Chapter 10 is one of those “getting sidetracked on the way to somewhere” chapters, but it’s one of the better ones. The whole point is to rescue/talk to a small handful of characters who have been imprisoned, and some of them will end up being hugely important throughout both games. Nephenee in particular can become a one-woman army if given enough experience, though I haven’t yet decided if focusing on her is worth it while also leveling up Mia. Anyway, this is a stage that starts off with you having the option of playing through it stealthily (enemies aren’t aware of you at first), but I prefer to be seen immediately and fight through everyone who shows up.
Before we can get to the actual stage, though, there’s some story stuff that happens. Laguz bro Ranulf explains that laguz who use the term “human” mean it as a pejorative term and (probably) have violent intentions toward the group. This is just a little bit of context for later when we start coming across hostile laguz.
Ranulf also gives Elincia 20,000 gold from the king, offered out of embarrassment that he couldn’t help her. She’s all bashful about it until Ranulf tells her to give it to Ike instead as payment for escorting her safely to Begnion, which she does. It’s kind of funny to randomly get a bunch of gold because the princess sucks at accepting gifts, but I’m not one to look a gift princess in the mouth. Or whatever.
Mia needs experience, so I put two levels of bonus experience into her, but her strength stat didn’t go up enough for her to be able to reliably finish off opponents and gain experience during stages. That means it’s time to craft her a weapon! Or to be more specific, it’s time to start to craft her a weapon and then get stuck trying to rename it for almost a full minute. In my defense, the space isn’t placed where you’d expect it to be, and Gamecube controllers are kind of awkward (I’ll be playing through Radiant Dawn on a Wiimote, thank you very much).
Jacking up all of a custom sword’s stats becomes wildly expensive, but Mia’s speed and skill stats are decent. The only thing we need is for her to do more damage so that she can take out enemies, and that means raising the sword’s “atk” attribute as high as it can go. Doing just that is actually surprisingly affordable.
Leaving the base, we get a small story recap that explains that Crimea is a former fiefdom of Begnion, which is why it kind of makes sense to go there in seek of aid. It’s also why it’s inevitable that everyone we’ll meet once we get there will be all smug and superior and insufferable about the whole thing. It’s also explained that Gallia doesn’t have diplomatic ties to Begnion, which means we have to go back to Daein-occupied (or Daein-in-the-process-of-occupying) Crimea to catch a boat.
Like I said, this chapter is all about getting sidetracked. Ranulf mentions that a nearby castle has Crimean prisoners who could become valuable allies, and Ike decides that freeing them is in their best interests. Given the fact that we just hooked Mia up with a new sword in need of some fleshy experience points, I’d say he’s right.
This random guy named Volke shows up out of nowhere and claims to have information for Ike-dad, but he offers it to Ike instead once it’s explained that Ike-dad bit it. His fee, however, is 50,000 gold, and I don’t think we can embarrass Gallia’s king quite that much. Soren asks if he can pick locks, to which he replies that each lock costs 50 gold. The game then gives us the option of bringing him along. I’ve never bothered checking to see if the group loses money whenever he picks a lock, but having the option to avoid using keys is incredibly valuable; door keys and chest keys are one-size-fits-all in these games, so we can use thieves like Volke during the easier early chapters so that we have tons of keys for later, which enables us to avoid having to use a weak thief unit on more difficult stages where they could die.
Ike can talk to most of the prisoners, but the one named Kieran (on the bottom-right of the stage) wants to talk to Oscar instead. Apparently they’re rivals. Kieran will eventually be another Oscar who exists merely to disappoint us and finish off enemies when all of the good units have already been used, so that’s fitting.
The very first thing I do is throw Mia into the danger zone with her sweet new sword equipped. It’s also important to make a wall of defensive units blocking the entrance off from the rest of your characters, because enemy reinforcements will show up there as soon as someone is detected (which is immediately because stealth is dumb and Mia’s blade demands blood). Otherwise, this stage is pretty standard. Mia gets moved further and further into the danger zone as enemies keep falling, I try to avoid using Ike too much since he’s already at his max level and it’s a waste of experience (though having him weaken enemies for a unit like Marcia is always useful), and Volke runs around unlocking doors and chests. I had Boyd take out the stage boss—which was a bit of a gamble since the boss hits hard and Boyd had a 54% chance to hit—but he dropped a Master Seal afterward. Master Seals allow (non-Ike) units past level 10 to promote, though it’s best to have units promote automatically by reaching level 21 instead so that they get more stat gains.
Oh, and I brought Mist along as a healer instead of Rhys because his stat growths weren’t impressing me much. She can eventually become a useful mounted unit, but that’s not important enough to justify going out of your way to level her up.
Geoffrey is a knight who we’ll be forced to use in one of the trickier parts of the next game. He can also marry Elincia if they have an A-level support at the end of Radiant Dawn, but that would require actually using both of them in combat.
Elincia’s going to be single forever. Sorry.
One of the people we saved is a strange monk named Sephiran who was imprisoned for healing militiamen Brom and Nephenee (who both decide to join us after we saved them). He puts off a weird vibe. He’ll be popping up again later, obviously, though we won’t really get into his whole deal until the sequel.
Then Volke comes up and the game gives you another ultimatum about whether you want him to come with you or not. There’s no reason not to; more characters will always be better than fewer characters, so of course he’ll be joining our merry band of mercenaries. We won’t be using him much, but it never hurts to have the option.