Stayin’ Classy – Thoughts on the Three Hopes Class System

One of my biggest concerns between the time I learned about Three Hopes and the first big gameplay demonstration was the idea that the class system would be limited. Three Houses expanded the Fire Emblem class system by allowing any character to become almost any class, creating fun possibilities for interesting combinations of abilities as well as allowing each player to build their characters differently. Some of my favorite characters in Three Houses were units like Marianne or Petra who had interesting combinations of weapon proficiencies that made them viable as a bunch of different classes in the game. I couldn’t imagine that this approach would be preserved for a Warriors game, so I was pleasantly surprised when Three Hopes did in fact still have the ability to make any character into any class considered appropriate for their gender (I still wish they had shelved the gender bit, but I digress). But now that I’m eleven chapters deep and have been able to experience most of the major classes, I wanted to share my impressions of it.

Three Hopes features four basic classes that characters begin as: myrmidons (swordsmen), soldiers (spearmen), monks (magicians), and fighters (who wield bows, axes, and gauntlets). Beyond the beginner classes there are three additional levels: intermediate, advanced, and master. Each basic class branches out into multiple options for each rank with some bonuses thrown in for special characters as well as limitations based on gender. A soldier, for example, can only become a cavalier unless they are female or their name is Dimitri, the former of which unlocks the pegasus knight class while the latter unlocks the high lord class. In order to get a class of a new rank, you have to master the class of the preceding rank – you can’t be a thief until you’ve mastered myrmidon first, for example. These trees are slightly different from how they worked in Three Houses, with a more explicit order as well as some classes either missing or ranked differently (such as the dark bishop now being a master class).

The trickster, once a special class at the advanced tier, is now the master tier class for thief/assassin type units.

All classes have a few key features. One is the class action, the move that you perform when pressing the strong attack button while in that class. Cavaliers for example charge forward on their steed while swinging their weapon, while mages send a series of rapid-fire energy spheres forward and can pivot in place to change the direction of the blasts. Next there are class abilities, which are abilities you automatically have while being in the class. Priests for example have the Heal spell as a class ability, while thieves can use Locktouch to open chests without keys. Finally, every class has learned abilities, abilities you receive as you master the class. You get at least one ability each for one, two, and three stars in a given class, with three stars representing mastery. One important thing to note about learned abilities is that they vary from character to character. As a mage for example, Lorenz gets access to the Sagittae spell while Lysithea learns Swarm Z instead. This is part of what makes two characters in the same class different from one another – they get access to different abilities on top of the unique character actions they already possess.

Every character has a branch of preferred classes. Besides getting access to a unique costume and warrior special when in a preferred class, characters also master their preferred classes faster. Shez, the protagonist, learns fastest as their special fluegel class, while Ignatz for example ranks fastest as an archer. These preferred classes generally line up with roughly what you would expect based on the character’s proficiencies in Three Houses but they don’t line up perfectly. Leonie for example has holy knight as her preferred master class when in Three Houses she’s better suited for a bow knight – this comes about because you have to follow the fighter tree to become a bow knight but Leonie starts in the soldier tree. Because the classes lead directly into each other rather than being based on weapon ranks, jumping sideways into a different class tree isn’t possible without training up the lower ranked classes in that tree first.

Armor knight may not be Hilda’s preferred class, but I’ll always see her as an armor knight in my heart.

So the most obvious way to progress is pretty simple: get certified in each character’s preferred class and have them follow that branch through each rank. This is a straightforward approach that probably won’t steer you wrong on the standard difficulty, but if you’re like me you’ll quickly notice that once you’ve mastered a class, there’s no point in getting experience in that class anymore. So what if you got experience in another one instead? Part of the joy of a solid class system is mixing and matching to custom-build your own personal powerhouse and unless you’re playing a route with a ton of characters and you’re trying to use all of them, you’ll easily have time to master at least two classes with your core crew of heroes before moving on to the next rank. Choosing what to master, well, that’s a whole ‘nother thing.

