All Hail Gerard. Or Some, Anyway.
Hold on to your flower crowns, it's GERARD TIME!
After our devastating loss, we now begin the first real chapter of the game, or so I assume. A lot more should open up to us soon, and now we're going to be playing as Gerard after his inheritance from Leon.
When we last left off, some goblins had started pillaging the city, and Gerard gathered troops to go fend them off; however, not all of the troops decided to remain loyal to Gerard, with Hector openly declaring he would not follow his orders. Fortunately, though, the others we had been traveling with are sticking by our side, so with the loss of Leon, we're only down one party member. If you remember from before, there are all kinds of soldiers all over the castle, and now we can go talk to them again...
And the ones who are still loyal will be willing to join the party! Which is pretty much everyone, except for Hector and ... Andromache (did this name come from SCARLET GRACE?!) who are both of the same "class."
All the recruits are divided into different classes, and members of the same class are basically just recolors of each other. If you already have a member of that class in your party, the recruit in the castle will not offer to join you, so I guess you can't have more than two of the same character type in the party. Well, you can have both the male and female version of a class, but no two recolors of the same sprite, at least. So I guess at most you could have two of any one class, unless there are classes that have gender restrictions. Actually, I think there are, because I found a guy named Bison who is the Heavy Infantry class like Bear, but I didn't find any female counterpart for him. They seem to be bulky and defense-oriented.
In contrast, here's also a Light Infantry class, which is what James in our party is. They seem to be a bit more balanced in their stats and proficiencies, but not particularly great with any one thing. There's another named John who is like... the blond version of James. The recruits seem to be named in themes (I noticed this more because you can recruit all the different ones in Imperial SaGa, so I've seen a TON of them, as these are super common party members in that game). James and John... maybe they are biblical names? The Heavy Infantry guys are all animal names. There's a blonde Light Infantry gal, too, named Liza. I don't know if the classes have the same naming theme across both genders, or if the naming theme is just for each set of recolors.
We also have the Ranger class, which is what Therese is. I love the Ranger sprites, they are so cute! And rangers are better with DEX rather than STR, so they're goo with weapons like bows and foils, and bows are usually my favorite weapons. You can see Henry in the screenshot above, and the pink-haired ranger across from him is Marie. I love pink hair so I really would like to recruit her, but we can't because we already have Therese. And as far as I know, there's no way to really dismiss characters from your party? I mean I haven't really tried to find a way, but I haven't come across one yet. In Romancing SaGa and Romancing SaGa 3 there was someone at the pub who would dismiss for you, but I haven't tried going back to the pub and talking to everyone yet. Of course, if Therese were to die, we'd be able to recruit Marie, I guess...
I have no idea if there's an inheritance system for your recruits. I mean, I don't think Orieve gave the inheritance magic to everyone (if she could though, then why not? That would be so much more convenient) so I think maybe you just retain some stuff like the equipment, and maybe the skills you've learned and stuff, similar to how once you master a weapon art in RSG3, anyone in the party can learn it whenever they want...? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
There is also a Court Mage class, which includes Emerald, who taught us the Fireball spell before, and Aries, across the table from her. As expected, they are magic-focused, but it seems each of them is actually proficient in a different school of magic, too! Emerald is good with pyrology (and probably something else), while Aries is good with aerology as well as ... the water school (I'm assuming it's hydrology, like in Minstrel Song). I like magic, so this is who I'm going to recruit. Since Gerard has already begun on his path in pyrology, to avoid redundancy, we're going to recruit Aries. And I guess I also just noticed that the themes indeed do not go for both genders of the same class. I actually really love the look of the lady Court Mages, and I think it's cool that Emerald seems a bit more offensive-oriented than Aries, but Aries suits our party better.
