Fire Emblem: Three Houses 101
Are you thinking about playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but unsure where to begin?
Check out our tips to help navigate your way around the Officers Academy and charge into battle!
What kind of game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses?
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is known as a tactical role-playing game, encompassing story and exploration, as well as battle.
Story and exploration
You are a professor at the Officers Academy, a place where the future leaders of Fódlan train. Here, you will choose which of the Academy’s three houses to lead, both in reaching their full potential both academically and on the battlefield.
The Officers Academy is at the Garreg Mach Monastery of the Church of Seiros (the religion that essentially controls all of Fódlan) right in the middle of three kingdoms: the Adrestian Empire, the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Leicester Alliance.
These three kingdoms are currently at peace, but the rumblings of all-out war can be heard—the fate of which rests in your hands.
As the protagonist, you control a squad of people in combat as their leader.
Each person (known as a Unit) has different attacks, movements and stats depending on their class. Classes can be anything from sword users to assassins, mages, healers, and even dragon riders. There’s a huge variety of classes, so it’s up to you how you want to fight.
The gameplay takes place on a top-down grid style battlefield (think of a chessboard where all the pieces are compelling anime heroes).
Life at the Officers Academy
The Officers Academy is where most of the story and character development happens.
There are three houses at the Academy, and each one draws a different group of students from the three states of the continent of Fódlan.
These include The Black Eagles from the Adrestian Empire, The Blue Lions from the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and The Golden Deer from the Leicester Alliance. As the new professor, you get to choose which of these houses to teach. The house you choose will determine the story path you follow and the students you will start with in the game.
Keep an eye on your calendar
As you progress through each month, you will have an opportunity to do a few different things, with a main mission at the end of the month.
At the beginning of the week, you can personally tutor your students, giving them extra attention to increase their specific skills one-on-one. Classes will progress automatically throughout the week, and at the end, the skills each student focused on will gain experience (Exp) from the week’s study.
You also get days off (usually a Sunday). During this free time, you can explore the monastery, participate in battles to level up your characters, take Certification Exams to promote students to stronger classes, attend a Seminar on specific skills with a group of students also studying those subjects, or just take the day to rest, restoring students’ motivation to study.
Each student starts with two goals in the beginning, being the two weapons or skills that they are already proficient in.
Goals are what each student will spend the week studying to increase their grade in a particular skill, marked from E to A (and even higher). The grade of that skill increases its effectiveness—and moving up to a higher class will require a certain grade to take the Certification Exam.
Certifications are exams that students take to progress to a higher class.
Classes often have a higher level of a similar role, for example, a Soldier moves up to Calvary, then to Paladin, and so on. Once a character meets the required level and grade for the skills needed for that class (or close enough) they will be able to take the exam.
The success rate will be 100% if they meet that grade, but they can still attempt the exam at a lower success rate if they are close to the required grade.
Exploring Garreg Mach Monastery
When exploring the Officers Academy, you move the main character around the Garreg Mach Monastery. It’s a huge area, with lots of places to go and many activities to take part in.
There are plenty of items to pick up, and you can fish, garden, train your skills, cook with students, and even share a meal.
You can spend as long as you like exploring, but some activities will use up ‘Activity Points’. You won’t start with many, but as you progress, you’ll unlock more Activity Points to help you make the most of your time in the monastery.
A handy tip for those starting out is that gardening and fishing don’t consume activity points and give you a lot of experience towards your Professor Level, which increases your Activity Points and the number of students you can tutor during class. Remember: ALWAYS. BE. GARDENING.
Support each other
The support level between students is an important part of Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Support level is essentially how close people are. Characters can go from despising each other to lovers by increasing their support level. Each time you reach a new support level, it not only shows a cutscene of their interaction—giving insight into each character’s personal growth and backstory—but it also gives characters better stats when acting in battle next to one of their friends.
QUICK TIPS: Life at the Officers Academy
- Thoroughly explore the monastery at least once a month. There is always something new to see, whether it’s finding items, a new quest, or experiencing characters’ charming school lives.
