Part 4: Mythe's Adventure - Part 4Unlimited Saga, Part 4: Undercity Ms. Pharr-os
Last time we did some sidequests and started in on the process of learning magic. But it'd be nice to have a full party, ad that means doing the rest of the plot... so we have to walk to Iskandaria.
Both Mythe and Sapphire, our casters, have tablets to work on. I want them to cast at least one spell every battle, after which they can also try to deal damage or let Tiffon and Grace blow the enemy away. Casting spells will also make it more likely they get magic-related skill panels, which is good. Money is still short, so sometimes Mythe has to step in and drop-kick the birds to death. Martial arts can't reach the same damage potential as weapons, but it's free and so making your protagonist or one of your early members a martial artist isn't a bad idea. For best results you want to use someone who is either very light or very heavy because their weight class and armor combined determine which martial arts they use. Light martial arts are generally best but heavy martial arts can do some seriously powerful status effects, including the legendary BLACKOUT which drops HP to zero immediately and basically ends fights before they even begin. Medium-range is the worst and that's what our entire team is right now, so... martial arts are bad. Sinker's pretty nice for what it is though:
Road guide skills allow you to search a location, and also expand the minimap. Familiars always include at least one of the guide skills, so if you look up some guy's build and he says to put road guide or cave guide somewhere you can usually trade off a small amount of stats in exchange for having a familiar. Here's a screenshot from later, showing off what that looks like:
Mythe's Lv2 Fire Familiar has an applicable guide, but the range isn't very big. A higher level would expand the map!
So we've got a couple tablets. Let's talk about that! People learn the spells on a tablet in order. If they already know a spell they get to skip it, so you don't have to teach someone Magic Lock over and over. Sapphire has almost learned Magic Lock herself! Those mimics better watch out!
The important thing is that this tablet has Shock, which actually deals damage to everything on the field. It won't be hugely effective since Sapphire is bad with Metal Arts, but it'd be nice for her to be leveling her magic while actually doing something useful. Casting through familiars tends to just get you more and better familiar panels; for actual magic-related stuff you gotta cast things yourself.
Grace has a bow, which is working great.
However she has no Bow skill, which means she's unlikely to spark anything or to use it once she does. Using a bow a lot will make that more likely, though!
Here's Mythe's tablet:
He already knows Purify so it's not on the tablet. Every other skill here is terrible and I already regret giving the tablet to him. Rainbringer maybe could be useful, I guess; it increases the efficacy of water spells. Otherwise, a bunch of bad spells I don't need.
I think maybe my powergaming has made me outclass the random encounters right now. Tiffon and Grace can kill anything with zero effort.
However, as we kill enemies that will change. Remember, this game has a sort of scaling level system, and as we fight encounters everything will get stronger. So will the tablets and growth panels we're given, though.
If you find a dead end in the map, there may be hidden treasure there. You can use the applicable guide or familiar skill to check it out, but it may be too well hidden to be found at your current level. You could sit there forever and spam it, I guess, but the game isn't really balanced with that in mind.
We have some people who know Sharpeye, so we can check the chest for traps and locks.
These symbols, from left to right, tell us that the chest has a magic lock, an explosive trap, and a mimic on it. If there's a mimic you might as well just open it and fight the mimic, because they're not that strong and can drop essentially any item in the game, including magic tablets of any level. It's not that likely, but you'll probably still get a crafting material even if they don't drop a tablet. It's especially nice if the chest isn't also rigged to explode, since you still get the contents of the chest. This one is, though, so I had Tiffon defuse the traps. This requires a reel spin, determined by your Defuse level and the level of the chest. Fail, and you either try again or the trap goes off.
The magic lock is a different story. To open it you need a character who actually knows an attack spell. Familiars do not count for this! Sapphire doesn't know shock yet, and I forgot Grace has Ice Needles, so I couldn't open the chest. So instead I decided to smash the box open directly.
Choosing a melee action means we try to break open the box. This spins another reel, and a success will open it, but there's high odds the contents will be destroyed by your powerful fists of fury. Still, if you have time and there's no other option then you might as well try it.
