Part 33: Sanctuary Campaign, Map Three, Part OneSorry Kiril, you're going to have to wait a little longer.
The Blood-Timmed Tide posted:
Having defeated her Daimyo and been honored with the role of leading the land armies of the Eternal Empress, Irina has now been adopted by the Nagas. Her first responsibility is to halt an invading army of Undead that have sailed across the Jade Ocean to a sacred and protected island, where an avatar of Shalassa is said to rest.
Yes, we're jumping straight into Irina's third map. Why? Why not?
Kappa, Shark Guards, Kirin, now it looks like I'll be up against Orcs and Undead... If I retire from the vengeance business I could start a hell of a circus.
But Katsue's right. This sea is Shalassa's sea, and the souls that lie in those ships do not belong to those Necromancers.
It happened almost a century ago, the Eternal Empress called up a spirit of the waters to destroy an armada from the Falcon Empire. That's how the Orcs escaped, and found freedom.
But a lot of lost souls lie in those ships, and the Necromancers want to take them...
Daimyo Jubo! It is I, Arashi! Lord Hiroshi had sent me ahead to prepare his coming... the news is not good.
Hardly a surprise. But... Jubo? My name is Irina!
Not anymore. Not to me. Daimyo, the undead have taken three of our four sacred temples, driving us back to this last outpost. We have lost too many Naga to counterattack, and I doubt the village that holds the fourth shrine will last a week.
They come for souls and spirits but they'll only get war and woe. Come!
We start off with an undeveloped Sanctuary town. On the minimap we can also see four other towns - one owned by the Necropolis, two by the Orcs, and a neutral Sanctuary town. The Necropolis will quickly take over the Stronghold towns. We're supposed to 'lose' if the Necromancers take all four towns, but they'll actually leave the Sanctuary town alone until you claim it. Despite what Arashi says, we have all the time in the world to get started.
I hire another hero to help claim free resources. To speed up killing, I actually give Katashi my Kappa and give Irina my Shark Guards and Priestesses. Katashi's strong enough to handle some neutral stacks on her own, and Irina is easily bulldozing her way past the early stacks. There's a Sawmill and Ore Pit on our initial little island, and enough Crystal to build several structures, so we're not exactly short on supply right now.
Let's talk about what our secondary Heroes can do right now. Katashi starts off with Lightning Bolt and (Mass) Ice Armor; a quick couple of levels from Irina's Mentoring nets her Regneration and Tactics as well. She has a decent supply of Mana, about 200, which is good enough to last several battles. She also knows Haste (not very useful), and the Arcane Affinity I and II skills, which give her an effective +5 Magic power, very helpful for catching up to Irina's strength.
The Ice Armor spell gives a substantial boost to defenses; not as much as Stone Skin, but with the added effect of inflicting Chilled to the attackers. At the start of the game's development, Chilled was a pretty crummy effect - -1 Movement was alright, but the 20% Fire vulnerability was not, since only the Stronghold has access to both Water and Fire schools. 1.7 changed that dramatically by turning the Fire vulnerability to a Might one. Now it's suddenly much more useful. Chilled creatures suddenly take 20% more damage from the Kappa's counterattacks and normal attacks, and the defense boost and Regeneration allow us to easily win with no losses. Sanctuary creatures are immune to the effect, but that's why Katashi has Lightning Bolt - she can wipe out over 30 Cores in a single strike.
For those on the Tears route, Chango also starts with Ice Armor, so he can apply the strategy too, but he has much lower Mana but better Might skills. Fortunately Ice Armor is dirt cheap, at 10 Mana.
Irina isn't slouching, either. Since she's hit level 15, she gains access to the third-tier of Magic spells, in particular, the Summon Elemental spells. These are amazing for general battle use - the Elementals can be used to block off shooters, especially in sieges, take a couple of hits thanks to Spirit Form, and reduce casualties that our main troops would take instead. Irina could actually handle most neutral stacks with just a low number of creatures that have enough Initiative to allow her to go first. The strategy isn't as effective as before when Spirit Form lasted indefinitely, but it's good enough.
I always pick Earth Elementals because of their general tankiness - with 100 health and a constant Regeneration, they easily last the longest. All the Elementals have their uses - Water takes 20% less damage from all attacks and has Ice Bolt on a low cooldown, Fire damages melee attackers especially on death, Light does the same and has a great no-retailation ability, Darkness dispells status effects and also bypasses retaliation. Finally, Air also bypasses retaliation, and can hit multiple units at once with its ranged attack. I only pick Earth, but almost any Elemental is good enough for general use, though I'd usually recommend Earth, Water or Light (Irina can't pick Fire or Darkness, anyway). The other useful spell is Meditiation - it instantly restores 50% of maximum mana, allowing Irina to last twice as long, and makes her next 4 spells more powerful. It's easily one of the best utility spells any spellcaster can have. Katashi won't have access to it for a few more levels.
There's not much worth talking about on the little starting island - collect all resources, and move to the mainland across the ocean. We can immediately see a couple of Orc heroes standing about.
Not so easy to see future, to see will of Mother Earth. Orcs will watch Irina. When time is right, Orcs will decide.
So yeah, that's it. They're blocking the path for now, so we have no choice but to head west to the neutral Sanctuary town.
Recognize this guy from the last map?
Surrender to the will of Asha! Your deaths will have meaning beneath our banner. Together we will fight the demons.
I'm not in the habit of either dying or giving up.
Fool! We must prepare our legions for the Demon Invasion.
Don't saddle me with your troubles; I have plenty of my own.
That's how Anastasya's map leads to this one: Haffayad set sail to the Pao Islands during it. Haffayad flees and leaves his other Necropolis lankey for us to defeat. After that...
