The Azure Gleam Route is a Travesty

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

The Azure Gleam route in Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes incensed me. Despite loving the Blue Lions route in the original Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and the house possibly being even my favorite house of the three, I was horrified that their entire storyline in Three Hopes came at the expense of Edelgard. During this route, Edelgard is hit by an evil dark spell by Thales. We see her briefly in her Hegemon form, which honestly already horrified me. But it gets worse—the Emperor of the Adrestian empire, the destroyer of nobility, and the crusher of the ways of the church—is completely robbed of her ability to speak or to make decisions. That’s right, the intelligent and opinionated Emperor who strives to liberate the world from its oppressive, ancient ways, is suddenly unable to free herself from these invisible chains. She is rendered to a childlike state, only able to obey commands of Thales and his puppet, Duke Aegir, as they drive her empire (and the rest of the world), into the ground on the way to some unknown dark purpose.

 

 

But what really annoys me even more than this horrific turn of events in the Azure Gleam route is that the people that should have noticed their dear Edelgard’s sudden inability to form a sentence or to come up with plans of her own, were nowhere to be seen. Where was Hubert, her most loyal follower who is constantly suspicious of schemes at her expense? Where was Ferdinand, who claimed to want justice for his father’s abhorrent behavior, as his father acted like an evil puppet master to his friend and Emperor? Where was Monica who was so obsessed with Edelgard she had a diary solely for writing down things about the emperor who saved her life?

 

 

Where were the Black Eagles?

 

And if not her loyal friends and devoted followers, then how did Dimitri, her childhood friend, stepbrother, fellow house leader, and ardent adherent to the chivalric code, who literally saw her getting attacked with dark magic at the hands of Thales do absolutely nothing to figure out what became of her? Literally we see Adrestian subordinates being concerned about Edelgard, but none of her closest friends or Dimitri. And how did Dimitri again take no action when Edelgard tells him flat out in Epimenides’s realm that she’s been magically controlled by Thales for the last six months? How is he okay with this? And if he’s not concerned about his childhood friend, Edelgard, shouldn’t he at least be concerned about the repercussions for the world when she’s not in control of her own Empire? After all, Thales is having her order the burning of entire towns, crops, and being over all ruthless, something Edelgard has never done before.

 

Edelgard, in her moment of self-awareness, explaining what has been done to her to Dimitri, Claude, and Shez.

To take the strongest female character, and when I say strongest—I do not just mean physically—and to take away literally every single last one of her allies and to rob her of her own agency in some twisted attempt to make Dimitri and the Blue Lions come out on top of this war in the Azure Gleam route is an absolute travesty. As someone who loved Dimitri’s character in Three Houses, this man does not need his most challenging and deadly opponent struck dumb and made into an incapacitated non-threat of a commander in order to come out on top of this war. And to think Dimitri would not act with honor in accordance with his own beliefs—to see him willfully not even concerned that something had been done to her, to purposefully not even try to get to the bottom of what happened to his rival and former friend who was very blatantly not the woman she used to be—and to instead consciously walk away from her was an absolute mockery of his character and everything he ever stood for as well. How could this be the hero of the story? How could this utter defeat of a woman be met with such resounding applause?

 

Does it look like this woman is herself? Or like she’s okay?

What were the writers thinking? I kept hoping during the final moments of this abhorrent route that Edelgard was just pretending to still be under Thales’s thrall, because she appeared to be her normal self within Epimenides’s realm. As a patient and strategic woman, this ruse seemed completely probable for Edelgard, and this course of events seemed the most likely to me as she was shown out of the spell’s grasp mere minutes earlier. There is even the perfect moment during this final battle in Azure Gleam where she could have put her ax in Thales’s back, to finally rid herself of his control once and for all. Of course, Hubert, being her loyal servant to the end, would show up after the jig was up, with the rest of the Black Eagles in tow. Naturally they’d have proof of the true perpetrator of the crimes that Adrestia had committed, thanks to Edelgard’s cunning deception to appear still under the spell’s command to buy for time for this evidence to be found.

 

You’d think this guy, Thales, skulking around Edelgard would be Clue #1 that all was not well.

 

I could see it all so perfectly clear! In this alternate, hopeful timeline, Edelgard and Dimitri—Adrestia and Faerghus—could at last join forces and fight their mutual evil—Those Who Slither in the Dark— together in the ultimate showdown. And then, with help from Claude and Shez, the two warring nations could at last come to some sort of peaceful accord. There would be no bitter, long-awaited fight between these rulers in this timeline. There would be no need for Edelgard, defeated, to View Spoiler »

 

But it is not to be.

 

For Edelgard is not, in fact, acting and waiting for the right moment to act. She is still a puppet, with no free will, and very few of her own memories. Her mind has been raped, her strength of will snatched, her character, goals, and good name defrauded and defiled, her friends scattered to the wind, and the last person who should have cared, utterly indifferent to her fate.

