A whole lot of stuff just happened at the end of Act 3, and Act 4 only piles on more and more. Most of it makes sense, though there are a small handful of things that I’m finding to be poorly communicated. It hurts to say that about my favorite game of all time, but at least one of these things can be rendered a non-problem on subsequent playthroughs (depending on which choices you make; obviously if you don’t choose any of the new options on later playthroughs, the same issues are likely to present themselves). This first time through can definitely become a bit confusing, though, so I’ll try to go over everything that happens in a clear way.
Before the chapter even starts, there are a ridiculous number of developments that occur. If I were to post all of them in screenshot form, there’d be 30 or more screenshots at the end of things and it’d be a jumbled mess. It makes more sense as a video, anyway, since there are a lot of back-and-forth conversations that explain things. Basically, the “dark god” feared throughout both games is named Yune, and she’s not actually evil, nor is Ashera inherently good. Yune is the embodiment of chaos, while Ashera embodies order, and there’s a connection between the two (which will be explained more later, but right now Yune says that they’re sisters and that’s close enough for now) so that one of them being awakened causes the other to wake as well. Yune is the name of Micaiah’s bird, and she’s been guiding Micaiah and the herons even while she slept in Lehran’s Medallion. She was the voice who told Mist to wake her up with the song of release rather than letting her break out.
Yune then gives everyone a history lesson: a long time ago, the beorc and laguz promised Ashera that they wouldn’t start a war between all of the nations for a thousand years, and if they failed to keep their promise, Ashera would destroy them and start over. Part of this promise was that if Ashera was awakened by a war (because it’d wake up Yune), then she could destroy the world as soon as she wakes up. If Yune was awakened by the song of release, however, then the two of them were supposed to consult each other before doing anything, which obviously didn’t happen. Yune wants to turn everyone back to normal, but doing so requires those strong few who weren’t petrified (because neither goddess has regained their full power after waking) making it to Ashera’s tower in Sienne, Begnion’s capital.
Everyone gets split up into three armies, and while the herons and main party members of each army are fixed, units like Nephenee and Zihark and Volug can be moved around. I sent Zihark and Volug with Micaiah, Nephenee and Boyd with Elincia (which means Nephenee being in a different army than Soren and missing out on support bonuses, but she’s strong enough that this isn’t a problem), and Mia with Ike’s army. Speaking of Ike, he gets a class change here. Finally, Ranulf tells him that Zelgius is the Black Knight, which was always kind of obvious given their similar builds and armor, but it’s nice to have the confirmation. Remember in Path of Radiance when the Black Knight failed to kill Ena? And then when he failed to kill Jarod in Act 1 Chapter 9? That struck me as incompetence at first, but it makes total sense given Zelgius’ stated desire to avoid taking life where possible.
There isn’t a whole lot of new information here, though it’s a nice recap of what’s happened. Yune split everyone up into three armies to increase the possibility that at least one group makes it to Ashera’s tower (the Tower of Guidance) intact, and we get a glimpse of several of the characters accompanying Micaiah: Sigrun, Skrimir, Sanaki, Sothe, Sleanne, and Snaesala. Sorry, sorry—it just occurred to me how many characters in this army have names beginning with S.
Ever the tool, Lekain was originally turned to stone like all the others, but Ashera restored the senators and many of the Begnion soldiers, telling them all that they were petrified by “dark god” Yune. Now they fancy themselves her “Disciples of Order,” and while it’s kind of funny that Ashera is lying to everyone to trick them into helping her wipe out all living things, their teleporting soldiers are going to become our primary enemies in Act 4. We’re not dealing with pushovers anymore.
Micaiah’s group stops in an empty town (you know, because the vast majority of the people in the world have been turned into statues) to rest after traveling for awhile.
Skrimir confronts Naesala about his betrayal ruining the Laguz Alliance, intending to attack him, but Leanne tells Skrimir not to be a bully. Also, that Naesala suffers, to which he responds by telling her that he wishes she’d stop using her heron powers on him. He flies out of reach with Nealuchi and Leanne in tow, telling Skrimir that someone wants his head even more than he does. None of this is hugely important, but I adore the art and you can really see how attached Leanne is to Naesala here.
Everyone shares bonus experience (and items, I think) during Act 4, so we now have a huge pile of it. Of course, third-tier characters will burn through even this large of an amount fairly quickly, so as always, it’s best saved until characters get close to the level cap and have capped many of their stats.
One of the few story-specific class changes I remember is Micaiah’s third-tier class change, which happens at the beginning of Act 4’s multiple-stage endgame sequence. That means she needs to gain as much experience as possible in her next couple stages, so the Paragon skill that’s been on Zihark goes onto her.
