Remember way back when I missed a hidden Beastfoe skill and mentioned that it’d be more convenient than necessary? This chapter is where it would have had most of its value (probably—again, I’ve never actually picked up that skill because I’ve never followed a guide while playing), but as you’ll see, having it isn’t remotely necessary thanks to our Dawn Brigade murder buddies. This is the first time you’ll see Zihark and Volug’s true potential, and it’s beautiful to watch them carve through waves upon waves of enemies of enemies who simply can’t hit them. This chapter and the next are two of my favorites in this game, and I always look forward to playing through them because it’s where long-laid plans start to truly click.
The pre-chapter narration fleshes out what’s happening slightly, reminding the player that Crimea, Daein, and dragon laguz country Goldoa have thus far remained neutral in the war between Begnion the the Laguz Alliance. Daein in particular has been busy with reconstruction after finally defeating the Begnion occupational forces and establishing its sovereignty, and yet King Pelleas suddenly has a change of heart and sends Micaiah’s forces into the war on Begnion’s side.
You know, I’m really glad I mentioned this river by name when it first came up instead of assuming that it’d be a one-off location, because a lot of stuff has revolved around the Ribahn. Gallia and Begnion’s Central Army were locked in a standoff there, then Gallia crossed after Ike’s group attacked the senators to draw Zelgius away, and now Gallia is retreating across it while Micaiah’s forces wait in ambush.
Sothe isn’t happy about this turn of events and questions whether they’re doing the right thing (when Micaiah brings up that soldiers are excited to hunt laguz, he says that they’ve “gone from being freedom fighters to bigots in the blink of an eye”), but Micaiah is Daein’s general and has no choice but to obey while hoping that Pelleas has good reasons for joining the fight. As for Sothe, he recognizes that he might have to end up fighting Ike, but he intends on staying to protect Micaiah regardless.
Zihark and Volug’s time together during Act 1’s endgame was enough that their support level can be raised, so they’re now maxed out at a +45 avoid bonus. I’ve always assumed that this means that enemy hit percentages are 45% lower than they’d be otherwise, but whatever the case, it makes it absurdly difficult for enemies to hit them. In fact, it’s such a great bonus that Volug can stay untransformed against certain enemies—which means facing them with reduced stats—and survive their attacks. This gives him more experience than usual and will help him level up.
In the shop, there’s a Beast Killer dagger (ideal for Sothe) and a Physic staff that could come in handy later. I definitely bought the Physic staff, but I can’t for the life of me remember if I actually bought the dagger. I thought I did, but I definitely didn’t give it to Sothe for this chapter and that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m just bringing it up now in case I find a Beast Killer in the convoy later on. If that happens, this is where I bought it. It’s not crucial to have by any stretch of the imagination, though, because Sothe’s days of being this team’s heavy hitter are officially over, and having him defeat a lot of enemies during the upcoming stage means fewer are available for Zihark and Volug (who need to catch up to Ike’s group as quickly as possible).
Yeah, there’s no way I’m going through all of these base conversations one at a time. Basically, Micaiah tries to engage the original Dawn Brigade members in conversation about what they’re doing, and they all understand her situation (Nolan in particular understands that she doesn’t believe in the war she’s been tasked with fighting) and are gifted with special weapons that Pelleas wanted them to have. Jill, on the other hand, gets a Brave Axe and is openly critical of Daein’s king for getting involved. That axe goes into the convoy for later. As for Sothe, he gets a Master Crown, which promotes second-tier units at or above level 10 to their third-tier class. Combat units can promote by reaching level 21, though, so I might end up using this on a healer later on (they don’t get much experience) or selling it for extra gold.
The weapons that the original Dawn Brigade members receive during this chapter’s base conversations are all unique items that can only be used by them. I’m going to be using Nolan for this chapter, but my strategy works just as well without his special axe because he only comes along as a human shield. There’s no real reason for him to do damage at all (seriously, I could strip him of all weapons and nothing would change), though I decided to let him fight to take him to the class change. That way, he can potentially help out during a later chapter that’s always a bit chaotic.
Zihark is going to be attacked by a lot of enemies in this chapter. Most of these enemies will be gunning specifically for him, in fact, because he’ll be singularly capable of killing almost everything that comes his way, opening up room for more enemies to engage. Giving him this Vantage skill isn’t at all necessary, but it makes his performance in this stage even more impressive. Also, note that the Paragon skill that Sothe was using during the swamp stage of Act 1 is now on Zihark. That will enable him to acquire a truly dizzying amount of experience in this stage unlike anything you’ve seen thus far in Path of Radiance or Radiant Dawn.
Skrimir is back up on his feet by the time the beast tribes begin their retreat across the Ribahn, but it’s becoming foggy again and Ranulf doesn’t like the low visibility.
Before long, Lyre smells something unusual in the air, and she realizes that it’s the smell of torches. This alerts the group to Daein’s presence (though they don’t yet know who the soldiers belong to). Ranulf runs off to try to stop the river crossing.
Of course, it’s too late and there are already a bunch of laguz near Micaiah’s ambush point. Funnily enough, this chapter is best approached from a defensive standpoint rather than a offensive one despite Micaiah supposedly being the one on the attack. That’s doubly true since Zihark can be recruited to the other side by certain enemy characters (Lethe for certain, and maybe another character), but keeping all of Micaiah’s forces bunched together at the bottom-left starting point ensures that none of those enemy characters ever move into his range.
You can bring 12 characters into this stage. Doing so would be a giant mistake. That’s too many characters to protect, and keeping that many bunched together is unmanageable. Instead, I bring 6 characters with me: Micaiah, Sothe, Nolan, Laura, Zihark, and Volug. Micaiah and Laura are the healers for this one, Nolan and Sothe are human shields, and Zihark and Volug (mostly the former) are the attackers.
There are some yellow allied units who enemies will focus on during the first turn, so that’s when you need to get set up. The Black Knight will reappear as an allied unit before long, and it’s hugely important to leave a space for him away from enemies so that he can’t steal experience. This stage ends when 46 enemies have been defeated, and he’ll ideally be responsible for none of those kills. In fact, toward the end of the stage, I was using him solely to trade healing staves back and forth between Micaiah and Laura to avoid wasting a Mend staff on minor injuries.
I kept Volug untransformed for awhile to show off a little and get him some experience, but eventually let him transform to be on the safe side. The real star of the show, however, was Zihark. He was positioned so that he’d be attacked both from the top and right every turn, and this allowed him to rake in enough experience to go from being level 6 of his second-tier class to level 3 of his third-tier class. That’s 17 levels in one stage, enough to catch up with Ike’s group. Beating transformed laguz provides more experience than untransformed ones, so only attacking transformed laguz helps maximize the amount of experience gained.
Ranulf recognizes Sothe and the two have a small “hey, I know you” conversation. Then Skrimir roars in the distance and Sothe recognizes they have a lion laguz.
Sothe tells Micaiah that lions are the strongest of the beast tribes, and with Ranulf having reminded him that Ike is fighting on the other side, he advises Micaiah that they’ll be killed if they try to follow. Their only choice is to let everyone escape for the moment, though their ambush has successfully kept the Gallian forces from retreating across the Ribahn and boxed in the Laguz Alliance (Daein is blocking the river, and the Begnion Central Army is coming from the other side).
Later, Tauroneo arrives at their camp, having concocted an excuse to check in on things. Micaiah asks him to help convince the king to negotiate a peace treaty to end this “pointless war” as quickly as possible, and he agrees to try.