Speculating on Fighting Styles for Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes

At the time of writing, we know almost nothing about Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. The only truly confirmed playable characters are Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude, and outside of their most basic abilities we know nothing about how they function. There’s not a lot of information in the trailer explaining mechanical details like mounts, the weapon triangle, how healing and spells will work – there’s a lot left open to the imagination when it comes to this game. And me, I like to imagine what the possibilities are. So today I wanted to share my thoughts about potential fighting styles for various characters that we might see in Three Hopes.

Base Assumptions

Before we dive into the characters themselves, I wanted to outline the standard from which I will be working. Some of my decisions will ultimately be impacted by these base assumptions, which is why I include them for context.

  • The basic mechanics of musuo games – light attacks, strong attacks, the special bar, and the ability to dodge attacks – will be in play here
  • Certain mechanics from Fire Emblem Warriors – the awakening bar, unit types with vulnerabilities to certain weapons, a submenu for potions and staves – will also be in play
  • Also like the original FE Warriors, I am going to assume that a class system will exist and that characters in similar classes will have the same basic combos; this article will be more focused on what helps those units stand out from one another
  • With regards to mounts, I believe the ability to dismount mid-combat will be present in this game based on Claude being shown both on and off his wyvern on the same map in the trailer
  • Battalions and gambits are a big part of Three Houses, but random nameless soldier units running around on the battlefield is already a default feature in Warriors. I don’t anticipate anything to further mechanize this aspect of the game
  • I’m going to assume that the following mechanics will carry over from Age of Calamity: the ability for a character to have additional bars/meters related to their abilities (like Urbosa’s lightning meter or Impa’s seal count), and an additional button for a unique action (like Link’s bow or Mipha warping to whirlpools)
  • With regards to which characters will be present, I am assuming that any characters who were updates/DLC for Three Houses will not be playable at launch in Three Hopes
    • I am also for the sake of this exercise going to assume that professors and knights of Seiros will not be playable and will instead function as NPCs running facilities like stores, training grounds, etc.
  • Finally, while Byleth will almost certainly be playable, I’m actually not going to talk about her in this article because she is going to have a generic, easily accessible playstyle so most players can have an easy time with her, and I’m not particularly interested in speculating about the specifics of how that might look

With all of that out of the way, let’s begin this exploration of what the various Three Hopes characters may play like!

Table of Contents

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Armor Knights

Armor-clad warriors with heavy shields and mighty axes, armor knights can endure innumerable physical blows and deal powerful hits of their own in return. While Edelgard’s “armor lord” class gives her a unique interpretation of this concept, I can still see the possibility of her falling into this category to help reduce the number of unique movesets needed so all the characters can fit into the game. The other unit in this class would be Dedue, who canonically in the Golden Deer and Black Eagle routes becomes an armor knight. So what could differentiate these two characters and make them unique?

Edelgard

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Edelgard is a very significant character within the context of Three Houses, and there are already multiple ways in which she is special. Her access to two different Crests, for example, gives her a nifty power boost as well as allowing her to reap the rewards of multiple sacred weapon and relics. I think this will be covered by her passive ability, though. What really sets Edelgard apart is her affinity for magic. Reason is her budding talent, a mechanism where a character is not immediately gifted at a skill but gains extra potency if it is trained. In addition to this, for both of Edelgard’s proficient weapons (sword and axe) she learns the combat art for dealing magic damage with that weapon. Having access to magic or at least magical damage is an important part of her playstyle, so I can see it playing in here.

So let’s say for Edelgard’s standalone strong attack, she gets the lightning axe combat art. This does one big magical hit with her weapon. This could be useful for chipping the weak point gauges on miniboss and boss units, dealing more than usual damage against the gauge in exchange for being a bit slower. As for her unique ability, because Edelgard is a character we can assume we will be playing a lot, similar to Byleth she’ll need a relatively newcomer-friendly playstyle. A great way to cover this is giving her a ranged option. So holding the R button could bring up a targeting reticle and start charging a ranged magical spell, with the nature of the spell changing the longer you hold the charge. Just quickly pressing the button would be fire, a small hold would be bolganone, but holding long enough to change the flames to dark energy would unleash the destructive chaos of Hades. This would allow Edelgard to swap between relatively quick ranged blasts to a big damage-dealing move, depending on the time spent holding a charge.

Dedue

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Dedue is Dimitri’s royal protector, and this is mechanized in the game by his ability to increase his defense when standing still. I think is probably best captured as a passive; I’m assuming the button for using a shield will be a unique input, so perhaps when Dedue holds the shield, he takes less damage even from attacks that would pierce or otherwise get around that shield. Since Dedue occupies a “tank” role in the fiction of the setting, perhaps a good way to mechanize that would be to give him an ability for drawing aggro. In other words, a standalone press of the strong attack button would allow Dedue to bring enemies towards him and get them to focus on attacking him.

