Part 32: RecaptureChapter 25: Recapture
(Or, "Laser Pope")
I remember when Egvard fell. Back then, our only option was to retreat and regroup.
If you defeat Gauss in chapter one, even more troops show up and your characters automatically run away. Which is pretty reasonable, considering they have an entire army and you have three people.
This is one of the few points where dialogue references to a run away chapter don't end up kind of goofy when you do something not strictly intended.
Now, their time has come. We reclaim Egvard today.
Let's check the Quests.
This is actually earlier than I remembered -- I recalled you getting access to Seals a few stages later. The Virgin Seal is Aegil's, and it's very nice to have so early. She's one of the few to make good use of good growths, and she has the best in the game.
More importantly, the Anrah Seal is the second Seal, and Igraine is already level 30. I want it.
As shown last time, Aegil learns Invoke Mind 3 and Oratoriorae 4. Serdic, Margus, and Igraine are saving up for level 36/promotion/promotion, respectively. There's no way in hell Alhambra's promoting before the very end of the game (Arios, Yumiluna, Simon, and Galahad are all in the way, plus our actual party and the Path B exclusive recruit), so I go ahead and teach her Retaliation 3 (+counter attack rate). Stand Fast won't add as much defense as another Amulet will, so it's a lower priority.
Okay, this was probably suboptimal. Strictly speaking, Ansom should be saving up for True Arrows 5; +1 range means a lot more than +1 Move for him, especially when he's already faster on his feet and higher-ranged than most of the army.
In less practical terms, having Ansom gain +3 Move is really funny, and if the include/don't include Ansom vote was any indication, then that's what you're here for. I aim to please.
I break from the usual pattern to give Alhambra the Empire Amulet, bringing her up to +45 Defense. Serdic is about as invincible as he needs to be, and being able to use Alhambra more freely helps.
On a whim, I decide to send Igraine on a Card Quest. Three Card Quests gives her -20% MP cost for Abyss Gate and Seven Menace, her best spells. The Anrah Seal will become available next map, and she's already level 30; it doesn't really do me any harm to send her on Card Quests for the next two maps and bring Cotton instead. If there's a braindead map where I don't really need her, then I can bring Cotton instead and finish off the Card Quest.
(If I'd remembered to send her off during map 23, I'd have that Card ability by the time she promoted. Oh well; I'll make do.)
No Continuous Quests this time, so I send someone on every Quest... And then forgot to sell all of my extra Bullion and my excessive assortment of Chrism/Vow Proofs. Dammit. I think I've been trying to remember to do that for about three maps now.
This is a pretty absurdly mobile team.
This map is rather familiar -- it's essentially chapter one with the entire left half of the map chopped off. Appropriately enough, we start where Gauss was.
None of the enemies outside of the gates have any skills, and none of them are very strong. The Armors have ZOC. The Sniper past them makes me glad I didn't bring Igraine.
I really, really hate enemies with True Arrows. It's the same problem with enemy mages -- you don't have enough information. And unlike Mages, you can't use MP cost to suss out the level after he attacks. I'm either going to shoot him in the face with Ansom or have Serdic wade in and use Seven Sins; the sooner he's dead the better.
The Swordsmen and Infantry aren't really a problem. Duelist is a perfect skill for low movement enemies, but it doesn't do much to change the fact that they should ting off of Serdic.
The next row of Armors have Melee Guard and Invoke Might. The one in the middle has Stand Fast and ZOC. They're just there to slow you down while the Sniper behind them shoots you. He's basically the same as the first, but trades Stigma for Foresight so as to maximize his assholishness.
The War Mages have Spark Edge. The final row of three Armors have Invoke Life and ZOC, putting them at about 500 HP. This makes them a complete pain in the ass to kill without magic, especially since I have no one with Null ZOC. This isn't a "kill the boss" stage, though, so I'll be using Seven Sins liberally.
This is a good time to mention one more cool property of Sedna Prison: It ignores equipment defense. (Amulets, in other words.) Spells use the formula (1.5*Power-t_eqdef)*(1+1.5*(c_mag/t_mag)), so +50 from amulets, for example, shaves quite a bit of damage off of a 120 power spell -- it goes from 180 to 105 before you even consider caster and target Magic. Sedna Prison totally ignores the t_eqdef part of that formula, which affects the player much more than enemies. (Ice Spear level 5 does this too, which makes it the only spell that gains a substantial property change outside of range.)
On the other hand, the player also has the ability to not run into it like a complete moron, so enemy Sedna Prison still isn't very threatening.
The Guardian isn't a boss, and killing him just means that he dies. The ZOC enemies are much more problematic than he is.
You might have noticed that there's a shitload of ZOC in this stage! It's a complete pain in the ass for predominantly melee characters like Serdic or Margus. Good thing I've got three ranged characters, huh?
There's four conversations this time.
Serdic and Izuna
Yes, that's right.
Y'know, I was thinking about coming to see the sights here. It worked out pretty well for me.
I know, I know... That stuff can come later!
Aegil and Rukia
Oh, you've never been before?
Yeah... I never really had the chance. I always did want to see the Holy King's domain, though.
