When Fire Emblem: Three Houses was announced I was very excited to get back to one of my favorite series. Lots of exciting news was circulating: Fire Emblem finally returning to a home console, a new paradigm in character building, being able to choose one of three factions to fight alongside. As a long time fan first introduced to the series on the Gameboy Advance, the first game to be localized in the West, I couldn’t wait to continue with the latest installment and try out its foremost new mechanic.
In this version of Fire Emblem, they remove the weapon triangle: a rock-paper-scissors relationship between weapon types. For the first time ever, every character on your team can be customized in a new way. Playing as the main character and “teacher” of your students, you mold these characters into specialized fighters. For example: You want a magic-casting swordsman? You got it. You want a healer with the tendency to heft enormous axes to slaughter enemies? Go for it.
Seeing this at the beginning of the game blew me away, because I was excited to create my own personal army or match characters with classes I thought suited their personalities.
However, by the end of the game, I had a rude awakening. Master rank classes, which are the most powerful in the game, have very specific requirements for weapon skill in order to attain them. To make matters worse, these powerful classes are kept mysterious; their requirements cannot be viewed until the middle portion of the game. What of my character I had lovingly taught to be a first-class bowman? Well, hopefully for his years of schooling I had also decided to teach him to use swords instead of lances and ride horses but not flying horses or he will never reach his full potential as a master bow knight.
In order to rectify this problem, I needed to change my soldier’s curriculum as soon as I could, abruptly abandoning my personally-crafted build that I’d been fostering all game long.
Even then the character will never be as strong as he could have been and is possibly ruined. I needed to spend many additional in-game training periods in order to train a new skillset and rectify the problem to attain the newly-discovered target class. In doing so, my soldier also spent many additional character levels as a weaker class and missed out on the benefit of extreme stat growth that come with the stronger classes.
The problem is compounded by another problem: the lacking number of master classes and their silly requirements.
It was frustrating to lose my original vision for the characters in order for their growth to progress. I felt far less attached to my team from that point on and went through the motions in order to quickly move on with the story.
I feel like this game really missed the point of its new character progression system. It could have been something unique and special with a few modifications, but in the end turned out to be nothing more than an illusion of customization veiled behind a large portion of the game.
For me, the class system is massively disappointing. I felt this game had the potential to be Fire Emblem’s most highly rated game if not for this and a few other glaring flaws. Hopefully this is a learning experience for them and Intelligent Systems will come back with something amazing that better utilizes their new system for their next title.