Part 9: Difficulty Spike
Welcome back. Last time on Last Scenario, we made our way through the Voldon Mountains to the coastal town of Lunei, where we rescued a strange elfin girl named Lorenza from Kingdom soldiers. Lorenza explained that she was a member of a tribe known as the Havali, and asked to come with us after the townspeople decided that her presence in the town would bring danger. So we took her with us as we returned to the Republic outpost, only to find a horrible sight: everyone in the base had been slaughtered. The only survivor was Selene, who, before dying herself, told us that Tazar had betrayed the Republic, and that the massacre was the work of one man: Felgorn, the hero of the Empire. Now our job is to return to Stonewall and report the attack to the Colonel. Let's get to it.
Following the events of the previous update, we're transported to the Stonewall Port. As you'll notice, though, Luther has decided not to return home and is instead going to be hanging around the port for awhile.
Not only that, but if we talk to him he'll happily take us back to Lunei, the northern Republic outpost, or Farin Island. It's quite convenient, but doesn't this guy have a job, or a family, or something? You'd think he'd have better things to do than ferry us around after that first ride.
Anyway, before we go anywhere, we're going to make a quick stop back at the northern outpost. There are a few things we can pick up here following the attack.
First up is a treasure chest hidden behind the tree on the right side. We actually could have picked this up the first time we were here, and in fact we probably should have, because the Eagle Wings are an accessory that grants the wearer complete immunity to earth damage. That would've been nice to have about a half-hour ago.
The item we did have to wait for was this chest in the supply room, which was previously blocked by the item shopkeeper. Following the attack, he'll no longer be in the way and we're free to loot this Key Tablet. This one goes to Lorenza.
Once we're back in Stonewall, I also make a quick stop by the weapon shop to buy Matilda a Steel Pike. Unlike VIT and RES, STR's effects are not percentage-based, so weapon upgrades are actually useful throughout the game. This one isn't that big of a boost, but every bit helps.
Heading to the northern part of the city triggers a scene.
We heard you were back in the city. The Colonel requests your immediate presence.
We were already on our way to see him. Tell him I'll be there in a minute.
I'll go to the Colonel straight away. He has to be told what happened at the outpost. Lorenza, we have to take care of this first. If you want, you can stay at my place in the meantime.
Thorve, can you show her the way? Tell Valentin that she has my permission to stay.
Hmm? Ah, yes... Follow me.
Just leave him alone for a while. This experience brought up painful memories for him.
Fade to black...
Colonel, I came to report that the enemy launched an attack on the northern outpost.
... As far as we know, there were no survivors.
You already knew? How?
I've just received a message from Commander Tazar.
The Commander!? But it was his fault that everyone died! He betrayed us!
You're wrong, Captain Matilda. The Commander did not betray us. In fact, thanks to his quick thinking, this situation may be to our advantage.
I don't understand. What did he do?
As we speak, he is already at the imperial capital, looking for allies. There are some important figures at the capital who are ill-disposed to the Emperor. The Commander has been contacting these people in order to bring down the Empire from within.
So he left all his men to die, and now he's comfortably living in the imperial castle!?
The outpost was already lost once the enemy learned of our plans. He only made the best of the situation. It's very fortunate that you weren't there at the time.
Yeah, seriously, have some fucking empathy, dude. In all honestly Newick seems awfully calm despite having just lost a major base and quite a few soldiers. I suppose he's had some time to digest the information, but still, not even a hint of disappointment?
Our viewpoint suddenly shifts to somewhere new.
He wasn't there. Was the information correct?
That's all? You're not worried just because of that, are you? Isn't it better this way? Just forget about it. Hey, I know. There's a party for the nobility this evening. Why don't you come too? I'll get you inside.
I don't have time for parties right now. The Emperor wanted to see me.
Ah, what a shame. You'd better not keep him waiting then. That Republic Commander you brought back is coming to the party as well, you know. They sure are treating him well.
I'm not really paying attention to things like that.
Back with Hilbert...
Maybe she's at home.
Hilbert is now alone. Welp, guess there's nothing to do except head back to Matilda's house.
We run into a familiar face on our way there, though.
I had to take over Tazar's duties too. You'd think I'd have better things to do than wait here. No, it's okay, you can go. You don't have to stand there and listen to me rant.
Following that, we head to Matilda's house, but she doesn't appear to be home.
She dropped by a few times this morning, but she was in a great hurry. What did she say again? Uhm... oh yeah. She said the Colonel was asking for her. She looked pretty mad too. I'm not sure where you could find the Colonel, though. Somewhere at the army headquarters, surely.
