Omega Force is certainly in a unique position – as stewards of the long-running Warriors series, it has had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of intellectual properties, from Zelda to Gundam. Today, however, we take a look at Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, which shares the world and style of the incredibly popular Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I was curious how the change in setting affected the gameplay this time around and if this Switch game outperforms the beautiful but famous Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity with a low frame rate.
Before we get into the performance, let’s talk about what the game actually looks like. Three Hopes is a Warriors game through and through – complete with massive levels to explore, enemies to decimate and special moves to unleash – but it also expands the formula by being the most narrative Warriors game I’ve ever played played. The story follows a mercenary named Shez who joins one of three titular houses, with the choice effectively changing the trajectory of the story told with character conversations after each scenario and into camp sequences where you can run around and interact with your team. In combat there are also changes – you now have access to a map that allows you to send important units to attack enemies and achieve objectives. Overall, it’s a more nuanced and complex take on the Warriors series that feels surprisingly satisfying.
The more complex gameplay is aided by game performance improvements over the previous Warriors title on Switch – Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. That game uses a dynamic resolution of up to 810p when docked and features enough anti-aliasing for a clean look, but the frame rate regularly drops below 30fps as the action heats up. That’s a disappointment for a Nintendo adjacent project, even one developed by Omega Force.
Three Hopes is significantly more stable, running north of 30fps, which is achieved by a similar 810p dynamic resolution docked (and ~540p portable), but with relatively weak anti-aliasing and poor texture filtering. The texture filtering isn’t ideal, given the predominance of wide open spaces with flat surfaces, and the anti-aliasing isn’t ideal either, given the anime-esque visuals. For example, the thin black lines surrounding the characters would really benefit from TAA. However, the higher frame rate makes the game feel better to play, and it holds up better even during the types of special attacks that sapped performance in Age of Calamity. This remains true in both docked and portable modes, which in turn means that the dynamic resolution is often higher as well.
Technically, however, not everything is perfect here. The main visual criticism I have of this game comes from the movement and animation – an issue I shared with the first Fire Emblem Warriors. Basically, there’s a large bounding box for the character to run around in, resulting in movement that feels weightless. In addition, the running animation feels accelerated and attacks have no impact.
Perhaps more confusing is the decision to ship the game at a fully unlocked frame rate. The game tends to run in the 33-36 fps range which would translate nicely into a locked 30 fps for much of the gameplay if a cap were introduced, but instead we’re left with a variable frame rate that can occasionally go up to 50 fps in small indoor scenes, but drops much lower in combat. The game would feel a lot smoother with a 30fps cap, but if we ever get a Switch successor that runs the same games with better performance, Three Hopes would be a good candidate to hit a solid 60fps.
Aside from these technical flaws, there’s a lot to enjoy for fans of the latest Fire Emblem game on Switch. Three Hopes feels quite authentic compared to Three Houses itself – the dialogue style, image quality and menu systems all feel like a continuation, highlighting Omega Force’s skill when it comes to matching art styles. In this case, of course, the developers had an advantage – Omega Force is a division of Koei Tecmo, and Koei Tecmo was responsible for the technical development of Three Houses. (Intelligent Systems focused on writing, art design, and the game systems, but outsourced the programming and technical side of things to this team at Koei Tecmo.) I imagine this collaboration facilitated development for Omega Force in terms of tuning of the original designs.
There is also a split screen mode for two players that is worth discussing. To back this up, the visuals have been trimmed down a bit: shadows are disabled for characters and distant enemies are pushed back considerably, but surprisingly the performance isn’t much of a hit. It even seems to float closer to 30fps, so it feels a little less choppy than in single player. Sure, it can definitely dip below the 30fps line in certain situations, but it’s a solid way to enjoy the game that makes the combat more fun.
After spending some time with the game, I walked away with a few conclusions. First, in terms of overarching design, this is one of the more interesting Warriors games released to date – it feels like Omega Force is really onto something. The out of combat expansion adds a lot to the experience and the extra strategy makes it easier to master the battlefield. Second, there’s the state of the technology that powers these games – this studio has produced so many games over the years and their work has certainly improved in certain areas, but the technology feels like it needs an overhaul. The performance, display quality and animation work could all use improvements.
So in the end, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is a solid Warriors game with a lot of love for fans of Fire Emblem: Three Houses – it’s probably one of the better entries of the last few years, and it shows that Omega keeps repeating Force on the Warriors formula. While it will require a more extensive technical revamp sooner or later, the biggest issue with Age of Calamity has been fixed, making Three Hopes much more fun to play.