Part 40: Necropolis Campaign, Map Three, Part OneWho? Kiril? No idea who you're talking about.
Circumradiant Dawn posted:
Anastasya has conquered her inner demons. By accepting her own faults that led to the death of her father, she is now stronger than ever before. Unfortunately, her great-aunt Sveltana was captured by Miranda, the Headmistress of the Spider Cult. Convinced that Miranda is certainly linked in some way to the death of her father, she decides to take her army of Undead and free Sveltana. The fact that Demons are now invading all of Ashan is of little importance...
The following conversation differs depending on whether Anastasya is Tears or Blood. Here's the version first:
There are reports of demons attacking in every corner of Ashan. I don't know where to start. There are so many who will need my help.
I would be honored if you would join me. I have a long journey through hostile territory and your healing powers would be of great utility.
Yes! It would be a privilege.
<You're taking this parrot with us?>
You still haven't told me if you think Orcs have souls.
I know they do. Our master-of-arms, Kraal, was more full of life than anyone I have ever known.
How fascinating... You grew up with an orc?
<I'll scout ahead while you two blather...>
And here's the version...
Priestess Anastasya... I must return to the hospice where my talents of healing will be best employed. There are demons everywhere.
I have a long journey to free my Aunt from the clutches of Miranda. A physician of your talents would be useful to me.
Send those you spare back to the hospice and I will treat them. You have become very powerful, Anastasya... but our philosophy differs... and will lead us to conflict.
Very well then Kaspar. I promise to spare at least one enemy in your honor. Asha uses all.
So there's that. Kaspar joins us as a secondary Hero in the Tears path.
Kaspar was born to family of poison makers in the Wolf Duchy and though a lover of his parents' craft, he aspired to even greater knowledge. This pursuit led him to the Seven Cities where the Wizards took him under their educative wing.
Kaspar was a brilliant student and his talent remarked, but after participating in an unsuccessful experiment to create a construct with the sacrificed essence of a Djinn and a pile of Shadowsteel, part of him began to question the ethics of the Wizards.
Kaspar left on a quest to discover and catalog herbs and plants from all over the lands of Ashan, and after decades of contemplation and research heard talk of a new magical philosophy that respected the sacred.
Kaspar decided to go to the Seventh City, Al-Betyl, and discover this new cult dedicated to the Spider Goddess.
Ignore that Anastasya is level 1 in that screenshot - I took that one in offline mode. The first thing you'd notice is that Kaspar is level 18 - that's 4 levels higher than Anastasya! It also means he has access to third-tier spells right off the bat. The other good part?
He hasn't spent any of his skill points (he even comes with the Regeneration spell free)! That means we can literally customize him as we wish. Giving him all sorts of high-powered spells and abilities means we could even use him as a more efficient 'Main Hero' than Anastasya for a while - defensive players may prefer his Regeneration specialization over Ana's Ghoul Rouser. Ana has 2 maps' worth of stat boosts under her belt though, so she's the better choice over time, especially since Kaspar can't gain reputation.
But back to the map. This map can be fairly though if you don't plan efficiently, as we are facing no less than three rival factions - the Inferno, now out in full force with the Eclipse starting, Miranda's Necropolis faction, and some Orcs, because why not Orcs. It might seem kind of daunting. The loading screen gives us a helpful tip, though. We can isolate and take out factions one by one before they get too threatening, and from then on it's relatively smooth sailing.
Aside from the standard skills, I also give Kaspar Summon Earth Elemental and Ice Armor (Katashi really showed me how good the spell was). I also pumped him full of +Magic Power talents, which helped made up for all the stat boosts he missed out on. Combine that with his talents for Regeneration, and he can easily coast through most early neutral stacks. I give him all my Ghosts, while Ana keeps the Ghouls and Skeletons (she needs more firepower, since she still doesn't have access to the level 15 spells). I could give Kaspar Skeletons since they can help do damage while he kills things, but they're too slow for my liking. All the neutral stacks at the beginning are Undead, so no need for Drain Life.
<I saw the Winged one, Uriel...>
What? Are you sure it was Uriel?
<I'll go get him, if you don't believe me.>
No! Please don't tell him I'm here. I'm not ready for him to see me like this.
<See you like what? Oh... the Undead part...>
A few days later while I clear out the trash mobs around...
Click here to listen to the conversation!
Greetings Dark Wizard of the Seven Cities. I am Uriel, High Councilor of the Holy Empire, and bring you a message from Liam Falcon. Ashan is invaded, and your help is required!
