This is the progress log where we start playing with fire. Well, actually wind. Which is weak to fire because the magic in this game has its own weapon triangle that dictates that. Obviously I’m not going to respect this weapon triangle either. Anyway, this is the chapter where the story really starts to kick into high gear.
The mercenaries’ strategist Soren shows up suddenly despite being part of some weird “study with other mercenaries” transfer student program (seriously, that’s kind of weird) and explains that war has broken out. They’re all stationed in Crimea, and Soren was in Melior, its capital, when he witnessed the brutal first strike by neighboring country Daein. Apart from “Crimea = good, Daein = bad,” the other big takeaway here is that Daein’s soldiers will be the ones wearing black armor.
Ike-dad hints at a certain level of familiarity with Daein’s king’s strategies and asks all of his mercenaries for input. Titania argues that they should fight for Crimea, with it effectively being the closest thing any of them have to a home. Soren (for reasons of strategic practicality), argues that they should work for Daein instead since they have the upper hand and are bound to ultimately win the war.
Of course, Ike-dad decides that they need more information before they can decide who, if anyone, to side with. To that end, he tasks Ike (and Titania as his advisor) to take a small group out to scout near the capital to see what’s happening.
Ike mopes about how much he sucks compared to his dad, and Rhys reassures him, telling him that he might one day surpass his father. Whenever I get the urge to go through these games again, this early bit of whining about everything is the bit I remember that drives me straight to Radiant Dawn. That’s probably not very fair considering that it’s really just the beginning that’s guilty of this, but still. Annoying.
Soren notes that there are a lot of corpses in the area, most of which are Daein soldiers, but that the Crimean ones appear to be members of the Imperial Guard, meaning there’s a good chance that they died protecting a member of the Crimean royalty from an ambush. While surveying the scene, Daein soldiers show up and attack with little warning upon noticing that the mercenaries are armed.
Here’s the weapon triangle for magic. To be honest, I’ve never had to bother with it because I either ignore magic for the most part or turn Ilyana (who we’ll recruit in a later chapter) into a triangle-defying force of nature. It might become a factor for this playthrough, however, because there’s a hidden ending scene in Radiant Dawn that requires Ike and Soren to have an A-level support in this game. It also requires being on a second playthrough in that game, so we won’t actually see it when we reach the end of the Radiant duology, but it can’t hurt to try to make something out of Soren. Besides, having the option of going through the second game again at some later point to see something new in my favorite game of all time would be nice.
My style of play is probably best described as “instinctual and haphazard,” but it works because of the way enemies prioritize their targets. Take Shinon and Soren—I can comfortably leave Soren uncovered without having to worry too much because I know that enemies will always go for those who can’t attack back first. Shinon is an archer who can only attack/counterattack diagonally or from two spaces away, so melee units focus on him so long as he’s within their range. Since he’s strong enough at this point to take the damage (and we have Rhys nearby in case of emergency), this is a great way to lure enemies to the group without causing the leftmost ones to attack at the same time. That way we can safely heal between groups and get Rhys some experience without having to worry about his safety.
This comes with a slight risk, though. Soren is weak enough at this point that getting hit by two attacks is enough to finish him off, and anyone who can’t reach Shinon will go for him instead. He’s fast enough that getting hit by two attacks at this point would require two enemies to engage him, though, so keeping allies at his sides and taking out the archer who comes with the first wave should ensure that he stays alive.
That’s mostly possible because his counterattack isn’t likely to finish off an enemy who attacks at full health. The risk is that he has a skill called Adept that’s sometimes triggered, and this gives him an extra attack. A single extra attack still won’t finish off an enemy with full health at this point, but if Adept is triggered twice, he could kill off the attacking enemy and open up a space for another. The risk of that happening is pretty remote, and I chanced it without anything bad happening, but it’s not particularly smart to put yourself in that position in the first place.
With the rightmost wave of enemies dealt with, we can turn on the danger zone and arrange our characters along its outer edges. This isn’t always necessary, but it’s a good practice to get into since you never know when you’ll need the extra bit of distance on the next turn to deal with an unexpectedly difficult foe.
The obvious play here is to send one of the stronger units in to slowly lure enemies to the group, but one of the Daein soldiers has a Knight Killer weapon. This does bonus damage to mounted units like Titania, so it’s best to be careful about rushing in with her. There are also some archers that need to be dealt with, so I move Ike into range toward the bottom of the screen and let everyone come to him.
Dealing with the archers and Knight Killer guy takes priority, though not if it means moving Rhys or Soren before everyone else; the boss here has a javelin, and javelins can be used as an indirect attack to hit, say, a healer hiding behind another character. It’s crucial to wait with your weaker characters so that the danger zone indicates where they’ll be safe once it becomes the boss guy’s turn. It’s surprisingly easy to move a weak unit somewhere safe, then move a stronger character and realize that it was only safe because said stronger character was shielding it.
At the very beginning of the chapter, Mist brings Ike the “regal sword” on behalf of Ike-dad. This thing is pretty handy in general, but it’s at its most potent here, doing bonus damage against the boss. If you weaken him a bit with other characters (though probably not Shinon, because he could crit and steal the experience), taking him down with the regal sword should be a piece of cake.
I’m too OCD to play Fire Emblem games and allow people to die, but I assume that you get some different dialogue here if someone actually died. Like, “yeah, Shinon died right in his stupid face because we threw him at all those soldier guys totally not on purpose.” And then they make him the laziest grave ever. And spit on it.
Rhys finds a mysterious woman nearby who passes out (“oooh” is the sound of fainting, by the way) and they decide to bring her back with them. Soren’s not a fan of the decision because he’s a pragmatist and this has trouble written all over it, but he accepts it anyway because he’s not a drama queen like some Ikes we know.
In the next chapter, we surprise massacre people who try to surprise massacre us and learn the identity of the fainting woman. Needless to say, things are finally starting to happen, and we’re doing pretty well in terms of leveling. I mean, Soren gained a level that was nothing special, Boyd is still slightly stunted, and Rhys gained a level that didn’t give him any defensive stuff, but Ike is already becoming monstrous and Gatrie has seen a couple levels that further upped his defense.
I’ll take it.