Part 3: Chapter III: Sinkholes are Awesome Plot DevicesChapter III: Sinkholes are Awesome Plot Devices
At least the Yellow Scarves are nice enough to build main roads to their base camps, in contrast to hiding from imperial troops. This makes it pleasantly easy to find and destroy them.
"Your imperial army seems obsessed with death. Do battle with me and I'll give them a free lesson."
Zhang Bao is the first actual challenge for the party, as he too has learned the significance of tactics.
He also knows how to do this, and totally ruin Song Ren and Mi Zhe's day at offence.
His ally does reasonable damage, but nothing too much to worry about, seeing as there are only two of them.
By this point, Rebels are really only there for the psychological effect of bolstering enemy troops without making the game too hard. As a result, unless losing ~5 soldiers a hit really bugs you, they can safely be ignored.
Without a tactician to harass Zhang Fei, going all-out clears everything else up without any major issues.
Keeping in mind, Liu Bei has not killed a single Yellow Scarf leader yet.
Shui (water if my Chinese recalls) are offensive tactics, apparently superior to fire tactics. However, they can only be used near bodies of water. They also cost more TP and have bad availability, making fire tactics better in the long run.
It would appear that Liu Bei and co. are too buff to enter the sideways tents, or whatever the deal is, they can enter the two large ones though. Before that is done, let's get some info from the ever important NPCs!
"Go south and you will find a fortress called Tiemen Xia."
"Tiemen Xia is a natural fortress, surrounded by mountains."
"Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang have a brother named Zhang Jao."
"The leader of the Yellow Scarves rebels is Zhang Jao. His citadel is Tiemen Xia."
Well that was easy, it's also really the only place to go. Hard part being that Tiemen Xia does not have a road, so you have to wander about.
Searching pots inside tents is really the only thing one has to do in camps, save getting hints from NPCs. Here we find an Ax, a weapon not sold in shops yet.
While you could walk south from the camp, going back to town to heal is generally a better idea, as the next fight is nasty.
We take another detour however, and go further south than we were supposed to.
While this camp is not guarded, it will be important next chapter. For now, it hosts a missable cameo.
"Liu Bei. This is not a base of the Yellow Scarves."
"Dong Zhuo has gone to defeat the Yellow Scarves."
I won't go into detail of who Dong Zhuo is, as he will be a central figure after the Yellow Scarf saga, but all you need to know is that Liu Bei isn't alone in his campaign against the Yellow Scarves. Officials such as Dong Zhuo are also fighting, albeit apparently not in a significant matter, as Liu Bei has done everything so far.
(Might be worth listening to)
On our journey back to Tiemen Xia, we get into our first fight with a commander (in which I am surprised this didn't happen sooner). To make random encounters tougher, and truly random, at times commanders accompany the typical rebels. In the first half of the game, they can be treated as a typical easy boss fight, but the game progresses they can get real nasty and have the potential to be tougher than warlords.
Other than that, the trip goes smoothly and we are greeted with yet another gate.
"I've had word of your coming. I heard you routed my brother. He always was a snivelling fool. At my hand you will die!"
The custom portrait can be translated to "he means business". While his tactical stats are not so different from the last boss, his superior amount of troops, and high STR can spell trouble.
Two other commanders accompany him, but they are physical fighters, who do typical commander damage (~20 soldiers a hit). The other commander is the one we just met in the previous battle, as Liu Bei doesn't know how to finish off his foes.
As usual, he isn't ready to go down with fire, and you probably end up having to get him with physical attacks.
He can also heal himself with a weak healing spell going for 30 soldiers. This is more of an annoyance or even a blessing than anything, as Liu Bei hits around that mark, and this means he won't attack anyone, or use a fire tactic that round.
Damn it Liu Bei! Defeating Napoleon's army without capturing him simply means he'll come back with more troops!
I love camps, they're so unique and lively.
"Everyone listen! The Yellow Scarves have returned to Qingzhou castle."