And back to the army headquarters we go. This door leads to Newick's office.
Fade to black...
Your team is the most suitable for this mission, Captain. It would be a problem if you won't take it.
I am not talking about the mission. I'm talking about your requirements. I won't take Hilbert with us.
Do you think he's not capable? I heard he performed well on your last two missions, given the circumstances.
This is different! We'll be moving into the heart of the Empire! We don't know how he'd perform under that kind of pressure! You would send someone with virtually no field experience on a mission this important?
Thanks to this opportunity, we can end this war in a single move. We shouldn't worry about a few possible casualties. He's a soldier. He should know about the consequences if he can't keep up during wartime.
Leave him? Are you serious!? Everyone knows he's the descendant of Alexander. What would happen if I left him to die!?
Listen to me, Matilda. The war has already begun. We do not have time to take it slow with him. If he's worth anything, then he will have to show it right now. If he can truly be a hero, he'll prove himself. If he succeeds, it'll be a powerful motivator for the rest of the army. But if he's just a kid who happens to have a famous ancestor, if he's not suitable, then let him go.
Okay now I'm pretty sure you're just being sociopathic. First you don't bat an eye at the loss of the soldiers at the northern outpost, and now you're going to force an untrained soldier into a mission he may not be ready for, and you're fully willing to just let him die if that turns out to be the case? What the fuck?
If he wants to be a hero, he needs to be one now. If he can't, we have no use for him. You will take Hilbert with you on this mission, Matilda. That is an order. Do you understand?
I said, do you understand?
I understand, all right. I'll take this damn mission, and I'll take Hilbert with me. But you listen to me, and you listen real well. I will -not- abandon any of my men. I don't care who they are. If they're on my team, then I'll protect them with my life. I'll complete this mission, and I'll bring -everyone- back safely. Do you understand that!?
Fade to black...
Did you hear anything? How long have you been standing there?
... A while...
Let this be a lesson to you. This is the reality of this country. We're commanded by men like him who treat us as statistics. These are people who'll never see an actual battlefield in their lives. If you don't like it, then you'd better quit right now. It's not going to get any better for you.
I can't give up. I didn't join the army for the Colonel, and I won't quit just because of what he said about me. I won't fail you this time, Captain. I won't be a burden on you.
Fade to black...
Following the scene, we have a chance to stock up on supplies. It's highly recommended at this point that you pick up several Tents, as well as some Brown Herbs and Silver Dusts if you're low on them. We won't be coming back here for a while.
Once we're ready for our mission, we can find Thorve at the port.
Do you want to get on board already?
Hurry up! We're leaving!
Fade to black...
It's going to take a while to tell you everything, so first I'm going to be asking a question myself. What is Lorenza doing on this ship?
Uhm, she snuck on board before I got here. She told the soldiers she was a new member of our team.
I want to repay you for what you've done for me, and I also want to see more of the world. I'll do anything you ask of me.
Wha-... Were you not just complaining about taking someone with virtually no field experience on this mission, Matilda? Lorenza has literally none.
So, what is this mission actually about?
Some of you may have already heard about it, but Commander Tazar defected in order to act as a spy for us. He and the Colonel have been setting up a plan to destroy the foundation of the Empire from within.
I've been thinking about that. Is the Commander really quick-witted enough to pull off something like this?
I know what you mean. In all his years of service, the Commander has never actually been on the frontlines. Even during the War of Independence, he was always far away from the fighting. It's possible he's always had some potential, but...
It was probably more like a desperate action to save himself.
Yes... but I also think the Colonel knows more than he's letting on.
Was it all a big conspiracy!? You know, like they set up the whole thing knowing they'd get attacked, just to let the Commander infiltrate them?
I don't think the mission was a ploy. Even the Colonel would not go that far. Besides...
More likely, the Colonel found out that our plan leaked to the enemy, and told Tazar to take this course of action. That way he could turn a failed operation into an advantage.
It's a dirty plan either way. Selene and Jord died because our leaders are too busy looking at the numbers. But this is the situation we're in, and we have to make sure that they didn't die for nothing.
Yes, you were going to explain the mission.
Right now, we're on our way to make contact with the Commander. Apparently he has a high-placed informant in the Imperial Castle. We will discuss the rest with them. All I can tell you now is what the objective of our mission is.
Are you serious!?
If we succeed, the current Empire will crumble. Our allies in the castle will take control of the capital. Meanwhile, the Republic will seize the coastal areas. Both sides will benefit, and the war will be over.
Will it really be that simple?
Even if it doesn't go according to plan, the Emperor's death will cause chaos, and that'll benefit us. We have to do it, for the sake of everyone who died at the outpost.
