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JBear 01-22-2016 02:43 PM



Kurtz' group starts rounding the building, and Sabina's group continues towards us, but Kane's group (well, all but one of them, anyway) suddenly decides to reverse direction and begins heading along the back of the map to follow Sabina. Huh?

This is due to an eccentricity/limitation in the enemy pathing that I am more than happy to exploit. If a single one of our units is standing in a chokepoint, then any number of enemy units will happily line up and march towards that unit. However, this is because they see an opportunity to attack. If every reachable space adjacent to our unit is already filled by other enemy units, then enemy melee attackers will just shrug and take a lunch break. For example, in the line example that I just gave, once the first unit in that line reaches us, then, provided that we don't kill that unit with a counter-attack, all of the enemies in the line behind it will start looking for another path, no matter how far away, or, if no such path is available, they'll all just stop moving altogether, rather than closing the distance to be better prepared to attack once a gap does open up.

So, because Diego is blocking the one-tile wide bridge to the east, and the only available space to attack him from is currently occupied by a Crimson Hawk, Kane and his escort decide that that direction is hopelessly blocked and begin circumnavigating the map to cross the western bridge. The reason that one straggler decided otherwise is because that Knight acted before the Hawk moved into position. If Amon was similarly positioned on the opposite bridge, then every unit in the southern enemy force except Sabina (who can shoot over the Hawks' heads) would just cease moving and skip their turns until a space opened up.

This actually comes up a lot less than you might expect during normal play, because usually the attack/counter-attack system and the game's tendency towards big damage numbers ensures that one or the other of the two units occupying a chokepoint will die pretty quickly. That is, unless you had, I don't know, some way to paralyze enemy units...



But enough about enemy movement: let's light stuff on fire! Kurtz and friends are still coming, and I'd prefer that they not get here. Fortunately, Eleni and Zohar are just barely able to reach over the building from their position against the wall.



Zohar's opening salvo leaves all three units just barely clinging to life. Eleni should be able to fix that:



Looks like we don't get to see Dagger Storm this time, but don't worry: as he says, we'll be seeing him again. I can see how that might be confusing, given that I just literally melted him, but all four of the Crimson Generals "retreat" when killed in this battle, since doing otherwise would break the narrative, as we're not expected to actually fight them here.



His remaining attendant is not so lucky, unfortunately, as the spell finishes resolving and completes our decimation of the northern half of the enemy force.



Diego flies around the Hawk that stabbed him in the back last turn to return the favour, but doesn't seem too happy with the result. If I had tried this with any unit but a Hawknight or Guardsmen, it almost certainly would have been fatal. Heck, I'm not sure that Grog could survive a single attack from one of these guys. In any case, I promptly have Huxley pump an Ultra Healing into him afterwards, returning him to full.



As planned, Darius finishes the first Crimson Hawk off with a supported shot from his nearby perch.

JBear 01-22-2016 02:45 PM



Amon begins a similar exchange on the other side of the map, but unfortunately I don't have a second archer to finish the job, so someone is going to have to get their hands dirty.



You have no idea how much I wanted to be able to follow that up with "dirty with Hawk blood". /grumble



That honestly wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Given that result, my suspicion is that, despite the identical icon, Ash is not considered a Swordsman on the weapon triangle.



Looks like we won't get to test it further, as Grog easily dispatches the remaining Hawk.



A quick Healing Circle from Sara quickly returns everyone to full health, which is good, because there are plenty more soldiers on the way.



The other downside of Guardsmen, of course, besides their magic vulnerability, is their dismal movement, so Dolan spends this turn moving over to join the western defense.



The next enemy turn begins with the lone Knight on the eastern bridge. We've already killed a couple of these guys, but this is the first time that we've seen one of them attack. They always stop to pose with their sword held up in front of their face before swinging.



The lead Knight on the opposite bridge manages to block Ash's counter-attack, and I can never resist posting a screenshot when I actually manage to catch the blue sparks that accompany a block, since they only persist for a few frames.



Sabina brings up the rear, but doesn't attack, which comes as a surprise to me. I guess the elevation difference must be just enough to bring me safely out of her bow range.



However, she's not safely out of living nightmare range (although it's admittedly hard to tell in this shot).

JBear 01-22-2016 02:47 PM



A couple of Phase Shifts cut this latest group down to size pretty quickly. Have I mentioned lately how amazing Sorcerers are, you guys? If you're ever looking to play a Vandal Hearts challenge run, just make both of your Sorcerers into Monks instead.

All of this Phase Shifting has actually almost exhausted their MP pools, but frankly, they've earned the rest (and they still have enough gas in the tank for one more Roman Fire each).



This tight clump gives Ash a good opportunity to break out another Rolling Fire, but, for the second turn in a row, it frustratingly leaves his targets barely clinging to life.



That just gives me an opportunity to splash some experience around, though, since the casters have been kind of hogging it all thus far.



Finally, Amon floats across the channel and convinces Sabina to "fall back" (into the water).



Back on the other side of the map, Diego and Clint finish off the lone Knight and then get patched up by Huxley.



Finally, I have Darius push a box into the water because he can and it looks cool.



Thanks to my tricky maneuvering earlier, Kane and the last of the troops are lagging behind, so I have an extra turn of breathing space to set up to meet them.



Diego is going to spend the rest of the fight hoovering up loot, and I start by sending him to open the chest in the northeast corner. It contains an Aura Gem, which is a powerful attack magic item that recently became available in stores at a prohibitive price.



Clint, meanwhile, finds something new in the other chest. We'll have to wait until after the battle to find out what this Holy H2O does, though. Hint: it's better than you're thinking (and it's probably better again than whatever you thought of after I said that).

