Battle 17: Tchigolith Fenlands
So like, who do you think comes up with all these individual place-names? Was that a job for the main writers, writing down a series bible, or did they just have some dedicated intern sitting around for a day, making up words like “Tchigolith?”
Battle 16 was against monsters. Undead, mostly, but also a Pig, which as I understand only appears randomly. The key factor in this battle was the fact that the fen water was poisonous. Kyle warned me as much, but I – both forgetting that characters could jump horizontally and not noticing a path of land in the corner – moved Ramza straight the fuck into the water the moment his turn started, figuring there was no other way to deal with the terrain but to suck it up! I noticed the patch of land soon after, and remembered that people could jump soon after that, after which the fight got a little boring. One flank, consisting of Mutadio, the Shitty White Mage, and Ramza the Swamp Thing, was able to fight effectively, while the other flank, Arthur, Meryell and Josephine, were stuck on a zig-zagged, one-way path the entire battle, taking the kick out of anything they tried to do. I should have stuck one of them in the bog. No, really! Poison wasn’t honestly that harmful, and for that matter neither was this group of monsters. Next!
After the battle, Kyle and I took a moment to stop our recording so that it wouldn’t run overlong like our Dirge of Cerberus disaster. We had already done this three times earlier in the day, it’s part of the routine by now. Unfortunately, this time we forgot to turn the recording back on, and we lost the next few hours of play. Most of it was something in the neighbourhood of three random encounters at the tor while we were running Errands, all of which we won, no thanks to Ramza. You see, while we were accidentally off-the-record, we had finally opened up the Job chart and had decided on long term plans for everyone. Ramza was to be a Ninja; Arthur was to be a Samurai; Josephine was going to stay on Black Mage until we at least had Flare; Meryell would become the female-only Dancer class; while our garbage White Mage could become a male-only Bard – we would make him an Orator in the interim, which we could use to finally confront our ongoing Bravery and Faith deficit! The downside is that Ramza spent most of our grinding at the tor as a useless, useless Archer, trying to earn the four job levels required for Ninja. And just wait, after this he gets to be a useless Thief! And then a useless Geomancer!
While most of our lost footage was mostly concerned with grinding, we did lose some plot, and even the first half of the next plot battle, before we realized we had forgotten to turn on the capture. Hold on a minute while I find a Let’s Play or a script or something so I can supplement my garbage notes and… ah, there we go!
Goug turned out to be an island town, which is going to be relevant in a battle or so. The party realizes that they arrive before the cardinal’s men, still operating under the assumption that the cardinal was… you know… sending any men. They do not question this any further, because the party is actually a pack of crickets in human suits and can be forgiven for such deductive oversights. The party splits up from Mustadio so that he can do some investigating on his own, saying they’ll reunite later. Oddly, the game gives you no option to meet up with him. Rather, the plot progresses only when you try to leave the town entirely. I guess they realized we’d try to run away from Mustadio and his problems the minute we were out of his line of sight? These game developers are geniuses!
Battle 18: Goug Lowtown
As it happened, Mustadio had been caught by Ludovich Baert himself. Baert reveals his hand to Ramza to make a deal for the Zodiac Stone. Not only is he threatening Mustadio, he also reveals Mustadio’s father to sour the pot. Mustadio finally caved and told Ramza where to find the stone. It wasn’t actually very far away, and Ramza tossed to Ludovich. Now that he had what he wanted, Ludovich ordered us killed.
The battle took place atop two rooftops with a gutter in the middle. By the time our recording checks in, Mustadio was already unconscious and Josephine, my only useful party member, trying to drop a spell on an enemy Summoner while two enemy Thieves attempted to stab her before she could do it. I’m afraid I don’t remember the sequence of events that led to that mess, sorry to say. But I pulled it off! The battle ultimately ended with our useless White Mage, now a useless Mystic (a debuffing job on the way to Orator), kept the Thieves off of Josephine by clubbing one with his staff, shockingly ending the battle. Hey buddy, you accomplished something! Maybe I’ll consider addressing you by name!
Finding Mustadio’s father unguarded and alive, his father remarked that Ludovich would try to use the auracite to awaken the old mechanical ruins. But it wasn’t as bad as it seemed: Mustadio revealed that Ramza had given Ludovich a false auracite all along, one that Mustadio had planted well ahead of time for just such an occasion. The real stone, a yellow one, had actually been on Mustadio’s person all along, the least secure place it could have possibly been. Yeah, uh… my impression of Mustadio had been so low from the beginning (thanks in part to Kyle, but still) that I had actually suspected the auracite had been in his pocket all along. That Baert hadn’t searched him when Mustadio was captured defied even my lowest expectations.
But speaking of my lowest expectations, and to the shock of an 11-second real-world pause of joy, I discovered that Ramza had worked out the cardinal’s plan. He guessed about the cardinal working with Baert, he realized that he was now dealing with a hostage situation, he even guessed that the cardinal was aiming to summon the Zodiac Braves to take over the world! I… I didn’t promise that I wouldn’t cry… mostly because I never thought we would get here… but I’m crying anyway! Our sweet stupid baby is all growing up, and he didn’t even need to be kidnapped by an evil scientist, stuck in a tube for four years, and get shot at multiple times before realizing his genocidal employers didn’t think very highly of him! We’ve reached a new standard for the reversal of protagonist stupidity, people!
