Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a true highlight of 2019’s Nintendo Switch line-up and a reminder of just how strong the series remains. Just like any fantastic game, the thought of getting more through downloadable content was always going to be met with nothing less than huge enthusiasm. While initial waves of content have felt a little light so far relying more on smaller quests, outfits and units, Cindered Shadows promises to deliver a more extensive adventure complete with new characters, location and side story. Is the Fire Emblem Three Houses season pass finale worth one more trip back to Fódlan?
The Cindered Shadows is a seven chapter adventure that focuses on the hidden fourth house called the Ashen Wolves. Hidden away beneath the monastery in an area known as the Abyss, this group have an uneasy truce with the church, meaning neither will interfere with the others’ affairs. With mercenaries attempting to attack the Abyss, Byleth and a handful of students agree to help.
The game limits the cast of characters down to Byleth, the three house leaders along with a student from each and more interestingly the four Ashen Wolves. The newcomers are an interesting bunch and perhaps the biggest draw of this whole expansion for me personally. Just as was the case with the base game where you felt constantly compelled to interact with and learn more about each student, such is the case here too. Each member of the Ashen Wolves draw you in with their personality and quirks whilst also introducing you to four new class types for battle.
Progress through the Cindered Shadows feels very ‘old-school’ Fire Emblem. Gone is the Persona-esque calendar system from the base game as well as any recruitment or support conversations. Chances to reclass, customise and prepare are also limited between battle to the confines of the small area of Abyss. For those clamouring for a more traditional Fire Emblem experience this will likely be music to your ears. However as someone who loved the direction Three Houses took and the newer features added this feels like a step backward. I miss the freedom. Bouncing from chapter to chapter is a fairly linear affair here, long scenes of dialogue further advancing the story with battles delivering that same tried and true Fire Emblem combat. All in all this is a fun albeit familiar time.
This expansion posed a surprising challenge – probably helped by the fact none of my progress from the main game carried over. Furthermore, while the base game often threw gold your way at a frequent clip, here the shiny stuff is in far less supply. It makes for a refreshing change from the main story where rarely did I find myself in a position where I couldn’t buy something I wanted. Here every purchase needs to be thought about. Do you need a certain health item or should you save it for a weapon? Not only does it add challenge but more tension in battles.
As you progress through Cindered Shadows, members of the Ashen Wolves will appear in the main game – a neat bonus if you’ve yet to play through Three Houses but perhaps irrelevant for those unlikely to want to replay the hefty RPG once again. Reaching the finale took me roughly around ten hours, a fairly lengthy expansion but one whose time was definitely taken up by a fair amount of dialogue.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses Cindered Shadows is one of those downloadable add-ons that’s solid enough. Overall this feels more in line with earlier entries in the series, stripping away most of the exciting newer features demonstrated in the original release. This makes for an experience that’s enjoyable but also rather unsurprising and straightforward. As far as story expansions go though, Cindered Shadows will likely have you hooked on Fire Emblem once again. It’s just hard not to be a little disappointed given how excellent Fire Emblem: Three Houses was.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo