Part 28: Heart of SteelI'm going to be busy this evening, so... Here, have an update ahead of schedule.
Chapter 21: Heart of Steel
Central Plains, who had sided with Grand Meir, grew anxious.
Meanwhile, at the small township of Vakalier in Verona, the Anrah initiates staged an armed uprising. Serdic proceeded to put them down together with Pope Aegil to bring glory to the Divine Empire.
I hate to waste troops on anyone but the Empire, but here they are.
There seems to have been a flaw in their plan to gather all of their soldiers in the Central Plains. But why have you begun calling yourself the Divine Emperor?
I thought I'd made my intentions plain to you.
Is that all?
What else is there?
...Hah. Very well, then. Let's put down this rebellion quickly, and return to Seine.
If you're playing the game yourself, this is the first time you'll see Serdic's new portrait. It can be quite a surprise! You'll also notice that he only uses his default expression once here.
It's a good idea to stop spending skill points for several levels before a class change. In this case, most of Serdic's 17 skill points go into buying level 3 Invoke Life and level 3 Fearlessness, giving him 124% health and 130% damage against groups.
No one else buys anything. Aegil and Alhambra are already level 16 and 19, but Errands still aren't available. Aegil won't lose more than about half a point in defense and magic from two or three levels unpromoted; the skill points are the more important thing. Alhambra's growths are bad, so she's losing even less, comparatively speaking.
If you're going down B route, it's a good idea to get your mage levels in early. Igraine is already level 25, but she's going to be leveling much more slowly from here on out. Thankfully, it's much simpler to train healers.
This is the team I'll generally be using from here on out, with Cotton subbing in when characters need to promote or when she's particularly well-suited for the map in question.
This is a relatively simple map. It's a bit hard to tell from these shots, but there's two types of terrain here: Blue/white snow, which is 1 movement cost Paved tile, and white snow, which is 2 movement cost Snow tile.
Every single enemy is a spellcaster. This is not a map for fragile thief-types.
That said, aside from a reset on loss of a fragile or two consecutive turns of carelessness with Serdic, you're unlikely to lose.
The Mages all have White Dust, a +12 defense amulet, and a +2 magic ring. You still only need 78 attack to kill them (before +offense skills), so that doesn't do much.
(There's one Mage who has a Hunter Proof and a Fighter Gem instead of those accessories. I don't know why; there's an ability that can steal, but it's dummied out.)
There's a single High Priest on this map with Orotoriorae, but there's no corridors for her to maneuver you into; moving into her spell range takes serious inattention.
Priest of the Order of Anrah. He takes care of Igraine, but around any other woman, his behavior is vastly more suspect.
It's pretty obvious what we do with him.
Aside from that, watch out for Abyss Gate's range and you'll be fine.
As you might expect after such a big event, there's a lot of conversations this map.
Arios and Selmer
The Holy Blade, on the other hand, is glowing... Ironic, isn't it?
If it wasn't glowing, I doubt Serdic would be able to fight. After all, that was the entire reason Marie sacrificed herself.
Was there no other way...?
With more time, we may have found an alternative... but I couldn't think of anything.
If you couldn't think of anything, Master, then there must not have been a way.
Well, I suppose it can't be helped that he's become so morose. So don't look so downhearted. Serdic needs your help.
You're right. I can at least do that much.
Simon and Aegil
How could the Emperor take his own sister's--
Simon! I won't listen to another word of this.
Marie told me ahead of time that she planned to give up her life to cleanse the Holy Blade's taint. I did nothing to stop her. So if you object to Serdic's actions... You also defy the Pope of Verona.
I know that you cared for her deeply. But try to understand.
Forgive me for speaking of that whereof I knew nothing. I will uphold Princess Marie's legacy, and defend that which she sought to protect.
It is a fitting way to pay tribute to her memory.
Kay and Margus
It feels a lot like Kay is deliberately invoking history here -- "this is how these events will be remembered years later."
What's the matter, Kay?
Did Princess Marie really have to die? Wasn't there some other way?
That's what she and Emperor Serdic decided. There's no use dwelling on it.
So we should just accept whatever they decide?
To refuse it would be to dishonor the Princess' memory. And it would just make His Highness worry more. He took it harder than anyone. Don't bring it up around him.
Yeah, I know that much.
Serdic and Owl
What is it, Owl?
I'm sure there's no answer I can give that will satisfy you.
No one's forcing you to travel with me.
Are you finished? Because if so, I'm heading back to the battle.
No one's forcing me? Like hell... I didn't have a choice. Princess... that brother of yours is turning into a real bastard.
The deliberate use of only Serdic's normal portrait here creates an excellent effect, I think. You don't need voice acting to imagine the exact delivery of these lines.
It's especially excellent at setting up context for the next conversation.
Serdic and Igraine
He frowns the moment she calls after him...
I can hear you just fine, Igraine.
...then he returns to his impassive mask.
Why are you doing these horrible things?
It doesn't seem like you...
That's a very conspicuously awful thing to say to someone raised by the Order, isn't it?
You can't help killing people who are fighting in a war... But that's not what I'm talking about!
But she doesn't leave.
Why are you forcing yourself to do things you don't want to?
Things I don't want to?
Yes... you don't really want to do this, do you, Serdic?
You're mistaken, Igraine. As the Divine Emperor, I must do this.
Even that! This whole thing, calling yourself an Emperor!
It's not good for morale. Got it?
Serdic is impassive the entire way through the Owl conversation. He expects that reaction and it never sways him. But the moment Igraine approaches, he goes stony-faced and tries to ignore her. He's got a pretty good idea of what she's going to say, and he really doesn't want to hear it. So when she starts to talk, he tries to push her away with harsh words, but she stays. She says he doesn't want to do this, and he says he has to, which isn't actually a denial. He only snaps when she says it wasn't his fault, and his immediate response afterward is to echo the end of chapter 20 and reiterates that it was his responsibility. It says a lot about Serdic's state of mind that he's more comfortable with receiving anger than kindness.
When you consider the big flashing "recruit with Igraine!" sign in Galahad's bio, it's pretty fair to assume this is a conversation you're "meant" to see, written to give you insight into what's going through Serdic's head. This is standard -- Rondo of Swords puts a lot of its character development into the stage conversations, especially after you choose your route. That's a very risky choice, but I like it; it means that all of that's there if you want to look for it, but it isn't forced on you.
(It also means that anyone playing through the game themselves should probably look at the conversation scripts after every stage. They're up on GameFAQs. Remember, there's no in-game indication of who talks to who when.)
That said, let's get back to the actual stage, such as it is.
Ansom is just about the only way to kill this Mage first turn unless you have Abyss Gate 4 or better. He's going to kill the clerics on the left side of the map.
I could push Alhambra out further, but Serdic regenerates; I want him taking any spells.
Igraine moves exactly eight tiles away from the mage to her right. It's unlikely they have White Dust 5; even if they do, she has a good chance of surviving.
Serdic takes one spell during the enemy phase and regenerates about 2/3 of the damage he took.
Igraine kills the mage she was moving into range for, Aegil heals the remaining damage on Serdic, because...
...he's moving into range of four spells.
It's okay, he'll be fine. Probably.
(I forgot to give Margus the Black Ring again. This happens every time he takes it off...)
Yeah, he's fine.
Taking out two mages ensures Serdic will survive this round.
See that Mage in front of Galahad? For some reason, he was completely non-aggressive this map. I ended my turn with him in range three times and he never cast a spell.
Killing one Mage outright gives Serdic just enough meter to reach Seven Sins level 1.
Galahad is out of MP by this point.
That means that once Margus and Alhambra kill the nearby Mages, Igraine is free to run over and talk to him.
Note that, normally, you shouldn't do this unless you plan to use him. One more tier 2 character means one more Seal Quest blocking other, more rewarding Quests.
But Galahad has two expressions, and I'd hate to be inaccurate about whether he's using his normal expression or his other, much better one.
I was watching over everyone, and at some point I got dragged into this. What about you, Princess?
Galahad's means of address here is interesting precisely because it's so ambiguous. Sure, Princess could be a nickname for a cute grandchild, but Igraine calling him "grandpa" doesn't mean they're actually related, and he says, "Is that the Princess I see?" That suggests it really is a title. But if it's a title, then what is she Princess of?
You mean Divine Emperor Serdic?
Perhaps Princess Marie had her own reasons. This must be hard on Emperor Serdic.
That's why Raine can't leave Serdic's side. Sorry, Grandpa, but I can't return to the Order for a while.