Later, we find another chest with a mimic trap. Let's fight the mimic this time, and see what happens!
Mimics have pretty powerful magic, but we have the otherwise-useless spell Magic Lock on our side. It's not a 100% chance, but if it works then the mimic will be unable to take any actions at all, leaving it defenseless. With this spell even a low-level party can kill any mimic. Sadly, it didn't drop a magic tablet, but we did get some cedar. That'll be good for repairing things, or making more steel. Steel is the most consistently available thing to make powerful stuff out of; there's much better materials, of course, but they are rare or require save-scumming to get reliably. Steel can be made at any time, as long as you have wood and some iron.
When we finish the first leg of the journey, everyone gets new skills. I really wanted a bow skill for Grace but she rewarded me with a bunch of things she doesn't really need. I gave her Sharpeye because at least it grants more Skill and that's useful for her damage output.
Sapphire would do a ton of damage if she knew any fire spells. I may eventually give up on that and try to get her some familiars, which at least can access the lowest-level fire attack spell for free. As you can see, everyone is getting Lv3 skills now, which means that even if we don't get something new that we want we can replace the old ones and everybody's stats will still improve.
We wind up in Escata, which has been destroyed.
Escata is the focus of Laura's quest, and we can see some hints at her storyline in the Inn here. For example:
Anubito are dog-people, and a group of them led by Dagul Bos destroyed the city. We can visit his castle later, but he won't be there. We can also loot Escata palace of all its treasures, but we should probably finish finding Pharr first.
Also, I bought Grace some crocodile mail.
The double circle means it's got better Hit protection than our Cloth Armor offers. This can range up to a bunch of symbols, but right now it's pretty good. We could likely handle a fair number of sidequests now, but I'd like a full party so everyone can level up.
Now we're in a cave.
Tiffon has learned quite a few dagger skills now, and with a better dagger she'd probably be able to hold her own. As it is, she needs others' help to soften up the enemy a bit first. As you can see, though, the odds of landing a special attack go up a lot as you get better skill panels. Since there's usually a nice long line of specials soon after the start of the reel, and because for a given skill level the reel is always the same and always starts in the same place, if you get the timing down it's easy to get the one you want on a fairly consistent basis. It's like Timed Hits.
Those two spaces in the middle will, I think, be replaced with the level 4 technique if she sparks it. Assuming you pick a weapon type and stick with it you'll end up doing plenty of damage by the end. Here's a spooky skeleton:
Now, let me show you one way to make money. You'll need a high-level fortuneteller for this to work reliably, but it's nice. First we need a chest with a trap that won't blow up the contents. You can use sharpeye to find one. Get rid of any locks first, because their difficulty is based on the chest's level and we're going to boost it as much as we safely can.
Then you do this:
This is still a gamble, but it's probably not got much in it right now anyway. With such a high skill Sapphire's reel is mostly Successes.
Succeed and we see what's in the chest. If it's a material then you might as well just open it, because those don't seem to change much. If it's money, though, like this, then the amount of money scales with chest level. And every time you succeed a spin, the level goes up. So you should see where this is going, yes? A failure will either drop the level a bit (bad) or drop it to 1 and open the chest, giving you like 500kr and making you sad. You can do this as long as you feel comfortable, but remember the odds go down as the chest levels up. If you wanted to use save-scumming in an emulator you could get enormously rich, but I'm trying not to do any of that stuff in this LP. So here's what we ended up with, because I am an idiot who got lucky:
At this point, defusing the trap is almost impossible, but since it'll just hurt our characters and not the gold, it doesn't matter and we can just open the thing regardless. If it's a mimic chest, that's even better!
Iskanderia is in a cold region, so as we approach the landscape changes.
We're starting to see some new monsters, too, like this "bird."
It has far less HP than a boss, of course, but it does have more than 1 LP, so without piercing weapons it'd be annoying to fight it. Assuming you at least have one fighter, one thief, and one wizard in your team, though, you're ready for most random encounters. Not particularly dangerous, though, and we kind of want enemy encounters to get stronger because it'll help the characters get stronger too. Bosses are always best for sparking techs, but fighting these gives better odds, and better drops, than the earlier enemies. In a lot of SaGa games the bosses all scale too, but Unlimited generally doesn't work like that. So we don't want to keep everything weak, as you might in Saga Frontier; we want them to get stronger so we can get stronger. Just make sure you're always upgrading equipment or you'll get outpaced and die!
