King Harold's Invitation
Now that we're done with the "merchants," we have to find some more stuff to do. We still have the informant peep telling us that there's a mine in Ludon that might be good for the treasury, and we learned from some rando in a bar that there's a town to the south called Tefal, which opened up the Ludon region. But the only place we can go there is Tefal for now, so we're going to head there and see if we can't get any information about this mine.
Well, it looks like we've come to the right place! Everyone here talks about one thing, and that's the mine. Well, or, they talk about all the sudden migration of miners wanting to get rich quick. But that seems to have cooled down for a bit because the mine is overrun with monsters. Everything is overrun with monsters. That's like the only problem anyone ever has in this world...
We learn a couple of other things that may be important -- an old woman says her sons may come back if the monsters are gone, and that she misses her grandson. So maybe there are some people trapped in the mine that we can save? It's hard to tell -- maybe her sons are just miners who left her alone because they couldn't mine there anymore lol. And then someone else talks about how there are traps in the mine. Which is a warning I totally did not heed when playing, but hey, the information was here at least.
There's really not too much here; it's a pretty small town. There are a lot of tiny towns in this game, it seems. But now that we've talked to people here, the Gemstone Mine opens up on the world map a little to the west of Tefal.
The mine is yet again another straightforward place, and all of these walk-in-a-path dungeons kind of make me appreciate the decision to remove the concept of dungeons altogether from SCARLET GRACE. Which I think I've talked about before. But there is something nice about the ability to try to run by monsters instead of fighting them, with the risk of possibly bumping them while running and breaking your formation.
Anyway, as we walk down the path there are some doors off to the sides where we can find these big gemstones guarded by monsters.
Equipped with lots of magic-boosting items, Taurus is pretty powerful at this point and has great damage output. Bison has some really useful defenses along with his Parry skill and his big ol' shield that makes him a great tank for the front of Imperial Cross. Battles are finally getting to the point where it's not like ... everything is constantly terrifying. In fact, I'm pretty comfortable running into most battles. New enemies I haven't seen before give me a little wave of fear, though...
After defeating the snakes around the gem, we inspect it and are rewarded with 90,000 Crowns! Very nice!
In the next room, we find another gem, but when we defeat the surrounding monsters and approach it, the floor breaks out from under us. This is one of the traps the peep in town warned us about, I guess... We fall into a pit filled with slime monsters (and a few skeletons, so we're definitely not the first people to fall for this greed trap!)
Thankfully slimes are pretty slow and we only have to fight a couple of them before we can scoot around the edge of the room and dodge the rest of them. When we exit the little room we fell into, we find we're on some kind of lower level of the mine. It's kind of similar to the top level -- mostly just a straight path with some little rooms. But we notice that the room where we were able to pick up the gemstone doesn't have a matching room underneath it -- so it's likely that only the rooms with the pitfall traps have rooms underneath where their victims can fall. Studying the layout, we head back up a ladder to the top floor and grab a gemstone from the other room that didn't have a room under it, scoring a reward of 70,000 Crowns this time.
Without much else to do upstairs, we head down the ladder again to explore the rest of the lower level. Well, "the rest" meaning the one small area that's left. There's a corridor blocked by some lizard enemies which seem to function as the boss monster of this area. For longer fights, Louis has Trip, a Spear skill that stuns an entire row of enemies. His speed is decent enough that we can often make use of it, especially against particularly slow enemies, to completely prevent enemies from attacking. And then thanks to the Dojo, Crow, Louis, and Beaver all have the Stunner skill for bow that allows us to fairly easily paralyze an opponent for a while. Luck doesn't always go our way with these skills, but there's enough opportunity that we don't have to worry too much in long battles as long as the enemies are vulnerable against status effects.
I haven't been looking at any Skill lists or anything to make this playthrough as blind as possible, but I was really hoping this kind of ability existed, as it does in many other games in the series. I've been spamming martial arts when a character doesn't have much else to do or if I'm letting other characters get in some actions with other weapons or whatever for hopes of a level up. And indeed, Crow glimmered Ki Meditation! It's a Martial Arts skill that restores the user's HP. Very useful! I think the Dojo only lets you learn Skills that you glimmered in previous generations, though, so we can't just go equip it to everybody right away. But this will definitely be useful! It's a great way for characters to heal themselves without needing to use Balms or spend MP on magic spells.
Of course, slower characters who need fast healing will still have to rely on the faster characters patching them up with magic or items. But since the faster characters can just meditate if they need to now, that means they can same more of their items and MP on healing the slow characters, and slow characters can equip a wider variety of weapons instead of so many Balms because there's less likelihood of needing that many Balms on everyone.