Of course once he has their attention and there’s a bunch of annoying bad guys swarming him, an attack for clearing them out would be pretty nice, yeah? Dedue’s most powerful axe combat art is armored strike which deals damage based on defense. So maybe what makes this ability unique is that you can press the input while shielding and transition straight into the attack, performing a big slam that not only deals damage but pushes enemies away from you at the center. This combination of abilities would give Dedue a couple of different ways to manage enemy formations and protect vulnerable characters or positions: push enemies back, drag them away, take them out.

Assassins/Swordmasters

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Okay so this is technically two different classes but since they are both speed-based units wielding swords that only have one character, I think it makes sense that those two characters would be built off of the same moveset. The original Fire Emblem Warriors already has examples of characters whose classes don’t share a name but whose basic combos are identical; I anticipate the same here. The two units in this category are Petra and Felix, who I think have plenty of opportunities to make them feel unique.

Petra

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Petra is the assassin of this pairing, a fact emphasized by her personal ability in Three Houses: an enhanced critical rate against wounded targets. She is adept at dealing the killing blow with multiple weapons, having proficiency with axes and bows in addition to swords. Since assassins are known for using bows, I’d like to incorporate that into her moveset by attaching it to her unique ability. If you’ve played Age of Calamity, Link can pop off a small series of arrow shots that – if they strike the enemy’s head – can stun them momentarily in order to leave them open to attack, even exposing their weak point gauge. I think this makes sense for Petra as well, as it represents “wounding” the target to put them in the range where her personal ability could kick in and deal critical damage.

Petra is additionally a character who I imagine could have a special meter separate from the awakening meter: a stealth meter. By pressing the standalone strong attack she can temporarily enter an invisible state when the meter is full. This allows her to move through sections of the battlefield unbothered and can be exited with a powerful sword attack or a stealthy bow strike, exposing the weak point gauge for a short time on big enemies. The only way to refill the meter is to get kills, preventing her from abusing this ability to stay invisible constantly. My idea here is that Petra specializes in hitting weak points but maybe isn’t as effective against big mobs; she’s a character you may bring in specifically as a boss killer (like Impa in Age of Calamity).

Felix

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Felix is our first character who I’ll be designing at least at some level based on his Heroes’ Relic. The house of Fraldarius has a shield called the Aegis Shield which Felix could use to protect himself despite not falling into an armored unit class. This would give him more defensive options compared to Petra. I imagine this playing into his fighting style by giving him a counter ability for his standalone strong attack (similar to Yusuke in Persona 5 Strikers). When a big hit is coming, he can enter the counter state and then deliver a strong retaliating blow with his sword, smoothly turning his defense into his offense. This will have a bit more utility against mobs than most of Petra’s abilities, helping to differentiate them from the get-go.

For his standalone strong attack, I want to give Felix something that gives offensive power to his mobility, allowing him to maintain momentum as he fights. So perhaps his unique ability would allow him to thrust forward with his sword out, sending him a short distance while damaging enemies along the path. Depending on what button is pressed at the end of the dash, he could finish in a different way: the shield button would block an incoming attack at the end of the dash, the strong attack button would enter counter stance for a moment, while the light attack button could be a whirling swipe to hit a group of enemies at once. This way, Felix could use the ability in different ways: to escape danger by using dash and shield, to put himself in harm’s way for a payoff with dash and counter, or to clear a mob with dash and whirl.

Bishops

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Healing specialists are a bit difficult to pull off in a game that is primarily focused on fighting giant hordes of enemies, but the tactical approach of Warriors does allow for some utility for these characters. Protecting your other playable characters on the battlefield or shoring up the defenses at a keep can be valuable to maintaining your control of the map. I imagine the basic combos for these characters will be light-based magical attacks, but the types of weapons they can wield as their secondary options will be a big part of what makes them play differently.

Linhardt

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Linhardt is the character I envision as being the most traditional bishop in the party, based on the abilities available to him in Three Houses. What I mean by this is that I imagine his special abilities will still be magic based, whereas the other bishops will have weapons to add into their magical array. His reason spells are based around wind and fire, including the mid-level fire spell Bolganone and the powerful wind spell Excalibur. When it comes to faith abilities, Linhardt can warp other characters, so I want to lean into that a bit to make Linhardt have some additional mobility using his powers. So let’s give Linhardt a wind meter and have his standalone strong attack make him temporarily airborne, allowing him to move faster than he can on foot and dealing some light damage to foes who try to come inside the range of the whirling winds that keep him afloat. Alternatively to the meter, he could maintain this state until he gets hurt, which would force him back to the ground.

