Sunday, 16 February 2020

On three houses (3): Cindered Shadows



DLC 4 is the last scheduled expansion of Three Houses and is also the largest expansion. A completely new side story alongside with new characters, quests and activities that provides further clues about the main story.

Having new characters and activities means you need to play side story plus a complete rundown in the main story to experience everything -- which is too much for a player who have already completed the game 5 times. Below are my thoughts after completing the side story with a taste of main story with the presence of the new contents.

Part I: on game mechanics

Part II: maddening and more

*spoilers alert*

Side story

Did it in hard classic and it does not disappoint me. Enemies have config slightly above the "main story" hard, but with limited resources (though not "lacking resources") and being inaccessible to auxiliary battles it could be pretty hard. The way the game works here is pretty close to that in classic Fire Emblem (like Blazing Blade), so as the difficulty.

The side story consists of 6 unique battles. Enemies are compactly packed that does not allow the slightest bit of excessive training.

I personally like the third battle the most -- the two possible routes gives flexibility on how you can play the stage. Actually I figured that it is the safest to use both of them.

The final boss is also interesting given its gimmicky special attack. I found however, the fight would still be possible without the post-AOE weakening. That would be a lot more interesting as well as pushing the difficulty up to the maddening bar.

Story-wise, there is not a lot that you can do in a 7 chapter span where the second half are all about consecutive battles. Someone data-mined that there will be 13 chapters and a more detailed stories can be delivered in such length.

With the introduction of Abyss, I expect them to focus on interaction among underground students and residents because those residents are reasons the student were there. But with 7 chapters only IS did enough to introduce the students. The interactions are left for support conversations, which are also nicely written.

New classes

Yes that is a great solution to what I pointed out before. The new classes aimed to provide full flexibility between magic accessibility and melee potential of the characters.

Dark fliers is the long awaited class, fliers that can use magic. Even with sacrificed growth the class completely worth it given how overpowered fliers can be in the game.

Valkyries seem to clash with holy/dark knight at the master class, but it bridges well between the mage class and the magic knight classes since the lance requirement is gone. It's range+1 also allows long range magic snipers other than Lorenz.

Tricksters and war monks are adjustments to melee-magical units without the problem of mortal servants where growth were split 50/50 that doesn't really work on characters that fit. These two classes are primarily for melee based (trickster for dex based and war monk for vit/def based) characters who also wants to use heal at times.

Trickster is also a bridge between sword users and mortal servants, if one trains reason and faith simultaneously. However this is really a class taylor made for Yuri with his growth distribution especially with his unique combat art, the foul play. In side story I would made him MVP as he and Edelgard combined are capable to take all physical attacks. And while Edelgard slashes back for 35 damage, Yuri simply goes for 15+45 critical...

In side story, the two magical units are very fragile due to its limited movement (compared to master classes), the abundance of stairs (for valkyries) and team composition that couldn't protect them well. The war monk is kind of balanced -- he can sweep but you do not want to put him up front too often. Yuri of course survives anywhere on the map.

If we are to use these classes in the main story with proper team setup, it is expected that dark fliers will be used as a final form. Valkyrie might be a bridge to magic knight but it may also be used as a final form if one wants to do long range snips. Trickster is probably reserved for Yuri or at most Felix. War monk...is still awkward for me.

New region and activities

That I do not have full experience of. But new area's new area. They fill the area with new NPCs and new dialogues that consolidates the story further and this is never a bad thing.

Scraps may be useful for maddening or players who really lack resources. Altar is useful for New Game+ players who wants to get specific item where they didn't get because they skipped some game elements, and that's also good.

The idea of mysterious teacher is nice although I still haven't got a full picture on how it works, but it looks interesting. And for the rest, I am probably won't have the time to explore since it will take me another 15-20 hours to go through the game again...

Cindered Shadows

4 new well-crafted characters and they fit well in Abyss.

Hapi the anti-social who disbeliefs the church. Constance a fallen noble with Schizophrenia. Balthus the bold, the gambler and the alcoholic. Though nothing too surprising you have got to say these settings do work.

And of course Yuri. As a house leader (kind of) he completes the weapon cycle among the leaders, and he also completes the personality quadrants among them. He is charismatic but disbeliefs in the church unlike Claude. His charm and wise fits with his trickster class, but what surrounds him does not give him free will after all. He is the classic Japanese RPG protagonist, and a fitting last piece to this Fire Emblem sequel.

I wish that the support between Yuri and Byleth(s) could have been more romantic -- Yuri can flirt Ingrid without backfiring (just look at Sylvain), but he seems to be so clueless against us...

Conclusion

So, what should I grade Fire Emblem Three Houses for now?

School system that attracts everyone except hardcore classic players. New class system that is pretty much complete upon DLC. Multiple difficulties that can be completed with or without extra battles. Up to 40 characters with thousands of support conversations.

...all in one game. This is Fire Emblem Three Houses.

I would give 7.8/10 after writing (1). But with DLC the game probably worths a score of 8.5/10. A masterpiece that is for everybody, whether you are hardcore SRPG player or not.

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