Part 46: Chapter 29 (part 3)
Wait. WAIT. Ok, Zephiel knows. He knows everything! I thought there was at least some ambiguity about who saved him with maybe only the queen and Murdock having put it together without being sure of the evidence. But no, Zephiel definitely knows that Eliwood and Hector and everyone laid it on the line for him. Whats more, he seems to be telling people left and right. Vaida doesnt work for him anymore. Like she said in fact that shed never be allowed to work for the royal family again without Nergal as a character reference. So apparently hes just telling everyone or something. Or maybe the writers once again completely screwed Vaida up.
Either way, her showing up now is a horrible surprise your first time though. It doesn't really make sense, isn't warned about, and is triggered in a manner you can't possibly know about. Heck, unless you actually know what zone causes her to appear, she's kind of a problem on your later plays too. It's probably a loss late in the game on your first play of the chapter.
So I screwed up. I HAD planned on having her trade with Hector and then rescue him, but I forgot she cant rescue him. So now hes stuck sitting there. Darn.
The top left Valkyries who were supposed to die like 10 turns ago are finally moving in.
Priscilla gives Nino the boost she needs to not die.
Another mediocre Priscilla level.
And ANOTHER Filas Might just to scratch the enemies on this chapter.
Canas kills the Elibe universe continues. I spend all chapter keeping him in the back and get nothing done. Then I deploy him and he sweeps like 10 uber enemies in one turn.
Well thats a bad start; Dorcas gets hit by the very first wyvern so hell be taking poison damage all map long at this point.
But that looks promising.
Lucked out there. I dont want to waste turns restoring him now that Im finally moving forward.
Well thats not so good.
Yeah, odds are VERY high hes about to die, but theres nothing for it but to continue. Also the reinforcement list I read was completely wrong. There are way more wyverns than expected.
Fiora finally wakes up, badly injured.
Without Filas Might shed have been doing -2. This one is one of the low level ones and one of the few with an Elfire to slow it down.
Holy cow. Hes actually surpassed CANAS statistically. And this Canas is the best one I ever saw. His Def cant compete of course, and hes still inferior since he doesnt use dark magic, but Erk is now amazing.
Lets let that guy go again!
And Canas keeps firing away of course.
So at this point, Im playing completely recklessly and running every risk I can that profits me in any way. Im hoping to lose honestly so I can restart and revise my strategy, because otherwise Im going to stick with these amazing results even though I completely botched the level.
If the game wants to hand me an absurdly lucky victory, Im going to take it though.
And it looks like it does.
Dorcas is in trouble, way too many wyverns are spawning. But I kind of suspect nothings going to even scratch him
The real problem is going to be killing them. Dorcas has a sucky damage output. Nino could slaughter them though.
This is the early game Berserk Valkyrie. It doesnt actually have a weapon, so its been sitting here blocking this spot all chapter.
The injured Fiora continues to be one of my most effective anti-Valkyrie fighters.
Canas heals her.
Next turn she kills the last druid. Those purge bishops are stationary, so no threat.
A bad level, but whatever.
Dorcas gets another bad level. All his levels to date have looked like sucky levels, but hes actually still above average. Thats how bad Dorcas is.
Someone finally statuses Vaida.
Dorcas drinks a vulnerary to keep fighting. Hector has been softening up targets for him as the enemy ignores the guy with actual Def.
Ive spent something like 6 restore charges on this map despite amazingly lucky staff dodges. I bought 2 whole extra restore staves on the one and only chapter up till now where thats possible. If you dont do that, youll pretty much run out last chapter and you will lose the whole ranking run.
Eliwood is finally free!
Its a race to kill everything and Fiora and Canas are at the forefront.
I dont know how Im supposed to beat this guy without Luna because even Luna cant really handle it.
Wow! My Dorcas is so great! Hes almost like a level 8 or so good character.
Canas and Lucius volley back and forth with Canas gradually winning turn by turn.
Vaida is napping again.
More wyverns. Yeah, I read there were a total of 9 of them. This makes 15 or 20.
Hector charges right on in.
So does Nino. I hope every single one of them goes for her. If they do, theyll all die and shell hit 20.
An excellent level.
Eliwood finally rejoins the real battle.
After many attacks, Canas finally kills Lloyd.
Wow. Do you realize what this means? Lloyd actually killed Luna! The two of them evenly matched!
What it really means is that I had to use Lunda WAY too much and now Canas is so overleveled that I can barely ever use him in the future.
Canas gets the iron rune.
Theres still more to do! Fiora charges back in.
And gets an actually great level. Still really slow though.
Erk kills a Valkyrie. The map has turned into a boring puzzle of just trying to kill the straggler enemies, some of which are still quasi-invincible Valkyries as fast as possible while they do pointless time-wasting tactics like riding around casting Sleep.
And now that some enemies have gone for Nino, the bottom area is emptying a bit.
Another bad level.
One down (on the second try)
Erk weakens this one for Eliwood. Look how hes actually good enough to BEAT Valkyries in a magic fight now. Not just hold them off for a while.
Ill need Vaida to sweep the bottom wyverns.
Another meh Priscilla level.
Turn 19, the map is in the bag, I just run around trying to heal as many people as possible on this last turn.
And the last hit of the battle! The whole Bern arc and the story of the Black Fang are now completely over.
Athos teleports in.
After the rough battle, the group is spread out across the plains, licking their wounds or mourning.
Eliwood, Market, and Lyn eventually head up the steps to the shrine.
And theyre surprised to see Athos there. Afterall, they left him thousands of miles away and he sent them out to find the Shrine.
Like Gandalf, Athos is hugely trollish about his powers at times.
A just question.
And Athos takes it seriously, as he does all questions better than When did you arrive. The trope of some adventure or trial not actually mattering except as a test of character or the like is kind of overdone, but it works well here because it seems to fit Athoss character- and more importantly Bramimonds as will soon be seen.
And he has a point. Unlike some versions of this kind of setup where the Athos analogue, say, wanted to see if they were worthy of training or some other such comparatively trivial thing where the secret tester comes off as kind of a manipulative jerk, the legendary weapons actually almost destroyed the world in the past. Giving them out to just anybody without making sure they were responsible people would be a bad idea. And think about the nature of this little quest.
It wasnt just a test to see if Eliwood could kill powerful people; what he had to do was be subtle and inquisitive and willing to take time to help people individually. It was a test of temperament and character, not just power and determination.
This is a potentially interesting bit of information regarding what really happened to Elimine, though its not entirely clear just how to interpret it.
Athos explains why getting to the Shrine of Seals was important: Bramimond lives here and his power prevents anyone from obtaining the legendary weapons without him removing the seals.
And everyone teleports underground.
Mysterious sounding music plays. Remember, one has no idea whatsoever to really expect of Bramimond the first time this scene comes up. You cant even do 19xx on the first run of the game. Just having Athos be alive was a major plot twist and now Bramimond too? Furthermore, Athos doesnt seem sure what to expect.
But at the same time, its not a threatening sort of melody. Bramimond is strange and inscrutable but, unlike the similarly affected dark mage Nergal, is definitely not evil.
And no idea what to expect. They talk for a while and Bramimond is polite but unhelpful.
Hector tries yelling, his usual strategy.
And Bramimond yells back.
This is one scene I think they could have handled better. I mean, yeah, Bramimond acts different when talking to Hector but not really when talking to Eliwood as opposed to Lyn. Up until this bit it wasnt clear his voice was changing at all. They should have changed his speech bubble color or something.
Athos explains that Bramimond just acts like whoever is talking to him, with no remaining personality of its own. An interesting character.
So having the wise and helpful Athos talk to Bramimond is probably a good way to get him to be wise and helpful, and Hector shuts up. Its also revealed that the whole test was also in part to convince Bramimond- as well as Athos- of the heroes worth.
But its not Athos that sways Bramimond. No, its Eliwood who makes a reasonable but passionate plea for him to believe in them and in people more generally. And Bramimond gives one of my favorite lines in the game, remembering a friend who lived a thousand years ago and was much like his descendant Eliwood.
Agh, he blew up the continent! Or opened the seals, either way.
Everyone teleports back up above ground.
Uh oh. Bet you were expecting Nergal would just happen to get his power back in time for the final confrontation. Well this games story isnt nearly that straightforward. The Dragons Gate turnabout was one of the best plot twists in FE, Athos being alive was another bomb shell, and there are still more coming even this late in the game.
Its Nergal alright.
