The Road to Vaftom
It's time for yet another UNLIMITED:Saga adventure! I actually started this and have been playing for a while -- just haven't been making the posts. I also got almost all the way to the end of the story and then realized my screencaps weren't working at all, and I couldn't go back to the last point they had worked, so I had to restart the entire game from the beginning :) Fun!
I've played Laura's scenario several times, and it was the first one I actually cleared in the game. There are two story paths, but I've actually only ever seen one of them. Though, I think, like Kurt's, they're not huge differences, but a little different at how things end up. So I'll try to get both this time.
Since I've played this before, and since I've been playing this game a lot for a while now and shopping is getting super tedious, I'm going to be doing a "No Shopping" challenge. It doesn't sound all that difficult to me, but I wanted to kind of gauge how difficult no shopping + no repair + no martial might be, without having to get myself stuck doing something that might be way too frustrating right away.
So, with that bit of explanation, we're going to load our clear data from Armic, which tells us we have cleared 4 characters total now, and start a new game!
Laura's profile tells a bit about her as she was before the game begins. A former pirate of Sea Wolf (something that will never be mentioned or relevant throughout the entire game), she settled down in Nivacolina with her husband Pablo, a schoolteacher. The story begins, though, at Pablo's funeral...
And honestly this backstory has almost nothing to do with the actual story of the game. In fact, Laura's story is hardly even about Laura, sadly. I do think Laura is a great character and I do think she was a good choice as the protag of this story, but as you'll soon see, the events revolve around something completely unrelated to her life as a pirate or Pablo or anything.
The developer note for Laura is kind of weird. The note of being more like a "traditional RPG" is reference to the fact that story events progress generally by completing previous story events. Basically, just keep going to the inn and choosing the next story adventure, and you'll eventually get to the end. (Well, you'll have to go visit a specific location a couple times to move things forward, too, but that's it).
I don't really get what the "mature woman with a bit of a history" thing is supposed to mean, though.
But yeah, she's suggested as a first character, but a lot of players consider this to be some kind of "trap," as you can reach her final boss and be completely unprepared for it, and you'll have no way to power up your party after you make your final save.
Though, I really think every scenario is like that, and you'll probably get to the end very underpowered and not knowing what is going on no matter which character you choose first. Though the fact that Laura's Tetra Force is not reusable like the others, so you're "stuck" with that party once you save, does make it so that you're forced into restarting the game from the beginning if you don't have an older save and your party isn't good enough to get through the end.
Anyway, press start time.
Our tale begins with Laura mourning Pablo at his funeral. There is a narrator, but it's not Laura. Instead, we hear a young boy talking about how this was the first time he met Laura. After we hear the narration, the focus is returned to Laura, but suddenly, some weird kid runs into her from behind.
This initiates a battle scene, though it's not Laura fighting the child. Rather, some creepers seem to be chasing after the kid, and Laura's instinct is to fight them off.
I tried to get a cap of her throwing off her funeral garb to reveal her normal adventuring armor and outfit underneath, but I didn't manage it. It's only a brief moment.
But she throws off her black outfit, and is ready to battle.
This is, as far as I can remember, the only 'scripted' battle in the game. You don't get to input any commands here. But what's interesting about it is that instead of just having the scene be the same every time, it's more like the game just picks the commands for you. You actually have the possibility of Laura glimmering arts or releasing abilities on her equipment during this fight. Though she seems to also have a 100% block rate or something, or else I'm just ridiculously lucky and she always deflects the attack that comes at her.
Laura seems to not really understand what's going on, but she makes quick work of the creeps nonetheless. Punching one and shooting Fire Arrows at another, she quickly takes two of them out. The third in the pack gets scared and runs away.
Afterward, Laura questions the kid that she rescued, asking who those people were and why they were pursuing. The kid continues to repeat, "I don't know," and not much else.
Though he finally introduces himself as Prince Henri of Escata, the city which was recently destroyed by Dagul Bos, and the royal family (minus one member) murdered.
Laura suggests that if we're going to get away from them, Henri needs to change his appearance. He appearance is really giving him away.
Laura, I guess, cuts his hair and gives him a new outfit. Henri's response is, "I am uncomfortable." She tells him he'll get used to it.
Asking him if he has anywhere to go, since he can't return home, Henri (after taking a while) responds that he once left the city to go to Vaftom to see the Festival of Regina Leone when he was little.
It's far away, but Laura offers to escort him there.
From here, we have control of the game, and going into the equipment menu, we find that neither Henri nor Laura are wearing any headgear, but Laura is just... carrying around a fur hood.
So we can equip it to her right away.
Other than that, we can't go anywhere but Nivacolina, and the inn has the story adventure "The Road to Vaftom" available.
Upon choosing the adventure, we set out on our trek south. If you don't remember, Nivacolina is one of the northernmost cities in the game, and Vaftom is the furthest south. So we're going to be doing a lot of walking. Somehow, though, we walk less to get across the entire land than we did with Iskandar in Ruby's scenario just walking from Loch Vaan to Torles. Though I guess we did make some weird detour to Iskandaria and stuff then...
We're shown the door of Pablo's school, which is now closed. Then we see Laura standing alone in the snow thinking about him, And she looks upward as the camera zooms away from her. A simple little scene, but it's cool.
We hit the road, and of course, the first thing we do is look at the status menu!
Laura is probably one of the most useful protagonists. 15 LP is not bad, and she has decent makings, too. Notably, a Strength Making of 4 is pretty good compared to all of the heroes we've seen so far, and her Fire Making is also the max. Endurance and Spirit Making are both good, and her HP recovery is B, meaning she can hold up pretty well in battle, too. You can build her as a fighter or a mage, and she'll do good with pretty much anything other than a knife or bow.
