The Let's Play Archive

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga

by Dragonatrix

Part 2: Svadhisthana

Swadhisthana's Front Door

Swadhisthana's the main base for the Vanguards. Named after the second primary tantric chakra, its name translates into the seat of the vital force ("Sva" being "vital force" and "Adishthana" being "seat"). Primarily deals with emotional identity, creativity, self-gratification and... procreation and personal relationships. Sure, why not.


There are no guards.
That works. Let us go.



Pretty light on the cutscenes in this place, thankfully. Gives us more time to stretch our legs.

Right behind our starting point, there's a Vendor if we need supplies. It's located pretty much next to the exit too, so coming back here to buy stuff if need be is the best idea bizarrely. Even Muladhara's vendor is pretty out of the way in comparison.

Of course, we don't need to buy anything for the moment. There's more than enough available for free here. This Soma Drop hiding off-camera being the first of many lying around for our use.

Nothing else out here, so let's go in and see what the Vanguards are up to.

So, the Vanguard's Base proper is our first actual dungeon.

Right by the entrance is a Large Karma Terminal for if we want to warp out and get more supplies or something. It's quite unnecessary, honestly.

During this first section, there's no battles or anything. We're quite alone here. It's a mostly linear path, but with some treasures a little out of the way.

After a while, we come to a very suspicious looking wall and a tall thing with a lever sticking out of it. We'll ignore both of these for the moment and head through that door to the south.

It leads to a minor split in the path. The door at the back just has an item pot with 3 Rations in it. Upstairs, however...

...Is another one of these walls. We'll be back for this one later, too.

But also upstairs is this harder to get to set of Chakra Drops. If we dropped the wall, we'd be unable to get here.

Now we can double back, and flip this switch.

This causes the wall to lower. We can reraise it by flipping the switch again, but there's never a reason to do that unless you forget to get the Chakra Drops.

Speaking of which, now that we can get into the next room, we can find another set of 3 on a raised platform.

Tucked away sneakily underneath that very same platform is a Revival Bead too.

Now that we've looted everything that's free and easy, we can head on the linear path some more and see what's in here.

Atma Avatars ~ Asura Varuna, Asura Agni, Asura Prithivi


Oh, right. Harely is freaking the fuck out here. Dude's practically having a panic attack. He is that scared of us.

Harley... What are you... saying?

Well, this is different. Pretty sure we haven't seen anything quite like... that before.

You all... turned into monsters...

That light... That weird light shot right through us... and then everyone... everyone started freaking the hell out!

Everyone started attacking each other...

Our tattoo-like symbols start to glow now, awakening us to their true power...

But so does Harley's. Hmm...

Stop. Be quiet.
God, help me!!

Once again, Argilla proves to be a damn good shot by headshotting dudes like its nothing.

Meanwhile, Heat's noticed that his thing is giving him these scanlines now and is loving this shit.

But he's not the only one affected by this. Even dead men can have their stuff work, apparently.

Meanwhile, Harley is getting the fuck outta here.

I... couldn't have. No... Not me... I didn't... do that.

...This might be a new thing, but they're certainly getting their mileage out of it. Twice in one cutscene?

Unfortunately, the dead guys have picked themselves up and finished... transforming?

Well, they're not the only ones who can do that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe that it is morphin' time!

Heat becomes Agni, the perpetually young God of Fire and messenger between humans and all the other Gods. Usually these messages involve sacrifices, of course.

Argilla is Prithvi Mata. The Mother Earth. Also referred to as Dhrithri, or she which holds everything. Mostly associated in tandem with the god of the skies (we'll get to him in due time of course), and having once turned into a cow and been milked by Vishnu.

hinduism can get weird sometimes man

And... Serph, being the main character, gets the completely unfair Varuna. Supreme lord of all the cosmos, god who resides over all the other gods, deity of the night and everything relating to water and the oceans. Even presiding as a God of the Dead by dealing with those who drowned.

Among many, many, many, many other things. Varuna is kind of A Big Deal.

But, hey, more important for this is that we've transformed too. Let's kick some ass!

Battle: Demon Ghoul x2


So, first of many combat tutorials in Svadhisthana. This one just teaches us about the press turn system. And also never calls it that. But it is.

