|It also helped that his armour is MADE OF GOLD.|
With the airship safely back in the party's possession, the world is their watery oyster. There are no encounters while flying about (except in a few small areas) and being able to access other towns gives the group more equipment (and therefore jobs) to utilize (still nothing for magic knight, though). One town had a pile of minstrels showcasing a variety of different tunes and melodies.
|Meh. I like my song better.|
Then came the event that almost made me ragequit the game, the blog, and delete myself from the Internets kernel: while flying over the kingdom of Salonia — without warning — the airship was shot down and completely destroyed. The king apparently has split his army into two factions and has ordered that they fight each other. It is this crossfire that the airship blundered into and met its sad fate. An airshipless Shen is like a wounded and cornered mother bear protecting her cubs while also on fire and on PCP. In other words, Shen is right pissed off and someone must pay.
|Completely obliterating both sides|
should ease the pain.
But no, attacking the armies isn't a viable option and so broken-hearted Shen must do some damn quest to help these assholes out. The cool thing about Salonia is that, in addition to the castle itself, there are four boroughs each the size of a regular town. Unfortunately, most of the shops are closed and Shen'll have to do this quest in order to open them up. Talking to the townsfolk reveals that a legendary bird monster named Garuda has taken over the castle and can only be defeated by a dragoon. Well, let's just check our inventory and... ack, dammit, no dragoon equipment. Thankfully, one of the Salonian boroughs has an entire tower dedicated to dragoons and pillaging it gives up the equipment needed. Now to get the revenge on Garuda for inadvertently destroying the airship.
|So, ya like flying, do ya, Garuda?|
WELL, SO DID I! *weeps uncontrollably*
Getting the revenge turns out to be a little difficult as Garuda ain't no joke. He likes to cast the thunder spell on the entire party, which can drop their HP to about half. Defeating him took a couple of attempts as I employed the terrible strategy of letting Shen do all the attacking while the others constantly gave each other healing potions. Yeah, probably should have switch the jobs up a bit but I just wanted Garuda dead ASAP. After Garuda's demise, the real king is reinstated on the throne and all of Salonia's equipment and magic shops are open for business. More importantly, talking to the Salonian scholars nets the party another airship called the Nautilus, whose name foreshadows its future ability. For now, the party heads through a windy mountain passage that was previously inaccessible due to the poor aerodynamic design of the former airship. The passage leads to the castle of Dorga, who explains that a wizard named Zande is behind all the troubles the world is having. Dorga, Zande, and a woman named Unne were all students of the great archmage Noah. When Noah died, he gave Dorga and Unne gifts of magic but gave Zande the "gift" of mortality. Totally feeling burned by getting such a shitty present, Zande concocted a plan to drain the elemental crystals of their energy so that time would freeze and immortality would be his again. He succeeded in draining the Earth and Water crystals but the Fire and Air crystals were located on the floating continent, which was also created during this time.
|Uh huh... blah blah blah — hey, is|
that the first ever appearance
of a Moogle over there?
Unne is currently asleep and stuck in her dream world and can only be awoken with Noah's Lute which is in the underwater Temple of Time. In order to make the Nautilus submersible, Dorga asks the party to accompany him through the Magic Circle Cave which has to be done in mini-mode again. I didn't bother to make everyone into spellcasters and just relied on T-Bone's thief ability of Escape to bypass all the encounters (fuck I'm getting lazy). At the end of the cave, true to his word, Dorga outfits the Nautilus with some oxygen and ballast tanks and she's all set to dive, dive, dive!
|♫ Darling it's better, down where it's|
wetter, take it from meeee! ♪
Shen decides to go all Jacques Cousteau-like and explore the briny deep. The detail is nice with bubbles and various seafoods floating across the screen in a wavy motion. A couple of undersea caves are found and those always have large deposits of the treasurey kind, but the monsters are a little tough so they're earmarked for a later excursion. Temple of Time it is, then. The temple isn't much better as the monsters often either surprise the party (getting a free round of attacks) or sneak up behind them (getting a free round as the melee-only party alters their row position). Come on, guys, you're all level 25+ by now, you'd think you'd have learnt to keep your bloody eyes peeled for ambushes. Especially considering the sheer size of some of the monsters.
|Hey, I remember you from such|
games as Final Fantasy II.
Astute readers may have noticed that T-Bone and Yauch have switched jobs at this point, even though it means reducing their skills in the new job down to one. This is because hit point gains are based off the vitality stat and the Karateka job has about twice VIT as the thief. I like to keep the maximum HP fairly even across the group (though I don't mind if Shen outpaces the others but that's because I'm a raging narcissist). The drop in skill doesn't seem to hinder the job too much, just a reduction in hit percentage of about 10% or so per ~25 skill points or somewhere around there (sorry, data nerds, I've gots no hard numbers for ya). All that matters is that this means that I'm far more likely to be loose with my job swapping which is precisely what a game like this should be encouraging. Further on that note, running out of capacity points has almost never been an issue. The only time I ran out was when I had just acquired the Water Crystal's jobs and had to switch a bunch of times because there was no damn equipment for the job.
Eventually the party makes their way to the end of the temple and acquire Noah's Lute with no real hardships. The random encounters were mostly just annoying with all the free attacks the enemies were getting, mostly because it meant using a lot of expensive healing potions. Thankfully, they can now put that behind them and bring back Unne from the Dream World. Unne tells Shen about an airship named the Invincible aaaaand that's when Shen cuts Unne off, grabs her by the arm, drags her to the Nautilus, looks at her dead in the eyes, and asks her as politely as he can, despite the frothing excitement seething just below his surface, the location of said airship. Shen also mentions that perhaps they should make their way there posthaste, as the seams in the groin of his leather pantaloons are already straining near maximum capacity. The Invincible lies just to the north in some Ancient Ruins. Thought the Temple of Time was bad? Not only do the monsters in the ruins surprise and rear ambush just as much, half of them are "splitter" type creatures that create a duplicate whenever they get hit. With an all-melee party, shit can get real.
So, at this point I have to decide to just work Yauch's Escape ability or grind a few levels to get more reliable one-hit kills. I really didn't want to do the fleeing thing because heroes shouldn't have to flee from 50% of the battles. I noticed that every couple of levels, the number of attacks for a character would increase by two. Everyone had just reached one of these benchmark levels, so I decided I'd just grind up two more levels and then take on the ruins again. When the levels came and the number of attacks didn't increase, I thought maybe at the higher levels the number of attacks was doubled or something. So another two levels and no increase. I did one more level because why not, hey, maybe it's five levels until the next increase. Never once did I consider that perhaps there was a cap on number of attacks for each job. The other stat benefits from levelling don't help near as much as attack number so I made another karateka to replace the low-damage thief, Yauch. Karateka is one of the few classes that function very well unarmed, which was critical in my choice as I didn't have enough decent claws for two karatekas. Shen needed more maximum HP so he passed his dragoon job and gear to Yauch and became a karateka alongside T-Bone, who by this time had a skill level of 49. As the more senior member of the two, imagine poor T-Bone's shock when Shen demanded all of T-Bone's equipment while he was left unarmed but free to wear some of the leftover armours. T-Bone may have the toughest-sounding name but Shen let it be known just who wears the pantaloons in this family. With a hefty amount of firepower behind the party now, the Ancient Ruins proved difficult but not insurmountable. The reward for all this hassle, though, was well worth it.
Please join me next time when I will spend the entire post critiquing and evaluating the Invincible's inner decor and adherence to proper feng shui principles. Tally-ho!