The Return of Talking Time

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JBear 10-06-2014 11:22 AM

Before I begin this week's update, just as a curiousity, here are young JBear's picks:

Clint: Guardsman
Grog: Guardsman
Diego: Bowman
Kira: Hawknight
Eleni: Sorcerer
Huxley: Bishop

I... really liked Guardsmen. How can you go wrong with heavy armour and axes?

Also, if anyone has an opinion on the larger image size, please let me know, but I had a request to make them larger, so I'm trying this size out this week.

JBear 10-06-2014 11:24 AM

Hello there everyone, and welcome back to Let's Play Vandal Hearts! In our last update, we finally made landfall on Gillbaris island, only to be accosted by possessed villagers when we approached the island's sole settlement. We managed to destroy the statues that were controlling them while leading them on a merry chase and keeping them from harm. The village's mayor then told us his account of how General Magnus' party had previously made landfall and insisted on investigating some nearby ruins, only to return several weeks later with a monstrous regiment and work some sort of evil magic on the local populace.

But none of that is important right now, because this week we're taking a break from our regularly scheduled narrative to go training at the dojo!

I seek awesome new outfits. Makeover!

First up is Clint. You guys decided to make him a Swordsman, and I'm thankful. I actually like the Guardsman class, and think it's a perfectly viable alternative, but Clint in particular is probably the poorest choice for one (owing to his placement in one particularly troublesome mid-game encounter).

Cue the drums and trumpets! I love all of the distinct fanfares that this game has. Fade to white...

Hooray! The dojo was apparently kind enough to provide an ornate shield to commemorate the occasion.

Next on the list is Diego. I tend to prefer archers to flyers, but I'll need at least one Hawknight, and as long as Diego's grin survives the transformation intact, I'll be happy.

And you thought I was kidding about the dojo providing gear. Since alt-classes can't wear the same things as their base class, the game gives them a free set of starter gear. In this case, Diego gets a free Iron Spear, which, while technically the weakest spear available, just became available for purchase in this town, and is both powerful and expensive. If you were really determined to be frugal, you could save quite a bit of money at this point in the game by having all of your characters switch classes and get free loot.

Thank you. Sorcerers are amazing. You'll see. That being said, I am partial to Eleni's monk outfit.

mostly darkness...

Eleni finally shows her true colours, donning a black robe.

Huxley gets a hat.

R.I.P. Huxley Hobbes, badass ninja. There's no question that Bishops are tactically superior to Monks, but that doesn't make them any less boring.

Kira trades in her longbow for some kind of gigantic crossbow. If that strikes you as impractical or implausible, just wait until she hits level 20...

Grog probably got the biggest upgrade in terms of visually badassery. The guy cleans up nice. It's hard to believe that this is the light armour choice.

Alright, that's everyone. Let's take our new outfits on the road!

Oh, right, this thing. Well, with most of the party freshly promoted, this is as good a time as we're likely to find. How bad could it be?

Uh... say what? You didn't really make it clear what we were agreeing to here.

No, wait, I changed my mind...

JBear 10-06-2014 11:29 AM

We're not in Kansas anymore.

Welcome to the first Trial of Toroah! As you can see, a gigantic hill dominates the centre of the map (which itself is floating somewhere in space), with the opposing forces lined up on opposite sides. This might seems like an interesting encounter design, but in practice it just means that there's a long boring uphill slog before we finally get to start hitting each other.

Let's take a look at who we'll be hitting once we finally get there. As you can see, there are a lot of enemies, but we've seen most of them before. I like to think that this is where the pirates that Eleni killed were banished to.

These might look like one of the enemies we've seen before at first blush, but where those were clay golems, these are dark golems. I guess that means they're made of... dark? In any case, they're functionally identical.

Next up are these scary-looking fellows. Despite appearances though, they don't really have any unique features. No fire magic or explosions to worry about here.

We actually have seen Hunterimps before, but I realized when looking at their status screen that there's something vital that I failed to point out in that previous battle: they are wearing jaunty Imp Pants.

One thing that may not be immediately obvious is that all of these enemies have the exact same experience total, at precisely 815, whereas every enemy that we've met up until this point has had a total that is a multiple of 100. This number is special, but you're not likely to realize it the first time that you set foot in here. If you fail on that first visit and come back later in an attempt to over-level the encounter, though, you'll notice right away: all of the enemies in the Trials of Toroah scale. That number is special because it is exactly how much experience Ash has.

This is the chief reason that I've been trying to keep Ash in reserve. It's not a big difference, but these trials are some of the game's harder encounters, and it can really bite you in the ass if you let Ash do all of the heavy lifting and out-level the rest of your party. However, while the enemies here scale with Ash's level, they do not scale with gear or party size, so there's still value in waiting to try a trial later if you find it to be too difficult.

Alright, that's enough with the recon. That mountain isn't going to climb itself. Diego, lead the way.

I have yet to take my first turn, and I'm already annoyed with Diego's new animation. His new wings flap constantly, making him look like some kind of giant metal insect or hummingbird as he floats up and down in place. I don't know that my heart can stand being upset with Diego. What have you people done to me?

