Part 8: Chapter 7x and The War Room Parts 8 & 9 (Why you shouldn't Max Rank Lyn's Story & Thief AI)
So here we are, the first sidequest of the game! To explain things for those who dont know, there are numerous sidequest (Sometimes called gaiden) chapters in FE7. Theyre all secret and only become available if you have fulfilled certain conditions (generally in the immediately preceding chapter). For example, this one is only possible if you completed Chapter 7 in under 15 turns. This makes sense because this level is about chasing down some guys who were getting away during the last level. If you took too long on the last level, they have too much of a headstart.
Some other sidequest requirements later on in the game make much less sense. As a general rule though, they encourage you to play well: complete chapters fast, protect your allied green units, visit every village, dont let your allied green units steal all the XP, etc.
Oh and every sidequest level is numbered Previous chapter number x
Many sidequest chapters are among the hardest in the game. Although its common practice among people doing max ranking HHM runs to skip chapter 19xx and 32x because those chapters are hard and have 0 turn time limits, I am going to play them all.
The War Room, Part 7
In the War Room Part 6, I explained to you just what is required to get a max ranking in this game. Some of you may have noticed that what I am currently doing in Lyns story does not match up. For example, I've been taking my time and also giving almost all kills to just a few people, which hurts my XP score.
The thing is, Lyns story is ranked entirely separately from Hectors story. So going slowly now in no way affects my ability to get a max ranking in Hectors story where I have to move fast at all times.
For some reason, most HHM Ranked Runners these days insist on getting max ranking on Lyns story before Hectors story, often saying that only by doing this do you truly Max Rank the whole game. However, there are some problems with that position:
Firstly, the game ranks the stories completely separately for a reason. Heck, you don't even need to play Lyn's story at all.
Secondly, it is very nearly impossible to truly complete HHM after max ranking Lyn's story. See, unlocking the true ending of HHM requires playing HHM's most secret sidequests: 19xx, 23x, and 32x. But to unlock 19xx in particular, Nils had to reach level 7 in Lyn's story. Getting Nils to level 7 in Lyn's story requires spending most of 60 turns having him perform, but there isn't that much time available before you lose your Lyn's story tactics max rank.
Now Fionordequester actually developed a clever strategy using chip XP from being attacked to give Nils the boost he needs to juuuuuust reach level 7 before the time limit hits. However, Fionordequester's strategy relied on heavy RN abuse (and the help of a program to see the RNs directly). Furthermore, it ultimately was not successful since even without using the Knight Crest, the funds ranking fell significantly short.
So if you max rank Lyns story without cheating or relying on incredible luck, you cannot get Nils to level 7, so you cannot play every chapter of HHM, so you cannot unlock HHMs true ending, so you have not really beaten HHM at all.
And THAT is why Im not going to focus on max ranking Lyns story, just on preparing as well as I can for HHM max ranking.
Although Ninian has been rescued, her brother is distraught that a certain magic ring of Ninians was stolen while she was held captive. The ring was a keepsake from their deceased mother so it has tremendous sentimental value to them. Still, they tell Lyn that the ring isnt worth the danger of facing the Black Fang again. Lyn is never one to turn down an opportunity to kill some people, so when the tactician Market stupidly decides that pursuing a league of assassins into their stronghold just to retrieve a childs keepsake is a good idea, she agrees. They prevail and move on with their journey, somewhat troubled by the fact that the enemy commander killed himself upon being defeated. Just what kind of crazy people are they dealing with?
At the beginning of this chapter we get another cutscene of the enemy talking among themselves deep in their fortress and Ursula makes an early bird appearance chewing out her henchman Beyard for not winning a battle at which he was not present. Ursula is kind of a jerk, like most members of her organization, and believes that even the slightest failures should be punished with death. She warns Beyard that shell kill him if he doesnt have Ninian retrieved by tomorrow and then leaves on some errands.
Meanwhile, just outside, Lyn and company prepare to storm the ruined castle in Khathelet that Beyard and company are hiding out in.