And his cool leitmotif
Weve seen this before. He really seems to expect Ninian and Nils to just do what he says. Its nicely ambiguous whether he just totally doesnt get people and understand why they would disobey him or whether, perhaps, he thinks Ninian and Nils in particular would be obedient to him. Perhaps he has some faint glimmer of subconscious memory that theyre his children?
They, of course, refuse.
And Nergal explains his leverage. If they dont cooperate, hell just blow everyone else up and then take them anyway. This guy is great. Its rare and refreshing to see the hero of a story like this be the villains hostage, rather than Ninian.
She acquiesces- or so it seems.
Remember this picture? Nergal doesnt. He doesnt see the trap.
And he blows everything up as he teleports out anyway.
And Eliwood wakes up at base camp or perhaps a safehouse for Ostian spies or something. Hours or days have passed, so its unclear.
Eliwood would know; he was charging right in to try to save Ninian which is why he was knocked out and the others werent. What he doesnt know is that this is because Nergal has pretty much devoured the quintessence of the entire Black Fang now thanks to their efforts.
Nergal, too, is rather trollish and just enjoys taunting us. And still doesnt seem the very real threat beginning to develop. Afterall, everything weve done so far has completely played into his hands. Why WOULD he think the group is a threat?
And Athos gives Hector a heaven seal. That actually means every single one of them was in Nabata. Were told there are only 3 in the whole world, Pent spent weeks searching for one in the desert, only for Paul and Jasmine to try to steal it from him, Athos had this one, and Athos actually had the first one we received too- he gave it to Hawkeye to give to the group earlier.
Do the heaven seals have some connection with him? Or with Nabata? What WAS the ancient civilization whose artifacts are now strewn across the sands there?
Hector is a bit miffed that they dont work for him.
Oh wait, this one does. My Hector is now pretty much exactly average. A point up in speed, a point down in Def, etc. Maybe a liiiitle bit under average all in all, but still great.
And hes right! Ive been waiting like 15 levels to promote him, now at long last he can get back into the action!
Well hes sure stoked about this.
This scene is apparently later, when everyone else has made plans and Hector has cooled off a bit. Wherever we are, Ostias marvelous spy network has found the group and let them send messengers to talk to Oswin.
And Hector sees that and comes running. Its not clear to what extent its typical that Oswin, rather than Hector handles communications with Ostia. We know they were largely out of contact with Uther up until Kinships Bond and after Pale Flower of Darkness there was one more scene about news from Ostia. As a knight, Oswin might well handle such mundane duties. On the other hand, Hector seems at least somewhat suspicious that the messengers never talk to him.
Nothing is more suspicious than ellipses.
Kind of nervous sounding isnt he? Hes been so for quite a while, but this subplot hasnt received much attention recently.
Oswin deftly changes the subject and Hector explains the plan for which legendary items to acquire.
I do like how Hector always calls him Graybeard.
Not as dumb as he lets on.
And he also kind of deliberately leaves Oswin an out here.
How remarkably not reassuring.
Again, its clear Hector doesnt really believe that but is willing to go with it for now.
And we see how far hes come as he makes a speech about how hes been irresponsible in the past, but will no longer shirk his duties or just run off doing whatever he wants.
And thats the chapter. That was pretty much my worst chapter so far. It was my first try of the level and I screwed up in a few places and learned many tricks that would make things go better the second time, but I didnt restart. I could surely have saved at least 6 turns or so- maybe more- by restarting. I wouldnt be surprised if I could do this map in 10. All I really need is to bring Sain and cast Niniss grace on him one time. One time, thats all. He could kill all 25 Valkyries in a single turn with that on him and its not like that would be some XP loss because it was totally impossible to feed any to anyone unpromoted without Filas Might or something anyway.
Speaking of which, I could have saved several uses of that precious ring. And got Nino to 20.
And done cool stunts with Fiora by actually preparing her properly instead of sending her into an unwinnable fight. And not just barely managed to kill the wyvern spawns because I had no idea how many there would be.
Really I made many mistakes- as one would expect for a first run of a chapter as I try to figure out what actually works. But this time I didnt restart and the reason is Dorcas. Dorcas was NOT a good choice. He should have been killed 10 times over. The character completely couldnt handle this level, but there was no way for me to know that going in. It wasnt stupid to guess that he would be trainable- with some struggle- here, but after winning its clear that he should not have been able to handle it. The thing is, if I restart now, he WONT be able to handle it. And this is my only remaining chance to really give him much XP. I cant use Oswin for this either, thats just a complete no-go. So Id gain a LOT less XP on my second try. And Id probably NEVER be able to use Dorcas, so Id be down a serious chunk toward the most important ranking category.