Tell me what exactly these four sacred shrines or spirits are, Kappa.
Aspects of the Water Spirit. Called Hai Ryo. Great avatar of Shalassa. Sunk Falcon fleet many years ago. Dispersed afterwards. Sleeps in form of lake, river, glacier and mist. If Irina controls all four of these aspects, Hai Ryo comes to help.
Hmph. Shalassa's will be done, however moist it may be.
That's the extent of our quest for now; control all four towns, each corresponding to one shrine.
So tell me. Who are you? Why should I help you?
Necromancers capture Orc villages. Orcs want vengeance. Villages must be retaken! Orcs will fight deadmen.
The deadmen are numerous, dangerous, well-supplied...
Nnn. Human leading Naga? Smells powerful. So, Ulagan and Orcs join you. Destroy deadmen! Wipe them out.
Orcs may be ugly, but they fight well. Good cannon fodder.
Ulagan joins us while Ruqav runs off. In the Tears route this is reversed; Ruqav joins us instead while Ulagan runs off.
Ulagan is an Orc sailor from the Pao Islands. The sea shanties that he knows could make a fifty-year-old tavern maid turn redder than beets. Fortunately those shanties, sung with much gusto, amused Ulagan's gaolers in the Mines of Baader Chasm. He had been captured and held there by the Duke of Wolf's troops after Gerhart's invasion of the Griffin lands, and the songs helped him escape the worst of the brutal conditions.
When Ulagan was freed by Kraal, the great Orc of the Whitespear clan whom he had accompanied five several earlier, the first thing he did was head to the coast, where he stole a small dhow and immediately set sail for the Pao Islands. Sadly, when he arrived, he found his homelands under siege from Necromancers.
A new shanty he's composing to honor the unwanted guests begins: 'Oh, I once came home to find the Undead in my bed!'
Despite his appearance as a Mauler, Ulagan is actually a Magic Hero. He starts off with a decent number of Stronghold troops (50-60 Maulers/Goblins, 10 Jaguar Warriors, 4 Cyclops) and a decent number of spells, but he won't carry over to the next map. So we can just use him for cannon fodder to clear out a few neutral stacks.
We also get another main quest to free two sets of Orc prisoners held captive by the Necromancers. They get highlighted on our map.
There were over 120 Harpies while Katashi had only 75 Kappa. Being a Magic Hero is good business. There are other ways the Sanctuary can work with the Chilled effect. Wanizame can combined Chilled with their Ferocious Wound/Blood Frenzy abiltiies to deal 160% damage on a single stack, Kenshi love using it with Unlimited Retaliation. Incidentally, Snow Maidens go from 'alright shooter' to a great supporting stack, being able to reduce movement and make them more vulnerable to our melee attackers. This makes them useful even on this map, where Undead are resistant to Water damage.
Speaking of that, we can upgrade every single one of our troops this map, including our three Elite units and the Kirin. I only get access to the Kenshi's one for now, but I'll detail more as I get them.
Certain Deep Nagas are born with four arms, and they are trained to master a combat style known as the Four Waves that is adapted to their unique anatomy. Once they demonstrate a sufficient mastery of this martial art, they are reverently called Kenseis, Sword Saints.
Kensei Damage: 19-22 (Might) Defense: 18 (34%) Magic Defense: 17 (32%) Health: 90 Initiative: 50 Movement: 5 (Walking) Range: None Destiny: 8 Morale: 11 Cost: 630 Growth: 5/week Abilities: Large Creature, Challenge, Battle Ready, Four Waves, Living, Amphibian, Vulnerability to Air, Resistance to Water
Four Waves posted:
High tide, low tide and the waves of blood between. The poet kills with his brush, the Kensei writes with his sword. These lines from the rebel daimyo Yamana were reportedly sent to the Shogun of the Imperial Empress, as he was about to engage his battalion of Kenseis. They attest to the respect Yamana attributed to the celebrated Four Waves, the combat style mastered by these elite warriors. Yamana surrendered without a fight and was allowed to kill himself through the honorable Drowning Kiss ritual.
Four Waves is an interesting passive - if the Kensei strike a single stack multiple times consecutively, they gain an extra attack each time they attack at halved damage each time, stacking up to 4 attacks maximum. So after attacking a single stack three times, as long as they don't attack any other stacks (retaliation is fine), they'll attack that stack once at full damage, once at 1/2 damage, once at 1/4 damage and once at 1/8 damage.
Kenshi were amazing, Kensei are better. They have the best overall raw stats of any Elite creature - best damage, Initiative, second best defenses (only losing out to the Earth Elemental), and decent Morale and Luck as well. Throw in Unlimited Retaliation, immunity to Chilled and Frozen, and a resistance to Water, and you have a serious offensive frontline fighter that can also take hits and dish it back. If the Kensei could fly or have better movement, they'd be near perfect; as it is, perhaps their only weaknesses are their large size and vulnerability to ranged assaults. Still, a top-notch upgrade and my second priority when picking Sanctuary (after upgrading Priestesses).
The neutral Sanctuary town is undefended, so we claim it easily. There's another set of mines as well as a Crystal Cavern around it, which I set Irina and Katashi to claiming, while I get Ulagan to explore the previously blocked path.
One of the neutral stacks on that path guards one of the four fragments of the Moon Disc. The Moon Disc is essentially the Grail of HoMM VI, allowing us to build a powerful structure at a town of our choice once we collect all 4 fragments. As you might expect, I will be gathering the other three fragments eventually.
Next time, we gather more fragments, reclaim more villages, and tangle with undead.