Part 43: Across the DarknessChapter 36: Across the Darkness
(Or, "Divine Seal")
This is just one more of those little indications that Igraine really is someone important in the Order. Remember, Igraine joins at an Order sanctuary in northwestern Almeria. Right now, we're in Grand Meir, all the way to the East, on another continent entirely. She's twelve. Even so, she's been here before.
What is this place? I feel like I've seen it before...
This is magnificent! It's like a treasure hoard! Even in Almeria, we tend to consider anything related to the Darkness a taboo. Hmm... I've never even heard of these volumes or their authors. I'd love to study them further.
It can wait. Once we've defeated the enemy, I'll give you all the time you want with them.
...Damn. Well then, let's hurry and defeat the enemy! Mind you don't harm any of the books!
Let's take a moment to step into an alternate reality, shall we?
There are four primary reasons to promote Ansom: Daredevil (+strength -defense), Berserk (+critical -accuracy), and additional range. Ansom gains +1 attack range on promotion and learns True Arrows at level 36, allowing him to reach up to 9 attack range. Combined with his 7 base move and Sprint, Ansom can reach out and delete a single enemy as many as 19 squares away. In return, he's less safer than Naji and generally a worse boss-killer, due to his lack of an effective anti-boss OB. True, he hits much harder, but he's less safe.
Naji, meanwhile, finally finishes carving out his niche after promotion. Like Ansom, there are three reasons to promote Naji: 1) Daredevil, 2) Lion Strike (+OB gain rate) and 3) Divine Seal. Divine Seal cuts incoming spell damage by 50% for three turns when maxed. Divine Seal is actually a strong argument for using Alberich -- remember how deployment order is based on join order? It's always a three row two column rectangle. Divine Seal 5 has a range of 2 radiating out in every direction from the caster -- like archer attacks or most ST spells, not like Sedna Prison. Naji is the second-to-last recruit, and the deployment order populates from first join to last.
If Alberich isn't in the party, Naji will be in the bottom-right corner, meaning a turn one Divine Seal will not cover Serdic. If Alberich is in the party, then it will.
A turn one full-party Divine Seal 5 is a really strong strategy on some maps and against some enemy compositions. -50% to all magic damage can utterly invalidate mages, letting you charge into killzones with impunity. Against the enemies for which it applies, it's the most powerful defensive skill in the game.
In addition to that, Daredevil helps Naji's damage and Lion Strike helps him to build the OB he needs for big targets. I'd probably call Naji's promotion the second-biggest leap in power in the game, just after Igraine, and he's lower only because he reaches Strike Ranger much later than she reaches Rune Master.
Serdic learns Invoke Might 3. Margus learns Retaliation 1 and Abyss Guard 1 and then 2. Aegil learns Abyss Ward 2. Naji learns Divine Seal 5, Lion Strike 5 and Daredevil 3. I completely forget to buy Alberich anything!
There's some amulet shuffling, but just about everyone who wants a Topaz Amulet in a slot has one now. Alberich keeps his Black Ring, though, which alleviates the pain of no Sprint 5 somewhat. I also got a Scarlet Ring from Quests, so Naji gets 4 more attack on top of Daredevil's small boost.
Now's a good time for Team Burn The Witch.
The front part of this stage reuses the Order cathedral from chapter 14, where Igraine first joined up. The back end is new.
Clockwise from bottom left, each group of two Swordsmen has: Null ZOC, Null ZOC + Mana Break (MP damage on normal attacks), Null ZOC, Null ZOC + Stigma (inflicts Leak, which is poison). All three Armors have ZOC, the middle has Melee Guard, and the other two have Invoke Might.
Clockwise from bottom left, the War Mages have Spark Edge, Seven Menace, Seven Menace, and Megido Nova, with all four also having Magic Guard and Torus Spell. The Priests have Cure Drop, the High Priests have Oratoriorae.
The back room is a concentrated little ball of spite. The High Priests have Oratoriorae, the left War Mage has Spark Edge, the right War Mage has Hell Warrior, and then you have Mephreyu.
He still has MP Switch thanks to the Wyrm Medal, you can't run him out of MP for very long between his Devil Medal and Torus Spell, Ars Magna keeps his MP costs low, and that entire back room is in the range of Pandemonium, no matter what level it is. Much like his last appearance, Mephreyu alone isn't the scary thing -- it's Mephreyu and all of his soldiers. The best way to fight Mephreyu is avoid him entirely with Naji or Alberich's OBs.
