Without further ado, here’s the second half of my analysis of Treehouse Live’s 30 minute gameplay session of Three Houses, which focuses on the battles. If you’re interested and you missed it, feel free to check out the first half that discusses the academy part.
Prior to E3, we hadn’t really seen or heard much of the battles. Of course, we did learn how mechanics like Battalions and Gambits work, thanks to Famitsu. Still, it’s hard to get a feel for the gameplay without seeing it in motion. Gamespot also showed some footage earlier, but Treehouse Live was the first to fully showcase the battles.
This analysis is looking to be another really long one, so here’s the TL;DR for you. As some predicted, Combat Arts (battle-triggered skills that debuted in Echoes) consume additional weapon uses. You’ll have to choose whether to unleash a powerful move or conserve your durability for a rainy day.
The time-rewinding mechanic, which is based off Mila’s Turnwheel (also from Echoes), is officially known as Divine Pulse. Like the turnwheel, you can rewind individual actions or whole turns. The protagonist and some students have powerful weapons called “hero relics”, which can only be equipped with the associated crest.
That’s about it. Besides the flashy new features, the battles are Fire Emblem battles as you’ve always known them. Unlike previous console titles, namely the Tellius duology, movement is a lot faster. Also, you can skip animations like in the DS and 3DS titles. So basically there’s nothing to worry about.
With that said, please continue if you want to see everything dissected.
Previously, our hosts chose the “Death Toll” paralogue, which involves Raphael and Ignatz from the Golden Deer trying to help some merchants escape a monster’s wrath. In this particular save file, the player is leading the Black Eagles, but has somehow recruited the pair. Despite what they claim, I think you can trigger this paralogue without recruiting them.
Anyway, before the paralogue loads, like similar games that require a fair amount of time to load, there are helpful tips that you can read over. The current one explains gifts and lost items, which both appeared in the Gamespot preview. Giving a gift can boost a student’s motivation, so you can teach them more times.
As the paralogue begins, we see the battle preparations screen. Likewise, we saw this in Gamespot’s preview. But just in case, it seems you can buy weapons and supplies from the Marketplace during the preparation phase. Also, the support option suggests that support conversations are triggered before a battle, like in Awakening and Fates, and not like the GBA games or Echoes.
The victory condition for this paralogue is simple: defeat the commander. Also, Byleth, Edelgard, Raphael and Ignatz cannot fall in battle. Byleth is obvious–he’s the main character. Edelgard is the house leader and very important too. Meanwhile Raphael and Ignatz are the paralogue stars.
Before the battle begins, four merchants run from the east, towards a dead end. Chasing them is a gigantic wolf-like monster. Looks like you need to save them before they become the wolf’s lunch. The objective of this paralogue doesn’t specify that you must save the merchants, but you can bet it’s in your best interests to do so.
Ignatz is leading a group towards the west side of the map, which has easy access to a drawbridge to the west of the trapped merchants. Meanwhile, Raphael is in a group towards the north-east, who are better positioned to deal with the main body of the foes. Ah, good old splitting your forces up.
Here, the battle begins and we see a nice animation for the start of the Player Phase, showcasing the Goddess’s crests. Unlike the mural, all the crests are clearly visible. They were also all visible on the special soundtrack CD. So nothing really new here.
The camera focuses on a blue escape tile, which is currently occupied by enemies. Raphael says the merchants can probably escape there, but you’ll obviously have to clear away the rubbish first. Indeed, you can get additional rewards if the merchants safely escape. OK, sounds like a challenge!
The cursor begins on the male protagonist, Byleth. He seems to be a Level 15 Mercenary, equipped with his signature weapon, the Sword of Creation. This is the golden blade featured in his/her artwork and the same one we’ve seen time and time again. Because he’s in an Intermediate foot-soldier class, he has 5 Movement.
The player moves Linhardt first, since he’s a Cavalier with much higher Movement: 7 in fact. Linhardt goes south to attack a nearby enemy. In addition to the expected commands like Attack and Combat Arts, there’s a very nostalgic one: Dismount! This would let you get off your horse, reducing your Movement, but removing your weakness to horse-slaying weapons etc.
