Part 55: Final Chapter (part 1)
I dislike the cliché of naming the final level light, sunrise, or the like that has shown up in quite a few games. In some cases it at least sort of fits, but definitely not here. Im going to say the last really good title was Cog of Destiny (Or Valorous Roland in Eliwoods story).
Athos at last returns, meeting the group at the Dragons Gate and bringing with him several more ultra weapons. Together the group confronts Nergal and after a heated exchange of words, slay him and his remaining minions. As was foreshadowed several times though, Nergal calls more dragons through the gate with his last breath and the group finds they need help not to be overwhelmed by this latest threat.
Yeah, I wonder if we should wait for the unstoppable arch-wizard with all the legendary gear and knowledge about how to beat Nergal too at a time when were not in a hurry. Hector being Hector is beginning to be a little bit tiresome.
For some reason the Athoss palace ambience is playing in this area. Also it looks like someone refilled those chests on the right for the next adventuring party to hit this dungeon.
He didnt even teleport in that we see. How long has he been here? DID HE EVEN LEAVE?
A vague question.
Met with a vague answer. Theres a reason for this though.
He presents Aureola, the weapon of Saint Elimine, which he predicts will be specially effective against Nergal.
And he returns the legendary items, either saying that he or Bramimond enchanted them to be more effective against Nergal or reminding the group that their inherent power makes them good against him to begin with which was probably part of the point of fetching them to start with.
Fortunately, someone invented numbers a few thousand years back and describing the power of weapons has gotten a lot easier since then.
And he brought a really famous but non-legendary sword for Lyn, a sister blade to her Mani Katti. Shoulda got the Exaccus.
Its clear that Athos, perhaps having done some more scrying or the like during his absence, now sees past most of Nergals lies and tricks. He knows Nergal is actually low on minions and he knows the legendary weapons really can harm him.
No more sidequests!
Battle Preparations & the Map:
Nope! Not allowed to see the map. I never noticed that weird text in the Command Help subwindow explaining why before.
Ive got 9 tactician stars now. 9 is the most Ive ever gotten, but I believe 10 may be possible if I understood some talk about tactician stars I read once properly. Doesnt really matter.
Back to Chapter Summary Then:
No one has acknowledged his existence in quite a while. And theres been no comment on the times he cant come to a chapter Im not really sure why there suddenly is now.
No! NO! Darn it, Hector. Not bringing Merlinus to this chapter makes it waaaaay harder than it would otherwise be. He couldnt fight before but he was useful anyway and he would be now too. Heck, he was even useful in fights courtesy of his massive avoid.
But theyre not just ditching Merlinus, they wrote him up a letter that will help him set up shop for himself in Ostia.
Uh yeah. Merlinus is always saying stuff like this in this game.
A nice little arrangement of Calamity Bringing plays through this scene as the group arrives to find Nergal waiting for them.
After another of Hectors remarks about what a bad person he is, Nergal responds with this nice little speech about why he really doesnt care about Hectors opinion on him- or anyone elses for that matter. Along with a scene of him talking to Ninian about why it doesnt matter to him if she wants to help him or not as long as he can force her to that we only see in Eliwoods story, this soliloquy is one of his better speeches.
I wonder what he means by that exactly.
This scene (along with another bit of this conversation where he remarks that good and evil are meaningless social constructs) reminds me strongly of one at the beginning of the last chapter of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. Both Dr. Caulder and Nergal make 2 points: 1) Im just doing what I feel like doing and I dont care what you think of me 2) you dont recognize that the whole notion of good and evil is meaningless and just something society duped you into believing in your impressionable years. I think DoR handled the whole thing better by making debate about the nature of people and society a theme throughout the game, whereas 7 focused on other themes like the nature of knowledge and to what extent it really is power.
And he springs his trap, revealing some familiar faces. I think they did a good job on the color scheme for these kind of undead looking characters. Pretty creepy.