 

The irony.

As a writer, I was absolutely scandalized at how out of character this route was. As a woman, I was terrified that yet another powerful female figure was diminished to an infantilized creature (she even refers to Dimitri as “D” like she did when she was a child to represent how far she’s fallen), in order to make the male character somehow appear cooler, better, or stronger. Sure, Dimitri spares Edlegard’s life, after a moment of hesitation in this god forsaken alternate reality, but the Edelgard I know, love, and admire, would rather die than be used as a puppet by anyone, let alone someone with nefarious intentions or goals that did not align with her own or for the good of her country. This is not the hopeful timeline, this is a nightmare, a tragedy, and a massacre of her character.

 

It wasn’t even true to Dimitri’s character, either, who longed to learn from Edelgard what happened to his family so he could finally make peace with it. Ah, yes, the writers couldn’t help but to give Edlegard a single moment of reprieve from the dark spell’s grasp, so Dimitri could wrest what he wanted from her—the truth of what had happened back then—but after that pretty cutscene featuring the two of them, she no longer had any value to him. He had what he wanted. There is no way Dimitri did not see the juxtaposition of her behavior, let alone after this momentary lapse in the spell and the world at large was over, he just didn’t care as long as he came out as the victor of the war. He is not a hero and certainly not an upholder of the tenements of the chivalric code—as he saw a person, a woman in need, and deliberately did nothing to help her—he is an accomplice. Doing the bare minimum or showing a sliver of mercy is not compassionate and is at complete odds with his character, who regularly tortures himself over past deaths of loved ones and subordinates. Abandoning Edelgard, who amounts to a mere child after the last battle is fought, on the battlefield by herself—come what may—speaks volumes to the man he truly is in this cursed timeline—a boar.

 

 

I can only imagine what happened to this version of Edelgard after Dimitri walked away to the cheers of his Blue Lions and the Kingdom of Faerghaus. I did not feel the victory of my forty hour playthrough with this awful choice of Dimitri and his house as the focus at all. In fact, I felt like crying. To see such a woman so destroyed and hollowed for the sake of upholding a male character once more is everything that’s wrong with the portrayal of women in not only video games, but also in the world at large.

 

Time and time again, we see strong female characters who are suddenly rendered unable to act or devised to be unexpectedly insane. We see strong and capable women with black belts knocked out in the blink of an eye so the male lead can save them. Other times, we see these strong female characters have their significant others brutally murdered because how could a strong woman possibly exist when she has anyone to love and support her? Time and time again, women are used as mere plot devices to be discarded. I beg of you, writers, do better.

 

 

Thank god that this is not the canon timeline of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Even though the endings of that game are often tinged with tragedy and bittersweet, they do not require suspension of disbelief and remain true to the characters, their arcs, and their relationships. Though crushed by this Blue Lions/Azure Gleam storyline, I immediately started my third and final playthrough of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, as the Black Eagles. I destroyed Edelgard’s enemies, conquered those who sought to ensorcel her, and secured the loyalty of those who abandoned her. In stark contrast to the Azure Gleam route, I noticed that Claude, with whom she forms an alliance in both The Golden Deer and Black Eagles storylines, is pointedly shown on equal footing with Edelgard. They shake hands while making direct eye contact, and she does not suddenly lose her balance so he can help her to her feet, as happens in her scene with Dimitri in all playthroughs with the true ending. What a contrast.

 

And I definitely noticed that Dimitri, her biggest foe, is not reduced in any way—mentally or physically—when Edelgard faces off with him in her own Black Eagles storyline. He also still has his closest allies by his side, except when they are killed while making a voluntary stand in battle. Everyone in Edelgard’s storyline, even the Blue Lions, has a choice. Dimitri’s allies hadn’t just magically disappeared to make some unlikely and improbable scenario happen that renders Dimitri helpless in order for Edelgard to defeat him—she does that on her own, through her own command and strength of will.

 

Edelgard and Dimitri having a showdown before Thales hits her with magic.

 

Though none of the scenarios in Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes were perfect, and in fact, most of them were filled with gaping plot holes, the Azure Gleam route was by far the most disappointing and problematic of the three storylines. With its lack of faithfulness to its own characters and reduction of Edelgard to an infantilized plot device, it does a disservice to its own “hero,” Dimitri, who should have cared enough to do better.

 

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The Azure Gleam Route is Travesty - Fire Emblem Warriors Three Hopes - Blogging with Dragons

Posted September 16, 2022 in Games

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14 responses to “The Azure Gleam Route is a Travesty

  1. Nirvoni

    This is a badly written article. This feminazi bash isn’t appropriate at all for a game review. Try think about how to express multiple perspectives next time instead of just your own, you’re a really, REALLY bad writer.