Long and short of it is, we get 3 turns to do things. 1 per character. We can gain and lose them by doing various things. Hitting a weakness gives us a fourth turn. Passing a turn technically also gives us a fourth. Missing our attacks, hitting an enemy with something they're immune to, drain or reflect causes us to lose turns. We cannot stack it so we get more than 6 turns to do things though. It's dumb but hey its there.

So, this fight itself isn't particularly interesting. These Ghouls have 30 HP which sounds like a lot when you look at this 8 damage don't it?

Physical skills deal a bit more damage than regular attacks and even have added affects sometimes. This one poisons things occasionally, for example. Of course, being a physical skill it costs HP to use.

When a damage figure appears in red like this, it means they've got 25% HP or less left.

Also unlike some other games in the series, here poison can totally kill dudes. It just killed that left Ghoul, for example.

But, just stabbing dudes with our blade arms is remarkably ineffective. Lets have Serph cast Bufu, our only offensive spell, and deal 2/3rds a dudes HP in one go.

Their weakness is Fire. We don't have Fire spells yet.

spoiler heat, the guy whose name is fire and atma avatar is the god of fire, will learn agi before anyone else

So, yeah. That's the rough gist of combat. 20 EXP is exactly enough to give Serph a level up and no one else. Argilla needed 21 and Heat 24.

Those purple bars on the right are for something we'll learn more about in a future update. For now, just know that they fill up after every fight and something good happens when finished. Argilla's won't go up here, nor for this entire trip through Svadhisthana. There's a reason for that.

Level Up

Serph, being the main character and all, has no fixed level up patterns. We pick what goes up and when. These are all mostly self-explanatory but:

St = Strength = Physical damage dealt. Not that amazing in the early-early game, but picks up steam eventually and becomes worth using later.
Vi = Vitality = determines your max HP and acts as defense against physical skills. Very handy indeed.
Ma = Magic = imagine if Strength and Vitality were one stat. This is that. It determines max MP, magic damage dealt and defense against magical skills. Insanely handy.
Ag = Agility = unlike most games, this doesn't determine how fast you get turns or who goes when or anything like that. No, this is solely for evasion and accuracy. Worth getting because every attack can be dodged! Magic's hitrate is based on both Agility and Magic (the stat) though. I usually ignore my own advice because, uh...
Lu = Luck = because I am an idiot, I always use Luck as my dump stat. It affects how often you get critical hits, how often things drop after a battle and... your resistance against status ailments. Don't be me. Don't leave it at three.

Since we're in the early game, nothing uses ailments worth worrying over. Plus we're not exactly liable to miss anytime soon either. I focus on Vi/Ma for the entirety of Svadhisthana just to give boost in offense and defense while working on other stuff later when it becomes more important.

Oh, and those bars seem awful small don't they? Well, that's because 5 is not a little over 10% to a maxed stat. No, it's actually closer to 5% exact. Stat caps here aren't 40, but rather 99. With 294 stat points available, normally, capping what you'd consider the important stuff is harder than it sounds. That means there's just enough leeway to get 3 maxed, but only if you neglect the other 2. That is a very bad idea!

so its a good thing you can max out every stat for every character if you love grinding that much

not doing that because its sooo dumb and tedious and i did when i was 15 its not worth it

Oh and sometimes when you level up, you get these messages. There's four possibilities for things that can happen at this point.

It's completely random if you get one or not, and then its random which one you do get. That Serph restored his MP is a nice bonus, nothing more.


Be Fed Up

No, I... I can't eat them. I can't eat them.
Why do you hesitate? Circumstance are different now.

I know it's not quite what he means, but I love the implication here that they never ate before the Atma stuff happened and they became cannibals. Like, regular food just straight up doesn't exist despite the fact that we're carrying around a bunch of Rations.


Hideout of the Chickens

After the battle, their HP will recover slightly because they consumed their enemies.

This is also why we gained Atma Points and Argilla didn't by the way. Eating our enemies is where those came from.

Amount of HP restored after a fight is around 10% of your maximum. It's pretty handy, at times.

Sweet fluid dripping from a torn throat... splattering as I sink my teeth into rich flesh...
This is a good sensation.

