Battle 43: Fort Besselat
Unusually, and in fact uniquely, Fort Besselat offers you the choice between two alternate battlefields, at either the North or South gate. I chose the North, as it was the second item in the list and hell, I figured less people have seen it as a consequence. (Footnote: it’s odd that it’s the second option, seeing as how Ramza is approaching from the north and all!). The South wall apparently takes place in a gutter-like area with high walls on both side and two platforms in the middle, but the North involves an attack on a tall tower.
Say, uh… aren’t these walls supposed to hold out the entire Order of the Northern Sky? You know, during an active siege? Why am I able to attack them and not bring down a defending force at least a few dozen Southern Sky soldiers mistaking us for a Nothern Sky spies trying to sneak in and open the gate? Why not hundreds of defenders? FFT has actually done a half-decent job convincing me that Ramza really should be fighting only a half-dozen enemies in almost all of the past 50 battles, but this time? I don’t believe it for a second!
Since the enemies had forces in both the high and low parts of the tower, I chose to split my forces. Ramza was currently a Dragoon as part of a misguided but harmless attempt to gather levels for the hidden Dark Knight class, which gave him high enough Jump to join Arthur, who had finally mastered Ignore Elevation and was able to summit the tower without extra effort. Unfortunately, I wasted time trying to use Ramza’s Jump attack on a Summoner, splitting him up from Arthur. Around the same time, I sent Agrias after a lone, flanking enemy, leaving Josephine and useless, useless Wilham “holding” the centre. This started a domino chain of deaths that forced the party to make fighting retreats one step at a time. I’m honestly shocked I won this attempt.
Meanwhile at the Northern Sky, Zalbag discovered the mass poisoning, having somehow not been present himself. Bag 1 had been poisoned, but he feigned an interest in Duke Larg’s security. The two brothers found the duke poisoned but alive, and Dicebag stabbed Larg to finish him off. Zalbag was more than a little put off at this, and naturally so was Larg, who lets slip that Dicebag had also killed the late Lord Beoulve. This honestly did come as a surprise to me, because there had been no hints whatsoever that Ramza’s dad had died anything but a natural death! I’m not sure how I even felt about the need to complicate his death, to be honest, though it will serve a specific, narrative purpose. In the meantime, Bag 1 orders Bag 2 to frame nearby victims of the poisoning for the assassination. Bag 1 then collapses, but I have to assume Bag 2 did as he was told given what we see later, however angry he might have been.
The previous battle and the next are connected in a series, but we took the opportunity between battles to change Ramza over to… uh… Geomancer, since he had reached the Dark Knight prereq of Level 8 as a Dragoon. This was a bit of an odd choice, considering our constant, open mockery of the Geomancy job going back to its debut in FFIII. But a Geomancer we became, and we stuck with it until just short of the end of the game! In our defence, it was because we had even less use for Samurai and Knight abilities, the other classes that lead to Dark Knight, but shit, at least they have armour. Geomancers are about as well defended as Archers and Thieves, and their context-sensitive powers can really suck if you’re in a bad terrain type! Why did we stay? It’s probably because Geomancy in Tactics is like a slightly more damaging version of a Monk’s Aurablast skill (itself just a better version of Fundament’s Stone skill!). We had been relying on Aurablast for much of the game, so Geomancy ended up appealing to us over time, especially after we got its auto-Geomancy retaliation skill! I’m just not sure I any of that would have convinced me to take Geomancer if you had explained it to me, but in practice, it worked!
Battle 44: Fort Besselat Sluice
So, if you’re a small force of nominal heroes, how do you deal with an airborne poison that’s going to cause the deaths of thousands? Well… you can’t, and certainly not with medieval technology (though, as I noted to Kyle, magick might be able to do it. But in any event, it’s too late). But you can prevent a mass slaughter by cutting off the healthy army from the debilitated army! That’s Ramza’s plan at this stage, and I’ve got to hand it to him, he’s gone ahead and beyond with this one, kudos to him! To this end, he attempts to claim the sluice gate near Fort Besselat, planning to loose the river and separate the two Lions.