After defeating the lizard men, we get a notification that the mine was liberated and its freedom adds to the Empire's treasury. We're immediately taken out of the mine, but the first thing we do is go right back in. There was a room those lizards were guarding, and I'm curious what is back there! When we go into the rooms where we picked up the big gemstones before, there are now miners in there telling us that there were gems in there worth 90,000 and 70,000Kr respectively. The other rooms didn't have anyone saying stuff like that, so it seems like we found the two gemstones that didn't lead to traps successfully.
There are miners all over the place, but they say that no one dares travel into the lower levels because it's so dangerous and anyone who goes down there gets "dizzy in the head." We head straight down there and... there's no danger at all? And we don't get dizzy or whatever? But in the room guarded by the lizards, we find three big gemstones. Picking them up rewards us with 280,000 Crowns, 190,000 Crowns, and 220,000 Crowns! That's a grand total of 850,000Kr we got just for visiting this place!! Astounding!!
When we leave the place, Tefal is full of new miners exciting about getting rich quick, which seems to be a bit nice for the prosperity of the town, but also a bit of a nuisance to the locals. One of our administrator peeps from the castle is in Tefal now, too, and says he'll take care of the mine. I think it's cool they added this character here just to show we occupied the mine, even though it's completely unnecessary. It really adds to the setting of the game, I think, though.
And now that we've solved the old woman's problem and her sons have returned (I'm guessing they really were just miners that abandoned her lol...) she now is spending time with her grandson and telling stories (though he doesn't seem to want to listen). Eavesdropping, we hear that there's a beautiful lake across the Highlands known as Aqua Lake. This is a bit of information I will promptly forget even though it will become useful later.
With that, all we know is that some King guy wants to see us, but we don't really know where he is located? So we head back to the castle and talk to the R&D Peeps. Weapon Peep wants to make a new Spear, and we now easily have the 400,000Kr to fund it, so we get that started.
Now we have lots of places we can try to go from the various boats and stuff we've discovered.
So we head to Somon and take the boat to Douglass. The main reason I chose to go to Douglass first was because he's the name of my owl guy on the cover of ThaaoNET, but I probably would have ended up choosing it anyway since Somon was one of the first places we ever went and this was the first new place we could access from there on the boat's list, so... it's essentially the "first" place in the list of places we can go. Even though it's not a proper list.
The boat doesn't cost money, so we don't have to worry about stuff like Pidona's pricey fares. It does cost time though. Like, not game time... just... real... time. We get to sit and watch this boat. As it travels. Over the ocean. It traveled so long I thought we were guaranteed to run into the Necro Boat portion of this game that undoubtedly must exist by SaGa Law. But we didn't. We just waited. And then waited some more. And watched the boat. Look at it go. It didn't even do anything. It just pretty much sat on this screen for a long time. Like no extra animations or anything. Just. Watching. The boat.
And then we finally show up in Douglass!! Look! Things on the screen that aren't blue!
Douglass seems to be a small port town where everyone talks about this like... royal family or something? Which consists of Georg, Sofia, and Thomas. Lots of people to try to learn about when we can't even see them. It was a bit difficult to keep track of at first. There's also a cabbage patch with a sign out front that says "No Pranks! -Gramps" which is pretty funny. So I ran around in the field seeing if I could 'prank' gramps, but nothing worked. But then I found a weird little break in the fence that led to under some trees...
It did that thing where you're navigating your character under a cover and you can't see them or the path so you just kind of press directional buttons and hope you end up somewhere. Even though this exists in like, every SNES game ever because sprite layering was such a big deal at the time, it always reminds me of getting to the Brave Blade/Chicken Knife area in Final Fanatsy V.
After a bit of trial-and-error, we pop out in this cool little forest clearing next to a building. There's nothing here, though, but it feels secret-y and there's lighting effects so it's really fun.
After trying to interact with everything on the screen to no avail, we head back through the trees and through the cabbage patch, no pranks and no real secrets to be had.
We head north and find a big castle, where some peep tells us that Thomas likes to play in the forest outside the castle. So I guess we found Thomas's play spot earlier?
We head to the throne room and -- Oh! This is King Harold. The guy we were supposed to talk to. Well, that worked out nicely. He introduces us to his youngest son Thomas, who is his personal favorite, and according to the people of Douglass, very kind. Harold asks us if we met his other two children, Georg and Sofia. We actually have the ability to answer this question, which I found a bit curious. I guess we could choose to lie to him here, but of course, I don't want to, so I say that we didn't, and he asks us to go meet them. For some reason I feel like I'm being set up for some kind of trap?
