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Has anybody picked this game up? I've been very critical of Fire Emblem's recent history. When I learned that this game would be based around an academy, I was ready to write this one off. But the E3 trailer did a lot to win me over, showing that this title might have some edge and care put into its writing. What sealed the deal was hearing that the game was inspired by Fire Emblem 4, wanting to portray the story of young heir who were close before political machinations led them to opposing sides of war later in life. So I went in cautiously, prepared to return this game for a refund if it put me off in the same way Fates did.
With that in mind, Three Houses has been pretty damn great. The writing is leagues ahead of Fates or Awakening. Characters do have their sort of gimmicky hook (the shut in, the workaholic, the gentle giant, ect), but there's more to these people than the surface level traits that make them stand out. There's a pathos and a true sense of life experience that has led people to develop the simpler face they present to the world. Annette works hard all the time because that's what she was rewarded for as a child. And she pursues magic as a way of trying to find her father who taught her that work ethic. Dedue is a particularly complicated case. The survivor of a racially motivated genocide, he has been taught by experience to eliminate any sense of animosity, not even showing any reaction to overt racism. He serves the Dimitri despite the kingdom's violence against Duscur because Dimitri was personally kind to Dedue. And he chooses to combat stereotypes at an individual by being a reserved, loyal soldier who is reticent to discuss his cultural history. A charitable reading would call him the product of societal trauma, doing what he has to in order to survive, but living a life comparable to native americans who underwent the US's cultural assimilation programs. While a negative reading would call him an uncle tom. Granted, a lot of my reading of Dedue is based on subtext, but that's my point. For the first time in a long time, there is subtext to this story. And it also works because the people who benefit from the subtextual injustice aren't going to explicitly spell it out for you. That's not how privilege works. If you're not the target of oppression, the way it works isn't going to be made apparent for you without any effort. This kind of writing makes me want to play as the other houses I kind find out about the experiences that led them to portray the surface level features I've come to know them by.
Related to that is the academy itself. Early on, I had it explained to me by one of the characters (Dimitri, I think) that the academy takes in war orphans and educates them to become knights of the church. That's some straight up war economy atrocity. But the guy who explained it to me as an altruistic act. Which makes sense because he is a part of that institution. They train his soldiers and give him power. Of course he isn't going to think critically about this. Additionally, the institution of the academy is basically an theocratic nation-state with a bloated military who acts on behalf of their imperial benefactors while kill rebels who may actually have a good point. Which maaaybe reminded me of a certain real world nation in the middle east that I'm not sure I want to make an explicit connection to at the moment . So, to my delight, the big incident that kicked off is someone deciding that they've had enough of the church and want to throw out the current system. In the Blue Lion route she's portrayed pretty unfavorably. But that's likely because I've been made to fight on behalf of the church as heir-apparent to the title of pope. I'm sure the other route will offer a convincing perspective.
Iím about seven hours into this so far, and I am enjoying the heck out of it! Iím amazed at how much time you can spend not in battles. So far Iíve only done 3, and only one of those was a Ďrealí battle. Part of me wants to be battling more, but Iím having fun with the school stuff. I havenít quite decided how extensively I want to get involved in the school stuff or if I want to just press forward with the story, but weíll see. I imagine Iíll be spending a lot of time with this game. Which kinda stinks because I still want to spend so much more time in Mario Maker 2 and Dragon Quest Builders 2.
Builders 2 has completely devoured my game time, that game is ridiculously addictive! I may have to put Three Houses on hold until after I finish Dragon Quest XI later this year, because I don't plan on buying anything else after Sep 27, so that can be my holiday title.
I did begin a file on my sister-in-law's copy and went with Golden Deer though.
First session: "Wow, the voice acting is better than I was expecting, these characters feel pretty grounded. Nice presentation. Maybe I'll stick with this."
Second session: "Alright, now I have to wander around a school... and talk to anime characters... and... oh, now I'm in a battle... and I have to use my brain? Uuuuugh strategy games are so much work, yeeeaaah I dunno about this..."
*a few days go by, sees tweet from Tyler Glaiel*
Tyler Glaiel said:
Why would you play a game that takes 100 hours to learn? cause the learning part of a game is usually some of the most fun times you have playing one, when you get to experiment and figure out how everything works
Third session: "Yeah, okay, Tyler has a point, I'll give this game one more shot and just mess around with it, maybe figuring out how everything interlocks could be fun. Oh, okay, this magic user has ranged attacks. And every time you use a particular type of attack, that stat goes up? Wait, it looks like certain characters are proficient in certain areas, so I should focus on those. Oh wait, no, they're focused on certain areas by default, but if you investigate their profile closely, you can see that some characters have triple stars next to one of their non-default areas, so I should switch them over so that they're training in one area they're naturally gifted in and one area that they have an unlockable special ability in. But wait, then I need to switch everyone's weapons around, which means I need more money, so I should probably..."