Here's his new and improved movement range. At 7 squares, he can move further than anyone else in the party, and, unlike everyone else, he suffers no penalties for terrain (which is notable right away, as there's a fair bit of thicket in those two valleys on either side that the rest of the party will have to slog through). He also suffers no movement penalty for a one-step increase in elevation, but does suffer a penalty for two-step increases (which our other party members just can't navigate at all). However, disappointingly, elevation increases of three steps are insurmountable, as you can see from the fact that he isn't able to head straight up the hill in the image above. Finally, flyers can move through (well, over) enemy units, which is useful for running away when the enemy archers inevitably beeline straight for them.

Here's a shot of Diego's shiny new spear. Oh, it looks like he's still wearing his old clothes though...

Shit. Guess who forgot to go shopping after promotions? Don't worry guys, I can fix it.

JBear 10-06-2014 11:30 AM

Hello there everyone, and welcome back to Let's Play Vandal Hearts! In our last update, we finally made landfall on Gillbaris island, but that's not important right now, because this week we're taking a break from our regularly scheduled narrative to go training at the dojo! I've gone ahead and done the promotions you all voted for off-screen, so let's see about getting our newly-promoted heroes properly equipped for the trial to come.

I am looking for all of the things, good sir. I'll have your finest everything.

As you can see, the new weapons here are sizable upgrades, so I buy one for everyone except Diego (who got a free spear on promotion). Eleni and Huxley probably could have done without the new staves, but I have the money to spare.

With no Guardsmen or Monks, we'll leave these sitting on the shelf, but note the nice AT values. *sniff*

New hats and body armour for all! This spending spree takes a big chunk out of our wallet, but it's worth it, as everything here is a sizable upgrade from what we were using before.

No problem. Happy to put your kids through college.

Here's a look at our newly kitted-out crew. I hope we'll be staying on the island for a while, because with this much iron we're likely to sink the next boat that we set foot on. Now let's check out that Trial of Toroah...

JBear 10-06-2014 11:32 AM

Bring it!

Tactical analysis is for chumps who aren't clad from head to toe in iron; let's charge up that hill! Have an action shot of Diego in mid-flight.

This is going to be a long charge. Between the thicket spaces and the elevation increases, our non-flyers can't make it very far each turn, and this gets worse as we climb, since we'll inevitably run into some bottlenecks no matter how we split up the party.

Fortunately, the enemy team has the exact same problem, although they have several more flyers that can charge out in front. Check out that sexy symmetry after their first turn.

After our second turn, it's more apparent how much more mobile Diego is than the rest of the crew. They've barely begun to climb and he's already halfway up the hill.

As you can see, neither the player turns nor the enemy turns are very exciting at the moment, so let's jump ahead a couple of turns to something more interesting.

That's more like it. Let's see what kind of fabulous treasures are contained in chests in the spirit world.

(If the answer is "Spirit Herb", I quit.)

That's definitely not an herb. Whatever a Nova P. is, at least it's shiny, so it must be worth something. Maybe we can pawn it to refill our coffers.

The rest of the party lines up to pay tribute to their new flying king.

In case it's not clear from the screenshots, this climb requires the party to travel towards and away from the centre line as they ascend, so this is our two groups coming back together briefly before splitting up again. The angle on this next shot should make it clearer:

The enemy still has a fair bit of climbing to do, and has likewise split into two groups, but their flyers are just about to crest the top of the hill.

I check the range on the front-most enemy flyer and move Diego just outside its range, while also parking Kira in a spot that will let her fire on it next turn if it takes the bait.

Hook, line, and sinker. Finally, it's time to hit some dudes. I have Kira attack first, since she won't provoke a counter-attack and I'm eager to exploit this group's weakness to arrows (since there's nothing that fire hates more than... wooden sticks?).

Not bad. Not quite the one-shot I was hoping for, but Kira's suffering severe penalties here, since she's firing from a much lower elevation.

I send Diego in to finish the job, and he does so with aplomb. Also, take note: living fire, like ghost armour, is apparently filled with blood.

There's something missing though. I haven't been showing it much since the first update (as presumably no one wants to look at a bunch of experience pop-ups), but attacks usually give XP. Kira and Diego's attacks this turn, however, didn't. So what gives?

Well, the answer's pretty simple. You don't gain combat experience in the Trials of Toroah. I guess they didn't want players farming. Frankly, I find it liberating, since I don't have to worry about spreading XP around and manipulating killing blows.

JBear 10-06-2014 11:33 AM

Next up, I move Clint into position and have him take a shot at the remaining Sparkie. He should be able to take a decent chunk out of it, and Huxley can top off his HP after the inevitable counter-attack.

I... may have over-prepared for this battle. Vandal Hearts doesn't have critical hits, so that's just pure badass damage. Clint benefited from a support bonus and side-facing (although the latter is offset by the elevation difference), but that's still much better than I was expecting.

Also, it doesn't really show up well in screenshots (you can sort of see the ghosting of three swords in panel #2), but Clint has a cool new ridiculous attack animation that befits damage like that, with a rapid-fire set of sword blows that strikes a dozen times or more in the space of a second.