Greetings, Arch-Angel Uriel! Are you looking for support or prisoners that have fled your jails?
The quarrels between Ashan's people must be set aside... until the demon invasion has been thwarted.
Then you no longer seek Jorgen. We have been told that you seek a personal interest in his capture.
You are well informed, Necromancer. My vengeance can wait another century if it must. I have already lost all that is important... and Jorgen's punishment will not bring her back to me!
Ana's facade quickly cracks...
Uriel! It's me! Anastasya!
Praise Elrath! Anastasya... but I saw you die!
You were right to stop Salvatore! I will report this scandal to Archangel Michael and the Emperor... but the rescue of your Aunt must wait until the demon invasion has been stopped.
Sveltana can help us! She's the most powerful Necromancer of the Seven Cities...
Your great-aunt is a known servant of the Spider Queen. I would rather have someone loyal to Elrath at the head of undead armies.
Uriel, I'm not my Aunt. I'm still learning...
You were always a fast learner... destined to become a powerful priestess of Elrath. Put your personal vendettas aside. We are at war with Sheogh! Have those blackened robes you wear darkened your heart?
Uriel! It is me inside this body! I thought you of all people... would never doubt me.
My heart knows who you are and will always love you... but Elrath rewards only our actions. You must first save Ashan... then save your aunt.
Yes... You are right.
I must report to Liam... Promise me to stop the demons before you do anything else.
I will, Uriel. Fly safely.
Geez Uriel, you were almost making a good point there. The war against the demons is more important than any one individual, that's true. But instead of saying that you had to go 'Ew, no Elrath worship means bad!'? This game's writing sometimes...
There's a Fort just southwest of our starting territory ripe for the taking. Hmm, maybe it's too tough for Kaspar to handle?
Oh, psh, right.
The next day...
Mother? What... where...
Anastasya... we'll have time to talk, I promise. But for now, you are in danger. And we need Sveltana. The balance between Light and Darkness is swaying in the favor of the Light.
Not for me. I've gone from Priestess of Elrath to Necromancer of the Spider Queen.
Your heart is still that of a Griffin. We'll meet again, I promise.
I was raised by angels and priests of Elrath while you were out looking for your brother... and apparently getting fitted for dark armor and growing dragon wings. If they are so dangerous, why did you leave me with them?
Your anger is justified. But if I had stayed... things would only be worse. I have shed so many tears in this lifetime... and your words cut me to the heart.
I cannot see how this could be worse for any of us. Father is dead. I am dead.
You will never be dead to me Anastasya. Will you rescue Sveltana?
That I will do. But not for you, mother...
Hmm... curious. Meanwhile, our town is chugging along nicely. There are loads of resources scattered around and our new Fort has a Crystal Mine nearby, so I could quickly beeline for Liches and their upgrade.
An Archlich is given that title when he has continued living beyond what his or her physical shell would have normally permitted. Though this passage might seem arbitrary, it is not, for a Lich feels the moment pass when death should have come. As they journey beyond the sacred cycle of Life and Death, they gain comprehension of greater powers, some which can be used to sap the life force of living creatures.
Archlich Damage: 16-20 (Magical, Darkness) Defense: 13 (26%) Magic Defense: 13 (26%) Health: 72 Initiative: 30 Movement: 4 (Walking) Range: Full Destiny: 7 Cost: 525 Growth: 5/week Abilities: Dark Embrace, Life Drain, Undead, Emotionless, Vulnerability to Light
Life Drain posted:
The Archlich has gained mastery over the cycle of Life & Death and can play with its energies. It can drain life from an enemy and pour it into the hungry body of an undead ally. This tremendous power, considered wicked by many, is considered to be a relatively altruistic action by necromancers, for it cannot be used to heal themselves.
Life Drain is usable once per battle and requires another friendly Undead stack on the battlefield. It causes the Archliches' attack against a living target this turn to heal the targetted friendly stack by 20% of the damage. If the Archliches don't attack, then the Life Drain is wasted. It can't be used on themselves.
The Archlich doesn't gain any huge new abilities (Life Drain is really only useful at the start of the battle, since it can only get worse as the Archlich stack suffers casualties), and its only realy standout improvement is its damage. But really, that's all it needs. They're still offensive juggernauts that keep getting stronger with every attack thanks to Dark Embrace, and if you have it, Archery II, and that's pretty much it. They're still frail and still slow, but that's what the rest of your army is for - letting these bony MVPs kill everything in sight while they take the hits.