This helps me to finalize my vision of Linhardt as a character who perhaps leans into lighter, faster special abilities while his main combos are his big damage moves. So perhaps by holding the unique ability button, Linhardt can fire off a continuous stream of small, low-damage fireballs that leave a burning status, dealing damage over time. So putting Linhardt into flight mode would then allow him to quickly zip around the battlefield laying down flames along a large swath of enemies, or peppering a big boss with a bunch of continuous damage while staying light and dodgy in the process. Once an opening presents itself with the weak point gauge, that’s when you shift to more traditional Warriors-style attacks and deal slower but more powerful hits against the enemy.

Mercedes

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Mercedes is another character whose budding talent could be incorporated in an interesting way. Mercedes has some potential as an archer, and there’s even a sacred bow unique to her crest that can be discovered as part of her paralogue. My inspiration for Mercedes’ magic bow actually comes from my favorite bow in Hades. So first, her standalone strong attack. Pressing the strong attack button outside of a combo would cause Mercedes to fire a wide spread of magical arrows, hitting multiple enemies at once but dealing relatively light damage. This could be useful for clearing mobs quickly but wouldn’t necessarily have much more utility on its own.

That’s where the unique ability comes in. Alone, the unique ability is a big charged arrow of light that deals extra damage if you fire off the attack right at the charge hits the peak level. But what really makes it special is that it places a target on your opponent that then causes any other arrows that Mercedes fires to hit that specific opponent for a short time. Suddenly that huge spread of arrows from her strong attack can zoom in on a specific target, perfect for getting in a bunch of hits on the weak point gauge of a boss you just exposed.

Marianne

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Most of the units I envision having access to a mount are characters in a mounted class by default, but Marianne will be one of my two exceptions. She loves animals and it is a core part of her character, so I imagine her as a unit who will be able to call a mount and use that to give her some mobility. In terms of abilities, I see Marianne as being balanced between Linhardt and Mercedes in terms of incorporating elements of her weapon and incorporating elements of her reason. Marianne has a Heroes’ Relic called Blutgang which is a sword that deals magic damage, so I think for her unique ability she could have a move that functions somewhat like Marth’s dancing blade in Smash Bros: a very fast series of relatively low-power swipes. But since this would be much quicker than her normal combos, she could get in some speedy moves against a weak point gauge or use it to deal with mobs who normally can attack before she can get a spell off.

For her standalone strong attack, I’m bringing in another special gauge, this time an ice gauge. When Marianne uses this move, her normal light spells become the ice-based Blizzard spell, the main difference from her normal combos being that she leaves chunks of ice behind wherever she is using her attacks. When the meter runs out or when she chooses to end the attack with another strong attack press, Marianne casts Fimbulvetr and shatters all of the ice she has left behind while in ice mode, dealing big damage to any targets standing near spots where she has left ice behind.

Dark Bishops

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Like bishops, but evil. Technically there is only one canon dark bishop in Three Houses, Hubert, but the only reason for that is because of the ridiculously antiquated gender lock on specific classes. From a practical standpoint, Lysithea is also an appropriate choice for dark bishop (but if they really want to be a jerk about it they can call her a “warlock” or “gremory” instead). I imagine these two characters would play similarly so let’s dig into what features could help make the two of them stand out from one another.

Hubert

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Edelgard’s right hand man and the resident emo kid of the Adrestian Empire. Compared to Lysithea, in Three Houses Hubert’s dark spells are not as powerful but they are more debilitating, with effects like reducing defense as well as movement on top of dealing damage. To capture the movement reduction effect of Banshee, I imagine that Hubert’s standalone strong attack could be a large circular wave of dark magic that tangles up enemies in sinuous tendrils. While this might not be as effective on boss enemies, it could keep mobs still and make them sitting ducks for attacks from Hubert or his allies.

Meanwhile, his unique ability could be Mire, the defense reducing spell. Since we’ve had a decent number of characters who have a relatively simple attack assigned to this button perhaps instead Hubert could have something like Impa’s seals from Age of Calamity. Casting Mire by itself does not do damage, but an enemy with Mire cast upon them takes more damage from the attacks that Hubert dishes out. And maybe defeating an enemy under its influence causes a dark explosion that spreads it to the surrounding foes, making it easier to deal big damage to them and simplifying the process of spreading Mire around.

