Either I'm a Strategic Genius, or 'Fire Emblem: Three Houses' Is Too Easy

Dear Fire Emblem: Three Houses, when you say “normal,” I think you mean “easy.”

I’m nearly 30 hours into Three Houses, roughly halfway through Nintendo’s ambitious strategy game about a trio of student groups swept into a complex web of dark magic and manipulative politics. I love it, and my precious students mean everything to me, giving Three Houses an emotional weight previous Fire Emblem games have lacked. But I also have a problem: the game’s battles no longer mean anything. My students may regularly confess to having confidence issues, but in the field of war, they (and me) have nothing to fear, as they can nearly one-shot whatever comes their way. They’re machines of death.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ne8bjz/either-im-a-strategic-genius-or-fire-emblem-three-houses-is-too-easy

I’ve been playing on Hard and Classic, and it’s been mostly a low-stress affair up to the point I’m at now, fighting Claude and his forces in the, uh, aquatic city I can’t remember the name of, and I’ve been getting wrecked trying to do this one.

I’m going to try tackling it again, because I don’t want to turn down the difficulty if I can avoid it, but if I have to I will. That’s a thing you can do, right? Go down, but not back up?

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On one hand, yeah it probably is too easy and Divine Pulse makes me play way more sloppily than I have in past entries; on the other hand, Conquest was so difficult I never finished it. The ideal is probably somewhere in between, but if it has to trend towards one extreme I’ll take too easy over too hard any day. The ability to change the difficulty mid-game is a no-brainer, though.

yup exactly. I will say the difficulty ramps up and the objectives/maps become more varied after the time jump. Difficulty wise, my mages can no longer just jump into fisti-cuffs with melee units. I’ve enjoyed the taking out strategic units to stop them from calling reinforcements and defending objectives.

I didn’t find it difficult whatsoever to keep anyone alive on my Black Eagles run until the final two or three missions where it became a total mission to manage it. On Hard I’m generally managing alright apart from the Paralogues where I’m struggling a bit to keep the weaker characters alive particularly when my squad is divided across the map or I have to contend with multiple disparate objectives. Completing the game itself shouldn’t be a struggle tho given some characters start off fairly overpowered and just get more so. I’ve watched Shamir hold their own against wave after wave of archers and axemen without breaking a sweat.

I feel like the permadeath of Fire Emblem’s core design is a bit limiting because it reduces victory and failure down to a binary. It doesn’t help that the mechanics are also pretty straightforward and doesn’t leave much room for creative play.

It seems odd to complain that the lowest difficulty setting is too easy, especially given that one of the planned pieces of DLC is a higher difficulty mode. Or, it’s perfectly reasonable to criticise the game for that and for the inability to turn the difficulty up, but strange to have a piece about it before getting to the bit of the game where the difficulty picks up a bit. Especially as someone who has played these games before, where there are undoubtedly going to be people who struggle with this level of difficulty.

i’m put in mind of devil may cry 3’s original us release, which had literally relabeled difficulties in it. us normal mode was the jp hard mode, and us hard mode was jp very hard mode. somewhere along the line they decided that we like games to be hard? :woman_shrugging:
i’d already played dmc1 through the highest difficulty with a lot of help from guides, so i was ready for it and normal mode was tough but not immensely frustrating.
that was dmc3 though. playing through 1 for the first time, i completely stalled out on the very first boss fight, versus phantom, and dropped it for like a year. character action was a new thing for me and i had no idea what i needed to be doing, thus could not do the thing. on normal mode.

anyway i guess what i’m saying is since difficulty is subjective, normal might best be taken to mean the baseline as imagined by the devs and no more.

also like
why is there a podcast ep right in the middle of this article? i’m only just about to listen so i don’t know if the article is providing context but there’s not even a summary of it there.

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Even Hard was a bit too easy in this one; I’m reminded of Sacred Stones’ kind of lopsided difficulty curve. In general all of my units seemed just a tad bit too powerful even before I got into organizing some wild builds. I’m hoping the Insanity difficulty fixes some of this. That said, Normal being reducible to a cakewalk was great for a support grinding run (and yet, wouldn’t that be better served by a “Story Mode” difficulty a lá the Baldur’s Gate remasters?).

RE: the lack of ability to adjust difficulty, you actually do have a panic button down to Normal from Hard, but you can never go back. It makes some sense given the disparity in the handling of side missions, but on the other hand I can’t shake the feeling it’s coming out of some misguided place of trying to “stop cheaters” (in a single player game???) given Nintendo’s questionable decisions on cloud saves for much the same reason.

