The Let's Play Archive

Rondo of Swords

by Einander

Part 33: Bretwalde Liberated

Rondo Chapter 26: Bretwalde Liberated
(Or, "Difficulty Spike")

If you can look at that expression without laughing, you're made of much stronger stuff than I.

Cotton gets the +magic Rings I forgot to give her last time and learns Faerie Fire 5. Alhambra learns Stand Fast 2 and Karma Strike 1 (+counter-attack damage).

This is the last time Aegil will ever be out of the party. Yumiluna subs in for her and gets the Ceramic Ring, bringing her up to a much more respectable 5 Move.

Igraine goes on another Card Quest. Her Anrah Seal is available now, so she'll promote next map.

Like Rukia, Selmer has an ability to sell items above cost sometimes; Igraine does too, and I know there's a fourth but I can't remember who it is (or where I saw this information). As a result, and because he can sell four at a time, Selmer will usually do most of your sales.

Items are unlocked in each item category as you progress through the chapters. There are three "highest" shop levels -- 20, 80, and 99. A shop level of 20 means it's unlocked after chapter 20; I believe that even if you don't do them, the two sidequests before it count. So you'll always have all available items purchasable after The Fated Hour. That said, this only matters for the Topaz Amulet, since the second-highest Shop Level is 15.

Shop levels of 80 are for unpurchasable items. The Black Ring, for example, has a Shop Level of 80. Shop levels of 99 are for dummied out items, like an unamed +2 Move ring. For some reason, you can buy up to +13 amulets, then the +14-+17 amulets are unpurchasable, and then you can buy a +18 amulet.

Rukia also has an ability to buy additional items (or "buy," since she's a thief) when sent out. Hopefully she won't screw me this time.

(I'm pretty sure I only remembered to do this by virtue of the giant SEND PEOPLE OUT TO GET STUFF that I wrote at the top of my RondoUpdate26 file immediately after doing the last map...)

We're in for a fun one this time, and by "fun" I mean "fuck this map."

Going up the left side from the bottom, the Mages have Hell Warrior, Abyss Gate, and Soul Rend. Going up the right side, the Mages have Soul Rend and Hell Warrior. All of the High Priests have Cure Drop, while the upper left-side High Priest and the upper and lower right-side High Priests have Oratoriorae. You might notice that the highest spellcaster on each side is in a little nook with one entrance, which renders them totally immune to attack.

I mentioned Soul Rend.

I hate Soul Rend.

Soul Rend is the second of the three enemy-exclusive Dark spells. Soul Rend inflicts a random status ailment, anything from Leak to Glass, and is the longest range spell in the game, starting at 7 range and growing to 11 at max range. The only defense against Soul Rend is Boost, Hero or Hurt status, all of which take priority over all statuses.

A good number of the status ailments will completely wreck you. Glass, in particular, is as good as death for any non-Archer/non-Mage character. Sure, you might get lucky (no spells on someone who doesn't have any, for example, or Leak), but there's an utterly unavoidable element of chance to any Soul Rend. It's a giant pain in the ass.

The terrain really doesn't help either. The walls aren't actually walls, so Ansom or Shino can shoot through them. Your melee can't hop it, though. The Attackers are a distraction, and they're unfortunately pretty good at it:

(Befuddle inflicts Dazed, which randomizes facing after moving. It's weird. The Alert Medal prevents it, and I have one, but it isn't dangerous enough for that.)

The two types alternate (Magic Guard, ZOC, Magic Guard, ZOC). Physical attacks are ineffective on one type, Magic isn't very useful on the other.

Once you get past the entrance hallway...

This is the center Armor. The two to his sides have Invoke Life instead of Vital Power.

The left War Mage up top has Abyss Gate, the right has Seven Menace.

The left and right Guardians up top. Remember how the last few maps have been passing off this kind of enemy as a boss? Now you get two of them as accompaniment to three different Mages. Mephreyu does not dick around.