They choose to use a Combat Art to attack the enemy with. Linhardt has Tempest Lance and Knightkneeler. You can see that they expend 5 and 4 additional weapon durability each. Oof, that’s a lot. Also, they boost Linhardt’s Attack and Hit rate considerably. Some Arts may also boost Critical, Attack Speed, Protection (physical defence?), Resilience (magical defence), Avoid and Attack Range.
After picking a Combat Art, you can pick a weapon. A classic Steel Lance has 40 uses. That means, if you were to use Knightkneeler every time, you could only use it 8 times before the Steel Lance breaks. Hmm, better start stocking up on spares…
Here’s Linhardt riding valiantly into battle. He doesn’t excel as a Cavalier, but thanks to the flexible class system, he’s definitely viable as one. Personally, I’m hoping there’s a horseback class that can wield magic. Then I can give him a bow and hey presto, he can pass as Lyn and Reinhardt’s legitimate son!
Post-battle, we see Linhardt has the Seiros Sacred Monks as his Battalion. This appears to be an improved version of the Seiros Holy Monks, which Felix had in the Gamespot video. Assuming they’re related, this Battalion probably has a Gambit that buffs allies, so that’s why no Gambit was visible when near the enemy.
Oops, Linhardt took a lot of damage. But since he’s mounted, he can use Canto to use his leftover movement to escape to safety. Oh, just 1 Movement spare. But maybe that’s enough.
Byleth comes to the rescue, easily dispatching the weakened foe. Heck, Linhardt didn’t even need to do anything with Byleth’s damage output. After the battle, we see Byleth’s Battalion is the Seiros Mercenaries. Also, Byleth gains support points with Linhardt for just fighting nearby. Linhardt cannot attack at this range, so he couldn’t join in for a co-ordinated attack.
Ignatz moves next. He has two Combat Arts: Break Shot and Curved Shot. The first one is new, while the second one is from Echoes. Both cost 3 additional weapon durability. By default, I think Ignatz can attack from 2~3 range, but Break Shot lets him attack from 2~4 range. His weapon of choice is the Iron Bow.
In the battle forecast, it looks like Ignatz has a passive skill that boosts his Hit rate by 20. Also, there’s a curious Bow and down arrow icon next to his Hit rate. This doesn’t seem to be related to the enemy’s skills, as they have none. Instead, I’m assuming it’s because he’s attacking from 3 spaces away. But it matters not as he’s guaranteed to hit anyway.
Hubert moves next. He’s a Mage, but seems to have 4 Movement despite being an Intermediate class like Byleth and Ignatz. To compensate he has a maximum attack range of 3 squares. Bernadetta has the same Movement and Range as Ignatz, since they’re likely both Archers. That’s the western group all done for this turn.
While they’re thinking, the player hovers over the merchants that are stuck We see they have their own green flag, which features a knightly helmet. Is this the flag for NPCs or specifically for an actual body, like a merchant union or something? They can also fight back if needed, but seem rooted in place, for now. Maybe they’ll move when the bridge is lowered.
Around this time, we’re introduced to the nasty monster to the east. This is a Giant Wolf equipped with a “Dark Stone (Wolf)”. It’s a “Demonic Beast” that occupies 4 map tiles. I also see a strange cracked cube icon floating above it. The King of Beasts from the Gamespot video had a similar icon, but it wasn’t broken.
Its flag is the same as the merchants’, but red. So it’s generic after all. Above the flag is the same cracked cube icon and a second icon: a shield with a lance in the middle and a down arrow. If I had to guess, maybe the wolf resists lance weapons? We don’t get to find out though.
Onto the north-eastern party. Petra moves first and she targets an enemy Mage. Currently, she’s in the Thief class, hence the thief-like skills that you can see. After the battle, we see she’s leading an Empire Infantry Battalion. Otherwise, nothing too surprising.
Dorothea comes over to finish off the Mage. Like Hubert, she has 4 Movement and 3 Range. Since Petra is nearby and can attack the Mage, Petra can help with a co-ordinated attack. Although I don’t see any combat buffs or debuffs in the forecast… Unless she’s helping Dorothea to achieve a follow-up attack (the x2)? Seems doubtful. Her Battalion is the Empire Magic Corps.
