Part 17: Inferno Campaign, Map One, Part ThreeSarah flies away while Kiril was flashbacking. If we try to follow her, our way is blocked by a gate, so we have no choice but to keep on trucking and defeat Pain and Hate.
North leads to a bunch of fairly strong Necropolis stacks. Recall that Drain Life doesn't work on them, so you just have to beat them down through brute force (taking out Ghosts is a good idea, since our Hell Hounds and Maniacs are weak against magic).
There are a few interesting stops along the way, but more important is a set of Ruins (no idea why there are Orcs down here), where our reward is our first Inferno Elite creature, the Breeder. (Joy?)
Bestowed upon Ur-Aazheel, the Demon Overlord of Proliferation, the Breeder is an obese, pulsing mass of flesh that continually spits Imps from shifting orifices in her skin. Almost incapable of movement, she constantly twitches from her insatiable need to procreate, and much of her vital energy is consumed in efforts to control the mutations of her body. She feeds on mana, that she can smell from a mile away, and when hungry, is not reluctant to consume her own offspring.
Breeder Damage: 14-17 (Magical, Fire [Ranged], Might [Melee]) Defense: 12 (25%) Magic Defense: 15 (29%) Health: 70 Initiative: 40 Movement: 5 (Walking) Range: Half Destiny: 12 Morale: 10 Cost: 410 Growth: 3/week Abilities: Large Creature, Mana Leech, Fireproof Skin, Vulnerability to Light, Living
Mana Leech posted:
Mana is a creative resource that allows one to make something out of nothing. The creatures of Ur-Aazheel, the Demon Overlord of Proliferation, can smell Mana a mile away. Breeders not only rely on Mana to reproduce but can also channel its power from an enemy to their leader, whenever they are the target of an attack.
Mana Leech only works if both sides have a Hero leading them. Whenever the Breeder makes a ranged attack, 10% of the enemy Hero's remaining Mana is drained and given to the Breeder's hero. If the enemy hero has no Mana, 1 Mana is given instead.
The Breeder is the worst offensive creature in the game. Fitting considering she shoots Imps.
To start off, she's a Ranged creature, which sounds good, and her damage is about on par with that of a Centaur... until you realize she has Half Range, which means she's doing about half of that damage most of the time, making her a slightly buffed Core creature. And unlike Core creatures, she doesn't have the luxury of an extremely high Growth rate to make up for it (Despite her name, her growth rate is just as much/little as any other Elite creature). This means she'll be able to attack for full damage at least when the enemy is close. But being a large creature with horrid movement, she's easy to catch up to and surround (her Mana Leech won't work with Melee, either), where her average defenses and poor health are easily exploited. The Inferno is also one of two towns without the Advanced Marketplace, so the only way to remove her ranged penalty is hoping you find a Unicorn Horn Bow or better on the map.
The Breeder does have a few upsides, even if they are fairly iffy. She has higher Initiatve of any other creature we have on the Inferno team for now, so she'll at least guarantee you that first strike. Mana Leech is only worth using in Hero combat, and it is fairly useful early on where you can whittle down enemy Mana and Kiril only has a dinky 50 or 60 to spare. Keep in mind that the size of the Breeder stack doesn't affect Mana Leech, so to get maximum output you'd need to have multiple Breeder stacks. Mana Leech just gets less and less effective as the fight goes on, though.
At the end of the day, the Breeder's not completely useless. She's still a Ranged creature, which is helpful, and she does have a few strategies, and I suppose she'd be better if Kiril was a Magic hero. But I'd almost always have another creature stack in place of her.
Back on track, the two Orange towns up here are fairly easy to beat. The only notable aspect is that they're guarded by Deleb, who HoMM V veterans might remember for her infamous ballista. Here though, she's just fairly annoying, being a Magic hero (with access to Lightning Bolt).
After we conquer both Orange towns, we are introduced to Kha-Beleth, who people might remember in HoMM V.
Click here to listen to the conversation!
Master, we tried to keep him in your castle...
Silence, Xana! I'm speaking with someone whose destiny touches us all...
Kha-Beleth, where is Sarah?
Questions, questions... all in due time. Do you know what kind of destiny you so innocently ferried over?
He almost conquered all of Ashan, above and below, but the Archangel Michael captured his soul. Sarah knows what he's capable of. Why did you bring him back to Sheogh?
It wasn't my choice. I assumed you had a deal.
We did. She got safe passage through Sheogh, and I got... you. But I did not expect to get two prizes for the price of one...
