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Review: Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Side Story: Cindered Shadows DLC (Nintendo Switch)By Flynnie At 21.03.2020 16:07

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Cindered Shadows bases itself around the hidden fourth house of Garreg Mach, the Ashen Wolves, who are based in the Abyss, an area under the monastery that largely keeps itself to itself. Aelfric, under the orders from Rhea, has been the custodian of the group of soldiers that have been cast aside, banished by their surface-dwelling counterparts. The sequence of events happens towards the start of the main game, and allows control over eleven characters throughout its campaign, including, four newcomers known as the Ashen Wolves, consisting of; Hapi, Constance, Yuri and Balthus. These characters bring four unique classes with them, as well as their own charm and charisma. Additional to the newcomers are characters from the base-game, which are Byleth, Claude, Edelgard, Dimitri, Ashe, Hilda and Lindhardt.

The DLC plays a lot more like a traditional Fire Emblem, as there are none of the new nuances that were added into the core of Three Houses. Save data does not carry over, meaning that characters recruited, money earned, weapons gained, various classes or skills that have been unlocked, are not present. This is a separate save file to the one that is used for the main deal. There is also no recruitment of new characters during Cindered Shadows and the calendar system featuring training sessions, seminars etc, have all been omitted. Side missions and fetch quests have also been scrapped, and while there is still an exploration element of the small community of the Abyss, it isn't much to go by, other than a few empty dungeon themed rooms and the standard market place vendors.

Instead, progression is fairly linear, as the story is told with rather long cut-scenes between chapters, fixating on the history of the Ashen Wolves' formation and Byleth's backstory. There are no support conversations, and there is very little dialogue to be had with characters during any free-roam sessions in-between missions. There are limitations of class upgrades, as most characters can only switch between two classes or so, and the editable skills are pre-set as well, meaning that the customisation from the main game is severely lacking in the Cindered Shadows story. For Fire Emblem die-hards this could all be quite disappointing to hear, however some will find it refreshing to go back to a simpler set up without having to worry too much about re-classing, or doing a number of tasks in the monastery.

Only Normal and Hard mode, with the option of Casual and Classic mode, are available in here. The difficulty does steep a little harder compared to the base-game difficulty - if players are happy to use the Divine Pulse feature of turning back time then there is no real need to have to restart chapters. Have in mind that there is no ability to recruit new characters. Only the 11 characters mentioned before are available to play as, so it is best to not let them die. The DLC does enforce a chapter restart if Byleth or any of the Ashen Wolves fall in battle, meaning that only a handful of characters can actually take a fatal blow anyway. There is a certain sense of achievement by not using the Divine Pulse's to beat a chapter, although some characters are extremely vulnerable to attack, and can be difficult to protect at the best of times.

A slightly more difficult factor is rather the lack of funds that the house has. There is very little cash to buy, forge or repair weapons, and the enemy drops of gold bullion are not exactly very generous. There is enough to get by, but players will have to be very conscious of the money that is being spent on certain weaponry, battalions, and health items. While there are seven new story missions to participate in, there are no new maps, but rather so re-skinned maps from the main story. This is somewhat disappointing given that most of the missions revolve around 'Rout the enemy' stipulation - the exception to this is the 'Escape the Enemy,' which isn't particularly hard but at least offers a bit of variety.

The four characters of Hapi, Constance, Yuri and Balthus are each full of character, and rather dominate the narrative, which is no surprise considering this is their DLC, although it does relegate the other characters to minor roles which is strange for the three house leaders of Claude, Dimitri and Edelgard, who perhaps could have had a bit more dialogue between them. Hapi comes off as the most comical with her dry, sarcastic and witty comments, where as Balthus has a more raucous fool type of character not too dissimilar to Raphael from Golden Deer.

As progression is made throughout the Cindered Shadows story, the new additional characters from Ashen Wolves will start showing up in the main game. This is definitely of benefit for those starting a new play-through, and unlike in DLC story they have full support conversations in the main game. Mystifyingly, when trying to recruit the Ashen Wolves in the main campaign they seem to suffer some sort of amnesia, as they all neglect the events of Cindered Shadows, and claim to not even have met you. This somewhat disconnects the experience of the characterisation that was built up, particularly the ending, but this aside, it doesn't mean that they are not useful when recruited.

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The [i]Fire Emblem: Three Houses[/i] Expansion Pass currently retails at practically 50% of the base game price, and considering the sheer amount of content in the core title, it has to brought into question how much [i]Cindered Shadows[/i] segregates itself from the core experience. Fire Emblem DLC rarely comes in at a cheap price, and this is no different, and, disappointingly, this recycles existing maps, has very little in the customisation department, and removes many of the features that made [i]Three Houses[/i] popular in the first place. There doesn't seem to be enough substance in this eight-to-ten-hour journey to really strongly recommend this as a must have, but for those itching to add to their Fire Emblem experience, will manage to enjoy this, even if it is a bit pricey.

6

/10

User Comments
#1 Renan - on 22.03.2020 at 11:46

Fire Emblem and aggressively overpriced DLC. Name a more iconic duo.

#2 Flynnie - on 22.03.2020 at 14:56

Haha, it is fun to play. Its just so expensive for what it is. I'd say if you have a 3DS and haven't played Awakening, Fates or Shadows of Valentia or even one of the older Fire Emblem games then track them down instead.

#3 jesusraz (News Editor) - on 22.03.2020 at 21:52

Ren, sounds like you just named Level-5's next puzzle adventure: "Professor Layton and the Aggressively Overpriced DLC" Smilie


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