The Let's Play Archive

Rondo of Swords

by Einander

Part 5: The Dark Forest

Bellmaker: I'll be posting more detailed character analyses on characters I intend to use as I go and more of the system and other characters are known to you, the audience. The ones that are getting dropped will get more detailed ones the moment they join.

theshim: I'll be posting music links sporadically, mostly ones that I think are particularly notable. There's some good tracks, but most of them are heavy on trumpet and percussion, and I'm not really fond of the style.

To the thread in general: I've completed chapter 6 and I'm in the process of working it up into a post. As of that chapter, we are 0-3 on following advice to run away from one group of enemies. 0-4, if you count this map (I don't). If you want to make the forces of Bretwalde flee, then bring at least three armies. And it means that you'll get to see the Hurt status for the first time in chapter 7, so look forward to that -- beating chapter 6 through murder is the first point I've been forced to accept a casualty for victory. I make no promises that it will be the last... There's at least one more "run away" stage that I can recall in the game, after all, and I'd like a perfect record.

While I work on that, have an update! Chapter 5 will be posted in two days.

Chapter 4: The Dark Forest
(Or, "You WILL learn!")

The Bretwalde Army and the Na Tribe gaze upon Jaglat's Han Castle in the dark forest of Shalem at noon...

Already? Hmph. Why must they choose times like this to show up early? Well, let them through.

But enough pleasantries... Is it true that you've kidnapped Serdic's younger sister?

I don't have any idea what you're talking about.

Don't try to play the fool, Emir. There are witnesses who saw you carrying the Princess away!

Sasha... You forget yourself.


Jaglat. Princess Marie is Serdic's younger sister, and he is a guest of the Na tribe. Your actions threaten to bring shame upon our people. I don't want the situation to get out of hand. Will you return the Princess and restore peace?

Shalem's peace may also be ensured by handing these Bretwaldeans over to the Empire... Don't you think?

Stop this, Jaglat, before I am forced to restore the Na tribe's honor at the cost of your life.

I don't give a fig for your pride! I'm tired of hearing you whitewash what's going on! Get 'em, boys!

On second thought, perhaps "threaten to kill a traitor in the middle of their stronghold" was not the best plan.


Emir Darsin!

Stick around, because you two are next.

Young Master, I can't just leave you...

She kind of has a point, Ansom. You are an archer. You are exactly the wrong type of person to hold off a large group of people.

Of course, so is Sasha, but that's not the point.

It wasn't a request, Sasha.

...I understand. Take care of yourself, Young Master.

Jaglat isn't really the best thinker. Starting a civil war to pacify a conquesting imperial power isn't the best thinking. Even if they didn't plan to conquer you before, weakening yourself presents them with an opportunity to change their mind.

Let her in.

Excuse the abrupt nature of this visit, Prince Serdic, but... Emir Darsin has been slain by Jaglat of the Ga tribe, and my Young Master is his captive.

??? is very good at this fake stoicism thing. It's impressive how he can interrobang with so little facial expression.

Please, save my Young Master.

I understand. Emir Darsin was a good friend to us... The time has come to return the favor. And Marie needs rescuing as well.

Thank you very much, Prince!

Prepare to move, everyone!

And we're back to the preparations screen! Errands is still blocked off, not that we'd use it anyway. We need every warm body we can get at this point in the game.

As you'd expect, Sasha has joined us, and she's here to stay.

I will cleave all in my path!

A swordswoman of the Shalem federation. She normally serves as Ansom's bodyguard, and secretly pines for him. Doesn't realize everyone knows this "secret."

The skills pictured are the only ones she has right now for purchase. Sharpshot increases accuracy, Arrow Guard reduces damage from archers. She doesn't have much in the way of useful skills during her first class, so I buy some points in both.

True Fangs is the first legitimately impressive OverBreak we've seen. (And had usable, I should say. Marie's OB is better.) It has a long range, does good base damage *and* ignores defense, and has no penalties for use. It's a boss killer attack, and it's damn good at it -- lure them into her range with a tough target and then tear them apart. A level 3 OB won't kill bosses outright, but it's definitely going to bring them down to "killable."

You may notice Sasha's high move, impressive magic score and okayish attack and defense. She also has one of the highest critical rates at 10%, eventually increasing to 15% in her third class. Let me correct myself on an earlier point, since this is very important to her: Base defense and skill defense actually makes no difference when it comes to magic. Accessory defense does reduce magic damage (AMULET SUPREMACY), but otherwise, magic is the only stat used in magic defense, full stop. Sasha seems to be designed as an anti-range character, able to guard against magic (and, to a lesser degree arrows, with Arrow Guard) and kill the attacker in a single hit; she learns a decent assortment of +attack skills, especially Duelist and Lateral Blow (Frontal Blow but for the sides, with a stronger effect to boot), enough to eventually make up for her lower natural offense. This role also lets her build OB through kills for taking on bosses.

Unfortunately, she isn't quite strong enough to fight non-fragile enemies yet, her Move isn't exceptional for her role (and she never learns the +move skill), and she starts out a little too fragile. It's the max HP that ultimately sinks her -- base defense matters less and less as you accumulate more and more powerful amulets, but low max HP is more difficult to fix, and hers is atrocious for a frontliner. She's useful now, but you'll usually drop her later. (And that's ignoring a wrinkle of the game system that tacitly encourages you not to use characters that start at first tier. We'll get there.) Her days in the team are numbered.

A bizarre factoid for you: Sasha's third class learns Rally at level 58. The next highest-level ability learned by characters is at level 45, and you're likely to finish the game around level 50. You might remember Rally as the near-useless "+critical hit for allies" Support skill.

Yeah, I don't know either.

We swap items around. Serdic gets his +7 amulet back, Sasha gets Margus's +5 amulet, healing items are shuffled around a little.

Kay buys a point in Frontal Blow, Margus buys a point in Stand Fast, and Selmer buys a point in Storm Rave. You might remember that as the x-shaped lightning spell. I had a terribly clever idea, you see!

You can guess how that turns out, huh?

Rondo of Swords starts showing a little teeth now.

Do you see the problem yet?

It isn't the Scouts or the Warriors. We've seen them before; they're still pretty middling. Remember that Sasha is a delicate flower compared to the rest of the group and you should be fine.

It's these assholes. Remember the last two maps, and how we were able to exploit terrain to keep Selmer safe? The enemy is doing that to us now, and it's in a better place for it.

They're all standing two tiles deep in grass, requiring you to go three tiles deep to hit them. That's six movement. The third archer, the one in the picture, is standing four tiles deep unless you go the long way around.

That's ignoring the real problem:

At this point in the game, you were just given Sasha, a fragile melee unit, and Selmer, a mage. Your natural instinct is probably going to be to kill the archers with Selmer, your only ranged attacker. It makes sense, right?

So you check the archer range by selecting it, as you'd normally do for other unit types. You have no idea what the bow range of an archer is, because it isn't indicated anywhere, and you probably ran away last map. It appears to go out five tiles. Okay, you think. I should be able to place Selmer at the edge of its range and kill it.

That five tile range was the Archer movement range. Archer bow range is six. White Dust also has six range. The Archer shoots Selmer and kills him in one hit.


That's reset one. You might hit reset two when Sasha gets killed, because she's pretty fragile and you're used to frontliners who are sturdier. You will win by try 3.

This is actually an incredibly easy map; once you get over the surprise, it's asking you to do a relatively simple thing. It just requires you to know something you're not going to figure out until Selmer dies for it. The only lose condition you might trip here is the Fire Emblem one: "Well, someone died, time to start over." Every person matters on the next map -- this is a very bad time to lose someone.

I think that's intentional. This map is designed to kill someone and weaken you for the next map, teaching you about caution and about enemy ranges and about the Hurt status.

The archer movement, while useless for displaying range, does work for a quick guide on where and where not to move, though. Don't stop on the red tiles or any ones adjacent to them. This map is all about luring enemies out of Archer range, stabbing them to death, and moving to the next safe spot. The Archers generally won't chase you, so it's safe to leave them be.

Not that we will. That's boring.

(Notably, a Selmer with a level 3 White Dust can snipe the Archers from just outside their range -- it has 7 range to their 6. This, however, requires a level 7 Selmer, and that's difficult to achieve by this point in the game.)

We begin.

Serdic moves up to weaken the first Scout. This placement will put him just outside the archer's range and inside the range of the second Scout enough for him to attack and retreat; if we were further outside his range, he wouldn't be able to retreat after attacking. If he moves further back, we have a larger safezone for our non-decoy units. This will require a little positioning, but positioning is the name of the game in Rondo of Swords. Now is a very good time to learn.

Margus has a conversation with both Sasha and Kay this map, and his position starts him off next to both.

Sir Margus... I apologize for all this on behalf of Shalem.

Perish the thought, Miss. It's Jaglat who's at fault here. We'll sort this out in no time. After which... would you like to accompany me to Lake Seldina? They say its waters are the clearest in all of Bravord.

Keep limiting use of this expression to once per conversation, Margus! It means I don't have to make a portrait for it!

(Thank you, limited art assets)

Ha! I appreciate your attempts to cheer me up... But my only concern now is my Young Master's safety. I can think of little else...

