Part 19: Delving Deeper
Welcome back. Last time on Last Scenario, Randolph introduced us to Prince Wilhelm. After a one-on-one conversation between him and Matilda, we decided to support him in his war for the throne against Empress Helga. General Grauss, his chief military man, has given us our first mission: we're to head north to the mining town of Kohlen and protect a convoy of materials as it makes its way south. Let's get to it.
We ended last update by leaving Fardorf to the north and entering a new section of the world map. So let's see what's around here.
The first thing we find in this area is Kohlen itself, a bit to the northeast of Fardorf. But the path forks to the northwest as well.
Further along the path we find a structure of some kind. Like Fardorf was, it's blocking the only way north.
Said structure is Antar Camp, the Empress's stronghold that Grauss mentioned last update. We can't do anything here, as just like with Stonewall and Herzog, Hilbert will flee as soon as we enter the screen.
Just to the west of the camp are the Antar Woods, a small dungeon. Unlike the camp, there's nothing stopping us from going in here, but there's no point in doing so now as it just leads to a dead end. We'll have to see what this place is for later.
Anyway, that's about all there is to see in this area of the world. Let's head for Kohlen.
I'm not sure who we're supposed to be talking to, so let's just go take a look around.
Well, I was planning on taking a look around anyway, so that works. The first building we find in Kohlen is the inn, just off the entrance. But the only thing here is the Hex-playing soldier on the right, who doesn't have any new tiles.
Just north of the inn is the item shop, which finally has updated stock! Green Herbs are now for regular sale at item shops from here on out, though as you can see, they're quite pricey compared to the rest of the inventory. We've already got four of them from treasure chests, though, so I don't feel the need to buy any more.
We also find the peddler we met way back in the Voldon Mountains hiding in a corner. He's turned into a spellcard shop, but a pretty shitty one. We already received free copies of Laser and Disenchant when Ethan and Randolph joined, respectively, but I suppose Revitalize is a great option if you still haven't bought a copy for some reason.
Kohlen is divided into a northern and southern screen, and in the northern screen we find the equipment shop. The guys here stock weapons and accessories, but no armor.
Kohlen's weapon selection is a step up from what we've been carting around. I sell a Purple Herb and a Frag Bomb (which I somehow seem to have obtained four of) to raise the money to buy a Recurve Bow, a Trident, and a Labrys.
The accessories on sale are different from what we've seen elsewhere, but they're all of the stat-increasing variety and I've never been a big fan of those. The five accessories here grant +15 to SPD, RES, VIT, INT, and STR respectively.
At the northern end of town we find the mine, and instructions on whom we should be looking for.
We were sent by General Grauss to protect the materials convoy for the fort.
Oh, good that you're here. My men will feel much safer with you guys around. We're still wrapping things up here, but we'll be done by tomorrow. Is it okay if you wait in town? I'll ask the innkeeper to let you stay for free tonight.
All right, thanks. We'll go to the inn and wait until you're ready.
Seems simple enough. We head back to the inn.
You already know what it's about, don't you?
I have no idea what you mean.
That attitude is exactly what I'm talking about. You're not telling me the truth. You know exactly what I mean, but you're hiding it behind that stone face. I don't know anything about you except from what you told me. And you never told me that you went to war. You said that you joined the army with Felgorn, and that a friend of yours died. I knew that much. But is it really true? You fought against the Kingdom, fourteen years ago? Why did you hide that from me?
Afraid? Of what?
Afraid that if you knew everything, you would hate me. I was alone. I didn't have anywhere to go. When I first met you, I wanted nothing more than to belong somewhere. That's why I only told you part of the story. Only enough for you to have pity on me.
What are you ashamed of? It can't be just that you fought in the war. What happened? I've known you for a long time, Thorve. You're a good friend and one of the best people I've worked with. Whatever happened in the past won't change the way I see you. It's gone, it's over. I just want to know what's troubling you.
When the Pargon Republic declared its independence, the Kingdom had its hands full trying to take it back. The Empire took that opportunity to reclaim some land that the Kingdom had taken from us.
(Flashback time. Thorve will be narrating throughout, so I'll use his present-day portrait to indicate his words.)
I can't help it! I'll just go crazy if I sit still!
Then go take a walk on deck. Your fidgeting is getting on my nerves.
