20 things I wish I knew before starting Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is an incredibly deep and complex game. While there is a semi decent tutorial, most of the nuance of the game is hidden in the tips section or flat out not explained at all. This can lead you to making some pretty dumb decisions early game that will come back to bite you twenty chapters later.

To avoid that fate, we’ve put together this handy guide to get you optimizing your playthroughs from day one. Here are 20 things I wish I knew before starting Three Houses.

Never EVER let a weapon break as a result of an attack

It’s okay to let a weapon break over the course of a battle since broken weapons remain in your inventory, but never let one break as a result of your characters’ attacks. Why? Because whatever you attack with will also be what you defend with. So if you break your weapon on an attack, you’ll be defending with a broken weapon that can barely hit the enemy or deal any damage. It’s usually best to bring at least two different weapons into battle, not only in case one breaks, but also to cover different types of opponents and weaknesses.

Repairing is better than buying. Forging is better than repairing

So what do you do with those broken weapons? Well Fire Emblem veterans will want to buy replacements, but hold on! That’s actually a waste of money. You can actually repair them for much cheaper so long as you have forging resources, which you should be flush with if you have been doing quests.

However, even this is not the most effective way to use your resources. For a comparable amount of money and a few more resources you can forge a broken weapon into a higher level weapon. Doing so completely restores your weapon’s charges so you get a free repair action as well. In fact, forging a weapon that isn’t broken (or about to break) just wastes all your durability. You should only forge weapons that are near the end of their life-span.

You can just brute force lost items AND gifts!

Returning a lost item to a character that lost it will greatly increase your bond with them. However, picking the wrong lost item gives you no penalty whatsoever. There’s really nothing stopping you from carrying around a bag of garbage and asking every character you see if every single item in it is theirs. One caveat, giving a character that is already in your house a lost item will maximize their motivation, so you probably shouldn’t brute force people who have already maxed out their motivation.

As for gifts, certain characters like certain things more than others, but eventually most basic gifts can be purchased at the market. Once again you can just throw them all at a character’s face to see what they are into.

Note the only difference between gifts that characters like and gifts that they don’t like is that gifts that they don’t like raise your bond by half as much. Gifts that don’t raise your bond at all are extremely rare. So you can buy out the shops each month and just throw a bunch of garbage at a character of your choice, and they will eventually come to love and adore you. It’s actually a pretty fantastic strategy if you are trying to recruit everyone.

Support ranks matter way more than stats when recruiting

Speaking of character recruitment, the game tells you that characters might join your team if your stats and skills are of a certain level. What it doesn’t tell you is that support ranks are way, WAY more important than your stats. Raising a character to support rank C will more than halve your stat requirements for recruiting them. Raising a character to support rank B lower those requirements again and will give them a random chance to ask to enter your class without being prompted regardless of what your stats are. If you want to recruit as many characters as possible, support ranks are the way to go.

You should fish and garden every day for quick professor level-ups

Your professor rank is very important. In fact it might be the most important stat in the game. Not only does it give you a greater chance to recruit students and other teachers to your cause, it also affects how many actions you can take in your free time, how much instruction you can give your students, and how many battles you can participate in during battle weekends. In short, the higher your professor rank, the more powerful your entire army is.

Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear how to raise professor rank. Participating in events raises it. Answering student questions raises it. You can also spend time while exploring the monastery to raise it.

However, fishing and gardening cost no time and raise your professor level. This is SO important. Every exploration day you should buy out the store of fishing bait and fish yourself silly. Then harvest your crops and plant some new ones. This drip feed of professor XP will give you access to higher professor ranks just a little bit sooner, which means more time to spend, which means even faster professor level ups.

Sharing meals is one of the best uses of your time

If you are trying to think of something to do while exploring the monastery, consider sharing a meal with the students. It accomplishes a lot of things at once. First, it increases the bonds between the students you choose. Second, it increases your bonds with the students you choose. Third, it restores motivation for any student in your class, which is incredibly valuable. Forth, it gives you professor XP for some reason. Why not!

Tea parties are another great use of your time

If you are looking to recruit a specific character one of the best things you can do is invite them over for tea. Look at it this way, each time your bond with a character goes up you’ll see a little arrow or two flash across the screen which represents how much their bond has increased. A gift can raise your bond at maximum by two, which is already considered quite high. A tea party, if perfected, raises your bond by six! It’s the quickest way to get people to like you.

Note that characters have to trust you enough to accept your invitation to tea, but you can ALWAYS invite them out for tea on their birthday, so do that instead of wasting 200 bucks on flowers.

Invite a student from another house into battle every single month

Every month you can invite a guest from another house to participate in battle with you. Do this every month and ALWAYS use them in the battle (or set them at an adjutant to your main character). This will raise your bonds with them and make them easier to recruit. In addition, these characters will always be at level parity, making them incredibly powerful choices for any mission.

Seminars are useless because you get just as much benefit if not more by exploring the monastery

Seminars are a trap. While they allow your students to regain motivation and learn some skills while you also learn some skills, you can always get more done by exploring the monastery. For example, seminars can restore the motivation of six characters, but sharing a meal with six characters only takes three time units in exploration mode, and if your professor rank is high enough you’ll still have time leftover to raise bonds or work on skills as you choose.

