*Quick update: I’m still planning to review Fire Emblem: Three Houses. As of me writing this, I’ve finished the Black Eagles route and the Blue Lions path. I’m now moving on to Golden Deer, and I’ll be completing the hidden fourth path after that (which will undoubtedly be another forty to sixty hours of gameplay… I don’t need to do anything else with my life). At the rate it’s going, I likely won’t be done for a while. Thank you for your patience, and I promise to make the review a good one! Now, let’s begin the analysis!*
This post contains spoilers for Fire Emblem: Three Houses. If you haven’t played the game yet and you want to, go do so before reading this.
I haven’t ever truly loved a Fire Emblem character. They typically range from ‘incredibly cliche, predictable and boring’ to ‘literally a walking gag’ to ‘oh, that one’s kind of interesting!’. None of them have been all that memorable or interesting.
So imagine my surprise when I played Three Houses. “Oh my god!” I cried. “An interesting, well-written character! Oh my GOD! Another well-written and interesting character! OH MY GOD!! EVERY character is well-written and interesting! HOLY FUCK!!”
Honestly, I could cherry-pick any character from this game for a full analysis! Not all of them would be super long or in-depth, but they’re all worthy of it in my opinion! But as much as I’d love to, I can’t go analyzing every single character in the game. So I’m going to stick to the three main characters. Starting with the ruthless and beautiful emperor herself: Edelgard von Hresvelg.
Mainly because she has a really fucking cool name.
Edelgard is a fantastic and likable character (so long as you only play through the Black Eagles path. She becomes much more hatable when you play Blue Lions). Despite her cold exterior, she’s a very friendly and warm person! While she may not be as honorable as Dimitri, she’s certainly a respectful and decently fair person. Personality-wise, she’s a complete departure from the goody-goody protagonists of Fire Emblem games in the past!
But then you dive into her backstory and motivations, she becomes so much more! She becomes one of the most interesting characters in the history of the franchise! Allow me to explain why!
The Wound: The Price of Power
Huh. I honestly didn’t expect a Fire Emblem game to get this dark. I mean… have any of the other games descended to child murder? I don’t think they have!
Edelgard had a lot of troubles during her childhood. From losing her biological mother, being stuck in the Holy Kingdom of Faurgus for a few years, to losing her only friend (who was also her stepbrother because Fire Emblem), Edelgard has had far from an easy life. But there is one very clear event in her life that would change it forever.
As a kid, Edelgard and her ten siblings were all part of a genetic experiment. The goal: create a person with two Crests. Over the course of the experiments, Edelgard had to watch all of her siblings die one by one. In the end, the experiment was a success. But Edelgard was left alone.
From then on, her goal was crystal clear. On the subject of which:
The Want: A World Without Crests
Y’know, I’d admire Edelgard’s goals. I did during the Black Eagle path. But I still don’t see why the whole war thing was necessary.
Crests have caused suffering in Fodlan. Basically every character in the game has suffered in some way because of Crests! Whether they’ve lost control of their futures because they had one or never had a future because they didn’t have one, Crests are the central cause of most suffering within the world of Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
With that in mind, Edelgard forged her goal: to devalue Crests. As emperor, she wants to forge a world where anyone could succeed, regardless of noble blood or Crests. Whether it takes a year or her whole life, Edelgard is determined to make a world where the tragedy that befell her can never happen again.
The Lie: Only One Way
Edelgard firmly believes that, had Crests not existed, everything that caused her suffering would never have happened. Which is not completely incorrect. If not for the Crest experiments, she wouldn’t have lost her ten siblings! Crests have dictated the lives of almost every character in the game, whether they have them or not!
Logically, they’ve got to go, right? Surely, if she can create a world where Crests, as well as the nobility that is so obsessed with them, weren’t so powerful, she could create a happier place for everyone! Sure, she may need to step over a few bodies (a few hundred or thousands maybe) to get there!
So what do you do? You go to war to conquer the whole world, of course! Then you can make everyone listen to you!
Do I really need to explain why this is the Lie?
There are a million better ways for El to achieve her goal. Making the world change by force is the least efficient way to create permanent and impactful change! To truly capture the hearts and minds of a world, you need to get them onto your side by convincing them that your side is the right one.
Kind of hard to get people onto your side after you murder their families, burn their homes and force them to worship you.
The Need: The Voice of Reason
On her own, Edelgard falls onto a much darker path to complete her goal. Her ruthlessness overcomes her, and her more gentle side falls by the wayside. Without a true voice of reason, someone who isn’t afraid to tell her the truth of the situation, she is doomed to fail.
Which is where the player character comes in.
Unfortunately, your character isn’t capable of turning Edelgard away from her war-faring ways. But they can get her onto a slightly less bloody path. With the player’s help, El can avoid walking a path where she forgets why she started fighting and becomes a heartless killer.
You can’t save the world. But you can save Edelgard. And by saving her, you can ensure that the world she creates is as good as she had hoped.
Or you could be playing the other paths and killing her. That works too.
My expectations for these characters, especially Edelgard, were super low going into Three Houses. I thought they’d be decent, but I didn’t expect anyone to be super well-written. I thought I knew what I was going into, considering how many FE games I’ve played. But this game took me completely by surprise! And Edelgard was the first character to do so!
Followed by every other character in the Black Eagles. Then everyone else in the game. Holy shit I love this game!
Still, I can’t say Edelgard is a perfect character. There is one aspect that drags her down in a big way. If she had this one aspect, she would be the best character in the entire game! Unfortunately, it’s just impossible for her to have it.
She isn’t Ferdinand von Aegir.