Lots to catch up with on this lazy Saturday.
First off, a bit of advice about that delivery list (those four items in the back of the shop Yan Li wants you to drop off for her): DON’T GUESS. If you don’t know what that spring or that bathhouse is, look it up and get a good idea of where you should be going. You can easily waste an hour or more schlepping something to where you swear it should be. Save yourself the aggravation and look it up. You’ll thank me later.
Jotunheim. I took it in two parts because I was concerned about running low on supplies. Turns out that you can find food fairly easily if you know where to look and arrows are a lot more plentiful than I remembered, so splitting up was for avoiding fatigue as much anything else. This was a smart move, especially since just getting all the Ymir Blood Stones was a slog. Making the Offering Altar donation is an all-or-nothing deal, BTW (5 skill points for ponying up all 33), so once you get started, either you finish the deal or all your effort is wasted. It was such a slog that I honestly almost forgot why I was supposed to be there in the first place. Well, I was able to finish business, which means that I never have to go there again, and good riddance, honestly. Two things I did appreciate learning: 1. I kick butt! I was able to beat Steinnbyorn, a level 400 beast! (Hint 1, catch its back as often as you can, hint 2, do not let it pin you against a wall. Give it all the grazes it wants and stay in the open!) I was only about level 283 at the time, so I wasn’t sure I could actually beat it, but I thought, eh, only live once, gotta at least try. And, though I had to attack furiously and take some major lumps (I started with 5 rations and had 1 to spare), I prevailed in the end. I don’t have the slightest illusion that I would’ve gotten creamed on any higher difficulty, but hell with it, a win is a win and I’m pumped. 2. Incendiary Powder Trap can smash destructible barriers! Not only that, it doesn’t create a fire, meaning you never have to worry about, ahem, backlash. This is a fantastic option if dragging the firebomb all the way there is a hassle or you can’t find one at all. And on that latter note, I should warn you that there is one Blood Stone behind such a barrier where there is no way in and no firebomb anywhere around, so the only way you’re getting that grand 5 level boost is if you have IPT. Incidentally, this does a ton of damage to enemies, way more than poison, so it’s good to have in stock for those strongholds.
Another note on abilities: While Focus of the Nornir is, again, awesome for nailing weak points, against higher-level enemies you shouldn’t count on that to turn the tide. While reducing the enemy’s defense gives you a definite advantage, in the higher-level areas they can take such a massive pounding that you still have work to do. In these cases, it’s best to lead with FotN, then switch to something which can disable the enemy and allow you to pour on the damage. I’ve also discovered that Man’s Best Friend will not knock down the enemy if he’s too strong (and you want that knockdown). When I get the chance, I’ll see if Raven Distraction can fit the bill. The game says that with the upgrade (which I just got today), Synin will stun the target; if I can get a guaranteed stun attack against a Zealot or Legendary Beast, that alone is going to make it a must-have.
Other than that, it’s been lots and lots of highly productive work, much of it gaining loot and experience from Sciropescire and Cent and cutting down the ranks of the Order of the Ancients. Between them, Vinland, and Jotunheim, I was close to 300 before I even committed to my next 160!
The thing that Ubisoft did very well with the Order, in particular the non-storyline related Palatinuses (I still have no idea what the “correct” term is; if you have something better, feel free to share), is that they make you experience the entire game. One requires you to win a drinking contest, one requires you to be on the lookout for a certain tower, one requires you to raid an encampment. I really do not like having to win a tricky dice game to get to The Lathe (and by extension The Lyre), but I understand Ubisoft’s good intentions and can deal with it. This once. Eventually.
