At this point, the game wordlessly adds a new path to the map, leading to Fort Besselet. If you’ll recall, the fort is about to be the site of a major battle. More relevantly for Ramza, this is where Cid Orlandeau is stationed. Kyle and I, of course, futzed off to do Errands instead, and were soon wrapped up in a whole side-quest after we were pointed there by a walkthrough (we didn’t want to miss any narrative content of this size, after all, thus the walkthrough). Nice of everyone to wait for us! To find this and later sidequests, you have to basically trip over the right Rumours. You might recall that I said there are almost no Rumours left in the game, which is part of the problem. These special, side-quest-triggering Rumours only show up in certain towns, well after you’ve long stopped checking any town for Rumours, both because there haven’t been any, and considering that the Rumours were never different from town-to-town in the first 70% of the game, so why should they start now?
Hearing a Rumour of a monster-infested mine near Gollund (the town where we first met Orran), and of a rare, Holy Dragon living there. Ramza decided to visit the mine, and was met by a man named Beowulf after talking about the job in a pub. Beowulf claimed to have been on the trail of the Holy Dragon and offered to help us. If you turn him down, you not only ruin the potential of this sidequest, but bork two more sidequests in the process! Beowulf was a Templar, whose Spellblade abilities allow him to inflict status effects while causing damage at the same time. While this was honestly not the world’s most exciting skillset on the surface, it helps that Beowulf has the ability to inflict nearly every possible status effect in the game, including the extreme Bravery-reducing ability, flatly dubbed “Chicken,” since Bravery reductions below 10 cause the character to literally turn into an actual chicken! While we took Beowulf onto the team for sidequest purposes, we never made much use of him, or at least we haven’t yet.
Battle 38: Gollund Colliery Floor
Beowulf acts as a Guest during this entire series of battles. Battle 38, at Gollund Colliery Floor, pits you against a force of… Chemists… armed with guns. Nothing but Chemists. And you’ve really got to take a look at this starting setup: check out the heights on the map, the long distance deployment, all that stuff, because it’s literally all they have going for them and I wanted to give them credit. Unseen in this shot is another Chemist in the middle of the arena, just to draw you out. Great plan, right? Too bad no plan survives contact with an AI to dumb to wield it, though you can see that the devs gave it a shot, what with all the Chemists stuck in niches their missile AI wouldn’t want to escape! Naturally, our characters with their heightened Move and Jump stats handled this without any serious trouble.
No plot in this or any but the final battle of the sidequest.
Battle 39: Gollund Colliery Slope
I think the gimmick of this fight is that nearly every enemy starts off hidden. That’s why I picked the screenshot you see here. Barely an enemy to be seen, until their AI foolishly runs them out into the middle!
This battle puts you against a mixed force of Chemist-gunners, Thieves and two Behemoths, one of them a Behemoth King. The most notable thing here is that one of the Chemists (the one in this screenshot, in fact) has an incredibly rare elemental gun, which causes flat damage regardless of defence, and is definitely worth the Steal, not that we had any capable of Stealing or enough interest to bother! I kind of wish we had, though, because moments after I took this screenshot, the Chemist offed Josephine in a single shot!
I’ll give the AI credit: they did their best to keep us at the foot of the hill for most of the battle. But this is another example of the power of high Jump and Movement: once we were finally able to start up the hill after their super-gunner, we were at the very top of the hill in just a few turns. And while Behemoths are nasty, a force of Chemists and Thieves has no defence to speak of. Next!
Battle 40: Gollund Colliery Ridge
Battle 40 puts you against Blue Dragons and yes, more Chemist-gunners. I remember this one being a much bigger fuss than the others, since the Blue Dragons are incredibly dangerous. It’s one of those situations where you know the big guys are distracting you from all the extra damage coming in from the small fry (the gunners), but what can you do? The big guys are dragons!
This took several attempts, with Kyle finally winning it on attempt #3. My second attempt might have cleared the fight if I hadn’t risked Agrias midway through the battle, because I was one action away from winning when her death timer whittled to zero. But no harm done: Kyle improved considerably on top of his original attempt, and the only close casualty was Josephine going unconscious, which we’ve sort of acclimatized to by now. No offence, Jo.