Even more, he comes with four spells already! He has two aerology spells: Blades of Wind which damages an enemy, and Wind Screen which calls a whirlwind to protect an ally and boost their defense. And then he has two hydrology spells: Life Water which restores HP to an ally, and Physic Water (yeah idk) which resolves Confusion, Poison, and Paralysis status conditions from an ally. VERY useful! The first spell mentioned from each school costs 1MP and the second ones each cost 2MP.
We can also stop by the armory from before, and find that all of Leon's equipment has been dumped inside! Since the Bastard Sword was our best weapon, it's good that we got to keep it.
We head outside of the castle to find a few goblins attacking the town. They're super easy to fight and there's not even that many of them. Once we find all of them and defeat each one, then we've cleared our objective. There's not even a boss or anything! When we head back into the castle, Hector apologizes for his previous complaints and says he underestimated Gerard's strength. He accepts that he will be punished however we see fit, but Gerard says even he was surprised at his own abilities, and all he wants is for Hector to continue to fight by his side for Avalon.
Hector swears his allegiance, and now we can recruit him and Andromache to the party. Also I just noticed Andromache is not being caught by spell-checker...
Ah, okay, it's a thing. ... ... Wait, Andromache is the wife of Hector?? So the names ARE related? Or is this just coincidence?
... I guess we'll see as we find more recruits and stuff. Also, I don't know the name of this class -- I think they might be called Free Fighter. But that might be something else. I actually had Hector in my party for quite a while in Imperial SaGa, but the class names weren't particularly important (most of the time) or anything so I don't remember most of them. And if they're like they were in imsaga, then the probably-called-Free-Fighters are going to be good with spears.
Hector then notifies us that the goblins have an outpost hideout, and asks what we should do about it. We're given two options: to go to the outpost and fight the goblins, or go back to Somon and rematch with Kzinssie.
And this is our first major decision of the game! Or at least, I assume so, because Gerard stands forward and does a whole little dance and pose just to give his answer, and there's like a dramatic sound effect and everything:
Now, based off what little I know about this game and the structure of Imperial SaGa, deciding the future of Avalon is going to be a major part of how the story plays out and what kinds of options are available to us as we progress through the game. It's intended to be very non-linear, and I think I mentioned before that this is supposed to be the least linear game in the series, which is known for its "open-scenario" system of non-linear JRPG gameplay. For most of the games, this mostly just means the game is largely a giant bundle of sidequests for you to do in any order you want, but in this game, I think the events that occur as we move forward through Avalon's history will actually change based on our decisions and our success.
I have no idea what kind of impact this or any other decisions will actually have, though. So I'm just going to be picking stuff that sounds good to me. Which as you may know is how I always play through games anyway. And then I make lots of terrible mistakes and lock myself out of like half of the game content *cries thinking about SCARLET GRACE's missable characters* ...
After we have our orders locked in, we are free to roam the castle and town again before heading out to the world map. I think Avalon is always going to be a kind of 'hub' that we will return to between our adventures outside. There is a workshop here, which didn't really do anything before, but now talking to the guy on the right, he asks if we can build a new type of gauntlet, but he'll need 400,000Kr in funding to do so.
We had more than 1,000,000Kr so I gave him the green light. The other guy apparently is a weapons researcher, but he didn't have any ideas for weapons right now. Seems like this place is going to be sort of a mix between Nora's workshop and Mikhail's armory research in Romancing SaGa 3. This may even be our primary way of obtaining better equipment. I guess I probably should have thought a little more before dumping almost half of the treasury into researching a glove, but...
In town, we can go to the weapon and armor shops here... and they will refuse to take our money. And by that, I don't mean we're not allowed to shop. I just mean... everything is free. And they seem to have an unlimited supply of stuff, too... Granted, it is only the absolute weakest armor and weapons available, and not even all of the weapon types are available, but we got Aries wearing nothing but a robe, so we're able to buy some various stuff to equip him here now. Well, "buy" it. I kind of feel guilty for taking stuff from the townspeople -- shouldn't I want to support the economy of my own empire? Everything has prices and stuff, so clearly we are a capitalist society... They're just refusing to take my money because I'm royalty or whatever. Sigh.
And I'll talk a little bit about equipment and stuff now. It's pretty much the same as Romancing SaGa 3, it seems. You have four "active" equipment slots (which is called "Weapons" but this can include things like Balms) and four Armor slots. You can equip any type of armor into the armor slots, but you can't have more than two of the same type of thing -- so you can't have two main body armors or two headgears or whatever. Which makes sense. Unless it's something simple like a ring or bracelet, which you can wear as many as you want. Because, well, that makes sense. Not like those other games where you can only wear one accessory at a time! Of course, if you put just four accessories on your character they will probably lose all their LP right away from being so weak.
There's also over-armor and under-armor, so you can put shirts and stuff on under chainmail and stuff like that. And Aries himself is forced to always be equipped with an Erudite Robe, which is possibly the source of his magical powers or something. But we can't remove it and its defense is terrible. But it does grant him resistance to all four of the non-physical damage types (hot, cold, shocking, and purple), as well as Slashing damage.
This is one thing about this game that I really don't like -- the exact details of your equipment are a mystery. Equipment is where all of your damage resistance comes from, which is just as important or maybe even more important than your overall 'Defense' value. But you only get these little icons that show you whether you have resistance to that type or not. But the problem is these are actual stats. So you could have a Bludgeoning resistance of 1 or 99999999 and it would still just show the little icon in the same way. So you could actually have terrible armor and think you have great armor because it looks like you have lots of resistances.
And the equipment probably has other special effects, like raising your base stats, giving immunity to status effects, granting certain kinds of in-battle bonuses... but there's no way to know these except through experimentation. At least when you equip something that boosts a stat, you'll see your total stat boosts in your attributes page. But you'll have to sit and equip and unequip stuff and then navigate to that page just to check what changed. This is super frustrating and annoying. You'd think with a remaster they would have updated this to have item descriptions or something, but perhaps they wanted this to be a part of the ~experience~, even though I think that's a crappy experience. So I'll mostly be clueless about my armor for this entire playthrough, since I'm not going to be looking up any help or guides or anything until I clear the game once.
Anyway, we get some equipment for Aries and a little extra to make sure everyone is well-equipped (I think the only other thing I did was buy an extra Fleuret so both Gerard and James could have one). I also tried to make Therese as beefy as possible, because Aries's defenses seem horrid (and his max HP is low, too), especially with his forced Robe, so I wanted to put him in the back. Therese got moved to one of the left flank. I wanted to put her in the center, since it's targeted less and Gerard is capable of taking more damage, but it seems that you can't change the position of the Emperor. So we're stuck with Gerard in the middle. While that's a little annoying, I think it's also kind of interesting, since you'll have to consider that when thinking about your formations and how you want to build your party.
And with those thoughts in mind, we're off to explore us a goblin hideout! The hideout isn't too complicated, though it's a little bigger than the tiny dungeons we've already been to. But not much. This one actually has a couple dead ends, in the form of these little cave room things you can go in, which end up just being a small room with enemies that charge at you.
We also encounter what seems to be our first 'puzzle,' in the form of those rocks you can see in the screenshot off to the left. I noticed there were rocks that had their own tile-sized sprites and figured they'd do something later, but didn't really pay them much mind and kept walking upward from where I came in the room.
And I found something much more interesting-looking that some rocks! There was a red skull on the ground, with a slime crawling around near it. Slimes and skeletons seem to go together in the Romancing trilogy, with a lot of slime enemies emerging from skeletons or carrying bones around with them or something.
Ah, that reminds me. I wonder when we'll find a necro boat in this game?
Anyway, the slime is no threat, and we head over to the skull and examine it...
