Now that we've busted into Castle Aegis and gotten Anakin a promotion...
Let's go straight to the prep screen! This chapter doesn't have any pre-map plot stuff, which makes a lot more sense than hiring a merchant right inside the front door.
Personally, I hate this map. It's a stupid spiral design that forces you to tread every inch of it, but there aren't enough strong enemies to actually keep things interesting.
Also, the boss has worse gear than Howard and is, overall, significantly less of a challenge. He's pretty tough, mind you, but his loadout isn't anywhere near as threatening, and that makes all the difference.
Before we delve into the map, you guys voted for Emma to be our healer, so let's hop right to that.
15 defense on our primary healer. That's a hilarious amount for a magic user.
: You're still here, General? What a disgrace. You left your soldiers to flee inside here, and you think you can order me around? I should have you killed, General.
: It's no use. These people are...
: Out of my sight, Howard! I'll fend for myself, without you around! The Emperor doesn't need weaklings like you!
Howard has a number of changes to his conversations if Cia didn't talk to him. For instance:
: Commander Earnest...Let us regroup, and...
: Tsk, tsk, tsk. So you've run here with your tail between your legs, have you? Now that you've lost, I am in command. If you aren't a traitor, then you may as well fight. Fight for His Majesty out on the front lines!
: Commander, I am injured. Have mercy...
: Me, have mercy, on you? You've lost your battle, and now it has become my burden. Look at what you've done! Get out of my sight, Howard! I have no use for you!
Man, that just isn't right. We're going to have to teach that pudgy fellow a lesson.
This one is just...kind of there. The original theme took a while to get going too, but this is basically the same beat with a few additions, and I didn't even listen all the way.
As always, we start surrounding by dudes. They're easily dealt with.
Doing animations frame by frame lets me see some pretty interesting things sometimes. For instance, look at how happy Ben's wyvern is to be charging face first at an enemy.
I've had some problems with this particular mage, so with Anakin's help, I'm just going to deal with him now.
No special tricks with these soldiers, so Mark's ideal for smacking them down.
And he's only getting stronger. But, alarmingly, not faster.
Hello...what's this knight up to?
We'll have time to worry about that once we get there.
Blah blah, good job with redundancies, blah.
Dang! I could get some use out of this.
It's okay to live dangerously when you've got enough defense to not care.
Well, to be honest, he could use those stats.
Since Althares has reached his max potential until he promotes, Tekun is taking up the mantle of swordbearer.
That's the way to do it, buddy.
I'm seriously considering switching you out for a prepromote, Zach. Think on that.
As already stated, I don't like how simple this map is for its size. If you're going to make something this big, you can't send one or two dudes at me at a time.
Still, they're experience.
So to explain what the deal is with this knight: Blazer doesn't understand how to code AI to not use door keys. This will be a recurring theme wherever there are doors and keys with which to open said doors.
Jeez, Blazer! You couldn't have spaced these things out a bit better?
I don't know whether Karina or Ben is a better unit right now, so I guess I'll just use both of them. They're better than our Pegasi, at any rate.
Come on, Ace, you can do better than this, especially you're going to have competition right about...
: Well, if I'm going to betray Magnus, I guess now is the time. I should probably join forces with the rebels, huh...
Rex isn't much better than Ace, frankly. You could probably get away with not using either of the soldiers, since Kevin is a much better lance specialist than both of them.
Not to say that we should just ignore Rex. For starters, having him in our party is the requirement for a gaiden. And who knows, if Ace continues on his campaign of mediocrity, we may have to pick him up instead, or forget about using soldiers period, but I hope it doesn't come to that.
You know, I never had these problems with Althares.
In order to break up the monotony, Blazer has seeded a couple promoted enemies amongst the rabble. They're not exciting.
Even Rex, as mundane as he is, is able to survive an encounter with one of these guys.
You can't let him beat you, can you, Ace?
Hey, more strength for Shon! As we all know, every man's journey has to involve performance-enhancing supplements somewhere.
What's notable about Rex is that both Anakin and Kevin can recruit him. Our depressed knight fellow doesn't tend to get a lot of time in the spotlight.
: Umm, yes. You see, I'm actually on your side... This is Magnian armor, but I uh... turned-coat, and...
: I was once a Magnian knight. Join us. You are welcome here. The commanders are kind.
: A-Alright. My name is Rex. You can trust me.
: ...I am Kevin. Nice to meet you. Good luck out on the battlefield.
: Well, I did what I wanted to. I've joined the rebellion. Now I have to get into the action.
Don't hold your breath, kid. Here's his little talk with Anakin, for comparison purposes:
: Hey! Um, peace!
: Hey--who are you?!
: Now's probably not the time to explain my situation. I'm on your side! Seriously! Well, I was a Magnian soldier, but... um...
: You're on our side, right? That's all that's important. Welcome aboard, um...
: The name is Rex. Although I was a Magnian soldier, I don't agree with this war or its methods. They brainwash us that all other people of Solum are inferior, but... I know better than this. Let me fight. I can't do anything else but fight. It's the only thing I can do to redeem myself.