    • Last time I checked, it was my blog and I was allowed to share my own opinion! Don’t like, don’t read. Have a nice day.

    • holly

      Using the word “feminazi” in 2022? Not understanding the basic concept that people express their own opinions? Really exposing yourself with this comment dude keep it up

  2. Feli Aslan

    To be honest, I feel like you’re reading of Azure Gleam is kinda flawed because it seems like you did miss out the core teams of Azure Moon, if you describe it as your favorite route and the blue Lions as your favorite house, when half the cast has actually more happy endings in other routes, especially Crimson Flower and the themes of the route are ultimately the value of conservatism and traditionalism, of having a strict class system that has those born superior responsible towards those born inferior and acts as a strong endorsement of a very patriachal and misogynist societal order. Azure Moon was always about men being in control, the only right place for women being breeders or if they want to transgress into male territory, to remain chaste self-sacrificial virgins, about the glorification of masculinity and especially in the route of S-Supporting Dimitri as a female Byleth of women having to nuture and mother men at the risk of their own life and about the importance of protecting Dimitri from the consequences of his actions, as the caste system relies on it.

    Azure Gleam builds on this overarching themes and doubles down, by punishing Edelgards transgressions more directly and at the same time have her be in a childish and helpless state, in which she can serve as a Love Interest for Dimitri, in accordance to his likings. In a way, I also take mischievous glee at it, because Hopes was clearly made from a position that endorses both Claudes and Edelgards dreams and aspirations above Dimitris stagnant reactionary attitude (and obsessive attitude towards women who won’t date him), which can be seen by putting Rhea, the paternalistic force which implemented the systems that haunt Fodlan to begin with, more unambigiously as a villain of the game in 2 out of 3 routes, while Edelgards is either a hero or a supporting character. I mean, it isn’t only Edelgard, Claude in AG is also a character who ends up being a sidekick and due to Edelgard being controlled, he himself is also forced into a mirroring, servant-like relationship with Dimitri, who already in Houses was heavily framed around a white savior trope, to protect an institution and system that harms and excludes non-white people. It becomes clear in the Support during the secret mission with Dimitri, that their alliance is an unstable one in which Dimitri denies Claude any of his ambitions and goals and we see at the end of the game, how happy Claude really is in this situation.

    So no, Azure Gleam is actually genius, in doubles down on making people hopeflly realize that Dimitri always has been more of a villain to the story than a hero (contrast for example his relationship with Edelgard to that of Claude, who are always framed as rivals) and that the Blue Lions and Faerghus narrative is build arround preserving the status quo and its systems of power under any cost. I think the biggest tell that Azure Gleam is not a good route should be, that it takes Edelgard to be mind controlled for Claude to not be antagonistic to Dimitri .Otherwise, in 2 out of 3 routes, Dimitri will be a villain, as he always was.

    • I think you’re missing the key point of my post, though it seems like you agree that Azure Gleam “is not a good route,” in your own words.

      First and foremost, Three Hopes was made with the main intention of providing a more hopeful take on the events of the Three Houses, which is implied in the mere name of Three Hopes. I wrote my post to demonstrate that Azure Gleam, out of all the routes, is anything but hopeful and does a disservice to not only all of its characters, (regardless of their house and its allegiances), but especially to Edelgard. To make this storyline fit, all of the Houses and their characters have to be completely twisted out of character. That’s just not good writing. And, it renders the game’s purpose of creation, a more optimistic alternate timeline, a complete failure for its characters.

      In Three House’s Azure Moon, Dimitri and Edelgard meet as equals, as heads of their houses (and later world leaders of their own armies), and carriers of their own markedly different belief systems. They are equals whether in the classroom or on the battlefield. In Three Hopes, Edelgard is blatantly and wholly robbed of her free will.

      My post has nothing to do with whether Dimitri or Edelgard (or the Blue Lions or Black Eagles), were “right,” in their ultimate goals in the war or whether or not they were flawed as human beings (they are), but whether one of these characters, in this case a woman, was enslaved and robbed of their ability to make their own decisions and whether or not her friends, former classmates, advisors, and foes would sit back and let this happen in front of their very eyes. To put it simply, they wouldn’t.