There are a lot of conversations this stage, more than we've had in some time.
Rukia and Elmer
Do you know how much any of this stuff is worth?
Not really... but it must be big bucks!
Your greed aside... Ordinary people shouldn't touch this stuff.
Check this one out! It looks really valuable, huh?
I told you not to touch that!
I don't like Rukia. Her gimmick is 'dumb and greedy,' and she never really stops being a one-note character. Sure, Elmer isn't very deep either, but at least he has that talk with Arios in the chapter after he's recruited, and 'You don't need to apologize to me. It's your own ideals you've forsaken' is a damn good moment. Her use in the shops salvages her somewhat, but that's traded off by the fact she's so useless in combat.
Alhambra and Arios
Your body, eh? Perhaps... Why don't we create a new body, and then transfer your consciousness into it?
I don't know if I like the sound of that... but can it be done?
I've never done it myself, but with the materials and the equipment here, I bet I could. I estimate a 80% chance of success.
What do you mean, "tear it to shreds"!?
Serdic and Aegil
I wonder what they were doing here.
I couldn't say. You should ask someone with more knowledge of their inner workings.
Someone informed, huh?
This conversation is a big, flashing "talk to Igraine or Arios" sign, especially with the conversation before the map. Remember, both of them are mandatory, and Aegil is possibly your only healer. The following two conversations are ones you're meant to see, much more than any of the others. So let's follow their advice, shall we?
Serdic and Igraine
The Order's laboratory. We do a variety of experiments here.
Note the "we," not "they." Sometimes Rondo's willingness to let the immediately unimportant go unclarified can be frustrating. I'd really like to know more about Igraine, but it's not a priority of the story.
I'm sure the soldiers we fought before were made here.
You don't look well, Igraine... What's the matter?
Well, I realize that the Order seems to have been doing things you'd rather not know about. And I'm sure it pains you to have others find out about that...
That's not what I mean.
Don't want to say? All right. I won't ask anymore.
Well, that was frustratingly enigmatic... Especially since Igraine didn't seem upset until she saw the inside of this place. Maybe Arios will be clearer?
Serdic and Arios
I don't really know what they are.
I'd guess that they're trying to create homunculi here.
Plural of homunculus. It's an artificial life form created with magic. They're very lifelike, though with extremely limited intelligence. They're normally used for manual labor, with some magicians using them as their eyes and ears.
The way you talk, it doesn't sound like they're that unusual.
Ah, but I was talking about the everyday homunculi. The ones here seem to be a cut above... I wonder.
There's one last conversation here, which should suffice to answer just about all your questions.
Igraine and Arios
I'd be most grateful if you could provide detailed explanations of any of these mechanisms.
I don't know anything about them.
Oh... hmm. That's a problem. I guess I'll just take everything.
No? If it's off-limits, then I apologize.
It's not Raine's stuff, so I don't mind if you take it all. I wonder what they planned to use this stuff for.
So you know something, at least.
Then what do you think, Arios?
Oh, I think the research being done here is astonishing. Don't you?
But Serdic is...
Not because of that, of course. I think we can all agree it's unfortunate what happened to Serdic's body. But you should count your blessings that there haven't been any side effects.
...Thank you, Arios.
Huh. I never thought I'd hear thanks from you for anything.
You might want to look back at chapter 13 now. Remember that conversation between Serdic and Arios? (The in-stage one, not the after-chapter talk.) It's going to come up again soon.
Behind his cheerful eccentricism, Arios is incredibly sharp. Between his attitude and his appearance, I've always thought of Arios as a younger Jade (from Tales of the Abyss) with a happier childhood.
Naji begins the fight with a turn 1 Divine Seal. This lets me do something very mean and also very, very funny.
Note the little shield next to Alberich's name -- that's signifying a defensive activated ability. If you've wondered what the rest of the space on the conditions tab was for, well, now you now! It only took 36 chapters to find one worth using.
The bottom-right War Mage has Megido Nova, a caster-centered square AOE that starts at 5x5 and goes all the way to 11x11. I doubt the enemy has a level 5 Megido Nova, so it's probably 9x9, which puts Aegil at the bottom-left corner.
Megido Nova has friendly fire and is very powerful. Enemy mages have no compunctions about friendly fire. I just halved all incoming magical damage. I expect this to completely devastate the right side and any enemies dumb enough to take the bait.
Igraine and Alberich are staying out of the potential AOE, though. Too fragile.
Aww. It only went out three spaces, so... Only level 2 or 3?
