With each new release from Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force, the word “Warriors” gets further away from the word “Dynasty”. The Musou action genre it created, where you play as an ultra powerful soldier against an army of hundreds, is borrowing more and more from the franchises it licenses story and characters from. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity looked and even sometimes felt like Breath of the Wild. Persona 5 Strikers (which lacks “Warriors” in the title, but is a Musou game) played like an extension of Persona 5, but with a different combat style. This trend among Omega Force’s games is a positive one, as you can only press the Y button so many times before you want to do something different. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes offers perhaps the most opportunity to entertain yourself outside of comboing through thousands of enemies that the studio has released yet thanks to its Fire Emblem: Three Houses-inspired content between missions. The result is a better-paced, more interesting experience than previous Omega Force games, but one that is still very much a Musou game.
Where the original Fire Emblem Warriors presented an ultimately unfulfilled opportunity to meet and play with the larger history of Fire Emblem characters, Three Hopes reigns in the focus and is essentially a pseudo-sequel/alternate telling of Three Houses that is an action game instead of a tactics RPG. You won’t run into characters like Roy or Marth, but you do have the choice to join Edelgard’s Black Eagles, Prince Dimitri’s Blue Lions, or–the correct choice–Claude’s Golden Deers. If you’ve played Three Houses, seeing these characters and agonizing over the choice again is nice, but this time you’re playing as a new character named Shez, whose appearance throws the timeline out of sync and forces former Three Houses protagonist Byleth into the antagonist role. The departure gives an illuminating new look at that story, allowing you to interact with familiar characters under new circumstances. This change also made me admire Byleth in a new way, as she destroyed me the first time I met her, and proved to be a worthy challenge on nearly every subsequent rematch.
Before and after combat encounters is where Three Hopes is the closest to Three Houses and doesn’t feel like a typical Musou game. Between pressing Y arguably too much, you visit base camp, where you can upgrade facilities, train, speak with your soldiers, make a meal, or even take care of horses. I enjoyed the reprieve from the repetitive combat and though I didn’t want to hear from every character between battles (and often elected not to), the opportunity to get to know the cast of characters, improve all the interpersonal relationships, and make them stronger during combat, made me eager to return to base camp. I even enjoyed the strangeness of going on the occasional date between slaughtering opposing troops. Base camp doesn’t change visually as a result of upgrades, which is disappointing, but leveling up and improving the facilities is rewarding for the bonuses they provide, like faster training or stores being able to carry more supplies.