Brother pitted against brother! Except not really.
We open on Holton Cabal, having a good rant.
: Their hesitation has gotten Lanmark killed... and I will not be the next. Tell them this, soldier: Holton Cabal waits on no one!
That's a hint about his particular boss behavior, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
: Don't celebrate yet, Anakin! They could send reinforcements any minute now. Let's clear this area out!
: What are you doing here, Shon? Stay in the back lines.
: I can fight too.
: Are you well enough? I don't believe that you can handle coming back to the front lines all of a sudden. Don't unnecessarily push yourself.
: I won't... I just decided... to do what I can.
: ...That is all we CAN do, Shon. Try and be in strong spirits, Shon. Now's the decisive battle. We need you and everyone else now more than ever, okay?
: I... know... I just... feel heavy. Until now, I couldn't even pick myself up... But then I remembered...
: Remembered what?
: What he said to me, once... "Believe in me." I thought I was believing in him... and... I thought he had disappointed me... But really, that's not what he meant, right? He wanted me to believe in something greater... To believe in what he was fighting for, and what he was trying to do...
: That's right, Shon... We've seen it while coming here. The nobles hate us, but some of the Magnian peasants practically welcome us. Magnus has made soldiers of so many Magnian men, only to sacrifice them in their foolish war.
What does this have to do with Shon's desire to fight?
: ...I hate to break up the reunion, but if you guys are ready, I'd like to end this foolish war. And I need you two to help me to do it.
But before we do that...
How's about we meet a bunch of people we've never seen before? Well, actually we've met one of them before, but that was an older version of him. From left to right, these are Apollo, Nyros, Marion, and Viola.
: That's right, you decrepit old man. Now that your old buddy is gone, what will you do?
: Do not be so rude, Senator Viola.
: Tsch. And YOU don't belittle me.
: ...Let us start this meeting. Now, the very foundation of Magnus has fallen... The rebel army has come for us, unknowing of our own problems... This means that, for the time being, we must put aside Lahar and the Emperor, as well as our egos... And form a plan to defend the heart of Magnus.
: Speaking of Lahar... We were fools to ever let him get close to the Emperor. Now that His Majesty has come so close, he refuses to let go...
: The Emperor has been obsessed with Lahar's experiments for what seems like years now. That is not my problem, though. I find it more disturbing that, after all we have gone through, the tide has changed, and we are the prey, hiding from the dogs! Hmph! If this job did not pay well, that swordsman and I both would have left by now!
If you haven't gathered, these people are the Magnian Senate. We've heard about them, and an older version of Marion was seen in one of the villages (he was this guy with the long blond hair, and now he's this short bald guy. Guess Blazer forgot to change him).
Personally, I think it's rather poor form to wait until near the end of the game to introduce them, since it means that none of them will have an opportunity to properly develop.
: We are undoubtedly losing this war, whether we admit it or not.
: What makes them so strong? As much as I know their weaknesses, I cannot find their strength... How have they made it this far, into the heart of Magnus? What have we done wrong that lets them succeed as they do...?
: Indeed... Do you know, Senator Viola? Or you, Red Sage Apollo?
: If I had known, don't you think I would have suggested some military policy to counteract it? Of course I don't know!
: ...I do know. It is their allies.
: Allies, huh?
: Allies? You mean, not in numbers, but...
No, the reason why we're winning is because we've been fighting a progressively more difficult array of enemies, resulting in us growing powerful enough to defeat the best of the best. But sure, let's go with the "Allies" idea.
: If it is a war of "allies", then let use our "allies" too.
: ...I can already see what kind of ridiculous schemes you have in mind. I have no wish to partake in this discussion anymore. I shall send for Senator Leon, and you can plan the rest on your own.
: Then what will you do, Senator Apollo? Every time, you are the first to leave the meetings... What is the purpose of even coming to them, then?
: My presence here won't accomplish anything. I must talk to the Mage General to plan ahead of time... I beg your leave.
One thing only slightly touched upon in the story is that Apollo used to be the Mage General of Magnus until Galagar replaced him. This is interesting stuff, but since we only just met him, it's hard to really sympathize.
Are you ready for a bit of a jog? Chapter 26 introduces a number of odd gimmicks, the first of which is these four castles: two in the northeast, one in the south, and Castle Magnus in the northwest. We've got to capture them in order, whether with Anakin or Kelik, and the last one has to be captured after Holton is dead, otherwise it doesn't count.