JBear 01-22-2016 02:50 PM



One turn later, Kane and friends have finally arrived in a nice, tight clump. Light 'em up!



After a quick pair of Roman Fires, my Sorcerers are now completely spent, but all four members of Kane's escort are now at ~1/3 health, while Kane himself has been knocked down to below half. Will everyone else be able to finish them off?



Darius leads us off with a long bomb from across the canal, followed up by Sara's claws. That's one.



Grog isn't quite able to finish off the next Knight in line, and takes a pounding because of it, but Ash finishes the job. That's two.



Next, Amon flies around to stab this poor fellow in the back. That's three.



Which finally brings us to the man in charge of the Crimson Guard. How will Dolan fare against him?



Not bad, all things considered, but he wasn't able to close the deal, and we're out of attackers.



I end the turn by having Huxley treat Dolan's wounds, lest I lose him to a pair of attacks from Kane and the remaining Knight next turn, which is unlikely, but possible if Kane decides to go down swinging and clear a space after dying to a counter-attack.



That's not what happens though, as Kane decides to retreat around the corner and heal himself and his remaining subordinate to full health.



Before I get started on chasing them down, I have Diego dig up the map's remaining treasure: a new axe for Dolan! We'll take a look at that in the moment, but first we have some cleaning up to do...

JBear 01-22-2016 02:55 PM



Kane moved too far away for the lumbering Dolan to catch up to him this turn, so I have Dolan take up position at the head of the bridge and line up everyone else behind him. This exposes him to two attacks next turn, but keeping him a space further back would create a bottleneck, and we want the rest of the squad to be able to run out and swarm Kane next turn.

Still, this leaves Dolan a bit more vulnerable than I'd like. I wonder if there's anything we can do about that...



So, I alluded once in an earlier update to Monks having something unique that only they could do that, while not quite enough to make the class competitive with the likes of Sorcerers and Biships, does help make them worth using. Sara just unlocked it, and it's time to show it off.

Perfect Guard does just what it says on the tin, although you'd be forgiven for not figuring that out, since the game's brief description of "Protect Magic" isn't particularly informative, and the high cost discourages experimentation (at 15 MP, it's tied for the 2nd-most expensive spell in the game, taking roughly half of Sara's current max MP). I know that I never figured out what it did as a kid, which is a shame, because what it does is allow whoever it is cast on to perfectly guard against a single attack. That is to say, the next attack against that unit, no matter how strong, or from what direction, has a 100% chance to be blocked. Judiciously applied, this can be a very useful spell, and is a much better defensive spell than Mystic Shield, even when you expect a character to suffer multiple attacks.



Perfect Guard has a pretty neat animation, building a blue cube one wall at a time by having successive walls fold out of the previous wall with a little "whoosh", and then spinning the cube around the target. Then the cube stops spinning and fold itself back down into nothing.



"SUPPORT!" is the message that you get when it's done, and it's a particularly confusing one, since it's the same message as is given to indicate the flanking bonus that you get when an ally is adjacent to an enemy that you're attacking (albeit this is in green text instead of yellow). Changing this message to "100% BLOCK" or even just "BLOCK" would go a long way towards helping players figure out what this does.



And we immediately get to see it in action, as the remaining Knight runs over to attack Dolan from the side and isn't able to strike home. My preference would have been to block Kane instead, but this nicely illustrates the other problem with the spell (besides cost): if you're expecting to take more than one attack, you have no control over which one will come first and will thus be blocked.



So Kane gets in a good slash, but I've hidden Amon in a Support position floating over the water to help Dolan put a bit of extra bite into his counter-attack.



I start the next turn by having Amon fly up and over the Knight that Dolan just injured in a counter-attack. He's not quite able to put an end to him, but he does manage to block the counter-attack by ridiculously clamping down on his spear with all four limbs and hiding behind it.



Another long bomb from Darius takes care of the problem, though. I've really missed having an archer around.



Grog begins my final assault on Kane, and it's almost the last thing he ever does. Swordsmen sure are squishy.



And then Dolan and Ash end it. I decided to give Ash the final strike on Kane because it seemed narratively appropriate.



We did it! We were outnumbered, outflanked, and outmatched, but we managed to come out on top with no casualties. Combat in Vandal Hearts is fast and brutal, which means that you can come out on top of some very lop-sided scenarios, so as long as you're able to strike first. On the flip side, it also means that a single poorly-planned turn can be disastrous.

JBear 01-22-2016 02:58 PM

The battle doesn't end there, though, since our victory condition was getting everyone to the village exit. I'll spare you all a half-dozen turns of movement and cut to the chase (or lack thereof):



Sara finally opens the drawbridge that we were intended to flee over, now that it's no longer necessary.



And we're out! The victory triggers as soon as all living squad members set foot into this area, which means that it can be as crowded as we are now, or as empty as just Ash fleeing by his lonesome after his entire squad goes down swinging in the centre of town.



Not a bad haul, and it's mostly money that the game isn't balanced around me getting, so look forward to more complaints about my overflowing wallet in the future.

Also, note the colour palette on the leaders here. It's not as obvious when they're far apart, but when you line then up right next to each other like this you can see that they all share the same pairing of purplish-red and dark green. Lando also had these same colours.

(Yes, I know that crimson is purplish-red, but when most people hear crimson they just think "red", in my experience, so I wanted to be explicit.)

JBear 01-22-2016 03:01 PM

After the battle ends, the view switches once more to Dolf's private chambers..



"Why would I call Master Dolf? I'm right here."

Punctuation humour brings all the boys to the yard. :cool:



"It was really loud. Did you hear all that screaming in the cutscene?"

