Part 30: 17-1: Into DarknessUPDATE 31: INTO DARKNESS
Alette's about as safe as she's going to get for the time being in Arberrang. Arberrang has to hold out until the darkness breaks, and that's Iver's job. So let's check in on our one-armed badass.
The darkness is animated now. And...it's right on our doorstep. Even if we wanted to run south at this point, we couldn't. The ocean is poisoned with Serpent blood which apparently eats ships.
Oh hey, looks like Zefr survived the collapse of Manaharr.
: The darkness hasn't responded to anything that I've tried so far.
She shoots something at the darkness with her Valka spear.
: Damn you, Juno! How did you do this?
Whatever Juno did to get inside the darkness, Zefr can't repeat. But she'll keep trying, apparently.
Iver, on the other hand, is well inside the darkness. We've heard about it for the first 2 legs of the Saga. Now we get to see it firsthand. Just how bad is it?
Do you remember Strand? The city from way back in the prologue of the first game?
We're approaching Strand again. Only now it looks a lot worse than it did before.
: I left my friends in Arberrang and joined the spellweavers Juno and Eyvind on their journey to undo the darkness, and put an end to a world-eating serpent. Juno fashioned a dome of light around us, and we pushed into the darkness. I expected desolation. Instead, we've passed villages that look as though melted, and forests curled like fish hooks. I have a bad feeling that these things will never again return to the way they once were, even if we succeed. With us came a band of mercenaries, the Ravens, tricked into believing the orders came from their leader. This, too, feels like disaster waiting to happen.
You catch one of the Ravens staring at you for the third time. The whispering between them has become worrisome.
: Not yet. Soon.
: The longer you control Folka's mind, the worse it'll be when you drop the tricks. The Ravens you brought with us are hardened mercenaries. They won't take lightly to being kidnapped.
: What's happened "out here," exactly?
: The darkness doesn't kill. It warps. There are things hiding out here we don't want to meet.
: Perfect. I have a feeling they might notice this giant dome of light.
: I'm afraid it's necessary. It's the only thing keeping the darkness from warping us, as well.
: How do you expect this to play out?
: They will be furious. Help me keep things from spiraling out of control. What I've done...I know how it looks. It isn't the way I wanted things to be.
: Please, Iver. Put your trust in us a little longer.
: Just fix this.
So...the Ravens aren't even here of their own free will. And Iver is here to keep them from murdering the Valka when they finally realize they've been kidnapped. And this is the band responsible for saving the world.
We continue pushing into the darkness. Hrm. That guy at the back looks unfamiliar...
: The old city on the human-varl border looms ahead, twisted into a claw, but still Strand.
: An unexpected light from Strand's great hall calls to us from atop the hill. We'll stop briefly to investigate.
The doors of Strand's great hall just continually take a beating, I guess.
Last time, it was Ubin forcing open the doors, flanked by a shieldbanger and Gunnulf. Now...our adversaries are a lot stronger than skalfings. Who will face down this threat?
Because, uh...this isn't going to be a tutorial battle.
Huh. I guess we did get the Gem of Vez'nan off of Bolverk's corpse. And as with the Skogr caravan, anyone that wasn't level 8 in the Raven caravan gets promoted to 8. But wait a sec...some new faces here and OH MY GOD is that...?
Remember the stonesinger y'all decided to befriend last time? Well...he's finally healed up and is ready to join the party. Meet Apostate. He's AWESOME.
He has all the abilities of a stonesinger enemy unit. Including Umbrage. And we will be using the shit out of that skill.
Eyvind looks like hell, and it turns out he's been full Valka all along. Maybe not Juno's apprentice. No longer hiding with his regular training staff, now he has that monster crazy thing with the giant black orb on top.
He gets a new skill (technically he had it before but I never bothered with it): troll stones. He can create a roadblock that does moderate damage. I'll still never bother with it.
Juno's playable now.
She's not very good, but she is unique. She can't die. When defeated, she roams the battlefield as a ghost, recharging until you reanimate her corpse. If she's last one to fall in a fight, it counts as a loss. But otherwise, you can do some stupid shit like "stealth Dytch, leave him in a corner, and SLOWLY have Juno 'Dormammu, I have come to bargain' her way to victory."
Remember Valgard, from way back in the first update? Incredibly strong raidmaster that helped us clear out the last of the skalfings? Well, he's back now, and level 9. Except...he kind of sucks now. His stats looked good for level 1 in that first fight of BS1, but he's not remotely impressive anymore. He's gonna stay on the bench.
