Part 23: Young LionsFive and a half hours left on the vote.
Chapter 16: Young Lions
(Or, "Pincer Attacks Are Hard")
the Fifth Division and Ernest's Green Lions are present. Both of Grand Meir's young lions were about to bare their fangs to the Bretwalde Army...
The "Gentleman Thief" quest Owl did is one of the Quests his recruitment triggers. It's a Continuous Quest and all three levels only give Thief promotion items, so by completing it last stage, I ensured that the next Quest in the chain will delay a Quest I might actually want. That's unfortunate.
But it's a guaranteed source of the last Thief Proof Alhambra needs for her first Promotion, the only other Quest I know of that gives Thief Proofs is also continuous, and this way I ensure that Alhambra can promote as soon as possible after she comes back.
(Looking from the future, I'm pretty sure this was worth it. As of chapter 20, I found no other source of that second Thief Proof. Thief/Robber Proofs are hard to get, which is just one more way Rukia is terrible -- she needs three of each for her second promotion, remember.)
Alhambra Card Quests: 5. She's still on track to be ready for stage 18.
There's an optimal place to promote Margus, but there's no such place for Ansom. I'll just try to make the best of it.
As you might expect, Kay is back for this map.
I finally remember to give Margus his Black Ring back.
Kay learns Will of War 4. I wouldn't invest that much in the skill if I planned to keep him, but it's better than his other options. Margus learns Revitalize 2; I've had enough points in the last few stages where Margus was standing still and blocking a checkpoint, so it makes sense to teach him that. Marie learns Arcane Light 2, bringing her up to -12% MP costs for her spells. Cotton learns Invoke Mind 3.
Igraine learns Sedna Prison 3. Sedna Prison is an Ice spell and the defining spell of the element. It creates an AOE damage field around the caster -- originally a 3x3 square, growing to 5x5 at level 2 and then 7x7 at level 4 -- that damages all enemies but ignores allies. Sedna Prison is tied for the best chokepoint spell in the game. While Cotton's Faerie Fire is more powerful, it also doesn't get the 7x7 field until spell level 5, so it'll spend a substantial portion of the game as a smaller spell. (Each level up gives you two skill points. You need 7 levels of skill points to reach level 4, but you need 11 levels to reach level 5. You do have one skill point left over both times, though.)
It's stronger than you'd expect for its AOE, too -- level 3 SP is tied with level 3 Abyss Gate in power and level 5 is stronger than an equivalent AG. It's solidly mid-range, but mid-range is impressive when it can hit so many targets. It's one of the most powerful spells in the game, and I think the next few levels will be an apt demonstration of why.
(I'm really not sure why it's named after the Inuit goddess of the sea and sea animals. Sometimes the mythology hodgepodge of video games gets downright weird.)
Finally, just before I leave, I send Rukia off to hawk all of the Bullion items I've acquired. We'll see how that goes after this stage.
(Yes, I'm letting the stupid, greedy thief go off alone with all of my valuable gold trinkets. Why do you ask?)
If they get past us, they'll be at the Holy City of Seine's border. We must stop them here.
Do you think you're speaking to an imbecile, Alberich? I know all of that. Fortunately, all we have to do is kill the Prince, right?
Our clever deception of letting the real Prince get killed and sending a body double off to do his job means that now they can't kill the Prince! Go home, Empire; you cannot withstand my tactical genius.
Right. You understand the plan, right?
Exactly. I'm counting on you.
Then there shouldn't be any problems. (Alberich exits) Hrmph... How dare he act like a VIP, simply because he has the Emperor's favor?
...Ernest, isn't that kind of the definition of a VIP?
An assassination mission! And me without my death cannon.
Clockwise, from the starting position:
You've already heard their battle plan. Our first priority is to break for the bridge before Ernest's cavaliers cross it -- it'll become much harder to keep the enemy contained at that point.
Ernest has a pretty standard group. The Abbey Cavaliers (classed as Crusaders now) are largely skill-less, though there are a few one level higher than the rest who also have Stand Fast (+4 defense, in their case). Despite supposedly being the leader of the mage corps, he has no mages. Or Archers either, for that matter. I guess Ernest is holding his men back and using only the ones the Seine traitors are providing.
Ernest will drop his Lazuli Ring (+6 Magic) if defeated. 'If defeated' -- as the objective suggests, killing either of the Grands will end the stage. The Lazuli Ring really isn't very good, but it's not awful. (Sadly, there's no way to get his +15 defense Violet Amulet instead.) I'm going to operate under the assumption of a level 3 Magna Volt but prepare for a level 4.
Yes, Ansom could just shoot him in the face here, were he present. Ernest is still within his instant death threshold.
Alberich's group appears to be compromised of more of the same, but don't be fooled. Do you see the difference in horse colors between the groups? Some enemies have three tiers too -- in the case of horsemen, it's Cavalier -> Jouster -> Trooper. Ernest has Cavaliers, Alberich has Jousters and two Troopers.
The Pike Jousters have Frontal Blow and Aggressor, and they're not very scary at all. The Code Heaven Jousters, on the other hand, will screw you over if you stop paying attention. 10 Move is goddamn massive, they have enough attack to OHKO your casters, and Null ZOC means that your only defense is positioning. Sure, they probably only have level 3 or 4 Null ZOC -- but that means getting Margus to level 4 or 5 ZOC, and he has bigger fish to fry when it comes to skills. Devoting six to ten levels of skill points to maybe stop Null ZOC isn't very high on my priority list.
The two Troopers, meanwhile, are both more and less scary. Sure, they do almost 20 more damage, but they have one less move and no Null ZOC.
The two Priests can cast Cure Drop and Testament (despite you not really having statuses? it's weird). Their low movement will render them quickly irrelevant unless you (for some bizarre reason) decide to charge at Alberich instead of holding the bridge.
(And yeah, generics have ages too, though it's set by class. The Swordsmen are 24, the Cavaliers are 25, the Jousters are 30, the Armors are 33, and the two Troopers are 42. It's a nice touch.)
Alberich himself, meanwhile... I'm pretty sure he's also in Ansom Instant Death Range. Sure, he hits really damn hard (200-defense), but he's not that tough and killing him ends the stage. You can afford to go all-out against him. Just make sure you start with the melee attacks and have an insurance plan for if you can't kill him -- he has Foresight, so there's a chance he'll dodge.
The Lion Strike ability he has increases the rate at which his OB gauge fills. DO NOT LET HIM USE IT. Alberich's OB, Ragnarok Dusk, has the largest range of any attack in the game -- somewhere around 12 squares from his starting position. As I recall, it's AOE too, and the modifier is larger than Brave Ray. The odds that he can't murder the hell out of someone fragile (or someones fragile) is very low.
If you're using Ansom, then Alberich's South Medal is the real prize -- +10 Attack is +40 damage for him, and the -20 defense isn't too much of a problem. Do be aware that it means he'll take about 40 more damage per spell (defense doesn't apply to spells, but accessory defense modifiers do), play careful with enemy Archers, and you should be fine leaving it on him.
There's two conversations this map.
Margus and Kay
But what's that crest with the black lion on it?
That's the standard of the Black Lions, the Empire's Fifth Army Division. I believe they're led by Alberich, one of the Grands.
I think "Do you know about (x thing/things), Margus?" might be one of the game's most common lines, just due to all of these chats they have. That said... You know them too, Kay. You were five feet away from him in the first stage. We mugged him, remember? Margus is still wearing his ring.
Yeah, I've heard of him. Along with the Second Division, his men follow the code of knighthood.
So we can expect a fair fight against them... not like Ernest's group. That's good news.
Well, don't get your hopes up. The Fifth Division are true knights in more than one sense. Not only are they honorable...
They're strong, too. I guess there's no such thing as an easy battle.
There are plenty of people who wish there were, though.
True... I doubt anyone WOULDN'T want to make battles easier. Anyone who wouldn't must be some kind of war fanatic.
Sometimes the RoS "you can win any battle" principle conflicts with the "reasonable assumptions" principle the writing requires.
Serdic and Marie
Don't lose hope, elder brother. Surely, even the Grands have weaknesses we can exploit.
Weaknesses, eh? Do you know anything about them, Marie?
Just that Ernest uses lightning magics, and Alberich is unmatched when it comes to the spear.
Oh, and I have also heard that Alberich is the youngest of the Grands. Prior to that, the youngest was Ernest.
I see... That should be enough. Tell everyone--we're going to break through Ernest's line.
Enough talking. Let's get to it.
We can't reach the bridge on our first turn, but we can on the second.
As soon as your turn ends, this dialogue begins.
Who cares what Alberich said? I'M your commander. Or are you defying me?
Abbey Cavalier: No, of course not...
Then don't make me repeat myself. Charge!
Abbey Cavalier: Yes, sir.
Then, after Ernest's first movement, this dialogue starts:
But -- Ugh, this wasn't the plan, Ernest! We have no choice. Hurry into position for a pincer strike.
Chevalier: Yes, Sir!
You know, if Alberich would just join forces with Ernest instead of sticking with the plan even after Ernest breaks off, then this map would be a lot scarier. The Code Heaven Jousters would do really scary things to the chokepoint and render my strategy basically irrelevant.
Thankfully, Alberich isn't quite that bright. Between this and the last stage, I think the takeaway is, "The Empire is really bad at coordination."
Don't ask me what those two Jousters are doing up there, I'm as clueless as you are. (The Code Heaven one is doing that because he felt compelled to activate the other's Aggressor Support skill -- activating Support skills is high on the enemy priority list, which will explain a lot of formation oddities to come -- but the Pike Jouster is just being weird.) You do see what I mean about the Priests being irrelevant, though -- five movement isn't enough to keep up with a full cavalry squad.
Igraine's amount of movement is actually perfect for what I'm doing here -- this is the exact spot where I want her. 4 to 5 move doesn't seem like that big a difference, but it makes Arios noticably worse on this stage without use of Holy Favor shenanigans.