This moment is pretty cool in that on one hand its definitely unexpected and surprising, but looking back its foreshadowed in all sorts of places. Nils sensed strange energy he couldnt identify lurking in here with Nergal (and we know from Unfulfilled Heart that Nergal has become pretty savvy about Nilss powers and can cloak at least some of his minions from him), Renaults story revolved around Nergal bringing back the formers friend as some sort of cursed and soulless mockery of life, Limstella (and sometimes Sonia) went around harvesting the quintessence of most of these people, Limstella vaguely said their quintessence had all been used rather than you powered yourself up with their quintessence, and we know Nergal really enjoys mocking us and the psychological warfare. Like any great twist ending sort of story, you should have seen it coming in retrospect, but you didnt put the clues together the first time through.
Hector is pretty stunned.
And in another case of what makes Nergal so great, he once again combines his grand scale villainy and awesomeness with petty personal cruelty. This is also the first time that most people realize Uther is dead. Theres a whole semi-secret chain of conversations that can follow as Hector, Eliwood, Lyn, Oswin, and others talk about this and Oswin and Hector make up.
Look at that supercilious smirk. Youd think Hector would have his angry face on by now but
But hes had enough of Nergals crap and isnt going to give him the satisfaction of reacting to it.
Nergal explains his excuse here, hes not a monster because Hector and the others take energy from others too. Hed have a semi-legitimate point if not for what Athos points out again now.
As Athos has pointed out before, he and Nergal differed only in their methods- not wanting more power and knowledge.
I also like how he makes his point with his usual calm sagaciousness.
By taking this lazy shortcut, Nergal is not only wronging the people he kills but also failing to learn anything of value.
Nergal is unmasked! Both literally and figuratively as we now see that his calm and mocking exterior was covering his anger and pain at having been betrayed and nearly killed by Athos hundreds of years ago.
There should probably have been different music playing now.
His face does look messed up pretty bad now, but oddly it really doesnt in the unmasking painting for some reason.
Unshakeable faith is now getting kind of overplayed. Its really great and epic sounding, but theyve used it like 6 times now, sometimes before complete anti-climaxes like running off to do 32x suddenly.
Hectors attitude is, as usual, a stark contrast to Eliwood who tells Nergal that he pities him for having lost his humanity.
Back to Battle Preparations & the Map:
So a decision of mixed merits was made in this chapter to not let you view the map beforehand. This preserves the surprise and dramatic reveal pretty well, but on the other hand this is supposed to be a strategy game. Choosing units and items should happen after you know at least some of what youre up against.
At first glance the obvious solution would be to have battle preparations begin right now, rather than early, but that has the downside of killing the drama. The big scenes just happened, the big fight is just about to begin- you dont want to interrupt that with 30 minutes of trading swords around.
I dont think theres a good method to have it both ways here. But for purposes of this LP, I need my formation and I need my gear to be perfect for the operations I need to conduct. I cant use a semi-random formation and no foreknowledge of enemy stats like the one Im about to get now.
Now as youve surely noticed, not being able to view the map on battle preparations means I cant decide my formation.
Just what people I bring and what they have. But its not that bad! Its not like the early levels where I really had no control. No, here they just dont tell you the method you can use to take control of your formation.
Heres what Id start with given the exact character list I just showed you. For once, order matters. The guy in the number 6 spot on the list (Raven) ends up in that precise spot on the map.
So although Hector, lyn, Eliwood, Athos, and Nilss positions are fixed, you can change up the other 7 by selecting and deselecting them and clicking in and out of the Pick Units menu until their order corresponds to the spaces you want them in. So Im going to look at the map, then restart the chapter and use my newfound knowledge to come up with a strategy that I think will serve as a good capstone to this LP.
Here it is, the final battle! The Dragons Gate looks grand, and awesome, and alien in its architecture as it always does. A very cool and unsettling and sinister place, as appropriate for a battle against something like Nergal.