Lysithea

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Compared to Hubert, Lysithea’s spells are more about big damage, particularly Luna and Hades. On top of that, she has some healing ability and some dangerous light magic attacks, plus the ability to warp units. I want to play into her faith in addition to her reason, so I’m taking some inspiration from Mipha in Age of Calamity here and imagining a style that will allow Lysithea to warp around the battlefield and jump into combos. So let’s imagine that her standalone strong attack is a powerful faith spell like Seraphim, a huge blast of light that then causes a dormant column of light to float around on the battlefield.

Once Lysithea has planted a column of light, she can use her unique ability to warp to its location from a position nearby where she can see it. She disappears immediately from her current position and appears in the light column, which bursts outwards and deals damage to any enemies who were milling around that point or trying to move in towards it. This interplay of dark magic combos and light magic specials is best suited to Lysithea out of all the members of the main cast, so I think it will help her stand out – particularly compared to the always-brooding Hubert.

Grapplers

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Punching is a new feature to Three Houses that didn’t exist in prior Fire Emblem titles, so naturally almost none of the characters focus on it as their main gig. Why make a punching guy when you can have ten horse guys instead? By default Raphael would be the only grappler, but this is the category where for the first and only time I am going to introduce a “stance change character” – a unit who can swap between main weapons and thus change the type of combos they use – in the form of Caspar.

Caspar

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Caspar’s specialties lie in both axes and punching. Now he defaults to warrior for whatever arbitrary reason, but typically if you are playing through with Caspar on your team, chances are good you are going to make him into a war master (a specialist in both axes and brawling). So that’s the direction I am going for with him for this theoretical Three Hopes build. So the button for Caspar’s unique action would activate the change between his warrior (axe) mode and his grappler (brawling) mode.

As a grappler, the unique combat arts Caspar learns are focused on dealing a flurry of quick blows or one big powerful blow. So I think the simplest way to incorporate that into his grappling style would be to have a strong attack that reflects both. A single press of the strong attack button would unleash a series of rapid-fire punches, low in damage but good for throwing the opponent off-balance. A second press of the button during the barrage would transition into mighty blow, in which Caspar charges up for a moment and then delivers a powerful attack that flings any affected targets backwards.

Raphael

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Raphael is a huge and powerful guy but in terms of the qualities that make him unique, Three Houses tends to focus on his love of food. I can definitely see Three Hopes leaning into this gag and making him into more of a joke character and honestly, there’s not much to go on outside of this angle. His combat arts are a bit lackluster, he doesn’t have a crest, and there are a limited number of special gauntlet weapons, none of which are really meant for Raphael or suited to him. So let’s imagine that a press of the strong attack button causes Raphael to pull a huge chunk of meat out of his pocket and chomp it down. It makes his attacks more powerful for a short time, but it also gives him the meat sweats, reducing his health while you are in this powerful mode.

Luckily, Raphael has another mode he can enter into for a brief period related to his best combat art: Drain Punch. In drain mode Raphael’s attacks siphon health from the enemies he is defeating to restore the health that he lost while in meat mode. So the cycle for Raphael, then, is to rotate between these two forms. Eat some meat, punch the hell out of bad guys while you sweat it out, and then drain health for a time to restore everything that you’ve lost. It’s something of a blend between how heavy weapon Link plays in Age of Calamity as well as [spoiler redacted] in Persona 5 Strikers.

Lords

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Eh, it was inevitable that I was going to end up with a section like this. Claude and Dimitri both have really unique fighting styles that aren’t going to be captured by other characters in the game. After all, there is no class for spear guys on foot except for Dimitri’s unique classes, and the same is true for archers riding dragons. So while I was fortunate to find someone similar enough to Edelgard for her to share a category, these two boys will have to settle for a category dedicated to everyone who doesn’t have a category.

Dimitri

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Dimitri is an interesting conundrum. While his fighting style will be distinct by default because there are no other High Lords, there is still the issue of making sure that he has an accessible but effective combat style. But unlike Edelgard, his budding talent (the ability to ride) actually causes him to overlap other characters more instead of making him more unique. So I’ll be focusing primarily on his combat arts. One idea I have for his unique ability is the Glowing Embers combat art, a lance art that calculates damage with defense and adds to your avoid. I like the idea of Glowing Embers being a sort of dash-cancel that’s followed up by a big attack. Dimitri is winding up for a big move but you can see that he’s about to get hit, so you use Glowing Embers to jump backwards away from the opponent and interrupt your own combo to focus on defense. A successful dodge is then followed by a powerful hit from the lance. So rather than a normal dash-cancel where you totally sacrifice offense for defense, you protect yourself and then immediately get back to fighting with a big move.

