July 26th is finally here and by golly am I ready for some Fire Emblem! I’ve heard almost exclusively good things about Three Houses from those who got to play review copies of the game, and that combined with all of the cool ideas they have embraced for this game has me thoroughly excited to experience it. Ever since the beginning, we have known that when this day came we would have an important choice to make. Which of the game’s titular three houses will be the one you align with? I’m at work at the time this article is posted, but when I get home this evening I will boot up the game and finally make that decision for myself. In the meantime, I thought I’d pool together a list of arguments to see which house has the strongest appeal before I ever put my hands on a Joy-Con.
I figure there are three main categories to consider when thinking about your House decision: the theming of the house (color, mascot, and the type of nation it represents), the personalities and looks within the house, and the mechanical abilities within the house. These categories represent the base information that has been made available through trailers, press articles, and official gameplay videos. A whole article could be written on whether or not this sort of content counts as spoilers or not – just know that if you want to know as little as possible about the game before it is released, then you might want to come back to this post after you’ve already made your choice!
I’ll go through each category one by one and share what we know before sharing what my own decision would be based solely on that category. At the end, I’ll look at all three categories together and choose which house seems most appealing to me based on all three factors considered together. Of course, this is assuming that I’ll be able to make a decision at all – it’s very possible that by the time this is all over, I’ll still be just as torn as I am starting out!
Let’s start this discussion by focusing on the most basic aspects of each house. The three houses in this Fire Emblem title are the Black Eagles, the Blue Lions, and the Golden Deer. Each house is affiliated with a country or region within the continent of Fodlan. The Black Eagles are the students of the Adrestian Empire, the Blue Lions are the students of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Golden Deer are the students of the Leicester Alliance (that’s pronounced like the name Lester, by the way). Some of Fodlan’s history has been revealed in Famitsu articles, and you can find a lot of information from those articles translated into English on Serenes Forest.
The Adrestian Empire is the oldest country in Fodlan, and immediately after a significant war ended by the Divine Seiros, they controlled the entirety of the continent. It was apparently founded by ten heroes who fought alongside Seiros during the war, so it has a rich and storied history. Their house at the monastery is the Black Eagle house, whose emblem is a black eagle on a red and white field. The country’s emblem is a golden eagle on a red field. Most of the Black Eagles are nobility descended from the great heroes who founded the Adrestian Empire.
The Holy Kingdom of Faerghus left the Adrestian Alliance to gain their own independence. It is described on the official website as a land of kings and knights in the frigid northern mountains. As such, we can likely assume that the students in the Blue Lions house are also most likely to be nobles or knights. The Blue Lion banner features, unsurprisingly, a blue lion on a blue and white field. The emblem of Faerghus features a silver griffin rider on a blue field.
The Leicester Alliance is the youngest of the three nations, forming even after Faerghus broke away from the Adrestian Empire. Its emblem is a series of silver symbols on a golden field that include a crescent moon, a helmet, a pair of wings, a woman holding flowers, and more. The Golden Deer emblem is much simpler, a golden deer (whoa) on a field of yellow and white. The Leicester Alliance is unique in Fodlan in that it does not have one centralized ruler, but instead a council of nobles who work together to preside over the country. Perhaps as a result of this, more students in the Golden Deer house are of common blood compared to the other houses.
Just based on what little we know about each of the nations associated with the houses, the Golden Deer jumps out at me as the most interesting, with the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus taking second. The Leicester Alliance is a relatively young country ruled by a council rather than a single monarch or emperor, and to me that gives a more relatable, “everyman” sort of vibe. It loses some points in my view for having yellow/gold as its featured color, but I do think its banner is the most interesting since it has so much going on. I’d be curious to know what all the different symbols on it mean – perhaps we’ll find out in game!
Each house features a specific set of students who you’ll meet that will be a part of your house throughout the game. While it is possible to recruit students into your house from others, some students are exclusive and the recruitment process takes time and effort. You’ll never have everyone on your side, which means that your choice will impact which personalities you spend the most time with. Of particular note are the leaders of the houses, the individuals with whom you will most likely spend more time than any of the other members. I’m not going to go into detail about every individual student, instead focusing on what I find most interesting about the personalities within each house, so for full profiles I recommend checking out this page on Serenes Forest.
Edelgard of the Black Eagles is described as being dutiful and calm, which to me reads as “the majority of Fire Emblem protagonists.” Still, she’s got some interesting personalities in her house. Hubert, her strategist, apparently will eliminate Edelgard’s problems by any means necessary. She describes him as rational but it seems to me that this could be a kind way of saying cold or cruel. There’s only one commoner in the Black Eagles, Dorothea, and that tension makes her pretty uneasy around her classmates. One of the students, Bernadetta, stays forever locked away in her room due to her shy nature – it’ll be interesting to see how her personality clashes with the very un-shy Ferdinand, who apparently loves how powerful and influential his family is. The Black Eagles appear to be a house of contradictions – cold and warm, shy and confident, dutiful and lazy. It will be interesting to see how these conflicting personalities work together in the game.
Dimitri, who heads the Blue Lions, is described as the embodiment of chivalry. That probably doesn’t just mean that he insists on opening doors for women – though who knows, it might – particularly because he is also described as having a shadowy nature. What’s the about, Mr. Holy Knight? Dedue, Dimitri’s servant, has a gentle giant thing going on, and he apparently owes Dimitri a significant debt. Many of Dimitri’s fellow students are described as diligent, hardworking, dependable – they are knights through and through. This makes the inclusion of the hateful and snarky Felix quite interesting; how does his sarcasm fit in with these otherwise four-color, traditional heroes? Just like Dimitri, the house seems represent the tension of dark and light.
