Part 36: Grand BridgeI'm back! And now I need to start building up my backlog again.
Chapter 29: Grand Bridge
(Or, "The Importance of Enemy Magic")
The Grand Bridge is our only way in. That's what makes me think they'll be waiting for us there, armed to the teeth.
If that's our only option, then we'll have to be equally well-prepared.
Show these Bretwaldeans how a Grand Meir soldier fights to save his homeland!
So many Topaz Amulets. So very many. Taking advantage of Topaz Amulets makes the late game much, much easier.
Margus is off to promote, which should be the final promotion for a little while; I still need that last Hunter Proof. Naji's Quest, Fairy's Secret Bow, is already available, though.
As mentioned last time, I'm bringing Naji along for a few maps. Ansom's level 35 anyway, he can miss out on a few levels. Without Margus, the team is going to be a little imbalanced and weird. Serdic, a (fairly durable) thief-type, two and a half mages, a healer (who is also the half mage), and an archer?
I shuffle Amulets around; Margus's absense and the Topaz Amulet windfall means I suddenly have a lot more to work with. Serdic is up to +57 defense, Alhambra has +50 (and +1 Move, because Margus doesn't have the Black Ring any more), Cotton gets +41 defense (because using Faerie Fire with near-complete impunity can only end in great ways), and Aegil still has +69 defense. I'd have liked to give Serdic the Black Ring, but he's suddenly my only tank; if I make him less durable then this stage isn't going to be pretty.
Igraine gets +14 Magic of Rings and the Ceramic Ring, bringing her up to 6 Move in exchange for -20 defense. Naji gets the South Medal, Copper Ring, and two Yoichi Medals (+12 attack, -20 defense, +4% critical rate total).
Serdic has six skill points, so he buys Duelist 4. Alhambra buys Stand Fast 3. Aegil learns Cure Drop 4. Naji buys True Arrows 5 and Vital Strike 4, bringing him up to 10 range and... probably somewhere around 20-25% critical rate? I don't know the exact numbers on Vital Strike. Vital Strike isn't very well-suited for Archers, but Naji has a lot of skill points, and until he's promoted he doesn't have much to do with them.
Between these two, I should have enough to buy at least one more Topaz Amulet next stage. This is the part of the game where you just chuck every single item you're sure you'll never use into the shops to buy more and more amulets. It's a metaphor for ravenous consumerism wherein ravenous consumerism makes life better with no real downside. Embrace hedonism!
This is a refreshingly straightforward level.
You have a bridge, you have fortifications, you have physical enemies who attempt to kill you. There's a grand total of one enemy offensive spell and there are no True Arrow archers, so you have all the information you need. There's no special frills, and while there's a second stage clear objective, it requires getting Serdic all the way to the opposite end of the map, which isn't happening. For all intents and purposes, it's another "kill the boss" stage.
Of course, the lack of squishy units and the multiple healers also means that this was an extraordinarily poor choice of stage to exhibit Naji. Oops. The lack of mages also means it's not very difficult; there is no such thing as a good magic tank in Rondo of Swords, only characters who are less bad at it than others. From here on out, difficulty tends to scale directly with the number of enemy mages present.
The first three Infantry have Invoke Life. The middle one also has Mind Chains, which inflicts Clumsy -- Silence, essentially. The Archers have Berserk and Focus, increasing critical chance in exchange for accuracy and increasing hit chance for allies that pass through the Archers. Which... they can't do, because the Archers are in tiny little three-sided nooks and won't move. They can't be passed through at all.
The next row of Armors is an incredible pain to describe, because there's actually about six different skill sets between them. The important thing is that the front row of Armors has ZOC and the back row does not. Other than that, all have scattered stat-boosting and damage-reducing skills.
Foresight can be a nasty surprise, so the Snipers are best dealt with magic or highly accurate attacks. Like, say, every physical character we have here. They can also critical, so watch out for that.
The Jousters here all have the same skills. They'll charge once you reach the first chokepoint area behind the initial group. Sure, they can ignore ZOC, but that doesn't mean they can ignore chokepoints entirely. They're pretty easy to deal with. Similarly, the Swordsmen behind them have Null ZOC and Vital Strike.