Iskanderia is also described as being on a mountain, so we climb higher as we approach.
Finally, we get there. Phew!
Mythe got a Lv3 Fire Familiar to replace his Lv2 one. That doesn't sound exciting, but it actually is: At level 3 the familiar is able to cast Fire Arrows and Mythe can finally deal damage through magic. Now, as I said, relying on familiars will just get you more familiars to replace them, but it at least gives him something to deal damage that doesn't wear down his terrible, hard-to-repair guns. Grace has a line of keys (generally, these are chest-related skills like defuse or sharpeye) on her panel now, which means she gets bonus Skill.
You can check the bonuses in their status, so it's not a secret that they happen. You have to experiment to figure out the good ones, but it's pretty easy to just give any skill character three key skills in a row and reap the rewards. Similarly, strength characters can benefit from having three fists -- they give good stats anyway, they give a boost to strength as a combo bonus, and since there's three different kinds (punch, kick, and throw) you're not wasting space on duplicates. But you can, indeed, put any two symbols together and you'll get something out of it. There's also triangles (three points on the outside, forming a triangle), though they are tougher to build around.
Grace still didn't get a bow panel. Tiffon did, though, so I am considering giving the bow to Tiffon. We'll see if Grace gets either one next time, and that'll decide things.
Alright, let's go find Ms. Pharr.
Pharr is our new party member and she's not very good. She has 8 LP, which is terrible for a physical character, and her other stats don't really make it worth using her regardless. She also is set up to use spears, which is nice except I already have two people who are doing just fine with piercing weapons, thank you. Spears are an interesting weapon, in that they are good at both HP and LP damage; however, to use them effectively you want to build both strength and skill to bolster both of these outputs. That can be tricky, but they're very effective if you do it right! If you want a tank who can be used effectively at any part of a battle, spears are a good choice -- never as effective as the other weapons, but they'll always be useful. If Pharr had more LP she'd be great, but it's dangerous to pull someone out who's that fragile if they aren't going to deal massive damage as a result. I bet if built properly she'd be quite effective regardless, but it's just a weird character design to have this cool, grizzled explorer who can't take a punch without falling over dead.
It's been a while, hasn't it, Ms. Pharr?
Is that guy behind you your new beau? He's quite a catch.
Oh Ms. Pharr! You are such a tease.
He'd like to ask you about the photo you so kindly sent me. Unfortunately, I'm only the guide.
I am Mythe, an apprentice of Nevilson, the inventor in Longshank. I'm doing some research on the photo. I've never seen one so lifelike. (Their all-knowing eyes seemed to have seen right through to my true intentions. No, can't be. How would they know? I only need to remain calm and lie my way through this.)
You're "Nuts" Nevilson's apprentice, eh? You must be a decent inventor, yourself. I found that photo in the Undercity Pharos.
The Seven Wonder, Pharos!? Please, take me there. No matter how far it is, I'd like to go.
Pharos is right below our feet.
She's right. In fact, anyone can visit Undercity Pharos at any time, once they reach Iskandaria, because it shows up in the location list as the "Abandoned Fortress."
Well, that's only partly true. Without special knowledge, most of the city is closed off and inaccessible. Only characters with plot-related reasons to visit it can fully explore the dungeon, and that's Mythe, Ventus, and Ruby. Everyone else gets a small, enclosed area to visit and then has to leave. Still loads of treasure, though, so it's worth checking out.
Every other Seven Wonder has a special sidequest version with a unique boss, designed for characters to visit and complete when they aren't sent there by the story. I am sure we'll go do some of those once we get our full party, but for now we're going to go check out Pharos and see if we can't find where the photograph came from... next time! So stay tuned.
So is Mythe, the womanizing protagonist, going to end up with a party consisting entirely of women he's completely ignoring while he seeks out the (presumably dead, given the timescale involved) woman from the portrait?