Damn it Liu Bei!
"If you attack Qingzhou castle, it's better to do it from the back. They won't be expecting it."
This would have been nice to know when we initially took it.
Three updates into this game, three warlord fights, no dungeon, and one treasure chest.
In any case, when we get to the next city, we won't have to update too many people's weapons.
"I tried to attack Qingzhou castle from the back, but the river made it too difficult. Think of some other way."
"Han Zhong, a general of the Yellow Scarves rebels, knows the mountain pass. Maybe we can get him to join our side."
With the amount of losses he racked up, he would practically leap right into imperial hands to escape execution. So out looking for him in commander battles we go!
That was easy. He's the same Han Zhong we fought twice, so nothing to note in this battle.
Sometimes when you win a commander battle, you capture them, and most of the time, they join you if you attempt to convert them.
Usually, they accept a small bribe, or want a horse, which you can buy in your local market under "Steed", so it's usually good to carry around a couple of steeds in case. Other times, they do not join, as they are still loyal to their warlord. In that case, you must defeat the warlord first, then seek the commander out in battle again.
While he does not offer the same INT as Song Ren does, his superior troops are good enough to replace him, not to mention being required to take the back route into Qingzhou.
That hole was most certainly not there when we first took this place. Looks like a dungeon!
With no opposition to the team, even after marching right in front of Qingzhou, we find ourselves in the rocky, river abundant interior of the castle.
"Who are you? Leave at once or die."
As it turns out, this man is blind, has the shortest attention span known to mankind, and relies on scent alone. So switching the party with Han Zhong in the lead meets us with a friendlier response.
"Hey, I'm Han Zhong. Isn't that bridge finished yet?"
"Working on it now, sir."
I'll take your soldiers from Final Fantasy who build the bridge after beating Garland, and raise you Han Zhong's blind carpenter.
"Liu Bei's army is approaching. Come across the bridge."
Although there are no commanders prowling around in this dungeon, dungeons with or without commanders are typically all pain in the asses. The enemies are not hard by all means, but this game does have a rather high encounter rate. At times, you take a step, and you get thrust'd into a fight.
Of course, the same can be said with the overworld, but at least you know exactly where you're going, and there are no treasures to be extracted.
In this case, this is the only chest in this dungeon.
While it looks complex and branchy, the top path leads to the treasure we just got, and left path is a dead end. The bottom paths are connected, and ultimately lead to the boss fight.
Overall, if it were not for the annoying encounter rate, this would be a very basic, beginner's dungeon.
"Who challenges me? Oh, it's Liu Bei again! I'll destroy you this time."
This is actually easier than the last fight, as the team has gotten stronger, but the enemies sure haven't, Zhang Liang in particular, who hits for ~25 soldiers a hit. The other two do their typical magical assery, but nothing really too much to worry about.
Because the team is up against two tactical adepts, therefore hard to hit with tactics due to their high INT (which doubles as tactic evasion), and one ignorable foe not even worth wasting TP on, Mi Zhe can spend his time keeping troop numbers up to make sure everyone does healthy damage.
The frontal assault on Qingzhou is tougher, as they got two more commanders backing them up, but the back assault lands you an ax, so why not?
"Zhang Jao, Zhang Bao and Zhang Liang were killed. Peace was restored."
About time, they were starting to get on my nerve! So with the main foes now floating around Valhalla, or reincarnated into some ugly beastly thing for their bad karma in this life, what is there to do? Peace in video games sucks!
In case you really need to know, the path they were guarding simply leads to outside the mountain. We should probably go claim Liu Bei's rightful throne now. Maybe he'll make us do something cool.
How long will this equipoise in the Han Dynasty last? Read on.
Extra: No, Liu Bei didn't beat the Yellow Scarves on his own, a totally cool warlord official named Cao Cao did most of the work, while Liu Bei simply took advantage of Cao Cao's military exploitations. Dong Zhuo was there too, more on him next chapter.