But then... she comes with Knife Arts L3, and no other weapon abilities. All of her promotion art shows her with a sword. And you'd think during her time as a pirate, she would have learned a bit more about swordplay and weaponry than some simple stabbing.
She also has a bunch of 'key' panels like Locksmith and Defuse. They're only L1, but it's still really nice to start with all of this from the very beginning.
For a recap on Henri, he's pretty well-balanced with a lot of strengths. His starting abilities are almost nothing, though, with pretty much just the ability to make things more expensive in the store, and a little bit of Diplomacy. But Diplomacy is always welcome. I'm sure, being a child and being a prince, he never really got a lot of training in many things other than talking and spending money yet.
But we'll change that!
Laura starts with a handful of Fire Arts, and an accessory that allows her to channel them, which is pretty cool. Mythe had Purify, and the others had nothing at all, so starting with four magic arts from the start is pretty great. Fire Arrows is particularly useful at the beginning of the game.
Henri also starts with the Blade of Escata, which you may remember from Armic's scenario. It's a knife with 11 attack power and unlimited durability. Having an unlimited durability weapon when we're not allowed to shop will be nice, even if it's not very powerful.
We start in the Silver Hills area, which we've traveled through a few times before. This is the place that lets you know you're getting pretty far north. But now we're going south.
Laura's ability to interact with treasures is very useful. Without being able to shop, our only source of items is treasure chests and monster drops. Monsters almost never drop things, and when they do, it's just low ranking materials. So we really need to open these boxes.
Sadly, we don't have access to Sharpeye, so we can't see what kinds of traps or locks are on the boxes. So each treasure-opening attempt starts instead with Defuse, hoping to get rid of whatever traps may be on it. If there are none, all we did was waste a turn.
Defuse is only L1, and the difficulty of the reel is based on the comparison between the level of your ability and the level of the chest, as well as what kinds of traps are on the chest. The more traps or the harder traps, the more difficult the reel. Explosion and Mimic traps are the most difficult, and will definitely rank up the difficulty of the reel. Needle and Poison traps usually don't make it go up any more, but sometimes when they're together and there are many needles, it can bump it up a difficulty level.
Because I'm not sure which difficulty to expect, this means there are quite a few botched reels.
And botched defuse attempts leads to traps going off, including Mimic. So we had to fight a few Treasure Slimes along the way. Treasure Slimes are particularly difficult to deal with in the beginning of the game, but with Laura able to use Fire Arrows to manipulate the turn order and deal some pretty decent damage to the slime at the start of the battle, and then Henri free to stab away with unlimited durability, we were able to make it through the fights without losing too much LP.
And of course, we were able to conserve even more LP by having Henri tell all the monsters to go away. And then sometimes they'd leave treasures as gifts because they... really liked talking to him or something.
And Laura's Aura skill helped us avoid traps when stepping onto a space for the first time, so she could safely defuse them before anyone got hurt.
So Henri and Laura's starting abilities were very helpful for this kind of challenge -- being able to avoid battles and traps while getting extra treasures is really great. They make a great starting duo, challenge or not.
As we continue south, though, we end up running into those creeps from before. They ask if Henri is indeed Henri, but Laura is all ready to defend the little guy.
We get into a battle with the "Pursuer," who is accompanies by a cackle of Guckies. Thankfully they are not of the Rainbow variety.
The Guckies only have 1 LP each, and Pursuer only has 2, but five against two can still be pretty scary. They get tons of actions per turn, and we're still pretty limited in abilities without having had the chance to use the Growth Panel or really glimmer many arts or release abilities (especially with avoiding most of the battles with Diplomacy...)
Laura's Fire Arrows allow the enemy party to use up most of their turns, though because they still get a lot, we can't guarantee Henri will be able to combo all four knife arts in a row. Sometimes the enemy interrupts or joins in, but combo-stabbing seems to be pretty effective against the Guckies, and then we can focus on the Pursuer.
After taking the guy out, Laura and Henri are able to continue south, and after reaching the next town (I forget where; maybe Zomar or something?), we are sent to the Growth Panel Development screen.
Because I played through this twice (and everything up until the festival scene is like that), it's hard to really talk about what panels everyone got, since it was different both times.
The first time, Henri got a L2 Gun Arts panel, and since I haven't used guns too much, I decided to give it to him. One thing I wanted to do in this game was build characters more based on what kinds of things it makes sense for them to be good at, rather than just... whatever seems most useful or fits their stats, so it's more of a role-playing experience.
But then I get the gun panel and I'm like "GIVE THE KID A GUN YEAH!"
But in a way, it makes sense. I don't think Henri is really trained in any kind of fighting whatsoever -- even holding the Blade of Escata with him, he doesn't even have a L1 Knife Arts panel. So my guess is that he just grabbed the thing for self defense when Escata was getting attacked, and managed to escape somehow.
And a gun can cause a lot of destruction even if the user is unskilled. And since I already know how this story unfolds, I know we're going to be getting a gun very soon...
So, I decided that Henri will learn how to use a gun, as it would probably be one of the easiest weapons to learn how to handle and control while you're also traveling and escaping from assassins. I mean, where is he going to get in some archery or swordsmanship training during all of this? I don't think he's really ready for getting that experience from real battle yet.
Laura, on the other hand, is a seasoned adventurer and knows how to fight, so it makes more sense that she can pick up weapons and get better with them while traveling.
Anyway, the second time I played, Henri didn't get the Gun Arts panel, but I still stuck to that idea and when I got the gun, I gave it to him and had him use it until he did get the panel.
And we'll end here for now, continuing our journey south next time.