Class actions and class abilities are only applicable while using a class, so the main benefit you receive by mastering something outside of the class you actually plan to use is having extra learned abilities: combat arts, spells, or abilities you can equip to your character. Combat arts are tricky – you can only use them when using the weapon they align with. So hopping over to the myrmidon class to learn Wrath Strike is useless when you switch back to Fighter; you can’t use the combat art. Now it is a viable option to have characters in two different classes that you switch between from battle to battle – it’s up to you if you want to juggle that. Personally, I prefer to have each character specialize in a single weapon and instead focus on classes that give them abilities which would be useful additions to their preferred class.

No harm in making Marianne hit a bit harder by spending some time as a mage instead of just a priest.

For some units, this is easy to figure out. Making your cavalier into a pegasus knight gives them an opportunity to learn new lance combat arts and barely takes any additional effort – they’ve already mastered the basics. Mages and priests are real easy to flip and can use each other’s spells with ease. There are some characters though who won’t have another class with the same weapon to change to. Your brawlers, for example, don’t have another gauntlet class to train in after they master brawler. Same goes for archers unless you’re talking about Claude, specifically, and he still has an awkward phase for the advanced tier. The brawler and archer trees are particularly hamstrung by the fact that their master forms don’t use magic, meaning you also get no benefit from moonlighting as a monk, priest, or mage in order to scoop up those spells later on – well, at least in terms of spell unlocked. A cavalier can look forward to picking those spells back up as a dark knight or holy knight, and the same rings true for tricksters or mortal savants on the sword side of things. When neither the combat arts nor the spells learned by a class will transfer over, your main benefit is from other learned abilities.

Here are some examples from my playthrough. Raphael and Ignatz both have the problem I described above – no obvious secondary class with the same weapon to choose and no access to spells in their master classes. So what I did was have each one train as the other’s class. These two are friends with a good potential support relationship and each one can learn decent skills from the other’s path, plus the way training works in this game, training them in each other’s class allows both to get a bonus from their partner’s high rank in the desired class. I don’t ever use Ignatz as a brawler or Raphael as an archer, but giving Raph for example the reduction to combat art durability costs that the archer gains allows him to use his brawler arts (such as the nifty Draining Fist) more frequently. With characters like Marianne and Lysithea, once they ran out of magic to learn I focused on developing them as pegasus knights for the enhancements to perfect dodging that those abilities granted – any class can perfect dodge, so the ladies still benefit from learning these classes even if I won’t ever put them on a pegasus for a real battle.

Neither of these units make natural warlocks, but is it possible they benefit from warlock abilities?

Now some characters appear to have more potent combinations than others when you’re talking about training secondary classes in this manner. Take Claude for example. The warlock class has a mastery ability called “Essence of [Element],” where [Element] is whatever element is most appropriate for the spells that the character learns. In Claude’s case, that ability is Essence of Wind, which increases the power of any combat art, spell, or strong attack that uses the wind element. Now Claude’s unique character ability is a straightforward but nifty one that makes all of his attacks wind element by default. So while a normal character would only benefit from using spells or combat arts with this Essence power, theoretically all of Claude’s combo finishers would buffed by it as well. I will never use Claude as a magician, but you better believe I had him hit the books behind the scenes to learn that ability and carry it over. I did the same thing for Hilda, who learns Essence of Lightning and has a character ability which grants her finishers the lightning element when you charge them up. Unfortunately while this seemed like a big-brain idea, as it turns out the Essence of [Element] abilities do not interact with unique abilities that change the element of strong attacks. So all my time making Claude and Hilda into warlocks didn’t amount to much of anything. That’s part of the experience, though – you see a set of classes that appears to create a potent combination and then learn the hard way whether or not it is going to work for you.

Overall, I find the class system’s implementation into Three Hopes interesting. The part of me that loves customizing characters and finding their optimal builds has gotten a kick out of exploring the various ability trees to see which combinations would make my units as effective as possible. While I prefer the additional degrees of nuance that are present in Three Houses, this is an action game instead of a turn-based strategy game and I understand the practical considerations for streamlining and simplifying how these classes work. It fits well in a musuo while still capturing the core of what the system brought to the original game; a skill Koei Tecmo has demonstrated in spades over the past few years. I’m excited to play more of the game and experience even more of the mechanics it brings to the table.

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