– Playing FE3H the John Wick way

1195 words, ~6 minutes

John is a man of focus, commitment, sheer will…

When Fire Emblem: Three Houses (referred to further in this document as FE3H) was released, seemingly everyone in my Twitter feed who had a Nintendo Switch was enamoured with it. Some of those feelings even found their way to me, which is how I ended up buying a Flayn sticker, and how I was programmed into calling every Friday a Fish Friday. But I didn’t play the game or pay much more attention to it.

It was easy for me to dismiss it for the time being, because I would only get my Switch 9 months later, and for a completely different game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which contains approximately 100% less killing and fighting.

I mean, I’m not the type to accept my cute anime characters possibly dying. I generally don’t take losing in games lightly, I go for harder difficulties only when I’m very confident in my skills. I play my Minecraft on Peaceful. I play my Euro Truck Simulator 2 with necessity of sleep and adhering to traffic laws disabled, so that I can go 160 km/h on any road I fancy or take massive detours while finishing deliveries on time. I install a Witcher 3 mod that disables fall damage. I use god mode cheats in Skyrim because that feels more reasonable story-wise than instantly drinking 3 health potions when I get hit.

So when one of my friends said FE3H was “actually an easy game”, I didn’t trust that immediately. I once tried Final Fantasy Tactics and all I remember was that in the very beginning of the game all my characters were dropping like flies, and that was far from my definition of fun. (I don’t even know if I remembered that correctly, so if I’m wrong, please accept my apologies.)

But with my parents offering to gift me 1 (one) Switch game, I thought it to be a good opportunity to get one of the expensive titles. I was thinking about either this or the Zelda game, and because I played Zelda for half an hour on someone’s Switch and it felt generic to me, I went for FE3H in the end.

I’m sure it isn’t to anyone’s surprise that I turned out to be kind of bad at it, even on Casual mode with Normal difficulty. Although after a few attempts I did manage to get through a battle (other than the tutorial one) without losing units, I felt as though my inconceivable gamer skill alone wouldn’t carry me very far in this game.

The friend who told me it was an easy game also mentioned that it was possible to grind. For those unfamiliar with the term, grinding in games means repeating a lot of times an activity that doesn’t have a big reward on its own, but long term it accumulates into something worthwhile. And I didn’t realize how it was possible to grind until Chapter 3.

On certain in-game days you can choose to go and have battles. Starting a battle usually consumes a battle point, and you start with 1 battle point (I’ve yet to learn if that changes later on), so naturally you can play one battle on each such day. And there seems to be about 4 of those days in every chapter, one every week, as a chapter is one month in in-game time.

On Normal difficulty (which is the lowest difficulty, and the difficulty I play on), some battles do not consume a battle point. And since (in early chapters that I reached so far) there are two battles to choose from, one that consumes and one that doesn’t, that means twice as many battles – is what I thought, until I realized that the free battle doesn’t disappear from the list after beating. It wasn’t obvious to me at first, although Reddit posts suggest that this is close to how previous games in the series worked.

So I played.

There is a subtle difficulty to grinding, because you have to make a conscious choice of when to stop. And because this is my first run of the game, I find it a bit hard to predict how far this can carry me. But for Chapter 3 I figured out that since the big story battle has recommended level 7, it should be good enough if I get everyone on the team to level 10, just to be safe.

It was a pain getting Ashe to that point, and it introduced a somewhat nasty level difference into the team, because Byleth and Dimitri wer level 15 by then, but hey, what can you do. And it worked very well, I could just charge into the story battle headfirst without worries thanks to all that. And it only took maybe 5 hours to do all that grinding!

Since that gamble paid off, I thought it would be nice to try and use this strategy for greater goals, such as recruiting characters from other houses. Personally I’m most interested in stealing Bernadetta (who requires Bow skill and high Strength) and Linhardt (who requires Reason skill and high Magic). By the time of writing my Byleth actually has the necessary stats, although not the skills, which is not surprising as they’re a Sword user by default. And it’s a bit difficult to level Reason when you don’t have any magical attacks, so I’m focusing on Bernie first.

Levelling skills is pretty annoying, because apparently it should be done mostly through schoolwork and not repeated battles, but hey, there should be a way, right? The free battle in Chapter 4 is unbelievably difficult, recommended level 7, so my team gets through it in 4 turns.

Okay, but since I’m just trying to level Byleth, maybe I could just send Byleth alone into battle — alright, maybe with Mercedes as healer in case he stops deflecting literally all the damage thrown at him due to difference in levels?

Well, as it turns out, the healer is not really necessary. I don’t know about Ashe, but Byleth can stand his ground alone just fine, although it gets a bit heated when he gets surrouded on all four sides, and I have to use a Batallion Gambit to clear one of the surrounding enemies. Oh, and the battle now takes 18 turns instead of 4, and a Training Bow gets completely wasted, because he keeps landing critical shots. This, however, is not a problem, because Training Bows are not limited, winning a batle more than recoups the cost of buying one, and I have enough time, focus, commitment and sheer will on my hands.

I will most definitely try this method on Ashe as well. I’m actually expecting it t work better, because what he’s lacking is not Bow skill but character level, and he has some nice abilities that let him shoot bow at 1 unit of distance and even counter attack at such distance.

Unfortunately, I must not overdo this way of play, or I’ll not have much of a chance to gain Support between my anime cuties, which would be a big big shame.