One thing Fire Emblem: Three Houses does well is endear you to its memorable characters. After spending almost a hundred hours with the teens at Garreg Mach, I’m somehow still eager to see more of these characters’ hilarious interactions. It wasn’t a huge surprise when one fan took their huge personalities through the next logical step of teen socializing and imagined what it would be like if the students at Garreg Mach had Twitter accounts. I’ve been laughing about it for days, so I talked to the person behind the thread, Annie.
Annie is an 18-year-old college student who has been a huge Nintendo fan since middle school. As someone who writes fanfiction, getting character voices right really matters to them. Shitposting on Twitter is a good way to practice, and creating images of the tweets complete with profile avatars made it that much funnier.
“Fanfiction is as legitimate as fanart, it takes real hard work and skill to properly replicate a work,” Annie said over Twitter direct messages. “My dream job is localizing video games to make sure that words have the same weight & characters have the same voice after the game’s been translated, so fic writing for me is actually really useful preparation.”
“It’s fun seeing where character tropes intersect with categories that real-life Twitter users fall into!” they said. “I’ve practiced capturing the ‘essence’ of the characters I write for years & it’s a tricky thing to explain. It’s important to look at all of the characters’ actions and layers and ask yourself, ‘Would they REALLY say/do xyz?’ I find mimicking speech patterns SUPER fun so I really love characters like Claude with unique and well-done voices.”
Annie said that the idea they’re most proud of is Raphael drawing pictures of his friends. “It gave me an opportunity to use my subpar drawing skills as a way to illustrate sweet friendships and make people happy!” they said.
I for one hope that Annie keeps adding more examples of the dumb ways the characters of Fire Emblem: Three Houses would talk to each other online. Maybe I’ll see Annie’s strong sense of character writing in a future Fire Emblem game someday.
Joe Zieja’s path to voicing the English-language version of Fire Emblem: Three Houses lead Claude von Reigan was a circuitous one. Zieja said over the phone that he only realized what a huge role Claude was while he was recording. He told me that the director for the English voice actors, Patrick Seitz, broke the news while he was halfway through a recording session. The internet was crazy about the Golden Deer House’s nice young lad.
“He was like, ‘Do you realize how thirsty the audience is for Claude?’” Zieja said. “He’s like, ‘Why don’t you take a look at these,’ and started showing me all the fanart that people were drawing, and like all the tweets that people had made about Claude. Claude was trending on Twitter like a month before the game came out.”
Claude’s design, and the barest hint of his voice acting that we saw in early trailers, certainly piqued my interest. Once I had my hands on the game, he was my instant pick for marriage. Something about the way Claude took everything in stride, the slightly sarcastic tone of his voice, made me want to know all about him.
“What really stood out to me about Claude in general was, even though he was in a military academy—I went to a military academy, graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado—even though he was in that environment, he was very like chill,” Zieja said. “A lot of things just rolled off his back. So getting to play an easygoing character, especially in something that’s very anime influenced where everything is always super intense, it was really great to be able to lay back and apply some snark.”
Zieja turned to voice acting after his military intelligence job burned him out. His path from the Air Force Academy led him to the actual Air Force, then to a government job, then to the corporate world.
“It had its moments of excitement, and military intelligence sounds sexy,” Zieja said, “but it’s a lot of PowerPoints.”
Voice acting has proven to be much more interesting to Zieja than military intelligence. About eight months after starting, he realized that his client list had grown long enough that he needed to quit his day job to focus on this new career. He has since had roles in shows like Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans and games like Just Cause 4. Zieja said that realizing that he was going to be a lead character in a franchise as huge as Fire Emblem was kind of a slow burn.
“I was familiar with Fire Emblem. I played Awakening,” Zieja said. “It was a slow realization of just how big it was. Honestly, I don’t think I understood even how big it was until I made my announcement video and the internet lost its mind.”
Zieja said that playing Claude reminded him of his own days in a military academy, for the ways that he was unlike the character.
“It was super refreshing to see someone like, yeah, it’s war, having that kind of easy, carefree thing in really dire circumstances,” Zieja said. “I respect that, because as I learned in my military career, you can’t let everything get to you. I’m not going to name any names, but telling people, ‘Kill every last one of them on the field…’” We both laughed at this dramatic moment a different character had during the game. “Well, there is that part,” Zieja continued. “Claude is like, ‘Well, this is life, and you have the play the hand that you’re dealt.’ Claude can work within the rules of the system but stay outside of the system. That’s what makes him so strong.”
