Fire Emblem Three Houses Is Strangly Familiar

I can’t quite put my finger on it but there’s something strangely familiar about Fire Emblem Three Houses – even for someone like myself who has never dabbled much with the series before.

While we won’t be delving into a full-scale review due to the sheer length of the game and a lack of time to do it justice, Fire Emblem Three Houses’ just feels homely.  Its characters are like long-lost cousins you once used to play hide and seek with, the monastery is an old family member’s house that you spent the summer visiting and the turn-based gameplay is simple, yet effective enough to be instantly engaging.

Even the story’s likeness to Harry Potter ties into its familiarity.  As a new professor in the academy, you’re asked to pick one of the game’s three houses: Black Eagles, Blue Lions or the Golden Deer – each one representing a country, countries that are thankfully at peace.  Once selected, you’ll then spend a lot of time exploring the monastery and taking part in a plethora of mini-games as you build relationships with your fellow colleagues and students.

What’s astounding is just how quickly Fire Emblem Three Houses gets you accustomed with not just the gameplay mechanics but the world, story and characters. Even for someone like myself who has barely touched a Fire Emblem game before, within an hour or so I felt right at home as if it had been a series I had spent half my life playing.  It’s a strange phenomenon that so many games get wrong so easily but in Three Houses every early moment feels measured to give the player enough of an idea as to what’s going on but still leaves room for intrigue.

While its narrative and accompanying cutscenes naturally play an important role in developing characters and relationships, it’s the free time that you spend that had a strangely profound impact on me while playing.

It might not sound like much but as you progress through the days of the game you’ll discover that you’re able to explore the monastery that you call home – think of it like Hogwarts if you haven’t played Three Houses.  You’ll encounter all of your students, the students from the other two houses, all of the professors and a range of tasks that you can take part in; all in the aid of not just levelling your characters up but also increasing your bonds with them.

From fishing to singing, to afternoon tea and even just having dinner – passing the time during your ‘exploration’ of the monastery just feels right.  Fire Emblem Three Houses doesn’t force you down an elaborate quest to strengthen a bond or require you to do anything substantial other just complete basic human interactions and socially interact with students and professors in order to reap the rewards. There are of course nuances to this, like attracting a student from one of the other houses to your own by having a certain level for a specific attribute but on the whole, just being yourself and spending good honest time with another character is the most enjoyable and fruitful way of strengthening your bond with them.

It’s arguably the most simplistic part of the game, especially when compared to some of the end game’s lengthy battles but so far, for me, it’s been the most enjoyable part of Three Houses.

Why not celebrate someone’s birthday by holding a tea party?  In fact, I might start doing it in real life too.

Game code provided to Pause Resume by Nintendo