Then there's Alfrun, who was not in Strand like Valgard was. She's new and we don't know anything about her other than the bio.
She has 2 unique skills: "Will of Strength," which works like Mend, only it heals strength back and has to be cast from close range. And "Ride the Lightning" which is kind of like Goku's instant transmission--she blinks across the battlefield to whack the hell out of someone, then returns to her original position.
Her willpower caps at 6, which means Will of Strength only heals 3 strength. Others have said she's really good but I didn't see it when I played before.
Folka is still wearing the +2 armor/turn item. Can't fight worth a damn, but can take a beating.
Good old Krumr is still with us, and got a few free ranks. I'm gonna try and get him to 10 so he can use one of the Clasps of Kyn that we have.
BGM: RAISING HIGH THEIR SHINING LIGHT
: Just in time.
: Survivors! Let's clear these things out.
The Great Hall of Strand has seen better days. Alfrun, Valgard, and...a dredge stoneguard are on one side of the map. Our team starts on the other.
Team Strand is going to take a beating.
By the way, if we'd gotten the opportunity to send Eirik back to Strand, he'd be in the survivor party here too. EVERYONE you've ever met in the Saga gets a role to play at the end of the world.
Meet Kivi, a friendly dredge stoneguard. With 20 armor and 17 strength, he's incredibly strong. Oh, and his passive, "Custom Armor," gives him an innate 1 strength and 1 armor resist. Meaning he can't be poisoned or bled.
And he has both active abilities that make stoneguards a nightmare to fight.
He was a bonus for pre-ordering the game. I, uh...hacked him into the game. I didn't pre-order. I did pre-order on console but they fucked up and didn't enable the bonuses at launch. It might be fixed now; I dunno. Either way, given that I've bought the game on two platforms now, and pre-ordered on one of them, I feel like it's entirely reasonable to have access to Kivi at least once.
Remember how I hated human spearmen? Well, warped spearmen are worse: you can't maim them off the bat because they take willpower damage instead of strength damage until you knock out their willpower.
Warped shieldbangers aren't really a threat. Willpower drain is an issue, but it's an issue EVERYWHERE in the darkness, because every single unit explodes in a willpower draining cloud on death.
Human or Warped, thashers suck.
Oh, and the darkness party doesn't get the willpower horn. Instead, you get the Valka Spear and can cast a weak form of chain lightning with it. Up to 3 charges can be held at a time, and kills made with it are credited to the character whose active turn it is.
So...let's explore the magic of Umbrage, shall we?
At rank 3, Umbrage will do 4 armor damage to all units, but also give them +5 strength.
It takes 2 turns to cast. That's a handicap easily overcome: Krumr just casts "forge ahead" immediately on Apostate.
The armor damage itself? Easily healed by Eyvind for your frontliners, and (though it's likely an oversight), anyone who has the ability to dodge armor damage--like Iver, or resist armor damage (like Kivi) can have the -4 reduced or nullified. So it's essentially a free +5 strength over the cap. And you can do it over and over.
Of course, it's not such a great tactic here, where I have poor Alfrun sitting on the front lines because it's a rescue. She's gonna fall before I can get to her. Thankfully this isn't Tactics Ogre and it's just an injury.
Kivi, despite being surrounded, isn't remotely in trouble, and immediately gets to smashing.
Krumr's Namejs Ring (from way back in BS1) nullifies this dumb axeman's bloody flail, and then Krumr retaliates with a mighty blow.
Warped leave hazards. They suck. Willpower is a real problem in the Darkness and I wish we had Eirik here. Oh well, at least we have Dytch.
Iver runs forward, ignores the drumfire that Kivi laid down, and twirls a couple dudes to death.
Other than Alfrun, the fight goes off pretty easily. I let Apostate collect a couple of kills because I want her eligible for level 11 and a heroic title as soon as possible.
The charred remains of the warped creatures bubble and fizz in the light, and smell horrible. You take the conversation outside the ruined hall, as you descend toward the foot of Strand.
: An unexpected place to find visitors.
: I wasn't sure we'd ever be unstuck from this abyss, even with our friend's light.
: Good that you stayed put. You won't outpace the darkness on foot. We travel into the wind, not away. To undo it.
: Undo the darkness? How?
: But you are not. How did you learn how to weave the light?
: I've picked up a thing or two on my own.
: What do you mean by that?
