Part 3: The Yggdrasil LabyrinthUpdate 2: The Yggdrasil Labyrinth
Well, let's get going. No sense in staying in Lagaard.
I'll start my tab, then.
SYSTEM: The sight overwhelms all who see it for the first time... The Yggdrasil Labyrinth. This forest maze exists within Yggdrasil, the tree that looms over the city of High Lagaard.
It's warm in here. Like summer.
It's...really nice compared to the city.
I guess the inside of the Labyrinth has its own climate?
SYSTEM: As you marvel at its beauty, a guard appears before you.
SYSTEM: The guard is standing in a manner that seems meant to block your passage.
I'm in the Grand Duchy's guard corps. We help explorers like yourself on missions.
SYSTEM: The guard takes a hard look at you before speaking again.
I'll get right to the point. Shall we begin your first trial to become officially recognized? You can start by taking the path leading east from here.
Your task is to bring that token to me. The specific location of the box with the token is here.
SYSTEM: The guard then places a mark on the map you hold.
Oh, that's not as far as I thought it'd be.
Yeah, seems like something that wouldn't take long. What's the catch?
There is one other thing, which is actually important for your survival. You should map the east side of this floor. Include as many details of the red box on your map as possible.
The game then pops up a tutorial on mapmaking here, but it's nothing you can't infer from the mapmaking tools on the right side of the touch screen (when not zoomed out like in the screenshot).
I'll be waiting here for you to bring back the token and your finished map.
SYSTEM: The guard takes a half turn away before looking back at you.
Oh, yes... I almost forgot. Something for novice explorers, just in case.
SYSTEM: The guard rummages through his pack and doles out a supply of medication to the party.
The forest can be more dangerous than it looks. Always be on your guard while inside it.
SYSTEM: With that cheerful sentiment, the guard steps aside, allowing you to pass... You eagerly step forth, ready to commence your adventure!
Alright, who wants to do mapping?
I, um, don't think anyone on the front line should do it. What if we get ambushed and drop the map?
An Alchemist's palms are not tools that lend well to precision.
...Fine, I'll do it. Mapping duty, an extra 500 ental.
SYSTEM: However, it appears to be impassable from this side.
SYSTEM: As you have some skill at adventuring, 3 Skill Points should be available to you.
Oh yes, skill point allocation. Probably one of the most important parts of every Etrian Odyssey; skill investment decisions not only make or break a character, they can make or break an entire party. Especially in the early game, try to think your skill builds through very carefully. There is an option at the Explorers Guild to reset a character's skill point allocations, with a 2 level penalty (which doesn't apply if a character is level 1 to 5, I believe). While that 2 level penalty isn't much in the late and postgame, in the early game that penalty can be pretty harsh. Not as bad as EO1's 10 level penalty, though.
For Freyja, I invest 1 point in Whip Mastery, which, in addition to giving 1% extra damage to whip attacks/skills, unlocks Gag, Cuffs, and Shackles. All of the skills are basically the same: they deal moderate Cut damage (120% at level 1, 235% at level 10, 310% at level 20), while attempting to bind a certain body part with a decent base chance (40% at level 1, 60% at level 10, 80% at level 20). Gag attempts to bind the target's head, Cuffs attempts to bind the target's arms, and Shackles attempts to bind the target's legs. I'll explain binds in a later game mechanics post.
My ultimate goal is Ecstasy, which requires lv7 on Gag, Cuffs, and Shackles. It's a whip Dark Hunter's best skill, and one of the best skills in the game period. That skill point requirement means we won't be seeing it for a while, sadly.
For now, I invest in Cuffs. Leveling any of the basic whip skills between 1 and 4 doesn't do anything for the bind chance, it just increases the damage. I'll be using Cuffs mostly because arm binds reduce physical damage, so might as well get some extra damage.
Investing in Katana Mastery unlocks quite a lot of stuff. It puts one point in each of the stances (Upper, Clear, and Drawing), and unlocks each stance's activation skill.
I'll be primarily investing in the Upper Stance tree, mostly because it does the most damage out of the trees, due to the fact that Upper Stance gives a bonus to the user's attack. It's not much, but it's still something. You could also make an argument for Clear Stance, since its defense bonus helps with the major fragility problem Ronin have. While Drawing Stance has access to the Ronin's only all-target attack, and has a ranged attack for its ultimate skill, I don't find either of these to be that useful.