Mind, Megido Nova's power is Meteor Gate +1 level, so a level 3 or 4 Meteor Gate. Still a bit weak for this late in the game; Margus only took about 300 damage before Divine Seal.
Oh well. I can make my own AOEs.
Alberich missed the second enemy; he would have reached level 2 OB otherwise and Margus would have killed. Shame.
Margus gets on the carpet here to avoid Oratoriorae. There's no real need, since Divine Seal will last until turn 4, but it's a good habit.
Clean-up. Naji's going to get next to nothing for OB, but the Swordsman can probably one-shot him.
Divine Seal at work.
Sometimes the late-game enemy damage reduction is really, really annoying. Neither of them can one-shot these mages.
Thankfully, they're not THAT tough.
The next turn, I do assorted clean-up. Igraine can kill High Priests with a single Abyss Gate.
Serdic takes care of the other.
I don't think Aegil's going to hit level 60, but level 55 is probably doable.
OBs and magic can go through walls.
It's probably best to focus on busting through one of the entrances to Mephreyu's area rather than splitting up, especially with only have one healer. I'll be going through the right, but there's no reason not to kill this cleric first.
That said, it's perfectly possible to just completely ignore the back room. Much easier, even.
This is how the "real" run ends. Naturally, technical issues then struck and I had to do it all over again. At least this time I could buy Alberich Sprint 5 and Null ZOC 5 first, which made him substantially more useful.
Instead, Alberich moves over here to lure down the Infantry near Mephreyu.
We hit him a few times, Naji gets the kill.
Then two Armors appear, one at each side.
Wow, that's annoying.
Not enough to stop Seven Menace + Alberich from killing, but still. Annoying.
Igraine and Alberich stay behind to deal with the other one while the others advance.
Naji puts Divine Seal up again.
Serdic advances, triggering...
...surprise reinforcements! If, you know, you don't actually look at the map and think, "gee, those six tanks sure are suspicious." Which is unlikely. "Surprise" is kind of a relative term here.
Appropriately enough, none of the newly created enemies have skills.
This group of three is well-suited to dealing with Mephreyu's nonsense, especially with Divine Seal up.
Yes, Pandemonium really is just Evil Megido Nova, from the visuals to the AOE. I guess they could pick a worse spell to imitate, but...
Also, my information was wrong -- Pandemonium doesn't hit friendlies. So it's really more of a Giant Evil Sedna Prison. Man, now I wish Igraine learned it...
...oops. Naji just died to the Seven Menace War Mage. (Whe closest War Mage here.)
Oh well. This part of the run didn't really happen anyway. Still embarrassing, though.
The Armor doesn't have ZOC, so my focus is getting Fearless to activate for the ranged enemies.
This counter-attack bounces Margus to just above the Armor. The bigger problem is Crazed. He might actually die now.
Huh. Only two meter. It's been a while since she didn't go straight up to 3.
Igraine takes out the closer armor.
Aegil's still able to fully heal Serdic with her OB, so Margus's getting countered doesn't hurt too much.
There's a "before attack" conversation between Serdic and Mephreyu. Otherwise I'd have blown him up last turn.
Well, it took a shitload of doing and two straight turns, but the enemy has finally managed to kill Margus.
Appropriately, his death quote is "This is bad!" This is usually an accurate tactical assessment of any situation capable of killing Margus.
The aforementioned conversation:
You're a persistent one. It was a mistake to let you escape. My plan may be irreversibly compromised... But I can at least take care of the loose ends!
It's worth noting that Mephreyu is just about the only enemy capable of making Route B Serdic really emote. Understandably so.
Behold, the power of the Wyrm Medal's MP Switch.
Doesn't do much against Seven Sins, though.
Clearly they expect you to use Hero or Ragnarok Dusk here.
Since I didn't explain it last time... The Devil Medal is the middle member of the Imp/Devil/Satan line of MP regeneration Medals. It restores 5% every turn. It'd have been useful up until Igraine and Aegil promoted, but... Now it'll probably just gather dust. It's good on Elmer, Arios or Yumiluna; everyone else should be stacking Amulets (Aegil), has Torus Spell (Selmer, Igraine, Galahad) or is Marie.
How does it feel to claw your way to the top of an empire?
And finally, we have an answer to who Serdic is. Even now, though, we don't know why.
Ugh... Wh-What's this feeling...?
The save timer for the "full" playthrough was 15:27, for the curious.
Total resets so far: 16 (+0)
Next time: The Successor