: My name is Alfrun. Do you know who you're traveling with, I wonder? Despite our history, I came this way to seek the council in Manaharr. I wonder if the remains of it found me, instead. My companion has words for you as well.
You can tell Juno is uncomfortable with this, but she remains composed as ever. Eyvind, less so.
: We need to move on. Time is our enemy.
: Time itself? Then you'll need capable allies. I can see it on your face. Can I trust the witch? Will that stoneguard kill us in our sleep?
Welp; that's extremely bad timing.
You hear Juno clearly in your head: "Be ready."
: Trapped in the dark with this treacherous witch. I knew it, Folka. Her words have been coming out of your mouth since we left Bolverk, at the Old Ford.
You bull-rush Folka, knocking her to the ground, and take Oli in the chin with the butt of your axe. He staggers backward, mouth bloodied. The rest hesitate, but they're trained warriors. They're not quick to back down from a fight.
A velveteen dizziness washes over the group.
: If this world is going to survive, everyone is needed.
: Everyone shut up! You hear that?
BGM: SHADOWS UNDER SHADOWS
I guess I screwed up, or maybe this fight is inevitable. Or maybe you can select your roster if you don't charge in with Iver. Either way, we get surrounded and with some really suboptimal heroes who don't have items or full stat allocation.
: These things came outta nowhere!
: We must stand together to survive!
: Fine. But this conversation isn't over!
The Banner Saga 3 introduces Waves Combat. You have X number of turns to defeat all enemies on the map. If you finish them in that many turns, you can fight or flee. If you choose to fight, you can swap out heroes for fresh units and reposition. If you choose to flee, nothing happens--it's like doing a war battle but not doing the second wave of it.
The real danger is if you don't kill the enemies before the timer runs down. When that happens, the enemy gets reinforcements and you don't get a chance to swap out your fatigued and wounded heroes. Meaning that you'll not only forfeit a chance at an item, but you will also probably just lose outright and have your entire team injured. And then you'll need to rest.
And rest in the Darkness is, uh...not a great idea with Arberrang on the cusp of failure. But more on that later.
This positioning, bluntly, SUCKS.
Folka will have to tank a bit for us.
But she can't tank both sides of the battlefield, and Eyvind goes down before he even gets a turn.
Iver's doing pretty much all the work here.
Folka gets wrecked by a full-strength spearman.
Not only does Juno fall, but an enemy stands on her corpse. She can't reanimate now.
I eventually get lucky and they keep paying Whack-a-Mole with Juno, giving Iver enough turns to take care of the rest, with a decent amount of time to spare.
Enemies will come from both sides of the map--wherever the red triangles are.
Let's try this again, shall we? Valgard sucks but nobody else is capable of tanking right now. Kivi can tank but he's there for DPS at present.
I immediately get lucky. Had this warrior connected with Iver, the rest of the fight likely goes very differently. Instead, Iver rolls successfully on his 30% dodge chance and the warped varl is overexposed.
Especially now that everyone has a nice umbrage-aided strength boost.
Juno uses her mind control ability to get the warped to turn on one another. One of the fallen drops the Waywright's Amulet.
And Iver finishes off the last of the warped.
It's not very good. We'll put it to use just because this caravan is a bit item-starved.
"This is a poor place to loiter," Valgard remarks, cleaning ash from his weapon. You look to Juno for some guidance.
: Maybe all your shouting had something to do with it.
: No, this was organized. Strategic. A little too familiar...
: No...Yngvar saw to that possibility.
: Listen, head-witch. If you're expecting us to play along you better start explaining.
: We go to Ridgehorn. There we'll find a secret path, a shortcut to our destination.
: Which is?
: The place where the darkness began.
: How about a little more...
: Hold up. Are you guys expecting anyone?
: I killed him at Manaharr.
: You what?!
: Death is...less certain than it used to be.
: How did things get this bad? Where are the other Valka?
: Eyvind and I went to Manaharr. Bolverk came for us there with vengeance, destroying any chance we had of cooperating with the other Valka.
: From where I stood, it looked more like Eyvind completely lost his mind.
Juno looks away, and returns to her point.
: Every day, the darkness draws closer to Arberrang. I fear they have no defense against it.
: Then what are we doing standing here? Ridgehorn's several days away.
: In good conditions, maybe. I can safely say these are not.
: If that really is Bolverk...
: If it is, let him chase us. It'll keep him away from Arberrang. They've got enough problems as it is.
Well-said, Iver. Time to go see about those problems!