I put one point in Upward Slash, which is a very basic Cut attack that triggers Upper Stance; it deals 100% damage at level 1, meaning it deals the same amount as an Attack command. Without it, the stance (and Asriel, for that matter) is useless. I then put another point into Upper Stance, which increases its damage bonus from 4% to 6%.
For Ursa, I invested all of her initial skill points in Loyalty Mastery. Loyalty Mastery's actually a fairly interesting passive: it provides a passive chance for the Beast to halve the damage of a given attack. A passive chance to halve incoming damage is great for Loyalty Mastery, because the tree is based entirely around tanking the party's damage. At level 3, it gives a 9% chance to halve an incoming damage instance.
3 points in Loyalty Mastery unlocks:
- Lick Wounds, a single-target heal that also dispels binds. Pretty bad early on, but later in the game becomes quite nice with Auto-Lick.
- Protect, which allows the Beast to take all of one ally's incoming damage for a set number of damage instances over one turn. Protect reduces the amount of damage the Beast takes.
- Hit-Taker, which allows the Beast to take everyone's incoming damage for a set number of damage instances over one turn. Hit-Taker reduces the amount of damage the Beast takes.
For Realga, I invest 1 point into Heal Mastery, which gives a 2% boost to non-fixed healing, in addition to unlocking Cure. If you've ever played an RPG before, you can probably guess what Cure does. I then invest her other 2 points into Cure, so I can get 1 point in Salve before going for some other skills on the Heal Mastery tree. At level 3, Cure heals for 118% healing power and has no speed modifier. The healing formula, incidentally, is ((TEC * 2) + VIT) * HealingPower.
All of Stardust's initial skill points go into Formula Mastery, which gives Formula skills a 3% damage increase, and unlocked Fire, Ice, and Volt Formula. All of these are really basic skills--they just deal TEC-based Fire/Ice/Volt damage to one enemy, and deal 110% TEC damage at level 1.
I'm building towards Compression, which you can see down at the bottom right. Compression makes any all-target skills the user casts only be single-target, but also increases their damage to compensate. How much more damage, you may ask? 50% at level 1, 75% at level 10, and 100% at level 20.
...Yeah, it doesn't scale all that well, which I didn't realize until MUCH later. It's better to just leave Compression at 1 point and put more points into the Formulas. If you want to save TP, though, I guess putting more points into Compression early is an option.
Fire, Ice, and Volt Formula are all good at one point. We probably won't be investing any more in them.
Do we head right or left?
Um...there's a giant, floating box to the left.
Left. I need to see how this box floats.
...Why did you open it? It stopped spinning.
Medicine that can bring people back from being dead's more important than spinning boxes, Luca.
Nectars are very important items in Etrian Odyssey. When used, they revive a dead party member at 20 HP.
That other Dark Hunter at the bar mentioned losing his whip...it can't be that far in.
You're looking for it? I didn't think you were the kind to worry about random strangers at a bar.
He looked so down about it, though...oh!
There's something dangling from that tree.
SYSTEM: As you explore, Freyja raises their voice. You look in wonder to find something like a vine dangling before Freyja. You saw no such vines on the other nearby trees... On closer inspection, you realize it is actually a whip. The whip is tangled in the branches overhead. You assume that its owner gave up on it when it could not be extricated. You may try and recover the whip, or ignore it and be on your way.
SYSTEM: Thinking that a good tug might free the whip, you pull on it with all your might! Though your muscles strain, the whip itself is elastic and the supple branch bends as well. It remains firmly in place. It seems you will not retrieve the whip in this way. You must come up with another plan...
Ohhh...how did it even get tangled that badly?
Oh come on. If it's not coming undone, the only thing we can do is cut the branch off.
SYSTEM: Realga grasps the trunk firmly with their hands and feet, managing to reach the base of the branches.
SYSTEM: Realga brandishes their survival knife and begins hacking at the branch. The repeated slashing results in a large cut in the branch. At length, Realga pushes down on the branch's tip, causing it to snap and fall to the ground along with the whip. Though your methods were a bit inelegant, you succeed in retrieving the whip! But as Realga returns to the ground, feeling satisfied with a job well done, they notice something amiss. The loud noise of the repeated chopping has attracted nearby monsters!
Hm. Monsters. Guess we don't have any way around this!
HP: 69, STR: 6, TEC: 6, VIT: 7, AGI: 5, LUC: 6
- Hard Shell: Uses the head. Reduces physical damage to the caster by 30% for 4 turns. Has a 120% speed modifier.