Finally, we have Mephreyu.

Served as Bretwalde's Court Wizard, but was raised by the Order of Anrah, a dark sect. After losing a friend to Verona's purges, he sought revenge through servitude to the Darkness.

So he has MP Switch, an MP-restoring OB, the best magic-enhancing ability in the game, and both of the most powerful Dark magic spells. Pandemonium is exclusive to Mephreyu, and it's basically a Dark-elemental Megido Nova -- a 11x11 square of death around the caster with friendly fire. It has a weaker spell power, but it also ignores equipment defense, ala Sedna Prison. Mephreyu is a Problem.

(Weirdly enough, Ars Magna should override Abyss Shard here; it reduces MP cost and increases all elemental damage, it's a stronger effect at equal levels, and the larger effect overrides the smaller. I guess Abyss Shard is there to remind you that This Guy Is Really Good With Dark Magic, I Tell You What.)

This map probably contains the highest amount of lurking bullshit in the game so far. A bad Soul Rend, a mistake with ZOC placement that puts you in spell range, a spell that has more range than you expected... There's a lot of different things that can screw you over here, and it's hard to accomodate for all of them. And once that happens, you still need to fight Mephreyu's little block of bullshit. Playing this map without Ansom can be a nightmare. Doing it with Ansom is merely aggravating.

There's two conversations this time.

Aegil and Owl

Don't talk that way. Marie is home. She lives on in Serdic's Holy Blade.

You're right... the dead cannot speak for themselves. That is why it is left to the living to guess what they might have wanted. We must do so, in order to move forward.
...And this is what you think the Princess was hoping for?
I don't claim to know how far ahead Marie's plans extended. But for Serdic to reclaim Bretwalde, with Holy Blade in hand... I find it hard to believe she would have wished otherwise.
So if you're saying that this wasn't her plan, she wouldn't have staked her life on it.
That's exactly what I'm saying.

For a minor, optional character who never shows up in plot cutscenes, Owl has a surprisingly in-depth character arc.

Aegil and Igraine

The Darkness. He wants the Darkness' power, which was sealed away by Holy King Altrius. It's such a bad idea.
...You don't want its power?

I mentally read this in a deadpan tone. It makes it much funnier.
...I guess not all Anrah initiates are alike.
You're just figuring that out?
Hmph! Quiet, you!

Let's get this over with.

Cotton gets into position to hit the High Priest with either Fire Dragon or Faerie Fire. Ansom shoots a Hell Warrior mage to death.

The Attacker has five Move, which gives him just enough to try and hit both Serdic and Alhambra. Or he might just attack Serdic. Either way, ZOC should handle him.

Serdic was nine spaces away, so the enemy had at least Soul Rend level 3.


Critical hits ignore defense and do 1.25x damage. Serdic's defense is now worthless.

On the other hand, at least Weak should wear off naturally. Not all statuses do.

The Box of Death kills both targets and brings Cotton to 2 OB. She can now get all 200 MP back immediately. Faerie Fire may be incredibly expensive, but with Cotton that's really kind of irrelevant; by the time you have it, Cotton has enough MP and hits hard enough for regular OB use to keep her topped off.

That's enough out of you, mister.

There's still fair odds that he'll hit Serdic, but hey, at least there's no other enemy in range.

All of these enemies move down and to the right for some reason? It's weird. Why right, specifically?

Both enemies in range to attack Margus do. So does the Abyss Gate Mage, which means he has at least 9 range (level 4 Abyss Gate).

Ansom solves that little problem. Cotton goes ahead and uses her OB, returning to full MP. Her ridiculous Move score should let her get anywhere I need her to be next turn anyway.

These are both Magic Guard Attackers, not ZOC. Alhambra kills the first Attacker outright and mortally wounds the other.

Margus weakens the closer ZOC attacker.

Serdic takes the kill.

Weak status really, really hurts tanks. These enemies would do about 80 tops otherwise.

