Similar to Fates, you–the player–are the main character of the game. When you begin the game, you can choose an Avatar to represent yourself. The Avatar can be male or female and you can choose his or her name. At the time of writing, it’s unknown if you can choose any other details, like their detailed appearance.
Initially, you’re a mercenary-for-hire working for your father, Jeralt. After a fateful encounter, you awaken to a mysterious power given to you by an enigmatic girl known as Sothis. Afterwards, you are scouted by the Church of Seiros and invited to become a teacher within their prestigious military academy.
The core gameplay of Three Houses is the same as all mainline games. Battles take place on a grid-based map, with you (blue forces) and the enemy (red forces) each taking turns to move all of your units.
Besides choosing to attack enemies directly, units can select from Combat Arts, which are skills that provide various battle-related effects. For example, Curved Shot seems to boost the user’s attack range by 1 square. Combat Arts previously debuted in Echoes.
Additionally, it seems units can wield Magic independently of their weapons. Like Combat Arts, this seems inspired by Echoes. Assuming it works like Echoes, weapons take precedence over magic during counter-attacks, unless the unit has no weapon equipped.
After selecting a target to attack, the unit initiating the battle will perform an attack, followed by the targeted unit (if their attack range allows them to counter-attack). If one of the units has 4 or more Attack Speed than the other, they may perform a second attack called a follow-up attack.
After a player-controlled unit defeats a foe, that unit will gain experience points towards their Level, Professor Levels, Class Mastery and Battalion Level. These will all make the unit stronger in their own ways. But if the player-controlled unit is defeated, they won’t be coming back unless you choose Casual Mode.
New to Three Houses, units can be supported by battalions, which are groups of generic soldiers that appear alongside–and assist them–during combat. Battalions can directly increase a unit’s stats and let them use special attacks called “Gambits”.
Gambits prevent enemies from counter-attacking and have numerous effects, such as applying negative conditions or even hitting multiple enemies at once. There are also Gambits that buff your teammates instead. Gambits have a very limited number of uses per battle.
Characters with exceptionally strong ties may be able to trigger a Gambit Boost when close to one another. Judging from the name, a Gambit Boost probably increases the efficiency of a standard Gambit depending on the relationship between the units.
Battalions can be managed via the Knights’ Guild. Here, you can hire new battalions or replenish existing battalions. When a unit with a battalion takes damage, their battalion’s health will steadily drop. Once it reaches zero, the battalion’s effects will vanish and Gambits will be inaccessible.
There are many types of battalions for hire, each with different stat boosts and Gambits that can be used. Battalions can also Level Up and get stronger, like units. The battalions a unit can equip depend on the unit’s Authority level, similar to weapons.
The Officer’s Academy
Your home base is the officer’s academy situated at Garreg Mach Monastery, right at the heart of the Continent of Fódlan. The monastery–and the academy within it–is run by the Church of Seiros, who hold great authority over Fódlan.
The students of the academy are divided into three houses, according to their homeland–hence the subtitle. Students from the Adrestian Empire belong to the Black Eagles, those from the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus fall under the Blue Lions, while the Golden Deer shelters those from the Leicester Alliance.
As a teacher, you will choose to lead one of these houses. This choice seems to determine the students that you teach–and use during battle, so you may need to choose wisely. Right now, it’s unclear if students from the houses you don’t choose will assist you in battle.
The game is divided into seasons (months), which are further divided into weekdays and weekends. During weekdays, you’re expected to teach the students of your house. On weekends, you have free time to do other things. At the end of each season, you must pass a Field Study. After that, the current chapter (or act) will end.
Just like the real world, there are 12 months in one year. To help you plan ahead, there’s an in-game calendar that shows the current day, as well as notable happenings during the month. You can even keep track of your students’ birthdays!
During weekday classes, you’ll fulfill your duty as a teacher by creating Lesson Plans for your students.
Tutoring lets you have a 1 to 1 study session with a chosen student. You can select one of the student’s Professor Levels (aptitudes) to increase its experience points. Just keep in mind there’s a limit to how many times you can tutor the same student before they get tired.