- Normal: Carapace Piece. 60% chance. Sells for 5 en. 1 needed to make Green Leaf (+7 DEF). 5 needed to make Wakizashi (+36 ATK). 30 needed to make Maimai Bat (+42 ATK, +10 HP, +1 TEC). 3 Carapace Pieces and 2 Small Nails needed to make Targe (+7 DEF).
"The shattered shell of a Forest Snail. Not used much in everyday life, so not worth much.""
- Ingredient: Hiding Snail. 1 given. 1 needed to make Escargot Citron (Western Food 1; doubles the amount of ingredients given from item points).
"A snail stuck in its shell."
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Ailment and bind resistances:
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A small forest denizen that retreats into its shell when in danger.
Forest Snails are the least threatening encounter here. They're kind of a pain to kill, especially if they use Hard Shell, but they still don't hit very hard.
We j-just want the whip! Please...
Ah, I'm finally starting to remember this stance...
You went into the Labyrinth without knowing basic stances?
My brain's not what it used to be.
Hey, come out of there! That's cheating!
Ice is just heavily condensed snow.
I didn't know whips could send monsters flying...
Whenever you defeat a new monster or discover a new item, the game notifies you about it.
SYSTEM: You sigh with relief after managing to thwart the monsters' ambush. It may not have been wise to carelessly cause such a commotion in this dangerous forest. To remain here would be equally risky. The whip is still tangled around the branch, but you decide to leave it as is.
I'm sure the owner'll be able to untangle it...
I'unno, that's a pretty bad knot.
HP: 75, STR: 7, TEC: 5, VIT: 5, AGI: 8, LUC: 5
- Desperate Needle: Uses the arms. Deals 130% melee STR-based Stab damage to one target. Has a 120% speed modifier and 99 base accuracy.
- Normal: Rat Needle. 55% chance. Sells for 6 en. 1 needed to make Kalinga (+30 ATK). 2 needed to make Harpoon (+27 ATK). 5 Rat Needles and 1 Amazonite needed to make Falcatta (+31 ATK).
"Prickly fur used to protect one's body. Brittle and hard to use; not ideal for offense.""
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A small forest rodent whose body is covered in needles, with which it pierces the unwary.
Hedgehogs are annoying. They hit quite hard this early, and Desperate Needle can pretty easily either put someone really close to dying, or even outright kill more fragile classes like Dark Hunters and Ronin. If two of them gang up on a party member, chances are good that party member will die if they aren't a Beast.
So yeah, blindsides. When you get into a random encounter, there's a chance that you can be blindsided, meaning that the enemy gets a free turn on you. Best case scenario, you have an encounter like two Forest Snails that both use Hard Shell. Worst case scenario, you get into an encounter where the enemies kill some of your party members and put you dangerously close to getting a game over.
Worth noting about the Untold arranged soundtrack: all of the random battle music have different introductions based on if you enter a battle normally, get a preemptive, or are blindsided. The soundtrack version of The First Campaign, which is the version on Tindeck, starts with the blindside intro.
I got off fairly easy here, but I'm still in a pretty bad situation. Both Freyja and Ursa are pretty much one attack each from dying, and I'd really rather not expend my only Nectar if neccessary.
I'm taking a bit of a gamble here. If I had Ursa use Hit-Taker, she'd 100% die on the first attack, and that could also lead to Freyja dying. If I have Ursa Protect Freyja, the worst case scenario is Freyja is attacked first, which leads to Ursa dying, and then the other Hedgehog attacking Freyja. Due to how EO determines targets for non-all-party attacks, that situation is fairly unlikely.
Finally, a chance to put my schooling to use.
I'm also going to actually have Realga do something and use Cure on Ursa. Medics tend to be quite slow, but hopefully Ursa can be healed before the Hedgehogs act.
These hedgehogs are quite speedy.
This is really not the time to misstep, Asriel.
I'd rather not...die to hedgehogs...
There. Feel better?
That was too close for my liking, but we should be fine now.
Realga's timing couldn't have been better; Ursa would've died to the first attack otherwise. You can also see Loyalty Mastery in action here.
Are those special effects, or...?
I don't do fake effects. They cheapen a play.
Let's try to avoid rodents getting the better of us next time.
SYSTEM: As you stroll through the forest, you spot brightly hued flowers at the base of a tree. Their vibrant color stands out against the forest green, as if luring you to them. You then notice something shining in the center of those flowers... How could a flower gleam so? You could always approach for a closer look to sate your curiosity...You lean in close to the flowers, noting carefully their structure and color.
