Part 54: The Snow ThawsChapter 22: The Snow Thaws
(Or, "Peak Creepy")
This is the third time ???'s stuttered since Chapter 21 started.
When I think of our imminent return to Bretwalde... I can't help but feel driven to reach it more quickly.
But you must be careful this time not to be so hasty that you spread your forces thin again...
Hah! Yes, I would hear no end of it from Margus.
Referencing chapter 15 this time (page 5), where ???/Serdic's haste to reach Verona lead to walking right into an ambush. It's the level with the narrow canyon and forces on either side.
Now, let's go.
I'm sending just about everyone on Training now, just for the hell of it. Only one of those is really relevant:
As mentioned before, +3 to a stat is the best result from single-stat Attack, Magic or Defense training, and I was incredibly lucky to get it here. It shouldn't make much difference (3% more damage! yay!), but it does make Selmer's bad base stats less of a hindrance.
Shino was off selling 2500-worth of goods, so she can sell at double price! That's good to know.
Well, between the last level and the end of level experience, Sasha should be level 27, so --
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME
So, as I was saying, now that Sasha's level 27, she has Lateral Blow available for learning. She immediately picks up Lateral Blow 4. With Duelist 4, LB4, and an attack from the side on a single target, she comes very close to doing double damage.
Selmer now has 11 more MP due to the Aster Ring, and trades a +4 Magic ring for the Devil Medal's +5% MP regeneration. 199*5% = 9.95, round down. 9 MP per turn isn't fantastic, but it'll be 10 MP after a level; it should, at least, reduce some of the strain on Marie's turn count. Sasha gets the Pure Amulet from last time, giving her +12 more defense. (It replaced a +2 Amulet.)
While looking at stats, I noticed that Owl has 17 defense and Selmer has 25. In fact, Owl has 23 attack, while Selmer has 16. Just making an observation...
Shino goes off to sell about 4000-worth of things. Rukia goes off to buy two Topaz Amulets.
It's time for another one of those time-honored traditions, the reused map! This time, at least, it nicely conveys a sense of progression. This is the map from chapter 16 (page 5), where we fought both Alberich and Ernest. This time, we start near Alberich's old position, and we're heading down towards the opposite corner.
Clockwise from top-right corner:
The six Jousters to the left and right of the bridge have no skills.
The three on the Bridge do. All three have Null ZOC, the foremost two have Arrow Guard, and the last has Stigma.
Of the Infantry, the middle two have Invoke Life and the two at the edges have Sprint 1. The left Mage has Abyss Gate, the right Mage has Spark Edge. Neither Sniper has skills.
Neither Swordsman or Armor has skills. The War Mage has Meteor Gate. The Trooper is the boss of this level, and killing him will end it immediately.
Pretty standard and boring, really.
Only the Priest and the Guardian have skills. The Priest has Cure Drop, the Guardian has ZOC.
Bridging the space between shots 11 and 15. You have to move two to three turns to even get in range of the enemy, even with faster characters.
This map has five conversations.
Shino and Izuna
Nope. Why, are you?
...I'm not cold.
It's going to be spring soon, huh?
...You really don't feel the cold?
Well... You really don't seem like the kind to catch a cold.
Japanese saying: "Idiots don't catch colds."
For once, not localizing the expression actually completely works, because they're ninja from fantasy Japan and we're currently in fantasy Europe. If you didn't get that expression, well, neither would ??? or Marie.
Hah! Score one for me!
It must be nice being so naive...
The insult flies right over Izuna's head, naturally.
Selmer and Elmer
Compare the map image for this chapter (the second screenshot) against the overall map of Serdic's movements in Route B. Serdic takes the direct route, but ??? takes a more roundabout way.
It's because everyone has something that they needed to do.
I have no idea what this means.
And if we'd taken the more direct route, we may have succumbed to their numbers.
Hmph. I could have taken every one of 'em with my magic.
Now that's a surprise.
That's a rare show of modesty from you, Elmer.
Selmer? You're forgiven for a lot of things.
Elmer's day, meanwhile, is at least better than alternate universe Elmer, who gets to feature in this next conversation. (Arios and Galahad never had last stage's conversation in this universe.)
Galahad and Elmer
What do you want, geezer? And quit it with the creepy name!
Master Arios told me allll about you. Why don't we sit down for a cup of tea.
Think about this for a moment. Elmer is so used to this that he can instantly deduce that someone's creeping on him because they think he's a cute girl.
That's... actually really depressing. I feel bad for him now.