Don’t stress on Byleth’s skills

Byleth, ironically enough, raises their skills much slower than anyone else in your party because they can’t teach themselves. You might think that this means you have to spend a lot of time getting faculty instruction while exploring campus, but honestly that’s kind of a waste. Once again I don’t want to get too deep into spoiler territory but you eventually gain access to special classes for Byleth for free, as well as a very easy way to raise any of their skills. So just don’t sweat it.

Always learn your class skill before switching

This one isn’t really a time management thing, but rather a frustration management thing. You should pretty much only switch your classes (even your base classes) after you have learned their class skill. You can always go back to a lower class later with absolutely no penalty, but A) why would you want to and B) its tucked away in the items menu for some reason? Best to just get it done once.

A side note, this also means that if you have finished learning a class ability there’s really no reason to stay in that class. Yes, you might like that class’s stat growths, but your time is better spent learning new abilities.

The percentage chance is a lie

Whenever Fire Emblem: Three Houses tells you a percentage chance to say, hit the enemy or pass a test, it’s lying to you. We would need more data to get a real feel for what algorithm is being used here, but it appears as if any percentage chance under 50% is much lower than advertised and any percentage chance above 50% is much higher than advertised. This appears as if it’s the “double roll” random number generation method that past Fire Emblems have used but as I said, we don’t have enough data to be sure.

There is a soft reset function!

Fire Emblem is a game about save scumming. All Fire Emblem fans know this. However, the game doesn’t have a load function! What are you to do!

Well if you are quitting to the Switch main menu, closing the game, and re-opening it, stop that! There’s a soft reset function that the game doesn’t tell you about. Just press minus, plus, L, and R at the same time and you’ll go back to the main menu, ready to load.

Create a pre-battle routine

There is a lot of stuff to check before every battle and if you don’t make a routine of checking it, you’ll find your inventory will become unmanageable, your battalions will die, and your characters will be saddled with abilities they can’t even use.

The trick here is the inventory menu. This is where practically everything is. It lets you equip items, assign battalions, and change abilities. Honestly, the menu system is kind of weird.

So here’s what you do. First, use the marketplace to restore all your battalions to full health. Then, use the blacksmith to forge up any broken weapons. That should be enough for most battles. Every month or so be sure to redo your whole inventory to make sure everyone is using the best weapons possible, and that they aren’t saddled with junk or items that are best left in your convoy like stat increasers and bullion.

By the way, always sell bullion. They don’t do anything but give you cash.

Turn on the enemy’s range indicator and never turn it off

Pressing ZR on empty terrain during battle will turn on the enemy’s universal range indicator. This will show you every square on the map that the enemy can attack.

NEVER TURN THIS OFF!

Your general strategy for most battles should be inching toward this range and putting one tank inside it to lure the enemy over, then taking out those enemies with high powered attackers. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Attack speed is not the same as character speed

In past Fire Emblem games, the calculation to double attack was pretty simple. If your speed was five greater than the opponent’s speed you got a double attack. In Three Houses, speed, weight, and many other variables are calculated to give you a new stat “attack speed.” This is compared to the attack speed of your opponent and if this is four greater you get a double attack.

Retreat if things look dicey

Retreating is the greatest power over time your protagonist has, even more than the Divine Pulse. If you choose to retreat you will start the battle over, just as you were when you first began the map, with the exception that you keep all the XP you earned from playing the map the first time. If your Divine Pulses are running out and you are dangerously close to permadeath for any of your characters, just choose to retreat. It’s exactly the same as starting the battle over but you get a bonus for it.

Use auto-battle to grind

On normal difficulty certain maps will take no battle points and will be far below your level. These are grinding maps. They are low stakes maps that will generally grant you bullion and a couple items for defeating.

Don’t waste your time micromanaging your units on these maps. There’s basically no risk of any unit dying and even if they do you can use the Divine Pulse to rewind and do it again. Just turn off animations, turn on auto-battle and get through these maps in a minute or two.

Byleth is not a blank slate

Finally, a small aside about the main character: Byleth. It seems as if Byleth is this blank slate that you can do anything with, but it’s actually not completely true. Their growth rates are about even across the board, except for magic and defense, which grow 10 percent slower, and resistance, which grows 15 percent slower. This makes them best suited for heavy offense heavy speed classes like Myrmidons and Swordmasters, though honestly the growth rates from magic classes can usually do enough to push them in another direction if you really want to.

WARNING

This final tip is useful, but has been noted as a spoiler by some readers. You've been warned.

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Recruitment really matters

Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, any character you don’t recruit will eventually become your enemy. While, yes, you might want to recruit characters to add them to your army, recruiting is also just as much managing which characters you don’t want to have to fight in the future. If you aren’t going to recruit everyone (which is difficult, I know) try to leave a selection of unrecruited characters that are specifically weak to your army loadout.

Unfortunately, house leaders and their retainers cannot be recruited under any circumstance.

It’s also worth noting that each recruited character comes with a special item, like a stat-up item, seal, or really large bullion.

Those are our top 20 tips for starting Fire Emblem: Three Houses. If you have a tip you’d like to leave, feel free to put it in the comments.