...really? Serdic is 11 squares away. That means that the left side Mage has Soul Rend level 5.

Alhambra takes a hit and a Hell Warrior from the left side. It's at least level 3, then, with 7 range.

I wonder what status they hit Serdic w--

Hahahahaha. Ha. Hah.

If Serdic is hit once after this, then I will lose the map. One hit of any kind.

Serdic can still attack, though.

Except that I just put him in range of Oratoriorae 5, presuming the High Priest above Serdic has it.

Ansom takes care of that problem. He's this close to the Mage because I want Ansom able to shoot him if the enemy hits him with Stuck (can't move).

Margus attacks the two Attackers nearby (Magic Guard then ZOC). He won't do much damage, since he's still Crazed from last turn, but hey, damage is damage.

The Oratoriorae caster in the upper-right really isn't a problem; I'll probably just leave her alone. The other two might be more problematic, so Alhambra takes care of it.

All three Attackers hit Margus. The Soul Rend Mage on the left side actually spent so much MP on his level 5 Soul Rend that he's tapped out and useless. That kind of pisses me off, somehow...

Reinforcements appear from the doors in these little nooks when you first leave the central corridor, with more appearing from the left or right every time you kill both members of the last set. It's a ZOC or Magic Guard configuration again, one or each; the ZOC also has Melee Guard and the Magic Guard also has Invoke Life, giving him about 80 more HP.

If you use magic or Ansom to kill all of the mages, then they won't ever appear. That kind of caution is largely unneeded, though; with Cotton and Ansom here, they're annoying but not very dangerous.

Cotton kills one, Margus hits one at full HP (I guess he missed last turn?), and Alhambra finishes the job.

Ansom kills the Soul Rend Mage, because fuck that guy. He may be out of MP, but I really hate him right now.

Remember how I said you can't change character facing? Sometimes you have to move in really dumb ways because of that.

Time to abuse Faerie Fire!

Serdic may be useless for tanking, but he's still got a level 3 Seven Sins charged. If worst comes to worst, it's there. I'll try to save it for the line of Armors further up the hall, though.

Ansom hits the top-most Armor, which has ZOC. ...Or had ZOC, since Ansom just killed it.

This is with her base Magic halved by Hurt. The two that survived both have Magic Guard. She does have +16 of Magic Rings on, but that's still kind of bonkers.

Do you remember what I said about Boost?

This is the biggest advantage of Serdic's high base MC -- it's not very difficult for him to get to 81, at which point he becomes completely status-immune and clears all status currently present. Alhambra has the same advantage. ABUSE THIS. It's the only reliable way to cure statuses that don't wear off naturally. It also makes you immune to Crazed, which becomes more and more useful as ZOC becomes more common.

I change my mind and have Ansom kill the right-side Oratoriorae High Priest. Eh, it's not like he has anything he needs to do right now.

Yumiluna heals Alhambra to full. Alhambra moves here:

Exactly ten spaces away from the Abyss Gate mage. If he has Abyss Gate 5, then I need to know that, and depleting his MP before I try to take on the enemies won't hurt.

He does! And he can do it twice more.

More reinforcements appear at the doors. Ansom is going to handle the right side, while Cotton should be able to handle the left with a little clever placement. (Faerie Fire is a 7x7 box; so long as the enemy is near a corner, no five range enemy can actually hit Cotton when she uses it.) I'll send Alhambra there for insurance once I've tanked the MP of this Abyss Gate mage.

Serdic and Margus are exactly eight squares away from the right-side Seven Menance caster, and Seven Menace 5 has 8 range. Margus probably won't die to Armor + Seven Menace... Probably. His Magic is kind of ass.

annnnnd it's a damn good thing that he DOESN'T have Seven Menace 5, because Margus is also 10 square away from the Abyss Gate caster. OW.

Margus moves down to Serdic (using the same swirly movement to ensure he's facing the Armor who came down to attack him).