Much like Jermes version of Pale Flower of Darkness, many of the starting enemies are initially hidden from view in the rooms around the edge of the map. Having seen those people in the previous cutscene, we have some idea of who to expect, but not whos where. This is almost a cool idea, but combined with having to go in blind the first time, it makes this chapter too reliant on the kind of guess and check gameplay I hate. It worked pretty well for Jermes chapter because there you 1) chose when the doors opened, allowing you to position whatever array of units you thought would help nearby first and 2) could see most of the other enemies on the map anyway. Here the doors open on their own (in a sequence that isnt hinted at in game and you have no other revealed enemies that you could be countering at least.
Its still a pretty cool level in my opinion, but that was a bad design decision.
Anyway, Ive given the turn number of when the doors open and also circled the positions of every enemy of note. Red circles for the most dangerous enemies (due to gear or stats) and black for the less problematic ones. There are also a few reinforcements from the top and bottom after the door to Nergal opens when the last main room morph is killed, but I will beat this chapter too fast to care about those. Oh and besides the Berserk staff druid theres a sage in the room with Nergal, but he has nothing important and is no threat.
On Victory or Death the enemies werent more powerful but their gear was. Here theres a MAJOR jump in enemy strength as the enemy are suddenly all level 20 promoted and armed with absolutely top notch gear- including the S-rank weapons of each category. If you try to fight them in the middle of the room, theyll surely overwhelm you and slaughter your weak characters, so you have to spread out in several directions and take the fight to them.
Its a very dynamic and high energy map despite nothing going on but fighting and is a fun chance to really put your characters to the test against their equals to betters. Nergal himself is disappointingly easy in comparison.
Athos joins up with some fancy new toys. Heres Forblaze, interestingly called Dragons Breath by Nergal and the Purest Fire. Its clearly a weapon that gets a lot of respect in universe. Unlike in 6, its Prf to Athos. Unfortunately, its just not much good for him. Besides that Luna is better than everything, its a ton worse than Excalibur, obtained here, and also than Aureoloa, which Athos starts with. And it slows him down with him not being very fast to begin with. Also +5 Luck? Ill pass.
Now HEREs a weapon! Since Athos has very good Con for a mage, isnt too fast regardless, and has the Mag and Res to really do well in giant tome slugfests, hes a pretty good wielder of St. Elimines weapon. Besides being stronger and more accurate than his own weapon, it also grants +5 to a much handier stat and is super-effective AND has weapon triangle advantage against Nergal. As Athos says, it rends his dark cloak and does him much harm. He doesnt stand a chance in fact.
The Blazing Sword itself! Durandal is an awesome weapon, hitting harder than pretty much anything in the game due to its Str bonus and massive Might, but its really heavy. And Eliwood isnt that big. If youre not doing a max ranking run, give him a Body Ring or two and his power becomes absolutely amazing.
Besides being Lightning-charged, Armads gives +5 to the very useful Def. Its not as good on offense as Durandal or even the Basilikos axe - actually, but Hector has the Con to wield it with only a minor speed penalty and it makes him nearly invulnerable. Rightly called a legendary weapon.
Rightly not called a legendary weapon, the Sol Katti is an absolutely horrible weapon for Lyn. Its super-effective against wyverns (not that there are any here) and dragons, but its low Might and gigantic weight mean its terrible for that purpose. And indeed for pretty much every purpose. Lyn has 6 Con so it gives her -8 speed. Even if she has 30, that drops her low enough that many enemies on this level can double her. And she wont double anything and takes a painful -16 penalty to avoid. Also? The silver sword has more power and only slows her by 2. This is a terrible weapon. I would rather have an iron sword for most purposes. And the Mani Katti, this weapons sister sword apparently (Id like to know more about their history) is far superior.
Now that Ive looked over the new toys, heres the formation I went with:
Objective: Kill Nergal (his chamber opens when all the morphs in the 6 mini rooms are dead)
Secondary Objective: Dont drop Uhais Rienfleche
Secondary Objective: Dont drop Kenneths Luce
Secondary Objective: Dont drop Random Druids Gespenst
Secondary Objective: Dont drop Darins Rex Hasta
Secondary Objective: Dont drop Brendans Basilikos
Secondary Objective: Dont drop Ursulas Excalibur
Secondary Objective: Dont drop Lloyds Regal Blade
Reinforcements: Besides the room opening order as noted on the map, 3 generals spawn in the south and 2 druids in the north one turn after Nergals door opens. That should never happen if youre playing efficiently.