In the bar we learn that King Harold's heir has yet to be decided, and some people are worried of a threat of a war of succession. More and more I feel like we're being set up hahaha.
When we head outside, we're in a new area of the world map, with Hofah and Nerak available. These are the places Harold told us to go to meet his offspring. Apparently Nerak Castle in the south is where Georg is, and Sofia rules over this Hofah place in the east. Neat.
We go ahead and head to Hofah first.
We find another small town pretty similar to Douglass, though this one has a schoolhouse and no bar. Everyone here seems to think quite fondly of Lady Sofia, talking about how smart and kind she is. Except this one loser who makes some awkward perverted comment that immediately makes me want to headcanon Sofia as a lesbian when I haven't even met her yet, and one little girl who "hates" Lady Sofia because she built a school in town.
There's also a boat peep here saying he's looking for sailors that can brave the Comroom Straight, some information that sounds useful that I will again promptly forget.
We talk to Sofia, but nothing really happens. She just thanks us for coming and tells us that she was ordered by her father to rule over this town. I guess she's doing a good job, because everyone loves her. One of her peeps says that Lady Sofia is currently lost in thought, most likely worried about her brothers and her father. Hmmm... war of succession?? Am I still being set up???
Without much else to do here, we head over to Castle Nerak to see if we can meet Georg.
Meeting Georg is a lot like meeting Sofia, but there's no town. There's a few more people in his castle, though, and we learn that soldiers don't complain at all about being in the army here, and that the wall to the south protects everyone. But of course, Georg protects them even more! So basically, everyone loves this dude, too. A little suspicious...? WAR OF SUCCESSION....???
After meeting Sofia and Georg, we head back to Harold who asks us again if we have met his kids, and this time we answer yes. Truthfully! He asks us to meet up with him in his meeting room that night (...oh~ King Harold~...) and asks us who we think should be heir.
OK, that's... not what I expected to happen, but... honestly how can you just throw that on a stranger like that?? I actually think that Douglass is part of the Empire or something so he's like asking for advice from us because we're his Emperor? But like... I don't think I really understood it that way at the time? And even now, I'm not sure, lol.
We're given the option to choose any of the three of his children, as well as to decline to answer, saying it's not our place to say. Honestly, I was pretty tempted to choose the last option, but at the same time, I wanted to pick Sofia because she built a school and women make good rulers anyway. So I ended up picking Sofia.
Harold says he actually agrees with our answer. I immediately become curious if he would just agree no matter what we picked, or if he actually is thinking Sofia and will disagree if we pick Thomas or Georg. And I'm curious what he would do if we picked the last thing. It's these kinds of moments that make this game so intriguing and remind me of all the choices in SCARLET GRACE that leave you wondering "what if I did this differently?"
It's a really great quality of this game, because it really feels like you're making choices. In a lot of games, you get presented with "choices" but it feels artificial -- it seems obvious that the game will play out exactly the same no matter what you do. But in this, I feel like I'm actually impacting the flow of the events of the game to some extent, and from what I've learned about this game, that feeling is based in reality, because your choices really do make quite a bit of difference.
BTW, I do intend to continue playing blind runs after this, so it would be cool if you don't clue me in to what happens with other possible choices just yet~ I've enjoyed everything thus far enough that I think I want to play through a couple times myself outside the play diaries before doing my second one where I try to learn all I can before playing.
Anyway, Harold's only worry about Sofia is that she is still single (I ... don't see how this is a problem?) and he hopes that she finds a suitable partner one day. I love that he said 'partner' and not 'husband.' And that he just left it at that, and despite his small worry about that, he didn't see it as any reason not to chose her as his heir, and the decision was still made.
He invites us to spend the night at the castle (oooh~) and...
Did he like... kill himself now that he settled on an heir...? Did he know that he was going to die and that's why he wanted to talk to us? ... WAR OF SUCCESSION????
Some of the attendant peeps are worried because Lord Thomas has disappeared at such a crucial time, and ask us if we might know where he would be. Which I think is weird because they're the ones that know him, and the only place I can think of is the little forest clearing thing where he likes to play, but like... they're the ones who told us about that, so why are you asking me??? Go look there??
But of course, we have to do everything ourselves. We find Thomas crying in the little hidden clearing we had stumbled upon earlier. If I had not accidentally wandered into here trying to prank Cabbage Gramps, I can't even imagine how long this would have taken me to find. Anyway, we try to console Thomas by saying, "but you're his son," as if this will make him stop being sad or something. And then a guard peep runs up and says that Sir Cyfreet wants to meet with Thomas. Thomas doesn't want to see anyone, but Guard Peep says that Cyfreet holds Harold's will and it says Thomas is to be heir.