Preparations & the Map:
Ive mentioned before that in a max ranking run, having Matthew the thief steal everything of value from enemies is essential for getting a good funds ranking. In order to do that efficiently, the first thing you should do on every map is check every enemys inventory and figure out who has stuff you want to take. Then strategize accordingly.
As you may recall from The War Room, part 1, Im implementing a very tricky strategy in Lyns story to prepare maximally for Hectors story and to that end, I need all the funds I can get. So Im going to steal EVERYTHING on this level no matter how low its value.
Ive circled some people who have valuables that can only be acquired through stealing (which you discover by looking at their inventories:
The thief has a lockpick, thats worth a whopping 1200 when it has full uses.
Its time for an emergency meeting in the War Room while I tell you about enemy thieves:
The War Room, Part 8
The AI of each thief on each chapter and every on each difficulty mode is different, but most of them act as follows: First, they will not attack your units. Second, they will steal from your units if you get near them, but they wont prioritize it. Third, they each have a checklist of doors to unlock and chests to open in some order which typically includes every door on the level and all chests in one area. Fourth, once their mission is complete or becomes impossible (They opened/took everything or you opened/took everything or their lockpicks were taken or you blocked the one hallway to a room they want to get to), they typically run for a staircase or the edge of the map and disappear forever once they get there.
The most recently acquired object in a thiefs inventory is typically dropped on death but none of the others are. This can cause a huge problem if the thief loots a weapon from one chest and then loots something else.
As you may recall me saying, you can steal items, but you can never steal weapons from other people. This means that if a thief gets, say, an iron sword from chest 1 and then a vulnerary from chest 2, you can never acquire that iron sword under any circumstances. Its lost forever and Ill probably restart the level and do things differently so that doesnt happen. If he loots the vulnerary first though and then the sword, youre good to go. See, you can steal the vulnerary from him and then kill him, at which point hell drop the sword, so you got everything.
So to list a few handy tricks for dealing with these pests:
1) Notice the location of staircases and map edges near chests. Chances are good a thief will emerge from one of these at some point during the level, steal the treasure, and then try to escape. So get to that area fast and be ready to kill or trap him.
2) Dont unlock doors you dont need to unlock when thieves are about. A lot of thieves will stupidly stop their escape after getting some loot to go unlock a door halfway across the map instead. But if you already unlocked it, theyre just going to leave.
3) Steal their lockpicks quickly. Those things are worth a lot of money and without them the thief cant do anything bad, so theyll just leave the level. If possible, kill them just after stealing their lockpicks.
Back to Preparations and the Map
The top right mercenary has a vulnerary, thats worth 300.
The top right cavalier has a vulnerary, another 300.
So does the nearby archer
And the mage in the closed room has a door key worth 50. Im going to take it all.
Objective: Kill all enemies
Secondary Objective: Get the Hammer from the chest
Secondary Objective: Steal the Lockpick from the thief
Secondary Objective: Steal the Vulnerary from the archer
Secondary Objective: Steal the Vulnerary from the top rightish mercenary
Secondary Objective: Steal the Vulnerary from the top right cavalier
Secondary Objective: Steal the Door Key from the mage
Reinforcements: A mage and a shaman from the stairs near the boss on turn 3 or so.
Units Allowed: Way more than I'll actually bring. On this chapter, more people would just be in the way.
1) Lyn. Required and I'm still trying to level her a bit more.
2) Sain. Will be doing almost all of the killing to pump his level, as usual.
3) Florina. Has some fighting to do on the left part of the map when Sain is busy.
4) Matthew. Absolutely necessary to steal all the valuable stuff here.
5) Nils. His ability to give people extra turns is incredibly valuable in small-group battles like this, especially where I have lots of extra stuff to do like stealing from enemies before killing them.
6) Dorcas. Thieves in this game can't actually steal items if their inventories are full, so Matthew needs someone to hand his stuff off to. Additionally, Dorcas's brand of incompetence may be helpful in stalling the cavalier without killing it.
The first and trickiest order of business is to break into the treasure room so Matthew can steal the vulnerary from the archer and I can be ready to ambush the enemy thief when he runs in to loot the hammer from the chest. In order to do that, I need to kill the soldier blocking the cracked wall, have Sain smash the cracked wall, have someone take out the nearby brigand so he doesnt bother me, and have Matthew in position to run in to swipe the vulnerary by turn 2. This formation will let me do that easily.