Heat, you're a weird guy. You know that, right?

So anyway, let's chase after Harley and ask him what he knows. That door leads onwards into the base. The stairs?

Lead nowhere, really. You probably saw one of those items when we were in the room we just fought the ghouls in. Considering that, and the layout of the base... we can't get to them because they're past that blue wall. Makes me want to come back all the more.

Also now that we've beaten up some of Harley's men, we get random battles. Yay!


Most fights at this stage are pretty uninteresting, really. Like these Onmorakis. They're, uh, level 1 and...

Cripplingly weak to ice. Lots of things here are, actually. Makes sense considering Serph's the only one with elemental spells at the moment.

Man if we fought these things first, Serph and Argilla would've both levelled up!

Since they're not Serph, we can't pick where Heat and Argilla's stats go. It's fine, they have general preferences anyway. Heat is transparently a punch dudes really hard kinda guy, which is fine with me.

Argilla is a little less clear at first, but she does eventually err towards spellcasting.

Since we're still upstairs, we can head into a different room that leads nowhere. We can see a dude on the other side, a switch and a ladder. Well, we can get to that ladder easy enough.

The door behind the stairs leads into this very same room. We already know there's a guy here, so it must be on about him.

Not really, it was Harley!

Raise the wall!

This isn't, strictly speaking, a particularly long area or anything. It just takes a bit longer than it should because Harley is a slow runner I guess, and we're always just behind him. Stuff like this is pretty common.

So now we backtrack upstairs to that room where there was a gap before. On the way there, we run into a couple Alps. Not very threatening, but they are worth noting for one reason:

No weaknesses. Oh and they can put us to sleep or heal I guess. Not much of an issue really.

Serph levels up again and gets another random bonus. This time his HP is restored.

It's not really a long stretch to this guy.

And he tells us about the voices in his head. We know, buddy. We've all got 'em now.

also he picks a fight with us

Hunting ~ Compulsion

Not really a hard fight either. Just exists to tutorial at us and tell us about weaknesses and stuff.

And wouldn't you know it, the Cockatrice just so happens to be weak to Ice. What luck!

we hit him with it again and he dies the end

Hideout of the Chickens

This switch isn't exactly needed to advance. The ladder puts us behind the wall, and lets us continue further in. Dropping the wall anyway though; it saves time if we have to come back here later.

We'll see what those things over in the corner are later. For now, we might as well head downstairs. Down there, is...

A red coloured wall. We'll be back for this one much later.

...There's a yellow wall down here too. That makes three coloured walls. We'll also be back for this one.

Next up, we run into a new demon. Pretas are weak to stuff that isn't Ice, so we can't poke them yet. They're not that resilient either way, though.

But they can delay the inevitable by using Zan on Argilla. Since she's transparently the Earth elemental person, she's weak to Force.

At Serph's next level up, he gets yet another random effect. This time, it heals HP, MP and cures all negatives statuses.

Much more importantly, though, is that down here there's a staircase we can reach.

It leads to a fight with a Slime in it. Slimes are mildly annoying, because they're weak to a ton of elements (Ice included). So how are they annoying?

They resist physicals. Swell. Heat is not the kinda guy who would deal 9 damage at this stage even with a regular attack.

Oh and the stairs really just lead to this outside area where we can get a free Soma Drop.

On the return trip, we ran into another Cockatrice. These guys have a fair bit of HP, a bunch of physical skills and can inflict Panic sometimes with Pulinpa. We'll worry about that whenever it happens though.

That weakness to Gun? Yeah, we'll be seeing that later in a more relevant setting.

Thanks to the Cockatrice, Heat was able to get his purple Atma bar filled and learn new skills.

In this case, Heat picked up a basic Fire spell of his own and... Void Fire. Void spells are very handy and Heat's will see a lot of use in due time.

For now, we'll head back upstairs inside the base proper. Here, we can check out the terminals now. Green glowing ones are Life Terminals and...

These things can get ungodly expensive later. They are the second biggest money sink in the game, by far, so its a good thing that they become less necessary after a point.

They cost 1 macca per HP restored and 3 macca per MP. That adds up really fast, especially at higher levels.

