Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the first mainline entry in the long running strategy RPG franchise to be developed for the Nintendo Switch, marking the series return to console hardware since 2007's Radiant Dawn as well as being the sixteenth core installment in the franchise overall. Once again, Intelligent Systems created this entry in the Fire Emblem series however the title was also co-developed by Koei Tecmo, who had previously produced Fire Emblem Warriors, with Intelligent Systems being in charge of design while Koei Tecmo dealt with the general game development. Fire Emblem: Three Houses was released simultaneously worldwide on July 26, 2019, a first for the franchise.
The title follows a Protagonist (named Byleth by default) who was formerly a mercenary but, due to various circumstances, has recently become a Professor at the Officer's Academy in the Gareg Mach Monastery. The school is within a neutral religious capital located in the middle of the continent's three ruling nations, whose future leaders and nobles all receive training in both academics and combat at the academy.
After the initial tutorial level, Byleth will have to choose which one of the titular Three Houses they wish to teach:
Byleth will then be assigned the role of Professor over their selected house. However, they can build up support with most students from other Houses and Recruit them to join their own class. Some unaffiliated units from the Church of Seiros can also be recruited to join Byleth's class as students in this manner.
During the month, Byleth will have to balance teaching their class, building up support with students and staff around the Monastery, completing sidequests, and fighting battles across the continent to build experience points for themselves and their units. At the end of a typical in-game week, players can choose between one of four actions:
- Explore the Monastery, allowing the player to talk to students and staff, build up support, and possibly recruit them or ask for their assistance with battles throughout the month.
- Host a Seminar, allowing one of the staff at the Monastery to teach a selection of Byleth's class about their main specialties and build experience with those skills.
- Battle, which allows Byleth to launch a raid on an enemy target with their class (and mission assist, if applicable) and fight in classic Fire Emblem action. Some sidequests can only be completed in this mode.
- Rest, which allows Byleth's class to regain their motivation for future lessons, and allows Byleth to recharge a certain special weapon at no cost.
The day after any of these options have been selected and played out, Byleth will typically begin teaching their class.
The player can either use Auto-Instruct to let the AI decide which students to Instruct and in what fields, or perform the Instruction manually by selecting students with at least some Motivation and selecting a specific area to Instruct them in. The more Motivation a student has, the more times they can be Instructed that day. On occasion, if the Instruction comes up Perfect, they will regain a little Motivation to be used on one extra Instruction that day.
Byleth can also set the Goals for each student to learn. Though they typically shine in their chosen fields, each student can be trained in a completely different field with enough patience and luck. On occasion, some students will ask to focus in a particular field or two, which the player can approve or deny.
In addition, two students can be assigned to work together on a Group Task, building up support with each other as well as experience in one of three fields: Horse Riding, Heavy Armor, or Flying.
Once the Instruction has been completed and the Goals have been set, Byleth begins lecturing for the whole week, allowing their class to gain experience in their selected fields for that week.
Near the end of the month, a story event will occur that the player cannot skip, and they will be forced to battle with whatever units they currently have, with possible neutral or allied units supporting them depending on the stage.
After the events of Act 1 conclude, a timeskip occurs where the player must battle the other Houses using their own, plus the units they have recruited from earlier. However, it is possible to play Act 2 as a faction affiliated with Rhea and the Church of Seiros instead of any of the Three Houses.
Most units start off by default as a Noble or Commoner, depending on their background, a footsoldier who can use basic attacks and magic. As they pass Certification Exams they can graduate into more advanced classes while keeping their skillsets from before. For example, it is possible to have a swordsman pass the Monk exam and be able to use both magic and sword attacks, though they may have to build up their Faith or Reason skills before they can be viable magic-users in combat.
All classes here require a Beginner Seal for a unit to take and then pass the Certification Exam for the desired class.
All classes here (except Dark Mage) require a Intermediate Seal for a unit to take and then pass the Certification Exam for the desired class.
All classes here (except Dark Bishop) require a Intermediate Seal for a unit to take and then pass the Certification Exam for the desired class.
Available after reaching Level 30 and a minimum of Professor Rank C. All classes here require a Master Seal for a unit to take and then pass the Certification Exam for the desired class.
- Sword: Useful for wielding various swords, either for specializing as a Swordmaster, or branching out into agile classes like Assassin and Thief.
- Lance: Used by several mounted classes like Cavalier, Paladin, or Pegasus/Wyvern Knights.
- Axe: Powerful weapons used primarily by slow but powerful units like the Brigand or Armored Knight.
- Bow: Allows for long-range physical attacks, either for specialized Archers and Snipers or by other units for some added versatility.
- Brawl: As the name suggests, the dirty, close-range fighting style used by Brawlers and other empty-handed masters of combat. Not the most powerful, but they make up for it with multiple strikes.
- Reason: The branch of magic that specializes in dealing damage against enemy units, especially heavier infantry with a low Res stat.
- Faith: The branch of magic that specializes in healing and buffing allied units, sometimes from halfway across the map.
- Authority: Measure of a unit's ability to command a Battalion.
- Riding: For units who specialize in riding horses, from Cavaliers to Dark Knights.
- Flying: For units that wish to take to the skies, unaffected by ground-based traps and walls that stop other units. Incredibly agile and can take down magic users quickly, but they can be easily shot down by Bow weapons.
- Three Houses' director, Toshiyuki Kusakihara, has stated that the game's skill development system was inspired by one of Koei's past titles, a PlayStation RPG called Zill O’ll. Even the names of the different army divisions were actually borrowed, with permission, from Zill O’ll.
- Fanmitsu Interview with Toshiyuki Kusakihara and Genki Yokota (Nintendo Everything).