The other big milestone (which I actually did before Steinnbyorn) was defeating the last Daughter of Lerion, Cordelia, and obtaining two highly coveted pieces of the Armor of Thor. There’s been some scuttlebutt on GameFAQs on just how hard she is to beat and what works best against her. In a nutshell: She’s hits very hard, especially with her red aura jumping slash, her lightning attack has tremendous range, and she both moves and recovers really fast, so you need to stay on your toes, keep your guard up, and capitalize on every opportunity. That’s really all there is to it. I recommend double spears and the toughest armor you have, of course, and either the Poison Strike or Fire Strike ability, whichever you’ve seen kill bosses faster. I had 5 rations against her and used either 2 or 3, I forget (and this was after getting tagged by at least 3 reds), so it can be done. (Again, I’d like to stress that I’m playing on I-wanna-win-dammit difficulty, so I am not in any way, shape, or form thumping my chest about my video game prowess, which is and forever shall be abysmal, I’d just like to stress that yes, beating the Daughters of Lerion somewhat handily is within the realm of possibility. That is all.)
On a related note, regarding armor (and everything I said before about incrementalism still holds), the smartest play is to get at least 3 matching pieces of anything, upgrade everything to Superior (carbon ingots are so plentiful and cheap that you should never muck around with lowly Fine equipment), and keep them at a modest level unless you’re really struggling to stay alive. When you obtain Brigandine from the 130s (2 in Sciropescire, 3 in Cent), bump them up to level 4, but no higher unless you want to make this your permanent armor. While it has excellent defense, second only to the Thor armor, it’s also bulky and not easy to dodge in. My path had me besting Goneril for Thor’s Breeches before I even got the Brigandine Trousers, saving me some resources and trouble. The Thor armor is by far the best equipment you can get at the early-mid stage of the game, so I very strongly recommend biting the bullet and taking that sinister trio out. Bump all your Thor equipment up to Flawless and level 7 ASAP (if you’ve been scouring kingdoms to any reasonable extent, this should be no sweat). From there the last step should be the Mentor armor, which I strongly recommend boosting all the way to Mythical and level 10 right off the bat. While not quite as resilient as Brigandine or Thor’s, it’s considerably lighter and has much better evasion stats, and trust me, you’ll want to be very light on your feet for your final battles. The first should always the be the Mentor’s Cloak, held in a protected location in Snotinghamscire, as by the time you get the Thor equivalent it’s essentially a “bragging rights reward”. Save your precious tungsten for the other Mentor’s or Thor pieces, starting with the chest piece (which, as of the current update, is the only one which can receive a diamond rune). It only takes 1 tungsten ingot to bump up an armor piece as opposed to 3 for a weapon, so defense before offense!
Oh, before I forget, they also added a new feature. Ever wondered what those bridges on the edges of the settlement were for? Well, get ready for a new challenge, River Raids! This is essentially an “endless mode” for players who’ve conquered everything else in the game. Basically you start with a simple raid, the raids gradually get harder, you have a finite supply of raiders and healing rations, and you keep going until you call it a day or die. The bad news is that if you die at any point, you lose EVERYTHING you obtained on the raid, so it’s a question of not only skills but guts. Dare you do one more? Me, I have the guts of a jellyfish, so I’ll leave this to the true masters, but it’s nice to know that there’s some actual replay value here.
Another fun thing that happened was that I finally got to charisma level 5, meaning that I could finally work my charms on Maximillian and get that statue gratis! Just for the record, it takes a total of 12 flytings to get to that level (of which 10 require actual effort, the other 2 being a tutorial and, well, that guy ), 1 for level 2, 3 more for level 3, and 4 each for levels 4 and 5, so I was raring for this moment for quite a while. So here’s what happens…
Eivor threatens to do horrible stuff to Maximillian. Maximillian becomes filled with fear, caves, and lets her take the statue. That’s it. Not sure how skill at improvisational beat poetry translates to skill at base thuggish intimidation, but eh, success is success.
Alliance-wise, I decided to make the next one Essexe because I felt it was a natural continuation point after Cent, plus there was that one synchronization point I avoided earlier because there were a bunch of angry guards in the area. As it turns out, Essexe has a surprising amount of combat for an arc centered around an old romance and a corny staged kidnapping, with no castle or major battle. Just as well that much of the action took place in Colcestre, as I was able to completely clear it, which is great because I do not want to go to that bloodsoaked hellhole ever again.
