Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a truly massive game. One run of the Golden Deer house took me nearly 80 hours to complete, and for many players they are not going to consider the game to be well and truly finished until they have completed all the possible endings of the game. Doing this quickly and skillfully will require having a few tricks up your sleeve, and if you are just getting started at part two of the game then those tricks may still be alluding you. Luckily, that’s why you have me – I’ve played through part two and made my mistakes, and now you can learn from those mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself. Just like my beginner’s guide, this post is all about sharing the stuff I wish I realized way faster, and the goal here is optimization of your playthrough in a mechanical sense.
I’m going to be tackling a variety of topics, most of which are related to the way in which you might approach the game during part two. I also want to talk a little bit about new game+ and optimizing your early hours in a fresh play of the game – had I known how new game+ worked before I started a file, I would have made some adjustments to my decisions at the end of my first playthrough. Naturally, this discussion will involve some mild spoilers for Fire Emblem: Three Houses. These spoilers will mostly be related to changes to the character designs in part two for the Golden Deer house as well as some of the mechanical features of the game.
SPENDING YOUR ACTIVITY POINTS
In the beginner’s guide there was much discussion of how to optimize your time in part one so that you could reach the maximum professor level as soon as possible. Using the techniques I described in my guide, I was able to reach A+ (the highest professor level) by the end of White Clouds. Going into part two, professor XP was no longer a concern for me and I had the ability to focus on other tasks at the monastery. There is a fundamental shift in approach from part one to part two. White Clouds has a preparatory feel to it – you are building up your students and your professor for something big that it coming. When part two hits, those preparations are done and it’s time to get serious. The tone shifts to put more focus on the story and the monastery becomes less of a timesink each chapter. What you’ll probably be spending most of your activity points on are activities called Advanced Drills.
Advanced Drills replace the Faculty Training ability during part two of the game, and they work much the same way. You speak to a character capable of giving you advanced drills, choose a skill that they can teach you, and gain a base 20 EXP in that skill with adjustments based on your professor’s proficiencies. Any character can give you advanced drills – student or professor – but there are some limitations on the teaching. The first major limitation is what skills are teachable are static based on the character, not on the skills they actually know. As an example, in my playthrough of the game I had Hilda master heavy armor in order to become a fortress knight. Despite that mastery, she could not teach heavy armor during advanced drills. I had a similar issue with Ignatz, who had a very high reason skill but could not do advanced drills in reason. However, he could do advanced drills in bows, which I hadn’t trained Ignatz to use during my playthrough. The second limitation is that the character must have a higher ranking than the professor in order to teach the skill. As my professor increased his levels he lost the ability to receive advanced drills from characters who were not keeping pace with him.
These limitations caused me to ultimately give up on advanced drills after a point – my character got to the point where he was even with most of the kids who could teach him the skills I wanted to practice and so I felt that the advanced drills no longer had value. After all, there was no point in learning more about lances so late in the game when I knew I’d never be picking up a lance. Right? We’re going to revisit the idea of the professor’s skill levels during new game+, but for now I want to make another point about weapon levels for your characters.
VERSATILITY VERSUS SPECIALIZATION
The eternal question: is it better to be super good at one thing or to play the field and be pretty good at lots of things? The fact that any character can use any weapon gives you a large number of opportunities to create interesting combinations of weapons, and most master classes require you to have two different weapon skills ranked up. For many, you’ll have a C in lances and then an A in something like axes, swords, or a magic skill. During my first playthrough of the game, once I got my main weapons to level A, I focused on also getting the side weapons up to level A, hoping to keep each character’s weapon mastery somewhat even across weapons so they could switch on the fly without too much cost to me. And this is a fine way to play, I suppose, but what I realized too late is that most skills get their best abilities if you push them to S and beyond.
The amount of weapon experience it takes to push from A to A+ and A+ to S is significant, and it takes a ton of investment through combat practice and instruction time. It may feel easier and more satisfying to instead invest in side weapons, which will feel more rewarding as they level up faster and learn combat arts and skills at a quicker rate. However, the skills learned above A are not to be underestimated for their value. Many weapons give a significant critical hit bonus at rank S, and magical skills gain a +1 range so you can cast spells from a safer distance. Meanwhile, the secondary weapons I was practicing with were mainly getting combat arts that I never used anyway. I will say that breaker abilities have some value and they can make the versatility of your weapons worthwhile – there were some late game enemies where taking advantage of a breaker skill was the difference between a pitiful 70 accuracy attack and a perfect 100 accuracy attack, so there is some practical advantage to learning breaker skills. However, I’d say once you pick those up, it’s best to focus all of your efforts on the character’s primary weapon so that they can farm for those excellent S rank abilities.