Fade to black...
This cave leads to an underground waterway that'll take us to the imperial capital of Herzog. Strange... someone was supposed to be waiting for us here. Did something happen? Be careful inside, we don't know what we'll run into. Go!
Are you doing okay?
It was just like back then...
Do you think it's a good idea, coming here of all places?
Fade to black...
And it's time for another dungeon. I guess you could techincally call this a sewer level? It's a water-themed dungeon that leads into a city, does it count if it doesn't actually look like a sewer?
Well, as seems to be the norm with dungeons in this game, we run into a random battle only a few steps from the entrance. First up are a Will o' the Wisp (highlighted because it looks like it could be part of the background) and a Kelpie. Will o' the Wisps are gimmick monsters with abysmal HP and evasion rates through the fucking roof. Pretty much any attack, physical or magical, will take these guys out in a single hit, but they'll dodge almost any physical attack you throw at them, so magic is the way to go. If you leave them alive, they'll harass you with spells like Lightning and Spark for 30 damage or so.
Kelpies are more annoying, with high HP and a technique called Goodnight Kick that deals ~10 damage and puts the target to sleep, and another called Wall of Water that hits the entire party for about 20 damage. However, they're also weak to lightning, which means Thorve gets to start doing what he'll be doing for most of this dungeon: striking weaknesses with the Thunderball we stole last update. Since this area is water-themed, pretty much every enemy in this area has a lightning weakness. So we'll be seeing a lot of red damage numbers, which indicate when you hit one.
There's also a chest with a Blue Coral in the first room. The Blue Coral deals a small amount of water damage to all enemies, which means it's going to be completely useless in this area.
As we head downstairs we run into some Flying Fish. Flying Fish are little more than nuisances, with only a weak regular attack and not-so-great HP, but they always show up in groups of three or four. I generally just hit Auto on these guys.
We also get a glimpse of this area's gimmick. As you can see, there's a staircase in this area that will allow us to head onward, but it's underwater and Hilbert can't swim. So we'll need to do something about the water level.
But this is a video game, so there's always a convenient switch nearby.
There's a fork in the area previously covered by water, with one path leading to this small treasure room.
It's not a bad haul. The Epiphany spellcard is probably the most interesting of the lot. I never found its regular spell all that useful, but it's one of the few spellcards that is a viable choice for the entire game, because no item or other spellcard can replicate its Crisis ability:
Epiphany (5MP): Temporarily raises one ally's INT.
Crisis: Resurrection (9MP): Revives all KO'd party members with a small amount of HP.
Stat changes: -2% max HP, +3% INT
I stick the card on Matilda. She's never going to have a use for Epiphany, but her high HP will probably leave her the last one alive in a desperate situation. Let's just hope her Crisis bar will be full if that happens.
We soon run into some more water level shenanigans. This time around we want to head north, but the bridge is sitting on the floor.
But of course the switch to refill the area is right next door, and pulling it causes the bridge to float up to our level. Despite its appearance, the water level manipulation in this area isn't really a puzzle. We never have to deduce the correct water level to advance; it's more of a "hit roadblock, find switch" sort of game.
The next room is the central area of the dungeon. We have to head to the northeast, but we'll have to do some more water level lowering to get there.
The next switch is, once again, not far away. This time around, though, the switch doesn't completely drain the area.
Instead, we need to head back up to the central area, where the western side of the room is now accessible.
As we continue towards the next switch, we finally run into a new enemy, and probably this dungeon's most annoying: Fungures. Their physical attack is nothing to write home about, but they're status specialists: they have techniques called Noxious Cloud and Smog which poison and blind the entire party, respectively. Honestly I don't see the point in fighting these guys most of the time, since their abilities will make the battle drag on forever unless you want to blow a bunch of MP on them. I usually just run away.
We find the final switch at the end of the path, which completely drains the dungeon. Interestingly enough, do you see how the upper-right corner of this "island" is missing a piece of its border? You can actually walk right off of it and travel around the drained area, but there's nothing there. Makes me wonder if it was intentional.
Now that the central area has been completely drained, we can continue on to the end of this dungeon, but there's a few things we should probably pick up first, like this chest here.
First, we head to the room with the floating bridge and head down the ladder to find another treasure room.
This treasure room's loot is much less thrilling than the last one. The Broad-Rimmed Hat will allow most of our party to gain a +2 VIT bonus over the Feathered Hats they're currently wearing. Yippee. The Life Capsule's not bad though: it permanently increases max HP by 10. I was planning to give this to Lorenza, and then completely forgot about it until after I was done recording. Oh, and the game continues its streak of giving me items I just bought with the P-Shield spellcard.
