Part 44: Fire and IceWelcome back, everyone. Thank you for waiting for this long-overdue update. We're entering one of the final areas of the game, and it stops pulling its punches quite abruptly.
Our destination is the resting place of the final Divine Artifact, the volcano known as Fire Maw. Since we've been to Tortuga already, we can Return there and stay at the inn.
After that, we can hop in the airship and land it three spaces away to access the volcano.
I have to wonder how this priestess gets any supplies here, cut off as she is from the rest of the world.
Fire and ice in one trip? Lucky us!
We take the teleportal...
...and find ourselves in a much hotter area.
Fire Maw has two distinct environments: the rocky exterior and lava-filled caves. The former is far deadlier; the random encounter rate is severely jacked up, to the point that you can expect a fight every 5-20 steps.
This is compounded by the fact that the enemies here can be quite nasty. Kravens are immune to magic damage but are probably the least threat, since they don't do anything really nasty. Mandrakes can inflict poison and, more importantly, numbness. Balrogs hit quite hard and have lots of HP, but like kravens they don't have anything really nasty. Fire chariots have some nasty abilities - Discord, Onslaught, and self-healing - but are quite rare and don't hit terribly hard, all things considered.
But of all the common enemies here, salamanders are by far the worst. They can use Leecher to steal a character's HP, and they can deal significant damage to the whole party via Firebreath. If a group of salamanders catches you by surprise, they can kill the whole party with Firebreath before you can take action. They're not quite as bad as the elementals from the Cave of Wonders, but they still suck and are priority targets.
And finally, we have the little foot. Little foots (little feet?) are rarer than salamanders and probably not quite as deadly, but they are a pain to fight. They have a ton of HP and spend every turn using their regular physical attack, Dinocrush, which deals well over 100 damage to even heavily-armored characters. Keeping up with healing against them is a must, since they can two-shot more fragile characters.
The interior of the volcano is way less harsh, despite all the lava. It's mostly ladder-placing segments which aren't especially tricky, and the encounter rate is much lower than outside. They're actually a bit of a breather.
Occasionally you get split paths like this, which lead to treasure, but finding replacement ladders is never hard. The magma staff here boasts decent attack power, but we'd be fools to use it in a fire area.
There's another split path further up the mountain, this time outside.
But again, it's not really much of a puzzle, since the right-and cave has a ladder required to progress. Look, I know this isn't all that exciting, but Fire Maw is almost entirely linear and there's not much to say about its design. In a way it exemplifies the worst of the era it's emulating: a lengthy area, made lengthier by a high encounter rate, and tough enemies that can send you back to the start because there are no save points.
About 80-90% of the way up the volcano is this very inconspicuous-looking chest.
What I said about tough monsters being able to end a lengthy run goes double here. Three little foots can simply delete a character if they all attack the same person, and they have so much HP that this will hold true for quite a while. Karla got her healing skills put to the test here.
At least the reward is good. I've been using Holdana's team for pretty much the whole dungeon due to their durability, and Holdana herself is long overdue for a weapon upgrade. I really should have bought one of these back in Catan.
Just a little further up the mountainside is the caldera and the most beautiful thing I've ever seen: a save point. There are no random encounters up here either, which is a relief.
That's probably because the monsters are all scared of this big bastard.
Meet the magma dragon. He arrives without fanfare and dies similarly. He has decently strong physical attacks, plus his special attack, Firestorm, which...
Yeah, it looks cool and does some decent damage, but it's nothing we can't handle. It's not an especially long fight, and probably qualifies more as a mini-boss than an actual boss.
It drops a fire bomb on death, which I find mildly amusing.
It's dead, but with no Artifact in sight, we have to keep moving.
We take another teleportal to a room with another save point. I won't say no to that.
This must be the Shrine of Ice. Yes, after the massive slog that is Fire Maw, we have this unnamed snowy area too. Luckily it's not nearly as long or as encounter-heavy.
Tritoch? The author wasn't even trying to be subtle any more, was he?
Anyway, those tritochs are no joke. They're spellcasters, debilitating the party with Slowall and attacking with Icebolt, Snowstorm, and Blizzard, the last of which can deal hellish damage to the party. Nothing else here really matches up. Bluebirds have Double Attack, but don't real much damage, and Blackwolves are relatively fast and deal decent damage but aren't too tough. Basilisks and crystal slimes... Okay, I gotta be honest, I only encountered them once, near the end, and by that point I was not in the mood to wait around and find out what they could do.
