Part 23: The War on TerrorI hope you all like plot, because there's a ton of dialogue in today's update.
And here we are: the final chapter. Everything prior has really been preparation for this. Chapter 5 is by far the longest in the game, about as long as the first four chapters combined. It's the real meat of the game, and it's going to take us a while.
The chapter opens with an extended black screen. After a few long moments, the sound of a teleportal can be heard, faint but growing louder. As it does...
We see that Zefiryn has arrived. You might remember that she ended her chapter by taking a teleportal out of Tyrsis.
We're immediately greeted by a red-clad Guru who prompts us to go with him.
We have no choice but to do so.
If you check the crowd closely, you can actually spot the other three heroes. I believe there's also at least one sprite for every class/gender combination.
Alliteration aside, I can't believe that some of the wisest men in the world chose that for their leader's title.
Pablo himself appears at the stairs after several long seconds.
Yes, the ultimate fight against Mephistocles is officially known as the Final Battle. No points for creativity here.
Pablo's speech is interrupted by a noise and a flash of light.
Some kind of screen appears, and on it is a familiar face.
Just imagine a Kefka laugh on every one of Murzhor's dialogue boxes. The guy loves his evil laughter.
After making his threats, Murzhor's TV screen fades away.
I haven't read the series, but Google tells me that "Gareth Bryne" is a Wheel of Time reference.
As the screen fades to black, our heroes rush to follow Pablo. They're in such a hurry that Zefiryn and Holdana end up on the same space.
It's been a while for most of these characters, so a reminder is actually rather helpful.
The screen fades out again, and we find ourselves elsewhere in the building.
There's been some curiosity among the readers about how the game would handle having four parties, each with four characters. This is one answer. If you've played Final Fantasy VI, the concept should be pretty familiar. For an RPG Maker 2003 game, this is some impressive tech.
Holdana, Raj Ahtan, and Akira head into the teleportal.
We're going to save first, and take care of a little housekeeping.
All four parties' inventories have been merged for the final chapter, which means we suddenly have a huge supply of items.
This includes a boatload of tarot cards. Since Harley is in Zefiryn's party, we may as well use them.
She gets a bunch of new tarot powers, including one that... allows her to kill one of her party members out of combat. This has a niche use, but we likely won't be seeing it.
Enough prep work - let's get going.
We arrive at a four-way intersection. All four heroes are here, but they're currently all standing on the teleportal. The Challenge of Heroes is a puzzle dungeon, and not a very complex one. It's pretty much purely an extended tutorial on multi-party dungeons, to the point that there aren't even any monsters here. (And really, why would the Gurus stock their own challenge with monsters?)
Zefiryn heads north and immediately comes across some spikes. They can be crossed, but they deal damage to the party and who wants that?
We switch to Holdana, who heads west.
The path leads her to more spikes and some pushable rocks, but the latter are blocked by bigger, impassable spikes.
She heads south and finds a Tiny Medal, one of four in the dungeon. With nowhere else to go, we leave her by the spikes.
Akira heads south.
The path takes him to a split, with the north branch clearly looking more tantalizing.
He pushes a rock, which will be significant later.
He moves on and finds a floor switch. When stepped on, it causes the spikes to retract. This affects the entire floor.
The nearby sign explains how spikes work, in case I hadn't already done that.
He moves on and finds a door in the wall, which is firmly closed. South of here is another Tiny Medal, so he's at a dead end.
Raj Ahtan heads east and immediately comes across the boulder that Akira pushed, giving him quicker access to this branch.
He comes across Akira, and at this point my brain felt the logical thing to do was to leave Raj Ahtan here and backtrack with the ninja.
While we're at it, we can also equip Moe with one of the golbin clubs we found, since he's the only one able to use them. This is an impressive boost to his power.
Akira returns to where is path branched and runs into some big spikes.
With the small spikes down, Holdana crosses them and finds a switch, which she presses.
Zefiryn also crosses her spikes and comes to a wall-door, which is open thanks to Holdana hitting her switch.
At the end is a button that retracts the floor's big spikes (and gives her access to another Tiny Medal).
Backtracking through the wall passage, she comes to another room, with a set of stairs leading down.
She finds a chamber full of big spikes and is forced to stop.
With the big spikes down, Holdana can push some rocks around and head downstairs.
She finds herself in the same room as Zefiryn, also unable to proceed.
Akira heads past his big spikes and comes to a fork. The east branch contains the last Tiny Medal, and the middle branch is a dead end.
The west branch takes him to the spike room and a switch.
This lowers some of the spikes, giving Holdana a path to another switch. You can probably see where this is going.
Holdana's switch opens another path, but no one's there to take it.
Raj Ahtan heads into the wall and down the last set of stairs.
He opens a path for Zefiryn, who opens a second path for Holdana, who opens a straightforward path for Akira.
Objective complete! But we still have to escape.
Luckily, a switch right next to the chest opens a path for Zefiryn to get to the teleportal, which gets us out.
Back outside the Challenge, we're greeted by Pablo's assistant, who takes us to see the Poobah.
We're rewarded with both money and experience for finding the Seal, giving us several level-ups. Poismore and Acid are both stronger versions of Poison: Poismore is stronger, while Acid hits all enemies. Having this many characters level at once isn't likely to happen often, but it will happen.