The Guardian has ZOC. The High Priest behind him has Cure Drop and Oratoriorae; the rest of the High Priests only have Cure Drop. Behind him, the Armors are similar to the first line: Front Armors have ZOC, rear armors do not.
Finally, we have Matthias. He's a wall of a man, and since that +34 defense comes from his accessories, he's fairly tough against spells too. That said, his damage is unexceptional, his OB isn't offensive, and he has no special tricks. The stage is the threat, not the boss.
Since we haven't seen him for a while (his last battlefield appearance was all the way back in chapter one!), here are his weapon OB descriptions, along with his Bio:
taken their turn.
One of the Grands of the Grand Meir Empire. Has been fighting alongside Gauss since before the Empire was founded. In charge of the Second division.
Naturally, the stats and equipment don't match, so don't pay too much attention to them. That said, it's worth noting that enemies have stat growths in memory, just as player characters do; this Matthias is leveled up from his level 25 appearance using the normal growths system, so he has 0.7 attack, 0.9 defense, and 0.6 magic per level. His HP growth is actually only 6 per level, though -- the extra 30 comes from the Gold Ring he has equipped, which gives him a massive +50% of base HP bonus to the stat. It's one of the most powerful items in the game.
Most of the four conversations this time around center around our newest recruit. First, though, there's an old tradition to uphold:
Kay and Margus
What do you know about them, Margus?
Well, let's see... He's a seasoned veteran who has been Gauss's partner on the battlefield since the Empire was formed.
From before the Empire, huh? He must be one experienced general.
He's as strong as you'd expect from a man like him. To have to face him now... It's going to be a harsh battle.
Things are always harsh for us. We're here to try and lessen that harshness a little. That is why we're here, isn't it?
Aegil and Naji
Awww, there's just something I wanted to take care of in Grand Meir. Worked out nice, huh?
Then you should have said so in the first place. You're rather squirrelly...
Relax, Aegy-baby. I'm interested in you, too.
I said STOP CALLING ME THAT!
Naji's appearance is pretty well-timed. He appears after you've had time to see Aegil put on her business face, long enough for her to be established as a serious character and for you to start to forget that she's actually pretty young. Then Naji comes along.
Aegil and Margus
Wh--!? Where did you hear that name!?
Hahaha... I heard Naji saying it. He said it would brighten your day if I were to call you that, Pope Aegil. How about it, Aegy-baby? Does it make you happy, Aegy-baby?
You'll die slowly, Naji...
And at long last, Margus is able to get revenge for that merciless shoot-down in chapter 18.
Serdic and Naji
Watch it, bro. The Grand Bridge is under the control of the Imperial Army's Second Division.
It seems that way... Do you know much about the Empire?
Well, yeah, a free spirit like me's been there before.
Really... Aegil was upset with you, by the way. She said you were rude.
I can't bring myself to type that last bit accurately to the script. My fingers keep trying to at least change it to "have got."
What do you think? THAT kinda relationship.
You're mistaken, I assure you. My relationship with Aegil isn't that deep. If she hears you say so, she'll be mad at you again.
Not at you?
Huh. Aha... I see. Now I get it.
He's also well-timed in the larger picture. It's nice to have a little more levity in the route, especially where Serdic is concerned.
This formation protects Alhambra from the rear Infantry. Cotton will take a hit, but Cotton has decent defenses and a healing OB; I'm not worried about that.
Igraine is a little offensively weak right now. I'm going to have Naji weaken enemies so she can take them out; she'll be much stronger once she gets Abyss Gate 4 and a few levels into Wisdom Lock.
I wasn't kidding about Naji's poor damage. Keep in mind he'd be doing 24 less without the South Medal and Copper Ring.
Serdic takes a crit, meaning he goes from about 0 damage taken to 115. Ow.
This, meanwhile, is more typical damage for this initial group. They're really not a threat at all.
Aegil moves into range to kill the top Archer with Oratoriorae.
Alhambra sets them up, Igraine knocks them down.
Naji is going to kill the top Archer for OB.
Giving Cotton good defenses is fun!
As is having Aegil just regenerate away minor scratches.
Serdic moves out of the way, then Aegil kills the Archer and nearly hits level 2 OB. Naji's killing of the archer below only took him to about 2/3.
Serdic's position here keeps him out of range of two of the three Snipers, so I'm really not worried about him.
