This is another one of those deceptively important chapters, though unlike chapter 3, we don’t have to worry about missing something that will make it impossible to recruit a later character. The extra layers of strategy covered in this chapter will become incredibly important later, though, and there’s also a little bit of lore stuff that’ll be interesting to look back on once we get toward the end of Radiant Dawn.
Oh yeah, and this is the first detailed explanation of laguz, which are basically animal people who can transform into stronger animal people. Shinon has nothing but contempt for them and refers to them as “sub-humans,” a popular (but not very subtle) term that’s effective at demonstrating the way many/most people view them. It’s explained that Gallia is the kingdom of the beast laguz, which basically means cats. Big, adorable, murdery cats. Shinon takes an all-too brief break from being a dick to explain that there are also dragon laguz and bird laguz who live elsewhere.
We cut to Petrine, who praises Ena for having correctly deduced that the mercenary group planned on taking Princess Elincia to Gallia. Petrine is apparently hot on their trail already. Anyway, she rambles a bit about how she was upset that King Ashnard assigned Ena to her, but that things have worked out pretty well despite that.
Aaaaaaaaand we have a new victory condition introduced again. This time it’s “escape,” which basically translates to “kill the boss standing on the glowing square, move Ike over it, and choose the option that ends the map.” Interestingly, the tutorial explaining the win condition offers vague hints about good things happening if you have Ike’s companions escape before he does. I seem to remember that you get extra bonus experience for doing so, though it’ll still be a little while before we need to get into the specifics of bonus experience beyond the fact that it’ll be a thing later.
On the right side of the map is an enemy armed with a droppable Poleax, which I for some reason insist on reading as though it were a French word rather than pole-ax. That means that it’s important to shuffle around weapons (even giving some to Soren if necessary despite the fact that he can’t actually use them) so that the person who deals the killing blow can acquire it without having to drop anything.
We learn about equipping in this chapter, and the things learned here will remain hugely important (until the very end of Radiant Dawn where everyone will be using a single weapon). Characters with multiple weapons—which will be all of them we actually intend to use—can freely swap which weapons they have equipped without wasting their turn, and since the equipped weapon defaults to what they last attacked with, it can be helpful to occasionally swap back and forth. The biggest reason for doing so is that they’ll counterattack with their equipped weapon.
A fun little trick that isn’t covered by the tutorial is having a character change the equipped weapon of an ally. You do this by moving one up against the other, entering the trade menu, and moving whichever weapon you want them to have equipped to the top of the menu. The downside to doing so is that entering the trade menu locks in that character’s movement, but they can still attack if there’s an enemy in range. There are many upsides to doing this, but one of the biggest is using a item that does bonus damage against an enemy and then hiding it away to avoid wearing it down with counterattacks against enemies it does no bonus damage against. It’s important to preserve our nice things, after all.
We also learn that enemies have healers. That means that in levels with bosses who don’t move and aren’t equipped with a javelin or similar ranged attack, we can kill everyone but the boss and healers and effectively use them to grind out some easy levels. It works like this: a character attacks, getting small chunks of experience in the process and taking damage from counterattacks, and then the healers on both sides patch everyone up until everyone’s weapons and/or staves have broken and several units have leveled up. This isn’t very fun, though. It’s more a last resort we have the option of resorting to if key characters need more experience.
Characters gain proficiency in weapon types and staves as they use them, with stronger weapons coming with higher requirements. This isn’t something we need to worry about in practice (though it becomes a consideration when choosing weapons for various units in the sequel), but it does mean that we won’t be able to take a low-level unit and slap some powerful weapons on them to compensate. Basically, it’s not a good idea to change your mind about which units you want to use mid-game. New units showing up and taking the place of others is another matter entirely, but going back and trying to get a unit who’s been sitting on the sidelines for several missions up to speed isn’t a very good idea. Most likely, you’ll just get them killed.
You start the mission concealed by trees, and the game plan according to the story is to head to the left while concealed and attack the bridge first. The trees mess with your movement range, though, and dealing with that poleax guy early makes things a bit easier. That’s why I tend to move straight down with my power units (Ike, Boyd, and Titania) and take out the units that pursue from both sides. If you move to the left after that—which is where the video starts off—you can move Ike and Boyd into the danger zone and position the other characters just outside. That way you lure the moving enemies to the group, which effectively breaks the stage into three phases. First, you kill the upper enemies and the ones on the sides who pursue you immediately after breaking cover. Second, you fight down the left bridge and lure the lower enemies to your position before defeating them. Finally, you take out the three unmoving enemies near the escape point (and the healer for extra experience) and have Rhys heal injuries before moving party members to escape, with Ike going last.
Ike-dad broke away from the group at the beginning of the stage to act as a diversion, and once the stage is finished, Ike decides to go back to make sure that they’re fine while Mist and Rolf take Elincia to Gallia to meet with the king.
It’s a stupid plan, honestly, but at least Elincia hands Rhys a Mend staff because of it. Mend staves are pretty much enhanced Heal staves. Unlike healing/stat-boosting items, though, Mend staves are perfectly fine to use when the situation demands it. For example, a moment of uncertainty where you’re not sure how much damage a unit is about to take from an enemy and need a healer to restore as much of their missing health in a single turn as possible to avoid potentially losing a character.
As they leave, Elincia says a prayer to a goddess named Ashera on their behalf. This is our first look at religion in the game, and it’ll eventually play a pretty significant role in the overarching story and lore. For now, though, we’re off to find us two jagoffs and an Ike-dad (and get into trouble in the process, obviously).