And this is the other way the game works with four parties. When we're not in combat, we can use it to simply switch which of our teams is active at any given time. The four groups can't interact with each other (e.g., by healing each other), but if we think a specific group might be best for the task at hand we can bring it out.
Naturally, we can't do this in multi-party dungeons like the Challenge of Heroes.
Although we will eventually have to find all seven artifacts, we're given only three to start with.
I know this is supposed to sound like a challenging journey, but I have to be honest: piloting what is essentially a giant robot sounds fucking awesome.
The author is clearly a fan of both J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Brooks.
Everything would be fine if not for that damned logic and science.
Our next three story beats are all set. We're going to be at this for a while.
A demonstration of the Seal of Legends at work. A flash of light, and one party is replaced by another. We'll be rolling with Zefiryn and Akira for now, since their parties' levels are a bit lower than Holdana's and Raj Ahtan's.
Wip is mostly here to remind us about what we were just told regarding the Artifacts' locations. We'll have to locate them ourselves.
This is a detail I love. Pretty much as soon as Alistair spoke his prophecy, the Gurus went to work finding the Child of Light and hiding her away, and without alerting Mephistocles' minions in the process. It really lends an air of competence to the guys who are directing the war against the demon lord.
At this point we can head out, but first we have a city to explore. Paranor is pretty huge, largely thanks to the Gurus' base of operations.
Naturally, there's a church here, and it's impressively big. The priestess here offers the usual services. And yes, there's really a country in the world named Ikeia. Try not to groan to hard.
I'm just going to believe that the incubus is doing standard mind magic and not the thing incubi are generally known for, which would be a little... extreme for the tone this game goes for.
Elsewhere in the building is a set of three teleportals. This is just north of where Zefiryn arrived.
The first takes us to a small room that we cannot currently escape.
The second does essentially the same, though the door is shut by the key we still don't have rather than a wall switch.
And the third we can't even enter: a strange whirlwind pushes us back if we try.
You'd think the people of Indhopal would have talked more about a cursed sandstorm sweeping through the neighboring country. No doubt we'll have to deal with it at some point.
In the pub, we encounter a fellow who calls himself a daredevil. We've not heard of that class nor seen this sprite, so this is something of an enigma.
Literally every single person in the dining hall has this exact dialogue. No one is willing to stop eating long enough to talk to us.
The building naturally has a library, which is almost as much of a pain to search as Okasa's. I've left out most of the loot, but I wanted to note that I found a ticket among the shelves, suggesting that there's at least one more Funhouse.
Akira nods smugly at this.
I see no way in which this could go disastrously wrong.
In the basement, we find something that might actually be useful: a world map.
So here it is. The purple dots seem to represent towns and cities, while the smaller green dots are other places of interest. You can also see the places we've already been: Norsland in the northwest, Hasara in the center-south, Jumongu to the east, and Indhopal east of the big desert on the main continent. That still leaves a ton of unexplored territory.
In town, we find a set of shops run by the Sohei, who you might remember as having been founded by the son of Jumongu's legendary hero.
They mostly sell stuff we've already seen, though the ninja star and black hood (not shown) are both significant upgrades for the characters who can use them.
We also sell off the gemstone that Niddly dropped after Zefiryn killed him. It's actually real and worth a solid chunk of cash!
Spoony the bard, huh?
Silly name aside, this actually sounds pretty interesting. We might be going gambling at some point.
In the east part of the city is a building where the Child of Light is being kept. You can actually see here there in the upper left, though as the guard says, we can't actually get in and speak with her. Kept under guard 24/7 and not allowed to see other people except her teachers and guardians? Seems kinda sad. Destiny is a bitch.
We've already heard of Machin Shin, but now we also have a clue to where it comes from. It's not a priority (yet), but we'll surely have to check it out eventually.
Down a conspicuous set of stairs in the town is a dilapidated room containing a well.
Inside is the fifth and final Tiny Medal house. The medals we turned in previously all count toward our total, as do any we find going forward.
This conveniently gives us enough to earn not only another boomerang and bladerang, but also a new item: the Staff of Jubilation.
This mage weapon is two-handed, but has high power and a chance to send enemies into laughing fits, which hinders them in battle. I ultimately decide to give it to Hexia, since her offensive spells and weapons are both kind of bad.
There's a froggite in the town pond, who takes great pleasure in reminding us what assholes his people are.
Naturally, they pulled this shit right here. With Curly having Outside, a warp whistle isn't the valuable prize it used to be, but it's still good to have for an emergency.
We're pretty much done in Paranor, but there's another small area to check before we set out on our journey.
It's the command post that was briefly mentioned after Murzhor's speech.
The man himself is pretty chill, though "avail yourselves" actually means "buy what you want if you can afford it".
The items shop sells warp whistles, but is otherwise unimpressive.
The weapons, armor, and accessories are another matter. Virtually everything here is a noticeable upgrade for us, even the accessories. The pixie cape and fighter's ring both prevent multiple statuses, the voodoo doll prevents numb and can be used as an item to cure it, the blade barrier prevents a character from being critted, and the stepguard boots prevent damage from terrain.
Unfortunately, all this brings me to my biggest gripe with the game: its economy. Money isn't hard to come by, exactly, but without a ton of grinding we will not get nearly enough to upgrade all 16 of our characters with any consistency. We're going to need to be extremely choosy about who gets what. I'll most likely handle that off-screen, since it's not something that I think needs to be detailed.
And that's it for now. Next time, we set out on our quest for real.