This is the second and last mission in the game to have interactive map elements (the first being the battle with Gaffgarion, when you could open the gate): if you can hit both switches atop the gate at the same time, you open the gate and instantly win. This is tricky, because there are Knights in front of the switches with specific AI orders not to leave their posts (this AI is also virtually unique, so far as I can tell). They’ll probably be among the last enemies you kill anyways, at which point the mission will already be over, but the option is there if you can rush ’em. In the PSX version, the mission will go on forever until you hit both switches, even if all the enemies are dead, allowing you to not only pluck every memory crystal on the battlefield, but to while away the hours, grinding FFII-style, straight off the flesh of your own party! If that’s what you’re into. The remake fixed it so that wiping out the enemies ends the fight as usual.
As for our attempt: as the battle wore on, nearly the entire (surviving) enemy defence force ended up clustered on the right flank, with only the AI-trapped Knight and an Archer on the left. This was probably for the best, because that was the flank where we had sent Arthur the Dragoon and Wilham the Arithmatician, which is another way of saying that Arthur was fighting solo. Sure enough, the Knight on the left flank was the last enemy to fall, and even that only after Ramza had cleared the opposite flank entirely!
After flooding the plain and dividing the two armies, we cut away to the inside of the fort, where the game cut the details and went straight to the jailbreak, showing Orran (and also Valamfra, for reasons never made clear) helping Ramza to Cid’s cell. Cid’s cell was curiously cluttered with boxes, as though it was meant for a battle that doesn’t occur in the final release. Cid said that he was going to go with Ramza, but he ordered his overpowered son to go to Ovelia’s side to protect her as the true heir, a staunch royalist to the end. Yeah, uh, Ovelia is almost indisputably the true heir now, as the late king’s biological son never factors into the plot again except for a single off-hand mention by one of the Bags, and the queen is simply gone. The game is gradually sloughing its original plot in great, translucent piles of narrative skin, it’s as disappointing as it is gross.
Just because we weren’t getting the golden goose (Orran and his super-spell) didn’t mean that Thunder God Cid himself wasn’t a prime catch. Cid came equipped with a set of equipment that was basically the sort we’d have by the end of the game, and better than that, he had Excalibur, the best sword we’d get in the game. Cid was also a “Sword Saint,” a job that combined Agrias’ overpowered Holy Sword techniques with Meliadoul’s Crush skills! He was well and away the most powerful character in the game, and it would be something of a self-imposed challenge to pass him up. The fact that he starts with few job skills, like most new recruits, isn’t as serious as you’d think, even this late in the game! While the game doesn’t make a big fuss of the matter, Cid brings his auracite into the party when he joins, as well.
Meanwhile in the upper chambers, Goltanna tried to force Jerkface to attack despite the sluice water, making completely inappropriate use of the expression, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” in the process. I’m really… not even sure what sentiment he was trying to convey with that, to be honest. It hardly matters, because Jerkface took this opportunity to assassinate the man, after which he brought in a conspirator who was dressed as and happened to look a lot like Cid. This fellow was willing to die for the conspiracy as the “real killer,” in order to frame Cid for the assassination. This allowed the real Cid to get away with Ramza, for whatever reasons of Jerkface’s. Jerkface simply said that they have to hope Ramza does not “fail us.” I don’t think we ever learn what he expects of Ramza in the short term… or at least, what he wants Valamfra to report back to the church to excuse his actions.
After the assassinations, we learn something we could have predicted, and the in-universe characters should have as well: that the armies, already equipped and in formation after months of furious warfare, wouldn’t collapse the moment their commanders were dead and the church told them to stop. Duh. Naturally the war was going to continue and this plan was going to fail! Maybe the conspirators were really, really leaning on the Southern Sky wiping out the Northern after the Northern were poisoned? But it doesn’t help that the conspirators didn’t seem to have killed the two Bags like Jerkface said they were supposed to do. As a matter of fact it’s not clear how they even planned to kill them, as we’re given no on-screen explanation for the lack-of-attempt?
(Ed. Related subject: even though we were just told the War of the Lions is still on, this is virtually the last mention of the war in the entire game! The war the remake is named after! No, really! Ramza decides that this newly renewed war effort – a renewal of a war that he, prior to now, vocally complained about at every opportunity – is a perfect opportunity for him to futz off and deal with family matters for the next few hours of gameplay, and the war essentially never comes back into focus thanks to the Lucavi. I know what I was saying about the plot shedding its original political focus as it went along, but this is more of a giant… Chamber of Secrets basilisk skin in the middle of the highway than anything else.)
Cutting a little short today, since the next posts deal with an ongoing sidequest, featuring some familiar faces!