If Clint's become that much of a badass after promotion, then surely our child of the corn must have sort of new terrifying eldritch forces at her command. I see two enemy units clumped up, and I'm eager to try out our first area of effect spell.

Aw man, no dice. The magic ranges in this game take both vertical and horizontal distance into account. You get a free vertical distance of one height unit, but every additional point of height difference reduces your range by one. These height units aren't quantified in-game at all, which can occasionally be frustrating; an on-screen height indicator such as the one in Final Fantasy Tactics would be welcome. In any case, I guess the AoE will have to wait.

Alright, time for the counter-attack. Both war ghosts float over Diego's head and strike him in the back. How will he fare?

Yup, definitely over-prepared.

Now that the enemy's advance forces are out of the way, we're back to waiting. We're close enough to throw insults at each other, but with that wall separating us, we're still several turns away from melee range. Diego could rush in, but the four enemy archers would chew him up. So I tuck everyone up against the wall for cover, where they're safe from arrow-fire, and wait for the enemy to come to me.

With... one exception. The enemy is similarly safe from my arrows, but Eleni isn't constrained by such mundane physical barriers, and can target right through the wall as if it wasn't there.

That is one ugly-ass spell. Blue and orange, together at last.

Not bad. Piercing Ray does comparable damage to Dark Star, but hits up to 5 targets at once. I'll likely be leaning on it heavily in the battles to come.

As I said, Kira can't get a bead on anyone this turn. However, this does provide a good opportunity for me to demonstrate how arrow-fire from an elevated position is constrained. As you can see, she can't hit any of the squares immediately after a drop. However, because of her height, she can fire a whopping nine spaces away towards the base of the hill. Coupled with the damage increase, this means that you still typically want your archers to have the high ground despite these sheltered spaces. I've never really played another SRPG where the arrow "physics" felt so intuitive (well, aside from the obviously artificial straight line restriction).

JBear 10-06-2014 11:44 AM

Everyone spends the next couple of turns chilling while Eleni thins out the enemy archer ranks. As you can see, like Dark Star before it, Piercing Ray quietly distorts its victims out of existence.

Meanwhile, the main body of the enemy group has finally reached the ramp onto the highest level, so Kira steps back from the wall and starts taking some potshots.

On the next enemy turn, one of their archers jumps at the opportunity to finally shoot back at us.

However, it doesn't end well for him.

On the other flank, I finally send Ash and Grog clambering onto the wall while Eleni chooses her next victims. Since the golem is weak to magic, this is likely going to sting.

Yup. Piercing Ray takes three shots to take out most targets on this map, but it can almost one-shot the golems.

Kira finishes off the 3rd enemy archer as a warning to the targets lining up behind him.

Feeling bored and with nothing better to do, Huxley decides to top Kira off.

But what's this? Didn't I say earlier that we don't get any experience in here? Well, not quite. I said that we don't get any combat XP. Healing and support actions still give experience as normal. This can, as you might imagine, be exploited. Young JBear did just that, popping Herbs and spamming Healing and Mystic Shield and feeling incredibly proud of himself for being so clever. Older JBear, however, finds that tedious and prefers to not drain his games of all challenge (this update notwithstanding >_<), so I won't be bothering with any of that nonsense.

JBear 10-06-2014 11:48 AM

There used to be a golem here. Now there's not.

With the battle almost won, I finally have some units on the other side of the wall. Ash begins clean-up duty. I suspect that with the elevation, facing, and support bonus, he likely could have one-shotted this pirate from full health.

Meanwhile, on the other flank, Kira continues to harry the helpless enemy charge.

The golem in the lead has survived the long climb though, so I put Clint in his way before he's able to break through.

This golem is the first opponent to put up an actual fight. Much like the guardsmen that you guys saw fit to deny me, he brings considerable damage and staying power to bear in exchange for the magical vulnerability that led his partner on the opposite flank to fare so much worse. In a fair fight, he'd actually come out on top here.

Fortunately, I'm not playing fair.

The final remaining enemy archer decides to do the noble thing and fire upon the only one of my units capable of returning fire.

Nobility is overrated. Note that this is the first time this battle that Kira had the luxury of firing on a target that was not above her, and it finally gives her the one-shot I was expecting against the lead group of flyers.

JBear 10-06-2014 11:49 AM

In any case, this is obviously a blow-out, and I'm just about out of interesting things to say about it, so let's just cut to the chase:

That's more like it. As you can see above, Grog's new attack animation is a sweeping sword stroke.

Needless to say, if you're looking for money, you won't find it in the Trials. I'm not really sure why they give you this token amount, but, IIRC, every subsequent trial gives you the same 10G per enemy.

You're not going to let me pawn it, are you?

Sounds good, but maybe warn that next traveler that you're sending their soul to the spirit world to be judged, and that they may not survive?

Anyway, let's see all the fuss was about and take a look at the new soul prism in our inventory (inb4 "??????????").