Then you should see the sights once the opportunity presents itself. I could even give you a tour, if you like.
I don't know if you and I were thinking of visiting the same kinds of places. Know what I mean?
Do not patronize me, thief girl.
Is that really something to be proud of...?
And suddenly there's yet another wrinkle. When did Aegil visit Egvard? Was she Pope then? Did she know Serdic?
Kay and Margus
Yes. I never thought we'd return under the Divine Empire's flag, though...
Me neither. But we can't fail at the task we came to do.
Right. We've got to save the women of Egvard! Just thinking about it gets me all fired up!
Rondo of Swords is a much snappier title, but the Japanese Rondo of Deception really fit the game better. Margus could really be pumped about having an entire town of girls to hit on, or it could be an exaggerated act he puts on to mask his feelings. Kay could be exasperated or worried. Both interpretations work equally well.
Characters in Rondo of Swords lie. Kind of a lot, actually.
Serdic and Aegil
What's the matter? Aren't you happy to be back in your homeland?
I was only musing that it's been one full year since that day.
And now we have a sense of how much time has passed.
None of the profile ages have changed, sadly; Serdic is 18, just like he was in chapter 1.
...So it has. A lot has happened in that year.
Did you say something?
Only to myself. Let's hurry to the palace.
Let's get started. Margus and Serdic move up to block off the left side's two cavaliers, giving me substantially more space to work with.
Aegil's position here puts her at the very edge of the Attacker and Cavalier ranges just above her. Cotton moves to her left, Alhambra moves behind Serdic and Margus.
Ansom kills the left Cavalier, who is less likely to just run into the metaphorical ZOC windshield.
The rest do just that.
Margus weakens two enemies and moves to block.
She's only hitting one target, and he's almost dead anyway. This is completely, pointlessly gratuitous, but... What's the point of having all the fun toys if you only use them wisely?
The fun thing about Oratoriorae and Aegil's OB is that killing enemies for OB means you gain OB much, much faster. She gained about 90% OB from that single Oratoriorae, and she only hit one target. Aegil would get about that much meter after about four Cure Drops.
Plus, healing with her OB lets you spend more MP on orbital bombardment, and I am all over that.
Alhambra kills two enemies outright, Serdic takes the last one and moves up to see if he can lure the Armors down.
The Sniper will probably shoot at Ansom, but I doubt he'll die, even if the Cavalier hits him as well.
The enemies move down.
Okay, so apparently this one Cavalier was the only enemy in the stage with Null ZOC. And I completely missed him during my skill check.
That... could have been bad. Oops.
Alhambra is really coming in to her own now that she has Sprint and Lateral Blow maxed.
Margus moves up into the Cavalier's spot. This is just close enough for Ansom to huddle behind him and shoot the Sniper.
Ansom makes this sort of thing much, much simpler.
Serdic moves up to Margus's upper-right to form a little ZOC wall...
...letting Cotton run up to the frontlines with complete impunity.
The fun thing about double ZOC is that it lets you do things like this, which would otherwise be completely insane. Sure, Serdic might be straight-up better than Margus in most situations now, but that doesn't make Margus less useful! Cotton in particular benefits an incredible amount from the dual-ZOC set-up.
The next line isn't willing to move up yet, so the turn goes just about as you'd expect.
Oh, Cotton. If I'd remembered to put the +magic rings Igraine has on Cotton, then this would have killed everyone.
Serdic finishes them off, everyone moves up.
Ow. That War Mage's Spark Edge did 240 damage.
And thanks to MC, the last one attacks Serdic instead of Margus. Margus survived the round with 7 HP.
I really would have deserved it if he died there. Remember, Margus and Serdic might be insanely tough, but they're far from invincible -- these Armors still do about 80 damage per hit.
Aegil levels up to 25, getting enough MP from the level to go back up to two Oratorioraes.
I remembered the central Armor having ZOC, so naturally the one in the center must be the ZOC Armor. Wrong! They attacked from left to right, so that one that Alhambra is attacking first here was originally the central Armor -- the one that has ZOC.
Now she's Crazed, in a poor position, and both the closer Mage and the Sniper are still alive. Bugger.
So now we've got a minor Situation.
Remember, Margus takes 240 from the Mage. He took about 40 from the Sniper and about 80 from each of the Armors. Cotton is out of spell range this turn and useless to our purposes, while Aegil and Alhambra have already acted. Can Serdic, Ansom, and Margus extract me from this situation?
I'm confident Serdic can kill the Armor on the left with Fearlessness. Probably even without it -- he's at about 140 and Crazed, and Serdic can hit his bag. Margus is at 290 HP, so he can take one spell, but not if anything else hits him. If he's up to his full nearly 600 health, he'll survive no matter what so long as no one criticals. Charging Ansom up to hit the Mage is going to get him killed. If I don't kill the right-side Armor, he can reach Aegil, who has 65 MC -- that combined with her low durability will probably result in her death.
So the priority is to kill the right-side Armor. We can do that -- he's injured and Ansom does about 400 to these Armors. Margus, meanwhile, will heal himself with an Akasha Juice (60% HP). I don't want him dying on me.
