The game led out of the previous scene via a text overlay that appeared over top of the image of Goltanna’s war room. I haven’t mentioned these overlays in much detail before, so I have to say: they’re really hard to read! They’re written on top of the current scene with a translucent, sepia background layer instead of a flat colour, and it’s just such a mess. Sepia makes whites more white, blurring out the white text! In any event, the overlay is written from Ramza’s perspective, and he explains that he was headed to the royal capital in Lesalia to speak to one of his brothers – the nicer brother – and try to convince them that there was a conspiracy behind the war. When the game returned control to the two of us, we found Ramza in the city of Dorter, not far south from Lesalia. While we were here, I noticed that the monastery where we had met Ovelia had been removed from the map. Hm. We returned to our menu and reverted Ramza to Thief so he could back to work on grinding. We also got Agrias Move +1 and converted Arthur to Dragoon, though we had to buy him a spear before we could move on.
At this point, we did a lot of shopping and Errands, revisiting the entire map in the process. Yes, all of it. We got in plenty of random encounters fights, but mostly it was Errand after Errand for month after month of pacing in circles. I’m not going to address our random encounters, but please be aware that I’m skipping a little more than two hours and fifteen minutes of sidequesting, during which Ramza alone gained 6 levels, so it was hardly negligible.
Kyle and I tried to take thorough notes on character progression during this session, and I’m going to rely on those notes to explain how everyone progressed. There may be a few oversights given the sheer span of information, but hopefully everything is close enough to the mark.
Ramza gained Move +2 from his Thief class and was finally promoted to Ninja, having gained the only level he needed from Geomancer via carry-over JP. Ninja proved an incredibly useful class that I immediately wanted in triple, and we agreed to stay there until he had reached the Dark Knight requirement of Ninja level 8, mostly so we had an excuse to squat there. As it happened, getting to Ninja level 8 turned out to be virtually equivalent to mastering the job (buying all its upgrades), so we stuck around even longer. By the time we were ready to move on with the plot, I believe we had just acquired the ability to carry Ninja’s powerful Dual Wield ability to other classes. We also spent all of Ramza’s spare turns during our grinding session using his Steel ability (a subskill of Mettle) to boost his Bravery. While the game doesn’t say so, Bravery and Faith can be permanently adjusted by using abilities that only claim to raise them temporarily: every 4 points of temporary boost or loss converts into 1 permanent point of boost/loss after the battle. Since Steel gives Ramza +5 temporary Bravery, that meant that if we used it four times in a battle, we’d gain 5 permanent Bravery! Having a high Faith stat can be bad, both because they reduce magic resistance and since a Faith in the high 90s might cause generics to leave the party to “join the church,” but Ramza is an exception who can cram in Faith with impunity. His Bravery alone was 91 when we were done grinding.
(Ed. Kyle mis-remembered Bravery as having a similar cap, but I can’t find any source saying that’s true for WotL. Later edit: n the comments, D. T. Nova pointed out that it’s actually low Bravery that does it!)
Wilham was promoted to Time Mage, and in my worry, I initially allowed him to keep the Items skill instead of the Orator’s Speechcraft ability. After a while, however, we realized we were handling the random encounters just fine without Wilham’s items, and replaced Speechcraft and began an honest effort to grind Wilham’s useless Faith stat into something worthwhile using one of the Speechcraft skills, Preach. Just… sat him in the corner, Preaching to himself with Speechcraft. At one point during our grinding, Kyle put on his Agrias impression and asked: “Ramza, what exactly is Wilham’s job?” Despite him grinding Faith full time, Wilham’s stat didn’t rise as quickly, because Preach only works a certain percentage of the time (based on the Faith he didn’t have!), and while we got very lucky with him, his Faith had only risen to mid-60s by the time we were done grinding. On the other hand, that was the second-highest Faith in the party after Ramza! Wilham also did a lot of Errands for us and learned High Potion, Haste, Condemn, Praise, and even Fire (the level 1 Black Magick spell) from his various jobs. Unfortunately, after he started talking to himself in one corner of a battle, he was only gaining about 10 JP per successful Preach, and didn’t exactly shoot up the charts. Nevertheless, we later got him promoted to Summoner, though he only had two pity Summons: Moogle Charm and Shiva.
