One of the things I really don’t care for about Path of Radiance (and Fire Emblem 7, too) is how far it goes turning the early levels into tutorials. It’s understandable wanting to get new players eased into things, but at the same time, it makes replaying the game once you already know how it works a bit of a drag.
Chapter 1 is the obligatory “go kill some bandits/brigands” level that shows up in most Fire Emblem games. Since they’re determined to not be very strong and everyone is treating Ike with kid gloves, it’s decided that he and Titania—deputy commander of the mercenaries—will go to take out these bandits while the real mercenaries go off to do more important and pressing things.
Everyone starts tutorializing at Ike, and Titania tells them to shut the hell up.
She then starts lobbing her own tutorials at him, in this case reminding him about the weapon triangle. If there’s one thing you’ll learn by the end of this, it’s that I’m not a firm believer in the weapon triangle. I’m glad it’s there, but the Emblemtron 9000 often overrules the silly rock/paper/scissors dynamic and allows for a better approach, so I’ll have lance users attacking axe users and so on fairly frequently.
We also get an optional tutorial for entering doors. Apparently we can’t enter closed doors, which is a totally mind-blowing revelation that’s not at all immediately obvious. I’m mostly just including this so that everyone can see how patronizing the optional tutorials are and why I’ve never been able to get through them.
There are a few things learned here that probably wouldn’t be obvious without the game first going over them, though. For example, bandits can destroy buildings if they get to an open door before you do. Since visiting buildings gets you special items (including a sword and permanent HP-boosting Seraph Robe on this map), we’re going to prioritize not letting that happen. Permanent stat-boosting items are going to end up being a pretty big deal, and while I won’t immediately use them, holding onto them to max out certain stats as necessary before the very end will grant bonuses to specific characters when they show up in Radiant Dawn.
I’ve put some effort into keeping enemies away from Titania, and that’s mostly because she eats up experience. Many Fire Emblem games begin by giving you a unit that’s already incredibly powerful, but who will eat up experience best used to level up your weaker units during those early chapters (you can see that defeating an enemy gave her 2 experience out of the 100 needed to reach a new level, whereas the same enemy would have provided much more to a weaker unit). Unlike most of those units throughout the series, however, Titania will be a goddess of destruction throughout both games. Right now her primary role is to act as a roadblock and quickly deal with enemies who could potentially pose a problem.
Pressing A on an enemy causes their attack range to show. We’re going to call this the danger zone for obvious reasons. This thing can be massively useful, but it’s honestly not something I’ve bothered using in this game or its sequel before. Because of that, I might occasionally forget to rely on it. You can see how powerful it is in the video above, though. There are two enemies left, and I activate (and deactivate) the danger zone for both of them to get a feeling for where characters need to be positioned to stay out of danger. What I’m doing here is moving Ike within range of the sword-user to move him closer to the group, and also trying to bait the boss because I couldn’t remember if he moves or not. Apparently not.
Oscar’s role in both games is going to be mostly limited to weakening enemies for better characters to kill like in the video. Since he’s a mounted unit, he gets to move after attacking (I think it’s your max movement minus whatever you used to move into attack range), making him ideal for these kinds of early hit-and-run tactics. Titania also gets movement after attacking, of course, but she’s so powerful that she’d kill anything that comes against her. That’s not ideal for leveling the others.
We also get introduced to the idea of enemies who camp on top of “seize” points having their HP restored slightly after each turn. If we had a healer, we could farm this guy for a nice chunk of experience, but right now doing so is too much of a risk. Boyd weakens him up a bit, then Ike goes in for the killing blow.
This is the second level Ike has gained in this chapter, with the first upping his HP and strength. This one ups his strength, skill, and speed, which is pretty great early luck. Later chapters are going to have lots of different characters gaining levels like this because of how long and filled with enemies they are, and it won’t be practical to highlight characters’ stat gains because it’d get exhausting, but these early Ike levels make a pretty big difference. The sooner he becomes strong enough to stay in the fight, the faster he’ll snowballs into an unstoppable killing machine.
Speaking of Ike, he starts to fret about how strong his dad is compared to him, and Titania makes it sound like there’s some secret he’s unaware of. Then she’s all like, “oh wait, I shouldn’t tell you about that yet, so nevermind.” Not cool, Titania.
We still have two chapters that are kind of tutorial-y after this, but after that the actual game starts to take off and we won’t have training wheels holding us back as much.