Dolf: "Just before the attack, there was a riot inside. Attacked from the inside and the outside, the prison couldn't stand. One more thing... the rioters got weapons and the keys from someone!"



Xeno teleports into the room to rat out Kira, prompting a shocked surprise sprite that I think is unique to this scene. No one likes a tattletale, Xeno.



Then, couldn't you have... um, couldn't you have just stopped her? I'm not sure who Dolf should be more angry with here.



*bites lower lip to stop from making same missing comma joke*

"I thought that I could trust you, but you betrayed me. Take her away."



Another unique sprite as Kira is quietly led away with her hands in stocks.



"I'm manipulating Hel in order to rekindle the Flames of Judgment. And you are sworn to aid me in that pursuit."



"It has come time to dispose of this annoying pest Ash Lambert. I want you to personally see that it is taken care of."

I'm not sure how Dolf knows that Ash is back, instead of lost in space and time. Maybe Xeno also watched the battle at the prison without lifting a finger to help.



Xeno teleports away again as the scene fades to black. I guess he doesn't know how to use doors.



Alright, now it's finally time to check out our newest sweet loot.



Holy H2O is just flat out amazing. Yes, that's a mobius you're looking at. The range and area of this item is infinite. It completely restores all HP for every friendly unit on the battlefield. I'd call it brokenly good, but this looks balanced next to the actually broken stuff that will be coming later.



A new weapon is even more exciting, though. Will this new axe be just as amazing?



Well, amazingly bad is a kind of amazing, I guess. It's cute that the game allows you to equip this at all, but it's just vendor trash, and we'll be seeing more of them later. Think of them as the new replacement for GOLDCOINs. Let's go back to town and see how much we can get for it...



...or not. Ignoring for the moment that we thoroughly routed the Crimson Guard, this is kind of a dick move if you're not prepared for it. The game gives you a very narrow window to purchase all of that sweet new gear that we loaded up on in the previous update before completely cutting off access to it. And Lord help you if you didn't think to promote Darius before now, because he's absolutely dead weight un-promoted.



Well, with the route behind closed to us, the only way to go is forward. Onward to the Great Masai Forest!

Next time: This forest is "Average" at best.

Bunk Moreland 01-22-2016 04:08 PM

Xeno's saga, and the Average Masai Forest. Sounds interesting.

Googleshng 01-22-2016 06:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JBear (Post 2075775)
(Quick Vandal Hearts 2 aside: this is by far the most important technique to master in VH2. Since one enemy unit moves simultaneously with each of your units, it's important to be able to predict where the enemy will move, and the easiest way to do this is by baiting them into attacking someone from behind. In VH2, I'd literally tell Darius to attack the empty space behind Diego, and then the enemy would move into the space just in time to get shot.

Vandal Hearts 2 is a weird game.)

It really is just such a wonderful object lesson in not thinking things through. The pitch- "Turn based combat is unrealistic! Things should happen simultaneously!"

The reality? Even worse than you described. What you really want to there is you have Diego just back up two spaces and stab the random bit of air behind where he started his turn, which, on movement completing, will contain an enemy swinging at empty space. (Although after doing so, if Diego is still the most obvious target for someone who hasn't moved, yeah, shoot his back air.)

I really just have to assume that feature was an absolute 11th hour decision that barely saw any testing because wow, just wow.

JBear 01-24-2016 08:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bunk Moreland (Post 2075812)
Xeno's saga

Shit, that's good. I'm stealing that.

YOU ALL SAW NOTHING.

JBear 02-23-2016 02:34 PM

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Let's Play Vandal Hearts! When last we saw our heroes, we were hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded by the Crimson Generals and their forces. We were told that we couldn't possibly take them all on and had to quickly flee the city. Then we killed every last one of them and slowly strutted out of town instead because that's how we roll.

(They got better.)



We now join our heroes on the road towards Kerachi, where Clive has arranged for us to meet an informant who claims to have information on the location of the missing Royal Ring. Before we get there, though, our merry band has to pass through the Great Masai Forest, where I'm sure absolutely nothing of note will happen...



Diego continues to have obvious misgivings about going to Kerachi that he refuses to share with the rest of the group. Hopefully whatever it is won't get us killed.



I would think that Huxley would be used to being around Eleni by now.



O hai.

Xeno teleports to the top of a nearby hill. It's the only way that we've ever seen him move; I bet he teleports to and from the privy when he's at home.



No u.



Apparently our warlock and their warlock know each other! Awkward...

Also, Calamani is a really classy last name, undermined only somewhat by the fact that I always read it as "Calamari" by mistake. I think it's interesting how all of the major villains in this game get last names, but a third of our player characters don't.



All of the extraneous punctuation has reached critical mass and Ash has officially gone full Q*bert. Never go full Q*bert.



Blind goats of course being known for their stiff limbs. The blind part is important.



I, um, I thought you came back here to take us home? Did, uh, did we miss a memo?

Also, note that Zohar raises and starts shaking his fist here.



Apparently this Warlock has a few cross-class levels in Druid.



This looks fine. I'm sure it's fine.



Surprising no one, Xeno has populated the map with monsters.



Ash took Darius' question mark earlier, and he's not giving it back.



And with that, Xeno teleports away, as he is wont to do. Looks like Xeno's saga will have to conclude later.

I've long since given up trying to capture Xeno's teleport animation. It only lasts for a frame or two, so even when I do catch it mid-animation, it doesn't really look like anything.



Convenient. I've got my eyes on you, old man.

JBear 02-23-2016 02:40 PM



Welcome to the Great Masai Forest! That's a lot of red dots, and ~half of them are archers, so we'll have to worry about them sooner than we'd like.



