In the first chapter, Elincia was the lead character. Then it was Nephenee and Brom. The previous stage had Lucia as the lead. Now Geoffrey is the central character, and we’ll be suffering his band of buffoons for this chapter (and one in Act 3). Kieran is mediocre. Astrid is as bad as ever (I capped a bunch of her stats in the Path of Radiance save data I used for previous playthroughs, and she was still every bit as awful). The fact that Marcia and her brother Makalov are factors in this stage tells you just about everything you need to know about the group’s general ineptitude.
The pre-chapter narration is a reminder that Bastian and Ike, arguably the two most capable of diffusing the current situation, are elsewhere. Bastian is in Daein, and Ike disappeared to who-knows-where after leaving the court. Without them, quickly crushing Ludveck’s rebellion is the only way to restore order and avoid a civil war.
There are going to be a lot of horse-mounted units in the upcoming stage, and believe it or not, Marcia will wreck a comical number of them with this Horseslayer lance. We’re talking one-hit kills that thin out the enemy numbers and in doing so ease everyone else’s burden. Without this thing, the stage is a slog.
The first base conversation involves a lot of different characters interacting. Geoffrey shows up to Calill’s bar to pick up Makalov, who’s drunk the night before the battle because he’s a short-sighted loser in general, and Astrid is there defending him from criticism because she’s got a bad case of the love goggles. None of that’s remotely important information, of course, though it at least explains why Astrid is a Crimean royal knight rather than returning to Begnion at the end of the war like she intended to at the end of Path of Radiance. It’s not wildly important to know that Calill and Largo (the latter now missing a right arm) adopted this little girl named Amy, either, but she shows up later and that’s why I’m pointing out her presence now.
Also in the first base conversation, Calill is told that Elincia doesn’t want Crimeans like her fighting their own countrymen, so the non-Crimean Devdan (claiming to be a different character named Danved) offers to join up. Some back story: Devdan and Largo had supports in Path of Radiance revolving around Devdan’s ability to throw his voice, and he created a sketch named Nadved that he convinced Largo was a real person. So I guess he has a weird game where he rearranges the letters in his name and pretends to be someone else? Or something? Whatever the case, he’ll actually have a role to play here, being one of the less-sucky usable characters.
The second base conversation is between Elincia and Geoffrey, and she gives him his Brave Lance from Path of Radiance. Without that context, this image is amazing.
The third and final base conversation is one in which Kieran is given a Silver Axe. He’s really not a great unit, but we don’t exactly have better options right now.
Geoffrey taking troops with him means that there are fewer left at the capital protecting the queen, and Geoffrey admits that he’s worried about this, but Lucia tells him that she’ll handle everything and implies that they have some kind of backup plan in case something happens to put Elincia in danger while he’s away.
Something like Ludveck sacrificing a bunch of his men as a distraction, for example. Two-thirds of Crimea’s army is marching on Felirae (4,000 soldiers, leaving 2,000 protecting the queen), and Ludveck intends to attack the queen while the main army is busy dealing with Felirae. Ludveck’s forces there believe he’s going to bring his army to aid them, but are actually being thrown to the wolves as part of a giant feint.
This stage gives you yellow allied units who you can control to a certain extent, and they make excellent distractions. I like to think of this stage in three parts: the initial group (easily killed), the second group (in the middle; these are also easily killed, but receive a lot of horse-mounted reinforcements on the left that Marcia will have to deal with), and the last bit which is where things get challenging. The problem with the last bit is that you don’t have access to a healer, your allied units are bound to be near death by the point you push up that far, there are rock-throwing ballistae that do area damage, there’s an enemy with a Horseslayer lance, and enemies have Longbows that can reach anyone who attacks the boss but doesn’t kill him.
Oh, and the boss has a weapon that gets a lot of critical hits. Basically, I got lucky here rushing Danved to the boss, because not only did he dodge an archer who would have probably weakened him to the point where where the boss’ critical killed him, but moving Geoffrey nearby (he couldn’t reach the glowing point to end the stage because of bad positioning on my part) distracted the archers for some reason. If they had attacked Danved instead on their turn, he wouldn’t have stood a chance. One last thing: I’ve talked about herbs restoring 10 HP and vulneraries restoring 20, but I haven’t talked about concoctions. These restore 40 HP and are the strongest healing item outside of elixirs, which restore 100% of a character’s health. Like elixirs, I try to avoid using these until a bit later on.
After the battle, Geoffrey realizes that the entire thing has been a setup. Kieran’s first instinct is to rush back to the capital, but Geoffrey tells him that this is what Ludveck wants and that they have “contingencies in place,” ordering him to light some flares to notify the capital that the backup plan is needed. He also recognizes that there are likely some ambushes waiting for them on the road back to the capital, so he sends some scouts out to ensure the safety of a different way back.
Haar is still around helping out, and Lucia tells him that she suspected something like this might happen and sent Elincia to a place called Fort Alpea to ensure her safety. She tells Haar that she’s going to check in with some contacts to see if there are any messages from Elincia, and instructs him to fly to Fort Alpea to warn the queen if she doesn’t come back. She also sends a messenger to Geoffrey, though I’m not entirely sure whether he was being told of the queen’s location (which seems like something he would already know) or if the messenger is instructed to only warn Geoffrey if something happens to Lucia. It’s a little unclear, but doesn’t really matter.
Lucia goes to meet her contact, but he’s dead (proving yet again that she has no business being a spy). Ludveck knew about the meeting ahead of time and has already found out that the queen is at Fort Alpea, likely from the contact he killed, so having Lucia as a prisoner is just one more piece of leverage to use against Elincia.