  3. Marth

    In the game’s defense, (and subsequently Dimitri’s) Whether or not the rest of the black eagles noticed what was going on with Edelgard, what could they really have done? I mean, being the emperor and all, speaking out against her, especially in the middle of a war, could be considered an act of treason. Not to mention it would be pretty difficult to talk to her alone, as the Agarthans, Thales especially, would probably have people tailing Edelgard a good majority of the time, and almost certainly would have acted if they had seen somebody suspecting their plan. As for Dimitri, before the forbidden spell is cast, he doesn’t have nearly as much information on Edelgard’s situation as we do, because Dimitri isn’t seeing the scenes showing the Empire unless he’s in them. I’m not going to say it’s a perfect story line, and there are indeed numerous holes and problems in it, but you are giving Dimitri a much harder time than he really deserves. Also, Dimitiri wouldn’t really have noticed that Edelgard’s actions during the war were much different, because in this timeline, their time in the monastery was significantly shorter, and he would hardly know how she acted back then, let alone two years afterward. Choosing to save Edelgard’s life in the end was indeed a merciful act as well, because it’s not like he was the one who cast the curse on her, and not killing an enemy who started a war that killed probably thousands of Kingdom soldiers and citizens alike is quite a kind thing to do, considering a lot of Dimitri’s arc in Three Hopes is doing anything to help his citizens. Besides, the ending is, in a way more hopeful than Three Houses Azure Moon ending, because this time around, Edelgard does survive, and even if she’s rendered helpless, there is always the hope of her recovery. Besides, to have Edelgard be the one to save the day, and kill Thales would be robbing Dimitri of his story line just as much as having Shez come out of nowhere and save the day in Edelgard’s. Overall, I’m not saying I support Three Hopes decision, (I would change it in a heartbeat if I could,) but please don’t hate on Dimitri, he doesn’t deserve half the anger you give him.

    • Not sure where you got the idea that I don’t like Dimitri, as I said, the Blue Lions was my favorite storyline in the original game and he was one of my favorite characters. I thought he deserved a better storyline, as did Edelgard.

      • Marth

        I didn’t so much get the feeling that you didn’t like Dimitri in general, but you say in several points in the above article that Edelgard should have gotten more glory, over Dimitri. However, I do agree that both of them deserve a better arc. (Even the Golden Deer could’ve had a better arc; Like if they didn’t join Edelgard.) And that the characters had to be bent really badly to fit in with this game’s canon. I just felt the urge to say a word in Three Hopes’ defense, however much it did wrong.

        • I never once said that Edelgard “should have gotten more glory, over Dimitri.” To directly quote my original post, I said, “As someone who loved Dimitri’s character in Three Houses, this man does not need his most challenging and deadly opponent struck dumb and made into an incapacitated non-threat of a commander in order to come out on top of this war.”

          • Marth

            You also said, though, “I kept hoping during the final moments of this abhorrent route that Edelgard was just pretending to still be under Thales’s thrall, because she appeared to be her normal self within Epimenides’s realm. As a patient and strategic woman, this ruse seemed completely probable for Edelgard, and this course of events seemed the most likely to me as she was shown out of the spell’s grasp mere minutes earlier. There is even the perfect moment during this final battle in Azure Gleam where she could have put her ax in Thales’s back, to finally rid herself of his control once and for all. Of course, Hubert, being her loyal servant to the end, would show up after the jig was up, with the rest of the Black Eagles in tow. Naturally they’d have proof of the true perpetrator of the crimes that Adrestia had committed, thanks to Edelgard’s cunning deception to appear still under the spell’s command to buy for time for this evidence to be found.” This would be inherently giving Edelgard more glory than Dimitri.

          • Those are your words, not mine. Interesting that you don’t think Dimitri can be a hero or have glory if Edelgard is in control of her mental faculties. I think that says a lot about not only him, but you as well.

  4. Marth

    As a matter of fact, those are your words. Look at paragraph five, and you’ll find those words exactly. As for Dimitri’s own glory, I’m not saying that he couldn’t be a hero unless Edelgard was not in control, but that you seem to be under the impression that it needs to be Edelgard to save the day, rather than Dimitri being the victor in his own run. As for your comment about myself, it’s just plain rude, and also a red herring. Please refrain from petty insults from now on.

    • You misunderstand me. I know that quotation was from my post, I meant that I never said anything about Edelgard deserving glory over Dimitri. I never said Edelgard should could “come out on top” in the Azure Gleam route, but that they shouldn’t diminish her or her intelligence in order for Dimitri to get the “glory,” with which you are so concerned. I personally have a very different definition of glory–one that does not involve triumphing over one’s greatest enemy when they are mentally incapacitated to a child-like state. Both Edelgard and Dimitri are incredible characters capable of outwitting each other both on and off the battlefield and I think Dimitri could have “won” in his own route even after saving Edelgard. I don’t think the ending needed to be as black and white as you see it, with one or the other “winning,” and I feel the writing did them both a disservice. I’m done responding to you now as you are determined to misunderstand me and my words.

      • Marth

        Do as you wish. But what I originally retaliated about in the past wasn’t really about the glory at all; but about your apparent anger at Dimitri and the rest of the black eagles to fail to notice or do anything about Edelgard’s condition. I thought that was a little unfair, especially to Dimitri, as he was an entire continent away. That’s all it was. I am sorry to have given you the impression that I was unwilling to understand you, I genuinely believe you made some very good points, and in many ways I agree with you. I’m sorry to have made you unhappy; I leave you at peace…

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