She traded me for a vacation in hell?!
Oh Kiril. That might be one of my favourite lines in the whole game.
I guess she had higher ambitions. Are the two of you planning on conquering the world?
What would I want with a world?
That question has many answers...
Now that Orange is gone, we can move on to take Purple from the top. Tor-Berith will still wander around and still flee when he's losing.
If we attack Tor-Berith and are killed, Urgash will spawn us anew with all our memories intact. We'll be weaker and wiser, and in a few decades our strength will return.
A few decades? I don't have that much time... and I'm not planning on coming back as a succubus.
How cute. He thinks he's coming back as a girl.
You'll be reincarnated as an incubus.
Better and better... I'll avoid flipping coins with my soul, and only pick fights we're sure to win.
And right after that, we find the (second) toughest town in this campaign.
First, a little strategy. We create a few small Breeder stacks.
A large Succubus army, and a Magic hero, to boot.
Click here to watch part of the battle (YouTube via Polsy)
Sorry it's only part of the battle - the game starts to slow down a bit when you've played it for too long for a random period of time, and this battle was really long at the end anyway.
While the Inferno isn't as bad as the Stronghold when it comes to Siege, any competed defending ranged army can prove troublesome, because we can't make good use of our Hell Hounds' Unlimited Retaliation. With Kiril's limited mana, we can't just sit back and constantly heal, either. Malik has stronger ranged firepower, so we'll have to nullify that.
The best strategy is to use Gating to block off Malik's large Succubus stack. The best unit are Lilim, due to their returning 20% of any Melee damage back to the attacker. Breeders also work since they're sturder. Meanwhile, you keep your Hell Hounds healthy with Regeneration while your Breeder stacks slowly eat away at Malik's mana and your Lilim chip away at his troops. Keep your Maniacs and Hell Hounds waited to destroy any Infernal Gates Malik might try to summon.
Once most of Malik's troops are gone, it's likely you'll have a lot of Hell Hounds still lost and not enough Mana to recover it from. That's where you'll have to play a little creatively. Leave Malik with just one weak stack remaining (as long as it's not Maniacs. Succubi are the best choice since they're the slowest thing in his army). Attack with your 1-unit stack of Breeders to sap mana, then Enthrall them with your Lilim to keep Malik from doing anything. Regeneration your Hell Hounds whenever possible. You can potentially keep this up for as long as Malik still has a least one unit left.
This strategy takes an incredibly long time, by the way - Regeneration costs a hefty 25 Mana, which means 25 attacks from Breeders (about 12 or 13 rounds). I was lucky enough to get a week which reduced the cost to 19, but even so the battle took too long for my liking.
It's not a perfect win, but we'll have to manage. I could have made it near perfect if his Succubi didn't die on me.
There's a One-Way Portal you can take from this town to the last Inferno town Purple has, but we can go ahead and take their Fort first by walking.
Xana, do the words 'in a hurry' mean anything to you?
Yes, but I don't understand you. You have eternity here, and there are dozens of more interesting things to do than chase down an angel.
I can think of hundreds...
I need to catch Sarah before she leaves. She put Azzie in my head, and she's going to take him back out.
We can then capture the Inferno fort...
Things like these are always very much appreciated.
The last Inferno town is laughably weak, and Tor-Berith can't hide from us this time. It also features an oddly de-leveled Malik (who's now level 2 instead of 5). All indicators the first Purple town we took was meant to be the last.
Why hasn't Kha-Beleth killed me to free Azzie?
Azkaal is the greatest general Sheogh has ever known. In less than a century he could recover that position. It would spoil Kha-Beleth's plans.
His plans? How did I get myself into the papers of some Arch-Demon?
Good question. You're not only handsome, you're also smart.
Kha-Beleth believes you have a destiny. Not just many men can control the soul of Azkaal.
With both Inferno factions down, the gate opens, and a new problem crops up for us to solve. Remember this guy? He appeared for all of ten minutes in the Tutorial campaign.
Click here to listen to the conversation!
Who are you?
Toghrul. Pavel's Bane! Where is Slava? Slava coward, sends younger son to fight?
He's dead. My family has paid enough for the sins of my grandfather. I'm still paying. Just, let me pass.
Ha! Toghrul made pact with Prince Ahrriban to kill Slava and family of Slava. Toghrul not letting past...
Damn me! Damn you!
And we'll take care of that little problem next time. But first...
We've got enough reputation to advance our rank! Might as well.
Kiril is now considered a Hellcaller rather than a Heretic.
