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. At the time of writing, it’s unknown if you can choose any other details, like name or appearance.
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.
Another option is Gambit, which borrows the help of nearby allies for a co-ordinated attack on the enemy called a “Gambit Boost”. Gambits appear to be connected to the relationships between allies–perhaps the better the relationship, the stronger its effects.
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.
Finally, it seems all units are supported by Battalions, which are groups of generic soldiers that support them in battle. Units can change the Formation of their Battalion to suit the current scenario, such as the triangular-shaped formation seen above.
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 more Attack Speed than the other, past a certain threshold, 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 probably won’t be coming back…
The Officer’s Academy
Your home base appears to be the officer’s academy situated at Garreg Mach Monastery, right at the heart of the Continent of Fodlan. The monastery–and the academy within it–is run by the Church of Seiros, who hold great authority over Fodlan.
You are a teacher within the academy. You can freely roam around the academy, similar to the dungeon exploration in Echoes. From here, you can probably interact with various NPCs, including the many students that make up the academy.
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.
During 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 skills (or 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.
Set Goals allows you to select two skills for the student to focus on. This seems to boost the amount of experience points earned via tutoring. It might also determine the skills that gain experience points when a student wins a battle.
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 may affect the amount of experience points earned.
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 a certain level of mastery in a particular skill.