Serdic is going to play decoy for the pincer. It's going to be a delicate balancing game with the enemy, but he can do it so long as I'm not dumb about things.
The AI really isn't very good at keeping its units together. Not good at all.
Margus heals himself back up to full with Revitalize.
Kay sets them up, and Igraine knocks them down.
If Sedna Prison was one level higher, it would have killed all three even from full health and ALSO killed the Cavalier one square further back. All without friendly fire. And Faerie Fire is better. With proper use of lures and chokepoints, Sedna Prison becomes quite absurd. It should always be one of your leveling priorities when considering mages.
I think the last two stages demonstrate why you're usually moving towards the enemy rather than vice versa. When you get to stay put, magic is absolutely devastating. When you have to move, it's merely really good.
Cotton vaporizes the closest unharmed Cavalier, Marie restores Igraine's MP (best to do it while there's no other pressing need for her to tend to), and Serdic moves down a little further.
One thing worth noting about activation skills: They give no experience. This can be a problem with Marie, especially in mage-heavy parties, and Margus, who can and will spend entire levels sitting in one spot.
Alberich's slowed down a little. Good -- I'll need 2-3 more turns to finish wiping out Ernest.
Ernest's position brings up a serious question. As it stands, Igraine is exactly nine squares away from Ernest. If he uses a level 4 Magna Volt, he'll just barely reach, and she doesn't have the HP to survive that.
If he has level 3 or lower, I'm perfectly fine -- he'll keep hitting Margus with the spell and be utterly impotent.
(He has Arcane Storm, so all of that is wrong. It was, however, part of how I made my decision.)
Ultimately, I decide to leave Igraine where she is. If he kills her, I'll restart and keep her one square further back. If he kills Marie, he has level 5 and, well, everything's fucked. At that point I need a new strategy.
It probably won't come to that, though.
Kay is very useful for my little Zone of Woe strategy here.
After my turn.
Serdic moves three more squares forward, resting at the very edge of Holy Favor's range.
Oh thank goodness. Level 3, most likely -- Ernest has Arcane Storm, so it's a little hard to check. (Arcane Storm level 3 + Magna Volt level 3 comes out to 49.2 MP. I guess it's rounding up for costs? RoS usually rounds down, though... Unless it's rounding down the cost deduction before that deduction is actually applied? That sounds right.)
The Armor may have ZOC, but knowledge of ZOC order tells me that Kay will end up in the same spot even with ZOC. He does!
Using Thunder here was a bit of a risky decision, but I was doing it in part to gather intel -- I now know that Margus's Revitalize heals for 120 HP. Probably 60 per level, then. Marie Cure Drops him up to full.
After Sedna Prison, only the Armor and Ernest remain. It's time to start focusing on Alberich.
Serdic's position here has slowed the enemy advance a little -- they take his attack range into consideration when moving, even if attacking with him would be stupid and suicidal.
Only one Jouster can reach Serdic this turn -- I feel safe leaving him here. Who knows, I might counter.
Ernest only hits Margus for 200 damage. Revitalize, Angel Medal, and limited MP mean that Ernest can't kill Margus by himself. Kind of sad, really.
It turns out that I left Serdic just one square outside of Holy Favor range. That's fine; the square to Marie's left is vacant and she isn't in danger yet. Igraine kills the last member of Ernest's army. I grit my teeth and get ready for the next turn -- depending on what Alberich does, Ernest alone may present the anvil to Alberich's anvil. I only have so much room to retreat when there's such a massive death zone for my (non-Cotton) mages.
Then this happens.
I... just... I...
REALLY? That's your strategy?
Serdic weakens a Jouster so I can get a kill with Igraine. Why not?
Then Cotton Fire Dragons Alberich directly in the face and he dies.
Rondo of Swords is a difficult video game, guys. Really difficult.
(I know I'm being unfair, but... Really?)
Alberich has been defeated? Damn it! How dare they stand in my way! Withdraw everyone immediately!
The Cobalt Ring is the weakest +magic ring, giving only +2.
There's no after-map dialogue here; you just kill one of the two, the other withdraws, results screen, save. It's the same even if you kill Ernest, like so:
(Ernest's damage here does not jive with my knowledge of damage calculations at all. [83*4]-60 does not equal 196 in any system of math I know. It's kinda weird!)
So Ernest has been defeated... There's nothing more we can do here. Give the order to withdraw.
The Complete Victory rewards are pretty much the same, except...
...wait, the rewards are WORSE? What the heck? I assume the Cobalt Ring is conditional on killing Alberich, then.
Before that, I want to show you Rukia's results from her shopping trip. You see, Rukia has a special ability at the store. She can sell things for two or even three times the listed price. Unfortunately, this comes with a failure chance; if she does fail, then she'll sell them for half price instead. Thankfully, that's pretty rare, so --
GOD DAMN IT RUKIA
(Results lock in the moment you send a character. So I just ate a gold loss somewhere between 2000, 6000, or 10000 gold. And I only have 2700 to begin with.)
Total resets so far: 8 (+0)
Next time: Winter Storm