Hellcallers inspire demonkind and harness their longing for freedom from their eternal prison world into a devastating strategical weapon. The Hellcallers charisma and sense of purpose makes them the most feared Heretics on Ashan, most especially during a Blood Moon eclipse when the walls of Sheogh are weakened. Their ranks are constantly replenished by eager, ferocious and obedient minions who would follow them anywhere, eyes alit with the promise of freedom.
And now a bit of talking about Reputation. When a Hero advances in Reputation, he gains a specific ability unique to that class/reputation combo. He can get another one at 1000 Reputation. Our first Reputation ability is Irresistable Calling.
(Note that the slashed numbers indicate the base strength of the ability based on reputation, and they can improve with the Hero's stats. The first number is at Level 1 Tears rep, the second is Level 2, at 1000 Reputation).
Irresistable Calling posted:
Passively increases the number of troops summoned by Gating by 19.7/22.1%.
A decent enough bonus. We'll be seeing a decent amount of mileage from this in long battles.
Bonus Content - Blood and Tears
Our alternative choice would be to attack the Maniacs rather than to help them.
If you want my heart, you'll have to tear it out of my dead body!
So saddened are we! Bitter tears of mourning... shall pour against your grave...
And after the battle...
You're going to go far in Sheogh, Master Kiril. You tamed the Maniacs.
Just keep them away from my tent, Daeva.
Now for our Hero classes. I'll be showing the first reputation ability of each. Our first alternative is to go Might, Blood, turning Kiril into a Chaos Lord.
Chaos Lord posted:
In Sheogh, Luck is a form of Power. None have learned the extent of this aspect as well as the Chaos Lord, who in gaining the favours of Urgash for daring and ever riskier exploits, has acquired the capacity to bend the rules of fate and destiny. The leaders legions not only grow in confidence under the Chaos Lords command, but become uncannily precise in battle, devastating their astonished foes.
Mark of Chaos posted:
All lucky attacks by the Hero's army increase in damage by 25/29%.
An excellent passive, especially given how often Inferno creatures get lucky attacks. Note that this also applies to the Hero's attacks as well.
The second option is if Kiril went Magic. The starting Magic class is the Warlock.
The magic of Chaos is a powerful force that has more than once turned a curious Priest away from their Dragon God, or an ambitious Wizard from the reasonable precepts of Sar-Issus. These Sheogh-bent mages are called Warlocks, and their reputation on the battlefield is infamous. Often the leaders of secret armies of Demon Cultists in times of peace, when demons escape Sheogh, they willingly swarm to the Warlocks banner.
And their neutral reputation ability is Chaos Magic, which is unreliable, but helpful.
Chaos Magic posted:
All spells cast by this hero have a 50% chance of reducing Mana cost by 50%.
And if we go Tears, Kiril becomes a Demonist.
Warlocks obtain the title of Demonist when their mastery of the magic of Chaos allows them to create portals between Sheogh and Ashan at will. The greatest amongst them use these powers during the heat of a battle, turning the tide to their favour when even the most pessimistic of generals has thought the conflict already won. The greatest demonists are known throughout Sheogh, and the minions of Urgash answer their calling in a heartbeat.
Linked Gating posted:
Gated stacks will absorb 37.3/42.9% of attacks dealt to the original stack.
Linked Gating is a pretty nice passive. Most advanced players will ignore Gated stacks since they die if the original stack dies. Linked Gating just makes it that much harder to kill off the original.
Finally, the Blood/Magic option, where Kiril becomes a Pyromancer.
Warlocks seduced by the promises of Ur-Khrag, the Demon Overlord of Destruction, become so attuned to His will, that they can channel the powers of fire and chaos directly onto the battlefield. The spells of the Pyromancer are so devastating that demons under their command often charge impulsively simply to be sure of being part of the combat before it is quickly finished by the powers of their master.
And their unique ability is the Inferno.
Deals 510/587 Fire damage to the target and jumps to another enemy target if it's within two squares. Costs 55 Mana and usable once per battle.
Inferno is ridiculously fun to use at the start of a battle, as it can potentially hit all the targets on your opponent's side. It has a steep mana cost, but hopefully Chaos Magic will kick in and save you about 20 Mana or so. As an side, the Inferno makes one of the best Blood Magic heroes simply because it has the best selection of offensive spells in the form of Air and Fire schools, and its own reputation abilities. Other factions either don't have the Fire line, or the ones that do lack offense (Haven), or longevity (Stronghold).
Well, there's that. See you next time for the conclusion of this map!