Chapter 4: In Occupation's Shadow
This chapter opens up with my first full view of the continental map, which I cannot overstate my appreciation for at this point, even though the graphics on this ancient program are pixelated enough that I can't make out some of the smaller text. I'm just glad to finally be able to see where I'm going.
The continent is shaped like a Tsumankyan claw crab, with the claw exteded left of the body on the right. I can make out five names, either because they're large enough to be clear, or by inferring from a couple letters and names I've already heard.
- Ilia is the crab's head. It looks to be forested, and is separated from the rest of the continent by a mountain range.
- Sacae lies south of Ilia, taking up a narrow strip between the mountains of Ilia and the mountains of Bern.
- Bern is an immense down-ward pointing triangle bordered by mountains on all sides. It makes up the bottom of the crab's body.
- Etruria is a large chunk of the top pincer, immediately west of Sacae. This is the only country whose name I haven't heard in the narrative yet, and the only one besides Bern and Lycia that I can actually read clearly.
- Lycia is south of Etruria and west of Bern, a smaller country huddled against the sea by mountains, though they also claim a large island just south of the mainland.
Five more names are too small for me to read, taking up the rest of the claw, which includes three more large islands.
Back to the party, though. We've stopped for the night at a ruined fortress, a clue that the bandits we're dealing with here have some militaristic organization, if they were able to drive out entrenched defenders. The Ganelon bandits from the last chapter are out for our blood and closing in, but no sign of the Taliver yet, it seems.
Wil and Sain scout the fort out. Wil thinks they're lucky to have found such a place to hold up for the night, but Sain is less enthused. Lyn settles the matter, declaring the place suitable. Florina declares that the accommodations don't matter to her as long as she's with Lyn. Oh ho?
Sain tries the gallant act, but Kent cuts him off by assigning himself and Sain to alternating shifts of sentry duty.
Ah, sentry duty, how I miss you like a camp shovel embedded in my skull; being kicked out of Marisa Ducel's dream-arms twenty minutes after finally falling into them to stare into pitch darkness while your sleep-deprived and stress-soaked brain turns every rustle of the leaves into a Cent patrol. Meanwhile, your bladder is screaming at you to get those liquid rations out of your system ASAP, and even if you could abandon your post, you don't dare for fear of picking up a lurking groose in the dark (Oh, sorry, I completely forgot you were still infantry >:) ). At least you don't have to worry about prowling matai packs anymore, right?
Anyway, the party files into the ruins and come across a woman who introduces herself as Natalie, and apologizes for the intrusion, despite the fact that she was here first. Her leg is giving her trouble from a childhood illness
. She claims to be looking for her husband who left home to try and raise money to fix her leg some time ago, and she's worried that he's gotten himself into something dangerous. She shows Lyn a sketch and gives her the name Dorcas. Lyn doesn't know anything, but promises to pass on a message if she sees him.
Great. I get to kill a crippled woman's husband in front of her in this chapter.
The bandits waste no more time in showing up to avenge their associates. One suggests a night attack, but the leader dismisses this sound strategy as beneath them
, going up against inferior numbers and women
. I'm having some trouble telling whether I'm supposed to find this recurring attitude chivalrous (in which case the game's condescending to women) or pig-headed (in which case it seems to be trying too hard). Were women allowed in the military when this was made? I know they didn't use to be up until some point pre-war, but I don't remember when that ended. Either way, the boss for this level is named Carjiga, and he's hoping for a promotion for bringing in the women to his bosses.
The lower half of the map suddenly swarms with Brigands and a few Archers and Mercenaries, with Dorcas appearing among them. Carjiga derides Dorcas for lack of participation since joining the group, and orders him to attack a rear entrance and capture the women. Dorcas mumbles to himself about how low he's sunk after Carjiga leaves.
Kent spots the bandits, which is lucky for him since it spares him all the previously related joys of sentry duty. Sain wants to ride out and attack, but Lyn won't leave Natalie undefended and wants to wait for the enemy to come to us.
Another new mechanic in this level, friendly NPCs. Natalie appears as a friendly unit outside of my control on this map, tucked away in the back of the fort which takes up the upper half of the map with two narrow approaches on either side. The mission criteria is different this time, as well. Rather than wipe out the enemy, I only have to outlast them for seven turn, a more pleasant variant of the classic Escort Mission
, assuming Natalie's bad leg keeps her from trying to run out and attack everything in sight
, like a certain Faux Action Girl
again when it comes to Lyn, and it makes me move her closer to Dorcas under the guise of teaching me defensive tactics. The rest of the group is mine to move as I please, though, so I take use Kent and Sain to block off the southern entrance, and move Wil to cover the western wall, which has a crack in it like the one I broke through back in Chapter 2. Florina's pretty useless here with so many axes around, so I held her back.
The enemy advances and attacks, but my units come out unscathed, and all those bandits are now crammed into a tiny space right outside the main gate, which I actually find pretty amusing. They're just lucky there's no artillery in this setting. On my turn, the script wants me to have Lyn engage Dorcas in a Vendetta
. I already know the mechanic of course, but I do wonder whether this game uses the old system where the engaged units are only restricted to attacking each other each round until death, or the newer model where the entire death match plays out in one round. I'm hoping for the older model here, I always found it more interesting trying to steer my engaged target to use as a Human Shield
rather than just gambling on my guy winning.
Dorcas is an axe-user against Lyn's sword and even if it weren't an advantageous match this is another scripted mechanics tutorial for Vendettas, so I'm not really what the Selk?
Lyn didn't kill Dorcas. They didn't even fight. She... she recruited
He joined my team.
I control him now.
A war game that has me recruiting from my enemy's ranks? This is... this is just bizarre. What the crap were wars like in 2003?
The script makes me move Dorcas and attack another nearby bandit, one of his allies up until just a moment ago, with a special axe that can attack at range or in melee. He kills the guy with a critical hit that I can only assume was scripted, since he only had a 3% crit chance, and gets an Iron Axe off the corpse of his dead... enemy. The tutorial then goes on to tell me how to end my turn without moving all of my units, but unless I'm much mistaken I've already been doing that up until now on my own.
Carjiga calls in reinforcements on his turn, and more Brigands appear from off the edges of the map. I'm not really worried about it, though. I sent Dorcas into the fort to see if moving him near Natalie would spark a cutscene or something that would help this make more sense, and was able to initiate a conversation where the two expressed their mutual concern for each other and Dorcas berates himself for joining up with bandits. Natalie doesn't call any attention to this, she's just glad he's back and with her, which leaves me just as confused.
I eventually pushed out of the fort with Kent and Sain to wipe out the bandits in the field, though I didn't manage to reach Carjiga before the last turn expired and he retreated with one other survivor. Dorcas plans to take Natalie home during the night and return in the morning to join our group permanently, apparently at my invitation. Lyn accepts his offer. Back inside, Kent assures her that he and Sain will continue keeping watch, though the later is far less enthused.