The Let's Play Archive

Rondo of Swords

by Einander

Part 1: Escape from Egvard

Chapter 1: Escape From Egvard
(or, "Works As Designed")

Every battle begins with one of these scrolling screens. They're one of the few things I have a script for!

150 years after Holy King Altrius vanquished the Darkness, war loomed again on the continent of Bravord.

In Bretwalde, bastion of the Central Plains between four great powers, it had been days since the Sage King Elliott's passing.

Crown Prince Serdic arranged for his father's funeral, but the solemn occasion was disrupted by invaders. The powerful Grand Meir Empire attacked Egvard, Bretwalde's capital city in a blitzkrieg strike; its overpowering numbers and surprise attack routed Bretwalde's forces.

Bretwalde, which flourished through the Holy King's actions, was on the verge of destruction. Many believed it would soon be no more.

In summer of Vern year 382, the green of the leaves was darkening...

The bottom screen here is the same for all story scenes. You'd expect them to use it for something like past dialogue, especially since there's no rewind key, but...

Of course, DS games being a little lazy about the double screens is nothing new.

Surrender now! There will be no escape, I promise you that!

If you can make it to the road, you should be able to escape. I'll stay here and hold them off. Now, go!

Margus, wait!

Look, Kay. The only thing we have to do right now is protect Prince Serdic.

Prince Serdic!

Margus, you will come with me. There's no need to slow their assault.

Prince Serdic!?

Two are stronger than one, and three stronger than two, no? Know this... The three of us will leave Egvard together and alive.

Yes, your highness! Leave it to me!

...I understand, your Highness. We'll show the Empire what it is to challenge Bretwaldean might.

No, Sir.

Then we have no choice. Capture them, and end this siege on the royal capital.

The layout is fairly simple. We start on a vertical street leading out, with our objective directly south of us. There's a horizontal street just before the city exit, which leads to another vertical street and the southwest gate.

Above us, we have Alberich and several Armored Knights.

Let's take a moment to talk stats.

HP, Attack, Defense, Magic and Move are all what you expect. Every unit has MP, but only mages can use it. Attack versus defense is roughly subtractive (with multipliers), and defense applies to both physical and magical damage. Magic also mitigates some magical damage. Attacks can and will get reduced to zero damage in particularly large mismatches.

The green plus numbers are due to equipment. Every unit has a set weapon, and like Suikoden, it can be improved between missions. It also improves when characters are promoted. (More on that when it becomes relevant.) Any defense additions are due to equipped accessories.

Momentum Counter is the game's aggro mechanic -- it determines enemy targeting priority. Particularly high levels of MC bestow special statuses. I'll cover those as they come up.

OverBreak is essentially the game's Limit Break mechanic. It builds up slowly as you deal or take damage, and jumps up much more when you kill enemies. It starts at zero and caps at three, and is used in one-level increments, with the maximum possible taken each time -- if you have 2.80 OverBreak when you use it, you'll use a level 2 OverBreak and drop to 0.80 meter. (Though it's represented graphically, so maybe it actually takes 1.01 OB. I wouldn't know.)

as one attacking all units in range.

Black-clad cavalier put in charge of the Fifth Division. Seeks to understand Gauss's true intentions.

Each unit with a face has their own OverBreak. This includes bosses. They can and will use it against you, provided they manage to build it up.

Each unit also has their own class. Outside of generic faceless enemies, this is largely aesthetic; there are some shared classes, especially among magic-using characters, but each character has their own stat growth and list of skills.

Alberich will not move, so his stats aren't very relevant. He has a special equip called the Black Ring, which adds 1 Move when equipped. He's set to drop it when he dies.

Naturally, we're going to get it. As mentioned in the OP, attacking in this game requires that you move through enemies. +1 Move is an extremely powerful bonus, and it'll be a while before we find another +Move item, let alone one with no penalty.

It will take about six hits to kill a single Armored Knight, and they'll kill any of us in about three. (Kay in 2, probably.) They'll move once we kill the enemies near our starting position.

Note the ZOC skill. This will force attackers to stop moving, breaking an attack chain, and moves them to an unoccupied space near the attacker. The exact placement of the attacker afterward goes top-to-bottom, left-to-right, from the inside out. Top, bottom, left, right, top, top-left, top-right, far left... So on and so forth.

If the Armored Knights didn't have ZOC, they would be completely unstoppable right now. As it is? We're about to abuse game mechanics for fun and profit.

Only people with portraits have OB.

Stat-wise, it's the opposite situation with the other enemies -- we kill them in two hits, they kill us in about six. They don't do anything interesting. There's a group here about to catch up to us, and another one near the left exit. They won't chase us until we approach. The group includes one slightly stronger unit, with higher stats all around.