Well, looks like an artifact that magicalal requires a description after all. Note that, while it was abbreviated as Nova P. in the battle, it's instead abbreviated as N. Prism here.

Anyway, that's it for this week folks. There's not much narrative to be had on the path to enlightenment. Thanks for reading!

Next Time: Ygdra Canyon.

Mightyblue 10-06-2014 12:20 PM


Arrows + Elevation
Tactics Ogre! Though it doesn't automatically recalculate the visible range depending on height variations, damage and range IS modified by height variations for regular bows in TO.

SladeForrester 10-10-2014 11:58 AM

Making Diego a Hawknight surprised me a little, but he's one of the two that could go either way I think. That just means that your next Archer (you know the one I mean) should probably stick with bows, but I doubt you'll have a problem with that. =)

JBear 10-28-2014 10:47 AM

Hello there everyone, and welcome back to Let's Play Vandal Hearts! In our last update, everybody got new clothes and took them out on the town, where "the town" was some kind of extra-dimensional plane containing a piece of the soul of Toroah the Messiah. Having somehow returned from that harrowing journey unscathed, we now join our heroes as they prepare to set out in search of General Magnus Dunbar, who, according to the locals, is apparently wreaking havoc with the aid of a monstrous menagerie.

(Before I begin, I need to apologize for something. After I altered the size of my images last update, a reader pointed out to me that, both before and after the change, my screenshots weren't using the proper aspect ratio. That is a crime. I am a criminal. I have no idea how squashed sprites escaped my notice for so long. I've fixed the problem this week, and hopefully I can continue to lavish sufficient praise on this game to serve as as my restitution.)

Our only lead on Magnus is that he visited the ruins of an ancient fortress before returning to terrorize the village, so those ruins are where we're headed next. The first stop on that journey is Ygdra canyon, where we stumble upon a few travelers in peril...

Meet Amon. Amon wears goggles on his forehead. I have no idea why, but I promise you that they never end up on his face.

Also, at this point I'm reasonably confident that the localization team was paid by the ellipsis.

Sara, if we hadn't just fixed things in the village, you would have felt very embarrassed in the few remaining seconds you had before your brains were devoured.

Pfft. You were caught by two guys and a dog? Huxley could probably take these guys out all by himself.


Oh dear.

Dolan, no offense, but that plan sucks. How are you going to distract an entire squad of enemy soldiers?

A ruggedly handsome band of heroes, no doubt.

Dammit man, that was an order. If you want to hang with the likes of us, you'll have to learn to follow Ash's orders.

Or, y'know, welcome aboard. Yes, that's right, all we had to do was set foot into this canyon and our ranks have swelled by almost 50%. If you were still somehow having trouble with the first Trial of Toroah, coming back in with a group ten-strong would make it an absolute joke.

...says the man that can fly.

The camera conveniently beats you over the head with the solution by panning over the aqueduct and then zooming in on this floodgate and button.

However, Kira goes ahead and explicitly lays out what's required anyway, just in case you weren't paying attention. I've never really thought of Vandal Hearts as baby's first SRPG before, but moments like this make a pretty good argument for it. It was my first SRPG, after all, and the novelty and colour (both literal and figurative) probably go a long way towards capturing the interest of players who might otherwise be scared away by the genre.

JBear 10-28-2014 10:51 AM

Welcome to the battle of Ygdra canyon. As you can see, our forces are divided into two distinct squads, and losing the leader of either group is an immediate loss. In broad terms, we'll be retreating the northern group to the east, where they'll be fighting a desperate holding action while waiting for the main force to cut through that Gordian knot of a brain-teaser and make their way north to rescue them.

Much like our previous battle in Yuzu village, there are four items up for grabs: two hidden on conspicuous squares of unique terrain, and two held in chests. In this case, each of the four items happens to be tucked away in one of the map's four corners. Of particular note is the item in the north-west corner, as it is both the most difficult to obtain (being behind the bulk of the enemy force), and the most important, since it is required to access one of the Trials of Toroah. If you were thorough enough to obtain the first key from the sunbather in Minato, then this is the next likely failure point (and it was where young JBear's first quest for enlightenment was doomed). Rest assured, we won't be leaving without it.

Let's begin by having a look at our new recruits. As you can see, their levels are slightly behind our own, but that should even out by the battle's end, given that they have a squad of evil soldiers bearing down on them. Unfortunately, they're also unpromoted and using inferior equipment. That might seem like a pretty raw deal at first blush, but the good news is that, with a Soldier, an Archer, and a Healer, they're well-suited to a holding action, as Dolan can take a beating while Sara keeps him alive and Amon provides ranged support. So long as the player isn't stupid enough to go charging into the advancing meat grinder, our little trio here can safely hold position for quite some time.

And here's what they'll be holding position against. On paper, the Guard Dogs are an annoyance at best, with low HP and low physical stats (owing in part to being only level 6). They're no so weak that every attack is a guaranteed kill, but everyone in the main group save Huxley could likely do it in one shot from behind, and no one should need more than two. Notably, however, they have a chance to inflict poison with their attacks, and poison in VH is nasty. I'll be doing my best to give them as few attacks as possible.

