Part 9: Wise BanditsChapter 7: The Wise Bandits
(Or, "This Would Be Much Harder Without the Laser Sword")
In case you'd forgotten the Wise Bandits, we last messed with these guys back in chapter 2, then forgot because hey, civil war!
Dealing with bandits again is... kind of a downgrade.
All right, let's teach 'em not to mess with the Wise Bandits' pride!
Why are we running away, anyway? This gets more than a little silly when you send Clotho packing.
Damn... these bandits picked a bad time for this. We'll have to focus our strength and break through!
But elder brother, if the Imperial Army of before comes again...
Really silly. Especially since they all have higher movement. Separation of gameplay and story elements, I know, but...
Won't those bandits meet the same horrible fate as the people of Shalem? If we warn them, they might better understand our position.
...forcing us to save their ridiculously fragile hides for a reward?
I dunno, that seems more like a "horrible fate" for us than them.
You raise a good point, but we can't be certain they'll listen.
This is our introduction to the "recruit with x character" mechanic. Ansom would join with anyone, but Owl is more picky.
You? Out of the question! I can't allow you to do something so dangerous!
Either way, we will be in danger. Given that, if there's even a slight chance of saving people, our choice is clear, isn't it?
...You're right. But if I see any sign that you're in danger, I won't hesitate to intervene.
And fade to black.
She might be a healer with no offensive abilities (for now), and she may not be demonstrative about it, but Marie definitely isn't some shrinking violet stereotype. It's nice to see.
Selmer and Ansom return from a mission. Different characters have different quotes for the different types of success.
By the way, a random fact of note: The "Gathering Herbs" mission last time is the only known way to obtain a rare accessory, the Banana Ring. This requires a "special success," and the only sure way to do that is to level up Ansom's Charisma skill and send him off. So what does this elusive item do, you may ask?
It increases your max HP by 4%.
As mentioned last time, Kay is Hurt. This halves all stats (other than HP/MP/MC) and renders him unable to participate in Errands.
Standard skills stuff happens. Serdic gets a point in Frontal Blow. Margus gets a point in Invoke Life. Marie picks up a point in Cure Drop, bringing it to spell level 2 and doubling the MP cost. 20 MP is a drop in the bucket, though -- she regenerates 10 MP every turn now thanks to Invoke Mana and her innate ability.
You might remember that I got Marie a few points in Invoke Mind last time. This is because I misremembered how Cure Drop works. You see, it's 5%+(15%*skill level) HP healing. So, 20, 35, 50, 65, 80. Magic has nothing to do with the effect at all.
This is a pattern among Light spells. The one spell Marie has that actually uses her Magic is first available at level 45. The game generally ends around level 50, and until then more magic simply increases her magic defense. Since healing experience is based on the amount healed, a lower level Cure Drop also slows her leveling.
Um, oops? I'm good at this game, but even I make dumb mistakes stemming from wrong information sometimes.
Sasha has picked up a notable new skill: Null ZOC. I explained it last update.
She picks up one point in that and two more points in Daredevil. Right now, it adds up to +3 attack and -3 defense. I think she can afford that trade, and she doesn't have much else better to buy.
Ansom Card Quests: 2
Selmer goes off to do Archer's Festival, which gives Hawk Proofs. This is a map where he could actually be of some use, but it's not really hard to do, even if you're stubborn about it.
Rondo of Swords really, really wants you to run away. I think we're just about at the end of the "run away!" maps, though there's one big exception waiting for us in six maps. It's... quite a thing.
The most fitting send-off to that streak, then, is to ignore instructions again.
You should remember the Wasteland terrain from the second map. It works here as it did there -- darker-looking, movement cost of 2, defense penalty to units standing on it.
The icons may be in the bottom-right, but I believe any bottom-of-the-map square is valid.
We start out with a group of bandits. As Marie indicated earlier, we should have her talk to Owl, the man with the unique sprite. You may remember from map 2 that Margus said the leader of the Wise Bandits "frowns on" attacking villages, and they consider themselves to be gentlemen thieves.
Head of the Wise Bandits, a group of gentlemen thieves who make their home in Mount Gareh.
I guess it's most accurate to say you live "in" a mountain, not "on" it. Most people would live in caves instead of the actual outside surface... Anyway.
Weak status means that all attacks against the targets are critical hits.
Owl himself starts out awful. His attack is very bad, his survivability is worse than Sasha, his critical hit rate is nothing special (5%)... He has nothing going for him right now. When he hits level 9, he'll become the first person to get the Sprint skill, allowing him to attack large groups... And do nothing in particular, because goddamn, look at that attack. Wow. It is literally half of Margus's. And since Attack is doubled in the damage formula (It's Attack*2 - defense, with further modifiers applied before defense), he's doing a fourth of Margus's damage.
When Owl promotes for the first time, his critical hit rate jumps to 20%, and it'll eventually rise to 30% when he reaches his third class. Upon promotion, he can soon learn the Lateral Stab and Lateral Blow skills, increasing his critical rate and damage when he attacks from the side, eventually supplemented with the Back Stab and Rear Blow skills that do the same from the back. Given time, Owl can be incredibly effective support against heavily-armored enemies -- he may not kill any non-fragile unit, but he's near guaranteed to critical and tear a fixed chunk out of their life.
The problem is getting him there. His first Card Quest bonus would help... Except that there's only one Card Quest per map, and there are two characters who should absolutely monopolize your Card Quests until they reach six Cards. Owl is worse than both characters to begin with, plus they get better bonuses. So you're left trying to get him to level 15 in a game where experience gain appears to be based on damage done. That's... not good.
I've only ever had the patience to level him up once, and never again. I don't think it's worth it.
Card Quest bonuses: Doubles critical hit rate (3x), Move +1 (6x)
His other followers are unimpressive, though "Gentlemen Flunky" is possibly the best job class of all time. They aren't particularly aggressive. Most of them, Owl included, won't attack you until the second turn you're in range, once you've gotten past most of the grass. Said grass makes it fairly easy to get Marie in range to talk.
Before that, this map has one other conversation initially available:
Selmer, what kind of person is Master Arios?
He took in my younger brother and I when we had nowhere else to turn. He's a good man. His one failing is that he can become rather... overenthusiastic on the subject of magic.
Like Margus, where women are concerned?
No... worse. There's always a laugh behind Margus's words; not so with Master Arios. He is always serious.
Isn't that a good thing?
If only you knew...
First, though, Serdic kills a couple of them for experience and OB meter. They'll get over it.
(I am a master of diplomacy.)
This is probably my favorite expression so far. It's something about the eyebrows.
The Empire's Third Army Division is pursuing us closely.
If they catch up to us, you will all be drawn into the battle as well.
Third Division... You mean the Red Lions? What the hell did you guys do to bring that kind of heat down on you?
...we are survivors of Bretwalde. The Imperial Army seems bent on our destruction.
Hmm... Bretwalde, huh? It ever cross your mind that we might just decide to capture you? You'd make a hefty bargaining chip with the Empire.
If you know the Red Lions by reputation, I doubt I need to tell you this... But don't you know what the most likely outcome of such a deal would be?
Heh... A beast, huh? Well, you ain't far off. Still, you're some girl. We'll call a truce for now. I'll help you guys... nah, I'll help YOU.
The bandits go neutral. Immediately afterward:
...we get groups at the bottom-left and and to our left.
The bottom group isn't an issue; it's just some Scouts and a Swordsman. (Axe and all.) The left group isn't much of an issue either; six Scouts is no scarier than it ever was. The problem is the two heavy armor enemies.
They're quite tough, and 91 Attack is no joke. Magic Guard makes Selmer even less effective than usual! If you stay and fight, then this battle all hinges on whether you can deal with these two enemies.
That said, they're all funneling through a long-but-narrow one-tile chokepoint. If Serdic can get to 3 OB and maneuver into the right position before they reach us, then it's all over but the shouting.
Thankfully, there's grass. A lot of grass.
There are fewer obstacles down south, but that's what we have Margus for. He's pushed just far enough forward to ZOC a few enemies off of himself, which will let Serdic get a few more kills while the left team struggles with grass.
The allied bandits will also make for good distractions -- there's no need to keep any of them alive, including Owl. He'll join regardless of his status at the end of the map.
Ideally, I'd like to not recruit Owl. I'm not going to use him, and his joining triggers three Quests, only one of which has anything good. But right now, without Kay, the chip damage his men will do and the time they'll buy us to focus on bigger problems really matters, to say nothing of eliminating the threat to Marie or Sasha. Not recruiting Owl makes this map exponentially more difficult right now, and though he may be near-useless, having another hand on deck for the next map will probably help. It's a difficult one.
(+1 reset discovering that. In retrospect, I'm glad for this -- I needed Owl in the next two stages.)
Recruiting Owl unlocks a conversation with Ansom. Again, alternate realities.
I don't believe this... Am I really allying myself with the bandits who attacked Shalem?