- Increase your professor level quickly, as it increases your Activity Points when exploring and lets you tutor more students during class. Do this easily by finding all the items around the monastery at the beginning of each month, fishing, and most of all: ALWAYS. BE. GARDENING.
- Talk to everyone when they have something new to say. Every month, the monastery will be buzzing with energy. You learn so much about the world and story through exploration, and there is really a lot of depth if you go out and get it. You learn a lot about your students, which makes it a lot easier to recruit them and raise support levels.
- When fishing, you don’t have to snag the first fish that bites. You can wait a few times before the bait is gone so you can get a better fish.
- Give people gifts as often as possible. Aside from raising their motivation for study, it also raises your support with them and makes it easier to recruit people not in your class.
Life on the Battlefield
Battling in Fire Emblem: Three Houses is where all the combat action takes place.
The battle mechanics may look a bit intimidating if you aren’t used to strategy/tactics-based games, but Fire Emblem: Three Houses is actually a really good game to start with.
The battle system is introduced quickly and walks you through it, introducing new mechanics as you progress. If this will be your first tactics game, you should play on Casual/Normal difficulty. Casual mode gives you lots of room for mistakes and is a really good way to get acquainted with the style of game.
Winning battles is how you drive the main story forward, and battling is how you and your students level up, increasing strength and support between characters, and enabling them to reach higher classes.
When you reach a certain level of support with certain characters, unique side missions called ‘paralogues’ will unlock, centred around that specific character.
Before charging into battle in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, be sure to check everything in the pre-battle menu: you’ll be glad you did.
Check your weapons aren’t about to break, scout the battlefield, change the units you send out to make sure you have the best squad for the mission, access the shop to buy new weapons, and so on. Taking a minute to check everything before you begin will save you from some nasty mid-battle surprises!
By consulting the map before battle, you can see where your units and the enemy’s units are, as well as scope out any environmental options or hazards.
Moving the cursor over different terrain will tell you about them and what advantages or disadvantages you’ll have when placing a unit on them. You can also change the starting position of your units, if you have an idea of where you will send everyone.
During the battle you can highlight enemies to see their attack range or rotate and zoom to adjust each battle to your preferred angle. A useful feature during battle is: by pressing ZR you can see a purple grid representing EVERY enemy’s attack range, so you can position your troops just outside this range to avoid the enemy getting the first strike.
Player Phase / Enemy Phase
Each battle starts with your turn phase, allowing each unit in your team to move, attack, and use items.
Next is the enemy phase, where the enemy moves and attacks if they are in range. Then it swaps back to the player phase, and so on. Sometimes there is a third party in the battle, whose turns take place after both the player and enemy.
To move in battle, select the unit you want to act, and this will bring up a blue grid surrounded by a red outline. The blue represents that unit’s movement spaces. Heavily armoured units will have the smallest range of movement, whereas mounted and flying units (Wyvern and Pegasus riders) will have the most movement.
To attack, your unit needs to be in range of an enemy with the weapon or magic they are using. The range of attack is the red outline around each character’s blue movement highlighted when you select a unit.
They can attack within the blue area also, but attacks can often reach further than movement, especially ranged attacks like bows and magic. Once you select a unit and move them within range of an enemy, select that enemy and a battle prediction screen will appear.
When attacking an enemy, you are shown the likely damage you will deal and how much damage that enemy will hit you back with.
From this screen, you can cycle through weapon, combat arts and battalion attacks to see what the best outcome will be. This screen doesn’t account for critical hits though, so your unit may just surprise you with major damage if they activate a critical hit.
QUICK TIPS: Surviving the Battlefield
- Take advantage of free battles and quest battles to help level up all your students equally, as well as earn money and other rewards.
- Use ZR to highlight all enemy range, to keep your units safe.
- Give every unit a Vulnerary in the early stages of the game while you are getting used to the game. These are healing items that are fairly cheap, and you begin with a few already.
- Paralogue battles are excellent for powerful weapons, as well as great character stories.
To learn more about Fire Emblem: Three Houses, head over to the official gamepage: