Analysis: Fire Emblem Three Houses Vs Fire Emblem Engage

So as soon as reviews for Fire Emblem: Engage came out there was a hoard of comparisons between it and Fire Emblem: Three Houses/Hopes the previous and arguably most popular entry in the franchise. The discourse got so heated that I have seen people devalue Engage simply because they viewed Three Houses to be a better experience. Now if you like Three Houses more I say go ahead but nothing about how these two games compare to one another, in my opinion, should shape how much you enjoy each game individually. With that being said I thought I would at least show how these two games compare to one another and show how there are enough differences between the two that any comparison is objectively pointless as these two games are designed to offer two very different experiences in everything but some of the gameplay.

Since gameplay changed the least between the two games I’ll start there to get this topic out of the way. Honestly, Fire Emblem is like many Nintendo franchises where the gameplay from one game to the next is very similar and with only a few changes in an attempt to fine-tune the experience. There are a few differences in combat but in my opinion, they are similar enough that if you liked the combat in Three Houses you’ll like it in Engage. Now outside of combat is a different story. In Three Houses each mission is set to one every calendar month and you get to choose one thing to do each week whether it’s teaching your units skills to use in battle, roaming the academy and building relationships, or taking on a few side battles but the catch is this happens weekly and you can only choose one of them. In Engage you can easily go from one chapter to the next without doing anything in between or you can roam around the Somniel and actually do a lot of the same stuff that you can do in Three Houses but without being able to teach your units. So gameplay wise the games are very similar but the main difference is you have to make several choices in what actions to do between each chapter of Three Houses and in Engage while you are missing some of the customization options that come with teaching units in Three Houses you also have a more play at your own pace situation where you can rush or take your time from chapter to chapter.

Now story wise these two games really couldn’t be more different in their approach. First of all Three Houses has a story divided into four routes that you for the most part decide at the start of the game. The first half of each route is almost exactly the same but the last halves of them are almost entirely different. This means to get the full experience you have to beat the game four times. Additionally, Three Houses really had a lore-heavy story with several big moments happening prior to the events of the game but they are so powerful that they have a profound effect on the world and the characters within it. So in order to really understand why the story is happening the way it is you really have to understand the lore that leads up to it. Plus the story isn’t your typical good versus evil situation. Instead what you have are multiple parties all in conflict with each other but with very complicated and morally subjective goals which I will explain more in detail when I talk about the characters. In Engage the world does have lore but it functions as its own separate thing from the main story. The reality is you could play the entire game without knowing the lore of the land and still have a firm grasp of the motivations behind all of the characters. Instead, the story opts to prioritize hyping the rings that summon the lords of the previous Fire Emblem games and makes room to incorporate an incredible array of easter eggs. The fact is Engage chooses to simply the story to a traditional good versus evil situation to make room for a focus on something designed to reward fans who have played multiple entries in the series. Now the story in Engage does have its high points and its fair share of surprises, but objectively when comparing the two stories I believe Three Houses does a better job.

Next, I’ll talk about the characters. In Three Houses because the world is heavily driven by the lore the characters are as well and a majority of them are heavily motivated by trauma caused by the events prior to the game. You really see two sides to each character. You see the personality trait that makes them unique and you see the part of their past that shaped their personal goals and ideology making them rather complex characters. These characters are clearly designed to make the player feel their pain and really make you want to root for them as you see their story unfold. With Engage all of the characters do have a story behind them, but their stories don’t have near as much power to them because oftentimes you get a vague description of the events that they have and those moments didn’t have near the effect on the characters in comparison to what the characters in Three Houses endured. So while these characters are amazing and enjoyable to watch their backgrounds don’t draw you in as much as what you are used to in Three Houses.

So Three Houses in my opinion far exceeds Engage in terms of story and character development because it adds a ton more original lore that has a massive effect on everything in the game. Simply put there’s a lot more to them. So for those who are looking for that primarily, I can easily see how they would rank Three Houses as a better game, but that doesn’t mean Engage is a poor game. In fact, Engage is actually one of my favorites in the series because it took an entirely different approach to pun intended to engage with the audience. It chooses to simplify the story and its characters in order to make room for lore that celebrates the 30-year history of the series which encompasses a lot of references including many for Three Houses. So in reality it makes sense that there were fewer resources to spare to make the lore and the characters as complex as the ones in Three Houses. Three Houses put the story and the characters first whereas Engage had the added task of putting a celebration of the franchise first and making those aspects come second. Because of that, I feel it makes a direct comparison not only impossible but entirely unfair. So I offer a counterargument. I believe that those who prefer an experience that can stand alone will prefer Three Houses and those who strongly want something that pays homage to the series will absolutely love Engage. Since I personally enjoy both I found myself loving both of these games.

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