Don't whine so much. I already bawled out the ones who attacked the Federation.
But then... Why did you attack us again just now?
I apologize for my boys, but it's still a point of honor.
Honor, hmm? Well, that's understandable.
See? If you don't start anything, neither will we. We're gentlemen thieves, after all.
Gentlemen thieves...? I hope I can take you at your word.
Sasha gets out of the way. (She's not very useful this map.) Serdic attacks and goes north. You'll notice he's at around 2.5 OB right now -- this kill will take him to 3.
Marie cures some scratches. Healing experience, like damage experience, is proportional to amount -- Margus's Angel Medal is actually working against me her.
Margus is still the highest-level member of our team by a comfortable margin. That's good -- Selmer's first Quest and a battle reward gave me the two Battle and one Captain Proof he needs, and there's a perfect lull map coming up after the next two are finished. It'd be difficult not to reach level 15 by then at this point. Promotion has no downsides, and he gets some neat toys once he does.
(voice acting, no text) Out of the way! Owl coming through!
This attack quote never fails to crack me up.
HOOT HOOT, MOTHERFUCKERS
And characters only have one attack line, so using Owl means I spend a lot of time laughing. If only he was good... That health bar image says it all, really.
No, actually, this image does. He was hit for 90 by a random Scout first. That's kind of sad.
(voice acting, no text) Sorry, Princess...
(He says this even if you never actually recruited him. Lazy. His death makes no difference, which is good, because he's under CPU control and it's nearly certain.)
The next turn is slow. Everyone pulls off to the upper-left, waiting to attack the left group as they approach. Marie takes the opportunity to heal an allied bandit; sure, I don't actually care about them, but experience is experience.
He dies during the next turn. The turn after that, well...
Remember, Brave Ray has friendly fire. This bandit is very, very dead.
I'd feel bad about this, but I'd have gotten to kill five instead of four if this twit hadn't blocked them, so I'm not feeling very generous.
(Remember, displayed damage caps at max HP.)
Okay, in retrospect, perhaps I wasn't giving Brave Ray enough credit. Chokepoints this good are somewhat of an anomaly, though, and I'm mentally comparing it to Seven Sins.
(I killed four guys and severely weakened another and I only got 52 experience? OB kills must have an experience penalty.)
Margus moves in to block off the left side. He'll be handling the rest there.
I notice that the Swordsman can attack Marie at her current position. Sasha fixes that. Marie has no one to heal, unfortunately.
The bandits attract most of the attention in the south; they set themselves up so all three of them could be attacked.
Meanwhile, the lone armor knight left retreats, but not very far. Margus misses the first Scout but takes out the priority target.
Serdic may not be as defensively strong as Margus, but he's not at risk from enemies this weak. This is completely safe.
Marie isn't in a safe place, but I know that the Bandit will attack the Swordsman. So long as he doesn't miss, I'm fine. Plus, healing.
Sasha does nothing worth noting.
Remember what I said about criticals doing 1.25x and ignoring defense? Same type of enemy as above. There's not a significant difference visually, but the audio impact is less like the "sfx slash" and more like a gunshot.
The rest isn't very interesting. Margus one-shots four of the enemy at once, one survives with about 1 HP, and he spends two turns killing him (he dodges once). Sasha kills someone once, I think! Serdic hits level 12, Marie hits level 6.
And, probably because of that miss (), we only get a Narrow Victory. That's fine.
No after-map dialogue this time around.
A few bonus screens from that other run:
Yes, damage can go to zero. The Wise Bandit flunkies are not very impressive at all, and Owl isn't much better.
This is Marie, running right through a non-recruited Owl. As I believe I've mentioned before, most mages can't attack physically at all. Ernest is one exception -- you might have noticed he had a sword -- but Marie fits the norm.
(voice acting, no text) I will cleave all in my path!
(Yes, it reuses her deployment line.)
Sasha's OB, True Fangs.
This was a level 1. It hits twice, ignores defense, and would be doing 1.5x or 2x that damage per hit if it was level 2 or level 3. Range is six tiles out from her position.
Stat growths ensure that damage is going to stay roughly static, but True Fangs is still really, really good at what it does. Consider what 290 was doing to the armored knights earlier.
(For the curious, level 1 does 1.5x her attack per hit. So it does 3.0/4.5/6.0 times her strength in damage at level 1/2/3, and Rondo of Swords rounds down to integers. True Fangs is very easy to eyeball. Brave Ray has the same modifier sans the defense-ignore.)
Resets so far: 4 (+1)