Ansom can one-shot both types of armor from the reinforcements, apparently. He's kind of ridiculous once he gets going.

I realize that I'm too close to actually fight the ZOC Armor that came down; ZOC bounces up first, so an attack would Craze the attacker and then move them into the range of the Seven Menace Mage and an additional Armor. That's a recipe to get someone killed.

Now I'm out of range, so I'm free to attack him. All three of these characters are enough to take out one armor. (Serdic and Alhambra could probably kill him without Margus's help, but I'm not sure.)

Serdic and Margus are each in range of one Armor.

Yumiluna's OB:

Things should be okay now.

Beyond the first part of the animation, it's visually just a color-swapped Great Blessing. It increases status resistance. The problem with that is, 1) this requires enemies to have status ailments, 2) Yumiluna needs to build OB, which takes quite a while, and 3) it doesn't give very much experience.

I kill one Armor and position Margus in the way of the other. Then I screw up my counting and leave Serdic in Mephreyu's range.


That was at full HP! With +46 defense from amulets and a +24% HP bonus! And this is a level 34 Serdic. Serdic survived with 7 HP -- even one level less and he would be killed outright. Mephreyu will one-shot most people with Seven Menace, no questions asked, and he's got plenty of mages around in case that one shot isn't enough.

Unfortunately, there's still one enemy who hasn't moved yet.

That's the end of that particular attempt. +1 Reset.

The difficulty here isn't so much the mechanical demands as the complete shift of mentality. Mephreyu is essentially a puzzle boss. You see, he has Seven Menace 5, and 90% of your team will not survive Seven Menace 5. Serdic will, given a high Invoke Life level and enough Amulets, and Margus has a chance. Anyone else is dead, period -- magic-users may have more Magic, but they don't have enough raw HP (Cotton included), and Magic Guard just doesn't do enough to offset his damage. This makes the vast majority of your team completely irrelevant against him.

If you try to sacrifice characters to exhaust his MP, then he'll OB it all right back. If you try to rush him, he'll use Pandemonium and the Guardians will clean up, and if you're out of range of Pandemonium, you probably can't attack him. If you try to use Seven Sins, then Seven Menace will weaken Serdic and the Guardians will kill him. You might be able to cleverly position Serdic so that neither Guardian will hit him, but that's probably going to get everyone else on your team killed by Pandemonium.

So there's really two strategies here. One: Have sufficient stats to survive Seven Menace and exhaust his MP. Only Serdic or Margus can do this, and Serdic is much more reliable. Two: Out-range him. Abyss Gate 4/5 (you can't have Magna Volt or Yumil Magna yet), Ansom + Holy Favor, Shino + Holy Favor, Owl/Alhambra + Black/Ceramic Rings + Holy Favor, maybe Shino + Sprint + her Holy Favor equivalent + Storm Rave 3/4/5 (it's an X-shaped spell, so there's a very particular place you need to be, and it requires running past his death zone). You have a little bit of choice in how to implement those two options, but they're all you have. Choose.

Next try! It goes much the same as the first. Alhambra eats the Glass status instead, but between killing the vast majority of the Mages past the midway point and finishing off a reinforcement, she's able to reach Boost and shake it off before anyone kills her. Serdic is hit with Weak again, Margus is Dazed by an Attacker; both of them wear off before they ever really matter.

(I suspect that the different levels of Soul Rend may have set statuses. The lower-right Mage seems to have level 4 and inflicted Weak both times, the one in the upper-left definitely has level 5 and inflicted Glass both times. I'd need more testing to be sure, though.)

You want evidence of just how comparatively bad Margus is at magic tanking? This is a full health Margus after taking a Seven Menace from the War Mage to Mephreyu's side. I know from this range testing that he has Seven Menace 3 or 4. That spell did more to him than Mephreyu's Seven Menace 5 did to Serdic, and Mephreyu has Ars Magna and 12 more Magic. Skill-wise, the War Mage just has Arcane Evil (-MP cost for Dark magic) and Magic Guard. I don't think that's explained by even 20 less equipment defense.