Plus I was really lucky with level ups on some actually important people. Eliwood finally stopped leveling terribly, Erk became amazing, and Canas did alright at least. Id lose all of that restarting.
Plus I dodged a LOT of staves.
So the thing is, if I restarted I could definitely implement a much cooler and more effective strategy and pull off the giant, smooth-looking win I often do but the results would actually be inferior to this dumb luck first try. So while its unsatisfying, its the smart thing to do.
And for that matter, dumb luck is an exaggeration. The strategy I showed here was smart in principle, it just needed a few tweaks in light of what I discovered about the level. All I really needed to make it work would be to skip having Eliwood go up the right flank (other than for 1 turn to trigger the reinforcements) and to give Sain some javelins, a barrier, and a Niniss Grace and throw him at the Valkyries after letting them build up for a turn or two. And if Fiora was just kept out of luna range (Completely possible, I CHOSE to put her in range of those shamans) and maybe had a Pure Water or a barrier cast on her early, she would certainly have been able to sweep the left troubadours as planned. That, in turn, would have spawned Vaida- allowing me to recruit Vaida- on like turn 5 or 6, which would make everything else easier too. Nino, rather than Dorcas, would have been a good wyvern sweeper and would have hit 20 fairly neatly off them. Lucius taking on the shamans and the early game tactics could be largely unchanged and it would have worked out with Lucius and Nino level 20, Sain up a few levels, Canas and Erk not up so many levels, Fiora maybe up one more, and maybe 10 turns under time instead of 1.
But you know what? Those 9 turns arent worth it. I now have 30 turns in the bank- 28 counting the 1 turn losses on Sands of Time and Battle Preparations. I could spend a sizable 14 turns apiece on the two remaining 0 chapters. But how much XP do I have? That Im not sure of exactly, but I know its potential trouble. The line between 5 stars and 1 star is thin as a razor blade. Want an example?
On this run of this chapter, where I trained up my last low level guy and 2 of my other lowish level people and carefully avoided using most of my high level promoted people and also ground out as much healing XP as I could, I got about 3800 XP. 38 level ups. 5 stars requires 3650 minimum. Even 1.5 levels fewer would mean not getting 5 star for this level. So if I used ANYONE but Dorcas, I would guaranteed have fallen below the 5 star minimum for this chapter. In fact, lets imagine that I used my second lowest level guy: Oswin. Level 12 as opposed to level 9. Lets imagine that I got 3 fewer levels as a result. What happens? 1 star. Thats right. The difference between 5 stars and 1 stars on a level with 3650 XP required for 5 stars is a tiny 150 XP. XP rankings are ridiculously tight, and the requirements in the last few chapters are insanely high (Victory or Death requires more than 6000!). And Im basically out of low level people. Im going to eat an XP loss of 3000 or 4000 or something on Victory or Death, so Id better be sure Ive got a nice surplus.
So yeah, no restart.
Total Restarts: 33 (None. A single one would have been enough to completely dominate the level though)
Turn Surplus: 30 (Alright, this is the peak pretty much. Ive built up this surplus and now its time to spend it on the last few 0 chapters.)
Things I Regret Missing: The lockpick on chapter 11, that darned archer on chapter 11, this one brigand who attacked Marcus on chapter 12, 2 more brigands who ignored everyone else to attack Marcus on chapter 13x, and 2 archers who ignored Hector and Dorcas (DORCAS!) to attack Marcus on chapter 14, like 10 more enemies I could have killed if Hector could have survived one more turn on chapter18, Uhai who decided to take a 100% chance of death to Sain over a free hit on Hector, the chance to finish shopping properly with my silver card on chapter 21, the armorslayer that I would have acquired if not for a stupid minor mistake on chapter 22, these 3 wyvern riders who decided they preferred a 0% chance to hit Isadaora and then 100% chance of death against her to fighting a low level Heath, those 2 pegasus knights at the end of Crazed Beast that I just didnt have enough time to feed to Bartre, and the confused pirate and final archer on Night of Farewells.