The Mad Soldiers, on the other hand, are a bit more physically intimidating, especially given just how many of them there are. At level 8, these soldiers are so crazy that even their body armour has gone mad. Also, they're sticking out their tongues, which is just plain rude. I won't stand for it.

We start things out in exciting fashion, with Huxley taking a slight detour to grab one of the hidden items. As you may recall, the Mad Book allows someone other than Eleni to paralyze a single target for several turns. It'll likely spend the rest of the game rotting in someone's bag, but if I ever do have cause to break it out, it just might save the day.

As per my usual MO, I take a look at the enemy's movement range and carefully array my forces just outside of it. We're not in so much of a hurry that I can't afford a bit of caution.

On the opposite side of the channel, my new recruits will quickly be slaughtered if I don't find a more defensible position, so I have them haul ass and make for this bridge.

Mercifully, only half of the enemy forces advance on their first turn.

With its larger movement range, the puppy has gotten a bit ahead of its masters, so I have Amon hop up the stairs and take a shot at it.

Not very impressive, but with Amon's terrible weapon I was prepared for worse. I should be able to easily finish him off with my next attack.

I could have Dolan protect his younger associates here, but he's going to be taking plenty of damage later on, so I'd rather spread the love around right now when I can control it (and snag a bit of extra XP for the level 9 units). With Dolan hiding in the rear like this, the guard dog will likely exchange blows with Amon on its next turn.

JBear 10-28-2014 10:52 AM

All of the dogs attacking my main force have conveniently lined up, so I have Clint get the ball rolling. :cool:

These giant rolling boulders will never stop being stupid and gimmicky, but they will also never stop being ridiculously fun.

Pushing doesn't actually consume his turn, so Clint steps forward and dispatches a 2nd dog.

This leaves a hole through which Kira is able to step, allowing her to fire on another dog from its flank.

I've decided that leaving Ash as my only unpromoted unit just won't do, so I let him snag a kill to begin his climb towards level 10.

I end my turn by quietly winking the boulder-injured Guard Dog out of existence and then having Grog and Diego lead the charge towards the floodgate.

On the enemy turn, as predicted, the dog that Amon shot at earlier charges up the stairs to take its revenge. Anyone care to take a guess as to how a Guard Dog might attack?

JBear 10-28-2014 10:55 AM

If you answered "roll up into a ball and impale you with spikes", then what the hell is wrong with you? Maybe Konami is hiring? Fortunately, it didn't poison Amon with this attack, and it's unlikely to have another chance:

That's the last of the dogs taken care of, so now we just have the monstrous regiment to contend with.

With four soldiers advancing, the smartest thing to do here would be to retreat a couple of squares and use the un-kicked boulder as a chokepoint so that Dolan only has to face them one at a time. But I want to snag these new guys some XP before the cavalry comes charging in from stage right, and besides, where's the fun in playing it safe?

Amon remains in place and takes a shot at the lead soldier. That 18 is with two squares of elevation on our side. We're pretty soundly outmatched here.

So, what's the best way to meet an enemy force that's clearly stronger than your own? If you picked "send your Healer out front and have her put her back to them", then I'm really starting to worry about you. Please, seek help.

So, if that's clearly stupid (and it is), then why did I do it? That's a good question. My goal was to end the turn with two conditions met: no character should have more than one vulnerable facing (and therefore be subject to more than one enemy attack), and enemy attacks should be at a height disadvantage. Moving Dolan and Sara up to the top of the stairs satisfies both of those conditions, but I forgot something important: casters can't control their facing when they cast. So, when I moved Sara forward and had her heal Amon, she happily turned her back to the rampaging zombie horde. Fortunately, the next attack is unlikely to kill her, but it is likely to hurt quite a bit.

Back on the other side of the river, team Ash puts their heads together and tries to figure out this fiendish switch puzzle. Legend of Grimrock this ain't (this delayed LP update proudly brought to you by the recently released Grimrock II).

Diego is somehow able to depress the switch by floating over it. Maybe he started telling it what a wet blanket Clint is.

In sharp contrast to the [lack of] animation for pressing the switch, we get a lovingly detailed scene of the floodgate ponderously closing, complete with sound effects and gradually reduced water flow.

Now that the path has been opened for the two Mad Soldiers in the south-east corner to cross, I arrange the rest of the main force in anticipation of them.

JBear 10-28-2014 10:57 AM

Time for the new recruits to test their mettle. First up on the chopping block: Sara's backside.

Like everything else, the Mad Soldiers have a neat attack animation. It's rather reminiscent of Zoot's attack from all of the way back in the game's first battle, only in reverse and with a moment taken to lick their blades first.

Also: OW.

Sara gives him a quick whap in the face in reprisal. It's one of the game's weaker attack animations, but that's not really a concern, since it's also one of the rarest: it'll be replaced with a new one when she's promoted after this battle.

As a Soldier with the proper facing, Dolan's able to weather his attacker with a bit more success. Still though, this hit should make it clear that none of these recruits would be likely to survive for a single turn if they were to rush out instead of retreating to these stairs.