Turn Limit: 10 (Technically 8 for this one and 2 for the second part of this chapter, but yeah 10. Interestingly, its still 10 in normal mode but with 9 for part 1 and 1 for part 2.) This is very doable, but theres no time to waste. And its hard to shave turns off that time given that the final door to the morph rooms wont open till turn 6.
Units Allowed: 7 + Hector + Eliwood + Lyn + Athos + Nils. Quite a few. If all but Lyn werent good or great units it might feel like a much tighter limit given how many fronts have to be fought on though.
1) Hector. Required and great. Having at last become the prophesied steel warrior to be feared, Hector can take on any enemy or enemies on the chapter and win. So hell go pulverize the hardest one on the chapter.
2) Lyn. Required and useless. Im sure shes trying, but Lyn has been out of her league both in statistics and the story for a long time. Even if you had her 20/20 shes not useful here and mine isnt even quite 20 unpromoted. She cant scratch anything and will be instant killed by everything. She cant even rescue people around.
3) Eliwood. Required and very good. The greatest knight in all of Lycia is somewhat out of his element here since hes best where mobility and tanking magical and physical attacks at once are important. Still, he can crush nearly anyone on the level and now has as much avoid as Nils with almost 60 HP and awesome Def and Res. He cant be killed, hes just not the best on offense.
4) Athos. Required and great. Brokenly powerful, he can actually solo Nergal with 100% success rate, no tricks of any kind necessary. Hes better than Canas at most of what being Canas entails, including staff use courtesy of his instant S and matchless magic power. His staff range IS the screen. Still not as fast though, thats his weakness, and his defenses are only pretty good so I dont want him being attacked by people with weapons.
5) Nils. Required and great. As usual, Nils is as good as the best person on the team and then some. As usual, most advanced strategies depend on him.
6) Canas. Nearly as good as Athos and still the most versatile character around, hes fast enough to double most things, is never doubled himself, can take hits from anything, deals massive damage with flux, can kill anything in the game with a shot or two of Luna, and is the second greatest staff user available. This level really plays to his strengths too.
7) Pent. A decent mage, and a really good staff user. Mostly I want to have someone here to wield Physic and the like who has the Mag for it and doesnt have the skills to do something more important.
8) Erk. Can actually beat Athos in an anima fight now, having pretty much capped everything. Erk is one of my strongest characters, but his lack of Luna and staves means hes not very versatile.
9) Nino. Too low level and didnt turn out well. Nino isnt really useful here, but I pretty much have an extra spot on the team. And as Canas once put it, she can take care of herself and perhaps others.
10) Heath. Hard as Hector, strong as Sain, mobile as Fiora, quick as Eliwood. And not even fully grown yet. Heath is a god tier unit as usual and will have an important job backing up anyone who needs help with his high mobility.
11) Raven. The fastest team member and also one of the strongest, but he doesnt have any of those fancy special features like a legendary weapon or 8 move or Luna or staves, so hes really only good at one thing.
12) Sain. Sain is pretty much at the end of his rope here. If enemies could get any stronger, hed quickly become very weak but hes juuuuuuuuuust good enough to still be very useful. Cant take a hit and no longer is more mobile or stronger than the other team members, but hes still at least good in those categories.
Notable Units Rejected:
1) Florina. Stopped being at all useful like 5 chapters ago. She cant scratch anything, she gets outspeeded and 2-hit killed by everything.
2) Fiora. Fiora is usually really good here, but mine is 4 or 5 speed behind on average. So she gets doubled. That makes her not really viable except for rescue-dropping. If Nino wasnt useful here though, Id find a way to make her work.