And we get into a fight with a monster named Rotten Beast. So many of the RSG2 enemies reappear in Imperial SaGa, so I have a lot of unrealistic assumptions about them, mostly about how difficult they will be for the party to fight. I played the game for about a year and got a very powerful party, completing events and stuff... so these enemies are completely weaklings compared to my characters in that game.
... But that's another game! This thing was pretty frightening. I don't know if this is the thing where they just give you a monster that's a few ranks higher than you, or the red skull is always a Rotten Beast or what. There was also a Tuatara accompanying it, but we took that out pretty fast.
The Rotten Skull was pretty fast, and even when blocking with a shield, characters took a lot of damage from its attacks. Therese and Aries would die in a single hit, and so would Gerard if his shield didn't activate (it's a 45% activation rate!) ... I don't remember if it ever went for James, but he would probably have died in one hit, too. Even after casting that defense up whirlwind thing (I already forgot the name lol) on Bear, he still would take almost all of his health from a single hit.
This thing was also immune to paralysis and stun, so using skills that could inflict those was worthless. You can tell if something is immune to paralysis for example if you use the Stunner bow skill (which paralyzes, not stuns... this is Shadow Sew in Japanese, if you remember it from RSG3) on the enemy. It's a little different than in RSG3, which made it a little harder to tell if it was immune or not. But in this game, if the monster is immune, the miss animation will play (the arrow will just fly by the monster instead of hitting it) but it won't say "MISS" on the screen afterward. If the monster is not immune and you happen to miss, it will say "MISS" afterward, so you know that you just missed, and it's not just immune. In RSG3, you had to actually hit the monster to see if it was immune, because misses all looked the same.
Though it was difficult, we are able to defeat the Rotten Beast, and when the battle ends, we find a yellow switch thing on the ground in place of the red skull. Stepping on it, we can hear a rumbling sound effect, but there's no real indication of what it was. Well, remember those rocks from before? They are gone now. And on the other side of them is... yet another red skull. And so we have to fight another Rotten Beast...
After defeating the second Rotten Beast, there is another switch underneath the second red skull, but this one doesn't seem to do anything at all. Moving onward, we come out into a more open part of the cave on a small ledge with two treasures! We score an Elder Bow, which is better than the bows we have now by a few points, and 100,000Kr for the treasury.
And since this is a dead end, we have to head back into where we came... and the rocks and red skulls are back. So the red skull we went to second was put here so we could get back out, so we fought it for no reason last time... and now we have to fight it again...
Also, interesting to note, while wandering around and encountering lots of goblins (this is their cave, after all), one of the gobbies dropped a Goblin Sword. It has an attack power of 4, which is even weaker than that free swords we can get in town, which have a whole 8 or something I think.
Other than that little side path to grab the treasures and all the tiny dead-end rooms, this place is pretty much just a short walk to a final dead end where there is a suspiciously-placed goblin who doesn't run after us like the others do. So this is probably the boss...
And indeed, it is! This guy's name is King. Not like "King Goblin" or "Goblin King," it's just "King." Which I think is hilarious. Also I love goblins and he has a little crown and is red so I think he's super adorable. He also had three regular goblins in front of him, meaning we had to take out those before we could reach him with anything other than ranged attacks, but that wasn't much of a problem because Therese and Gerard both know Stunner, which not only paralyzes the enemy, but is also a ranged attack. And it only costs 1SP!
And the King is not immune to paralysis like Stupid Beast was, so we can just paralyze him. He seems to recover VERY fast from it (sometimes even at the end of the turn it was inflicted), so he must have pretty high Endurance. Er, I mean... STA... or whatever it is in this game that controls recovery rate. It took a ton of hits to kill him but for the most part we were able to keep him harmless. There were times we'd miss with Stunner and he'd end up whacking someone, but Aries was in charge of healing and everyone was equipped with at least two Balms each, so it wasn't that hard to keep HP up.
And with that, we've completed our little quest! Next time we'll head back to Avalon to see what's up, and then we'll go face Kzinssie once and for all.