Better not let me down now, Ramz.
Mustadio suggested that if we were going to rescue Ovelia, we could sneak up on Lionel by ship, since Lionel could easily stop us from crossing back the way we had come. He then joined our party for real, no longer an AI-controlled guest. Now that the fight is over, I can report on the status of our party after our three grinding battles and one plot battle: Ramza was still a useless Archer, much to my chagrin, though we were hoping to get his Archer’s Bane ability soon, which would allow him to dodge arrows in the future. Arthur was also a useless Archer! Meyrell was still a Thief, unfortunately. Lastly, we had bought Thundaga for Josephine, rather than wait explicitly for Flare.
The party sailed from Goug to the Port City of Warjilis in southern Lionel (Ed. which I would later learn, after completing the game, is the one location in the entire game where you never fight a battle! There’s even an unused map in the game’s data, just waiting for a battle that never comes!) We got a cinematic on arriving in port (Ed. in WotL, this is another watercolour cinematic, while on the PSX it occurs a different map than the one I just discussed). Apparently, we had outmanoeuvered the cardinal, but we hadn’t escaped from Jerkface, who was here for another FMV chat with Ramza. Jerkface hinted that he belonged to a group with a good information network, but of course he refuses to elaborate. He also knew that we knew about the Zodiac Stones, and he warned us away from them specifically. After this, Jerkface repeated that only he could save Ovelia, but once again didn’t explain that sentiment, insist on that sentiment, or try to take Ovelia back. I realize that by this point, our party probably outclasses him on his lonesome, but he still looks very silly with these aimless demands!
Ramza asked what Jerkface’s goal was in all this, and to my astonishment, he said he didn’t know! Ohhhh, that’s not good. A character should never say that unless confusion is important to their character arc, and Jerkface is too busy trying to appear all-knowing for me to believe that. He insisted that all the political players in this plot were “caught up in a mighty current [which …] they cannot see or feel,” because that’s basically Jerkface’s role in the plot right now: to be vague. He insisted he was trying to “swim against” the current, and walked off, a useless, human-shaped writer’s crutch.
Kyle wanted to do more Errands, but there was no way to run down the timer without sailing comically back and forth between Warjilis and Goug, so… that’s exactly what we did! One day’s travel my foot! When we first tried to leave town, we were interrupted by a cutscene, but no worries. During the cutscene we cut away to Lionel, where the cardinal was hosting both Baert and our old buddy, Gaffgarion. Apparently, Dicebag and Delacroix had already arranged for the princess to go to Dicebag, but the cardinal was trying to convince Gaffgarion, as Dicebag’s representative, to let him keep the princess long enough to con Ramza and team out of their Zodiac Stone, since their conspiracy wanted that as well. Gaffgarion agreed, and decided to set a trail of breadcrumbs for Ramza to follow into their trap, which would become clear soon enough.
After Gaffgarion had left the room, Delacroix stood up and stabbed Baert for failing him “time and time again,” full Darth Vader. While I understand the need to reduce the cast and that, I feel the need to point out that the cardinal not only performed a murder himself that he probably could have gotten someone else to do to keep his hands clean, but he also basically just murdered this world’s equivalent of the East India Trading Company, or maybe the CEO of Wal-Mart. It seems impossible that no one will want to follow up on this, and since the Baerts are criminals, they probably have someone willing to kill in revenge, wouldn’t you think? Also, remember that the Baert Trading runs a huge legitimate trading company, even if you set aside its illegal activities, and even those unfortunately impact the economy. Nevermind the moral concerns for the moment, my issue is that we will never hear about this again. The Baert Trading Company just evaporates into vapour like Castlevania after Dracula dies, because that’s what’s convenient to the narrative.
After a few Errands, our reserve party members gained a few levels and, among other things, we changed Ladd to a Chemist, for reasons that escape me after the fact. Our useless low-Faith Mystic (no, no I’ve decided to leave him unnamed for now) was promoted to a genuinely useful Orator, if only because his high Bravery made him a useful sharpshooter with his new gun. Arthur, meanwhile, became a Thief on his way to Samurai, and we taught him Steal Heart, having seen its potential back in Chapter 1.
Battle 19: Balias Swale
After a long stretch of battles being won on our first tries, it was finally time for our shitty, transitional Job setup to bite us in the ass. Hard. Since we were currently trapped in this corner of the map, there was nowhere to grind, and that would remain the case until we had cleared Battle 19. Poor design! Unfortunately, the game wasn’t about to let us do that, and we spent basically the remaining half hour of our play session failing to complete Battle 19 over two attempts, leaving it incomplete at the end of our session.