Zieja’s path to playing a lead character in such a huge franchise is an unusual one, and he seems grateful for, if slightly baffled by, his success.
“I feel like my life is being conducted,” Zieja said, “like I’m in an orchestra that’s being conducted by someone with a very strange sense of humor.”
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a lot of game, and it’s easy to get lost in the sheer amount you can do. I’ve got tips for everything from battle strategy to raising support levels to spending your days at Garreg Mach monastery effectively. Check out the video above for some helpful hints to get into the game, and then read below for even more tips for beginners and series veterans alike. It’s everything you need to be the best strategist you can be.
Go With Your Heart
The three houses in Three Houses have some differences in combat strengths, but in my experience, they’re not major. The Black Eagles, who are lead by Edelgard, start off with more magic users. Dimitri’s house, the Blue Lions, have more lancers. Claude’s Golden Deer start with more archers than the other houses. But as soon as you start actually teaching and fighting with these characters, you can pretty much mold them into whatever kind of fighters you want. Some characters are so malleable that they can end up as total powerhouses in skills they didn’t even have at the start of the game.
When it comes to choosing which house to play as, just go with whoever has the characters you like best. I went with Golden Deer because, well, I love Claude.
Make The Most Of The Monastery
Not all Garreg Mach will be available to explore at once, which makes the monastery way less intimidating. Once it has been entirely opened up, there’s so much to do it can be overwhelming.
When you’re choosing which activities to partake in, you need to keep an eye on your activity points. Some of the things you can do in Garreg Mach will use an activity point, and once you’re out of points, you won’t have access to those actions for the rest of the day. You can still explore the monastery, shop, talk to characters and give them gifts, but certain things will be off limits. Actions that use activity points are denoted by a purple hourglass—if there isn’t an hourglass, it won’t use up your points.
Fishing and gardening in the greenhouse don’t use activity points, so it’s worth hitting those up every month. Faculty training, cooking a meal with a student, eating with students, choir practice and inviting a character to tea do use your points. Given that you start off with a measly two points, you’ll have to make the most of what you can accomplish until you raise your professor level and get more.
To start, I limited my activity points to dining with students and choir practice. Both of these activities allow you to take two students along for the ride, giving you the most bang for your buck. Dining with students raises their motivation and all three characters’ support levels. Choir practice raises students’ faith and motivation and raises Byleth’s authority skill, which helps you command your battalions. When you gain a few more activity points, cooking meals with a student is a good use of time, too. This activity will give your characters a temporary boost to a single stat for the month.
Understanding The Combat Forecast
When you select the attack action in battle, you’ll see a forecast of a possible result. While the forecast shows you an accurate depiction of what will happen if both your character’s and their enemy’s attacks hit, both attacks landing is not a guarantee. Your character will always attack first on your turn, so if their attack is going to defeat an enemy, you don’t really have to worry. Where you should be cautious is when an attack has a chance of missing. If you look between each character’s health bar in the forecast, you’ll see three stats. One is how hard they hit, the next is the percent chance of a successful attack, and the third is the chance for a critical attack.
You can scroll through all your characters’ weapons and magic attacks using the left and right bumpers. Using X and Y, you can also look at all their Combat Arts. The combat forecast will change accounting for whichever weapon or Combat Art you have selected. When a weapon is particularly effective against a particular enemy type, a green check mark will appear on the forecast. That means the weapon will hit twice as hard as normal. Make sure to test the possibilities before you commit to anything.
Take Out Archers First
Archers are gonna fuck up your day if you’re not careful, especially in the late game when you have access to units that fly. Pegasus Knights and Wyvern Riders are both particularly weak to archers and magic users. It’s in your best interest to take out these types of enemies first, if you can. A flying arrow can be the difference between life and death.
Weapon Durability Isn’t As Big A Deal As You Think
A lot of people are concerned about breakable weapons in Three Houses, but relax. Iron weapons, the tier just above training weapons, have 30 uses. Each hit is one use. In most battles, you’re not going to come anywhere close to using a weapon that many times. Later on in the game you’ll be able to repair them, or even upgrade them into weapons with more uses.