Auto-Tutor seems to automatically perform tutoring for you, so you don’t need to rack your brain. Perhaps it’ll choose the recommended Professor Levels for a particular student. Or maybe it’ll just pick randomly…
Group Task has you pick two bright-eyed students to go and fulfill a certain task. Completion of the task will raise both students’ Professor Levels in a particular category, earn support points and various rewards.
Set Goals lets you select two Professor Levels for the student to focus on during their own time. Students can also suggest their own goals for you to approve.
Of course, you can’t just teach endlessly. Along the top of the screen, there’s an Instructor Gauge that shows the remaining number of times you can teach your students.
When it’s the weekend, your options become more broad.
Stroll lets you go outside and explore the academy grounds, similar to the dungeon exploration in Echoes. Here, you can also interact with students and trigger side-quests. However, your actions are limited by your Stroll Gauge, similar to the Instructor Gauge.
Class may be related to optional study sessions. Perhaps it lets you form a Lesson Plan outside of weekdays?
Venture seems to be related to going out to fight. Maybe in optional skirmishes? Regardless, there’s a limit to how many times you can use this option, according to your Venture Gauge.
Rest probably lets you rest and do nothing, advancing the time.
Examination allows you or your students to take exams to change classes. More on that later.
By the way, your Instructor, Stroll and Venture Gauges can be increased by raising your Instructor Level. This seems to function like a Professor Level that only you have. You can earn experience towards your Instructor Level by teaching students, socialising and whatnot. Basically, by being a good teacher.
There are probably many other things to do at the academy as well. For instance, it seems students can spar with each other, similar to the Arena system found in previous games. Students can also interact with each other to increase their relationships–which ties into the Gambit system.
Professor Levels replace weapon levels in previous games. These are a set of skills (or aptitudes) that include the traditional weapon levels (Sword, Lance, Axe and Bow plus a new weapon called Fighting), magic (Reason aka Anima or Elemental and Faith aka healing), Authority and movement classes (Heavy Armour, Riding and Flying).
You can raise Professor Levels through combat and Lesson Plans. It seems all students can use all skills, but they may have their own strengths and weaknesses in different skills. Like one character may be adept at Sword and Reason, but not so good with Faith. This affects the amount of experience points earned (+/- 2).
Some characters have 3 stars next to one of their Professor Levels, typically one they’re not good at. Although it might be difficult, increasing this Professor Level can cause the student to blossom a new talent. This will make them adept at the Professor Level and unlock a new skill.
Once a student has gained enough knowledge, they can take an exam to transfer to a different job class. In other words, they can Reclass. It seems an item may be required to take the exam (such as an Intermediate Seal), and the student may require specific Professor Levels to be raised to have a high pass rate.
You and your students all start off in the Commoner or Noble class, which is a trainee class that excels at nothing but can wield a limited amount of magic. From Level 5, characters can Reclass to base classes such as Myrmidon, Soldier and Fighter. From Level 10, they can Reclass to intermediate classes such as Mercenary and Mage.
Unlike previous games, characters retain their Level after they Reclass. For the most part, they also retain all of their weapon types. However, certain classes excel at using specific weapons. Also, it seems magic is restricted to certain classes only. Gauntlet-type weapons (tied to the Fighting Professor Level) cannot be used while riding.
Like recent games, characters can equip special skills, which provide a variety of benefits. There are three types of skills:
- Personal skills: Innate skills that each character has at the start. Cannot be removed and there’s only one for each character.
- Class skills: Innate skills for each class. They are granted to that class only and disappear once you change class.
- Professor skills: These are skills that character can learn by increasing their Professor Levels. Unlike class skills, they can be customised.
Characters can have up to 9 skills at one time. 1 personal skill, up to 3 class skills (which are dependent on the class they’re currently in) and up to 5 professor skills (which can be freely mixed and matched, regardless of your current class).
Some characters also bear crests, such as those passed down by the Divine Seiros and the legendary heroes of Fódlan. Typically, crests are only found on those of noble birth; they are also divided into minor and major versions. Crests seem to have an effect in battle, but their exact properties are currently a mystery.