Battle 41: Gollund Coal Shaft
After that two-loss battle on the ridge, the final battle in this series was a complete joke. You discover the Holy Dragon here, only to learn that the dragon is named Reis, and that Beowulf isn’t looking for the dragon to hunt her, but to rescue her. Reis has been surrounded by monsters commanded by an Archaeodemon, who say she’s taken a certain stone, and you won’t need three guesses to figure it’s an auracite. The tricky bit here is that you have to keep Reis alive despite a bottleneck between you and her. Thankfully, it’s easy to claim the bottleneck for your own if you have – say it with me now – high Movement, one of the two true champions of this series of battles (high Speed didn’t hurt here, either). As a result, the only real complication in the fight was the risk that Reis might charge into battle and get herself killed (“pulling a Rapha”). This didn’t happen, and the rest of the battle ended little more than moments later.
It’s almost embarrassing that the narrative in Battle 41 has given me more to say about it than the previous three battles, especially since each of the previous battles took up more of our time!
After the battle, Reis (via Beowulf) hands you the auracite, an entirely optional piece you can only get through this sidequest. Beyond saying that Reis is a friend, Beowful offers no explanation for the strange events we’ve just seen, and you’ll have to carry on into later missions to learn even a little more! Both he and Reis join at this point, Reis being a monster, like other dragons. Unlike other dragons, you’ll want to keep Reis in your party, along with Beowulf, if you don’t want to screw up those further sidequests that I mentioned earlier.
Luckily, Reis’ auracite turns out to be the Aquarius, and we took it back to Goug to activate the weird sphere that we found earlier. But that’s a long walk, so first things first!
Battle 41b: Dorter Slums
Only a few steps on our way to Goug, we ran into the second remake-only cameo character. This one occurs only after you find the right Rumour, which we found thanks to a walkthrough. The plot’s simple: you’re spotted as wanted heretics around the same time the cameo is spotted as an unrelated fugitive. Who is this cameo? Why, it’s some alternate incarnation of Balthier, a party member from FFXII! (Indeed, I later learned that WotL loosely insinuates that this may be the Balthier from FFXII, having travelled through time, but it’s a blink-and-you’ll miss it clue, and I did.) Balthier is voiced – both here and in FFXII – by Gideon Emery, a frequent video game and Star Wars voice actor. Some will know him as Fenris from Dragon Age II, others as Captain Cold from the 2015 revival of DC Super Friends. Like a lot of Square Enix veteran talent, he appears in several of the FFXIII games as minor voices, and also has a full role in XIV.
As this mission re-uses the Dorter Slums map from Battle 05, it wasn’t particularly exciting, and was stocked with some seriously underpowered enemies, so it was over in a matter of minutes. In practice, Balthier was like a superior Mustadio, but we never made much use of him, save to Nina his pistol to help us out in a specific battle to come.
Believe it or not, we actually managed to make it to Goug unimpeded from Dorter, something like a quarter of the world map! We activated the mysterious sphere, which turned out to be a robot, “Construct 8,” who joined the party. Functionally speaking, Construct 8 is like a monster, though there’s nothing else quite like it (though hold that thought). First off, Construct 8 has 0 Faith, making it immune to most majicks for good or for ill, reminiscent of the Robots from FFLII. Construct 8 was also equipped with a set of abilities that you pay for in the form of HP. Frankly, we didn’t find it to be of much use. Instead, I openly complained to Kyle about how the ancient society that built Construct 8 apparently took the miraculous power of the auracite to build upwards of twelve only moderately helpful construction robots with them and nothing else. I mean, if you possessed the power of eldritch demons at your disposal, would your first-and-only investment be to build twelve copies of Guts Man?
Long story short, we did eventually make use of Construct 8 in a certain battle, but not because we really wanted to.
We made our way back towards the story missions before ending our session for the day (two random encounters on the way back, for comparison’s sake). At this point… we walked away from FFT for several months. We just didn’t want to play the thing! The hours and hours of grinding, the pointless random battles, and the unfulfilling sidequests had cost us almost all our interest. The story wasn’t carrying it either. Instead, we jumped ahead to FFVIII for some traditional RPG stuff for two whole sessions before finally returning to FFT seven months later. Our next session – Session 4 – covers just short of the final stretch of battles, but we got together very quickly after Session 4 to do Session 5 and complete the game, so the Session 4 Journals weren’t actually finished until after we had wrapped up Session 5 and the rest of the game!