Ah, how heavenly. Reminds me of some unusual blooms down in ThaaaRRRCHOOO!
SYSTEM: Suddenly, the blossoms begin to twitch, as if your reacting to your presence! At so close a distance, you receive a faceful of pollen. You back away quickly... However, Asriel inhales the pollen and begins to sneeze uncontrollably!
WaaaAACHOO! AACHOO! AAATTTOO!
C-can you stop this, Realga?
I wasn't taught about this...
SYSTEM: After some time, Asriel's sneezing fit finally stops. You take this as a warning not to be so careless, but then you notice something at your feet. Picking it up, you find that it is a phial of medicine, essential to explorers! It seems to have somehow slipped into this flower. Detecting some kind of destiny at work here, you take the medicine and resume your exploration.
That would've been very helpful just now...
I hear running water.
Inside a gigantic tree?
SYSTEM: The mineral water that flows here is crystal-clear and shimmers beautifully in the sun. You can use the water to quench your thirst, or ignore it and continue on your way.
SYSTEM: You cup your hands beneath the outpouring water to catch it in your palms. Very carefully, you bring your hands to your lips and sip... The natural sweetness of the cold water helps to replenish your stamina!
Green numbers represent HP restoration, while golden numbers represent TP restoration.
SYSTEM: Water continues to flow from the rock. You consider noting this place down on the map before departing.
There's another chest... It's also spinning!
And it also probably has the token we need, which means we have to open it!
Huh? What's down here, Ursa?
Oh, I've seen this flower before. Lagaard Hospital uses it to make medicine for badly-injured explorers.
Shortly after that:
HP: 80, STR: 8, TEC: 5, VIT: 6, AGI: 6, LUC: 6
- Normal: Mole Claw. 40% chance. Sells for 7 en. 1 needed to make Mole Claw (+29 ATK).
"Hard, thick claw of a Labyrinth mole. Used in equipment for its edge and durability."
- Rare: Soft Fur. 30% chance. 1 needed to make Hide Gage (+4 DEF). 3 needed to make Leather Hat (+5 DEF, can be equipped by Beasts).
"Soft fur from beasts who inhabit lower Stratums. Widely used for its versatility."
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A breed of mole who only surfaces to hunt for prey. Beware its razor-sharp claws!
Oh man, I do not feel like dealing with this. Moles hit hard, and could possibly kill Ursa or put her really low. So...
I have Ursa activate her Force Boost, which triples her max HP and heals her to that amount, and have her use Hit-Taker. Everyone else defends, except...
Grand finale time already?
Y-you can make that from nothing?
Well, not nothing. I have to use a lot of matches, draw a lot from the ice core, and short out the palms for a while.
In the big clearing with the treasure box, on the west wall:
SYSTEM: However, it appears to be impassable from this side.
SYSTEM: This is unmistakably the token you were directed to retrieve. You all rejoice with relief upon the fulfillment of one of your objectives.
Finally! That was a lot longer than I thought it'd be.
SYSTEM: But the moment is spoiled when an eerie cry suddenly echoes from the north!
SYSTEM: Your timing in coming here was poor indeed to arrive at the same time as this enormous deer... But the deer, from the look of it, does not seem to consider you a threat, and shows no signs of charging towards you. But have a care! To pick a fight with the giant deer will be to invite a battle you cannot easily win. If you value your life, then observe the deer's movements carefully and make your escape from here!
And the game introduces us to one of the things EO is most known for: FOEs (short for Field-On Enemy in Japan, Formido Oppugnatura Exsequens in the US, and some other Latin in Europe). FOEs are monsters that are visible inside of the Labyrinth and on the map, who make a move for every move you make, and, in battle, range from "can be taken out with some planning" to "don't even think about it." Most of the FOEs in the first stratum fall under that latter category while you're exploring it, and Ragelopes are no exception. Especially at the level the party is at right now, engaging a Ragelope would pretty much be a guaranteed game over.
That d-deer is...very large...
Let's just walk around it. It'll be fine.
Ragelopes follow a pretty simple movement pattern, fortunately. They're all positioned around a one-tile obstacle, and will make a full circle around it. Easy enough to manuever around.
SYSTEM: More monsters with that same fearsome presence are populating the trail up ahead! You will need to plan your movements carefully to avoid them if you are to find a safe path back to town. You mull over how to find an opening, as you did a moment ago, in order to survive this ordeal...