Two suspicious tiles with hidden loot on this map, as is pretty much standard at this point. The little crater next to the tree in the first shot is near our starting point, so we'll be bee-lining straight for it, but the buried shell in the centre of the second shot is a bit more of pain, as it's near the opposite corner of the map from our starting position.



The enemy forces are roughly evenly divided between these handsome fellows, both wearing stylish imp pants. You'd be forgiven for not realizing that the Bugaboos are ranged attackers at first, given that there's no weapon in evidence, but they'll educate you quickly if you overlook their type symbol.



Our squad starts between a pair of bridges, and each bridge has a pair of Bugaboos on it, as does the hillock between them, so the first order of business is to move everyone towards said hillock so that they're not in the line of fire from either bridge. I've already moved 2/3 of the squad in this shot, but as Eleni moves into position I decide that I'd rather that Bugaboo that Ash is staring down a few squares away not get a turn, leaving us only one to worry about.



Looking at Eleni's spell list after the fact, I realize that she learned Poison Cloud at some point. Enjoy that shot of its name, because that's the most you're ever going to see of it unless someone asks me explicitly to show it off. To remind everyone what I said about Envenom:

Quote:

Originally Posted by JBear (Post 1914151)
It has a pretty good success rate, but success in this case means applying Poison, which, while high in damage, deprives the squad of delicious XP.

So Poison Cloud allows me to drain potential XP from multiple targets at once. Hooray? And even if it didn't, I'd be much better off nuking multiple targets at once with spells like Phase Shift and Roman Fire than I would be applying an admittedly potent damage-over-time effect to them. Not every spell can be a winner, and the two poisoning spells on the Sorcerer spell list are the clear losers.



Spellbind still works just great, though (although I had Zohar prepared to take a second stab at it if this first application didn't take). It's the second spell she learned, and only costs 2 MP, but it will never stop being useful. Monks that come from the Mage background instead of the Healer background get a lot of mileage out of it.



With everyone else clumped up towards the centre, I have Amon and Diego make their way towards the bridges and take cover behind some trees. Sara accompanies Amon as back-up.



The remaining Bugaboo fires on Clint, but it has inconveniently chosen to hide behind a tree, so we'll have to wait until later before I can show off what exactly he's doing. Despite what this visuals here, and the fact that he tucked in behind a tree to do it, might suggest, I assure you that he's not showering Clint with a stream of purple urine.



One of the Wights stationed on the north-east bridge runs over and attacks Grog, looking for all the world to have hit him with some kind of sonic boom, but I just caught it on an odd frame. Grog's counter-attack cripples him, and given that Grog isn't one of the squad's best attackers (Dolan, Ash, and both Hawknights are ahead of him), this speaks to the fact that all of the opponents on this map are mercifully squishy.



The second Wight from that same bridge strikes Amon next, and this paints a much clearer picture, as the Wight stretches his arms out wide and then rakes his claws across and past each other.



Amon decides to helpfully demonstrate my squishy claim further, as well as illustrating the aforementioned power gap between Swordsmen and Hawknights.



Crap, I screwed up. I kept everyone safely out of line with the bridge, but I dramatically underestimated the Bugaboos' attack range, so this one just hops over and aims a long bomb at Amon. The camera is still being uncooperative, but there will be lots more of these attacks, so be patient.



That stung, but nothing else should be in range of Amon this turn, and I'd rather get that screw-up out of the way early on when it's less consequential, and now I know to be wary of their long range going forward.





Finally, the Wights stationed atop the other bridge move forward and experience regret.

JBear 02-23-2016 02:44 PM



Huxley easily tops off my Swordsmen with a dose of Ultra Healing...



...while Dolan and Ash clean up the mess that they left behind.



They may be under-performing against the Wights, but Grog and Clint are still able to one-shot Bugaboos, and finish cleaning off the starting island.



Since anything more would be over-kill, Zohar busts out a rarely-seen Piercing Ray against the next pair of Bugaboos...



...which sets up Darius and Diego to finish them off.

Honestly, Diego didn't need the assist here, but Darius may well have (he's shooting from in front and from two units of elevation below), so better to play it safe, and I want to feed the killing XP to Darius.



The Bugaboo that wasn't able to reach Amon obediently hopped forward across the bridge during the enemy turn, so Amon flies over and dispatches him, with Sara following close behind to heal him to full.



The enemy turn begins with another Bugaboo long bomb, this time aimed at Ash, and this fellow is kind enough to pose for the camera.



First he distends his belly...



...and then he hawks a bilious loogie, complete with awful sound effect.



Then it arcs across the river and hit Ash square in the face. leaving a trail of purple gunk in its wake. Lovely.



So, the thing about this map...



...is that it's swarming with Bugaboos, all of whom have long range...



...and at times ridiculous height advantage, meaning that if you're not careful, someone standing on the wrong square can be mercilessly pummeled to death by a half-dozen loogies fired in rapid succession from the other end of the map. This really forces you to be aware of the positioning of the entire enemy force at all times, unlike most maps, where the rear ranks are kind enough to wait for you to approach before engaging.

JBear 02-23-2016 02:46 PM



Eleni's been chafing at her lack of destruction thus far, so she opens up the 3rd turn with a Roman Fire from across the river.



Amon then chases it with a boulder, just because he can, before running through the twice-injured Wight.



And finally, Sara dices up the Bugaboo, securing my landing on the east side of the map.



My advance on the other front proceeds a bit more slowly, as everyone clumps up at the foot of the bridge for a group heal from Huxley.



Finally, I polish off the nearest Wight with a Roman Fire from Zohar chased with a long bomb from Darius.