Access to Meditation and Summon Earth Elemental! Let the raping of enemy creatures commence!
Oh, did you know we don't get the Ghoul's upgrade till this map, even though we already have Skeletal Spearmen and Specters on Map One? Yeah, I almost didn't realize it either.
Ravenous Ghouls have been trained to fight by their masters. They are even more feral and vicious than their wild relatives. When brought to battle by the Undead Lords of the Seven Cities, they are often chained together like war dogs.
Ravenous Ghoul Damage: 6-8 (Might) Defense: 7 (16%) Magic Defense: 2 (5%) Health: 30 Initiative: 35 Movement: 5 (Walking) Range: None Destiny: 6 Cost: 175 Growth: 10/week Abilities: Dead Flesh, Rage Against the Living, Undead, Emotionless, Vulnerability to Light
Rage Against the Living posted:
Unleash the ravenous ghoul, his hunger will lead us to the thief. The guardian of treasure in Nar Heresh, Baron Deathlock, kept ravenous ghouls near the sects greatest treasures as watchdogs. Their heightened senses, driven by an insatiable hunger for living flesh, discouraged not only thieves, but rats and curious crows. When they catch the scent of a living creature they are possessed by the odor and move visibly faster, gaining both strength and a raging fury in preparation of a feast.
The Ravenous Ghouls gain +2 Movement and +30% damage against Living targets.
Ravenous Ghouls kill things, and they're very efficient at that. If their targets still have a pulse, even better. Great damage for a Core, a passive Might resistance, and a great 7 Movement against Living targets (which gets bumped to a staggering 9 under Ana's control), they only suffer from low Initiative and Magical Defense. Just keep them away from Sisters and Glories, and they'll do their job just fine.
There are two exits from the Fort's territory. Going southwest opens up the next plot point and leads to more fighting, so let's not go there. Instead, we head southeast. We can see the subterranean tunnel to the Demons' territory, but we'll hold off from that for just a second.
A second Fort, prime for capturing, with a creature dwelling just nearby.
And a gate that's locked till we trigger the aforementioned plot point. That's everything, now we can go underground.
The good news is, Demons are Living! So we can Drain Life again (not that we need it much). Ravenous Ghouls also get their bonuses just fresh from their upgrade, which is nice.
<My master is probably dying! Or worse!>
I know, Bluebeak. We need to free Sveltana. But the orcs... the demons...
<This is Ashan... there will always be Orcs and Demons... It's a poor excuse.>
Poor Excuses? Bluebeak! I promise to free Sveltana as soon as we've taken the last demon city.
Actually, defeating the demons is an entirely optional quest, it'll just be an absolute pain completing the map if you don't.
Speaking of which, now that we're fighting Living targets again we can use Agony and its Mass version. (I taught Kaspar them at the start of the map, but didn't have a chance to use them till now) They function similiarly to the Dreamwalkers/Dreamreavers' Sky and Earth (Mass) spells, minus the movement lowering part. Mass Agony, notably, is incredibly efficient, as it deals about 80% of the base spell's damage on all opponents for just 40 Mana. It's a very efficient spell for whittling down multiple enemies at once, and for solo targets, we can just use Agony.
Ana's doing pretty well, too. She's taking out 50+ Elites with perfect wins now. Ahh perfect wins, I missed you the last map...
The first Inferno Fort is right on our path through the Demon territory. You might also find an Inferno Hero just nearby (I didn't). It's an easy clear.
The path splits a little here - aside from the way we just came, we have two paths heading north, and one heading west. I send Kaspar along the eastern north path.
Only to get ambushed by an Inferno Hero! With a decent sized army, too! We might have to flee.
Or we could, y'know, cheese our way through using Earth Elemental/Mass Agony/Regeneration.
A little Marketplace trading later, and we have Fate Weavers! Let the second raping of enemies commence!
Meanwhile, Ana heads up the central path that heads north.
Just as Kaspar finds the second Inferno Fort in the northeast. You know how this goes by now despite what the difficulty suggests, so I won't bore you with it.
Why hello there...
Calm your spirit. What needs to be done to save your Lamasu?
Ah... I discovered the location of a staff... Something so powerful it could provide the channeling power necessary to animate their corpses. And then the demon lava started pouring around the city... trapping me here.
Ah... all I need to do is break through a legion of demons and retrieve it.
Yes, that is all...
