Three Hopes begins with a few dozen teenagers out on a field trip, and it’s here that protagonist Shez meets the Garreg Mach Monastery class. After a lovely demonstration of his mercenary prowess, you head to the monastery and pick the house you want to join. I linked up with Edelgard’s Black Eagles again. I’m glad I did because this storyline gave me an entirely new perspective, albeit an alternate canon one, on the route I watched in Three Houses.
A time skip happens quickly, and now, Edelgard is charging across Fódlan, attempting to unite the land. Her biggest enemy remains the church, but she also has to deal with Alliance leader Claude, Kingdom leader Dimitri, and the soldiers who were once her friends at Garreg Mach. Witnessing these confrontations unfold is entertaining, thrilling, and heartbreaking. Watching characters who were once my friends die is brutal, especially when it happens at the end of my blade, arrow, or fiery spell.
Three Hopes’ musou combat only enhanced the effect. Mowing down mobs is easy, but former classmates and other named NPCs require more strategy. These enemies have health bars, an armor class, and respective weaknesses. A mounted enemy might be weak to archer attacks, like those from Bernadetta, but strong against sword attacks, like those of Shez.
In this situation, I could either take direct control of Bernadetta or use Three Hopes’ battle map to select Bernadetta and order her to attack. I love how this screen allows me to stop the ongoing fight, take a breather, and plan my next move. It became beneficial in the more challenging stages because you need to complete most main missions and several side quests to get the coveted S rank, which comes with plentiful rewards. I always chased S rank, which you can earn based on how quickly you completed a mission, enemies defeated, and more.
Knocking back dozens of enemies remained fresh and satisfying well into my Three Hopes journey. Even toward the end, when I felt the game had overstayed its welcome, I still smiled at the sheer amount of destruction happening on-screen. It also didn’t hurt that everything I did outside of battle was familiar in a way that kept me hooked.
This is because of how much Three Hopes borrows from Three Houses. Gifts return, as do support grades for building relationships with characters. You can take them on expeditions and have tea with them. The shops, blacksmith, training instructor, and cooking sessions return too. Even Fire Emblem’s traditional rock-paper-scissors gameplay is present in that different classes do more damage to certain types of enemies. I like how much Three Hopes encouraged me to pay attention to this formula because it stopped me from only using Shez. Instead, I used everyone, which encouraged new strategies and helped keep my entire army properly leveled and prepared for the next fight.
That formula and how it affected combat also lent itself to the game’s political war aspect. I felt like a general doling out orders, switching characters to check on different objectives, and changing strategies on the fly to account for new side missions and extra formidable enemies. Mix that with the highly engaging narrative, and Three Hopes at times feels as political and engaging as Game of Thrones’ best seasons.
It’s not all flowers and rainbows for me with Three Hopes, though. While playing it is a thrilling experience, its visuals mostly fail to live up to the rest of the game. It runs great, but save for the beautiful character art, you’re mostly looking at the same jagged and dull castles, forts, and surrounding scenery. There are highlights here and there, like your main camp, but I spent most of my time on the battlefield, which rarely popped visually. I wished Three Hopes’ visuals had received as much attention and love as the rest of the game.
Three Hopes runs a few chapters too long, and some late-game twists don’t carry the impact they should as a result, but my 36 hours were a great time. Three Hopes successfully and expertly integrates everything great about Three Houses into its musou format, both in narrative and in gameplay; it’s been one of my favorite Switch experiences in recent memory as a result. If you like Three Houses, you should play Three Hopes, and I’d recommend it to you even if you aren’t familiar with the musou genre. And if you haven’t played Three Houses, there’s a good chance that’ll be your next game after rolling credits on this one.