The hillside above is peppered with Bugaboos, so I have Diego sneak across to the other side and then tuck in behind a tree. This will keep him safe from fire from above, and force the nearby Bugaboos to come down the hill in range of the rest of my party if they want to take a shot at him.



Sure enough, that's just what they do, as the closest pair run down the hill and up onto the bridge, putting their backs to my party so they can throw up on Diego.



The third one can't quite make it, though, so he elects to waste his turn plinking away at my mobile fortress from across the river instead.



Finally, a lone Bugaboo hammers Amon from well up the hill, bringing the enemy turn to an end.



The next turn on the eastern front is unremarkable at best, as most of the group was lagging behind and continues making their way over the bridge.



Amon takes a slight detour to dig up a Kingfoil, which seems to be some kind of plant, before ducking in behind another tree.



Sara then rushes out to take point, tossing a not-quite-sufficient cast of Healing on Amon as she shelters from ranged attacks by hugging the cliff-face.

JBear 02-23-2016 02:50 PM



A grouping this tight calls for a good ol'-fashioned Bugaboo burning.



Clint, Diego, and Darius waste no time in cleaning up the charred mess.



Huxley continues to play heal-bot, giving Diego a much-needed heal bomb to end the turn.



The enemy turn begins in exciting fashion, as this Wight and Clint exchange blocks and everyone just kind of coughs and stares at their feet.



Apparently I did a better job of taking cover this turn, as only one Bugaboo gets a shot, and he needs to climb down into melee range to do it. Even better, Amon blocks the bile with his spear.



Grog doesn't give the Bugaboo long to contemplate his poor life choices.



Sara decides to embarrass Clint and Grog by one-shotting a Wight, and reaches level 20, our next class promotion break-point, in style.

(I've been laying off the level-up screen-shots lately, since they're all pretty similar and don't really add much, but this landmark seems worth highlighting.)



The rest of this half of the squad are pretty much just rushing to play catch-up as Sara and Amon cut a swathe of destruction up the hill.



Back on the other side, Darius sticks a bolt into a Wight and Clint cuts it loose.



Finally, Diego finds another tree further up the hill to cower behind, ending my turn.





We're getting near the end now, as a couple of Bugaboos near the top of the hill pelt Huxley and Amon from lofty perches. I think Darius might have Sniper envy.

JBear 02-23-2016 02:53 PM



Second verse, same as the first, as Amon flies up the hill to dispatch a Wight and Sara follows behind to heal him.



I almost forgot to snag this one, but we're in the battle's 11th hour, and Diego remembers to dig up this Aura Gem before the fight ends. Into the stash it goes, likely to be forgotten.



Frustratingly, Diego's remaining movement isn't quite sufficient to strike the nearby Bugaboo, so he remains tucked in behind yet another tree.



Huxley just heals himself as he climbs the hill, which normally wouldn't be worth noting, save for the fact that he now joins Sara at level 20 and becomes our second unit eligible for promotion.



As the final enemy turn (spoiler!) begins, Huxley reminds us all that he's a badass by gritting his teeth and blocking this shot with his staff.



The final Bugaboo shoots Eleni at the very rear of our formation, who blocks this shot with her chin.



I open my final turn by trying to feed Darius a kill, but the elevation difference proves to be too much and he's not quite able to close the deal.



So the killing XP goes to Clint instead, and then Diego flies up onto the bridge and brings the battle to a decisive close.



We just bought new gear for our entire squad, and we're already flush with more cash than we know what to do with again.

JBear 02-23-2016 02:56 PM



Now that the battle is over, Ash wastes no time in getting to the bottom of this.



Sara is so shocked by Zohar's full name that she forgets her question mark.

Alright, that joke has run its course. You're breaking me, Vandal Hearts. Onto the pile of punctuation gaffes that began funny but ended tragic you go. I say "pile", but it's really more of a mountain-- a mountain of ellipses and interrobangs.





:toastybert:



"As he said, I am no longer as powerful as I once was. Due to the shock from the time warp that he created. Xeno was my best and brightest pupil. But at some point, he abandoned his principals (sic) in pursuit of power. He dreamed of one day rekindling the Flames of Judgment. I tried to stop him but he wouldn't listen and cast a spell on me. During our struggle, a time warp was created and I fell in... But I always knew that we would meet again..."

Zohar tried his best to avert disaster, but, despite his best efforts, Xeno got a job at Hijinx Studios.



Ash thinks that he has this all figured out, but it sure looks like Dolf is the one wearing the pants in that relationship...



This bit of bravado seems somewhat out of character to me, but I'll take it.

Now let's get a look at our newest buried treasure:



Let's have a quick show of hands from anyone surprised by this.



Next Time: Traitor City Kerachi

Mogri 02-24-2016 10:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JBear (Post 2092536)


I, um, I thought you came back here to take us home? Did, uh, did we miss a memo?

No, he's just saying that he didn't return to this world to allow Xeno to destroy it. That's good -- it would be a pretty terrible reason to return to this world.

JBear 03-16-2016 02:16 PM

Hello there everyone, and welcome back to Let's Play Vandal Hearts!

In our last update, we were attacked in the forest by a legion of undead summoned by Xeno, who it was revealed was once the pupil of none other than our very own enigmatic sage, Zohar. Zohar was thrown through a rift in space-time (quite similar to the one that we previously ran afoul of) during a wizard-duel with Xeno after a confrontation over the latter's megalomaniacal ambitions. Now that Zohar is back and knows that Xeno is behind the Empire's plot to unleash the Flames of Judgement, he has fully committed himself to the cause.



We join Ash and company as they arrive at the city of Kerachi for a meeting with an informant who claims to have found the Royal Ring...



