Warning: there will be spoilers for the Golden Deer path of ‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ ahead. If you haven’t played through this route yet, I’d recommend coming back to this article later. Thank you and enjoy.
Having played the Black Eagles and Blue Lions before this one, I had fully expected Claude to be a sociopathic bastard with a traumatic past. Surely his goofy, light-hearted nature is a facade, I thought. This guy has got to be as broken as Edelgard and Dimitri, if not more so.
Nope. Turns out, Claude is the only member of the main trio that isn’t a secret psychopath with a goal that requires a ton of bloodshed. He’s naturally curious, highly intelligent, kind and understanding, and unwaveringly determined to forge a better world. Not a better Fodlan; a better world.
I hesitate to say that he’s as well-written as Edelgard and Dimitri. He’s a great character, don’t get me wrong. In terms of personality and motivation, he might be my favorite in the game! But he lacks in one of the major centerpieces that is needed to make a great character.
We’ll get to that later. For now, let’s discuss the great points of Claude’s character. Staring with:
The Wound: The Eternal Outsider
In his early days, Claude was raised in Fodlan’s neighboring kingdom of Almyra. He was the son of a high-ranking noblewoman from Fodlan and a low-ranking prince of Almyra. His parents had learned to see through the prejudices that they’d been raised upon and follow their feelings.
Unfortunately, Claude’s peers could not do the same. He grew up ostracized for his heritage, hated for being a half-breed child of Almyra’s enemy. And when he finally came to Fodlan, it wasn’t much better. Now, he was feared for being a mystery child, a boy who came out of nowhere to fulfill the heritage of a powerful and dying household. From a young age, Claude learned a lesson that no child should have to go through; the pain of being left alone for something beyond his control.
This would go on to shape Claude’s entire world view. This hardship forged his noble and kind heart, though it also gave his smile an air of falseness as he tried to hide his pain. But more importantly, this loneliness gave Claude a goal.
The Want: Tear Down This Wall
Claude understands the gravity of what his parents did. He loves and respects them for it, even if it caused him years of loneliness and pain. So, in his adult life, he dedicated himself to following their example. And to get the world to follow right behind him.
Simply put, Claude wants to end racism. He wants to forge a world where everyone, regardless of where they came from, can live in peace and happiness without even thinking about where they or everyone around them came from. There are walls between every country in the world, and Claude aims to tear them all down.
And with a little time, and a little help, he could very well achieve that goal.
The Need: The Golden Diversity Picks
When Claude tells others of his vision for the future, they often look at him like he’s insane. How could such a future possibly exist? Surely it was just the pipedream of a madman. If he wanted to make his future a reality, then Claude when need to prove that he is right.
Enter the Golden Deer house. The Golden Deer is the most diverse house in the entire game, featuring an equal spread of nobility and commoners, all of whom are working together. Often times without even thinking about their status! They’re unity, especially throughout the war in Part Two, is proof that Claude’s vision can come true.
Except for Lorenz. That’s basically all he thinks about.
The Knights of Seiros also help to prove Claude right. The sniper Shamir is from the far-off kingdom of Dagda. The loyal archer/cleaning boy Cyril is from Almyra, just like Claude! Many of the knights were former members of nobility from the Kingdom of Farghus, such as Catherine and Gunther. Their coming together and working as one, regardless of their origin point, is further proof that Claude’s claims are entirely correct. That his vision can, and should, become reality.
All of this makes Claude a really solid character! Unfortunately, now we come to the fourth and most important cornerstone of a good character. And this is where Claude von Riegan falls flat.
The Hero With No Lies
To spur forward a good character arc, a character needs to believe in a lie. It is this lie that holds them back, keeping them from reaching their goal and true potential. Most characters in Three Houses have lies that they believe in. Edelgard believes that bloodshed is the only way to achieve her goal. Dimitri believes that the dead desire vengeance for the wrongs that befell them. So on and so forth. These lies spurred their character arcs forward, whether they were a negative arc like Edelgard’s, wherein she never overcame the lie and fully believed it to be true until the end, or a positive arc like Dimitri, who overcame his lie and became a stronger person.
This is where Claude has a problem. He doesn’t believe in a lie!
With a goal like ‘tear down the wall and unify all peoples of the world’, you’d think there’d be a few lies that Claude could believe in. Perhaps he could believe that it’d be easy once he was in charge. Or maybe he could believe that he’d need power in order to do it. Maybe he could have falsely believed in an ideology similar to Edelgard, that he’d have to force the world to open its borders if he wanted to make it better.
Claude has no such beliefs. He fully understands the difficulty that comes with achieving his dream. He knows that bloodshed is not the best way to go about it. And he knows that he can’t force the world into it. There is no lie separating Claude from his beliefs. Only time and hardship.
This is why Claude’s character kind of falls apart for me. Without the lie to overcome, Claude doesn’t have a character arc at all! He’s the same at the end of the game as he was in the beginning. The only real difference was that he kind of learned to take things more seriously. But even then, he’s still a goofball! His growth is virtually non-existent! Which is a damn shame, because he could have had one of the most compelling character arcs in the entire game!
Oh well. Better to come close to perfection than to side-step it entirely.
Regardless of his flaws, I still love Claude as a character! Experiencing his story, while it may not have been as compelling as Edelgard’s or Dimitri, was a ton of fun! Even if he doesn’t have a character arc to call his own, I do think that his story is one of the better ones in the game!
Even if it took me far too long to finish it. And I was burned out by the time I got around to playing it. But that’s all a topic for the review.
I think that this is a testament to how good the writing in this game is. Even if he isn’t perfect, and he isn’t the most interesting character in the game, Claude is still a very interesting and unique character! If you were to put him in a lineup of Fire Emblem protagonists, he would stick out more than Yugi Moto in a game of ‘Spot the Protagonist!’ He is just as much a breath of fresh air for the series as Edelgard and Dimitri were.
But again: I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s all a topic for later.