3) Renault. If I found I needed more healing, Id bring him instead of Nino. Hes good at that, just nothing else.
4) Vaida. Too slow, no res. She would be the last person Id seriously consider for Ninos slot if Nino didnt work though.
Everyones job is decided, everyone is positioned with that in mind. This will be an opening move to remember.
Ill explain their gear as it comes up so you can better see how it fits together.
The most important thing is to make sure everyone who might kill someone who has an S-rank weapon has an empty inventory slot- or will have one by then. Thats harder than it sounds because Merlinus is full. Absolutely full. And so is every characters inventory except for a grand total of 3 open slots before I started rearranging stuff. Without selling or dropping things, itll be hard to fit 7 new items into 3 slots.
You You truly are Rolands children. I am old I did not expect anything to surprise me again, and yet Athos, Chapter 31
Last chapter, last new character. Athos is one of my favorite characters. Hes a lot like Marcus really, a man with contagious self-confidence derived from being a master in his field and living his life the way he wants to.
Hes very wise and definitely a rather affable and even outgoing fellow despite living such a secretive life. But he also has a roguish streak that adds a lot of depth to the character. He lies, he tricks you, he jokes, and he does his own thing rather than run around solving everyone elses problems. One of mankinds greatest champions, but hes living his own life rather bring completely consumed by the responsibilities of being the most powerful force for good in the setting.
He has an evident love for his fellow humans, as befits one of the 8 legends, and though he says that having lived a thousand years and grown beyond such seemingly basic needs as food and sleep hes no longer quite human, its clear from his lasting friendship with the other legends and the new ones he forms with the main characters that hes still a human being in every way that really matters.
Hes not unambiguously the very best magic user in the game, but hes pretty darned close. He starts with an S rank in every type of magic and with staves, giving him remarkable versatility. In particular, his 30 Mag makes him the best user of luna and stave both. With 20 speed and an unmatched (Renault doesnt count) 9 Con, hes also very fast. Fast enough to double Nergal with many weapons. And hes impervious to magic attack and highly resistant to physical ones while packing a significant amount of dodge.
In short, he hits like a truck, is nearly invulnerable, is pretty fast, and has a versatility even Canas cant match. A fantastic character.
Even better than a 20/20 Rath, Uhai is the most dangerous bow user I can recall in any FE. Nothing is capable of doubling him under any circumstances, hes tougher than most of the tanky enemies on this chapters, and he basically cant miss.
Thankfully this is a lie, its just a normal bow. But 43 damage, incredible accuracy, and the speed to double nearly anyone (even my speed-capped Heath, whod otherwise be my best tank with a Delphi shield), combined with his massive HP and defenses makes him one of the most dangerous enemies in the whole game. It doesnt help that hes loose at the start and has 8 move and you cant have Hector or Athos or the like start in range of him. Oh and the formation in his room means only 1-2 people at most can attack him and they need 8 move.
Look at that smug smirk. Kenneth thinks hes all that, but he has a pitiful 13 speed and unimpressive damage. And high Res has been a complete non-issue since the first time we reached the Dragons Gate and got Luna.
The crit range on Luce would be fairly threatening if Canas and Athos werent impervious to magic. Indeed, its pretty easy to get very high Res in this game.
Uhai is tougher overall and hits just as hard with 12 more speed. And that 16 Res isnt terrible, but its not going to keep him alive if I throw a magic attack his way. A simple hammer can deal massive damage to him anyway
Since hes lance-locked. His accuracy is low enough that you can dodge him, though you cant count on it, Not a threat really. Nor is his one ally, though at least that guy has an axe too.
Im not sure why Brendan has an affinity when none of these other guys do. He hits very hard and hes fairly tough but nothing special.
This is a pretty sweet axe. Its significantly stronger and lighter than Armads, though it has no Def bonus.
30 skill? Oh no! And hes an assassin so half of his crits are instant kills!
