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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.
@TriforceBun W.. wait, what do you mean 3 routes? I assumed the story changes based on which school you pick but I also assumed the levels would be roughly the same. Is it different maps and such depending on which school you pick?!
@Zero It's sort of in-between that from how I understand it. There's a fair amount of overlap but also some story differences and a few different maps, from what I heard. I've only played through one of the routes--Golden Deer. No regrets with that choice!
So, is it normal to be like 10 stages in and still have only successfully recruited 1 new character to your team? This game feels pretty stingy with giving you new characters, so I imagine the recruiting is the main way you get them, but no one ever wants to join me?!