This next one is a bit cheaty but the beauty of this being a musuo game is that you can take some creative liberties with the normal Fire Emblem mechanics. Dimitri has a sword combat art called Windsweep that prevents follow-up attacks from enemies. Why not just…let him do that with a lance instead? A standalone strong attack could be a whirling strike that interrupts any attacks that are currently being wound up, and I imagine would also send forward a burst of air that pushes enemies back a bit and interrupts any projectiles heading towards Dimitri (we even see him blocking arrows with his lance in the trailer). The combination of the ability to interrupt or dodge attacks with his specials will give Dimitri some effective defensive maneuvers to go with his big combo attacks, keeping him friendly to newcomers in the process.

Claude

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‘Scuse me for a second, just gotta rub the hearts out of my eyes. Anyway, Claude is an archer who fires his arrows from the back of a dragon, which is already basically the coolest thing ever, but he’ll still need some abilities to help distinguish him from other snipers when on the ground. If there is anything we know about Claude, he’s a tricky bastard who loves a good scheme; he is often fictionally positioned within the setting as the cleverest tactician and as playing 4D chess with even other tactical geniuses like Hubert. So I imagine his moveset being the most technical of the three lords, requiring a bit more mastery to manage. For his standalone strong attack, I’m picturing a move we see him use at the end of the Three Houses Golden Deer route: shooting an arrow upward to then strike opponents later and expose their weak point gauge. To musuo this move up a bit, that single arrow he fires upwards should probably drop as a huge wave of arrows.

Claude’s highest rank bow combat art is Encloser, a personal favorite of mine with a great mechanical effect: it binds the opponent in place. Even if Claude can’t finish the target, he can stop them from leaving their current position and make them way less dangerous until such a time as they can be finished off. I imagine this as Claude charging up a big arrow that strikes the opponent and then temporarily immobilizes them, making them vulnerable to attack. If the combination of Claude’s standalone strong attack and Encloser is timed correctly, Claude can set up a rain of arrows, trap the enemy in place, and then watch the rain of arrows strike their head to expose their weak point gauge, giving him an opening to wear them down. Tricky, technical, but effective when you learn to pull it off consistently.

Pegasus Knights

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I tried as hard as I could not to have any categories that only had one person (see Dimitri and Claude above) but of course somebody had to be special and throw off the balance. Ingrid is the only character in the game who defaults to a pegasus knight, which is super weird because all of the other default classes fall in the advanced tier while this one is in the intermediate tier. The lack of an advanced tier pegasus is an eternal Three Houses irritation for me and of course it decided to come back one last time for this Three Hopes article.

Ingrid

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In a group mostly made up of angry, traumatized boys, Ingrid often feels like the sole voice of reason for the Blue Lions. She’s also a bit odd mechanically in that she doesn’t have an affinity for magic and yet most of her unique combat arts – Hexblade for swords and Frozen Lance for spears – focus on dealing magical damage with physical weapons. Where I am choosing to find my inspiration though is in the class I usually choose as Ingrid’s advanced class during the awkward time between pegasus knight and falcon knight: the dancer. Sidon in Age of Calamity has an ability called Boundless Optimism that makes his attacks more powerful when pressing the unique action button with good timing; I think this mechanic makes sense for Ingrid as a voice of reason and would give her a bit of rhythm to convey that dancer quality even as she technically fights as a different class.

For her standalone strong attack, I think something that makes Ingrid more challenging to use but also more powerful would be an interesting choice here, a powered up mode of sorts. Dancers enable characters to take more actions, so what if Ingrid’s temporary buff increased the speed of her combos? Making her attacks faster would allow her to get in more moves against enemies and keep them on the defensive, but it would also make the timing tighter on her timed inputs for her unique ability. Learning the timings while in speed mode would be the most powerful combination, allowing Ingrid to execute more combos and to do so at an enhanced level of power.

Paladins

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This is the section I’ve been dreading the most. There are not one, not two, but four characters who fall into the paladin class by default. Making “horse guy with a spear” into an interesting character is already a tricky proposition, but doing so with four of them? I don’t envy this role for the developers and yet here I am, speculating about having it anyway. Brace yourselves adventurers, this group is gonna be a doozy.

Ferdinand

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“I AM FERDINAND VON AEGIR!” Can that just be a move, somehow? Actually Ferdinand is one of the characters who I think is on the easier side, partly thanks to his budding talent in armor. He is the best positioned of the four paladins to fall into the Great Knight archetype, plus he has a sacred shield compatible with his crest, so let’s slap that on him and make him one of the few non-armor-knight characters who can block stuff. Mechanically in Three Houses, Ferdinand gets a benefit for having full health (the Confidence personal skill), so let’s give him a similar passive here with better damage when at full health and then have his abilities focused on trying to maintain that full health bar as effectively as possible.