We find some Undines as we're heading back to the central area, and y'know, I just somehow get the impression that this is one of the enemy sprites that SCF took from RPGMaker instead of drawing himself. Undines aren't too bad: they have a physical attack for about 10 damage and a technique called Water Pistol that does roughly the same. They can also buff themselves with a technique called Spirit of Water, which I think increases their INT. The only effect I could discern from it was that it made Water Pistol do 13 damage instead of 10.
We can also reach this previously-underwater chest by heading to the path that led to the first water-lowering switch and taking the ladder. This Key Tablet goes to Hilbert, and he equips the second P-Shield copy I just picked up.
Now then, it's time for us to move on. There's another switch along the path, but there's no need to pull it as I believe it simply resets the dungeon.
The screen starts shaking violently as we cross the bridge in the next room. We all know what this means!
BOSS FIGHT: Marid King
This time around Thorve and Matilda don't even bother commenting on the approaching threat; a boss battle just starts out of nowhere. This motherfucker is the Marid King, and he is a boss that most people who have played this game are intimately familiar with. Why?
Because he is a massive jump in difficulty from the bosses that came before him, and if you're not prepared for him, there's no way to get back to the Republic and stock up on supplies. You can't grind, either, because while you may gain more levels, if you run out of Tents you'll have to come into this fight at less than full strength, which is even worse. So if you're not ready, your only real choice is to throw yourself at this guy over and over and hope you get lucky enough to win.
The Marid King is the first boss in awhile with a weakness we actually have an opportunity to exploit, so of course the first thing he does is mitigate that weakness by casting M-Shield on himself. Thorve's Thunderball isn't affected by this, thankfully, but Lightning does more damage to the Marid King even when the M-Shield is up.
Anyway, priority #1 in this fight is to keep everyone alive, because the moment someone goes down, you'll spend the rest of the fight reviving them and then immediately having someone else die. That means Shields on our squishier party members. I've got a P-Shield on Thorve and an M-Shield on Lorenza here, but it doesn't matter much which flavor you use, since the Marid King has both powerful physical and magical attacks.
Case in point: the Marid King's regular attack takes off more than half of Lorenza's HP if she's not P-Shielded.
The Marid King also has a nasty habit of countering most attacks made against him with Freezing Sword, which deals a good chunk of damage and inflicts Slow. Slowed characters glow white, which is confusing as all hell because characters also glow white while you're selecting a command for them. For most of our party the drop in SPD doesn't matter, though, because the Marid King was moving before them anyway. Only Hilbert is faster.
But in an incredibly annoying turn of events, although Hilbert is immune to Freezing Sword's damage thanks to his Fur Hat, the move still somehow gets to inflict Slow on him. Goddamn it
It also takes me seven tries to succesfully steal from him. In all honesty I'm not sure why I bothered, because the Marid Scepter is a weapon for Lorenza, and who gives a shit about what weapon Lorenza is wielding? I guess we can get some cash out of this at least.
Despite all of the bitching I just did above, it turns out I got very, very lucky with this fight. The Marid King has two deadly moves that he didn't use once against me: Tsunami, which does 30 damage to the entire party, and Whirlpool, which hits one character for 50 damage and inflicts both Chaos and Enfeeble simultaneously. Whirlpool is the really dangerous one, since in a fight as difficult as this the last thing you need is for your party members to waste their turns attacking their own allies. But fortunately I didn't see it, and in the end I manage to take the King down on my first try.
If there's one thing this game and Exit Fate have taught me, it's that SCF has a thing for giving the player one or two completely absurd healing items really early in the game. The Purple Herb is the highest class of herb, restoring 1500 HP to a character. That's roughly 20 times Lorenza's max HP at the moment. We also get the new Ectoplasm Hex tile out of the deal.
As with the Earth Golem, following the fight there's no acknowledgement by our characters of anything that just happened. We just continue on up the ladder...
... and into the city.
Oh god did we fuck this up already?
Watch out! Imperials!
No, wait! You are... Captain Matilda, right? I'm on your side. Commander Tazar made me wait here for your arrival.
Ah, good. I was getting worried that our plan was already foiled by the Empire. Especially since no one was there to meet us at the beach.
... and so you figured it'd be a swell idea to just leave the passageway open so that said monster could come in and terrorize the city whenever it wanted? Christ.
Oh go fuck yourself. I might've been lucky with that boss fight, but I have to wonder how many players pretty much wanted to strangle this dude right here.
Anyway, we've got a mission. It's time to get to it.
Next time: Who's this high-placed informant that Tazar's found, anyway?