The one thing to be careful of is Combat Arts, which use more durability than regular attacks. Some use as little as three points of durability, while others go up to five. If you’re using a lot of Combat Arts, it can grind down a weapon much more quickly. Archers are especially prone to this. Many of them have the Combat Art “Curved Shot,” which allows them to hit enemies that are farther away. I tended to use that move a lot, which meant that I had to pay close attention to the durability of my archers’ bows.
If you place a unit next to Byleth, they’ll be able to access the convoy, which is basically the full stock of your inventory. If a weapon breaks mid-battle, grabbing something from the convoy can work in a pinch, but it usually makes things more complicated than they need to be. You can also attack with a broken weapon, but they do way less damage and leave you more susceptible to counterattacks. The best thing to do is to check on each unit’s weapons before the battle, and then either buy an extra or repair them before you head out.
Don’t Be A Hero
It may be tempting in combat to just push one powerful character forward to take out a particularly pernicious enemy. This is always a mistake. It’s much more advantageous to push forward slowly, drawing out enemies if you can. You exact strategy may vary, but I found it easiest to advance in a large clump with tanks in the front, weaker characters in the middle, and archers and magic users in the back. If enemies are coming from two different angles, I tend to separate the clump into two squads that have roughly the same amount of tanks, archers, and magic users.
As you approach an enemy, the game will show you a red line arcing toward your character if they’re in range of an attack. Most of the time you’ll want to be out of range as you advance. If you know your character has enough health to take a hit, however, getting them in range of an attack can draw out the enemy unit, making it easier for your whole squad to take them down as they advance.
Building Your Squad
Don’t Miss Out On Support Conversations
There are a couple of characters, like Rhea, the Archbishop of the Church of Seiros, that I didn’t realize had support conversations until late in the game. If you go into the Support menu, you’ll see every character that’s available for you to build support with. You’ll also see which characters your students can raise their support with, as well as how high that support can go.
While raising support levels will make characters more effective on the battlefield, some of them will also answer some questions about the story’s lore. While there’s a clear impetus to play the game more than once—gotta see what happens to the other houses!—it’s also in your benefit, storywise, to see as much as the content as you can in one go. You won’t be able to see everything on your first go around, but if you’re curious about what Rhea, or any other character, gets up to, try to raise their support levels.
Everyone you do not recruit will be on the opposing armies after a certain point in Three Houses. Facing on them battlefield kinda sucks, to say the least.
Luckily, you can recruit almost every student at Garreg Mach. In order to do so, you have to either have a high enough support level or a high enough skill level in skills they’re interested in. If you want the perky Hilda on your team, for example, you either need to raise your support level with her or have a high Axe and Charm skill. If you attempt to recruit a student unsuccessfully, you’ll see a pop-up with the skills they’re most interested in. Pay attention to that. Write it down if you have to!
If you still have time, you should do as much faculty training as you can. Not only will that raise Byleth’s skills, it’ll raise your support level with the character who trained you. You can only get faculty training from a particular character once per month, but for certain characters, it’s one of the few ways you can raise their support level.
You’ll also be able to recruit some non-students, like the teachers Manuela and Hanneman. While I didn’t end up using them as much as the kids, I didn’t want to risk having to face them in battle. Recruitment isn’t just about who is going to be on your side—it’s also about who your enemies won’t have on theirs.
Romance Matters, A Little
Unlike Awakening and Fates, Three Houses doesn’t have any children coming back from the future. Romance still exists in this game, but it’s de-emphasized. The only character who can reach an S-rank of support level with another character is Byleth. There are romantic undertones to other characters’ support conversations, but you’re not going to be playing matchmaker.
That said, Byleth will be able to marry someone else by the end of the game, and so getting to an S rank with at least one character can lead to a cute romantic scene between the two of them. Getting to an S rank with a character that you fight alongside often isn’t that hard, especially if you also teach them frequently, invite them to tea, return their lost items, and give them gifts. It’s best to set your sights early.
Keep Your Students Motivated
You can’t teach your students if they don’t have any motivation, which ruins the best way to raise their skills. At the highest level of motivation, you’ll be able to teach them four times, which can be enough to raise them an entire skill level in the early game.