Arthur only needed to be in Dragoon for a single level if we were going to take him to Samurai, though it was a shame to give it up because Dragoon proved to be a great class, I was very impressed. Still, we stuck to our guns, reverting him temporarily to Knight for the last few job levels, and then finally up to Samurai once we had lowered that final gate. Samurai is a complicated class that requires you to lug around multiple katana types in the party’s inventory to use area of effect skills, while risking the 1/8 chance that the sword you’re using for each particular ability might break during every skill use. Oh, and I should mention that most of the katanas aren’t even available at this point in the game, but that’s our fault for rushing. Arthur ended up stuck in the Samurai class for some time, but we basically hated the class from start to finish. It would be a while before we learned that fact that would ultimately break the camel’s back on Samurai, but I’ll hold off that revelation until it comes to us.
I tried to keep poor Meryell in the party so that she might gain a few levels, though this cost her job points by keeping her out of Errands. It’s hard to say if I made the right call. In any event, we somehow got her to Dragoon, where, finally equipped with quality equipment and divorced from the garbage stats of a Thief or Archer, she finally began to shine, in her own barely-level-10 sort of way. She only got Horizontal Jump +2 and Vertical Jump +3, but I really was in love with the Dragoon class and hoped to use one (Meryell or not) in the A-squad soon.
Mustadio finally picked up JP Boost and Move +1, like a scrub. Agrias continued to gradually pick away at her Holy sword skills until there was only one left at the end of the grind. Josephine got Thundaja, and we continued to work towards the Black Mage passive skill for the time, as we hadn’t yet had the brainwave (or the information) to come up with a better plan for her. Ladd, the forgotten character in the middle of our party, was turned into a dedicated Chemist, and we were determined not to let him out of the job until he had every item we considered “useful” on the Chemist’s item list. I’m sure that he’ll move on to great things after the game is over and he retires to an apothecary somewhere, probably after we inevitably kick him out of the party in the late game.
Lastly, we decided to turn our attention to Agrias’ former underling knights, who were rotting away in the Knight class, doing Errands for us without JP Boost! So many wasted JP points! We swapped them to Squire and got JP Boost after putting them in a battle just to pick up a mere 12 JP. We then converted them to White Mage and Monk, respectively. The Monk went basically forgotten from this point on, but the White Mage became a staple of our B-squad at the time. Not enough that I’m going to look up her name or anything.
During all of this, our Errands started to give us cute references to previous Final Fantasy games. Oh, no big deal, you guys, it’s just Pandaemonium, the palace of Satan himself, here in Ivalice! Let’s take a picture!
Our grinding ran from 18 Scorpio to 17 Aries: 147 in-game days. Meanwhile, you just know that somewhere in Eagrose, a single person has looked up from their work and started to wonder: “Whatever happened to Ramza Beoulve?”
Battle 23: Gollund
Passing through the town of Gollund, Ramza’s party came across a man named Orran trying to avoid being killed by bandits on top of their hideout. I like how we can be this late into the game, and we just go off the news that the great big War of the Lions has started, and yet somehow we managed to be off in a nowhere-town, doing nothing that has any bearing on the big picture. RPGs sometimes, let me tell you.
If we hadn’t wasted so much time grinding, we might have recognized the name “Orran” being mentioned in Goltanna’s war room. Kyle couldn’t even remember where Orran fit into the plot from his original playthrough, so this was basically new information to him too, and I guess you’ll have to learn about him just the same as us! We arrived just in time to see this bandit attack, and decided to save his ass. Orran was yet another character with a specialist class, an Astrologer, and while Kyle couldn’t remember his role in the plot, he sure as hell remembered Orran’s abilities, which we saw in a moment.