All right, fine. I'll stop already. Happy now?
Calm down, you two. From now on, we're not just friends. We're brothers-in-arms. We'll have to rely on each other in battle. You understand, right? Our lives will be in each other's hands. We'll need to watch each other's backs.
All right. If we work together, we can do anything, right?
You too, Felgorn.
Look, we've arrived.
Oh man. You think there'll be any fighting outside?
Here? No. The coast's already under our control. There's nothing for us to do in this place yet.
Let's go. We'll need to gather on the shore.
We had no idea what to expect. The vanguard had already come in and secured the area. Our force was only there to protect it. But we knew we couldn't become the heroes we wanted to be if we stayed home.
Fade to black...
About that battle... Why... Why aren't you guys saying anything? Is this what you wanted?
As you know, the Kingdom sent most of its army to suppress the rebellion at Pargon Island. Here in the outskirts of the country, there simply weren't any soldiers. All there were was villagers. Armed only with farming tools and crude weapons, they fought us to defend their homes and harvest.
But these people... they didn't have a choice. They didn't -want- to fight. We... we...
Shut up, Wolfram. I don't want to hear about it anymore.
Shit... What about you, Thorve? You don't agree with this, do you!?
Look, if they didn't want to fight, they could've just surrendered. No one was forcing them to die. Go to sleep now, we need to reach the village early in the morning. It should be easy. Another team already took out the resistance. All we're here to do is secure their grain supplies until the others get here to bring it to the camp.
Fade to black...
What do you mean? What happened there?
I... I'll tell you another time. Not now.
Okay. I won't push you any further. Just one thing. What does this have to do with Randolph? Why were you hesitant to meet him?
Fade to black...
Following the scene, we're dumped in the inn's lobby. Time to head back to the mine.
Fade to black...
What, you mean to say that the enemy attacked the thing we were supposed to defend? Whoever could have seen this coming?
What!? They've taken over the town?
Just how many are we talking about here?
I don't know, I couldn't see it very well, but I think it's too many for you to handle.
Damn. We're trapped in here.
They haven't noticed us yet, so we could probably escape the town. But we'd have to leave the supplies behind. We must avoid that if we can help it.
If I'm alone, they probably won't even pay attention to me.
All right. Be careful. Meanwhile, sergeant, I think you should escape the town and warn the General about what happened.
I got it.
Control is returned to us here. We can talk to our other party members to get their thoughts on the situation.
Try to stay out of sight. They might get suspicious if they see you coming and going from the mine.
It wouldn't take a large force to seize control of this town, but maybe they were expecting more resistance.
is there any other way to make it out with the supplies?
Be careful outside. We don't know what's going on.
We got ourselves in quite a situation. What do you suggest we do?
We head outside. Not much has changed here, but entering the southern half of the town triggers a scene.
Good, take your men to the west now. Once inspection of the town is done, I'm placing your squadron in charge of defending it. Meanwhile, we'll go back to the camp and report to General Tazar.
Tazar!? I can't believe it. He's the enemy general?
Fade to black...
It's not so surprising. After all, when we last met him, Tazar was conspiring with Helga. Now that she's the Empress, she probably gave all her allies high positions.
Either way, that's not important right now. He's not even in town. We've got to get out of here first.
So, we have two options. Either we stay here and try to defend ourselves against their numbers, or we escape while we still can, and leave the supplies behind.
There's no point in sacrificing our lives for this. I'll do what I can, but I won't fight a lost battle.
If there's really no hope of breaking through up there, there may be another way. The problem's that we just don't really know how dangerous it is.
What do you mean?
A while ago, we extended one of our mineshafts beyond the town limits. It's pretty close to the surface too.
A few men who were working there went missing, and so did the search team we sent for them. Since we didn't want to risk any more casualties, we sealed off that tunnel.
So if we go that way, we can escape and take the materials with us too?
It's dangerous though, we don't know what's in there.
I'd rather take my chances with some unknown beast than fight our way through a whole army regiment.
It's not the first time we've dealt with this kind of situation. And besides, it's the only way we can save the supplies too.
Okay, I'll tell 'em to open up the tunnel for you. Just go ahead, and I'll have my men follow you with the supplies. It'd be a great help for us if you guys got rid of whatever's inside.
All right, let's go!