Keeping students motivated is pretty easy if you take full advantage of all that Garreg Mach has to offer. Returning lost items and giving students gifts will raise motivation—if they really like the gift you give them, it’ll raise two points instead of one, so pay attention to each characters’ likes and dislikes.
Eating with students will fully raise their motivation. You can eat with two students at a time, and it’ll also raise the support levels between all three of you. Although you can only eat the special of the day once, there’s also a full menu that you can access multiple times per day.
Nurture Your Students
If you really want to change the direction of a character, you have to invest in it. Each student starts off with two skills as their “Goals.” These skills will gain a set amount of experience at the end of each week without you specifically having to teach them. It’s more worth your time to devote your teaching sessions with each student to the skills that aren’t one of their goals, because unless they’re regularly using those skills in battle, they won’t level up.
Students’ goals can also change over time. You can set custom goals for each student, but sometimes they will prompt you during the teaching phase with what they’d like their new goals to be. I usually just accepted whatever goals they suggested, even if it went against my larger plans. It’s just hard to say no to those kids (and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re working on something they asked to or not anyway).
Master A Class Before Moving On
This is already common wisdom for Fire Emblem fans, but it bears repeating. If you master a particular class, you’re granted special abilities that you can equip at will. Some classes will also have class specific Combat Arts when they’re mastered. Combat Arts are particularly powerful, so it’s worth earning those.
Classes are unlocked in Three Houses by having characters take exams, and you don’t have to reclass them right away. Go ahead and unlock classes as they become available, and then reclass your character once you’ve taken full advantage of the class they’re in.
Don’t Forget About Byleth’s Skills
As you’re teaching your students, it can be easy to let Byleth, the game’s main character, languish. Although Byleth’s skills will also grow during combat, just like every other character, there are other ways to grow their skills. In the monastery, Byleth can get one on one faculty training, which will also build support between her and the character she’s learning from.
On the weekends, Byleth can also attend a seminar which will raise two different skills, depending on the teacher. Students who attend a seminar with Byleth will also have their motivation raised, meaning you will be able to teach them more during the teaching phase of the game. Raising Byleth’s skills is also a crucial part of recruiting characters from other houses, who will only join you if you have the skills they like, or Byleth’s support level with them is high enough.
Get Into A Routine
There are a lot of things to do at Garreg Mach monastery, and it’s easy to forget something you really wanted to check out in the chaos of gameplay. I found it useful to make myself a schedule, just like when I was back in school.
During most months, you’ll have three or four lectures, where you teach students, and three to four days where you can explore the monastery, attend a seminar, do an extra battle, or rest. If you’re playing online, the game will show you statistics about how many players do what on those days, which can be a helpful guideline.
As for me, I spent my first free day exploring Garreg Mach, working from the bottom of the monastery by the greenhouse up until I hit the cathedral, and then went to the (much smaller) second floor from there. Using that route, you’ll hit basically every character you’re able to speak to, as well as basically every activity. The market, fishing pond, greenhouse, and dining hall are all in close proximity to each other, so hitting them all up is pretty easy to do. You don’t get very many points for activities at the monastery at the start of the game, but as you raise your Professor Level, which is done by teaching, gardening and fishing, you’ll soon have more points than you know what to do with.
As the month progressed, I usually went on to attend a seminar, and then the next weekend do an optional battle. Make sure to take time to rest as well, because it raises your students’ motivation.
’Tis The Season
Garreg Mach has a few seasonal events, just like a normal high school. Some of them are combat focused, while others center around the activities you do during exploration. The special menu at the dining hall will also change weekly, giving bigger bonuses to different characters. When they’re serving Alliance specialties, try dining with students from the Golden Deer for a boost to all of your support levels.
There is one seasonal event that will unlock a special character class for a single character, a class that series veterans will especially want keep an eye out for. All I’ll say is that you should pay attention to the character with the highest stat in charm.
Talk To The Gatekeeper
There’s no gameplay benefit to this. I just love the chipper gatekeeper who stands watch on the right hand side of the gate outside the market. As they repeatedly tell Byleth, nothing gets past them! Except for, you know, all the nefarious goings on that you encounter during the game.