There was one interesting note, which was Rollo’s grilling of his lieutenants, which, since I can barely remember the names of the important characters, much less supporting cannon fodder, I’ll simply refer to as “SM” (shield maiden) and “OV” (old veteran). Rollo belived that one of them betrayed him, so he asked for Eivor’s help to determine which. At Grantebridgescire, it was a damn long search, but eventually I found sufficient evidence to nail the culprit. (Incidentally, it is possible to seal the alliance even if you mess this up, but the fighting is tougher, Soma’s relationship with you is soured, and you lose out on a Jomsviking) Here, I don’t know what I missed, but I had zero idea who to accuse. Both had a solid motive, both gave the exact same alibi, both were strangely absent when the camp was hit, both showed suspicious behavior. I thought that the only reasonable response was to lock them up and investigate further, but Rollo wanted an answer RIGHT FREAKING NOW, with that big hammer in his hands making his intentions all too clear. In my first game, the one I didn’t accuse turned out to be guilty, which I found out the hard way in the final fight against Aelfred’s forces. Since I had garnered no further evidence, I assumed this was either the standard “They both did it, you fool!” twist, where you learn the old lesson about one party being guilty not automatically making the other innocent, or, worst case scenario, that execrable no-win situation where no matter what you choose you discover later that you were wrong. So this time, of course, I pointed the finger at the other to see what would happen.
The first game I accused OV. In the final battle, SM alerted the attacking forces to Estrid’s presence, then placed her in the path of an arrow (she was badly wounded but survived). In my current game, OV…who displayed a rather poor attitude up to that point, I hasten to add…warned Eivor and Rollo of the attack, then was cut down by arrows while trying to protect Estrid, who came out of the battle unharmed. So yeah, shield maiden guilty, old veteran innocent. No twist, no BS, pure as the driven snow. Go figure. Incidentally, either way the end result is essentially unchanged: Both SM and OV are dead, Estrid escapes to Francia alive, and a grateful Birstan keeps his word and makes the alliance official. I think you don’t get Rollo as a Jomsviking if you guess wrong, but Jomsvikings are easy enough to acquire that this is hardly damaging. The consequences for messing up are far less than for Grantebridgescire, so Ubisoft does has some sense of justice, at least.
Excellent game! Hopefully somewhat shorter posts in the future; I don’t see any new major developments for a while.
Upgraded ranged abilities: Incendiary Powder Trap, Ranged Poison Strike, Piercing Shot, Mark of Death, Raven Distraction, Focus of the Nornir, Thorn of Slumber
Upgraded melee abilities: Rush & Bash, Blinding Rush, Poison Strike, Vengeance of Thor, Harpoon Impalement, Throwing Axe Fury
Primary weapons: Fyrd Spear L7, Cadfarch Spear L7
Bows: Light - Skadi’s Wrath L7, Hunter - Death-Speaker L7, Predator - Longbow L7
Armor: Mentor’s Cloak L10, Thor’s Battle Plate L7, Thor’s Helmet L7, Thor’s Gauntlets L7, Thor’s Breeches L7
Quiver and Rations pouch ALL COMPLETE! (You get_plenty_ of Fabric once you hit the 130s. Pretty much everyone should have both maxed out before finishing the 160s.)
Alliances: Ledecestershire 20, Grantebridgescire 20, East Anglia 55, Lunden 90, Oxenefordscire 90, Sciropescire 130, Cent 130, Vinland 160, Essexe 160
Completed areas - all Wealth, Mysteries, and Artifacts: Ledecestershire, Grantebridgescire, Lunden, Oxenefordscire, Cent, Vinland, Essexe, Jotunheim. (Still have a Lost Drengr in East Anglia and an Offering Altar in Sciropescire.)
Legendary animals defeated: 6/11 (Feel a bit cheated that I don’t get some acknowledgment in the homestead about Steinnbjorn and O Yan Do’ Ne, even if one “isn’t real” and the other’s far from England.)
Bound to Fate arcs completed: 2/3
Zealots defeated: 11/15 (I could take on Hrothgar and Beorhtsige right now, but I want to get some more of the story done first.)
Palatinuses/Magesters defeated: 15/25 (I’m actually thinking that The Oil might be the tough one, as the first clue is in the hardest area in the game, but I am in no hurry to go after The Lathe.)