Everyone complaining about how easy this is are just discounting the idea that maybe normal is plenty difficult for some players. There’s just no idea anywhere that a human being could possibly exist for whom this way too easy game provides them a challenge. It’s so wild to me.

The most recent episode spends a lot of time complaining about how easy the game is and this article sort of provides more context to why it sucks that games are easy.

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I think there’s a built-in assumption that if Normal is too difficult the player can level their way out of it (since Normal has unlimited grinding), so the discussion is almost exclusively being taken up by folks with the opposite problem. It’s not great (and I’m not innocent in the slightest), but I think it speaks to the overall lack of nuance and options in the difficulty and difficulty adjustment for the game. I’d also argue that the lack of signposting about what the difficulties mean is becoming an issue for the franchise in general that they need to address.

Considering old Fire Emblem was brutally hard and utterly unforgiving - you couldn’t even get new weapons if you didn’t know where to look - too easy isn’t so bad. I had to restart Black Dragon 3/4ths of the way through because my army had been so savaged by my ignorance that I just couldn’t make it through another battle without massive casualties.

Also Patrick is clearly Hanniboleon von Schlieffen.

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Having finished the game, I can honestly say ‘Normal’ difficulty makes total sense for a first play-through. The first half of the game was a cakewalk and gave me lots of room to experiment. At that point I had the same complaints as Patrick does above.

Later on though, it started to make total sense; the second half of the game ramps up a lot, and I was very appreciative that the game gave me such leeway to get used to the new systems. It showed me exactly which characters I had done right and which ones I had messed up. Now I can head into a Hard play-through with full knowledge of what I’m getting into, and of what to watch out for.

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Fire Emblem Awakening was my first FE game and the difficulty in that on normal/casual was exactly the same as three houses in my memory. I still find it fun even when its ridiculously easy, but I did enjoy my hard playthroigh more. If Patrick wants a quicker way to end battles he could try using a stride gambit + warp combination, but then you miss out on experience.

Fire Emblem is traditionally a ‘hard’ series. There’s a baseline expectation from longtime series’ fans of a certain level of challenge, which has been lacking in FE3H. (Although frankly, also in Fates and Awakening, so the series’ reputation is honestly at peril.) I think it’s fair to point out that “normal” on FE3H is not like “normal” on previous games and that there’s no way to go up (I don’t know WHY not) if you start on normal.

Obviously there’s nothing WRONG with a lower difficulty option – I’m always of the opinion that more granularity in options is a good thing, so an easier option for people unfamiliar with the franchise/genre/younger players, etc., is great. But as much as I love FE3H (played three out of four routes so far), the game isn’t very challenging and far less satisfying as an SRPG experience even on Hard/Classic compared to previous titles. As Patrick points out, there are broader problems (map/enemy variety and design) than just “it’s too easy” (like honestly, with this map design, I don’t even want to do Lunatic difficulty because it’s probably just going to be enemies with more stats) but… yeah.

I’d rather a game be too easy than too hard. Considering I was worried about the tactical layer of this game while everything else sounded good (I suck at tactics games) maybe i’ll pick this up sooner rather than later.

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That’s pretty much how I felt after my first playthrough. Three Houses was basically my first FE game, and there were more than a couple points in the first run where I had no idea what I was doing with the class management stuff. Luckily, I could get away with totally non-optimized builds for a long time while I figured out the more esoteric things. Now I’m doing a second playthrough on Hard/Classic, and all the things that I fumbled with on Normal absolutely matter (e.g. I actually have to worry about Weight). It’s still not what I’d personally think of as ‘hard,’ but it does leave me spending a lot more time in pre-battle screens than I did before, which ends up presenting its own sort of challenge.

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I think Lunatic could turn out pretty good if they have a heavy focus on giving the enemies high impact skills, somewhat like what they did with Conquest Lunatic (although the maps were much better in that obviously).

At this point even if it is just a stats bump I’ll probably still do my second playthrough on Lunatic, just to spice it up.

I dunno if FE has ever really felt especially deep in the “strategy” part of “strategy RPG,” but it def feels a bit worse in Three Houses thanks to the relics? Like at this point I have flying and cavalry units who have nullified their innate weaknesses, and also Lysithea running around dropping 50x2s on everybody from a mile away?

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FE games always have relic type weapons, but Three Houses seems to give you relics way earlier than any other Fire Emblem game, and they give them to more people than just the main player character.