Fire Emblem: Three Houses released in July 2019 to much fanfare and critical acclaim. The game acted almost like the series’ version of Harry Potter, with players assuming the role of Byleth, a young and upcoming professor at the Officer’s Academy. Byleth takes under their wing one of the Academy’s student houses, mentoring and teaching the students so that they can complete missions together. Fans instantly fell in love with the game’s deeper character development and overall plot, making the Fire Emblem: Three Houses another success for the Nintendo Switch. Now with the release of the new side story DLC, Cindered Shadows, we can finally take a closer look at the game’s complete Season Pass content and investigate if it’s worth purchasing.
For a more detailed review of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, please click here.
Let’s get the more generic stuff out of the way first. The Season Pass contains access to various costumes for both Byleth and the students of Officer’s Academy. These include Officer’s Academy and Sothis inspired outfits for Byleth, optional glasses for Byleth to wear, and various types of attire for most students. When the game first launched many fans noted that during battles the outfits for characters would change to generic armour based on their unit class (Mage, Swordsman, Axe Wielder, Knight, etc). A free title update, however, has given players the option to see characters battle in their Garegg Mach Monastery clothing. This gives players that little bit of extra customisation and helps make the battlefield come alive in a sea of style and flair.
Other additional content includes new Auxiliary Battles and background music, stat boost items, Maid and Butler battalions (which go perfectly with the matching themed costumes you can assign to characters), and a new sauna interaction to bond with students. New quests also give Byleth the ability to interact with animals throughout the Monastery, definitely a key feature for animal lovers, as well as recruit the shop keeper Anna. Anna has a strong fan following as she appears in most Fire Emblem games. This is only the fifth game where she’s playable though, so it’s slowly becoming a new tradition.
Up until now the season pass content has been a little underwhelming for anyone other than hardcore fans. Certainly these are all welcome additions which add some new gameplay content, but for the asking price of AU$37.50 you can’t help but feel the package leaned more towards cosmetic items. However, it’s a pleasure to report the final DLC Wave, Cindered Shadows, is a sizeable and high quality addition.
Cindered Shadows is a side story that is separate from the main game, taking place some time during Part 1 of the main story. The DLC has its own set of save slots, ensuring players won’t accidentally delete their existing progress in the main game. Cindered Shadows is set in an area beneath the monastery known as the Abyss, which is a haven for individuals who want to remain hidden from the surface world. Byleth, the three House leaders, Linhardt, Ashe and Hilda enter Abyss when investigating a mysterious figure who unknowingly reveals the entrance to them. The heroes then meet the Ashen Wolves, a secret fourth House who watchover Abyss and are concerned by the recent increase of attacks by mercenary groups. Byleth and Company promise to assist the Ashen Wolves and protect their home.
The story adds new and expands on existing lore for the world of Three Houses. It also reveals new information about Byleth’s mother, shedding some light on who she was and also revealing her face for the first time. There are, unfortunately, no anime cutscenes like in the main game. Instead players are treated to high resolution art during key moments of the story. The campaign will take most players 7-8 hours to complete.
Despite Byleth being referred to as the Ashen Wolves’ professor at various points, the Cindered Shadows DLC is a watered down experience compared to the main game. Players still interact with NPCs and students while exploring Abyss, but you won’t hold classes or have bonding sessions with students. The DLC instead focuses on the core story and has events play back-to-back, though it’s worth noting once you have completed Cindered Shadows all four Ashen Wolves members become recruitable in the base game. It’s there where you will be able to have your bonding sessions, mentor them in life decisions, etc. It’s just a shame these finer moments weren’t included in some form within the DLC itself.
Cindered Shadows also adds four new unit classes to the game; Trickster, War Monk/Cleric, Valkyrie, and Dark Flier. The classes are best described as hybrids, offering a combination of melee/magic and mounted/magic options that add new strategic advantages. In the main game you will be able to upgrade existing characters to these classes, but Cindered Shadows is the best place to try them out as each Ashen Wolve member is one of the new classes.
To get the most out of the Fire Emblem: Three Houses Season Pass it really depends on how keen you are to replay the main campaign. It offers five new recruitable characters and four new unit classes to try out on the battlefield, as well as a number of cosmetic items and (optional) Auxiliary Battles. The Cindered Shadows side story is an engaging and sizeable story but lacks some of the finer moments of being a Professor and mentor in the main game. If you intend to try out all the new content then the asking price of AU$37.50 is worth it, but if you’re strictly only interested in the Cindered Shadows DLC then you may want to rethink the purchase.
- Five new recruitable characters - Four new unit classes - Engaging and sizeable Cindered Shadows side story
- Leans towards cosmetics items - Mostly for hardcore fans