The tunnel leads to our next dungeon, the Possessed Mine Shaft. As one might expect from a dungeon deep under the ground, there's going to be a lot of earth-aligned damage here, so Hilbert puts on the Eagle Wings.
For once, we actually manage to get through the first screen of a dungeon without getting attacked. So of course a battle pops up as soon as we take a step into the second one, against several Mole Warriors and a Mole Champion. Mole Warriors are straight physical attackers, dealing about 25 damage per hit and going down in a few attacks. Mole Champions are slightly stronger and have a lot more HP, but are pretty much the same. They do have one technique in Double Club, which deals 25 damage a hit but, true to its name, can hit twice. It seems to be random whether or not the second hit activates, though.
A little further in we come to a fork, the right side of which leads to a huge-ass room without any other exits. At the back of it, we find our first new spellcard in some time, and also our first second-tier attack spell:
Iceblast (25MP): Deals moderate ice damage to a single enemy.
Crisis: P-Ice (30MP): Deals moderate ice damage to a single enemy, ignoring enemy RES.
Stat changes: +3% INT, -2% SPD
I have to say, I really like how Last Scenario handles the advancement of your magic over the course of the game. If you'll recall, the first time we tried out an attack spell way back in update 5, I said that at that point in the game, spells were complete overkill. The counterbalance to that was that we only had enough MP to cast them three or four times. As we've progressed, first-tier spells like Frostbite and Lightning have gotten easier to cast regularly, but we've also started to reach the point where physical attacks do the same or more damage.
With the new tier, we've looped back around: the best magic is now crazy powerful compared to what we can do with physical attacks, but we've gone back to only having enough MP to cast it three or four times. The back-and-forth between the power of physical and magical attacks over the course of the game is a great system, I think, and it really helps with the usual jRPG problem of battles against regular enemies falling into the rut of "select attack -> win".
Anyway, as we're heading back to the fork we hit some new enemies: an Earth Elemental and a Clay Scorpion. Earth Elementals aren't too bad in terms of their attacks, but they have the nasty habit of countering all physical attacks with Earth Shield, which hits a character for about 35 earth damage. Clay Scorpions are similarly nonthreatening most of the time, but every now and again they'll bust out Stone Sting to petrify a party member.
We head down the left side of the fork and run into some Salamanders as well. Like their little brother Blue Geckos, Salamanders have no attacks other than a regular physical attack for about 20 damage. They're also weak to ice, so if you want to see some big numbers you can Iceblast them into oblivion, but Frostbite will do the trick most of the time for a sixth of the MP cost.
Beyond the Salamanders we find this dungeon's gimmick: cracked floors. Stepping on a slightly-cracked square will turn it into a very cracked square; stepping on a very cracked square will cause you to fall through the floor as it breaks. In order to head onwards, we'll need to find a way to hit all the switches in this area and make it back to solid ground without stepping on a cracked square more than once.
Or at least we will after we grab the treasure at the top end, which there's no way back from. Matilda pops this Strength Capsule.
Falling down a hole in this screen causes us to fall back into the giant room where we found the Iceblast spellcard. It's a bit of a trek back, but nothing major.
Once we're back, we step on all three switches to open the door on the right side.
As we continue on we swipe some Mole Armor from one of the Mole Champions, an interesting little piece of armor which grants a fair amount of VIT and RES, as well as an STR boost, in exchange for permanently blinding the wearer. It can be nice on a caster, but I like Lorenza being immune to light more than I like her having slightly higher VIT.
One of the Mole Hunters in the battle also sees fit to drop a Hex tile with his mug on it. This is actually our first copy.
We hit another fork, and head down the right path to find some high-quality treasure.
The left path leads us to a cracked-floor room which is a lot simpler than the first one. We can grab the Silver Cross (+15 RES) without having to think.
But while we can continue to the northeast and find some heavy armor, the path leads to a dead end.
In order to advance, we need to head back to the room with the Silver Cross and fall through the floor.
This leads us to a room with a save point and a switch, which will open a way back to the south.
And to the north is something that's leaving a lot of bones lying around...
Now where have I seen this before?
Look out! Something's coming!
BOSS FIGHT: Pestilence
Well that certainly deserves the description of something, all right. Pestilence is one of the bosses that made its way into Exit Fate as well (along with the Marid King, since I'm not sure I mentioned that), but its appearance is quite different here.