I'll show you the Order's secret tea brewing technique! It makes for quite a delicious pot of--A BOY!?
What do I look like?
Until you opened your foul mouth, I thought you were a girl!
Why you--!! You wanna die!?
His weary "this shit again?" reaction doesn't last long, though.
I wish I was dead now! Oh, where did my golden years go!?
How should I know!?
I want Route B Galahad back. Remember when he was an awesome Grandpa instead of a creepy old man?
Skip this next conversation. I am obligated to show you all parts of the game, but you will regret reading it.
Margus and Galahad
...Is something the matter, old man?
Heheheh... I sense in you a spirit similar to mine, Sir Margus.
Similar to yours? You mean I have an affinity for Darkness magic or something?
No, I mean your attitude toward women.
Mister Galahad... allow me to clear up one thing.
Very poetic, but...
That's not what I mean. She's cute, of course, but...
So you have designs on my Princess!? Veronan cur!
Wh-What a disturbingly odd man...
Let us never speak of this again. Please.
Okay! Moving on. Let's have a nice, normal conversation!
Marie and Aegil
It's a short journey once you reach the Central Plains. It's strange, though...
Serdic's feelings aside, I thought you'd be more upset by my refusal to recognize him as king. But on the contrary, you seem to be happy about it.
Th-That's not true!
Oh ho... is there something between you and Serdic? Though it's not something that's been boasted of...
goddamn it Aegil
Okay, she's just trolling Marie, we're good. (The non-??? characters are very inconsistent about making use of their additional portraits; I'd suspect they were added late in development. Aegil has her smug portrait and Marie has her stern one, and those would have been perfect for the end of this conversation.)
That said... Aegil knows ??? isn't Serdic. This conversation is very likely an attempt to gather information, to see what Marie knows and what she thinks of the impostor. Turning it all into a joke will make Marie dismiss the questioning, even if she's in on it and has reason to fear those questions.
Am I overanalyzing? Maybe. This could just be a joke. Before last stage I'd have said "probably not," but... That's the problem with writing a character badly once: it makes it more difficult to accept that you're writing that character well afterward.
Sasha and Owl are going to take the left, where the enemies have high durability but low move, while ??? and Izuna handle the side with lower durability but high move. I don't expect Sedna Prison to be very relevant this map; Selmer's too slow. Healing is always appreciated, though.
Turn 3. ??? moves one space less than he could have, because this keeps him in range of Cure Drop. Izuna moves forward alongside him, attracting the leftmost Jouster in the right group.
Owl sits at the very edge of the enemy attack range.
Kill the Jousters, attract two more Jousters, rinse and repeat.
Owl and Sasha, meanwhile, need another turn to set up.
The plan on this side is pretty simple: Move in, kill an Armor while staying barely out of the range of the others, move on to the next. Assassination, essentially.
Then I realize Sasha is one movement space short of being able to do that, since she no longer has the Black Ring. Damn. Well, at least she has a fair number of Amulets now; she'll only take about 60% life from two Armor attacks.
Together, Izuna and ??? can take out a Jouster each attack cycle. ??? needs to run back to be healed, though, and Izuna can't reach the second this turn.
The fundamental flaw of this plan was forgetting that Owl sucks. Like, a lot. His crit rate does not seem anywhere near what it should be, and Sasha's not quite fast enough for a hit-and-run either.
Okay, so this plan's a failure. +1 reset. What next... Swap the sides, maybe? Except that the bulk of the available experience is on the south side...
Okay, whatever. Abandon the west. I'll just focus on breaking through on the south.
Honestly, this level is kind of a slog. Move forward, lure, move forward, lure. The enemies are decently threatening, yes, but the only way you're going to lose is if you get impatient -- the Jousters are completely passive so long as you don't enter their attack range. I had another reset in here just because I got bored and did some stupid things.
Remember my complaining in the second update of the Misfit run? This is what I meant. There's no need to rush, and in fact the slow movement of magic users means you're actively penalized for trying to advance at a reasonable speed. It's aggravating.
I replace Sasha's Pure Amulet with an Amber Amulet (-12 defense) and trade Izuna's Black Ring for it (+14 defense, -1 Move) so I can give the Black Ring to Marie (+1 Move). A more durable Izuna makes this less tedious.
Owl lures the first enemy on turn 2. He counters, which would be great if it didn't keep Izuna from attacking.
I don't think he's sticking around, guys. Just a hunch.
The kill also barely brings ??? to 1 OB. Sasha's in position to pull another Jouster.