The chapter has a time limit too, although a very generous one. We've got 72 turns to clear the entire map, but I've managed to consistently finish in the 20's and 30's. The more fliers you have, the faster this map becomes.
Holton's stats are more than a little absurd. If there's some consolation, it's that he can't actually use his weapons without lowering his speed. However, he'll still be doubling almost our entire team, and hitting them for heavy damage. Oh, and he's got 10 move, and he doesn't stay on his gate. That last little detail caught me by surprise the first time I fought him.
Some of the enemies have some interesting weapons to hand out. For instance, this fellow with a renamed Silence staff has a decent chance of actually pulling off a successful Silence.
And this weapon? Possibly one of the most fascinating dark magic tomes I've seen. Munio gives an absurd bonus to defenses and luck, but has very limited uses of its own. And since you have to counter-attack in this game, Munio is effectively a limited use barrier against harm.
: Leave a few forces back to protect our rear against reinforcements! Otherwise, we push straight forward! It's all or nothing! The villages should all be evacuated, but see if there are any useful items left behind. Otherwise, just leave the gates open! We don't have time to worry about details!
: I've called in some of our old friends, too, Anakin. If they join up with us, there's no chance we'll lose!
What Kelik's referencing will become clear several turns down the line. Suffice to say that this chapter has quite a few surprises lurking within those 72 turns.
No new songs, which is odd for such a lategame chapter.
Goes without saying, of course, but these enemies are top-of-the-line. This Hero, for instance, is Level 20 promoted, making him really difficult to beat.
Ace has speed on his counterpart Halberdiers, but they are considerably stronger.
He's working on it.
Random crits are your friend. I hate to give a gameplay tip that's essentially "Get Lucky!" but sometimes that's all you can do.
There's a certain part of me that wants Kevin to give up defense in favor of speed, but that's not his place.
That Hero gave Kevin a very powerful Light tome. Alustrona grants +5 to Magic and Defense, Anakin's weakest stats, making him a superman when he wields it.
Join the club, Anakin.
Tekun could stand to be a little faster, given his class, but I love the defense.
Since it is so close to the end of the game, Ben's breaking out Sylmeria. He'll appreciate the power.
It's good to have you back.
Needless to say, a map this huge has reinforcements. Getting out of this starting area can be a bit of a chore.
Albeit quite profitable.
I do appreciate the fact that Liquid is defying his growths. The kid needs as much durability as he can muster.
Since Yue is one of the characters farthest back in terms of levels, I gave him Blazer's Drops, which means that he now has 5% extra in every growth. I hope they serve him well.
Kelik needs no bonus, but that's already been established. That'll actually cap him out in strength.
Storm's speed has already been well established.
Along with his somewhat mediocre levels.
Emma's levels haven't been that outstanding either, but she's primarily a healer anyway.
Knowing that the warrior has a bow, I'm okay with charging Storm ahead to get us out of the starting area.
If it weren't for your support with your sister, you'd be a lot worse, Ben.
Okay, time to plant our flag. As mentioned, Anakin or Kelik can do this, and there's no threat of enemies taking them back.
Oh, how cute, a ballista. I am so terrified.
In all seriousness though, the ballista can mess us up, like the siege tome guys can.
I probably should be blocking these forts, but it's fun playing whack-a-mole.
Storm's amount of skill, combined with the fantastic bows at his disposal, make him more predisposed to crits than most.
And you know what? He's not that bad.
Keep gaining power, Cia.
Oh yeah, I mentioned siege tomes?
There's a Bishop on an upcoming cliffside who'll be firing Ray shots at us pretty regularly. He can be pretty nasty if you're preoccupied with other units at the same time.
Well, he needed more luck anyway.
The Valkyries in this chapter have nasty speed. They should be approached with caution, perhaps even more so than the Sages.
Let's just nip this in the bud, shall we?
Lots of speed and resistance on this girl.
There's something I forgot to do in this area. Can you tell what that is?
Shon, you're not making a good argument for trusting your own growths.
Love the defense growths on these two. Makes them a lot more survivable.
I love the Bloody Rifle. Solves so many problems.
The next reinforcement spawn is this Sage here. He can do a big shot, but he goes down easy enough.
Now THAT'S a level!
Even when he isn't insta-killing, Liquid's crits are deadly enough.
Oh hey, another siege tome guy. Not nearly as obnoxious as the first.
And then something unusual happens.
Yes, for whatever reason, Blazer decided to include a day-night cycle in this map. There'll be three of these over the course of the chapter, as if we needed a reminder of how long this map takes.
Well, no need to worry about that. Let's keep going.
That's the way.
And after Alice gets this middling level...
Backup arrives WAY too far ahead.
: I'm Gary, a warrior from the Western Archipelago! Originally, Duke Paul of Aegis hired me to come here and serve as reinforcements to the rebel army... But this cause is far too noble to accept money in the process. I shall be paid in full simply by crushing the Magnians... The same Empire that monopolized my homeland and killed countless miners! Believe me, we have not been treated well by the leaders of Magnus... But that will all end today. And on behalf of Duke Paul, I will avenge those who were murdered on orders from Magnus's senate in the city of Aegis......I've said what I want to say. All that's left, is victory, or death!
Nice namedrop of a chapter with a similar sense of scale. Although I question the wisdom of introducing a prepromote so-
Whoa. There's a reason why I haven't really been building up Sai, because Gary blasts him right out of the water.
Being stuck right next to a Swordmaster isn't an especially ideal position for three axe users.
But they're fully capable of fending for themselves. Atlas is a very fine axe, and I wish I had it instead of this guy.
There's nobody there if we visit the villages, but we can still loot them.
This isn't a hint of anything.
Part of the annoyance of Munio is that the luck boost actually raises the dodge chance of the wielder, even if it weighs them down.
Interesting effect though.
The Armory has Silver weapons, and this one has a lot of high power magic. Not a bad place to restock if we're running low, which we aren't.
I knew we'd be running into this sooner or later, but I don't think it's supposed to be the theme of Gary's friends. There are reinforcements showing up soon that I think are better suited to this theme.
One thing I like about Blazer's approach to allied units is that they're all highly capable. No deadweight in the Other Phase. No sir.
And while they're working their way towards us, we snag some defensive magic.
Kelik's running out of things to get stat points in, so his last few levels will disappoint a little.
Part of the problem with Gary's friends is that they'll run on ahead, heedless of danger, but that's axe users for you.
Suddenly, an even darker night. This is where things get a little dangerous.
Not for Althares, who hops into a rather poor level...
Or for Shon, who's...Shon.
But people like Ben definitely need a bit of illumination before they can safely move forward.
Ironic, isn't it?
Seriously, Blazer? We aren't bringing an unpromoted character into this part of the game.
Kelik, there can only be one Tekun.
Bummer, but at least it isn't Emma or Cia.
Also, some shenanigans occur with a Rescue staff up there. I think the same guy gets Rescued repeatedly.
That's five uses of Hammerne we have now. If I wasn't full of infinite-use weapons, I might need those.
And right around Turn 13 or so, I remember that I completely forgot to take the second northeastern castle. Kelik and Anakin will actually refuse to capture the southern castle until both of them go down.
Unfortunately, despite a good showing, the two allied axe guys eventually go down under a hail of blows. They were good while they lasted.
This leaves Gary in a semi-awkward position, but he can cope. He's got enough luck to be able to dodge most anything.
As I said, Alustrona gives +5 to magic and defense when used. It's quite effective, even at a disadvantage.
Plus the results are pretty dang awesome.
I've seen this one before.
Leviathan gives +5 speed to its user, and it's droppable. I will rock with this.
Gary only has a few levels to work, but his growths are okay for them.
This lance is basically built for Kevin. He's got just enough constitution, and he could use the speed anyway.
New reinforcements: paladins out of these forts.
The weapon triangle doesn't mean jack.
He will rise to power off of your foolishness.
Back in the game, Itsuke. We didn't miss you that much.
Thanks to Alice, Anakin can skip the terrain altogether and expedite his return.
Huh. That could have been bad.
Okay, disaster averted. It's not like the game gives you a very stringent time limit.
That's strength capped. Fantastic!
Not satisfied with just defense, Tekun?
Day is breaking, but the morning fog is still in. We'll have to live with it for a little longer.
Out of curiosity, I fire the Illuminate staff at the area ahead of us.
Good idea, it turns out.
Let's just lock this down before I forget.
Ooh! And who are these?
: What perfect timing... now Alicia can help out even more! Everyone, we're going all out now, so don't hold anything back!
This is actually dependent on Alice being in the party. There's a group of Wyvern Lords who show up as well, depending on if you either brought Leopold or Levion.