: Say no more. Your intentions are clear. I'm Anakin, one of the commanders. We're glad to have you, Rex.
Kind of depressing, really.
Here's a good-sized ambush.
Too bad we outnumber them two to one.
And since I forgot to do it until practically when the chapter was over...
Not a very inspiring collection, honestly. Other than the Killer Lance and Hero's Flare, this stuff is mostly pointless.
I feel like I've seen this level before.
Honestly, if this thief knew what he was doing, he probably would have taken advantage of the open door in the bottom left and skedaddled.
It's mine, I tell you! The AI can't have any of this.
An axe-shaped Eclipse tome with an actually decent hit rate. What's not to love about this?
Especially since our newest axe user has a very respectable hit rate.
Perhaps I was a little premature in snagging that treasure though, since the thief's on the way back now.
Man, Shon. Without sport supplements, you would be even more terrible.
I mean, at least Ace has a decent amount of speed.
I haven't shown off Anakin's animation yet, mostly because there's barely any animation to it. He just raises his arm and stretches it out.
I guess that leveling spree was just a fluke.
Get out of here, thief man.
The game's nice enough to just hand you the thief's lockpicks when he's dead, so now we really don't have to worry about running out for a long time.
As we approach the paladin, perhaps we should observe his equipment really quickly.
Don't worry for our protagonists, it means the class. That 40 damage, therefore, is entirely exaggerated.
I'm going to make something of you if it kills me.
Seriously, stop giving me these! My cavaliers are crud, my soldiers aren't much better, and I've only got one knight.
See what I mean about the cavaliers? Although in Shon's case, he needs a Heaven Seal to promote.
Good thing our magicians are quite usable. I'll need to get Cia her promotion.
Karina and Ben will like this. Too bad there's only one.
How do you manage that with those growths?
Just a little bit more to go.
That's one flashy poison spell.
Get that mess out of here.
That's our Shuuda!
Not sure who could use the Luck most. I'll have to think on this one.
Okay, boss time!
Blazer, have you considered subletting your writing out to someone else?
Earnest might be fat enough to double Shon, but he can't do much with just that Javelin.
And of course, Kelik is strong enough to go toe-to-toe with him, easy.
Perhaps a little too strong!
Any Princess Bride references, and I'm turning this LP around.
Woo! That's either 10000 gold or a promotion for a character of my choosing. I'll have to see if someone competent rises.
Speaking of which:
It's time for another black-paletted spellcaster to strut her stuff. Told you that promotions would be coming quickly.
: I can't let him get away.
: Don't fret, Kelik. We have time.
: ...You sure about that? You seem pretty relaxed. Aren't you worried?
: ...No, I...
: Don't worry about Howard. You try to find the Duke. I won't kill Howard. I know you still have to talk to him.
: Urgh... Okay...
: Sieg, you okay? You've been acting more weird than usual. I normally wouldn't care, but if you're tired, don't force yourself to work. You'll only be a nuisance.
: ...I'm fine. Just a headache. And thanks for the confidence vote, Kelik.
Could it be that Siegfried has...the Anime Sickness?!
No, that's silly. He's not coughing enough.
Fortunately, Howard is just waiting here, off to the side.
: You must have realized the futility of escaping. It's not like we had any plans of letting you go anywhere. Why did you run away from us back there? You didn't even end up fighting us again.
: I'm... sorry. I couldn't... I've no wish to fight you any longer. Were my heart my master, I would join you...
: Join us? You mean, betray your country, and your Emperor?
: Yes, but... I could not do such a thing. I owe my very life to the Emperor.
: ...Hm. What's made you question what you're doing? Why wait until now to wish such a thing?
: One of your soldiers... Made me question. Although I have always had... doubts.
As I said, talking to him with Cia has very strong effects. It basically turns this chapter's story around.
: Do you find honor in killing innocent people in the name of your liege?
: No man... who calls himself a knight... Can honor such a deed...
: ...Howard. I can prove to you that the path you are taking is not the best one there is. Tell us about the Emperor. If your sense of justice waivers(sic) because of this man, then... Perhaps he is not the culprit. There may be someone else manipulating him.
: ...Your sword belies your intelligence.
Aka he thinks Kelik is dumb.
: The senate has a large amount of power. They were the ones who took away my position, and assigned me to the task of destroying the rebellion, instead of guarding His Majesty. However, as long as I served him, I neither questioned nor regretted anything.
: Magnus's senate, huh? Very little is known about them, except that they hold political power. And I know... my brother, Leon, is amongst them. But anyway...
Wait, Senators...have political power? Well done, Kelik! You've cracked the case!
: You can either help us on our quest and become a traitor, or we can force the information out of you. One path can redeem yourself for all the crimes you have committed in the name of your Emperor. The other path will lead to suffering and prison. I speak bluntly, but only for your own good.
Well, with that offer, how could he refuse?
: ...I... will cooperate. Yet, I cannot join you. I could not face my country and fight its people. Even if it is just-
: I never said anything about joining us. You haven't earned our trust yet. Just now you were our enemy, regardless of your intentions. Next, you'll become our prisoner. Although you have some choice about what you're going to do... Siegfried ultimately decides how he wants to deal with you.