The stairs are a very good demarkation point. That's the bottom edge of the Mephreyu's Seven Menace range diamond. Make sure you're ready to take a hit before you venture past it.

Tactically speaking, it's better to fall back and let the reinforcements live for a while instead of spawn-camping them. A non-Hurt Cotton can one-shot all of them with a Faerie Fire 5, OB up, and then do it again the next time they reach her. If she's Hurt, like here, then Alhambra may have to help.

Thankfully, Ansom can kill either Mage from just outside of Mephreyu's Murder Diamond.

I'm showing option 1 here. Seven Menace costs 114 MP, so he can cast it twice. Pandemonium is more expensive, so those two spells should be it.

(MP cost calculations tell me that Mephreyu has Ars Magna 4, which is -24% MP cost and +24% damage; Seven Menace 5 usually costs 150 MP. No wonder he's hitting so hard! Abyss Shard caps at +20%, so it really is useless here.)

Serdic survives both spells, thanks to Yumiluna's healing and a little item usage. Time to move!

Okay, so here's the plan.

The range shown is the range of the left Guardian, the one with Number 13 (inflicts Glass). If both of them hit Serdic and this one procs Glass before any of the others around attack, then I lose the map. That's unacceptable. So we're going to use an old trick: Fill all of the available after-attack spaces with characters.

That all goes as planned. You remember how I mentioned that melee is nearly irrelevant? This is why:

He's sitting on a three movement cost tile. That's why Alhambra or Owl need the Rings to hit him from out of his range, even if they're going to be rescued.

Assuming you get past that movement problem, Serdic does have a pre-attack conversation with Mephreyu.

I don't do that, though. Instead, I do the usual:

MP damage or restoration aren't ever shown, but this emptied Mephreyu's MP too.

That's that.

(Mephreyu vanishes)

He's gone...
But if Mephreyu thinks he can escape me, he's mistaken.

When you consider Mephreyu's words and his stated goals, this implies that the Darkness is sealed here, somehow. That means that, by stopping Mephreyu from unsealing it, Serdic just accidentally saved the entire world. The Darkness waking up again wouldn't be good for anyone.

The Aster Ring is the most powerful +MP ring, increasing maximum MP by 10%. It's pretty useful, especially for Selmer, Igraine or Galahad, who never get Invoke Mana.

Before we move on, let's look at the results of the shopping. Selmer is a reliable sort, so I'm sure that...

8000 gold. 8000 GOLD OF ITEMS and they just up and vanished. RONDO OF SWORDS, YOU

are totally forgiven, you wonderful, wonderful game. Totally forgiven.

As mentioned before, Topaz Amulets give +18 Defense. Pyrox Amulets give +4 defense and are therefore kind of useless, but hey, I can always sell them. 3*275 gold is better than nothing.

Aegil also promoted. Her skill list after promoting is... a thing. Yeah, it's definitely a thing.


Yes, Aegil is the third ZOC user, the only one other than Margus and Cold Monarch Serdic. Yes, she has like 14 defense, 200 HP, can't physically attack, and can't move on the same turn she casts, so it's near-useless for walling purposes. And since you probably won't use her in Route A, since Marie is right there, you'll only ever have Margus for ZOC there. That's Rondo of Swords for you. For what it's worth, she gains seven defense over every ten levels now, so she'll close some of the gap, at least?

(You might notice that she also has Vital Power, the HP regen skill, which is actually a decent fit once she levels up enough and that game-highest HP growth kicks in.)

There's a surprising amount of utility in gearing Aegil up for tankiness, though. (Not to tank; she's never going to be tough enough for that.) With our newfound proximity to post-scarcity as far as Amulets are concerned, we can give her quite a bit of defense.

Total number of resets so far: 13 (+1)

Next time: