate your way through its branching storyline, which frees you up to just make the choices you want to make the first time through.

Still a lot of game there and I couldn't commit to 100%, but it definitely takes some of the tedium out of redoing chunks of content that would otherwise be necessary in other multi-route games like this.

1 month ago

@Weatherby 100% agree, also worth mentioning Tactics Ogre lets you scale down equipment stats for the level or just not give you exp. Man what a clever game design choice, I totally missed that.

1 month ago

My main 3 issues with this game are A you genuinely dont need anyone besides lysith (and i guess lorenzs fancy stick for her) and raph and B you have to do the first half of the game 3 times (4 if you chose the evil route and forgot to make a separate save) and C that golden deer and church route are practically the exact same. Maps are like fine i guess, i think it has more stinkers than good characters but the good characters are great, and edelgards route is pretty ok for an evil ending. Game is way too easy bc of modern design philosophies, the main reason 4/5 will never be beaten (i havent played 1/3make) is cause they’re completely confident in your abilities. Havent played engage (is that what its called) but going from echoes to 3h was real sad to me.

1 month ago

@KingGarb I heard good things about Engage, but it's also true that I stopped hearing anything two weeks after it came out. Other than that, I feel the same pretty much about balance, considering I was playing on Hard. If only there could be a middle ground between Hard and Lunatic (Shadow Dragon had 4)

1 month ago

iirc lunatic mode was added post-launch too. I remember being really excited for 3h before launch and being mad that the cool new stuff was added after i already beat all 3 routes (i did the dlc house + lunatic later when i played through church)

1 month ago

I also had a really hard time staying engaged with a subsequent NG+ playthrough on a different route because the professor rank carrying over between NG cycles frankly breaks the progression. Once I realized this had become a podcast game I dropped it. Real shame too, because I am fairly interested in seeing the plot divergences of the other routes (I, regrettably, played Golden Deer the first time through), but I can't be bothered to plod my way through the dozens of hours of game that would be required.

1 month ago

@dobbyshmurda kinda late to the reply, but I snoffed when I read it was hard staying engaged, otherwise I had the same issues as you, but I played through Black Eagles first, then that other route, then Blue Lions, then Golden Deer

1 month ago

I think hobbies are just meant to be fun. I'll never find it fun to 100% (or even sometimes complete) games like this, but I don't think it's badly designed because clearly some people seem to love it. It just seems to be more tailored to them than it is for me. for someone who loves the battle system of fire emblem, maybe its a good thing that theres lots of it, even if its repetitive. I just wish games like this gave you the option to finish the story quickly, and leave the bloat to those who enjoy it.