Battle 19 was split between two zones, divided by a deep river. You can’t perform any actions if you’re swimming in deep water, so it was a considerable obstacle (Geomancers have a skill to walk on water, which ironically costs more than their ability to walk on lava, because the game simply has more water maps!). Arriving at the battlefield, we found that Agrias had “escaped from” (been let free by) the cardinal and was now being “pursued” by Lionel’s Gryphon Knights, who were chasing her as unenthusiastically as possible to make sure she got to Ramza to set the bait. Thankfully, Agrias had been thoroughly upgraded in our absence, so she was a handy guest party member, which was good because she had to survive for us to win this battle. Unfortunately… basically everything else.
We had to deploy a sturdy force to the left flank where Agrias was on the run, since keeping Agrias alive was an objective, but that meant that we had severe problems both winning the right flank and getting our troops back together after we had taken one flank or the other. The left flank held a Black Mage we typically had little trouble dispatching, but also two durable Knights, and an Archer in a difficult position at the extreme corner of the map, atop a hill. The right flank, meanwhile, had a Black/Time Mage guarded by an Archer, which shouldn’t have been a concern, but who could we rout them quickly enough to cross the river? Note that basically no one in our party was a meat shield at this point, save for Agrias, and we were trying to protect her!
During the battle, Agrias asked why Ramza was here, and he loudly announced “WE’RE TRYING TO BREACH THE CASTLE FROM THE POSTERN, I HOPE NO ONE OVERHEARS OUR TOP SECRET PLAN AND RELAYS IT BACK TO LIONEL.” Oh Ramza, I know all this shouting isn’t going to hurt you, because they’re actually leading you into a trap, but I guess you haven’t changed that much after all, have you? Agrias told us that the Cardinal was going to execute the princess, but this was just another part of the bait.
Kyle made our first attempt, but had trouble seizing the right flank due to mistakenly taking both gunners – Arthur the Orator and Mustadio – in the same group. That cost us Arthur’s life when Kyle was unable to finish the battle in time, forcing us to restart. During my attempt, I misunderstood the mechanics of the river and ended up wasting Josephine for the entire battle as she tried to swim to an island in the middle.
We broke for the night after my second attempt at the battle. The plan between sessions had been for me to clear the battle out on my own time and then to grind away our useless, useless Archer and Thief jobs so that they would stop cramping our style. Unfortunately, due to a combination of blog work and non-blog work, I had other things to do, and we would have to wait for our next session to see this battle cleared out at last. As a result, this marks the break between my first batch of Journals (written after our first play-session) and the second batch of Journals (written after our second play-session), but I imagine you’ll want to see the end of the battle I close up the post, so let’s truck ahead and see how that went!
When we got back to the game at the start of our second session, well… I can’t speak for Kyle, but for me, it felt inevitable that we would get through the battle on our first attempt, and we did! But in the end, the entire thing hinged so dramatically on an early lucky roll (or possibly two) that I can’t honestly say how we would have performed without it! In short, the battle began with automated Agrias using her Judgment Blade ability on both the enemy knight and Black Mage on the front lines, a pretty typical opening move for her. However, Judgment Blade has a small chance of causing Stop to its targets, and this time, it Stopped the Black Mage! For reasons known only to the PSP, this caused the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Archer in the corner of the map to descend from her secure corner perch and walk straight up to Agrias in a poorly advised attempt to shoot someone in our back ranks instead of shooting Agrias like she usually did. Between her abandoning her post and the Black Mage being basically out of play, the entire enemy flank collapsed.
Kyle still had a good deal of trouble securing the right flank, even after Charming the archer there, because the enemy Black Mage hid in a tree-obscured corner of the map, but the battle was finally won, and we were able to move on. After the battle, Agrias told us that Ovelia was due to be executed at a place called the Golgollada Gallows. After this, she actually offered to join our party as a full-time member under our control, despite her seeming like such a serious, top-tier specialist! After all, Holy Knight is the same class that Jerkface seems to have – although, internally, they’re not identical. Kyle warned me that Agrias’ Holy Sword skills require she actually have a sword equipped, so we decided to leave her in the class until she had learned all her Holy Sword abilities, and after that move her to Knight to get Equip Swords, even though equipping the Equip Swords ability would mean slowing down her development in other classes, since it would mean unequipping JP Boost. But we reasoned: if we weren’t going to use Holy Sword, why take her over a generic?
Funnily enough, this promotion of Agrias from guest to main party member also means that she’s demoted in terms of the plot. Because the game can’t guarantee that Agrias remain alive past this point (although the opening scene of the next battle does have lines for her, should you bring her), she basically has to bow out of her role as a central, voiced character from this point on and recede into the ranks of the faceless generics, with only a few text sequences to come (Ed. two?), all of them optiona. Even Mustadio gets more stage time than her from what we’ve seen in Session 2! It’s a sad consequence of a game with party member permadeath, but a storied one.
After the battle, we gave Arthur Parry from the Knight tech tree thanks to carry-over job points, and Move +1 from the Squire with even more carry-over job points! We also bought Ramza another Green Beret for his noggin, after a Knight so kindly Rent his old one in the previous battle.