Marie heals Sasha. ??? pulls another two Jousters, this time the rightmost members of the left and bridge groups.
Sasha burns a Hero Gem. Remember the two Mages across the river? The plan is for Sasha to kill the one on the left before anyone gets on the bridge.
Both enemies attack Izuna. She counters the one on the left, while the bridge Jouster stops next to her.
That was a mistake.
The problem with Izuna's OB isn't that it's weak, it's that it's pointless. Generally speaking, if an enemy is standing next to Izuna, they're standing near several other units -- she only has six Move, she's not some ungodly tank, and she doesn't have ZOC. She's not going to be far ahead of everyone else, and if there's a single enemy then you can just dogpile them anyway. Very rarely do enemies move in groups dense enough for "okay, this one enemy is definitely out of my hair" to be seriously useful, especially since 1) Izuna hits really hard and gets Fearless, so she's great at destroying groups; attacking a single target is a waste and 2) it requires special positioning on the turn before to ensure the enemy you want dead ends their turn next to her. In the end, having Blade Blast just doesn't really give you many more options than not having it, unless the enemy is in a three-sided nook or something.
You can find uses, but the verb "find" is appropriate here; very rarely will you end up in a situation where you think, off the cuff, "Oh yeah, I can use Blade Blast!" Making use of it takes effort.
Sasha is on the very last square of three connecting attack ranges.
Now that I've placed Owl here, only two enemies can attack ??? this turn. This ensures that he can't be overwhelmed and killed. I'm fairly sure he'd survive three, but there's no point in taking risks. All three should advance regardless.
It works just as intended. ??? takes about 80 damage per rider, so he would have been safe, judging by his 130 remaining HP. Even subtracting the 5% Angel Medal regen, that was still within safety.
Marie heals him up.
Lateral Blow is a very, very good skill.
??? uses Duelist to kill one Jouster while positioning to lure the last Jouster off the bridge. Izuna finishes cleaning up.
Sasha has just enough move to get in Tiger Fangs range with the Abyss Gate Mage.
??? and Izuna kill the next Jouster that approaches, same as always. Izuna's very high attack has already brought her back up to 3 OB.
Getting close enough to the bridge seems to trigger all the enemies immediately behind it to become aggressive.
The Abyss Gate Mage, however, prefers to stay still and attack Sasha.
She returns the favor.
You don't often use Tiger Fangs like this, but with Sasha's ability to tank magic, it's good to remember you can.
Everyone retreats, especially Selmer. ??? kills the Jouster and hits level 3 OB.
Sadly, the enemies do not line up for it.
Izuna's move here is particularly important -- she's putting herself in range of the two Snipers but not the Spark Edge mage, ensuring that she can kill both next turn.
Selmer kills the remaining Infantry.
Izuna is brought down to very nearly half life by the two Snipers... The important word being "nearly." She'll survive another volley so long as the Spark Edge mage doesn't hit her.
This square is eight tiles away, and Spark Edge has a maximum range of 7. Good enough!
???'s moved down a single tile, preparing him to kill the Spark Edge Mage next turn. Sasha SHOULD survive two arrows, between her Arrow Guard and her superior defense. Owl will take, at most, one arrow.
If I'm spectacularly lucky and they spread their fire, Marie even has a level 1 OB to use! 20% to all on field won't heal everything, but it'll keep people on their feet.
This is the expected result.
Izuna runs back towards Marie for healing.
Bridge group destroyed.
Owl gets to play lure again because I hate him.
This convinces the left bridge group to move. They have three Snipers, so this is a Problem.
(The Armors and Healer are circling around the back, because they are dumb.)
Sasha lures the Trooper out.
The Meteor Gate War Mage is also seven spaces away. This would be scary, except Meteor Gate is only 7 spaces when maxed. I doubt they gave a stage 22 enemy Meteor Gate 5.
I'd be worried about Sasha's HP, but...
...Marie had 2 OB stocked for just such an occasion.
Can I bait this Trooper into running into a level 3 Izuna OB? I have no idea! Let's see.
Yes, I can.
A level 3 OB from a base-level Izuna would one-shot Sword of Darkness Gauss, provided she could bypass his damage reduction.
Can even the Grands beat them...?
Now that we've reached the Central Plains, it's only a short journey to Bretwalde!
Thank goodness that's over.
Especially now that Rukia's back from shopping.
Sweet, sweet durability! Now it's like Sasha and Owl have actual defenses!
Resets since Chapter 20: 2 (+2)
Next time: Feudal Alliance