There are a lot of cutscenes and interesting military maneuvers in this chapter, and the actual gameplay is equally interesting. The goal here isn’t to defeat everyone or anything like that, but rather, to set a bunch of things on fire. Now that’s a goal I can get behind. We’re still playing as Ike’s group, and we won’t switch back to Micaiah’s group for a few more chapters (it’s only fair to give Ike’s units some time to develop), but once we do, the conflict between the two sides will become really interesting.
It was hinted at during the end of the last chapter, but Sanaki doesn’t want to fight the Laguz Alliance. The senators—led by Lekain, as always—are the ones who are driving the conflict, not only as a way of enriching themselves, but also as a convenient pretext to eradicate the laguz who they have nothing but contempt for (with the exception of heron royals who many view as pieces of living art). They’re getting their way because Begnion’s citizens view the advance of the Laguz Alliance as an invasion, and you can start to see how the people are finding themselves aligned with the senators on this one given their lack of experience with the laguz and lack of knowledge as far as the war’s causes are concerned.
Tibarn shows up with his wings covered in blood, and Janaff and Ulki explain that the whole thing was a trap. Whereas they thought they were attacking the Begnion Central Army’s supplies, they were actually being led right to the army itself.
Naesala and his ravens were the ones who gave up the plan to Begnion so that they could set up the trap, and as before, be sure to hate Naesala as a character while you still can. He actually has a good reason for all of these betrayals and it’ll be much harder to hold it against him later on. For now, however, we find out that Zelgius had warned Tibarn (while the two fought) that the trap was to delay them, and to rush back to Phoenicis if he values the lives of his people. Save for the elderly, women, and children, the hawks of Phoenicis were wiped out before Tibarn could get back. Needless to say, he’s not in a good mood, and now that his army of hawks (who weren’t in Phoenicis for the massacre) have returned, we have enough soldiers to potentially take on the Central Army. It’ll take some planning, though.
Since the Laguz Alliance retreated at the end of the last chapter, the two forces are still deadlocked at the Ribahn River. The plan is to have most forces attack head-on while Ranulf and some of his elite soldiers are carried by the hawks to attack the Central Army from behind (to cause chaos and act as a distraction). Meanwhile, other hawks will carry Ike’s group past the battlefield to Begnion’s supply camp, which is where the senators are staying. The idea is to burn the supplies and upset the senators so that they pull rank and demand that Zelgius returns to protect them, effectively forcing him to make a bad decision and forfeit his defensive position.
There’s only one base conversation during this chapter, and in it, the characters talk about how Skrimir has taken an interest in Soren’s strategies, and also that Soren is slightly more tolerant of laguz than he was in Path of Radiance. Which still isn’t hugely tolerant, but Soren isn’t really a people person to begin with.
Ike and Mia’s have reached a B-level support, which further raises their hit and avoid bonuses. Nephenee and Soren were also able to support, which meant Nephenee losing her support with Brom, but that was a support of convenience in case they found themselves near each other toward the end of Act 2. No big loss. I also had Mist and Boyd support because he takes a lot of damage and is bound to spend a lot of time around healers. Basically, I tried to give everyone a support to give them a slight edge in combat. There’s no downside to any of this, so why not?
Some fog rolls in, which makes our plan even more likely to succeed. I’m pretty sure that the fog’s real reason for showing up is because it looks cool in the next cutscene, though, and also because it provides a handy excuse to force Ike’s group to finish this chapter’s stage within a certain number of turns.
This cutscene probably has the second worst voice acting in the game (after the Lucia cutscene at the end of Act 2), though I really like it for some reason. Tibarn sounds like Buzz Lightyear, and Ranulf and Zelgius both deliver their lines with a strange emphasis. Really, the only thing you need to take away from this cutscene is that Ranulf is personally fighting Zelgius, which is probably a bad idea.
Meanwhile, at the senators’ camp, the senators are being demanding and insufferable. Soren explains that we should probably avoid killing any of them, and though I don’t usually oblige (they have some great item drops), I figured I could get Heather into range and steal the items. Sadly, I was wrong and they escaped. I think letting them go nets you extra bonus experience, though, so it’s not a big deal.
Haar is a big part of this stage because all of the supplies need to be burned within 15 turns, and there are a lot of enemies who can swarm your foot soldiers and block their ability to move forward. There’s also terrain in certain places that slows down units like Gatrie, so it’s useful to have a unit that can fly around enemies and set things on fire. Especially when they’re able to take as many hits as Haar can.
Otherwise, this stage is pretty straightforward. Nephenee and Soren stay close to each other and wipe out large groups of enemies, Ike and Mia do the same on the other side, and I make a point to free the two stables full of horses. I think doing so is supposed to act as a distraction, but honestly, I do it because I like horses and hate senators. The boss of this stage is a magic-user who’s pretty good, and there’s also a guy with a Longbow who can become a hassle, but those are really the only enemies who pose any real threat to anyone. There are some reinforcements who show up from the top and sides late in the stage, but they’re no problem at all.
After the stage, we find Ranulf still fighting Zelgius. As laudable as it is that he’s held out this long, he’s not doing great and Zelgius is about to finish him off. It’s only when Tibarn shows up suddenly to rescue him that he manages to avoid death.
The plan goes off without a hitch. Without Zelgius’ leadership, the Begnion Central Army doesn’t stand a chance of stopping the Laguz Alliance from crossing the river.
Zelgius had warned Tibarn of the Phoenicis massacre too late to help (and stopped fighting so that he could try to save his people), so Tibarn returns the favor and allows Zelgius to go instead of fighting. He still wants blood because of what happened to Phoenicis, but there’s no place in the plan for revenge.
Ranulf is too hurt to move, but Tibarn carries him back to the rest of the army.