The first base conversation is between Sanaki and Naesala, and she starts off by mentioning that she heard about his confrontation with Skrimir and that she knows that he had good reasons for betraying the Laguz Alliance (though what those reasons actually are aren’t explained until the endgame). When she offers to speak to Skrimir on his behalf, however, he refuses, explaining that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of him so long as the people of Kilvas are safe. Then the conversation switches to Sanaki being worried about Micaiah being able to sing the song of release when she couldn’t. She wants to ask Micaiah about it, but she can’t work up the courage and is afraid of what she might find out in the process. She feels that the people in Begnion were only loyal to her because they thought she was the apostle, and it’s pretty obvious that she lacks the apostle abilities that Micaiah has.
The second base conversation is where things get confusing. Micaiah mentions that the blood pact mark has faded and wonders if it’s because of the air or Yune’s influence on her body. Thing is, it’s never shown that she inherits the mark from Pelleas. Art of it exists (I went through all of the viewable art I unlocked on my previous playthroughs to find shots that would work for header images, and there’s one shot of the blood pact mark on Micaiah’s arm), but I’m not sure if it shows up later/on a second playthrough or if it was simply cut for some reason. Whatever the case, it’s (awkwardly) implied that she ends up with the blood pact mark.
In the third base conversation, Muston (everyone in our merchant convoy avoided turning to stone) randomly gives Micaiah a Rexbolt tome. This is supposedly the strongest thunder magic in the game, but I don’t really use thunder magic. Shrug.
The last base conversation is between Skrimir and Micaiah. He finds a Satori Sign hidden in the ground and she mentions seeing a vision where rays of light fell from the sky and buried themselves. I took this as a hint that there may be some hidden items on the ground in the next stage, and I moved my characters all around right before finishing off the last enemy to check, but no one found anything. Oh well.
Micaiah’s farsight kicks in and she realizes that they’re about to be attacked. No one sees or can otherwise sense anyone nearby, but she tries to convince everyone that enemies are coming. Skrimir assures her that no one doubts her abilities, though, especially now that a literal goddess speaks through her, and she goes “Oh.”
Sanaki becomes a playable character in this chapter (because of a weird one-sided rivalry she has with Micaiah), and will remain usable all the way to the end of the game. She’s got some killer magic, so she’ll definitely be seeing some use.
The vast majority of the enemies in this stage are at the top-right, so Zihark and Volug block off the top of the beginning area and start thinning the enemy’s numbers until they can move deeper in and distract the bulk of the enemy’s forces. So long as they’re the only characters who enemies can reach, no one else has to worry about being rushed. However, there are a small number of enemies with long-range light magic, and these guys almost killed both Leanne and Edward.
Enemy reinforcements teleport in at various places, but most will beeline for Zihark and Volug. The only that don’t are those that teleport in at the bottom-right, and one guy who teleports in the area everyone is protecting (but Nealuchi and Maurim take him out without much problem). As for all of the forces on the right, that’s a bit more complicated. Three characters are needed to block off that side, and while Naesala and Nolan are ideal, I couldn’t find a solid third character. First I tried Sothe, but he took too much damage. Then I tried Skrimir (while untransformed so that he could gain some experience), but he almost died. Eventually I used Sigrun, and she was much more effective. Micaiah’s Thani tome does bonus damage against horse-mounted units, so she remains behind the line and snipes enemies and heals allies as appropriate, gaining huge chunks of experience in the process. Leanne remains near her so that she can act twice per turn. There are some archers on the right side who remain in place so long as no one moves into their range, so once the reinforcements stop teleporting in on that side, (transformed) Skrimir moves into their range one by one so that Micaiah can finish them off for even more experience.
After the battle, Skrimir remarks that they were particularly tough enemies, which is weird because Sigrun brings up that she personally knew some of them, and that they were new recruits rather than elite forces. Yune shows up (you can differentiate between her and Micaiah because Micaiah has yellow eyes and Yune has red eyes) and explains that they were tough because they were blessed by Ashera. This is a similar blessing to the one put on Ragnell and Alondite, but a significantly lesser one because of the number of enemies who needed blessing. She also explains that “no one is good enough for her,” and that Ashera is planning on petrifying all of her Disciples of Order once she’s done using them against us. Talk about harsh.
Yune mentions that she’d love to bless us in the same way, but hasn’t yet regained enough of her power after waking up to be able to do such a thing. Later on, though, she’ll bless our weapons to make them unbreakable for the last three endgame chapters, which is the point at which we’ll have endless long-range magic.
Yune leaves when Sothe comes around, and Micaiah tells him that despite being called a dark god for so long, she can tell that Yune “loves beorc and laguz with all her heart.” When Sothe says that he won’t call her a dark god anymore, Yune takes over Micaiah again and tells him that Micaiah needs him, which is why he can’t die. Then she gives him a class change to ensure that he’ll suck a little less.
Yune leaves and both Micaiah and Sothe realize that the Disciples of Order called out Lekain by name during the stage. They recognize this as an opportunity to break the blood pact while (almost) everyone is petrified and therefore unable to fall sick from the curse. We’re going to get into the habit of killing those pesky senators before long, and that’s one of the things that makes Act 4 so good.