Other than Ursula, wholl get a proper introduction later, theres pretty much just Beyard.
"Failure... means death" -Beyard, Chapter 7x
The first mercenary boss since Glass obviously doesnt live up to his predecessors towering reputation, but hes actually capable of hitting pretty hard with his steel sword.
Fortunately, like most bosses, he just politely stands out of the way until youre all ready to kill him. Other than being terrified of his boss Ursula, dedicated enough to his organization that he kills himself for failure according to their code, and a reasonably clever man who recognizes that having stolen this ring gives him a good chance to ambush you, we dont learn much about Beyard. Dead men tell no tales.
The first thing to do is have Sain take down that brigand. Im still having him use iron lances most of the time because, again, theyre slightly cheaper.
In order to let Matthew start as close as possible, I had to have Florina start further back. Thus she needed Nils to give her another turn to reach this guy and kill him. Having Matthew start further back and having Nils give him the second turn would also have worked.
Note my seemingly foolhardy positioning. I mean, Sain and Florina and Matthew are all in range of that archer and cant counterattack him. But this is all part of the plan. I need to lure that archer to one of the nearby edges of the room. Youll notice that no matter who he attacks, hell then be close enough that Matthew can run up and steal from him.
Oh and meanwhile Dorcas and Lyn run to an out of the way location. That cavalier with the vulnerary is going to come charging their way and I dont want him to fight them (and die) until Matthew is done in the treasure room and ready to steal from him.
Enemy thief unlocks door 1. On turn 2 hell unlock door 2. If the treasure chest isnt looted and he isnt dead, hell then loot the chest on turn 3. That done, hell flee back out the stairs.
The archer shot Florina as expected, Matthew stole his vulnerary, Sain moved in.
Beyard calls for reinforcements. Due to positioning and the chokepoints they can harass you at, the mage and shaman who spawn on the stairs next to him are a bit annoying but no serious trouble.
The thief unlocks door 2. Immediately Matthew steals his lockpick. Lockpick theft is always amusing to me.
See that cavalier on the right? Hes charging in and hes got a vulnerary, so I need Matthew to get back there quick. So after stealing the lockpick, Nils lets Matthew run south and then Sain kills the thief. (Thieves give nice XP, btw)
My plan works as intended. The cavalier cant quite reach anyone, so hell just keep closing in. Matthew can then step 1 south and steal from him, Nils can run 5 south and give Matthew another turn with which to get out of the way, and then Lyn can slay him.
And with that, the tricky part of the level is over and its now just mop up.
Here, Dorcas, have 2000 gold worth of junk
I havent talked much about the various classes in the game; there's not a ton of interesting stuff to say. Illustrated here though is the famously high Pegasus rider resistance to magic. Due to this, huge movement, and the ability to use javelins, Pegasus riders are among the best anti-mages in the party.
Uh Sain has been fighting this brigand for 3 whole turns now and gets 2 attacks per fight with his iron lance. This brigand has dodged 11/12 attacks. Fortunately, Sain has been dodging decently too.
The brigand finally bites the dust and I easily stole the door key from the mage, so I set my trap for this last guy. When he attacks Dorcas, Matthew is ready to steal from him and then Sain rides in for the kill.
Im rich! Time for a Nils training montage! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEjgPh4SEmU
Pretty good. As I mentioned, Nils high speed and luck and solid defenses make him quite durable when you need him to be.
Shoulda thought of that before you stood in the corner for 30 turns while Nils leveled up and Sain sharpened his lance.
Sain continues to amaze.
I can think of only one other time in the whole story where Lyn ever shows mercy to anyone. Shes kind of ruthless really, especially when compared with the gentle Eliwood. Or even Hector. Hector at least acknowledges that solving all his problems with violence is something of a character flaw and vows to change.
Lyn does kind of redeem herself with moments like this or with her grandfather where she shows that though she might be rather unashamedly violent, she does care about other people.
Alright, sidequest over, on with toppling Lundgren!