Bonus fact: tritochs count as dragons, so Raj Ahtan can deal phenomenal damage to them with his dragon claw.
For all that it's linear and kinda boring, I will say that this area, like Fire Maw, is at least pretty nice to look at.
There's a side area here with three chests, all containing pretty solid prizes (including a chest-in-a-chest). The ancient chest sounds especially intriguing.
That also sounds intriguing, so I expect to be once again disappointed.
And, indeed, I am.
Of course, it wouldn't be an ice area in Hero's Realm without an ice sliding puzzle!
But really, it's not hard, and we're through and back outside pretty quickly.
At the base of the mountain is yet another building, containing yet another teleportal.
Outside is the very last accessible landmass we haven't yet explored. Surrounded by mountains and covered in forests, we had no other way to reach it. Luckily, we don't have far to walk to reach our destination.
Im not sure what this place is, but it's spooky.
The enemies here are mostly the same as on the snowy mountain, but powerdemons are new. They're spellcasters that use powerful stuff like Firevolt. They're not a big hassle.
Directly up the stairs, we can see the chest which obviously contains the Divine Artifact, but we can't reach it.
Looping around the walkway, we come to another set of stairs and a save point. This is, at least, a mercifully short dungeon after the gauntlet we just ran.
Even more ominous. Let's see who our foe is today.
So this is the long-foreshadowed Frozen Throne. Does that mean those other two guys are..?
It's really hard to overstate just how busy Murzhor has been during this game.
Ah, dammit, I was right.
Yeah, we're in the endgame now. Murzhor's playing for keeps.
The demon still loves his evil laughs.
So here we are, fighting Murzhor again. The fight is pretty similar to the first, with Murzhor backed up by a pair of meat shields, except that now the shields are two very competent fighters. Prince Alex is immune to magic damage and mostly uses standard attacks, but sometimes smacks the whole party with Sandstorm, or even more rarely casts Healusmore, restoring around 300 HP to his team. Prince Kenji is more similar to Akira, hitting single targets with Shuriken (damage), Ninja Star (more damage), Poishuriken (damage + poison), or Chainwhip (more damage to the whole party).
Of course, Murzhor himself has upped his game too. Besides his classic Mutespell Omega and Eviler Flame, he can also use Quagmire to damage the whole party and Blazemost to do significant single-target fire damage.
Lina's new Blizzard spell does wonders in this fight. Although it doesn't hurt Alex, it does a solid chunk of damage to Kenji and over 2,000 to Murzhor. His complaints about the cold weren't just flavor, they were him telegraphing his weakness.
Unfortunately, Murzhor retains another trick he had in the first fight: reviving his fallen underlings. Since Kenji and Alex can both deal significant damage, this is a bit of a problem. The trick is that Murzhor only does this when both princes are down, so by taking out one (preferably Kenji, who's a bit more dangerous) and leaving the other standing, we only have to deal with two foes rather than three.
Eventually (I want to say at around half HP), Murzhoor starts changing his elemental weakness, becoming immune to or even absorbing other elements. He gives away his weakness by the color of his staff gem and necklace, though I wasn't perceptive enough to notice that until the fight was nearly over.
Eventually, I realized that Raj Ahtan's party wasn't going to cut it; the monk himself kept getting muted and unable to cast spells (and thus heal), and Lina went down. Luckily, we've got a team with three master classes waiting in the wings. Despite Akira being probably the weakest protagonist, they're likely the best team overall thanks to the Stooges. With them in play the fight was a breeze.
And so we finally, finally kill Murzhor. It's kind of a weak victory though, since Paranor is under siege and the princes of Jumongu and Monoboraba are both dead.
Also, we don't yet have the last Artifact.
This is not an especially difficult puzzle.
And here we are: the Divine Grail, last of the Divine Artifacts.
Dropping down again takes us outside (somehow). But as we leave...
They're not doing this by halves.
The skies are dark, the forces of good are under siege, and the fate of the world hangs by a thread. Let's go be heroes.
Level Up Roundup
Oh god there were so many levels in this update.