For the better half of 2019, the internal debate of what my game of the year would be raged on. It came down to two titles. One was a game that made some bold moves but didn’t quite stick the landing on everything it had to offer. The other was a tighter package overall, but was far less ambitious.
How do I rationalize between the two? There’s no right answer, as both games are fantastic. In this case, I looked past that conflict and dug deep into my soul for an answer. When I was in the thick of it, which game drew the largest emotional response from me? And when I look back at 2019, what’s the game that I’ll remember the most fondly?
Going through this process gave the slight edge to one of the two. My 2019 game of the year is…
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Historically, Fire Emblem is a franchise that’s survived for decades by serving its small-but-loyal fanbase with minor twists on largely the same thing. Fire Emblem: Three Houses spices up the formula in dramatic fashion. Instead of playing one 50-hour campaign, how about four? With some variations in the story and with one of three unique groups of characters?
The franchise has always leaned into players growing attached to their teammates. However, Three Houses takes it to the extreme with a myriad of social systems and activities to engage in off the battlefield. Yes, they ultimately wear out their welcome before the campaign ends. Even so, you’ve already more deeply invested in this group of students than you would with the characters in almost any other game.
Even the franchise’s tried-and-true strategy gameplay got an extreme makeover. While I’m still saddened by the loss of the attack triangle, its new system allows for characters to develop into any class. What you lose a bit in strategy comes back as even more reason to get emotionally invested in this roster.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is not a perfect game. Even so, it was such a pleasure to play and one that resonated with me more than any other title I played in 2019. Congratulations to the students and faculty at Garreg Mach. You earned this.
P.S. – Happy 2020 everyone!
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