: Ah! So the reinforcements have come! I didn't want to bother you with everything that's happened... but we had planned to go all out against Magnus. After all, this battle here is the key to defeating them. If we lost this, and ended up losing our momemntum, and then the war... We'd regret everything that we hadn't put forth here and now! I don't want any regrets. So let's finish this! In the name of Blaine!
: Hmph, so the promised reinforcements did come. If this bloodshed cannot be avoided, then at the very least, we must work together and muster all the strength we have. War, to bring peace. This is the path we chose. There is no turning back!
At any rate, these reinforcements are awesome! Why aren't these people fighting in our army instead of Alice?
This is gonna be sad.
Battle of the mage levels.
He's so balanced, it's boring.
Look at Kevin doubling people all of a sudden. Leviathan is great!
In other news, these swordmasters are spawning now.
There are only three or four master swordsmen in this battle, and none of them are on the enemy team.
Case in point.
The Falcoknights are really useful for this final stretch, because they'll keep the soldiers around Holton occupied.
Any day when a Pegasus can fly away from being shot is a good day.
As I said, Holton will run from his gate to attack you, and he has a wide range of movement, thanks to his 10 move. You want to approach this part really carefully.
Taking out some folks on the outskirts while you set yourself up.
While I'd normally be all sad that the Falcoknights are stealing our experience, there's really plenty to go around.
Freaky capable, these ladies.
While they're busy up there, I attract Holton over using Kevin.
That name is still dumb.
: ...well feared as the Blood Reaper. If you think I'm as half as nice as Lanmark, you're sadly mistaken. He is a fighter, and I... I am a killer! Now scream! Scream before you die!
That'd be real scary if Kevin wasn't wearing crit protection, but as it is, he can tank hits like that all day.
And he's getting bigger.
Now comes the hard part. Holton's a man with capped everything, so wearing him down is tricky.
It's a team effort. You need all your best guys to dogpile onto him.
Holton Cabal would have been better suited to waiting, but since he was too impatient, it gave us the terrain advantage we needed to beat him.
: Always...ruining everything... But...don't think...you'll get away with this... Someone...will rise against you...and... the cycle...continues... you'll die...like me... Screaming... Scared...
When you're surrounded by so many asskickers, what's there to be afraid of?
From here, it's just cleanup and getting Anakin up to the gate.
Storm, you are deathly adequate.
And Gary caps strength, as he tends to do.
These ladies have been carrying their end, and now they're getting some relief.
This map is so long, so tiresome. It can really wear you down if you don't take it in chunks. I couldn't imagine the heartbreak of not using save states and losing up to two hours of work in one unlucky instant.
There's shopping still yet to do in this game. Every last bit of money helps.
We can see who's the fastest here. I like it.
Itsuke seems to be the skillful oneshotter, while Cia is a speedy multishotter. They're both great.
And as we close, we're gifted with the super axe. This'll go nicely with any axe user.
: Do it. I'll gather our best. Shon, come with me. It's time we fulfilled your father's ambitions.
: ...And soon, mine as well...
: Consider this my final motivation for you all. We are at the doorsteps of the Emperor of Magnus himself. Together, we've proven our strength... not in numbers, but the strength in our feelings, for what we fight and believe in! Only those who are ready to lay down their lives for the continent of Solum should join us inside the Palace! The rest of you, defend the castles, and guard our backs.
Aka no NPC's allowed for the finale.
: This is the final battle, so put your heart into it! Think of all the families, all the children... If we by some chance don't succeed now... The continent as we know it would cease to exist! So for General Siegfried, and all of Solum... WE WILL WIN!
Wow. I felt a little something there. That almost got me to stir a little bit from my reclining position.
: Mage General Galagar, and the Emperor himself... They're waiting for us.
: Shon... Be strong... You are the man who will surpass your father!
Next Time: It's a game of magical tag as we take on the master of teleportation, Galagar.
Weapon Ranks: A in axes and bows
HP: 57 (90%) Lck: 30 (0%)
Str: 28 (60%) Def: 17 (20%)
Skl: 25 (35%) Res: 13 (20%)
Spd: 25 (35%) Con: 13
Gary's growths aren't great, but that's fine. He lets his bases do the work, and boy do they ever. By the time you work through his three available levels, he tends to have at least two, maybe three or four capped stats. The game basically hands you a superman, and you have to do almost nothing to make him better.