There's not that much to say about his stats, though. The Panacea he carries, which cures all detrimental status effects, is fairly nice but not worth obsessing over.
Anyway, as you might expect from a boss with this name, Pestilence specializes in causing status effects. He opens the battle with Abyssal Smoke, which does no damage but poisons the entire party. Lorenza is only saved from this fate due to her Swirling Ring.
Just like in Exit Fate, Pestilence's signature move is Deathly Breath, though fortunately it only hits one character in this game. Deathly Breath inflicts a decent chunk of damage as well as a whole bunch of random status effects on its target. Also similarly to Exit Fate, the main determinant of how difficult this fight is going to be is what statuses Deathly Breath decides to inflict. If you end up with weak statuses like blindness or, better yet, statuses that your characters' accessories block, this battle will be pretty easy. But if your whole party gets chaos'd, things are going to go south in a hurry.
In addition to its status-inflicting techniques, Pestilence has a powerful earth-aligned attack in Cave-in...
... as well as a regular attack that can do a fair chunk of damage.
But I get lucky and a lot of the Deathly Breath castings happen to end up inflicting statuses that are blocked by all the accessories my characters are wearing. The only one that gets through is silence on Matilda, and all that means is that I don't get a chance to Limit Break the boss. Oh well.
For our trouble, we land ourselves another Diamond Dust and the new Belgugon Hex tile.
Well, at least we got rid of it. We should be able to escape now.
I saw you fighting that monster from a distance. You guys are really amazing. But it looks like it's my turn now.
Can you get us out?
This is a natural cave that we stumbled upon while digging that new shaft.
I just love imagining this guy suggesting this as though it's completely natural.
I-Is that safe?
Don't worry. Just keep some distance and we'll take care of the rest.
It will take a while to get all the supplies out, but at least we're safe now.
Fade to black...
I heard about the attack, but there was nothing I could do about that. That town was a small loss compared to what could've happened if it came to a full confrontation.
We were really lucky that we could escape through that mineshaft. It was tough, but we made it.
We'll have enough supplies to last for a while now, so there's no urgency to recapture Kohlen. You can go now. I have nothing else for you to do at the moment.
That's it? Not even a word of thanks, after all we did to save your supplies?
If you're looking for compliments then you're in the wrong place. Are you done now? I have work to do.
There's one more thing. We discovered that the enemy's leader is a former Republic commander who defected to the Empire.
Tazar, yes. I knew that already.
But we didn't know that yet, and there's something you didn't know about too. Tazar was our direct superior when we were in the Republic army.
Hmm, is that so? I hope you don't get a conflict of interests during this battle.
Look, what do you think we're telling you this for? Maybe your distrust is blinding you from the obvious? If you know the enemy, then you know his weakness. A general should know that much.
If you know something helpful, then tell me. I have no time to toy around.
Exactly, that's my point. He has no front line experience at all. I'm betting he didn't even want this position. He'd prefer to sit safely in some comfy office in the city.
So he's inexperienced, unwilling, and a foreigner at that. His men should be unhappy with him.
Now you're catching on. I'll tell you one more thing. He's a coward. When his life's in danger, he will run.
Hmm... now that's interesting. A weak leader makes for a weak army.
I was already thinking about that on the way here. We know that Tazar is at the camp on the other side of the plains.
Even if he survives, he'll definitely run, and that may break his forces' spirit even more. What do you think of that?
It's... not a bad idea. You'll be the ones taking the risk, so I'm willing to try it.
Good, now you're finally being sensible. Either way, you'll have to attack quickly when the enemy's in chaos.
If we ignore Kohlen entirely and go straight for the camp, it will catch them off guard.
Yes. You should attack first, then we can sneak in when they're in disarray. How is the camp structured? Are there any places we can enter easily from?
It's flanked by forests on both sides. If they're distracted by an attack, it would be easy to approach. The western woods are less dense, so that route would be best. If we carry out this plan, we should do it as soon as possible. They won't be expecting an attack so soon after they took Kohlen.
Yes, I agree. The sooner we do this the better. What do you think, Hilbert? Are you okay with this?
It sounds good to me. If you and the General agree, then it has to be a good plan.
So, you want to go through with this then?
Fine. We'll carry out this plan. Make your preparations quickly.
Next time: A mission to assassinate Tazar? I can get behind this