Ferdinand is one of the few faith spellcasters who gets the ward spell, and while I don’t want to build him around having magic, why not use ward as the justification for giving this guy a big Daruk-style magic barrier that surrounds his whole body? This will make it easier for Ferdinand to avoid taking damage and continue to enjoy the passive benefits of his full health boost. That kinda makes his shield seem unnecessary, huh? So how about we also give him a shield throw – that gives him a ranged attack option to keep foes at bay (and better preserve his health) and justifies having what is essentially a second shield for while his more practical one is indisposed.

Sylvain

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Sylvain is the paladin I’ve honestly had the hardest time with due to his level of overlap with other characters. He has most of the same proficiencies as Ferdinand but without the budding talent in armor. He does have a budding talent in reason, but reason is also a specialty for Lorenz and Lorenz has a Heroes’ Relic and a better spell list to back up his Dark Knight angle. So I think Sylvain’s thing is going to be not having a thing – he’ll be the most regular, balanced paladin compared to the others who will be leaning into either defense, magic, or speed.

One of Sylvain’s combat arts is Lightning Axe, a magical axe attack, but that gives me an idea – why not have his backup weapon be a literal bolt axe? As his unique ability he can heft this thing in his off hand and throw it at an enemy or group of enemies, the whirling weapon unleashing lightning all along its path before returning to Sylvain’s grasp. My other idea is inspired by Teba from Age of Calamity and Yusuke from Persona 5 Strikers – both can sustain a longer flurry of attacks by mashing the strong attack button at the end of their combos. Since Sylvain’s highest lance art is Swift Strike, it makes sense for him to be able to deliver additional thrusts at the end of his attacks.

Lorenz

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LORENZ HELLMAN GLOUCESTER. Why is every obnoxious character a paladin? Lorenz was probably the easiest of this group for me to settle on because he’s built to be a dark knight – almost no unique combat arts for weapons, access to one of the most powerful reason spells in the form of Agnea’s Arrow, and his very own Heroes’ Relic for boosting magic attacks. With a lot of the magicians so far I’ve tended to lean into an element and I think in this case Lorenz’s element will be “arcane,” the spells that are just raw magical energy.

On a standalone strong attack, I’m thinking Lorenz could use Sagittae and unleash a flurry of magical missiles that fly around in a swarm. While undirected and chaotic, the missiles should have enough power to take down low-level mooks and so be dangerous enough to decimate a mob if unleashed in their midst. Against an opponent that is bigger and takes up a lot more physical space, multiple missiles could hit them and cause a lot of damage that way. For his unique ability, I think Lorenz fires off Agnea’s Arrow, a huge blast of arcane energy that travels in a straight line and does huge damage to everything in the path. Once fired, Agnea’s Arrow has to recharge to work again, but it would have the offensive power to compensate for that trade-off.

Leonie

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Leonie was another tricky one for me because she doesn’t have any of the obvious details that I typically use to set a character apart: no relic or sacred weapon, no standout personal ability, no budding talent, no notable magic. Luckily, she does have another weapon that helps to take the edge off: bows. Being able to treat her as a bow knight is a helpful start, and then looking at her combat arts and seeing that they are focused on speed and dealing multiple attacks, a picture starts to form of Leonie as the fastest and most maneuverable of the paladins. I want to capture this first with her standalone strong attack, Lance Jab – usable at the end of a dash or a mounted dash to deal additional damage and have additional range based on Leonie’s momentum. The faster she’s moving, the harder and farther the force of the jab travels.

Her second move requires me to expound a bit on mounts. I mentioned in my basic rules that I am assuming every character with a mount can dismount, but I have not described how I imagine this works. I’m walking in with the assumption that dismounting will be a contextual command or perhaps have a dedicated button, but that it is an action that doesn’t really have immediate offensive or defensive applications. I am picturing for Leonie’s Point-Blank Shot combat art a move that allows her to traverse space, deal damage, and either mount or dismount depending on the context. She leaps forward through the air, firing a barrage of arrows through the space she is passing over, and at the end of the jump either lands on the ground (if she started mounted) or her horse (if she started dismounted). Empowering her dash and giving her a mobile and offensive dismount/mount emphasizes Leonie’s role as a highly mobile paladin.