During Kyle’s first attempt at the battle, things went straight south. Specifically, not only did Orran not use his super-abilities, but a Thief managed to Charm Ramza the super-Ninja. Things went pretty poorly from there, with Ramza chucking a bomb in Orran’s face, killing him and costing us the battle. Like Kyle said after the fact: “…I don’t think I can be blamed for that.”
I took over for the second attempt. The biggest trick to this battle is that Orran is trapped up on an incredibly high roof that he doesn’t actually have the jump stat to leave, and unless you’ve been doing specific upgrades, you probably don’t have the jump skill to climb, at least not until you get to the back edge of the map. Thankfully, the only enemy able to attack Orran at the outset is one of the enemy Orators, who’s standing right next to him, but a Thief will soon join them so you have to be quick to either climb to the summit or take out the enemies with long-distance attacks. Also dotting this fight are a number of otherwise useless Chemists with guns, who are definitely underqualified, but didn’t exactly make this very easy and I’m sure would eventually turn on Orran if you left them alone for too long.
Thankfully, once the game finally wakes up and remembers this is an option, Orran can use his super technique: Celestial Stasis. This brutally unfair attack impacts every enemy on the entire map, attempting to cause Disable, Immobilize and Stop to all of them (Immobilize prevents moving, Disable prevents actions other than moving, and not only does Stop do both, but I believe that a Stopped foe can’t test to clear Immobilize and Disable until Stop itself is cleared!). God help us if we ever have to fight this man, since the fight would basically come down to luck, though at the same time… I suppose that’s true here, too!
Being careful to keep Ramza and Thieves apart to avoid another Charm situation, we won the fight despite my nearly killing Orran with the final spell of the battle (don’t… don’t ask). After the battle, Orran recognized Ramza’s name with shock, but they shook hands before parting, although Ramza had some pretty deep-seated trust issues at this point and it took him a while to accept the handshake. Good sprite animation.
No ability purchases after the battle, and we proceeded directly to the capital of Lesalia. There, to our immense shock, we found that the city guard had let Ramza just walk in through the front door! We soon learned why: Zalbag, their commander, was still willing to talk to Ramza as a brother, but that was swiftly tossed aside when Ramza started to accuse the Dicebag of trying to kill Ovelia before the war began – apparently, Zalbag genuinely knew nothing about it and refused to listen to a word of Ramza’s accusations! The fight between the two brothers was beginning to become heated when news arrived that Cid Orlandeau was on the attack, and Zalbag left without another word to Ramza.
Ramza attempted to leave the city quietly through the postern gate, only to be caught by his sister, Alma, who had apparently come along to the dangerous border city for who knows what reason. Ramza told her that Jerkface was still alive and she responded with surprise, which was very odd because gossip in the taverns knows that Jerkface is alive and is actually an enemy commander, but somehow Alma hasn’t heard? Unlike their brother, Alma believes Ramza about the conspiracy, and wanted to come with him to help him stop it. He rejects her, which prompts Alma to protest in a very strange manner: “I would not want my daughter to meet the same fate Tietra has.” Your daughter? Your… presumably future… presumably noble daughter, seeing as how you are noble? Your noble daughter who all-but literally cannot have the same fate as Tietra because Tietra’s fate was characterized by the class divide? I think you might be misunderstanding a key fact of the matter behind Tietra’s death!
Just then, a churchman appeared outside the gate with his entourage, and unfortunately, he was looking for Ramza. He identified himself as Confessor Zalmour Lucianada of the Holy Office of Inquisition, and he was here to arrest Ramza for killing Cardinal Delacroix and, unusually, “suspicion of heresy.” He added that if we resisted, Ramza would be declared guilty on the spot. Fuck, buddy, I’ll declare my guilt on the first charge and resist, come at me! During the battle, Lucianada explained the heresy charge: the church was claiming that Ramza stole the Zodiac Stone to sacrifice to some sort of demon god. Sure man. It was hard to say if Lucianada believed the charge or not, or if he was aware of the real conspiracy or not, which would become a recurring question about several characters as the chapter went on.