On the plus side, we returned to the game determined to complete it, and so gave up our time-wasting training of the B and C teams. Only Wilham the Shitty Mage got any use on the A-team from here on out, and even he would be mostly discarded. That said, a new character was added to the A-team during the session, which forced us to juggle our teammates even at this point!
Battle 42: Beddha Sandwaste
In the previous post, Jerkface told us the church wants to assassinate the leaders of civil war, leaving themselves in charge of Ivalice. If you’re sharp, you’re probably wondering what the church plans to do about the two giant armed forces that will still be standing around after they’ve killed the enemy commanders, armies that will be loyal to the dead men’s successors instead of the church! Here’s your answer: one of the Templars, Barich, has just scattered a powdered poison to the winds bound to the Northern Sky forces, hoping to weaken them enough to allow the Southern Sky to take them out (presumably they intend to take over the Southern Sky via Jerkface, making that army a puppet of the church). Ramza arrives too late, and even worse, Barich decides to share, and poisons the player’s party as well. Why this poison that hits Ramza isn’t as lethal as the one that hits the Northern Sky, we can only blame narrative convenience, but the party does begin this battle under the Poison status effect. While apparently you can cure the Poison, we didn’t bother. Poison’s not so bad in FFT.
The biggest threat in this battle is Barich himself, the battle’s primary target, as he’s armed with an elemental gun. And…. you know… he isn’t a shitty Chemist. Most players in-the-know deal with this threat by stealing the gun from him, but we still weren’t going to bother. Thus began our “Yakkity Sax” chase of the enemy missile boss around the map, basically ignoring any enemies that weren’t conveniently clustered for a Holy Sword strike.
Part-way through the battle, Barich, who seemed to be taking the matter rather personally, asked Ramza what on earth he planned to do if he was going to let the nobles live. Ramza spent a third of the conversation missing the forest for the trees, by myopically arguing about the war instead of the social problems that had partially caused it. He spent the next third of the conversation pleading that there were good people that would fix the problem, while ignoring the fact that they simultaneously didn’t do anything of the sort before the war and also… oh right, don’t actually exist. He’s basically just talking about Cid and Orran in a peanut gallery full of atrocious cartoon monsters on both sides. He spent the final third of the conversation on the closest thing he has to an actual point, which is that the church is just putting themselves in the nobles’ place. You tell him, Ramza! You lecture him and the audience about the dangers of demon feudalism in comparison to regular feudalism! Political science degree, here you come!
Barich seemingly dies after the battle, and I want to make clear that the game goes out of its way to make it clear that he’s capital-D dead. I’m trying to make this clear because he shows up later in the game without anyone so much as raising an eyebrow.
I should also mention that this battle saw the debut of Wilham the shitty mage as Wilham the shitty Arithmatician. I’ll explain the Arithmatician class in a later battle, when the Arithmatician in question is Josephine and doesn’t suck as much. For now, all you need to know is that their Speed is the lowest of all classes in the game, and Wilham barely got to participate, much less accrue JP for his new job! Still, that prepped us to ask the important questions: how we were going to get JP for a good Arithmatician (Joesphine) if the Job is so slow? Bear in mind that Arithmaticians can’t even use their active ability, Arithmaticks, without at least two upgrades, not just one like other classes. The only other job with this distinction is Dragoon, but Arithmaticks does one better (or maybe “ten better”) by feeling heavily restricted until you’ve unlocked most of their active skill’s upgrades! That’s a lot of JP to earn! Speed-boosting items would help, sure, but it soon occurred to us that Errands could substitute for field training. Unfortunately, our excessive grinding had wiped all the Errands off the map, meaning we would have to advance the plot just to get new Errands, and so more JP for our prospective Arithmaticians!
Meanwhile at the fort, it seems the church is making its move, as Cid Orlandeau is being put under arrest by Duke Goltanna for supposedly trying to assassinate the duke. When asked about proof, Goltanna claims the church’s High Confessor (the pope) discovered the plot within his own church, and of course the pope’s word trumps Cid’s. When Cid accuses the High Confessor of conspiracy, he’s asked for proof that he apparently can’t provide, despite making a lot of fuss about spying on the man earlier. Really, after all this prep, you don’t have a single, solitary scrap? After the arrest, Goltanna gives full military command over to Jerkface.