Serdic takes an arrow and an Armor hit for about 75 total damage, counters the latter, and then regenerates all his HP right back, thanks to his innate 10% regen and the Angel Medal's additional 5%. He has 522 HP now, so 78 a turn.
It'd be really nice if Alhambra was countered here. I don't want her above that Armor; her current position is much, much safer.
I am a lucky bastard.
The first two ZOC activations will place the enemies above Serdic and to his left, just in Sedna Prison range. One of them will have ZOC and the other won't, so Serdic can hit the one that doesn't, then the one that does, and then Igraine can finish both off.
This nook leaves Cotton in the range of the bottom Sniper, who has no other available target, but it also makes her immune to the attacks of the Armors. I think that's a good trade.
Naji starts killing the bottom one. He has a longer range, so he can pincushion the Sniper with impunity.
Finally, Aegil's position here readies her for both Oratoriorae and Great Blessing. If I really need the latter this turn, Alhambra has a Champion Gem.
Naji's going to have to switch targets; the bottom High Priest is going to heal this Sniper every turn until one of them dies, and the range on the spell means it's at least level 4 -- 65%.
And Serdic counters the one that was supposed to go to his left, presumably to make up for my earlier luck with counters. Ugh.
On the other hand, well. Do you see how the enemies lined up here? 4 enemy Oratoriorae.
A level 1 Seven Sins still hits pretty damn hard.
Alhambra's out of the way of Aegil and prepares to kill the bottom sniper next turn. She'll take a couple of attacks, but she'll be fine. Then Igraine kills the weakened Armor. Almost to level 32! I'd like to get her to at least level 34 this map, enough for Abyss Gate 4 and Wisdom Lock 3.
Then Aegil kills everything in front of her.
(As previously mentioned in the third tutorial update, you can't zoom out or otherwise look at the end of a linear spell. You have to know the spell range and count.)
Serdic goes down to about half life. The bottom Sniper manages to crit Alhambra, so the two Armor attacks that follow come worryingly close to killing her.
It's all good, though:
Aegil has 3 OB. She's caught up to Serdic now. Serdic, who I was deliberately overleveling for a while. Aegil's experience curve is kind of bonkers, guys.
Serdic and Igraine take out the closest enemies and weaken a few more...
...and then Cotton cleans house.
Not much happens on the next turn, on account of all the nearby enemies being dead.
Because I haven't shown it off yet, this is Igraine's -20% Dark cost reduction:
Abyss Gate was 69 MP before. Sedna Prison is Ice, so it's still 100 MP.
Alhambra takes care of most of the threats. Naji's going to pick off this armor for OB, so Aegil and Serdic form a wall.
Cotton OBs back up to full HP and MP.
This is still the funniest thing.
Alhambra moves below Serdic here. The Guardian can just barely reach Serdic to attack. Just as I expect, the Guardian moves up, attacks Serdic, and ZOC bounces him to the space above Serdic.
You shouldn't have done that...
Igraine finishes him for level 33.
12-move Alhambra is hilarious.
The middle Armor has ZOC, creating an interesting situation. See, by normal ZOC rules, you check all of the tiles one away from the ZOC activator, then you start counting from the ones two tiles up, then to the upper-left, then the upper-right, then two tiles left... Except that this time, bouncing Alhambra two tiles up would have required her to go through a wall, even though the tile in question was totally valid. The one she came from, even. So instead, it defaulted to upper-left.
Counters would probably work the same way, but they default to sending back in the originating direction -- they might just push you through a wall, provided you started on the other side of it.
Cotton weakens the lower Armor with a Fire Dragon, Naji kills it.
Igraine hits level 34. She should be able to get Abyss Gate 4 and Wisdom Lock 3, which will really help her damage.
Serdic kills the Armor and moves to lure in Mattias.
Like I said: Not very impressive.
A L2 Seven Sins can't quite finish the job.
Naji kills one of the poor clerics way over at the other end of the map.
Then Igraine finishes the job and hits level 35. That's her all caught up, then!
At this point in the game, stages need magic to be difficult; physicals just aren't scary enough any more, especially if you're good about your tactical positioning. You're going to notice this pattern coming up again and again from now on.
Total resets: 14 (+0)
Next time: Mountain Crossing