The Let's Play Archive

Rondo of Swords

by Einander

Part 13: Fatima Fortress

This update was very nearly delayed. Thankfully, I'd backed it up before the incident that resulted in it being overwritten. Back up your work, folks!

Chapter 11: Fatima Fortress
(Or, "Hammer and Anvil")

Hmm? Is that...

An Imperial Army banner!? Does this mean the Imperial Army has penetrated Almeria, too?

Our team this time around is a little different.

You can't do two Card Quests at the same time, so this is Alhambra's last map before she gets shipped off for six maps of Card Quests. It works out -- she'll be quite useful here, powerleveling her now will make her more useful later, and she's very well-suited for her first map back with us.

Now that Margus has returned, let's look him over.

In terms of stats, he's identical -- promotion usually doesn't change stats (though it does improve weapons slightly, always adding attack and sometimes accuracy or critical). The astute may have noticed that Margus's portrait didn't match his sprite before.

It does, however, match his promoted sprite. That's a weird detail, isn't it? I'm guessing his second set of sprites came before the first, which also explains the change from dinky buckler to giant shield. His OB hasn't changed, but he does gain access to his next set of skills.

Margus doesn't gain too much immediately after this promotion. Anti-ZOC is nice, but Margus should be focusing on his defensive skills. Revitalize is an active skill that restores HP to the user, while Holy Prayer temporarily nullifies status ailments. Unfortunately, Revitalize appears to heal a set number, not a percentage; it might see use otherwise.

Serdic learns Duelist 3 and Arrow Guard 2. Margus learns Invoke Life 4. Cotton learns Invoke Mana 3. Notably, this brings her up to 222 MP -- she'll almost certainly be able to reach 225 MP and a third Fire Dragon after she levels up once.

I have to fight the urge to have Marie learn something else. She learns two very good skills at level 15 and an amazing one at level 18, so I'll regret spending the points if I get impatient.

Alhambra starts with no skills learned and learns Vital Strike 3.

This time around, I change up my gear a little. Serdic gets the Moon and Jade Amulets for +16 defense. Kay gets the Hawkeye Medal (+accuracy). Margus gets the Black Ring, Silver Ring, Jade Amulet (+9), and Angel Medal. Alhambra gets the Amber, Coral Amulets and Ebon Amulets for a total of +13 defense plus the Copper Ring for +2 more attack. Marie gets the random rubbish Medals from last time (because I may as well put them on someone), and Cotton has both of the +magic rings we've gotten so far, giving her +8 Magic.

Margus is tanky enough as is, and now that he's reached nearly 500 HP, Cure Drop is healing him for almost as much as Serdic's max HP. Additionally, half of the team is faster than him, and there are quite a few ranged attacks in play this time. That means that beefing up my other characters is more of a priority. Serdic and Alhambra will attact the majority of fire, due to their higher MC, so the priority is to keep them alive. Serdic's skills bring him to nearly 60 defense, so he can afford to have fewer Amulets so long as I don't do anything too risky with him.

Quest-wise... We finally have enough people to send someone on every Quest available, and none of them are continuous Quests!

Ansom Card Quests: 6. And done -- after this, Ansom is going to be a near-permanent deployment. I look forward to telling you about his six Card ability next map!

Thankfully, there's not many more desert-like levels left. This one is strange, difficulty-wise. It can trip you up on your first attempt, but when you understand it, it's not very complicated.

You can open the front door by stopping in front of it, just like the cell doors in chapter 5. This is not, however, the same as saying that doing this is a good idea. If you can't tell this is a trap, you're not very good at tactics games.

The gate has opened slightly, but you are still unable to get through.

You need to attack it three times. On your final time:

And then it opens. The problem is that this requires putting your forces right in front of four Armors, all of whom will probably attack first and all of whom hit hard. Remember, Rondo of Swords AI clusters attacks to kill. This also makes it more difficult to accomplish a secondary stage objective, and as the dialogue indicated, there are reinforcements who will appear behind you to attack your squishies.

Instead, you're supposed to circle around to the right entrance. That allows you to work around most of the Archers, fight the enemies in a more favorable layout, and complete the other objective.

The Archers themselves aren't too strong. They are, however, powerful enough to one-shot Cotton or Marie. Don't let them. For all practical purposes, this team can't kill the four to the left of the entrance, but that's fine -- we don't need experience that badly.

I'm not using Ansom this map, but it's a good opportunity to point out a little of how his mechanics work.

Archers can't normally fire through walls. However, in a very nice nod towards realism, they added crenels in the castle wall just in front of each Archer, so both enemies and Archers can attack through them. The only side crenel is the one shown in the second screenshot.

In contrast, all mages can use magic through walls. This is sometimes a very important difference!

(Note that the "Archers can't shoot through walls" logic has its limits -- see how, in the second screenshot, Ansom can still fire through part of the crenel in front of him? Ansom can fire around corners, even when this means firing an arrow that can turn 90 degrees mid-flight. He's just that good at archery.)

The Guardian isn't too bad. He has no skills, and while he hits hard, "they hit hard" is a problem you can work around.

Hey, wait. There's a balcony near the right edge of that little room. Let me count tiles here...

...five. There are five tiles between the last space you can place Serdic and the boss of the stage.

Wow. They really are doing this on purpose, aren't they? My comments on Brave Ray become more embarrassing by the stage. It's actually really awesome, guys!

The option to simply kill the boss can allow you to end the stage much more quickly. Those enemies won't attack until you open the door, and they won't move out of the way of archers or mages -- I'm fairly sure that balcony is another exception to the "can't fire through walls" clause for Archers.

We're not going to do that, of course. It's a waste.

In terms of more immediate problems, there's two of these just above the starting line. They're not really dangerous so long as you keep them away from squishies.

First, though, conversations!

Do you know about them, Margus?

Well, I've at least heard of them. They're known as the Green Lions. It's a corps of mainly magicians, led by Ernet, who's sometimes called the Lightning Emperor.

But I don't see any magicians here...

They may have already been dispatched to Almeria City. They're probably intending to fight magic with magic.

I see.

This is questionable strategy. A fight between two Mages comes down to spell ranges, provided one of them isn't massively stronger. Mages can't move and attack on the same turn, after all. If they really wanted to take down Almeria, it'd be wiser to send Clotho -- the best anti-mage strategy is high-movement.

Almeria is protected by the magicians of the Ark. That should prevent it from falling so easily, but...

The Ark?

It's an academy of magic located in Almeria City. Myself and my mentor, Arios, are both members.

I see. So I guess we just have to put our faith in the Ark.

Please let it be all right...

Let's start.

This is a lot less risky than it looks. Odds are strong that they'll try to attack Margus at the start of a chain, and that means they can't hit Cotton or Marie.

Besides, it's turn 1. It's not like a reset is going to cost me much.

Margus's relative sparcity of amulets is showing, but that's still only about a tenth of his health.

Oddly enough, the left one hits Serdic's back and doesn't attack Margus at all.

Cotton vaporizes the lower horseman. Alhambra takes the kill and moves to serve as arrow magnet.

Remember what I said about her MC? Alhambra takes a lot of fire.

It's important to remember that Support skills only activate when the unit with the skill hasn't moved yet. It's one reason to take advantage of Kay's movement range and keep him out ahead of the others when possible. Chapters like this, where you have to advance towards an enemy who can take potshots with impunity, are a great time for Will of War.

And end turn.

There aren't enemies along the right wall until you reach the other entrance. So I'll skip to the end of that after taking a moment to talk about overall map strategy.

Eventually, reinforcements will appear at the bottom of the stage. If you haven't opened the front gate, then they'll open it and all of the enemies (other than the Archers, the boss breakroom area, and the two Attackers just outside it) will aggro and move towards you. Additionally, someone appears at the upper right, and Serdic needs to talk to them to recruit. Same deal as Alhambra or Ansom -- talk to them and they join, but if they die first or if you end the map without talking to them, then they don't join.

The problem is what to do with Cotton and Marie. If you check the right side, you'll notice that it's only three tiles wide. Since the wall is only one tile wide, this means that the Archers effectively block off the right-side route for all three of the in-party mages. Give Cotton a +5 or better amulet (or let her keep the one she starts with) and she can probably take one hit if she's gotten some levels, but that's dicey. If the bottom reinforcements decide to head towards them, then they're dead -- they can't flee into the right side because of the Archers, and Cotton doesn't have AOE yet.

So my plan is this: Serdic, Alhambra, and Kay will be heading into the right entrance. Margus is going to stay behind and watch over Marie and Cotton, but if the enemies head up the middle instead, he'll move up to assist. Serdic will move to recruit the new unit, while Kay and Alhambra will kill the two right-side Archers so Marie and Cotton can advance.

If you're not focusing on getting Ansom his 6 Card ability (you probably should be!), he should be able to shoot the archers to death, which simplifies matters. You should probably still circle around the right.

During the interval, Cotton used her level 1 OB, leaving her with half an OB meter and 180 MP.

Alhambra takes the enemy's side to ensure that she can kill him -- she has just a little less base attack than Serdic, but he has Frontal Blow and Duelist.

Kay runs in, triggering a bit of dialogue. This is your warning about reinforcements if you've never opened the front gate.

After the next turn. Kay is just above the range of the right-most Archer.

Cotton's in the tile to Margus's upper-right. They've been idling there for a while.

Guardian: They're here? Finally! Open the gate! We'll catch the Bretwaldean army in a pincer attack!

Now then, where's the treasure -- err, I mean, the food and water?

Kay attacks the first Archer but doesn't kill. Alhambra chases after. Serdic moves forward a tile to make sure he can talk to Rukia next turn.

At the start of the next turn after Rukia appears, you get this event:

Uh-oh! They spotted me!?

Armored Knight: You're with those Bretwaldeans, aren't you? Well, say your prayers!

Whaaa!? Hold on! I don't know what you're talking about!

Serdic moves up to recruit her.

What the... Why would a young girl be in a place like this?



Who are you?

No one of importance... And you? What business do you have here?

Aheheh, good of you to ask. I'm Rukia. They know me in Almeria as the greatest theif of our time!

A thief, eh? So you've come to steal something?

The Imperials took food from the oasis nearby... I came to take it back.

Well, that won't do. I suppose it's all right if you retrieve the food.

Huh. You're pretty generous. Well, I'll be taking the food... oh, and that sword too!

What about it?

It looks real valuable! Hey, you wouldn't give it to me, would you?

I'm sorry, but I can't. This sword is very important.

If you gimme the sword... you can do anything you want with me.

A-Anything I want!?

That's right!

Wh-What are you saying!? It doesn't matter... Under no circumstances can I give you this sword!

Aww, you're so cute, the way you turn bright red like that. That's it! I'm going with you!

Huh? Now see here, this is no laughing matter...

Nope! I made up my mind! You got a problem with that!?

Yes, I do. The problem is that you are bad at everything, including dialogue.

A thief girl whose motives are a mystery. She travels with the Bretwalde Army to try to get her hands on Spanta, the Holy Blade.

Card Quest bonuses: OB Gain +25% (3x/Innate), Critical Rate = 100% (6x/3x)

Remember what I said about growths in earlier chapters? Bases matter a lot, and Rukia has the worst bases in the entire game by a goddamn landslide. Her Move is unimpressive, her primary stats are all uniformly awful, her HP is atrocious... And to top it off, they don't improve. Relatively speaking, her stats actually get worse -- her growths are the worst in the game in her first class, and they don't improve very much. (Serdic's first class has better growths than her third.)

So, what does Rukia have going for her? She learns Sprint early on. The rest of her skills are awful for her! Her Card Skills are pretty good, and upon promotion, both are shifted up one tier -- in other words, her 3 Card becomes innate, and her 6 Card only requires 3 Cards. That 6 Card ability is great! It's still not nearly enough to salvage her. And, as mentioned, you only get one Card Quest per map; if you're sending Rukia, then you're not sending Alhambra.

Rukia is, notably, the only character in the game with a third class and no Seal. Promoting her to her third class instead takes 3 Thief Proofs and 3 Robber Proofs. Not that you will, because Rukia is just about irredeemable. Don't even try.

Fortunately, she's very good at both buying and selling. Send her to do those tasks instead.

She has two more conversations upon being recruited.

Yeah, that's right. Why?

Food, food...Hmm. It feels like I might remember something.

Maybe you were looking for food, Cotton.

Ah ha ha ha, there's no way!

Ha ha, that's probably true.

She's female, so you know what that means. (Between mentoring Kay and hitting on women, Margus has the most conversations by a landslide. Just one more reason to always bring him along.)

Umm... you're Margus, right?

That's right. I'm pleased to see you remembered my name.

So, what do you want?

It sounds like you came here to ease the suffering of the Empire's victims. I thought I might be able to help, that's all.

By coming over and hitting on me?


Joking, of course. I really do want to help you.

No thanks. My only lover is cold, hard cash!

So all I need is some money? Then look at this...

Yay! Hey... what do you take me for, a kid!?

...right! Let us never speak of this again.

Kay weakens the other Archer and Alhambra takes both kills.

Now that the Archers are dead, Marie, Cotton, and Margus hustle towards the rest of the group. None of the enemies went for the mage group, so Margus needs to get there and cut that large group off before they pass both available chokepoints.

Serdic attacks the enemies who started just outside the boss room.