This and a Small Karma Terminal aren't placed where they are for nothing though. Right around the corner are these ladies. They immediately transform and attack us. Swell.

Hunting ~ Compulsion

These two Empusas are also part of the tutorial on press turns. They love casting Ice spells, and Serph's second spell by default is Void Ice.

Using it in this fight is wholly unnecessary, but I'll humour the game for now anyway.

Since we have Heat's Agi spell, we can just use that and have him oneshot them both without any issue. The game doesn't expect you to have this here for some reason.

But, yeah, Void spells grant complete immunity to their respective elements. This was worth an entire fight dedicated to it, which you could accidentally skip if you were at a decent strength.

Hideout of the Chickens

Those things now promptly dealt with, we can head through the door behind them.

And wouldn't you know it, Harley's there! He heads through a door to his left, rather than the one at the back.

We'll head through the one at the back and accidentally get an interface spoiler. Harvey went through a different door, but is on this path? Seems like a loop to me.

(and yes this is harley; the message wording makes it blatant)

On the way to our next real destination, I ran into these guys. That's only particularly interesting when you know they're not exactly common.

Weak to ice though. They have 21 HP so that one just got doubled.

Mou-Ryos are really not threatening at all. Can Void Fire as a spell because they sometimes turn up with other stuff. Ice makes sense for their own use though. Best to drop fast because that Maragi might go off and hit Serph's weakness!

...Okay now I'm officially overpowered for this dungeon. Serph getting his ??? mastered at this stage is not A Thing usually. But the encounter rate is quite high so it's possible I guess.

Devour is the first of many very useful skills. We don't need it right now, because we can't benefit from it. Defeat an enemy with it, and Serph chows down right then and there and gains a lot more Atma than you would from just beating 'em normally. Very handy for mastering new skills faster.

Hell Thrust is just an upgraded physical attack. It deals a fair bit more damage and so is useful in the here and now. Damage increase is enough that its worth actually using sometimes even in later dungeons. Not particularly late game or anything, but hey. At least Argilla won't be completely useless against magic resistant enemies if she gets it.

Near that second door we didn't go through, there's some stairs leading upwards. The upstairs area here has this strange golden thing floating. This contains items like the purple ones but with a difference.

They can only contain two types of items. This one is a new bullet. Bullets are never in purple chests, only ever gold ones.

Even though it won't be needed for a while, touch wood, Heat gets this one since it's thrice as powerful as the default one. It also has a fairly decent chance to inflict the Shock ailment (don't miss and get guaranteed crits with Physicals) which is a bit of a tradeoff but eh. It'll be fine right now.

In a different room upstairs, there's a switch we can flip.

This raises one wall and lowers another. Harley was about to go through the door we just sealed off, which leads to the room below us. If we didn't do this, then we would chase Harley in that loop forever and it would be boring.

Now we have to backtrack to this room where we ran into him last time. We can't get through the other door now, so we have to follow Harley's route.

It's a pretty linear path at this point, and eventually we run into him again. This time he heads through that door behind him.

That door leads to a small room with no other exit. Harley is now cornered, and there's a Life and Small Karma terminal just outside it.

There's also this ladder leading to three items.

This deals a small amount of ice damage to every enemy. Empusas can rarely drop them, but they're not worth farming. When I say a small amount, I mean a small amount.

The other good item down here is this Revival Gem. It revives one party member with full HP. Holding onto this for a long while, I reckon.

There's also a single Chakra Drop down here.

That's enough of that, though. Let's step into Harley's office and see what he knows.

A Cornered Harley

Harley, tell us what's going on!

Burning Stake

Why don't you know?

Looks like Heat's Atma brand is taking control here...

Answer me, Harley.


...Thrice in one dungeon?

This is going to be a recurring thing, isn't it?

Please... I really don't know...

Yeesh, poor Harley. Guy's had a rough day. First we kill and eat his men. Then we storm his base, kill and eat more of his men. Give him a panic attack, chase him through the building, then corner him. Heat chokes him while angrily yelling for info about the black-haired girl. Then when he doesn't give the right answer, Harley gets thrown into the window.

Be Fed Up
okay so this isnt *quite* what plays here. what really does isn't on the ost and this is close enough.

Needless to say, Harley's finally been pushed past his limit.