Snipers

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I’ve only played the crossover musuo games but it seems like having characters who specialize in ranged weapons is pretty rare. There’s only a couple of archers in Age of Calamity, everyone in Persona 5 Strikers has a melee weapon, and there’s only one character I can think of in Dragon Quest Heroes who specializes in a bow and arrow. So having three snipers to work with in addition to the bow-focused Claude is certainly an interesting proposition for Three Hopes.

Bernadetta

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Oh, Bernie. Poor girl needs a hug. Instead, she gets more war. Now Bernadetta is a tricky one because a lot of the ideas I have for what makes her unique don’t apply to the factors I have usually been discussing (the standalone strong attack or the unique ability). For one, similar to Marianne I imagine Bernie being a character who is unique among the other members of her class in the sense of having a mount. Additionally, I think Bernie’s mounted charge should work differently. Rather than dealing damage, I want to play off of the Pass ability she gets when mastering riding and instead make her charge defensive, allowing her to pass through enemy ranks both without inflicting harm and without being harmed. When Bernie does take damage though, the damage she deals gets higher because of her Persecution Complex.

Perhaps rather than being passive, Persecution Complex could be a mode that Bernie can turn on or off? She adds the damage she has taken to her attacks, but also becomes more vulnerable to damage – this makes it easier to get the benefits of the ability but also makes Bernie die a lot faster if she isn’t being careful. This certainly implies a technical style where you’re going to want some additional defensive options to help preserve Bernadetta when she is in this state, so maybe the unique action to go along with it should be some kind of “fighting retreat” maneuver, similar to the one I described for Dimitri, or the opposite of Leonie’s ability. Bernie flips backwards away from danger and fires a line of arrows to drive back any enemies who are trying to follow her.

Ashe

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When I first saw the characters for Three Houses I thought I was really going to like Ashe from a mechanical perspective based on his default Locktouch ability. It didn’t end up mattering all that much in Three Houses and I imagine it will matter even less here. Ashe has no crest, no special weapons, and no truly useful combat arts for his secondary weapon, the axe. As an archer he and Bernie share the Deadeye combat art, but we didn’t really use it for her so we can take advantage of it here. Deadeye is a powerful and very long range shot, so maybe assign it to the standalone strong attack to fire a huge explosive arrow into a group some distance away – further than the normal reach of any of Ashe’s combos.

Honestly rather than basing anything on Ashe’s remaining abilities from Three Houses, I think I’ll just make a choice in opposition to the ability I already have. So if the first ability is a big powerful blast a long distance away, the next one should be good for clearing mobs in the immediate vicinity. So maybe Ashe twirls in a circle and sends piercing arrows out in each direction. They’re weak and too spread out to deal big damage to a serious enemy but if Ashe finds himself caught in the middle of a mob, he can clear out the weaker enemies this way to give him some room to fight the more dangerous foes close by.

Ignatz

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Painter, magician, and unexpected ladies’ man, Ignatz is also a hell of a sniper thanks to his default accuracy buff negating the penalty for shooting targets from three tiles away. For his unique ability I want to lean into that and actually give Ignatz a long range sniping ability. This isn’t the sort of thing that I think would typically be considered useful for a musuo on its own, so maybe it is also a baton pass of sorts? You hit an enemy in the head with an arrow and expose their weak point gauge, and if an ally is within a certain radius of the arrow you automatically switch to that character and can start whittling the weak point gauge down with the opening from Ignatz. There are probably better options than a sniping move but I hate to waste this obvious unique aspect of his skillset.

For a more traditional standalone strong attack, why not add another special meter? Ignatz has two combat arts for his bow that inflict status problems, one for reducing stats and the other for temporarily silencing enemy magicians. So let’s say you activate his Ward Arrows and then your combos for a short time inflict a status where enemies take more damage and deal reduced damage due to their limited attack options. You could inflict this status, dodge roll a bit away to have time to line up a shot, and then shoot the enemy with the sniper arrow to expose the weak point gauge while then handing this weakened, exposed opponent off to a nearby ally to really deal some big damage.

Warlocks

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You never realize how many spellcasters there are in this game until you have to figure out unique movesets for all of them. Warlocks are reason specialists who don’t have access to dark magic. For the two characters in this category, I’m assuming their normal combos will have the same inputs but use a different visual flair based on the elemental preference of the warlock. I also envision each character taking some inspiration for their fighting style based on the weapon they’ll have as a backup for their spells.

Dorothea

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“Hey Ian, you know what we don’t have enough of? Special meters.” I was just thinking the same thing! Dorothea is primarily a lightning magic specialist with Thunder as her base spell and Thoron following that, so naturally my brain went to Urbosa’s lightning meter from Age of Calamity. By holding the unique action button or pressing it with good timing at the end of combos, Dorothea can draw lightning to her body which she can then channel to make her spells more powerful and have a larger damage range to help her clear mobs faster.