Kay and Alhambra retreat. Kay stations himself at the second chokepoint.

Serdic countered one of the enemies to death on their phase.

That... is a lot of Armored Knights.

Thankfully, while Margus can't make it there this turn, the chokepoint allows us to place units to block off all the space inside and behind the chokepoint itself.

Now that the group isset to engage them next turn, let's look at those Armors. While there have been enemies with different weapons before, this is your introduction to different weapon types mattering.

The sword Armors have ZOC.

The hammer Armors have Magic Guard. Their stats are otherwise identical.

Normally, I'd take advantage of their low move and the available chokepoint by having Kay and Alhambra abuse the enemy's lower movement. Run Kay and Alhambra out, hit someone, run at the very edge of their range, then return to their place behind Margus the next turn. ZOC makes that problematic. Instead, the focus is going to be on having Cotton magic them down to low life, finishing with attacks, and then going all-out once the ZOC-users are dead. Magic Guard doesn't matter very much -- enemies go down to "one hit will kill" after Fire Dragon either way -- but ZOC means that I need to be very sure that any melee attack against a sword Armor will kill.

Enemies piled up at the end of the turn. Unfortunately, the enemy blocking the chokepoint entrance has Magic Guard, so they survived a Cotton spell. Alhambra plays clean-up. She's reached level 11 by this point.

Margus is able to move and plug the chokepoint.

I consider having Kay move above Alhambra to block one of the exit points for attacking her, but I ultimately decided against it -- that might have weighted the attack priority formula in ways I didn't want.

I have to say, this looks so much better with the shield instead of the bucker.

Between the Angel Medal and his defenses, they aren't able to bring Margus far below half health. Cure Drop handles the rest.

Alhambra survives the turn with only one incoming attack, thanks to enemy AI not considering ZOC. Cotton Fire Dragons down one of the sword Armors and Alhambra attacks two horsemen en route to killing him, ending behind Margus any Kay for protection and Will of War healing.

(This was a bit of a risk -- you've seen my luck with enemy counters, and Alhambra would have died if one went off. It worked out, though.)

Kay attacks one of the hammer Knights, finishing at the very edge of its attack range.

Serdic heals with a Raka's Juice (20% HP). If he attacks, chances are that he'll be swarmed and die. That would be bad.

Cotton is out of MP, so she uses a Willow. With Blessing 1, items heal by 20% more, multiplied against their effect -- a Willow's 50% becomes 60%. Maxed, that skill would make it a full heal.

A Cavalier bounced off of ZOC and landed past the chokepoint, so Serdic kills it and weakens the lower sword Armor further. Alhambra finishes it.

Same song, second verse.

Margus countered this sword Knight at some point, so it's weak enough for Cotton to kill it. Unfortunately, Kay doesn't have the Move to help Margus kill it, so he runs back behind him and we end turn. Marie heals, end turn.

Cotton uses her level 3 OB and nearly maxes her MP again.

I'd planned for Kay to simply weaken this enemy, but he kills it instead. Oh well.

We're out of aggressive enemies, so it's time to move towards the boss room.

Serdic hits the boss with a level 2 OB, doing a little less than 2/3 his life. If I really wanted to end the stage now, I'd move Cotton there and Fire Dragon him twice instead -- that might have been enough for an Overwhelming Victory.

Kay placed himself just inside the first Attacker's range, and... it moved there instead. *shrug* I don't know what's going on either.

Kay weakens, Margus kills. That's another kill I intended for Alhambra. Oh well.

Alhambra moves down. Cotton takes out one of the Swordsmen -- I'm not going to use her to kill the boss, but it'll make things simpler if there's fewer enemies down there. Cotton reaches level 12.

Margus attacks the Attacker, Kay kills it (again, by accident), Cotton moves to snipe, Serdic moves to cut off one of the ZOC repulsion points behind Margus, Alhambra moves up to be ready for attacks and attract arrows.
The Attacker is actually named "Stormtrooper" now, but "Attacker" is so dumb that I have to keep using it. Seriously, Attacker?

The Archers below the team aren't really a problem; Alhambra's hit 99 MC, so they'll attack her any time she's in range and they can't kill someone.

That first Swordsman is really good at dodging.

The Guardian is alone now, though, so the rest is formalities. Marie uses her OB first, hitting level 14; unfortunately, she won't be level 15 before next time. Fortunately, that doesn't actually matter very much. I'll be fine so long as she's level 18 before map 14.

No new items this time.

Resets So Far: 7 (+0)

Next time:
Black Box Edition The Ark Magicians