The rest of the cast move further in. Edelgard, currently a Lord, has 5 Movement as expected. Oh, you may have noticed that Ferdinand is wielding a lance despite being a Brigand. Clearly, they forgot to give him a different weapon after he passed the exam. But fortunately, most classes can wield most weapons, so no worries! Magic and Gauntlets have restrictions though.
As the Enemy Phase starts, the camera pans near the centre, where another Giant Wolf can be found. Yikes. Above it, I’m guessing is the enemy commander, a very… green-looking Cavalier or Paladin.
Bernadetta is attacked by an enemy Archer. After the battle, we see she has Empire Snipers as her Battalion. Likewise, Caspar comes under fire. He’s leading a bunch of Empire Warriors. That’s pretty much everything of note. The rest of the enemy phase is skipped, since they’re clearly pressed for time.
The next Player Phase begins. Unless I missed it earlier, I believe this is the first time “Divine Pulse” is available in the bottom-right corner. This refers to the ability to rewind turns and individual actions, just like Mila’s Turnwheel in Echoes. It’s great if you make a mistake but don’t want to restart a chapter. Just be careful as it has limited uses. Previously, I called it “Skyrending Pulse”.
Here’s another oddity of the new class system. The player makes Hubert attack an Archer at close range. But since they select the enemy off the bat, the game defaults to Hubert’s 1 range weapon, which happens to be a Mini Bow. Yes, so you can indeed give magic users bows. So a bow and magic-wielding Linhardt is still within the realm of possibility… Hubert is commanding Empire Magic Users.
Bernadetta comes to clean up. She triggers a lucky critical hit, but the hosts say she’s triggered a “Gambit”. Unless they’ve swapped around the terminology, I am pretty sure this is a mistake. Gambits are special attacks that can be selected before a battle, to send your Battalion at your foes (or buff your allies). But that was just a standard critical hit…
Byleth beats up some more enemies, with a critical hit as well. He gains enough experience to Level Up and, as expected, he has *gasp* dialogue for this special occasion!
OK, there’s an actual Gambit. When Linhardt is moving, he can use a Gambit on his nearby allies. Also, he can access the Convoy, from Byleth I’m guessing. Whew, he can reach the drawbridge. If you haven’t noticed, the Giant Wolf is slowly starting to close in.
The remaining units are all moved closer to the enemy commander, then the next Enemy Phase starts. Immediately, an enemy walks over to use the Lure Gambit on an unsuspecting Caspar. This one should move Caspar behind the enemy, placing him in great danger. Uh oh. But the hosts up and abandon the fight for a different save file.
This save file is from a story battle, in a very familiar map if you’ve been following Famitsu. This is the one with warp tiles that transport you around the map, and enemies led by the enigmatic Flame Emperor. In fact, the boss of this map is the Death Knight, who I previously called the “Reaper Knight”. But this name perfectly suits him.
Apparently, they’ve cleared most of this map before this footage was shown. So they’re almost ready to approach the boss. Also, the player is leading the Blue Lions instead of the Black Eagles. Oh and female Edelgard… er, Byleth, too.
We continue with the east squad, who are trying to navigate further in. Sylvain leads the charge, by opening the door up ahead. Likewise, he can Dismount if need be. Dedue points out the rather obvious lever in the centre of the room up ahead. Also, as you enter, enemy reinforcements appear from above. Sylvain, what are you doing so far ahead?!
Next, the focus shifts to the west squad, which is near the Death Knight’s area. Female Byleth leads the charge with her Sword of the Creator. She looks pretty OP to say the least.
Ashe joins in, using the Curved Shot Combat Art to reach the far-off foes. He gains a Level Up after the battle–and some decent stats. His Battalion is called the Kingdom Snipers, similar to the Empire Snipers. Should I expect Alliance Snipers as well?
Dedue moves next, although he can’t reach any foes. Well, he does have 4 Movement as an Armored Knight after all. He has access to a Gambit, which probably has a supportive effect. After moving and taking no action, his personal skill triggers.