Apparently Mr. Lisbon has been bank-rolling the rebellion. If they needed some money, they could have just asked us...



Diego, you're being crazy. Stop being crazy, you crazy person. Now let's go to this trap secret meeting.



But not before looking around town, of course. Notably, if you screwed up and missed your chance to run errands before getting chased out of Khanos, now is when you can finally take your time to promote Darius and outfit everyone with the newest shiny gear.



We already bought all of that gear though, so the only item potentially of interest at the shop (besides the merchant's steam-punk goggles) is this new Life Orb, which fully replenishes a single target's HP and MP. We can afford several of them, but I doubt that we'll ever need one, so I give them a pass for now.



Next stop is the dojo, where we can finally start promoting level 20 characters into their master classes. Huxley has the exciting promotion options of Archbishop and Archbishop. Place your votes now!

(Just to be clear, the level 20 promotions are entirely dictated by the choice made at level 10, so all of the characters only have a single promotion option here.)



Huxley's promotion brings with it yet another new hat.

I... I kind of liked his old hat better.



Sara, meanwhile, classes up her outfit with a stylish red dragon on a blue background, and trades in her claws for a pair of tonfa. Note, however, that this is disappointingly just a visual change: if we were to check her inventory, we'd find that she's still wielding the same claws.



Sara is officially the classiest.



Speaking of classy, Kerachi's tavern is notably fancier than the dives that we usually end up in. Unfortunately, the gold card table is only decorative, so no JRPG gambling save-scumming for us.


"Maybe he does do some shady deals, but if not for him..."

"Shady deals" could mean a lot of things, depending on where this bartender's loyalties lie. We are trying to take down the government, after all. I'm sure it's nothing to be worried about.


"'Tis a wonderous (sic) relic from a dead civilization. It runs all the way to the capital!"

A train that runs from here to the capital, you say? Well that can't possibly be relevant.

(BTW, I love this guy's visual design. This game has so many fun portraits, and we haven't even seen my favourite in this town yet.)


"...a culture that made something as incredible as the train? Maybe they're still alive somewhere..."

Nah. Naaaaaaah.

Nah.



Meet the collector. He collects strange and rare things objects, but no things object that he could possibly collect would be as amazing as that monocle.



Hrm. Who knows? HRM.



Alright, with our errands dealt with, we have a merchant to meet.

JBear 03-16-2016 02:21 PM



"I've been searching for your lost ring. One of my operatives is about to finalize its purchase."



Well, that was unexpectedly brief and anti-climactic.



As everyone starts to file out of the room, I want to take a moment to draw special attention to the head mounted on Mr. Lisbon's wall. This engine is absolutely not up to the task of rendering whatever that is supposed to be in three dimensions with any kind of fidelity, but they went ahead and tried anyway. It looks like some kind of beaver with antlers (that are drawn on the wall behind it), but trust me, I'm Canadian, and I can assure you that those aren't a thing.



Before Diego can leave the room, however, Carlo calls out to him. Surprising no one, I'm sure, they are apparently already acquainted.



Well Ash, there are really only two possibilities here. Either Diego was 2nd-in-command of Carlo's merchant empire, or...

(Also, I know I promised to stop mentioning this, but five periods after a question mark? Really?)



"I told you 7 years ago that I have nothing to do with you! My name is Diego Renault now!"



Or yeah, that.



Diego finds a nearby balcony to brood on. If I was a winged man with brooding to do, I'd probably just hop over the railing and do my thinking while gliding over the landscape.

These weird structures floating in space against a background look really weird to me in screenshots, but I rarely notice it while I'm playing.



The other perk of doing your introspection in the sky would of course be privacy.



It strikes me as a missed opportunity here that Ash and Diego don't bond over their mutual hatred of their fathers.

I bet that Clint's father is judgmental and boring.



No further mention is made of Diego's mother. Since he didn't stop by to see her, I'd assume that she's either absent or deceased.

It occurs to me to wonder how Diego felt about pretending to be merchants back at the beginning of the game.



Eleni interrupts to let us know that there's been a development, so she and Ash head back to Carlo's chambers and leave Diego alone with his thoughts.



As the scene fades back in, we transition from the "feelings" music to music of a decidedly different nature, as we're treated to the theme that is usually reserved for scenes featuring Dolf and/or Hel. I'm sure that's not important...



"I've completed the negotiations with this man. The exchange will be tonight at a warehouse in Old Town."



Nighttime meeting at an old warehouse. Sounds legit.



Once we're dumped back to the town navigation screen, "Old Town Warehouse" is added to the list of possible locations, but, curiously, Carlo's Mansion is still an option as well...



THEN WHY IS IT AN OPTION?

Ahem.



Waiting for nightfall apparently isn't a concern, so we head straight for the warehouse. I'm honestly not sure why the game didn't just send us straight there from the mansion.

JBear 03-16-2016 02:25 PM



As the scene fades in, we're all clumped up in the centre of a big room with our weapons drawn. I'm sure that everything's fine.





Just fine.



I'm not sure I would be less concerned if the skeletons and golems looked happy, but thanks for the heads up, Darius.



Welcome to the Old Town Warehouse! Nothing fancy here: no hidden items, and no gimmicks. We're just surrounded by a lot of red dots in a mostly symmetrical warehouse.



All of the enemies here are new, starting with this happy-looking fellow.

Looks like it's time to grind for the Magic Armor in Rimuldar.



This is a skeleton. I'm... pretty sure you've all seen skeletons before.



Not all of these new foes are cribbed from Dragon Quest's bestiary, though. Eggworms are ranged units and... ew.