It's a Dynasty Weapon with an interesting name! (I must have forgotten to complete this sidequest my first time through the game) There are two paths around to the path that are identical, so you can take either (or both). We face stacks of each of the Inferno Core troops, and some Tormentors before the final stack.
Shouldn't a Week of Disease just boost Necropolis creature growth? What with all the more dying? Bah.
When fighting Large creatures, you can just summon an Earth Elemental on a strategic location to protect your small stacks. Also, when facing enemies that can hit multiple stacks (like Air Elementals), you can deploy just one stack (like the Archliches here) if you can complete the battle with just them.
Some easy fights later, and we can quickly finish this sidequest.
They are beautiful! Look at them! And to think the wizards of the Seven Cities called them a failure.
You have done something miraculous! How did you manage to find them souls?
Ah... finally a wizard who appreciates their magnificence. I postulated that the souls of the manticores used to create them were still in errance in the Spirit world.
Manticores! They have souls?
Excuse me, gentlemen... I'll leave you to your conversation. I have much to do.
What are Lamasu? Let's find out, now that we can build their creature dwelling!
You know, while the Shark Guards will always hold a special place in my opinion of the creature artwork, the Lamasu design may be one of my favourites. It's based off a Manticore, a mythological hybrid between a lion and scorpion, but this incarnation also seems to incorporate Sphinx-like qualities. For those aware of the HoMM V Academy, which is based off Egyptian/Middle Eastern culture, the sphinx-like Lamasu would have fit right in while it was alive. A nice throwback.
In the year 512 YSD, the Wizards of the Seven Cities created the Beastmen as guards, servants, and playthings. The Lamasus were one of many experiments, specifically born of the unnatural fusion of human criminals and Manticores.
The resulting creatures were naturally infected by a strange form of pestilence. Too unstable and short-lived, they were considered a failure until a humble embalmer discovered their true potential. A student of the Necromancers, he simply rose the Lamasus dead bodies and offered them as a gift to his masters. Their function as plague vector, coupled with their physical might and mobility, made them deadly and versatile troops in the Undead armies of the rising Necromancer cult.
Lamasu Damage: 14-16 (Might) Defense: 14 (28%) Magic Defense: 14 (28%) Health: 80 Initiative: 25 Movement: 6 (Flying) Range: None Destiny: 7 Cost: 350 Growth: 5/week Abilities: Large Creature, Aura of Putresence, Undead, Emotionless, Vulnerability to Light
Aura of Putresence posted:
When the blood of manticore and men are mixed, it gives birth to a sickness that kills its host and everything around it. The wizards of the Seven Cities considered the Lamasu a failed beastman experiment, until a humble embalmer discovered their true potential. They have become some of the most terrifying creatures of the Necromancer armies as walking dead. Their natural disease kills anything that stays too close to it for an extended period of time.
At the start of its turn, the Lamasu decreases the maximum health of any enemy stacks around it by 5%. (Any damage already taken is scaled to reflect the new health.) This stacks up to 5 times, to a limit of 25% health loss per creature. If there are multiple Lamasu stacks around a single stack, they will 'accelerate' the disease per stack rather than create a new disease per stack. For example, if a creature has 2 Lamasu stacks around it, it will have a single -10% health debuff after one turn, rather than 2 -5% health debuffs. The disease lasts 2 turns.
The Lamasu are a bit of an odd creature; they're certainly not the strongest or hardiest creature around, having decent stats in both, but nothing that stands out. Thy have decent movement and flying ability, but have low Initiative. Their big attraction, if it can be called that, is their Aura, which makes almost any creature that they're standing next to when their turn starts easier to kill - they don't even have to do most of the work, just leave it to the Liches! They can be viewed as a bit of a mobile debuffing creature, which makes their decent mobility and large size make more sense, as you can just them to fly next to and debuff enemies if you wanted instead of actually attacking, and their large size means they can get more creatures around them. The Lamasu synergizes well with the Specter - they both fly, so can harass enemy creatues behind walls. The Lamasu can decrease health of surrounding creatures, while the Specter makes them harder to heal with its Death Seal. The Lamasu enjoys getting ganged up on, as it makes them a more attractive target for the Specter's Wail of the Netherworld, which becomes even more effective since the Lamasu will lower the surrounding enemies' health. They won't be breakout stars by any means, by they're a decent creature for their intended role. If they had more health or defenses, they'd be an excellent siege breaker.
We'll finish off the demons next time, and get cracking on more plot.