Of course, our objective is directly below us, so they don't really matter, do they?

Saber Serdic is very average. He currently has no notable skills, has passable attack, and is decently durable. He will eventually become King Asskicker, but "eventually" is not "today." Tomorrow's not looking good either.

As the leader, we lose if he dies. He also has a correspondingly high Momentum Counter.

The Sword of Promised Victory Brave Ray is kind of bad! You can't move before using it, it can only attack in a straight line, it has friendly fire, and it doesn't do much more damage than his regular attack, especially considering the difficulty in application.

Right now, however, I'm very thankful for it.

The Crown Prince of Bretwalde. With Holy Blade in hand, he aims to restore his homeland.

Margus is our best attacker and defender. He will very quickly become the most important unit in our entire army. Unfortunately, his Momentum Counter starts low -- making enemies target him over other, more fragile units takes careful positioning.

Not for his OB skill, though. I guess if he's at full and other characters aren't, but... He's the tank. It's one of a very short list of multi-target healing, at least. Remember it exists.

A cavalier of Bretwalde who hails from the same town as Kay. He acts as mentor to the younger knight, and has a relentlessly flirtacious streak.

Kay has high movement and decent attack, if notably less durability than the former two. Of more immediate importance is his skillset.

Kay has a skill called Will of War. It regenerates 5% HP per skill rank when you move through him. It's one of a list of similar skills, all of which raise stats for the current move action. Margus has one that raises critical by 2%. I didn't mention it before because it's useless.

Will of War isn't much better normally. One or two points in it can be nice when your skill slot options are low, but higher skill ranks are worth getting only if you really have nothing else to buy. You usually do.

Right now, though? It's golden. Our healing consists of a few equipped items, all of which are before-move only and have one range. Will of War is how we will be staying alive.

Also bad. I think he can kill himself with this. Range is bad, too, and he's both 1) high-ranged and 2) not very durable. If he's in range to use it, he probably doesn't have the health to do so.

A young, hot-tempered cavalier of the Bretwalde army.

Let's get started.

Kay attacks the two units directly below our starting position.

Serdic picks up the spare. Margus moves to the side. This means that the two units directly north can only attack one unit at a time, because the closer unit will prioritize Serdic.

It's worth noting that character facing does affect damage and accuracy, but that you can't rotate units. They'll end their turn in the direction of their last movement. This is yet another thing to be careful about.

Serdic and Kay are attacked by the two survivors.

Second verse, same as the first. Serdic gains his first level and rises to level 1 OB.

He also finishes his turn next to Kay, initiating two conversations. Certain characters have these whenever they are adjacent. There's no in-game indication of this; you just have to guess.

Or use a walkthrough. That works too.

Bretwalde can never truly fall so long as you live, Your Highness. So please, don't do anything rash.

You're right. For the sake of the fallen...

Margus moves down and initiates another conversation.

It's a true relief to see you safe and sound, Your Highness. After all, if we lost you, Princess Marie would cry... And making a woman cry is against my personal code.

Marie, eh...?

Yes. I hope the Princess is all right...

As do I...

As our turn ends, the enemy below us moves up.

Margus weakens the remaining enemy and ends his turn next to Kay, triggering our third and final conversation of the map.

Isn't the timing of this whole thing a little TOO perfect?

True enough. Coming in the middle of the King's funeral, after he finally succumbed...

The only explanation I can think of is that they were already prepared... Could they have...?

It's possible. But that line of thinking won't do any good now. We have to focus on protecting Prince Serdic.

Right. If we don't get out of here, we'll never know the touch of a woman again...


Serdic finishes the enemy again.

Enemy turn. We've finished the starting enemies, so the armored knights above us begin to move down.

We flee into this alleyway.

Wait, you may ask. Isn't that really dumb? Can't they just run through you? And if they stand in the alleyway, then you can't leave!

But you see, there is a fatal flaw:

When you're making attack routes, you can't backtrack. At all.

Of course, attacking them should bring us out of the alleyway and make us vulnerable... Normally.

Remember the ZOC skill? Well, if you draw a perfectly straight line through these attackers...

...then ZOC will bounce you right back to the alleyway.

If you draw it to the side and then up, you'll die. Don't do that.

This isn't something you can often take advantage of. It requires multiple enemies with ZOC in a narrow chokepoint with some way to keep them from running right through your lines. This situation is just right to abuse it.

You may notice the "Crazed" status displaying on Serdic right now. It lowers all stats by 30% -- compare his current stats to his earlier ones a few screenshots back.

This is a consequence of rising to about 50-80 Momentum Counter. If you attack above certain Momentum Counters, you have a chance of becoming Crazed. It'll wear off occasionally after attacking or receiving damage. Alternatively, raise your Momentum Counter even higher and it'll be replaced with a different status.

This is a side-effect of being counter-attacked. It wears off at the start of the unit's next turn. (Thank you for the correction, Bellmaker!)

Normally it's a complete pain in the ass. Right now, however, it lets Serdic hit them a few more times before they die. More hits = more OB meter. We want that right now.

We continue this for several more turns.

It's worth noting that every time it comes around to the enemy turn, there's a very long deliberation delay for these armored units.

Please tell me this isn't actually happening.

Oh, it's happening. It's definitely happening.

Now, if we attack, there's a chance we'll bounce out of the alley. We're not taking that chance. Serdic has OB meter, so it's time to use Brave Ray.

"Holy Blade, unleash your power!"

(Displayed damage is capped at current HP, sadly. You'd definitely be able to hit damage caps otherwise later in the game.)

The Knight dies, and the two others move to fill it in. The cycle begins again!

However, after the first attack, Serdic has risen to 81 Momentum Counter, giving him the Boost status. This is guaranteed at 81+ MC. Boost status also makes you immune to all enemy statuses -- it can't be replaced by anything other than the 99 Momentum Counter status.

Serdic wears them down and prepares to kill the second Knight. He doesn't have enough OB to use Brave Ray again, unfortunately, so we're going to have to do this the hard way.

You'll notice Serdic's missing some HP. Units have a chance of countering enemies, and it's much more likely when they're attacked from the front. This does damage and gives the countering unit ZOC if they don't have it, immediately ending the attacker's movement. This version of ZOC will always bounce the attacker back from the direction they attacked.

After the blow, Serdic hits 99 Monentum Counter and gets the Hero status. "Support effects" are the "move through ally" skills, so Serdic now heals 7% HP or gains 3% Critical by moving through Kay or Margus. Like Boost, Hero makes you immune to all other statuses. It's very rare.

Kay and Margus attack, doing just enough damage to kill the third Knight. Margus gets the kill and levels.

Now, Alberich is to the north of us. Alberich does not move, and therefore cannot attack. Alberich is a high level boss. Alberich has a unique item to drop.

It's pretty obvious that the game developers expected the Armored Knights to scare you off. Now that they're gone, he's a sitting duck.

We start to wear him down.

Once Alberich gets to about one-third health, he says a special line. After this point, he'll start moving and attacking.

...on his next turn, anyway. Each player character does about a fifth of his health.

Yes, this is exactly as ineffective as it sounds.

Serdic is high-level enough, and he might kill Alberich if he attacks. Let's give it to someone else.

Kay attacks, and...

...Margus picks up the kill, bringing him to level 3.

We get his accessory for our troubles. After this map, Margus will be wearing it to bring his Move up to the rest of our squad, and he'll keep it just about the entire game.

Prolonged combat will only result in more casualties for my men. If you'll excuse me, Emperor Gauss...

Unable to deal with the stress and sheer implausibility of recent events, Alberich hallucinates about his dead soldiers, becomes intensely concerned about their welfare, and withdraws.

We take a minute to mourn the costs of war...

...and then we move down. Passing a threshold triggers a map event:

Gauss, we agreed those youngsters would be in charge of this mission. Let's let this play out.

Of course... But wouldn't you agree that our troops could use the exercise?

Hmm... You do have a point.

Very well, then; go and show them the glory of our Empire!

Imperial reinforcements!? We must flee the capital right now! Let's make for the south-western gate!

New map conditions!

Meet the Emperor of Grand Meir, Gauss, and two more of his generals.


Emperor of Grand Meir. He gained his throne through conquest, and actively seeks control of other nations.

One of the Four Grands, and leader of the Third Division. She began as a bandit, and her troops are still a band of unusual soldiers.

taken their turn.

One of the Grands of the Grand Meir Empire. Has been fighting alongside Gauss since before the Empire was founded. In charge of the Second division.

Hmm. Counting Alberich, that only makes three Grands...

None of them move, but their troops will: they're more Armored Knights, ZOC and all, with one slightly more powerful member. He has a feather in his helmet.

We defeated three of them and only took damage once, but five is clearly right out. Everyone flee!

(In all seriousness: Gauss and his generals can be defeated here, and defeating Gauss will end the map. Clotho, Mattias, and Gauss will each drop a special item, too.

It's not very interesting. Remember what I did with the three Knights earlier? It's that again. You then build up OB meter on Serdic using the other enemies and then repeatedly blast the three generals. They won't become aggressive if you do.

It's not really worth it, either. Sure, Serdic will be about level 20 by the time you finish the map, but that's a
bad thing. Stat growth is determined by class, and characters in this game can promote. Excessive leveling now hurts you later. The items aren't particularly good, either -- they're three accessories that give +10 Attack/MC, +critical rate, and +HP.