Thomas is shocked for a moment, but just wants to be left alone with his grief for now. But we're also shocked! That's not what we discussed with Harold ourselves. The heir was supposed to be Sofia!
We're extremely quick to accuse Cyfreet of conspiracy against Harold because of this, going as far as to call him "simply wretched." Of course, only someone "truly dispacle" like Cyfreet could come up with something like this! I don't know how we even know Cyfreet, much less why we immediately think he's some villain trying to take over the throne just because a conversation we had with King Harold hours ago doesn't match up with what was already written in his will, but... just go with it 8)
But at the same time, it really makes me wonder what would have happened if we actually chose Thomas as the heir! This scene wouldn't have been able to go this way at all. Or would Harold have disagreed and still chosen Sofia? What if we had declined to intervene in the choice altogether? Ahh~ I want to play a new game already XD
Guard Peep says that anyone who knows too much must be eliminated, even if they're the Emperor, and we fight a very easy battle with him (which is just a generic human enemy battle). Afterward, we decide to escort Thomas to Nerak to meet up with Georg there.
The road we have to follow is pretty wide, and monsters are pretty spaced out. We're able to simply walk by without getting into any battles at all!
We reach Georg and Thomas tries to explain the story while crying, but suddenly one of Georg's peeps interrupts and tells us that Thomas has sentenced Georg to death. Well, that's a little dubious, considering we're right here with Thomas. I wonder if we could have come here before finding Thomas, letting Cyfreet's men find him first, and hearing of the death sentence without Thomas with us? It just seems like this whole scenario has so many ways it could go...
Everyone is shocked by this news, but Sofia appears and interrupts, saying that she thinks this must be a conspiracy by Cyfreet. K, we already knew this, though...
She seems to be a lot more insightful about it, though, saying that the monsters from the south will likely be involved. And soon after, we're alerted that monsters have dug a hole under the southern wall and are appearing in the kingdom's borders.
Crow speaks up and offers to take care of the monsters, saying that Georg, Sofia, and Thomas should prepare to defend Douglass against Cyfreet. We're taken to the world map. We can probably choose to go to Douglass and mix stuff up even more at this point, but we're going to be the honest guys and go for the monsters in the south.
We head to the wall. There's a place we can try to just cross through the door to the other side, but a guard tells us we're not allowed. We can choose to obey or to demand to be let through. But we're not here to get to the monsters who have dug under, not cross to the other side, so we just obey and start wandering along the edge of the wall until we find a bunch of monsters pouring out of a hole.
There's not too much to say about these battles, though Louis did glimmer Beast Slayer, a Bow Skill that is especially effective against Beasts.
Once we clear out some of the surrounding monsters, we're able to enter the hole in the ground, which takes us to a narrow tunnel underground.
In the tunnel, we find a single snake enemy unmoving in a narrow place where we can only proceed by fighting it. And so, we do. Looks like we've found a little boss of this scenario? We encounter Duneworm and Lobstrite, two enemies we're unfamiliar with, which is a bit scary.
Thankfully, they're both easily inflicted with Darkness thanks to Light Ball. Because they don't have legs, though, they won't succumb to Trip, most likely, so we don't even bother trying it. Lobstrite seems to be able to defend against a variety of attacks pretty well, using its body like a shield. But Taurus is able to make quick work of it, his Blades of Wind spell doing over 300 damage to enemies (which is, like, a LOT of damage compared to what everyone else does at this point in the game). Duneworm takes a bit longer, but it seems to mostly focus on physical attacks that miss a lot thanks to Darkness. It can't OHKO anyone, so as long as we keep up on healing, we're pretty safe. Louis glimmers Charge, a pretty powerful Spear Skill, and we chug away at the thing until it dies.
After defeating Duneworm, the tunnel caves in and we escape, successfully closing off the monsters' entrance to the kingdom.
We head back to Castle Nerak to learn that Georg has already started his assault on Douglass, which I guess was already captured by Cyfreet's troops.
We head to Douglass, but it seems Georg, Sofia, and Thomas have already taken care of things here. Cyfreet is still at large, though, but Georg has managed to find the location of his hideout. But he wants to wait until things calm down in Douglass again before going after him. Sofia is worried, though, and says that we should go after him sooner. Either way, it seems like things here are able to settle down now, and we have time to rest for a bit.