So not only are we surrounded, but there are Eggworms on raised platforms on all four sides. This battle is fast and brutal, and a turn one death is almost assured without very careful maneuvering, as they have very good coverage of the room and will happily focus-fire a single target into a gooey mess on the warehouse floor.



Fortunately, we've got an ace up our sleeve. Sara's new promotion has given her amazing movement range, and she's brought along a bit of light reading with her...



You've probably forgotten, since I think I showed it off way back in the third update, but the Mad Book casts Spellbind on a single target. It's identical to the Sorcerer spell, but our Sorcerers can't get their slow asses up here on turn one, so the task falls to Sara. This has got a pretty good hit rate (~80%, based on my own experience with it), but if it fails, Plan B is praying for a lucky block, so one of our casters is likely to die. My bet's on Zohar.



All bets are off, though, as the paralysis sticks. I still need to position carefully, but it's no longer possible for all four worms to hammer a single target.



Zohar's our most vulnerable party member at the moment, as he starts on the far side of the formation and can't quite get out of the middle, so I send him as far north as he can manage and then nuke the warehouse floor (note, however, that the northwest skeletons are just out of his range).



My opening salvo messes the two gold golems on the north side of the room up. They have high health and high resistance, but, like all Armor units, they take extra damage from magic, and a stiff breeze will knock them over at this point.



Squeezing the warehouse into a ball gives Zohar enough XP to hit level 20, making him our first non-healer to make the next promotion level.

JBear 03-16-2016 02:31 PM



Eleni's turn goes pretty similarly, although she's able to tag all four of the nearby skeletons. Shame about consigning all of the gold in these golems to the abyss, though.



I'm not sure what this shot was supposed to be, but I'm including it anyway because I love Sara's pose here, standing on one leg and trying in vain to ward off her friends' continued insistence on treating the fabric of reality as their play-thing.



Sorcerers may not get XP quite as often as my healers, but they make up for it in magnitude, as Eleni gets almost an entire level's worth of XP in one turn, bringing her to level 20 right behind Zohar.



Darius chases the sorcerous assault with a crossbow bolt, but it's not able to finish this skeleton off, and no one else can reach either of the skeletons on this side, so Grog and Dolan close ranks to guard the west flank, while tightening up as far north as possible, to try and stay out of Eggworm range.



Ash and Clint take up similar defensive positions on the east flank while my hawknights venture out and clean up the twice-shifted skeletons.



The enemy turn begins with one of the Eggworms hopping over and firing... something at Diego's back. You'll recognize this attack as being identical to the Bugaboos in the previous battle, but there it was implied to be a ball of caustic fluid, whereas here the name Eggworm just makes the whole thing that much more upsetting.



One of the southern skeletons is just barely able to reach Diego for an exchange of blows. Diego certainly gets the upper hand here, rocking the skeleton for over 3/4 of its health, but a worryingly low health total (the same amount of damage as the Eggworm initially dealt to him) makes me very grateful that nothing further should be able to get to Diego this turn.





The next couple of Eggworms hammer Zohar from across the room, and I'm left very grateful for the paralyzed one atop the platform next to him. Note too that, although I forgot to screen-shot it, Huxley tossed a Mystic Shield on Zohar (lucky guess), or else these two blows would likely have brought him to below 1/3 health.

Anyone foolish enough to try and close ranks and turtle in the centre of the room on turn one is more or less guaranteed to be down a caster at the beginning of turn two.



That just leaves the skeletons in the corner as a threat on this turn, and the first hops up the stairs and hits Grog from the side. I snapped this shot a second too early to see numbers (you can see that his health bar has just started to drain away), but the skelly-man hit Grog for damage in the mid-40s.



Thanks to Darius' earlier contribution, though, he doesn't have long to gloat.



The other skeleton initiates a similar exchange, bringing the enemy turn to a close.

JBear 03-16-2016 02:34 PM



Good ol' Dark Star; I've missed you. Zohar opens up our turn by finishing off the skeleton that just attacked Grog. I'm not sure why, but whenever the skeletons take damage, one of their two red eyes turn yellow. I actually really like it, but I doubt that it's intended.



That Dark Star also positioned Zohar diagonally adjacent to Grog, allowing them to share a Healing Circle from Sara.



His health restored, Grog charges forward to attack one of the Eggworms. It looks pretty squishy; I wonder if Grog can one-shot it.



Yup.

I have to say though, the way that it curls up when it dies almost makes me feel sorry for it. Almost.



Surprisingly, I have Dolan stay back guard Sara's flank. If he were to run up and hit the Golem, even Dolan would be unlikely to survive the following turn, which would consist of a second attack from the Golem and attacks from his two skeleton friends in the corner.



On the other side, Diego's still in poor shape, so I have Huxley drop a heal bomb next to him.



Which allows him to float on over and continue our pest removal.



Amon follows close behind and finishes off this skeleton, which allows the rest of the team to turn their attention towards the approaching golem.



Eleni starts things off with a Dark Star to capitalize on its magic weakness.



Clint follows this up with a flurry of sword thrusts from its side, but he's not able to finish it off. That's not all bad, though, as it allows me to show off its lovely attack animation.



The golem begins by pointing at its victim (his finger is unfortunately hiding behind Clint's sword here)...



...then follows that up with a big thumbs down motion and a disapproving growl.



He then locks his hands together and raises his arms over his head as he leans back...



GOLEM SMASH!

I love every part of this animation. It feels like I'm being attacked by solid gold professional wrestlers. I swear that their growl even sounds a bit like the Hulkster.