For her standalone strong attack, rather than using a spell I imagine that Dorothea will instead make a powerful attack with a levin sword. Dorothea’s main alternative to reason is swords and with her high magic stat, she is mechanically the best candidate for a magic sword who doesn’t already have a special one because this game lowkey perpetuates the harmful systems that its characters are fighting against. I imagine this attack to be a powerful single swing that sends crackling lightning out in all directions around Dorothea, doing the most damage at the center but spread out into mobs standing around.

Annette

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Someday, I am going to play through Three Houses and remember to give Annette the training she needs to use her giant axe. Until then, though, let’s make sure she has it in Three Hopes, yeah? Annette’s Heroes’ Relic is a magic-based axe called Crusher and boy does that sound perfect for a standalone strong attack where she just bangs the ground with her weapon and does a ton of damage to any enemies that happen to be in the way. I also like the idea of the impact of this blow being so powerful that it tosses Annette in the air for a few moments, allowing her to pepper enemies with her wind spells from above as she drifts back down to the ground.

Annette’s personal ability in Three Houses is to rally strength, and she picks up a lot of rally abilities from leveling up her skills as well. So rather than give Annette a special mode to enter, I think instead she should have a burst ability that gives enhanced stats to herself and to any allies in the range of the ability for a short window of time. You can use it to give her a boost for her upcoming fight or you can boost an ally and then switch to them to carry the increased damage into a particularly challenging encounter along with that character’s default abilities.

Warriors

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Last but not least, is there anything more satisfying than crushing your opposition with a giant axe? Three Houses only has two warrior characters by default and for many axe wielders in the game, the option to also learn brawling and become a war master is a tempting one. I decided to go that route for Caspar, leaving Hilda to hold down the true warrior for all by herself.

Caspar

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Hey remember this guy? My approach to Caspar for this game is to make him a stance change character, and while we talked about his grappler stance and the ability he would have in that form, there is still his warrior stance to discuss. I took my inspiration for the standalone strong attack for this stance from Noir in Persona 5 Strikers, who can mash the strong attack button to lengthen her finishers and cover more space. So I imagine that Caspar can use this ability to perform a whirling attack with his axe, sweeping through a group of enemies as he slowly moves along the ground.

Splitting Caspar between grappler and warrior will give him a mode where his attacks are quicker and lighter, giving him lots of momentum to move around the battlefield (I’m assuming grapplers will have things like Rushing Blow and Fading Blow in their normal moveset) as well as a mode focused on slower but more powerful attacks. My hope is that being able to swap between the two depending on the situation will help make Caspar stand out despite not necessarily having other special abilities to bring to bear.

Hilda

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Hilda! Hilda! Hilda! Hilda is one of a number of characters in Three Houses who is really only good at one thing, but she does that one thing at a high level: smashing stuff with a giant axe. Her standalone strong attack makes the most sense as Diamond Axe, a high-level combat art that adds a whopping 14 damage to the attack. I imagine that Hilda leaps into the air for a moment and then comes crashing down, dealing heavy damage in her immediate area as well as sending out huge diamond formations to pierce and damage surrounding mooks.

Hilda’s budding talent is armor, but I don’t particularly want to give her a shield and ultimately cause her to overlap with Dedue and Edelgard instead of falling into the warrior class. I like the idea of giving her Helm Splitter as a way of exposing weak point gauges on giant enemies – a high jump with a strike at the top of the jump designed to strike a head – but this would have little utility against mobs of human-sized enemies. But Hilda wouldn’t be the first character to have a move that is situationally useful, and it would give her a pretty different specialization to Caspar who I positioned more for taking out mobs.

And that brings me at last to the end! Now do I think that most of what I speculated will actually happen? Not really. But it is fun to think about the possibilities of what could be done with these characters in order to make them play uniquely from one another. This exercise did help me see that as much as I don’t want any characters to be cut, there realistically is at least one person from each house we could do without in order to have a more manageable roster with unique, interesting playstyles to explore. I’m more okay now than I used to be with the idea of some characters just being NPCs – especially if it means that we could nix the ridiculous sort-by-class system that I just had to use to organize everything! I’d love to see more unique playstyles for the cast (two weapons! weapon users with magic! weird battalion stuff!) and if shrinking it is ultimately what is needed to make that happen…well, I just hope my favorites don’t get cut!

Feel free to comment with your thoughts, adventurers. What characters do you want to make it in? How do you want them to play?

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