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(Pocket-lint) - It's fair to say that Fire Emblem has been one of the many long-running titles to benefit from the popularity of the Nintendo Switch

The last mainline entry - Fire Emblem: Three Houses, released in 2019 - saw nearly 3.5 million copies shipped in its first 18 months, making it comfortably the most played game in the series.

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For all the fun and success that Three Houses brought, though, there were certainly moments when we wished we could have taken control of a powerful character and laid waste to the battlefield, rather than meekly trying to strategise our way out of a bind. 

In Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, that fantasy is realised. This spinoff treats players to an alternate-reality version of the Three Houses story, this time dropping them in as the mercenary Shez.

Does it delight or disappoint? We've been playing in order to find out. 

Our quick take

Three Hopes is like a funky remix of a song you know well; it doesn't have to be better than the original, it just has to be different and rewarding in its own right.

On that front, it's a great success, showing again that the Warriors series works really well blended with Fire Emblem.

Things are more strategic than ever, but the core combat is just as over the top and fun, while the familiarity of its characters and a well-told story mean that it has a little more meat on its bones than some Musou games manage.

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes

4.0 stars
For
  • Fun new version of Three Houses story
  • Plenty of combat styles
  • Good sense of scale
  • Satisfying fights
Against
  • Eventually gets repetitive
  • Will happily bombard you with information

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A time of war

Three Hopes, like Three Houses before it, sees you dropped into the land of Fodlan in a time of relative peace that will soon give way to a three-sided war.

Where in the mainline game you played as a professor tutoring the next generation of generals, this time you're a mercenary draughted in to learn alongside them.

Once again, you'll pick from three houses, although the slightly less involved story means that this time there's a lot less unique action and scripting to experience between the different routes on offer.

Still, it gives you a pretty dissimilar cast to learn to love each time, so replayability is decent here, and the game has a good chunk of full voice acting using the original cast, making things more engaging again.

This time around, it's Byleth that represents the big threat that you have to face down, the character who you played in Three Houses (one of the best Nintendo Switch RPGs ever, in our view).

They're known for their moniker as The Ashen Demon, and are wiping out whole armies on their own.

NintendoFire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review - Enter the fray photo 2

It's a fun twist that lets you see things from a new perspective, and the retelling of the same basic story underlines that it's a fun structure that works well, with a likeable cast. Still, this is a Warriors game, so it doesn't exactly live and die by the quality of its human drama.

Things are camp and fun, but there are also moments where you might wish you could get to the next battle a little more quickly - especially if you played Three Houses and don't need explainers about local politics and alliances.

Hack and slash

When you do get down to battling, though, Three Hopes proves its mettle pretty quickly, with a system that feels like a big step forward compared to the first Fire Emblem Warriors title back in 2017.

The core of the game is about dropping into a large map consisting of open areas, linked together by passages that might be blocked or open, and taking key areas from your enemy without allowing them to counterattack elsewhere.

NintendoFire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review - Enter the fray photo 3

Like in any Warriors game, you have a bunch of characters to control, with the ability to swap between them on the fly or even link a couple together so that you know exactly where someone is, and this lets you keep on top of the whole battle.

You can also pause the action and order your units around, sending them to take out units and strongholds they hold an advantage over, thanks to the rock-paper-scissors logic of the main Fire Emblem games. For example, archers make mincemeat of flying units, so should always be paired against them.

This mixture of strategy and action is what makes a Musou game fun, and Three Hopes balances the two better than many in the series. This is largely thanks to these extra controls, but you can also often afford to ignore them, if you prefer.

NintendoFire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review - Enter the fray photo 6

It'll make it harder to achieve optional side objectives that generally require you to race across the battle, but, if you're not fussed, you can largely stick to one character's point of view and carve your foes up.

Musou isn't necessarily a series that leans on immensely complex systems, and that's still broadly true in Three Hopes, and the core gameplay is refreshingly simple and satisfying, but it's also fair to say that it has a lot of tutorials to give you.

NintendoFire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review - Enter the fray photo 1

The first few missions will see you bombarded with new information about status effects, attack patterns and countless other mechanics that do come together to form an impressive whole, but they are a little bit fiddly in their precision.

A visual spectacle

It's been five years since the last Fire Emblem Warriors game on Switch, despite, as we mentioned, the last mainline game released in 2019. And that means things have come on nicely in the visuals department since then, with higher frame rates overall and better visual detail. So, Three Hopes is a very solid entry from a technical standpoint.

The translation of character models from Three Houses is splendid, with all your favourite characters looking basically the exact same as they did in that game.

This is a boon, certainly, but it's also fair to say that there are still some visual compromises.

NintendoFire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review - Enter the fray photo 5

The Switch is fundamentally not that powerful a console, so you can expect to see a lot of fade-in and fade-out as you sprint around the battlefield - in particular with groups of soldiers generally not visible from too far off.

The environments are pretty barebones, too, although there's enough variety to stop things from getting stale there.

The other shame is that there are somewhat noticeable framerate drops at moments, although things generally stay smooth enough that it shouldn't impact you too badly.

We remain curious to see what developer Omega Force could do when developing from the ground up for the powerful PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, but when that does come it'll likely be in the form of Dynasty Warriors 10, not any Nintendo franchise.

NintendoFire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes review - Enter the fray photo 7

So, for now, we're happy enough with how Three Hopes looks and feels on the Switch, and that's an impressive feat for a series that thrives on scale and the carnage of battle.

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To recap

It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but Three Hopes is one of the most approachable Musou games we can remember and feels really satisfying to play in chunks, letting you dominate the battlefield in a way that the mainline Fire Emblem games restrict.

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills.