Part 5: Chapter 5 and The War Room Part 5 (Countering Enemy Ranged Units)
This chapter is probably my least favorite one of Lyn's story. It's too easy and there's too little going on. In my opinion, this level and the prologue should have been cut from the story entirely since they don't really advance it and aren't really interesting. While this chapter does have some fun shenanigans courtesy of Erk and Serra, those would have been just as fun if the pair of them had been introduced last level or if they were added next level or whenever.
The War Room, Part 5
I've outlined most of the basic mechanics of the game, and talked a bit about grand strategy, so I'll talk basic tactics for a moment here.
You know what's better than high defenses? Being impossible to attack at all. The enemy understands that very well and it will make a strong effort to, say, have archers attack people with melee weapons and have mages attack your archers up close and your people with melee weapons at range.
Sometimes you can use this to your advantage. Let's imagine you're using both Sain and Kent for example, both are at full health, and you have an enemy mage to deal with who you can't kill this turn (because Sain and Kent each killed someone else for example). You want Sain to be at full HP next turn so he can charge into a crowd of distant enemies safely while Kent remains behind. So what weapons do you have them equip?
Have Kent equip an iron lance and Sain equip a javelin. The enemy mage knows that Sain can now counterattack him no matter what, but Kent cannot counterattack if the mage attacks him at long range. So the mage will take its 'free' hit on Kent and leave Sain alone. Now it's your turn, so Kent can kill the mage (or just equip a javelin and move to good terrain so the mage will be hurt if it goes for him again) while Sain rides off to deal with your other objective.
Other times, you just want the enemy dead and you don't much care who they attack. In that case, you need to make sure that everyone in range of the mage (both Sain and Kent in this case) have a javelin equipped so that the mage will take damage or die no matter what it does.
If you can kill not only the enemies with melee weapons, but ALL the enemies in the area with your counterattacks, you can beat the levels much faster and much more safely. So use lots of people who can attack at range 1-2. And avoid people who can only attack at range 2, like archers.
Chapter Story Summary:
Lyn and company flee the Ganelon bandits and rush for the border with Lycia. However, their pursuers manage to make one last, desperate attempt to kill them. A pair of magically skilled travelers (Erk and Serra) join the company.
Look at that pretty background!
Meanwhile, Erk and Serra are not getting along. Those two are possibly more entertaining than Kent and Sain. We've all felt like Erk before too.
AND THEN BANDITS ATTACKED!
Whoa, deja vu. I almost feel like I've been fighting bandits for 6 chapters now and it finally got old.
A small, straightforward map. Once again, the boss is a worthless brigand pouting in the corner. There's another armory here. You'll note it only takes up 1 square instead of 6 or so for the one on Chapter 3. This is the typical style, that one was the unusual one.
Remember how Natalie was a green unit? Now so are Serra and Erk to start with. Green units are your allies. Many of them are totally useless, but a few are like Erk: worse than totally useless. If you don't talk to Erk and turn him blue, he'll run around attacking enemies. And he'll either get himself killed stupidly or actually kill some of them. The problem in the latter case is that he gets no XP for it. So XP is just wasted forever if you don't talk to him pronto. This will be a major game mechanic on some later chapters.
Erk is a polite, uptight young man with no patience for nonsense and stupidity. He shows a great deal of loyalty to his employers, whether he likes them or not, and demonstrates a fair amount of creativity and initiative as well as basic competence as he goes about his often dangerous jobs. In short, the man is all business, but he's good at it.
I would like to see more of Erk, but regrettably Serra has a tendency to hog all his screen time.
Erk is your first Mage and, though I don't use him often myself, I will admit that he is actually a darned good unit. Being a magic user of any kind is excellent since it means you get to do large amounts of damage and can almost always counterattack. Plus promoted mages, shamans, and monks all get the ability to use healing staves, which lets you retire your lousy staff specialists.
Erk is lightning-fast and will double attack nearly anything in the game given a few levels. His defenses are poor but not catastrophically so and the fact that most enemies have terrible Resistance means that he will do large amounts of damage even though his Str is not good and anima tomes don't pack much punch. The trouble Erk has is that almost every other magic user in the game is as good as him or better, and there are quite a few. He and Canas and Pent have very similar stats at most levels, but Pent is a pre-promoted unit and therefore essentially free to use while Canas is a shaman and therefore gets to use Dark Magic. Dark Magic is, for most purposes, superior to Erk's anima magic. Erk vs Lucius is a somewhat fairer comparison, but again Erk doesn't come out looking significantly better. And Nino is pretty much just better than Erk except that he's available for nearly the whole game, whereas she only appears at the end.
Now one very important thing to understand when approaching a max ranking run is that you're going to need to use nearly every character a fair amount in Hector's story to get the XP ranking, no matter how good or bad they are. Most magic-users are really easy to train at all stages of the game, so it's prudent to leave many of them level 1 for a long time and then bring them out in the difficult later chapters to start training then. That lets you give levels to much weaker low level people earlier on when it's safer.
So I will use Erk in Hector's mode, but I don't plan on him being one of my main units at least until near the end.
Be a good boy and go fight now, Erk Serra, Chapter 5
Serra is bubbly, vivacious, confident, loud, and certifiably insane. She's a young priestess from Ostia (another city-state in Lycia) but she somehow ended up in Bern. Erk was sent to help bring her back home safely as part of his training. Since she's bratty and self-centered and crazy, she drags him into all kinds of scrapes- like having to help Lyn fight bandits.
Serra is definitely a funny character and her relationship with Erk is as entertaining as that of Sain and Kent, but unlike Sain she can't turn the humor off and is never anything other than a joke. Similarly Kent and Sain's relationship was not just a joke; the two of them respected each others skills and worked together well as friends and partners even if they sometimes annoyed each other. But Erk and Serra are just a comedy duo with nothing else going on to make things more interesting. For this reason I don't much like her as a character.
As a unit, she is a necessary evil. Being a dedicated staff user is terrible because it means one can gain very little XP under any circumstances (often something like 50 per chapter), so Serra will inevitably end up horrendously underleveled. Even if you wanted to promote her- which you don't, because her stats are terrible compared to any magic user's- you wouldn't be able to because she might never hit level 10, let alone 20. However, you NEED healing in Hector's Hard Mode and she's the only one who can do that for a while. Ditch her once you can promote Canas or Erk or Lucius or whoever else you're using though.
Since healing costs money and Lyn's story is easy, I will not be using her at all until Hector's story begins.
Ok, so Sain isn't new. But just LOOK at his stats! Compared to his expected stats he has approximately +1 HP, +1 Strength, -1 Skill, +4 (!) Speed, +0 Defense, and +1 Resistance. Now most of those advantages aren't that big, but his big bonus came to Speed and there is no more important stat for Sain to gain early. This guy is shaping up to be an amazing unit.
The capacity of your random level ups to make some characters unexpectedly good or bad is one thing that contributes significantly to the game's tremendous replayability. I've never had a Sain like this before and I probably never will again, and that will change the best approach to many chapters later on.
Oh and apparently he died once? I'm... not at all sure when that happened. Possibly when I was fooling around trying to improve my screen caps before doing my real run of chapter 4.
And no holding back just cause theres women with em! Wipe em out! Bug, Chapter 5
Oh look, another enemy brigand. Unlike Migal and Carjiga, there really isn't much to this guy. He's just trying to avenge Migal and restore the honor of the Ganelon bandits, but we learn nothing else about him. Almost as bland as Batta. Just another reason I don't think this is one of the better levels of Lyn's story.
One thing that IS interesting about this chapter though is how the Ganelon bandits' cockiness and talk of taking the female party members as 'souvenirs' or to sell is gone. They've finally realized your group is not to be messed with and they're really, really enraged about how many of their comrades you've killed. This final defeat and loss of yet another 10 or so guys probably ensures the destruction of their whole organization within a few months. Certainly we never hear about them again.
Since Lyn has to immediately spend her turn recruiting Serra and Erk, Sain had his hands full taking out the northern enemies before they had a chance to attack someone I didn't want them to. That's finished now, so I'm just looking around the map to see who Florina can kill safely and cheaply. The answer, unfortunately, is nobody. Florina can't take a brigand in a fight due to poor starting stats and weapon triangle disadvantage. While she could kill most previous mercenaries in 2 hits, the ones on this level are tougher and would take 3. I'm a penny pincher, so I'm going to give those guys to Lyn with her free Mani Katti or Sain, who can kill them in 1-2 hits.
Florina CAN kill that archer in 2 hits, however there are 2 problems with that. First of all, the archer will survive her first attack and then shoot her for massive super-effective damage on its turn. It won't kill her in one shot, but it WILL kill her in two. That means if she misses her second attack, I'd need to send in Lyn or Sain to bail her out so the whole thing would be pointless. Secondly, and worse, she won't be able to kill the archer in 2 shots if it steps into a forest or onto a mountain. The added +1 defense will push her up to the 3 attack threshhold- and make it so the archer has yet another turn to blast away at her.
Instead of letting that happen, I'll just trap the archer in where it's helpless and let her attack it on the next turn for free. As you can see, both Sain and Florina are capable of moving next to the archer. That will pin it in, unable to move or attack, while Florina beats it to death.
That done, Lyn checks out the armory. Darn, I could use another iron lance but they aren't for sale. Javelins and Handaxes are wonderful for Hector's Hard Mode, but I can't use them now when I'm trying to save as much money as possible, so I'll buy nothing. Not much left to do but fight Bug. Lyn will soften him up and Sain will take the kill.
WOW! Lyn is shaping up very nicely indeed. It's too bad I don't intend to use her much. That's the first perfect level up I've seen in a long, long time. Now I send Sain in to kill Bug. Since my goal is to get Sain to level 15 or higher, it's important to have him kill every boss he can.
Darn. Oh well. That puts him closer to his expected averages, but his speed remains great.
The bandits defeated, Lyn and company have safely reached the border of Lycia and are about to part ways with Serra and Erk. However, Sain decides that he has a better chance of getting into Serra's ecclesiastical robes if she goes along with the party, so he tries to convince her to come along by pointing out that Lyn is the heir to the throne of Caelin and therefore someone of importance.
Serra decides that having Lyn in her debt will be very valuable, so she agrees to come along- and drags Erk with her. Both Serra and Sain think they're playing the other. Erk knows they're both idiots.
Meanwhile, Hundreds of Miles Away
It's episode 2 of the Lundgren show! In this episode, Lundgren has heard that, contrary to his previous predictions, Lyn actually DID survive to reach Lycia. Well now he's in trouble! So he orders a second assassination attempt and that the poison being given to his brother the Marquess be strengthened. And here he writes something of a blank check for his hired men to get a little too aggressive as they go about their job. Somehow when he says "Hold nothing back", they hear "Storm the castle in the unrelated city of Araphen and capture its Marquess just because Lyn is in the general area!".