Dolan's attack animation will also be replaced in short order, and in this case it's a damn shame, since it's one of my favourites. No one ever taught Dolan how to use a rapier, so he draws figure 8's in the air with his to attack. He doesn't hit much harder than his compatriots, thanks to similarly substandard weaponry.

I open my next turn by having Amon take a step back and fire an arrow over Dolan's head at the weakened solider. As expected, he was unable to finish it off, but he does reach the ever-important level 10 for his effort.

Having Dolan finish off the injured soldier would leave him fatally exposed, so I back the group up and top off his HP. This is actually still a rather precarious position, but I should be able to scrape by.

JBear 10-28-2014 11:00 AM

Getting back to the main group, the token opposition has wandered towards their execution. This shouldn't be more than a speed bump, and Kira & Clint quickly beat the left one to within an inch of its life.

Adding insult to injury, Clint hides behind his new giant shield for the soldier's counter-attack.

This situation also gives me a good chance to demonstrate something that I meant to point out previously: friendly-fire for our casters' area spells is not a concern. That might not seem like a big deal at the moment, but trust me: these area spells eventually get a whole lot bigger. Eleni's Piercing Ray finishes off the injured soldier and takes off just less than half of the remaining soldier's health. Ash, if you would do the honors?

:toastybert: Apparently I've kept you benched for too long. Hopefully that was sufficient to shake the rust off.

Grog finishes Ash's job for him while Diego rushes forward to our beleaguered recruits' rescue.

:eek: At this rate, they're going to be much more in need of rescue than I thought. I've gravely miscalculated. Dolan can't take two more hits like that, and that may well be what's coming, if the injured solider is next to attack (since the counter-attack will remove him and make room for a 3rd).

At least he'll go down swinging drawing shapes in the air. At this point, I'm praying for a block.

JBear 10-28-2014 11:03 AM

Sure enough, the injured soldier is next to attack, and, thanks to a support bonus, he hits Dolan just as hard from the front as his friend did from the side. Things aren't looking good.

Hooray! Not exactly the block I was hoping for, but it will certainly do. I've never been so happy to see an enemy block. This Mad Soldier's quick reflexes just saved Dolan's life.

Robbed of his opportunity to kill Dolan, this solider makes the mistake of going after Diego instead. Diego, how would you like to respond?

Yeah, that's about what I thought. Maybe this play-through will be the one to finally convince me to love Hawknights as much as the rest of the Internet does. Diego has certainly been making a pretty convincing case so far.

Well, let's see if our recruits can clean up their own mess without Diego's help.

Step 1: Kick!

Step 2: Heal!

Step 3: Shoot!

Step 4: Figure 8!

JBear 10-28-2014 11:05 AM

Meanwhile, in the aqueduct, my main force rolls over a couple of zombies and gains a couple of level-ups in the process, including, notably, level 10 for Ash.

Diego rushes ahead. If anyone will be able to give the final enemy group the run-around and snag the hidden item from the ground, it'll be my Hawknight.

And, now that all other opposition has been eliminated, that final enemy group advances.

Diego positions himself as far forward as he can manage while still staying outside of their attack range. The last thing I want is for the entire enemy squad to feed themselves to Diego and cost me my loot. I still have 3 pieces to collect!

Well, I guess I'd better get started then, hadn't I? Since Huxley is my highest-level unit at the moment (healers tend to level more quickly, as there's never any shortage of injuries), and I have a back-up healer now, I send him to fetch the south-east chest.

Meahwhile, I send my other healer after the north-east chest. I'm... not sure I thought this through.

Sara dings level 10, making her the last one to reach that level.

The enemy continues to advance forward in a straight line. Where's a boulder when you need one?

Diego can't quite get far enough to escape the attack range of all of them, but only the rearmost solider should be able to reach him on this square.

Sara continues to head towards the chest, and finally heals her grievous wound from earlier.

Amon continues to tickle the advancing forces from high ground with his bargain bin bow.

The cavalry is finally here to back him up though, and I open by having Eleni paralyze the lead soldier as insurance to make sure that everyone has time to collect their respective shinies. She looks excited to help.

JBear 10-28-2014 11:07 AM

Dolan is able to acquit himself a bit better now that he has someone guarding his flank. He's still desperately in need of a better sword though.

As predicted, the rear soldier makes a beeline for Diego, and is beaten within an inch of his unlife.

That's more like it, Ash. Welcome back.

Huxley bravely faces off against the Treasure Chest. Place your bets, people.

Not bad. You may recall from a couple of updates ago that this little number is available in Yuzu's item shop for 4000G. It's an attack magic item, and even if we don't elect to make use of it, it will sell for a mint back in town.

Meanwhile, Diego's reached the suspicious dirt patch in the north-west corner that is home to our next quest item.

That's... not a key. Actually, I don't know what the hell that is. It's difficult to see, since it's sitting right on top of Diego's head, but it looks like some kind of cheap action figure? Dare I hope that the item description might shed some light on it after the battle? (Spoiler alert: not really)

Since Eleni has bought me a couple of turns to spare, I change my mind about sending Sara to fetch the remaining chest, and instead bring her back to the front to heal for some extra XP. In her place, I send Grog to do the grunt work (grunting being something to which he is unique well-suited).