WHAT ABOUT CLASS MASTERY?
Class mastery in Fire Emblem: Three Houses bequeaths upon you a unique ability or combat art that you wouldn’t unlock in other circumstances. The ability or combat art depends on the class and in some situations is locked to that class – this appears to be true for combat arts most of the time and true for abilities only rarely, but it’s worth noting that classes work quite differently from past Fire Emblem titles. If you’ve got a lot of experience with games like Awakening and Fates, your approach to classes might be that you want to change to one until you master it so you can carry its benefits over to your next class. That’s how it worked in those games. If I wanted Kellam to have higher movement as a general, I could change him to a thief for a little bit to learn skills like Locktouch and Move+1 and then carry those skills into his more defensive classes. The purpose of leveling up in a class was to learn its essential skills, which you could then pass on to any class you wanted.
Three Houses doesn’t work that way. Most classes do not teach their core abilities when you master them. In the thief example, you can learn the Steal ability through mastery but you’ll only ever have Locktouch when you are playing as a class that carries Locktouch in their class ability list. You can master dancer but you still won’t be able to dance if you change to any other class. Ultimately what this means for Three Houses is that there is a greater emphasis on the class you are now and less emphasis on the classes you have been previously. It removes some of the incentive from class mastery, and there may be some classes you downright don’t care about mastering if the skill that mastery imparts isn’t valuable enough. In my case I wouldn’t recommend wasting any time mastering the beginner classes at all – as soon as you unlock intermediate classes, jump into them and invest in those instead. But even more than that, it’s better to think of your class strategy based on what class-specific abilities you need access to at the given moment.
Say I have a character who is certified in both assassin and sniper. This character can use the same weapons regardless of what class she’s in, so what’s important is the default class abilities of each. Snipers have increased bow damage and increased bow range. Assassins are harder to target with attacks and have Locktouch by default. This means that I might prefer assassin on stages where there are lots of chests to unlock, but sniper on stages without chests so that my bow will fire farther and my arrows will hit harder. On battles that look long and arduous, I might favor the warlock for my black magic specialist so that he has twice as many uses of his black spells. But on shorter maps, I might instead prefer the dark knight so that he has tomefaire for black and dark magic to hit as hard as possible. Because mastery abilities are supplementary rather than allowing you to transfer core class capabilities, class strategy in Three Houses is less about mastering classes and more about changing to the class whose abilities most suit the current situation.
A NOTE ON RECRUITMENT AND ITS IMPACT
One of the major features in part one is the ability to recruit students and members of the Knights of Seiros to your side. Recruitment allows you to permanently gain the partnership of additional characters and it’s important to think about for a few key reasons. We’ve already spent time discussing advanced drills and how they are going to be your primary activity point investment in part two of the game. Here’s an important note: everyone you don’t recruit will not be at the monastery during part two. This makes recruitment significant because everyone who is at the monastery is an opportunity to take advanced drills. You want the place to be covered in people because that allows you to practice as many weapon skills as possible. Additional recruits also increases the number of paralogue battles you’ll have access to, which means more unique weapons and battalions in your arsenal.
Recruiting is also important because it helps to ensure that you have a sufficient number of units in your army. The typical battle puts ten units on the field. Some of the large-scale battles at the end of the game allow eleven or even twelve units, so twelve is the bare minimum number of characters you are going to want to have in order to handle those maps at full capacity. I can’t speak for all three routes, but in the Golden Deer you only get eleven characters through natural game progression, so you absolutely are going to want to recruit at least one person. Keep in mind, too, that based on your professor level you can attach a certain numbers of adjutants to give mild bonuses to characters in battle. At A+ professor level, you have three adjutant slots to work with, so ultimately by the end of the game you want to have fifteen characters, twelve of whom are in active fighting shape. Since all recruitment happens in part one, if you struggle with recruiting then the best thing to do in part two is to make preparations for future recruitment by preparing for new game+. The next section will focus on how to do just that.
READYING YOURSELF TO MAKE THE MOST OF NEW GAME+
When you complete one of the house paths in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you’ll get the opportunity to start a new save file using the new game+ features. There are four key resources that carry over into the game from new game+: your unspent renown, unlocked bonuses from saint statues, battalions in the barracks and their experience, and shop levels for the shops that are open. This means that you’ll start right away with bonuses to skill training thanks to the saint statues, multiple battalions already fully trained and ready to go, the ability to immediately purchase powerful weapons like silver weapons or high-grade throwing weapons, and you’ll have a pool of renown to work with as soon as the game starts. That pool of renown is the most important resource because in new game+, a much more significant purpose for renown becomes available to you.