Battle 24: Lesalia Castle Postern
This was the first battle in the game where your party’s deployment on the deployment screen is partially ignored by the game. In this case, the bulk of the party deployed exactly as assigned at the start of the battle… except for Ramza, who remained where he had been during the cutscene. Ramza’s space in the deployment zone essentially goes empty! Long story short, Ramza and Alma start the battle outside the city gates, while the rest of the party appears crammed in behind them (pictured below). Alma was a guest party member during the battle, and according to her subscreen she was classed as a “Cleric.” This thankfully meant that she was able to cast Aegis like Ovelia, which she did on Ramza. The only objective here was to stop Lucianada, which would be helpful because rallying the party out from behind the gate to defeat the entire enemy party would take far too long.
One of the advantages of Ramza’s Ninja class was its improved movement and jump stats, but if you aren’t careful, these huge stats can open up brand new cans of worms. Normally, rushing Ramza ahead isn’t that dangerous! We did it time and time again while grinding, and he’s usually able to kill his first target and the rest of the party would catch up by the next turn or so. During this battle, however, rushing ahead proved to be a serious mistake, since the rest of the party was too busy funnelling through the gate to join him! This left Ramza as the target of four of the enemy’s six units, and he only survived thanks to Aegis, and even then had to rely on Aegis’ Reraise power, which is just another way of saying that he died! To make matters worse, a Knight of the Inquisition with a surprisingly high Jump stat climbed up part of the wall and cut down Josephine out of nowhere. This spoiled our best chances of toppling the boss, so our chances were looking pretty grim. In the end, though, things went exactly as they did in the battle against Cúchulainn: we prised Josephine off the pavement with a spatula, she cast Flare on the boss, ran away to cover (though the gate), and then we had won.
Of course, the Confessor didn’t die here. Or as Kyle put it: “OH, HE TELEPORTED. GUESS YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING!” So now Ramza is officially a heretic. He wondered out loud how the Inquisition had learned about the cardinal’s Zodiac Stone, and then asked the somewhat self-explanatory question, “Could the Church of Glabados be the ones supporting Jerkface?” Well, he’s part of a mysterious conspiracy backed by serious power and money in a world with only three or four organizations in existence that have that kind of power and money, and one member of the conspiracy was a high-ranking member of the church who was focused on collecting important religious artifacts, and also Jerkface learned to be a Holy Knight since you last saw him. Naw, Ramza, I think he’s working for the bank.
Asking about the Zodiac Stones, Alma said that she felt she had seen one as well, the Virgo stone. However, she refused to tell Ramza where it was unless he agreed to let her join up. Oh, so it’s at Orbonne Monastery, huh? Face it, Alma, you and Ramza have lived in the same place all your life except for the time you spent at one (1) monastery and the three months you just now spent at Lesalia. Considering this is a religious artifact we’re talking about here, this isn’t exactly a mystery. Ultimately, Alma conceded the location but then said that she was going to have to come anyways because how else was a heretic going to get inside? Well played after all, ma’am. Well played.
Before heading off to the monastery, we bought Germinas Boots to replace their Battle Boots we had given most of our party (the Battle Boots had given us +1 Move, a powerful upgrade, while the Germina Boots gave us +1 Jump on top of that). We also stole Alma’s Barrette and gave it to Lavian the B-Team Monk, since it was the only headgear she could use as a Monk. Probably should have given it to someone more important. After a random encounter on the way to the monastery, we got Ramza the incredibly powerful reaction ability Vanish, which would render him invisible after taking damage (until he next made an attack, ala D&D). We also got Wilham the Golem Summon, which would protect the entire party from damage, Meryell the Parry ability, and our B-Team White Mage the Cura, Protect and Shell spells.