Kidding. They gave him a Runesword, meaning he has 0 crit rate at all times and his serious 24 speed drops down to an easily double-able 19. Also his damage drops to 22 (targeting Res) which means its easily possible to field a character whos completely impervious to his attacks. Jerme is a joke. The only thing he has going for him is that if you send someone to fight him who he can hurt, his sword will heal him by a potentially significant amount.
Youll notice, by the way, that even though you cant fight both Kenneth and Jerme in the same playthough, theyre both dead and their quintessences used to make morphs. Just how this happened is ambiguous. One possibility is that Limstella just killed the other one when the whole fortress was comproised. Another possibility is that Harken, who was in that fortress to kill black fang leaders and is said in his supports to have killed one of them, killed the other one. And a third is that the dead one was on mission with Jaffar before Four-Fanged Offense. Whatever he was doing it was so dangerous that he, more powerful than either of them, was mortally wounded and barely limped back to collapse in front of Nino who barely managed to save his life.
When first fought, Ursula was perhaps the most powerful enemy faced to date. Now shes back and better than ever by a ton. Except her Res is actually 1 point lower. Still better than everyone in the game except Kenneth and Nergal. You could Luna her if you have 2 tomes, but really youre better off using that on Kenneth and his gang if you only have one. Her Def isnt exactly soft when combined with solid speed and good HP, but its low enough you can deal real damage.
And this tome slows her down to a more manageable 38, though she hits harder than Kenneth and even has a crit chance. Shes probably the 3rd biggest threat on the level and not to be taken lightly.
This guy is the biggest. He doubles everything, he dodges everything, he has the best all around defenses, he has a support bonus with Linus for even more awesomeness, he cant miss, he crits like a beast, and he deals massive damage anyway.
Tailor made for him, this sword does not mess around. Fortunately, we have the two pieces of gear needed to defeat him easily.
Almost as tough and not as easily countered, but nowhere near as much of an offensive powerhouse. The only problem is that you have to kill Lloyd first and then hack down his 63 HP with him not coming out till turn 6 and do it without Luna so that tome is ready to go after Nergal.
Oh and his weapons may not hurt, but they do make it hard to kill him. He cant just be countered the way Lloyd can and with his tomahawk hell stay out of range unless youre coming after him with magic- in which case his weapons WILL hurt.
I have power now. Nothing else matters. I will open the Dragons Gate and get even more power The power to defeat anyone. Power Nergal, Chapter 19xx
Im so glad he doesnt have 30 Def, that would just be crazy. Nergal is the biggest mage in the game and the toughest, but that counts for absolutely nothing in a game with Luna flying around. The big problem is theres this other spell besides Luna that totally wastes him. And he doesnt move. So there exist no circumstances under which hes a threat at all. You have to choose to put someone he can kill in his range and you can pretty much freely rescue and heal people out of his range. Really there is no excuse ever for losing to him. Batta was more of a threat.
With these stats, he could actually have been a pretty cool boss if he moved. Picture even just him as the only enemy on a maze-like part of the Dragons Gate armed with Berserk, Bolting, an Elixir, Nosferatu, and Ereshkigal. Moving by teleporting within 6 squares. That could be a pretty serious and cool challenge. A bit like Fomortiis actually but with the terrain not making him trivial.
Fire Emblem has a serious final boss problem. The only two that were remotely interesting to fight were Fomortiis who moved and had 3 different attacks and also summoned some respectable minions but could unfortunately be blitzed and instant killed with Myrrh or the legendary weapons and Ashera who wasnt as easy to deal with, but basically relied on the game not telling you what moves she had and randomness for all her challenge. The weird thing is it would be really, really easy to make cool final boss challenges for this kind of game. They just consistently fail to do so and we get things like Nergal more often than not.
Named for the mythological Nergals wife, Ereshkigal is a formidable tome. But again, it doesnt matter. The most obvious imaginable way to beat him works with 100% certainty and there is 0 chance of him ever killing anyone unless you choose to put someone weak in his 1-2 range and then not heal or rescue them.
Oh well. He was a pretty awesome villain even if hes a lousy fight.