Claude is the leader of the Golden Deer and the son of perhaps the most powerful noble family in the Leicester Alliance. Despite that, he’s described as easygoing and having a sense of humor. That doesn’t mean he’s naive, though – his charm appears to be a guise covering a cunning, untrusting young man. The thing I find interesting about the Golden Deer is the way in which the various students have different motivations – Leonie is raising money for her village, Raphael is an orphan striving for knighthood, and Ignatz doesn’t even want to be at the monastery in the first place. Although it’s likely that all the students in the monastery are roughly the same age, Claude’s friends have a younger vibe and his house includes a child prodigy, a magician named Lysithea.
I haven’t spoken much on design up to this point, but that’s because design will ultimately serve as my tiebreaker for this category. In my view there are standout personalities in both the Black Eagles and the Golden Deer which make the houses interesting, but from a design perspective the students in Edelgard’s house seem to have more distinct looks and a bit more style. Most of the characters in the Black Eagles seem to have something about them that helps me to be interested while there are some characters in Golden Deer – primarily the nobility who are not Claude – that really don’t interest me at all. So for the personality category I’ve got to hand things off to the Black Eagles.
Ah, now we’re to the good stuff! As a strategy RPG enthusiast the rules of the game are the part which get me most excited. I love thinking about what kinds of units I’ll have on the battlefield, the weapons they’ll wield, and what class options to bring to bear in order to help those units achieve their full potential. Now characters are more mechanically customizable in this Fire Emblem than in any before, so they key here is to focus on where their natural potential leads them; how will they turn out if I take the path of least resistance? Again, I’m summarizing in a lot of ways here, so for all the details I’m skipping you can check out the abilities page on Serenes Forest as well as the skills page.
The Black Eagles are described as leaning more towards magic than the other houses, with as many as four characters with a natural proficiency for the reason skill. There are also multiple with potential for swords and axes. One of my favorite abilities present on Edelgard’s team belongs to Bernadetta – when her HP drops below full, her attack power increases by 5 points. It’s pretty easy to keep health below full, so the power boost she gets as a result is fantastic. Petra has a fun one where her critical rate increases by 20 against foes with less than half health, making her perfect for potentially finishing off tougher enemies who have to be slowly whittled down like armored knights. The Black Eagles also have good healing potential with Dorothea and Linhardt – Dorothea heals adjacent units at the beginning of her turn, and Linhardt heals himself whenever he doesn’t have another action to take.
The Blue Lions are said to have more lance users, and that certainly is the case: as many as five characters have lance potential naturally. More gauntlet users occupy the Blue Lions than any other house, and gauntlets are a wicked weapon which can potentially allow the user to attack four times in a single round of combat. Blue Lions has my favorite healer in the form of Mercedes, who heals herself when she heals other people. The wicked Felix gets a +5 damage bonus when fighting without a battalion attached – since not having a battalion does apparently mean that he misses out on a stat boost, it’ll be interesting to see which stats are being traded for damage (I assume defense). Ashe serves in a thief role by being able to open doors and chests with no keys in his inventory, and Dedue makes a suitable tank thanks to gaining +4 defense when he doesn’t take an action.
The Golden Deer supposedly have archers as their specialty but actually seem to have a more balanced party skill-wise than the other two houses. They have a little more potential for flying units and for expert battalion commanders compared to the other houses as well. When it comes to personal skills, the Golden Deer have a lot of skills that are dependent on nearby units. Leonie gains a bonus to her damage and defense when next to a man while Hilda gives a man a +3 to his attack. Marianne heals when next to a unit on a mount. Raphael has a personal healing skill totally based on the luck stat, and Ignatz gains a flat bonus to the accuracy of his attacks.
This one I think is a close match between the Blue Lions and the Black Eagles, but for me the Lions manage to earn the victory. Each character’s skill pushes them firmly in the direction of a specific role and gives them a clear advantage at fulfilling that role, whether it’s Ashe as a thief, Mercy as a healer, Dedue as a tank, or Felix on offense. I previously did not mention Annette, whose personal skill effectively gives her Rally Strength for free to serve as a support for the party. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the knights are the ones who come out on top when it comes to the skills that they bring to the battlefield.
THE FINAL DECISION
It’s wild to me how balanced this entire comparison ended up being. I expected there to be a house which was a clear winner for me, or at the very least for two to be roughly even and a third to be lagging behind as the clearly inferior house. Instead, what I’ve ended up with is a three way tie!
|THEME||Golden Deer||Blue Lions||Black Eagles|
|PERSONALITY||Black Eagles||Golden Deer||Blue Lions|
|MECHANICS||Blue Lions||Black Eagles||Golden Deer|
Each house has been portrayed in a way that makes it an interesting potential option. The Black Eagles may be boring and generic when it comes to their country, but they have a crew of mechanically-capable units who have very interesting personalities to bring to bear. The Blue Lions may be lame knights personality-wise, but their history as holy rebels and their excellent set of skills and abilities make up for that. And the Golden Deer may appear not to have their act together mechanically, but they come from a country that’s unique and as a result bring quite a few fun personalities to the table. Without giving weight to one category over another, there isn’t one clear and obvious “right” choice.
I’ll have to wait until I get home this evening and experience the game for myself to finally make a decision on which house I want to choose – but what about you, adventurers? Do you already know which of the Three Houses you will pick? Are you eagerly reading this article as you wait for your copy of Fire Emblem to arrive at your door? Let me know in the comments which house you would choose, and look forward to my first impressions of Three Houses on Monday!