All right, I officially remember why chapter 17 sucks. Even getting through all four sections of it on my first attempt without anyone dying (and I was determined to do it without reinforcements or having to reload one of the mercy-saves it allows you to make between sections), it was an incredibly stressful and time-consuming process. Just look at the video of the level that I embedded further down. It’s almost an hour and a half long. That’s insane. I mean, Radiant Dawn has maps that can take a long time to complete, but chapter 17 of Path of Radiance is an entirely different beast.
Nealuchi is kind of like a self-deprecating grandfather figure/adviser to Naesala, but he’s also incredibly fond of the herons. I haven’t talked about him yet because he’s ultimately unimportant and that’s really all you need to know about him, but here he ends up telling Tibarn about how Naesala sold Reyson to Oliver and imploring him to rush to the Serenes Forest to help. Tibarn deduces that the plan was probably for Naesala to quietly save Reyson at some point, knowing that no harm would come to him because of Oliver’s excessive appreciation for beauty, but says that it’s unacceptable how Naesala “spit on” his friendship with Reyson by tricking him.
As for the base conversations, there are three of them and only the first one really matters. In it, a servant explains that the forest is large and impacts movement (basically, this is another chapter like the desert where a unit like Gatrie can barely move and is therefore worthless). He also says that Oliver’s forces have a lot of horse-mounted units and magic-users, which is actually surprisingly helpful information. The other two conversations don’t matter. Jill just talks about how she hasn’t left because maybe laguz aren’t the monsters she was led to believe (no duh), and Devdan has a weird talk with Ike about flowers and emotion and other things that seem to be driven mostly by brain damage. When he shows up in Radiant Dawn, it’ll be under the pseudonym “Danved” and he’ll refuse to acknowledge being the same person. He won’t see much use in either game.
One of the chests in the last chapter had this “Full Guard” item in it. Basically, it nullifies bonus damage, which means that Marcia can equip it and no longer have to worry about archers doing extra damage against her. She’s still pretty fragile, but it shouldn’t be possible for a bow-user to kill her in a single round now. That’s one less thing to worry about, and simplifying your strategy always helps on crazy stages.
Nephenee has great defenses against both physical attacks and magic. She also hits like a truck. Since the servant in the base conversation gave us a heads-up about there being lots of mounted units, buying/giving both her and Marcia a Knight Killer lance (which does bonus damage to horse-mounted units) is a good idea. It’ll allow Nephenee in particular to gain tons of experience and hit the class change.
Since Marcia still can’t take much punishment, indirect attacks with a javelin against enemies who can’t counterattack are going to be a factor in keeping her alive. She’s really falling behind in the experience department, though, so I craft her a special javelin and crank both the damage and hit rate up (the latter because javelins don’t have a great hit rate). It costs a little bit more, but I went through my inventory and sold all of the red/blue/white gems dropped by enemies up to this point, which meant a sudden 20,000 gold payday. Yeah, a lance that costs 5,000 gold isn’t a big deal.
After a few days of searching without any luck, there’s only one area left deep in the forest where Reyson could be. Sanaki hangs back with Elincia, Sigrun, and Tanith, and waits for Ike to bring Reyson to her so that they can speak.
Oliver’s search has led him to the same area, and he tells his guards to murder Ike’s entire group as soon as he finds out that they’re mobilized nearby. One of his men protests at first, implying that doing so would be a subversion of the apostle’s will, but Oliver claims that he can “deal with her” afterward. Psh, politicians.
This stage is split into four pieces, with each part having a different win condition. The first section requires killing all enemies. The second section is has the “arrive” condition where you just have to get an ally to the glowing spot. The third section has enemies spawn all around you and requires lasting 10 turns. The last section’s win condition is killing Oliver. There are enemy reinforcements who show up throughout the entire stage (so it’s a seriously bad idea to split up too much), and you’re also given the option to bring more of your units into combat as reinforcements between parts. I wasn’t sure exactly where they’d come in, though, and all of my heavy hitters were already invited, so I chose to avoid reinforcements.
Apart from the enemy reinforcements and need to block off avenues of attack with characters like Nephenee, the first three parts are fairly simple. Zihark and Mia and Boyd dodge a lot of attacks and help Nephenee deal with the physical units, Soren deals with a lot of the magical units, and the name of the game is thinning enemy numbers and making sure that enemies with indirect attacks don’t ever get a free shot at Mist or Soren (at least, not with anything physical). The fourth section gets a little tricky, though, because there’s a mage with long-range fire magic, and moving to the left of the screen past a certain point seems to spawn Tibarn (along with his two allies Janaff and Ulki) and Reyson. Tibarn will absolutely wreck everyone, and there are items dropped by enemies that you miss out on if he gets to them first. I was lucky to prioritize dealing with enemies on the right first before moving Nephenee to single-handedly deal with enemies on the left, but she only managed to get the guy who drops an Adept skill. Oliver’s healing Nosferatu magic was lost because Tibarn killed him. I kind of like that from a story perspective, though.
Reyson was defeated during the fourth part, but it’s a hassle keeping him alive when controlled by the computer. It doesn’t matter anyway—he’s not dead in the game, and he’ll even join us soon despite dying on this map. This is one of the rare times where a character can fall in battle without there being any real consequences.
Oh yeah, and be sure to listen to the music at 39:10. Oliver has the best music. Baroque and unapologetic. It’s almost a shame to see him go. Almost.
Between the second and third sections, another heron named Leanne is found (and Ike rescues her, so he suffers stat penalties for the third and fourth parts). She turns out to be Reyson’s sister who was thought dead, but was actually kept hidden away in a sleep by the forest itself. Tibarn and the others only help out during the fourth part because they recognize that Ike is fighting with a heron on his back to protect it, and they quickly realize who she is once the fighting stops. Leanne speaks in an ancient tongue, though, so all of her dialogue bits are unreadable. But pretty.
After a little convincing, Reyson and Leanne meet with Sanaki, and she apologizes profusely on behalf of Begnion for the massacre. She even bends her knee to them, which causes Sigrun to freak out a little because it’s not really apostle behavior. Reyson is reluctant to forgive her, but Leanne tells him that she knows what happened (because forest magic!) and convinces him to accept Sanaki’s apology.
Everyone is invited to an altar in the Serenes Forest for some kind of heron ceremony, and it turns out to be a galdr (a magical song, basically) that brings the forest back to life. Ike notices that the song they sing is similar to one they’re familiar with from their mother, and Mist says that it’s close, but not quite identical.
After the ceremony, the forest is revived and green and happy. Nasir says something enigmatic (pictured above), while Soren seems to be in a terrible mood for some equally enigmatic reason. We really need to start doing background checks before allowing people to be recruited into our little group. Way too many enigmas.