That was the last straw, and he's done taking our shit. Dude's found his balls and is finally using his Atma Avatar to take us on.

Well if it's a fight he wants, then it's a colossal embarassment he will receive!

Boss: Asura Hayagriva

Big Battle

Hayagriva, fittingly enough, is an Avatar of Vishnu. He's one of the forms used by Vishnu whenever he feels like chilling on Earth. His name even means horse neck, in Sanskrit, which fits his appearance pretty well.

Combat-wise, he's a bit more resilient than we may be used to with having 600 HP. Besides that, though, he's a complete pushover. Serph can take advantage of his gigantic Ice weakness without any issue, and give us 5 attacks to his measly one every single round.

Yeah, yeah, he's the first boss so he's not meant to be hard I get that. But even his footsoldiers are better than he is. Presumably the second biggest reason they haven't banded together and had a mutiny already is because Hayagriva has a trick up his sleeve.

Heat's priority here is to get Void Fires up every single turn. You have no way of knowing this at first, but Hayagriva is actually the perfect enemy for this spell despite its seemingly situational uses.

Because, as luck would have it, Hayagriva is probably the most predictable enemy ever.

To give us plenty of turns in the first go around, Argilla's using that Ice Blast to give us a functional full 6 turns.

The damage is less than impressive though. I guess it doesn't take stats into account because that's way worse than Serph's Bufus.

When not putting up Void Fires, Heat's best method of attacking here is using his Mad Rush skill. It can deal the most damage out of every physical attack at the moment. Problem is it's random; it might hit twice. It might hit once. Kind of a coin flip.

If you prefer consistency, then yeah, Venom Claw is better for that. Decent damage for a lesser cost. The poison won't work though; Hayagriva is immune to ailments.

Well, it doesn't outdamage a critical hit but those aren't overly common so even with its relative randomness, Mad Rush is more consistent.

Man, its rare to see Hayagriva use a physical attack. That like almost never happens, especially not at this stage.

Normally, for the first half of the fight he will basically only ever use Skewer. This is a single-target attack and...

It deals Fire damage. So long as you keep up the Void Fires, you should never get hurt here. Bizarre errant regular Attacks notwithstanding.

Once he drops to around half HP, his pattern changes up a bit.

He'll now spend some time to make it so we can't Bufu him into oblivion. So we just get 3 turns whenever he does this. No big deal.

Instead, Serph can use regular physical atta- ahaha no, use Hell Thrust. If you don't have it, then use regular physical attacks.

Heat still Void Fires though. This is even more important now.

Rather than use Skewer, Hayagriva brings out his big gun and throws a Fire Storm at us. As the name implies this also deals Fire elemental damage.

Frankly, if he never gave us the chance to pick up Void Fire he would win. Because he ran away like a coward, he created a self-fulfilling prophecy and had reason to be scared. Funny that.

At this point he kind of alternates between Void Ice and Fire Storm. I still have Heat use Void Fire when I expect Hayagriva'll use Void Ice though. Just as a precaution; the one time I didn't, he snuck a Skewer in and aimed it at Serph.

Despite being a boss, Hayagriva is totally able to be Frozen. This makes it so that every attack that connects is guaranteed to be a critical hit. It also has an extra edge over Shock in that whenever he remains frozen, his innate resistances are removed. No resistances, nullifications, drains or reflections allowed in this state!

In this case, it happened just in time for the crit to be the final blow needed to win.

Hayagriva is a complete chump and feels supremely out of place. Later bosses are not this rote and simple. Nor are they even half as forgiving of stupid mistakes.

Does give pretty decent Karma and a nice chunk of Macca though. Guaranteed Soma Drop isn't too shabby either.

Would give more than enough Atma for Serph to pick up Devour and Hell Thrust now, but he already had them here because I didn't run from anything.


Harley didn't know anything. Let's get out of here.

Serph, we must get back to the base.


Argilla is completely right. We will head back to Muladhara and consider our next course of action. Next time, I mean.

In the meantime, for a more traditional Hayagriva fight that doesn't involve Hell Thrust and being probably overlevelled? You can find one here; it features him using Skewer, what happens when you Analyze a boss and a mistake on my part and everything.