A few months ago, Fire Emblem: Three Houses released its final DLC package called Cindered Shadows, adding new content to their already large amount of story. This time, a new fourth house is discovered beneath Garreg Mach. They are a group of outcasts who call themselves the Ashen Wolves. The members are former students of the monastery who were shunned for various reasons.
The leader, Yuri, was kicked out of the monastery for murder. Another, Balthus, is in a lot of debt and found his way back to the monastery. Constance and Hapi round out the new characters and add a bit of quirkiness to the story that seemed to be missing from the original story.
Students of Garreg Mach do not know about this underground area. Some had heard rumors of what is called the Abyss. Even the guards can only speculate if the Abyss really exists. But leave it to Claude to find someone sneaking into an unknown area of the monastery and drag the player to go investigate. Thus begins the new DLC story.
Starting up the new campaign finds the player surrounded by each house leader — Dimitri, Claude, and Edelgard — followed by one student from each of their respective houses — Ashe, Hilda, and Linhardt.
Unfortunately the player doesn’t get to pick these additional students. The player doesn’t get to pick much of anything besides starting a battle. This lack of choice takes away one of the vital aspects of Fire Emblem: Three Houses that many adore. Picking the characters is a large part of each stage. Each character brings their own traits to the battle and being able to control that variable is important to winning.
In Cindered Shadows that freedom of choice is gone. Everything is picked for the player and takes away from the overall experience.
The four new house members do bring some interesting aspects to the battle. Each is a new kind of class that hasn’t been previously available in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. This does keep some of the gameplay interesting. Each character starts out at level 20, evening out the playing ground.
But the strategies that I use while playing Fire Emblem usually involves taking a few risks and splitting the group into trios to wipe out the enemies from different angles. This is not recommended for Cindered Shadows. The more that the group of characters are split up, the quicker the player will die.
Each stage is a long challenge that can be difficult to navigate, sometimes taking upward of an hour to complete. Usually this isn’t a problem, but with how quickly the enemy will gang up on characters, many will perish in a round before the player has a chance to heal. The battling is ruthless and a huge jump in difficulty from even the end game of each house in the main story.
While the characters are interesting, it doesn’t make up for the harshness of the gameplay. Each new character has a new crest that hadn’t been seen in centuries. These crests are connected to Apostles who tried to create a spell to resurrect the dead. This spell was originally intended to bring Seiros back to life.
The Ashen Wolves have been tasked with protecting the Abyss from those who wish to try and find this spell and use it for their own advantage. Since many thieves and scoundrels are fighting their way in, the player and the house members pitch in to protect Abyss as well.
Obviously there is a twist and it’s easy to see it coming. I was disappointed in this. Previous games have had several twists and turns, some noticeable and most not. To guess the prediction after the first battle and it finally come true in the last is a disappointment.
Plus, the final battle is ridiculous. After three hours, I finally caved and looked up a strategy on the best way to win. The best option would be to level up, but that isn’t possible. There are no areas that allow the player to grind levels to be better prepared.
A lot of the final battle relies on luck as the boss will throw characters to various parts of the field after a few turns. The luck comes in on how far these characters are moved to. If several of them are closer, it makes the battle easier to get in continued attacks and break down defenses. If several characters get moved to opposite ends of the battle, which is more common than not, then the turns are spent trying to get closer to the boss to even get a single attack in before it flings the characters around the map again.
And each movement causes damage to the characters. The amount of healing items are limited so the player will need to ration them out and choose which characters live and die. This doesn’t include the high defense of the boss has that can only be broken by the use of gambits.
This is a new attack style introduced in Fire Emblem: Three Houses that is heavy hitting. But I didn’t use gambits during the course of the game. I didn’t know it would be best to use them in the final battle until I caved and looked up a strategy.
This expansion of the new house lasts about 10 hours and takes place over the course of one weekend so that no one notices the professor and house leaders are missing. The gameplay is less than desirable and the story is mediocre at best.
There isn’t much new content put into the story, but in the end, the ability to recruit the four new characters does add more dynamics to the battle over the course of the story. These characters can only be recruited in part one of the story. They come back for part two if the players recruit them, but they do not appear to be enemies if they are not recruited.
Overall, Cindered Shadows is just an okay side story and a decent way to round out the DLC package for this game. While I’m disappointed in the gameplay, the new characters have become favorites among players. For the amount of content — from cosmetics, additional battles, and finally this new DLC — $24.99 is a great deal.
If you are looking for more content to an already content-heavy game, then this may be a good option for you. If you are looking for a good story and fun gameplay, however, I would pass. While my love for Fire Emblem: Three Houses knows no bounds, this expansion seemed tacked on at the end and incredibly lackluster. If I didn’t already have the expansion pass from when I originally purchased the game, I would not have spent the additional amount on this DLC alone.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses – Cindered Shadows is available $24.99 with the rest of the Expansion Pass content.
Images provided by Nintendo, and the reviewer purchased the DLC through the Nintendo eShop.