JBear 03-16-2016 02:38 PM



That hit pretty hard, though, and I don't want to let him do it again, so Ash stands in his face and hammers him with an Ice Storm. It probablydefinitely would have been safer to lead with the Ice Storm instead in order to avoid the counter-attack, but I wanted to show off the animation, and I was worried that Ash would kill it outright, rather than letting me splash some XP around.



I am immediately given reason to regret that choice, as a skeleton and an Eggworm begin the enemy turn by reducing Clint's health to a single digit, almost resulting in the first death of the LP.

That's... uh... that's cutting things a little closer than I'd like. Let's just go ahead and say that I planned that. >_>



The golem lumbers forward for this exchange with Dolan, demonstrating that the two of them are pretty evenly matched. They even share the same weakness, although the enemy team fortunately does not include any casters.



Turn three starts with Amon removing the most immediate thread to Clint.



He's still very hurt, though, so let's try out Ash's new healing spell.



O_o That's a lot more potent than I remembered. I'm not certain that I've had cause to use it much in previous play-throughs. I'll have to keep that in mind.



This is a little bit risky, since an attack from the front gives the Eggworm a decent chance to block, but I want to wrap this battle up, and Clint dispatches it without incident.

JBear 03-16-2016 02:42 PM



That just leaves two skeletons on the south side of the room, and Eleni is just barely able to get close enough to clip one of them with a Roman Fire.



Zohar, meanwhile, decides to get all up in their grill.



Zohar's aforementioned grill-up-ins-ment lends Darius' attack a support bonus, which is enough to finish this front fellow off.



As for the back one, OrphanSara* will just run all the way over from the other side of the map and bash his skull in.

* - (Inside joke. My audience is small enough that I'm comfortable writing a joke that only one person will get.)



New attack animation! First she plants her feet apart and lowers her stance...



...and then twirls around her tonfa so fast that I had to take this screenshot 4 or 5 times to get a shot where her hands didn't just look empty.



I suspect that she might have been able to take him down from full health, although it would have been close.



Back on the north side, Grog and Dolan surround the last golem and explode him in a shower of gold pieces (and no, we're not actually granted money for this).



Huxley is my only unit left to act that can reach the only remaining enemy. There's no reason to end the fight this turn other than bragging rights, but I wonder if even Huxley can take out an Eggworm in one shot?



Ayup.



Three turns. Boom.



With this much money, I should be able to build my own gold golems. Maybe Eleni can teach me how...



Gee, I'm not sure, Ash. Maybe we should ask that guy over there?

JBear 03-16-2016 02:46 PM



Not even for a moment.



O hai.



I'm going to choose to believe that multiple exclamation marks denotes increasingly sarcastic surprise.



Carlo clearly was not watching that fight just now.




Oh sweet Jesus, not so literal!



This legit scared me while I was compiling this update, because I forgot all about it. It happens very quickly, and includes very realistic-sounding audio.



"I specifically ordered my adventuring party done medium-rare. This is going in my Yelp review."



Umm... yes? No? What do I look like, an ornithologist?



If only we had someone capable of conjuring an ice storm out of midair!





Merchant used Quick Attack!




It's not very effective...
Merchant fainted!

(I started Googling for images to mock-up a Pokemon battle screenshot when I remembered that I'm lazy.)



Apparently Carlo's effort wasn't entirely in vain, as the flames fade away.



You... you could just cast it again...



Or not. I guess he was out of MP.



'Tis but a flesh wound.

JBear 03-16-2016 02:51 PM



Carlo's eyes flicker open as he lies recovering in bed. Between this scene and his attack on Xeno, Carlo has an impressive number of sprites for an NPC.



Do you see towels?



And with that, Diego gets up and makes to leave without another word.



Carlo: "My brother died from a cold because we couldn't keep the house warm. And I realized that if we only had money, he would still be alive. Ever since then, I've been as you know me, a heartless merchant... I won't try to stop you anymore! Go where your dreams take you!..."

That was a great story, Carlo, but nowhere in it did I actually hear an apology.



"The ring has already been sold to an agent of the Empire! They're taking it back to Shumeria by train, but we can still catch them!"

Carlo doesn't comment on this at all, but in my personal head-canon, he's the one that sold it to them. Still, it seems strange that the Empire would set a trap like this in the same city where the real ring is located. They'd have gotten a lot more mileage sending us on a wild goose chase back to that damned island again.



Yeah, he was already going to do that, thanks...



Apparently all he ever needed to do to win his son's approval was to betray a group of heroes to an evil warlock and then have second thoughts at the last possible moment not because the act itself was evil, but because his son was in danger. Oh, and then follow it up with a sob story.



As the scene fades, Carlo raises his head and then closes his eyes. Make of that what you will.



Ash said something about hurrying to train, so here we are at the dojo. :cool:



Eleni's new stance is very dramatic. In my head, she now speaks like Dr. Orpheus.



Meanwhile, our actual Dr. Orpheus looks more approachable now, lightening up his outfit and adding a bit of colour.



I hear that the train is dry, so I'm sure no one would mind if we just stopped in for a quick drink...



Apparently Ash is just over this shtick. His sprite here is as angry as he gets when Kane is killing innocent civilians.



Wait, is the train magic, or is the train station magic? Find out next time!

Next Time: Mass Murder on the Ishtaria Express

Bunk Moreland 03-16-2016 02:54 PM

Quote:


So in other words... Come home and be a family man?

Googleshng 03-16-2016 04:43 PM

Did you just forget to promote Zohar?

Also it's so weird when there's just a normal no frills straight up fight in this game.

Bunk Moreland 03-17-2016 08:36 AM

Oh, one thing I want to say here: I really like that promotions in this game are worth doing as soon as you qualify for them. No weird stat penalties for not grinding enough before promoting, or anything like that.


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