This game has a New Game+ mode. I'll show that off when we get there.)

Next turn, after the Armored Knights chase after us...

...we continue running away.

We've crossed another invisible threshold, triggering a second and final end-of-turn event.

More enemies. Continue running, men!

Blue skills are spells. Ernest has every single Lightning spell in the game. (Except one that's unique to a certain character, anyway.)

of a crazed thunder lizard.

One of the Grands, and the commander of the Green Lions, the Fourth Division. Has a big ego and a small intellect.

Meet the final Grand of Grand Meir, Ernest. He's a lightning mage and commands a corps of more mages. The Armored Knights with him won't move until we attack them, and he won't move, but his mages will come after us.

Yes, his OB really does hit everything, his allies included. Yes, he usually commands Mages, who have no durability. Ernest will usually murder every single Mage he still commands when he uses it. It's
hilarious. I dearly hope to show it off at least once.

They have enough MP for four spells, and two spells will kill any of us. Serdic's higher level might allow him to survive two, but that's a dicey proposition. They play it safe, too -- they won't ever advance far enough for us to attack more than one of them. We're best off not messing with them.

Margus is attacked and kills the man for his impertinence.

Serdic and Kay position themselves to lure the two normal units near the bottom and take minor damage. Margus kills the top man, while Kay weakens the second and kills him the next turn. The positioning of Margus and Kay keeps them far enough up the map to force the cautious mage AI to advance more slowly.

Serdic, meanwhile, moves down to the bottom, moving just high enough to lure the strongest enemy.

The enemy moves to the maximum of his attack range, letting Kay land another hit and Margus finish it.

With that done, the map is over.

There are several different kinds of victory, each with their own reward. Generally speaking, lower turn count = better victory. The Black Ring, however, is better than anything this could possibly give us.

Bonus experience is distributed to all units automatically; no FE9/10 BE pool here, sadly.

(Moon Weed is the weakest MP healing item. It'll generally give you enough for maybe half a spell.)

Emir Darsin should help you, Your Highness.

As you say, Margus. Let's go.

Several hours earlier...

Meet Prince Serdic. The other man is Mephreyu, a trusted court aide.

I won't usually post music, but this song plays while Serdic is on-screen in this flashback. I like it, and I'd recommend giving it a listen.

The King's funeral will begin shortly. Please proceed to the cathedral.

All right.

Also... about Princess Marie.

What about her?

It appears she will be late. What shall we do?

...We have no choice but to proceed as planned.

Yes, my Prince.

"???" is never given a name in this scene.

There is much to raise suspicion in this matter. One hopes it is nothing, but just in case... I leave the funeral to you.

Yes, my Prince. In that case, please excuse me.

A few hours later...

There is the sound of an explosion.

Ngh... why is this happening? Prince Serdic... Please be safe...!

There! It's the Crown Prince!


There's the footsteps. Next, just before the next image fades in, there's the sound of an impact -- the speaker is being hit.

*gasp* Ugh... My wounds are deeper than I thought... This may be the end for me...

There's the sound of a blow being blocked and countered (literally -- it's the exact sequence of sound effects used in combat).


Prince Serdic, you're...!

Oh... it's you...

Forget about me... The important thing is that it seems that the Empire isn't our only enemy... I can't believe that they...

"They"? Exactly what happened!?

Take this......

It is Spanta, the holy blade...

This is Bretwalde's royal emblem! Why are you giving it to me...?

Take it... and go... My time is short... it's better that you take it.

You can't mean... What are you saying!?

Hah... I think you know. It's too late for me...


To think there was anyone in the world with such an uncanny resemblence to myself...

I surely would have been done in without your help, my Prince. I remembered nothing of my past, and my wounds were grave enough to bode ill for my future...

I-I merely did what was natural!

I have... a final request of you... Will you listen?

O-Of course, my Prince!

...You can't...

During the battle, this Holy Blade was cursed... Bretwalde cannot be saved without Spanta. Find a way to remove this curse.

I... I understand.

If you should meet Marie... my younger sister... look after her.

I will, my Prince.


Now go... Make haste, or your chance to escape will be lost.

This isn't a request for a mercy kill. I'm fairly sure Serdic meant, "when you die (while living as me), I want it to be an honorable death." He won't be remembered as "???", the body-double of the Prince -- they are now historically indistinguishable. No one will know that the real Prince died here today.

...Yes, my Prince.

We are all... relying on you...

Prince Serdic...

Now go!

His body double leaves the scene, escaping the castle.


You can hear Serdic collapse here.

Next time: The Bandits of Gareh.