I see... Then I have no choice. I will come with you, Princess.
Is it just me, or does this angle make it look like the eye in the staff is looking at you very judgmentally?
Absolutely. I worry about you, after all.
There's not much left to the map after this. Ansom's hunted down most of the stray clerics, so all that's left is to have Alhambra kill the last one.
Pure Amulet is +14 Defense, the Cold Medal reduces Ice damage by slightly less than the Ice Medal.
They really pile on the Chrism/Vow Proofs here. If this is your first playthrough, well, you live in interesting times for a little while after you lose Marie. Not having infinite healing can be quite an adjustment.
Most importantly, the start of a route is when victory rewards start becoming better -- amulets and other accessories become a regular fixture of the rewards. High ranks are more of a priority now.
What's the matter?
What shall we do?
It should be clear as day which of us is the false Serdic.
Yes, Your Highness.
Another Serdic, eh...?
Let's take a moment to talk about Galahad now.
their MC Gauge.
Priest of the Order of Anrah. He takes care of Igraine, but around any other woman, his behavior is vastly more suspect.
Card abilities: Dark spell MP cost -20% (3x), MP +20% (6x)
Galahad is a pretty awesome character design! I'd say he has one of the most interesting and powerful skill sets in Rondo of Swords. Unfortunately, he's also the best example of Rondo of Swords mechanics utterly screwing someone over.
First off, note Galahad's class: High Priest. As a cleric of the Order of Anrah, Galahad has access to the same Light spells as any other cleric -- Cure Drop, Treatment, Holy Favor, Oratoriorae -- as well as both player-available Darkness spells, Abyss Gate and Seven Menace. Since he's a Dark cleric and not a Light one, he's the only healer with no access to Arcane Light, which makes Light spells cheaper; instead, he learns Abyss Shard (+dark damage) and Arcane Evil. This means that he's best used much like Aegil, as a kind of more mobile mage/healer hybrid. Also like Aegil, he's the other magic-user to learn an ultimate spell before third tier, learning Seven Menace a tier before anyone else. He's an excellent choice for a second mage, if you're interested in using two -- Darkness and Light may have limited offensive options, but they're GOOD offensive options, and being able to heal or Holy Favor in an emergency is really damn good. Perhaps most notably, he's the only healer in the game to learn Torus Spell, the MP regeneration ability; maxed, he regenerates 20% MP every single turn. This is really damn big! Marie is proof enough that MP regeneration makes a MP pool many times more massive, and he regenerates more of it than she does.
However, Galahad has two downsides, one minor and one massive. Minor downside: He never learns Invoke Mana. Invoke Mana is the best +stat skill in the game, and I realize that I never explained why: It gives +15% max MP per level. Maxed, Invoke Mana is 175% of original MP. This is goddamn huge. Out of the mage or healer characters, only Selmer, Igraine, and Galahad don't have it, and it holds all of them back to varying degrees. (Of course, it's not a coincidence that they're also the three casters with Torus Spell.)
The massive downside: His promotion Seal is next-to-last in the Seal order. Torus Spell, Abyss Shard, Wisdom Lock (+magic -defense) and Oratoriorae are all post-promotion, and he needs all three to reach his full potential. There's a good chance he won't even promote before the game ends, and this absolutely cripples him. The only time you'll get to use Galahad in his full glory is New Game+, and "good in NG+" is not exactly a rousing recommendation.
Casters in general are the best example of why I don't like the Seal system for tier 3. I want to use Galahad! He's a cool-looking old man with a really awesome niche. Unfortunately, the way third-tier promotions work means that you'll never get to see that without serious and restrictive manipulation of the system (never promote tier 1, never recruit tier 2) or NG+. Just about every caster needs tier 3 access to remain relevant; the ultimate spells are all excellent (well, except Megido Nova) and they all get their distinguishing abilities after promotion. The problem is that only Aegil and Igraine get access to their Seals in a timely fashion, and that means that only Aegil, Igraine, Cotton and Marie can really show the full power of an RoS caster. All of the others are left to twist in the wind.
Oh well. It isn't as if Rondo of Swords is reluctant to obsolete every other character in a category anyway. (See: Alhambra vs Sasha/Owl/Rukia.)
Total resets so far: 9 (+0)
Next time: The Divine Emperor