Mercie moves closer as well, then the player returns to the eastern squad. Ingrid moves up to attack a foe. Sylvain is nearby and can target the same foe, so he joins for a co-ordinated attack. Ingrid receives a Hit Rate bonus because of this (and the enemy a Hit Rate penalty, if they could fight back). Ingrid has a Kingdom Lance Co. following her.
The map menu pops for a moment. The options are fairly standard: Units, Retreat, Conditions, Auto-Battle, Guide, Options, Bookmark and End. Retreat is quite interesting. If it’s like Echoes, you can flee a battle (even story battles) after a number of turns pass. Considering this game has borrowed a lot from Echoes already… Also, unmoved units are called “Untapped Units”. Cute.
On to the Enemy Phase! Poor Dedue takes two attacks from an enemy Mage. But it’s not enough to kill him. When the danger’s passed, we can see he has a Kingdom Armored Co. as his Battalion.
While the enemies are attacking, they talk about “hero relics” that Byleth and “some students” have. Apparently these can only be wielded if you have the associated crest. I assume these are the bone-like weapons wielded by Byleth and the three house leaders. But I’m wondering if there are more of these…
Oh, Sylvain’s Battalion is called Kingdom Knights. Nothing really unexpected. But he does gain a Battalion Level Up. If you haven’t been following, Battalions can also Level Up to gain improved stats. For reaching Level 2, the Kingdom Knights gain 1 Hit. Better than nothing, I suppose. His Gambit is Assault Troop, which seems quite common.
Soon afterwards, during the next Player Phase, female Byleth gets a Battalion Level as well. For reaching Level 3, her Seiros Mercenaries gain 1 Physical Attack, 1 Hit Rate and 1 Protection. That’s much better, especially the attack and defence. Her Gambit is called Onslaught.
We get to see Mercedes heal the injured Dedue next. She’s casting Physic from range. Her crest, the Minor Crest of Lamine triggers. I have no clue what it did, as her healing power hasn’t changed and she restores all of her HP anyway thanks to Live to Serve. We also see she’s accompanied by Kingdom Magic Corps.
The player swaps back to the eastern party and makes Ingrid yank the lever next to her. Also, I noticed there’s a strange target-like icon on Ingrid’s name box, which I don’t think was there before. Is this related to one of her skills maybe? Oh wait, the same icon briefly appeared above Felix during the previous turn. How intriguing.
Sylvain moves towards a warp tile, after deleting an enemy. Then Annette slowly moves up. She has the option to Rally, to buff stats like in Awakening in Fates. She can buff Strength and Resistance at the same time. Nice! I think this is from two different Rally skills though.
On the next turn, Sylvain uses the Teleport command on the Warp tile that he’s on. In exchange, he can still act after emerging on the other side. So like the Sevenfold Sanctuary in Fates.
Eventually, Sylvain opens the way to the Death Knight’s room. The Death Knight is Level 20 and carries a droppable Scythe of Sariel. Which is a lance weapon. The player wisely pulls Sylvain back. During some moments, the same “target” icon we saw before appears above Sylvain. This time, it only seems to appear when an enemy mage is selected.
Before time runs out, our hosts very quickly talk about–and show–Divine Pulse. Currently, it’s the 13th turn and Divine Pulse can be used 2 more times. After that, we see another Level Up for Sylvain, plus a Battalion Level up for Ashe. If you’re curious, his Battalion has a Gambit called Fusillade.
Just before we finally reach the Death Knight, he’s ordered by the Flame Emperor to retreat. Apparently, the mission is to defeat the Death Knight (who’s incredibly tough) or the rest of the enemies, all within 25 turns. Since all of the enemies have been defeated, the Death Knight retreats and the battle is cleared.
Update: Thanks to Disclaimer for correcting me about the Death’s Knight’s departure.
That brings us to the end of Treehouse Live’s coverage of the game. But if you’re hungry for more, a bunch of media outlets have uploaded their footage of the King of Beasts battle. I’ll be having a look at those once I get some rest. Also, the Japanese official site has updated with some gameplay details. Busy, busy, busy!