Hmm? Could it be that you're in lov--

Our relationship is that of bodyguard and ruler. I am loyal to the Young Master -- nothing more.


O-Of course he's important to me! But it's because he carries the future of Shalem on his back. Any loyal citizen would share my concern!

Another hopeless case...

I can't believe that Jaglat went and did such a thing. Though if the Princess hadn't arrived, we may have went unnoticed, so...

What!? Are you trying to pin this on Princess Marie, you degenerate!?

No, not at all. No, nothing like that. At any rate... I hope Princess Serdic takes this opportunity to shine.

Driving off the bandits seemed like a good diversion for him, but...

Probably because it let him think about something other than Shalem or Bretwalde.

Hmm... We can't let ourselves be a burden to His Highness. We must rescue Princess Marie, no matter what.

Just think of how much less interesting this story would be if we were controlling the real Serdic.

Sasha takes out the Scout. Selmer and Kay move on up. Now the Scout's blocked off, so he can only hit Serdic.

He's ineffective. The other Scout nearby moves up.

This time, Serdic attacks and positions himself just inside the enemy archer range. His higher MC means the Archer should target him instead of nearly anyone else, so long as we don't put Selmer inside his range.

That was the plan, anyway.

When a unit counter-attacks, there's a blue shimmering effect where you hit them, there's a sound a little like a bell, and then they hit you. As mentioned before, this aborts the rest of the attack and pushes you back to your starting location.

Serdic is now Crazed, thanks to the counter. Fortunately, we're not in a position where 30% lower stats is likely to place Serdic in much danger.

Margus is still strong enough to kill both of them. He'll drop off eventually, but Margus's base stats carry his offense for quite a long time.

Kay and Sasha move up to the Archer. Sasha is back-up -- Kay may not finish the job.

Selmer moves up a little.

Conversation interlude! Sasha and Serdic have a talk on this map. I didn't activate it in the course of my normal run, so I went back for it.

I can't say that Ansom is unhurt. Reassuring lies do not become a retainer as faithful as yourself. However, Emir Ansom and his father went to great pains to protect my sister and myself. I will devote no less effort to protecting him.

Thank you, Prince Serdic.

That said, it troubles me to see such melancholy on your face.

I actually did not know this was a word. Huh. Searches suggest that "mislike" was based off a Middle English word, which "dislike" eventually replaced. Same meaning, different sounds.

Rondo of Swords: Educational in unexpected ways!

I see... Also unlike Margus, your concern is not limited to attractive women, right?

Regardless... Ansom may yet live, but we don't know for how much longer. Let's hurry.

Yes, Prince Serdic!

Back in the present time, it's the end of our turn.

The Scout in the grass attacks Serdic, the first Archer attacks Margus. Decoy successful!

Kay attacks and doesn't kill, so Sasha finishes the job.

Serdic kills the Scout who attacked him and moves up.

We're waiting for the group here to advance a little more -- no point in giving them the first strike, we're not in a hurry.

Margus is already in position at the edge, and he has OB, and he's at near-full, and Serdic isn't. Why not? It's only 20% HP.

Oh, hey, the level up icon!

Um, wow.

For reference, he was at 6.85 before. So 74 experience, where 100 is a level.

I think I know why you use Margus's OB now: grinding. 3/4 of a level? That's crazy.

Selmer moves up a bit. The enemies move up a bit. Next turn.

When considering my action, I looked at Serdic and came to a sudden realization: He's at 1 OB.

I had a clever plan involving using the range of Storm Rave, too. Oh well.

We finish off the group; Sasha moves back in the process for safety. It'd be embarrassing to have her die this late, but two archer arrows might do it.

End turn. Serdic gets hit for minor damage. More importantly:

Serdic vaporizes an archer. It's very satisfying.

From there, it's just a matter of killing the last archer.

Clearing the level also triggers the victory screen. If you bring Selmer, then you definitely want to kill all of the archers -- trying to get him to the exit with 4 movement is going to drop you down a rank or two.

The Hawkeye Medal is an accessory that increases Accuracy by 5% flat. It's not exceptional, but it's good for now, with our accessory options limited as they are.

(In retrospect, I completely forgot this existed. I will regret this later.)

The Hawk Proof is our first promotion item -- it's for archers. Or, rather, it's one of the two promotion items for archers. Or one of the four, depending on how you count.

Rondo of Swords promotion is a little different than you might expect. I'll cover it after the next chapter, once we can do Errands.

Your Highness, it appears that the Princess and Emir Ansom are both being held inside.

Thank you, Kay. (Princess Marie, huh? I wonder what she's really like...)

And that's that!

Next time: Reunion