My go-to answer for anyone who asks how lockdown in NY is going is "we're hanging in there." We've had our ups and downs, and I'm really not up for discussing the downs right now. I started playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses on the Switch...last week? Two weeks ago? Time has no meaning right now. Either way, the game is about the only thing keeping me even partially sane right now, so even though I'm only halfway through it, I figured I might as well sing its praises in a blog post.
I've never played a Fire Emblem game before, nor did I know anything about the series going in, other than some general awareness of its existence. But once I acquired a Switch (hidden in a dark corner of Costco; there were only two left, so I'm kind of proud of myself for finding one), gaming/creative buddy Boobulon recommended Three Houses, assuring me I'd either like it or love it. We've never steered each other wrong before when it comes to gaming recommendations, so I got the game. As I mentioned, I just passed the halfway point, but so far, so good!
In no particular order:
Characters: Probably what's impressed me the most about this game is the character development. The cast is HUGE—we're talking at least 30 individual characters, and while of course some are more significant than others, there really aren't a whole lot of what I would consider "minor" characters. Naturally, the game does rely on some tropes; it would be impossibly not to. But while it would be easy to have some characters be reduced to nothing but one-dimensional tropes or stereotypes, everyone's got different traits and backstories to fully flesh them out. And while I have my favorites, there isn't even anyone I really dislike, which is also impressive.
Setting: Since I haven't played any other games in the series, I'm sure there's a ton of lore I'm missing out on. Even without all that context, though, it was easy enough to learn about the fictional world in its state as of the time of the game. It's pretty basic medieval-ish fantasy—all humans, fighting with weapons like swords and axes, but some characters can use magic, and there's mystical creatures/monsters like dragons and wyverns and such. There's a definite class system, with nobility vs. commoners being A Thing, and there's also a centralized religious institution playing a role in all the political drama. Again, I'm sure there's stuff I'm glossing over since I don't have the context of the past games, but it all makes enough sense to me.
Plot: As always, I try to remain as spoiler-free as possible before playing. However, I'm pretty sure it's even in the game's description (the blurb, if you will) that close to the beginning, you have to choose one of the titular three houses to align yourself with. That right there increases the replayability factor, since while you can build relationships with people in other houses, it's more challenging. I also knew going in that the game is clearly split into two halves, with a time jump in the middle. I know there's a lot of differing opinions out there about time jumps, but personally, I don't mind it. I don't consider it lazy writing, and I think it allows for a lot of character growth. (Probably one of the reasons Dragon Age II is my favorite of that series, since I think it has the strongest companion characters, and the time jumps allow for that level of development.) Aside from the house selection at the beginning, there are also some places where the plot branches out in different directions, so I know I'll need to go back and replay for those choices, too.
Aside from the structure, everything else seems well-organized and planned out. Some big plot events were heavily foreshadowed, so I wasn't surprised at all when they happened. On the other hand, there was a big twist I didn't see coming AT ALL, to the point where I was shouting profanity at my TV screen and was PISSED for the rest of the night (but in a good, entertained way!). And then once I got over my surprise, I realized that looking back, there were quite a few hints dropped leading up to it, which just makes it even better.
Gameplay: I'm playing on the easiest mode, so I won't go into a whole lot of detail here. It's turn-based combat, which I know some people don't love, but I like the logic and thought and planning that goes into it. Then there are little side things, like gardening and fishing, and leveling your character up, and choosing how to develop the skills of the rest of your team, etc. Some parts of it I think are as easy or as complex as you make them, but I haven't gotten frustrated with anything yet.
So there we are, a little past the halfway point, and about 60 hours in, according to my main save file. If you need a distraction to get your mind off of everything else that's going on right now, either on a global level or a more personal one, I highly recommend the game. (I'm assuming nothing's going to happen to change my opinion to a negative one by the end, but I suppose you never know....)