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It could certainly be argued that Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the most complex release yet in the long-running strategy series, which is no mean feat considering the intimidating barrier to entry many previous games have had. It’s extremely rewarding, of course, but juggling time in the Monastery, building relationships with the various students and staff, and making the hard decisions over how you want to shape the growth of each unit in your squad can appear to be overwhelming to many newcomers.

Bearing this in mind, we’ve put together a guide with some pointers and suggestions that should help to ensure your first dozen hours or so are best spent.

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Make the Most of Your Monastery Visits

One of the biggest new features in Three Houses is the free-roaming locale of Garreg Mach Monastery, which lets you pick up various sidequests and activities to bolster your character and team. You only get four visits max before the next big battle in any given month, so making your trips here count will be hugely important. Starting out, you’ll only have a couple of Professor Points to work with, but if you use your time here wisely, that cap can be raised reasonably quickly.

The first thing we’d suggest is that you always pay a visit to the Greenhouse (found on the south end of the map). You’ll naturally find yourself with a mountain of seeds between enemy drops, shop availability, and just finding them around the monastery, and using those seeds as much as possible will make your life a lot easier. The greenhouse can net you food for cooking, flowers for gifting, and stat-boosting items, along with granting you a nice bonus to your professor level after every harvest. Considering that this activity costs you no professor points and next to no money, there’s really no good reason not to visit each time you come to the monastery, and the rewards only increase further as you raise your professor level and unlock access to better yields.

After this, we’d suggest you invest your professor points into social activities that can raise the most possible stats at once. For example, if you choose to eat a meal with students, try to eat with students who both need the motivation bump and stand to gain a boost in their support levels with each other. Or, if you’re going to do an activity like singing with the choir, try to ask students who will benefit from the extra ‘Faith’ stat points and area compatible with each other in support conversations. It may not seem like much at first, but as the months roll by and you fall into a routine with these activities, the little extra bumps in stats will add up to some pretty substantial differences than if you just blew all your points on your favorite character whether they need the attention or not.

Also, remember to hand out gifts whenever possible. Not only does this raise your support level with the student, but it’ll also bump up their motivation for your next class. Even if it’s not something they’re overly fond of, you’ll still at least get a fixed uptick in motivation and support each time and, considering that there’s no limit on gift-giving, this is a reliable way to max out motivation. If you’ve been keeping up on your gardening, for example, you can have a stockpile of flowers to hand out to everyone and top off their motivation.

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Don’t Forget to Update Character Arts and Abilities

Three Houses features a wonderfully flexible class system that allows any character to be any class (with a few exceptions) and master any weapon, but the real strength of this feature comes in how you’re able to carry over the benefits from your mastery regardless of how you might change the course of that character’s growth later on.

The caveat to this, however, is that you can only have three Combat Arts and five Abilities equipped at any given point. The game never explains this to you, but any new Arts or Abilities will simply go into storage if the character that learned them is already full, so make a habit of checking up on those via the inventory screen when they come in. Later Weapon Arts are often better than the ones learned earlier, and some Abilities (such as the ‘Faith’ skill) are literally useless to some classes. You can always re-equip anything you take off of a character, too, so don’t be afraid to experiment with new builds and see what works best for how you’re using that character.

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The Basics of Monster Takedown

Relatively early in the story, you’ll be faced with a new ‘Monster’ enemy type that takes up four grid spaces at a time and has multiple health bars. These enemies are among some of the toughest foes you’ll do battle with and they require some slightly different tactics to take down. First, bear in mind that each monster has a ‘shield’ which needs to be broken before you can do full damage to it. The gold colour of each tile the monster is standing on will denote the shield status for that tile; if it’s streaked with white, that means the shield on that tile is almost broken, and if it’s gone, that means the monster takes full damage on that tile.

The monster will be stunned once the shield is broken, which will keep it from counterattacking against the next unit to fight it. In addition to this, bear in mind that Gambit attacks will not only target multiple tiles, but will also stun the monster so you can get in a free hit. Also, if you can manage to shatter every shield tile in one phase, the monster will be stunned for a full phase and you’ll be given a rare material for forging weapons with.

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Keep Your Rusted Weapons

If you have the online features turned on, you’ll no doubt find yourself soon amassing a huge amount of seemingly useless rusted weapons out on the battlefield. While it’s easy to see these as little more than money fodder, make sure you check the descriptions for weapons before throwing them away. Though many of the weapons actually are garbage, some of them can be repaired into substantially powerful or rare equipment that you otherwise wouldn’t have had access to or would’ve had to pay mountains of cash for.

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Be Decisive in Establishing Each Character’s Role

Three Houses features the most flexible class system in the series yet, but it’s still one that requires some time and investment to get the most out of. While we won’t say that you have to use each character as they’re clearly intended to be used from the start, we would advise that you have an endgame for each of them in mind, as later classes often have two or three minimum requirements for passing the certification exam.

For example, if you’re training up a female character in their sword skill, make sure you train up their flying skill along the way so you can eventually have them be a Falcon Knight or Wyvern Lord. You can, of course, change directions with a character at any time, but it’ll require some substantial extra investment to get their ‘E’ skills up to snuff, and you don’t want to have a character eligible for a Mastery class upgrade only to realize you hadn’t trained up one of the weapon skills necessary for a promotion.

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Don’t Forget the Motion Controls

You may have already found this one, but it certainly bears mentioning. On the loading screens, a sprite of your character runs back and forth seemingly at random, but this is actually a little mini-game that the developers included to pass the time while the game loads. You can make the sprite run left and right depending on how far you tilt the controller to that side and if you tap ‘B’, the character will jump.