I very nearly send Serdic to attack both Armors, but then I realize that this puts him seven squares away from the second War Mage -- and I already know that the first one can cast that far. Two spells would almost certainly be lethal, and two spells + Arrow definitely is.
Cotton moves up. The Sniper and the surviving Armor hit Cotton, and...
...well, bugger. This wouldn't have happened if I hadn't screwed up with Alhambra.
This isn't really that big a deal, though. Sure, having Cotton die means she has about 30 less Magic on the next stage, which translates into her doing about 2/3 damage.
On the other hand, "2/3 of Cotton's damage" is still a lot, and she should have Faerie Fire 5 after this level. Plus, I'm pretty sure I forgot to take the +magic rings off of Igraine, so she's going to get 16 of that lost Magic right back. I'm not really that fussed... As shown by the fact that she was in a position to die in the first place, I suppose.
Alhambra takes out the three priority targets; she could attack the Armor as well, but a counter would totally ruin my day. Ansom shoots it, Serdic takes the kill, Serdic and Margus move up.
Aegil is exactly seven squares away from the War Mage. She kills him and takes the Armor down to about 45%.
"But wait! That doesn't seem like much damage! Weren't you hyping Laser Pope before?"
Just wait, dear reader. Just wait.
By virtue of entering Route B, I'm contractually obligated to show you Seven Sins repeatedly chumping the enemies. (This was a level 2. It still one-shot the enemy anyway.)
Ansom shoots the other, Alhambra takes the kill, Margus waits in place.
This is the range of Aegil's OB -- a 3x4 box, like Taion Raioh before its final range improvement.
Level 3 heals about 80%, and Aegil can hit OB level 3 in a single Oratoriorae, provided she hits the right kind of target. Sure, Great Blessing would be a lot cooler as a giant wave cannon, but it's much, much better as a heal. It's the perfect intersection of a lot of different mechanics, enough to make the Oratoriorae + Great Blessing combination one of her central character-defining traits.
Do you remember how I mentioned that Margus's OB gives him a lot of experience? Healing experience is balanced around ST healing or low amounts of MT healing, because only Margus, Aegil, and Marie have MT healing and Cure Drop builds meter very slowly. Margus has the same problem, to some degree; as the game progresses, his offense drops off more and more, thanks to his complete lack of any offensive skill (that isn't Null ZOC). The only way he's going to build meter is kills, which leech experience anyway. Lower MC also means lower OB gain, so Margus's experience off of his OB meter doesn't imbalance the game.
Oratoriorae completely destroys this balance, because Oratoriorae does not build meter slowly. Aegil also has high MC, increasing her experience and OB gain, and has Prowess, adding 5% experience gain per level. So if you get a bunch of people wounded and in the range of a level 3 Great Blessing, this happens.
Compare her experience to the range screenshot above. Aegil entered this map at level 24.34. She's going to leave it at level 30.14, just in time to promote.
Remember how I said that Aegil's third class has the best stat growth in the game? She's also the fastest leveler in the game when used correctly, and she gets her Seal first.
Oratoriorae isn't important because it deals a lot of damage, it's important because 1) it adds utility on turns when Aegil doesn't need to heal, 2) it roughly triples Aegil's OB gain rate, giving her reliable AOE healing (something basically unique to her), and 3) when she's getting level 3 OB reliably, her experience gain explodes. And Oratoriorae itself gives good experience, more than Cure Drop! Good Oratoriorae and OB usage allows Aegil to hit very high levels by end of game, and she can take advantage of that level advantage better than anyone else.
That's the power of Laser Pope. Oratoriorae may be only average offensively right now, but there's plenty of time to fix that. Even in the event that her raw Magic stat never catches up to Igraine or Cotton (she gains roughly twice as much per level as Cotton after promotion, 1.5x more than before-promotion Igraine, and just a little more than after-promotion Igraine), she's still probably going to have a higher spell level and a higher level Invoke Mind, and that's where the really big numbers come from. Her HP will go from "can take a hit" to "actually decently tough," while her game-highest MP growth, Invoke Mana and innate 20% boost to the same will give her more than she ever really needs.
I delay an extra turn to heal once more with Aegil, just to make sure. Then I have Margus take the kill.
The Ceramic Ring is absolutely fantastic for mage characters. It gives +1 Move at the cost of -20 Defense. Sure, that's a really damn big penalty (especially since it adds substantially to received spell damage), but... Let's be honest, is Igraine really going to survive a hit anyway? No, probably not, and most of your other mages are the same way. So giving it to them makes the defense penalty largely irrelevant. It's just there to make sure you don't put it on a frontliner.
That's the level! No more dialogue. We still need to storm the castle, though.
This will mark our first "real" tier 3, all thanks to Oratoriorae and Great Blessing. I intend to make her as horribly overleveled by game end as possible!
B Route is perfect for demonstrating just what Aegil can do. If she had more offensive spells, particularly a Sedna Prison or Faerie Fire equivalent, then she could grow into the best magic user in the game. Instead, she's merely very good.
Total resets so far: 12 (+0)
Next time: Bretwalde Liberated