Renown can continue to be used to purchase any statue levels you haven’t finished yet, sure, but it also purchases a number of other useful shortcuts. It can be used to immediately increase your professor level, even all the way to the maximum if you have enough renown to do so. It can also purchase mastered class skills from your first playthrough as well as weapon levels. These bonuses are character specific, so if you play through as a new house and hadn’t recruited any of those characters during your first run, they won’t be able to benefit from it. But your professor and anyone you’ve recruited before can all easily reach their previous levels of mastery by simply spending renown. Finally, you can spend renown to unlock support conversations between characters. We’re going to focus on the ability to purchase weapon levels and what that means for recruitment, then double back to part two and review how to spend time with knowledge of new game+ in mind.
During new game+, your professor has the ability to purchase any previously-unlocked weapon levels using renown earned from quests and battles. This allows you to fast-track the rate at which you learn skills as long as you have renown to spend. Now it’s important to keep in mind that renown is a somewhat limited resource – if my first playthrough of the game is a good representation of the “typical” amount of renown earned, you can expect to have between 20-25K by the end of one run. In my case, 20K was invested into saint statues and I had something like 3.5K left over to spend at the beginning of my new game+ run. Since every level of increase (say from D to D+ or C+ to B) costs 500 renown, trying to jump immediately from E to A costs 4000 renown, which is just under 20% of what you can expect to collect during a typical playthrough. This isn’t a trick you’re going to be using a lot, but if you use it strategically it can be a huge boon for you in recruiting by allowing you to master more skills than you realistically have time for. But the key is this: your professor has to have already reached that skill level in order to unlock it with renown. This means that if you want to purchase ranks in a skill that you don’t plan to invest in the hard way, you still have to earn it the hard way in a previous playthrough. With that in mind, let’s revisit the late-game of part two and think of how to optimize the available time with an upcoming new game+ playthrough in mind.
THE FINAL MONTH – USING YOUR TIME WISELY IN PART TWO
If you’re like me, the chapters leading up to the final boss begin to feel like something of a grind. Your characters are in the master classes you want them to use, no new exciting side quests are available at the monastery, and spending a bunch of time investing in advanced drills or practice battles feels like gathering resources which ultimately are too little, too late. This feeling of exhausting led me to throw up my arms and say “can I just wrap this up already?” and I spent the last in-game month just resting over and over again to fast track myself to the final boss. I made two key mistakes here – I burned one month of time that I could have been building resources for new game+, and I saved a file that essentially became unplayable.
I’m going to start with that second point first: save your game in an alternate save file during the last month of play. Because of the structure of Three Houses, when the last battle rolls around you don’t have the luxury of running around a map screen enjoying all the random battles that you want. If you save before battle or after battle on the final mission of the game, that specific file with that set of characters essentially becomes unplayable (we’ll see how DLC changes that down the line). So don’t be like me and instead make sure you’re using alternate save files so that you’ve got at least a month of game time to work with if you ever want to revisit that particular run of the game. This also addresses the problem I had of wanting to just quickly power through – you can make a mad dash for the final boss in one file and still have another file ready for you to properly invest your time and energy for new game+.
Now remember how I mentioned earlier that I gave up on advanced drills once I couldn’t receive instruction in my professor’s core abilities? How does that perspective shift with new game+ in mind? Every skill rank I you can advance with advanced drills in one playthrough is valuable because when you start new game+, you’ll be able to purchase that rank immediately using renown that carried over. This means that while the D+ or C rank in lances that I developed during the late game of part two may mean nothing to that version of the professor, when I start new game+ I can go ahead and buy those ranks so that I have a head start in recruiting any lance-savvy characters I want to impress. If instead of advanced drills I want to spend my time doing battles, the renown from those battles will carry over so I can purchase more advantages in the second game. This helps to change your perspective on the late game of Three Houses – instead of thinking of those investments as not being worthwhile because they won’t have much impact on the current playthrough, you can think of them as an investment in the next playthrough. For me, this helps me to be more motivated to buckle down and make optimal decisions.
That brings us to the end of this intermediate guide for Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I’m still loving my time with the game and cannot wait to continue to explore it even more. I have no plans to end my coverage of the game soon, but next week’s Fire Emblem article will be on Friday instead of Monday due to some other events happening on the blog. I hope this guide was helpful to you and if you have any questions about the game that haven’t been answered yet, feel free to post a comment and if I know the answer to your question I’ll be glad to help out!