It looks like these Mad Soldiers are stiffer than I've been giving them credit for. Either that or Diego's even more badass than I thought. In Clint's defense though, note that this soldier is parked on a defense-enhancing thicket space.

No matter how stiff they may be, I have them badly outnumbered at this point. My new recruits are using the opportunity to collect some more XP, and have already almost caught up with the main group.

JBear 10-28-2014 11:11 AM

I'm just toying with them now. Eleni paralyzes a 2nd soldier, leaving only the guy that Diego brought to 1 HP still mobile. At this point, they're all just punching bags for my new recruits and Ash to farm XP off of. Let's jump to the highlight reel:

Another killing blow for Amon.

Another killing blow for Grog?

Clint even looks stiff while jumping for joy.

Dolan reduces the enemy force to one poor paralyzed unit, whom I quickly surround.

Sara tries to get it on the action, but this soldier is having none of it (paralyzed units can't block, but his wore off before I could deal the killing blow.

I let her finish what she started a turn later.

That's a nice chunk of change, and a welcome addition to our recently emptied coffers, since I now have 3 new recruits to outfit.

Not an exaggeration.

Note that we apparently took a moment after the battle to reopen the floodgate for some reason. I guess we decided to reset the puzzle to challenge the intellectual might of the next adventuring party to wander this way.

Are you sure, Eleni? He doesn't look like he wants to eat our flesh.

"...and they are being led by General Magnus."

"Let's go back to Yuzu village."

You read my mind, Ash. These guys desperately need to do some shopping.

JBear 10-28-2014 11:19 AM

I love this ensemble shot of the cast here. The archers in particular have neat sprites in this scene, with Diego leaning against the back wall with his arms crossed and Kira setting her bow down against the fireplace beside her. Ash has also divested himself of his gear, but that sprite is used a fair bit more often.

Plot dump!

"As you know, we came to investigate the ruins on this island. We were sent after stone tablets, indicating that these ruins are the site of Toroah's Ark, were discovered!"

The sentence construction is a bit awkward here, so just to be clear, they were sent because of some stone tablets, not sent in search of stone tablets.

Diego's face looks way too excited here for someone leaning nonchalantly against a wall. He has such a great excited sprite that they could be leveraging too!

Lay it on us, Clint.

"The Ashah Dynasty claims to be descended from Toroah who used the Ark to survive the Great Calamity. Discovery of the Ark would provide evidence that Toroah is no legend. If the story of Toroah is real, then the Ashah Dynasty has a rightful claim to rule Ishtaria."

"Furthermore, with all of the recent terrorist attacks, we thought that this kind of news might cause a mass riot. That's why we came to this island secretly."

"...monsters come from?"

Dolan takes a moment to exchange glances with his companions.

"We were only away for a short time, but something happened. When we got back and how they had transformed, we tried to escape but they captured us. It wasn't until today that we managed to escape."

Odd. They don't really seem like the "capturing" type. Maybe they were just fattening them up before eating them?

You guys should really watch the prologue. It would answer a lot of your questions, I think.

Anyway, that's it for the plot dump. Time to hit the town!

First stop: the dojo. Ash is long overdue for a promotion.

Ash only gets one advancement option, but since it's arguably the game's best, I won't complain too loudly.

Ash is looking more Paladin-y every day. I'd actually say that this is one of the game's least visually impressive makeovers, given the treatment that some of his companions got.

Well, we have 3 new level-10 characters, and you know what that means:

it's voting time!

I've already detailed the different classes in a previous update, and you can see above what everyone's options are. Note that while this will be our last chance to get a Guardsman (and, for the record, Dolan makes for a pretty impressive-looking Guardsman), it will not be our last chance to get a Monk.

I'll leave the voting open for a couple of weeks so that I can finish Grimrock II everyone has a chance to vote.

I'll save the shopping until after we see what free promotion weapons I'm getting, so it's time to leave town.

...or not?

"If you're going to the ruins, I'd like to go with you. Unlike the villagers, the soldiers can't be cured. There's no other way, so I'll free them from their nightmare with my own blade."

Dolan seems awfully quick to assume that they can't be saved...

"...the rest of my life. You're going too, right Amon?"

Amon has the most maddening shit-eating grin. As a counter-point to Diego's delightful smile, I want to smack that grin off Amon's face every time I see it. It doesn't help that he seems to be challeling Keanu Reeves with his surprised expression in the left shot. And in his defense, Sara is wearing a pretty smug expression here herself.

This scene is the new recruits formally signing on with us, I guess, but I kind of already assumed that that was a given at this point? It would have been a pretty big dick move of the game to allow you to promote them and buy them gear and then have them leave. It certainly would have suited those facial expressions though...

Apparently our buried action figure is a collector's item. It must have been discontinued after the ill-fated Macroman TV series gave all of those kids seizures. Shame that it's not in its original packaging. And that it was buried in the dirt for who knows how long. That'll really kill the resale value.