Man, even when Kelik negotiates with people, he's a jerk. But it's better than this alternative conversation:
: Howard! You were sulking in the castle all along, huh?
: You must have realized the futility of escpaing. I didn't have any plans of letting you go anywhere. I'm going to lock you up in prison and make you suffer. That way you'll have time to think about all you've done. But first, you have to answer some questions.
: Kill me now. I will not resist.
: Hey, I'm calling the shots here. You have some questions to answer, Howard. I'll start very simple. Who is your Emperor?
: You're making this hard. Who is your Emperor?
: ...Alright. I figured this would happen. We'll have to interrogate you properly later. Until then, you can rot in a prison. I'll tell Siegfried to visit you later.
: ...Why... do you detest me so...?
: Because I can't stand scum like you who just fight for their liege. You should care more about whether what you're doing is right or wrong. That's why I can't be a soldier. To be a soldier is to follow orders. To be a mercenary is to be free. Freedom. I have the freedom to do what is right.
Good lord! Reveling in torture, smug superiority, gloating...I'm hitting Kelik Bingo here! Good thing that this isn't the option we're going for, because man, do I want to punch him right now.
Plus, we don't get Howard. Spoilers.
: It's no use, Dad. I checked all the rooms... It looks like they were only there a short while ago. Maybe Magnus somehow took them and ran away during the battle.
: Urgh... It doesn't add up. How would they get out of the castle without us noticing?! They would need some outstanding magic to warp so many people...
: Thank goodness. You've saved us quite a bit of trouble. My name is Siegfried. I am the primary Commander of Solum's Rebellion.
: And I am Yue, a scholar of Aegis. I've heard much about you, Siegfried...
: I can only hope you have heard good things.
: Indeed. You are well-known amongst the Valencian people, despite Magnus's attempts to silence your rebellion. Siegfried, we have a lot to talk about. But first, these civilians must return to their homes. When Magnus prepared to defend this Castle, its nearest civilians were taken into it. Much have they suffered in this castle since then. After that, the Duke would like to see you.
: That sounds like a plan, Yue.
I like Yue as well. He's very straightforward and friendly, and there's very little to protest about.
Later that day...
: This is Commander Siegfried, leader of the rebel army.
: I am glad to see you are well, Duke Paul.
: It's only because of you that I've survived. Commander Siegfried... You have done so much. I... don't know where to start. We are truly indebted to you.
: Duke, think little-
: Commander, let me properly thank you. Please. Our people have been miserable since the day Magnus took over. On that day, their Mage General warped hundreds of troops here. We were instantly attacked, and within minutes, defeated. Our soldiers had no time to mount a proper defense. The evacuating villagers were all... murdered.
: Murdered?! Not even Magnus would...
Like heck they wouldn't. Aren't you the one talking about how awful Magnus is all the time?
: There is no other word to describe that slaughtering. The Magnian soldiers beat anyone they saw. Only those who hid and groveled were kept alive. It's because the Magnians see themselves as superior. Better than all the other people of Solum.
: ...I've heard of this. They discriminate against those who aren't from Magnus, correct? Even within their own ranks, mercenaries were treated worse... I have not seen much of this in-person, but it sounds horrid.
Yes you did! You totally did! Have you forgotten all that stuff from Act 1?
: That's right. You've saved us from this never-ending nightmare. Now that I've told you the events of that day... Can you understand what your deeds mean to the people?
: ...I am only glad that I could be of service, Duke.
: Commander. This war's been taken to another level now. Magnus won't hold back any longer.
How prophetic that is. We'll see in the next few chapters, but we have hit a turning point in the game's difficulty curve.
: Yue has informed me about the status of the war in other areas. I'm sure he could fill you in on the details later. But first, you and your men have to rest.
: If that isn't any trouble for you, we'd appreciate it.
: Yes. I don't think you should be called a Commander anymore. You're too important a figure to not be called a General. I made this decision only moments ago, but I'm sure your soldiers will agree.
No flashing lights or stat boosts, unfortunately, but I'm sure the new title is important...somehow.
: I suppose I cannot argue here... I'll just have to get used to it.
Well, General or not, Siegfried is too much of an EXP sucker to be worth using on a regular basis. The only way you're going to make me use him is if the game forces me to.
Next Time: I have to use him. Fortunately, there's plenty of enemy units to go around.
Weapon Ranks: C in lances
HP: 25 (80%) Lck: 13 (45%)
Str: 13 (40%) Def: 12 (35%)
Skl: 9 (40%) Res: 4 (25%)
Spd: 11 (45%) Con: 9
Rex's bases are quite respectable, but his growths...well, they're pretty much Ace's, except with +/-5% here and there. If your Ace isn't working out, maybe you could try him instead. His stats start out well enough that you might be able to get some use out of him, but with no growths even at 50%, he's a bit more dependent on luck than other characters might be. Rex is basically okay. Very average, much like Ace.