Hmph. Knew it wouldn't be that easy.
Take note of the extra bars near the random encounter indicator; those approximate how close you are to an FOE. This was be more useful in the DS EO titles, where your vision range in the Labyrinth was severely limited and the Labyrinths tended to be more corridor-like.
Oh come on, I'm not even 15 seconds from the end.
I...didn't know Asriel had that in him.
Oh hey, our first level up! Level ups in EO can increase maximum HP and TP, along with stats, and also give the character 1 Skill Point.
Not a lot to comment on here. Same rationales as before. Raising Upper Stance to level 3 on Asriel raised its damage bonus from 6% to 8% and, more importantly, unlocked Horse Slash, a pretty basic Cut attack. It's quite TP-efficient for the damage it does in the early game, though, and makes more sense skill point and TP-wise than going for Swallow Strike. It's also a prerequisite to Flame Grater, which is useful for clearing out random encounters.
SYSTEM: It can only be the third of those monstrous deer... This must be the last hurdle! Ascertain your route forward and elude the giant deer as you go!
Let's...try to avoid staring death in the face more than once per exploration...
If I'd taken one step forward, I'd have run into the Ragelope, which would've almost certainly been a game over.
We're finally finished...
SYSTEM: Before you stands a guard whom you remember well.
SYSTEM: The guard cheerfully welcomes you back.
Now then, did you bring the token I asked for?
SYSTEM: In answer to the guard's question, you simply show him the token.
Hm... Yes, that's the one. I would congratulate you, but the test isn't over yet. Completing the map is another mandatory component of the mission. Show me your map so I can confirm whether you've done that or not.
Let's see...ah, here it is.
SYSTEM: With that, the guard takes your map and examines it carefully... After looking at your map, the guard's cheerful voice emanates from his helmet.
I'd say your mission to create a map of the Labyrinth's 1st floor is a success. The Minister will grant you recognition in High Lagaard and full access to the Labyrinth. My part is done. You may go on from here, but I suggest you report to the Minister first.
SYSTEM: With that, the guard begins his trek back to the city. With your mission complete, you suppose his duty is fulfilled as well. Having seen him off, you are free to return to town or continue your explorations.
Please, let's go back. I'm exhausted...
I think we all are.
When you have a mission or quest ready to be turned in, the game will notify you in the town menu until you turn them in.
I received word of your accomplishments. I congratulate you on your mapmaking skills. I hereby name you explorers of the Yggdrasil Labyrinth, and citizens of High Lagaard. As I mentioned earlier, you have but one goal. Climb the Yggdrasil Labyrinth and discover the lands said to lie in the skies above. I expect great things from you from here on out, members of Lumen. Ah, I nearly forgot. Do you have the proof you were meant to retrieve?
Very well. All that's left is to put our seal upon it... And there you are. Proof that you are now recognized by High Lagaard. Take this with you.
Lastly, there is this for you: a reward for finishing the mission.
There. You are now ready to set forth. Continue the good work.
...That's it? A small stipend? That barely covers my extra mapmaking charge!
Looks like you'll be sticking with us a bit longer, then.
And here's a change introduced to the series in EO3: EXP rewards for finishing a mission. Mission EXP rewards tend to be very substantial--usually enough for one or more level ups.
In the interest of conserving TP (each of the basic whip skills jump up in TP cost at level 5), I'm going to leave Cuffs at level 4 for now and get Gag and Shackles to level 4 as well.
Invested in Horse Slash; see my previous reasoning for why.
Cure at level 5 not only increases the heal amount and turn speed, but unlocks Salve, which is an all-party healing skill.
Leveling Formula Mastery up to 5 unlocked these Formula skills; they're all-target Fire, Ice, and Volt skills, respectively. They each need to be leveled up to 3 before we can get Compression.
Here's Dubois's Talk dialogue after you finish the first mission:
Ah, so you've finally entered the Labyrinth, and have begun your exploration. We here at the Grand Duchy do whatever we can to support explorers, to the utmost of our capacity. You are free to keep anything you find in the Labyrinth. We will not charge a single ental for tax. ...Unfortunately, that is the most we can really offer. I do hope you understand our position. We've barely scratched the Labyrinth's surface. For all our years here, there remains so much that is still unknown. We are to live alongside the Labyrinth, we must learn more about it. We at the Grand Duchy send guard patrols in order to investigate the Labyrinth, but we are lacking in numbers as well as skill. Please understand; the work you do as explorers is important--no, vital to High Lagaard.