Next time: We're going to the beach, I guess? Sure, why not. Also: promotions and shopping (don't forget to vote!).

Mogri 10-28-2014 12:22 PM

Guardsman, Bowman, Monk.

Someone has to guard your mans.

Gerad 10-28-2014 01:13 PM

Guardsman! Hawkknight! Monk!

Googleshng 10-28-2014 02:44 PM

Guardsman Dolan leads to the most badass sprite in the game.

Monk Sera sucks, but people are going to want to see at least one monk and there's no way in hell you're going to want to use the next chance for one.

Hawknight Amon is what I'd be more inclined to go with but it's a tricky call. I like both final sprites ridiculous weaponry, there's a case for having 2 archers for a couple maps if I recall, but hawknights work best with others backing them up. Ultimately I'm recommending Hawknight here just because I don't really care for the final sprite of the 4th candidate.

Bunk Moreland 10-28-2014 05:10 PM

Guardsman, Hawk knight, Monk.

SladeForrester 10-29-2014 04:43 AM

Guardsman Dolan is the most metal sprite in the game (see what I did there?)

Monk Sara only because there won't be one at all if you don't, since making the next possible character a monk is just ludicrous.

Bowknight Amon since you gave wings to Diego, and I like having two archers and two flyers, and to me the sprite of the last Archer character is better as a Hawknight.

Also, licking a blade before hittng someone with it is ALWAYS disturbing.

Arithon32 11-04-2014 09:38 AM

Guardsman Dolan

Hawknight Amon

Monk Sera

Falselogic 12-31-2014 05:21 PM

on hiatus

JBear 01-27-2015 12:08 PM

Long time no see, everyone! Welcome back to Let’s Play Vandal Hearts! In our last update, we set out for some ancient ruins in search of General Magnus Dunbar, only to stumble across three members of Magnus’ unit fighting a desperate holding action against an advancing squad of monsters zombies guys who really enjoy licking swords. Our heroes solved a fiendish floodgate switch puzzle just in time to come to their rescue, and the three decided to join our squad, bolstering our ranks by almost 50%.

Their leader, Captain Dolan, revealed that the crazed soldiers were actually their former comrades, who had mysteriously transformed while the three of them were away from their camp, and that they were still under the General’s command. Although their supposed goal in coming to this island was a search for the legendary Toroah’s Ark, a religious artifact that would legitimize the nobility’s claim to rule, Dolan suspects that Magnus was under secret orders to find something else as well. With the goal of solving this mystery and freeing the former Ishtarian soldiers from Magnus’ thrall, our heroes once against set forth for the ruins…

…after some training and shopping, of course!

First up is Dolan, who you guys opted to make our first and only Guardsman.


That is quite the transformation. Dolan gets a dramatic upgrade in visual badassery, donning heavy plate from the waist up (but opting to stay in regular pants for some reason?), doubling the size of his shield and getting some nifty artwork emblazoned on it, and trading in his rapier for a giant evil-looking axe. If you ignore the fact that someone so top-heavy shouldn’t be able to walk without immediately toppling over, he looks pretty intimidating. Just don’t expect his portrait to do much emoting in conversations from now on.

Next up is Pit Amon, who trades in his bow for a harpoon and becomes our second Hawknight. I realize that Dolan is a tough act to follow, but deep-sea Amon is pretty visually underwhelming at first blush. If you ignore the incongruous wings, it looks like he’s about to go shark-hunting. I guess the goggles in his portrait get some extra textures layered on top of them?

Finally, we have Sara, our first Monk. Sara is probably the least visually intimidating of the four possible Monks (possibly due in part to the fact that she’s the only one not clad entirely in black), but she still holds herself with confidence, tying her hair up and strapping on a pair of cartoonishly oversized claws.

I’ll spare everyone pictures of the shopping trip this time around and just cut to the aftermath. Here are our new recruits after promotions and gearing. You’ll notice that Sara’s AT & DF are a little above 2/3 that of our dedicated brawlers, which is about typical for Monks. Also take note of Dolan’s amazing DF and toilet AGL, which is again typical of the class. His AT isn’t too shabby either-- although it’s a small difference, largely owing to the fact that Axes are the strongest weapon type, he currently has the highest AT in the squad. In general, you can expect similarly-equipped Guardsmen to have 10% higher AT and 25% higher DF than Swordsmen.

The next stop on our trip to the ruins is Loris Beach. I guess we’ll take a brief stop and work on our tans?

. . .

That is not a beach. I… I don’t even. I’m going to assume that this is a translation error, because I know of no definition of the word “beach” that could be used to describe a land-locked (check the map) poison swamp.

Hrm. Not too many, indeed. Even with the unfriendly terrain, this should be a walk in the park.

With two Hawknights now, that’s more archers than I’d prefer, but still nothing that we can’t handle.

Uh, Kira, how’s about you let Ash give the orders? For once, I agree with Mr. Wet Blanket. Clint, maybe you’re an asset to this squad after all.

Wait, where are you…?


Oh, come on.

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