Water, Water, Everywhere: Into The Deep

In the first part of this report, my party managed to survive two separate disasters. The first was the horribly-timed arrival of the Kraken, showing up to sink the starting Raft within moments of heading out to sea for the first time. The second was a mistake on my part as opposed to poor RNG luck, when I opted to fight against Deimos with a group ill-equipped to get through his defenses and suffered a near party wipe as a result. With those struggles in the rear view mirror, I hoped to enjoy some smooth sailing (heh) in the upcoming turns ahead.

After making my earlier trip into the Ashfall Islands to complete a retrieval quest, I returned at this point to the Forest Isles in the southeastern corner of the map. This was a supposedly easier area and I wanted to finish defogging it by running along the eastern edge of the map before swinging back to the west again. Best to clear out everything useful in the area while I was still here. I was fortunate enough to find two different sanctums in this area, the Sanctum of Purity in the Forest Isles themselves and then the Sanctum of Blood nearby in the Rogue Isles. There's only one sanctum in each area but they can sometimes wind up close to each other where the different regions meet. I also spotted a minidungeon out in the water named the Whale Belly. This is a special version of the Sea Caves commonly found out in the ocean; there's only one Whale Belly per game with its own unique reward at the end. My party went ahead and dove inside to see what they could find.

What I found inside was a series of difficult battles, harder than I'd been expecting. This was the toughest set of opponents, with two different Liches appearing in the same group. Liches always seem to have high health along with stout armor and magic resistance, which makes them dangerous foes when combined with their heavy magic damage output. This group forced Chopper to eat one of her Godsbeard herbs for safety before the combat was over (always make sure to give one or two of them to each character for safety). Sierra was holding onto a White Lute with the Party Heal attribute for use between combats but I didn't have anything that would let me Party Heal while a fight was still raging. This proved to be an unusually valuable battle in terms of loot dropping afterwards, with this Lich Crown appearing first. With +5 Intelligence along with +2 max damage and several other goodies, this was an outstanding item for Inkpot and I equipped it immediately. Then the same battle also yielded an Amplifying Diamond with even more magic damage and crit chance. Inkpot went up from 25 damage to 29 damage instantly with the addition of these two items, very nice.

Completing the Whale Belly for the first time unlocked a new class in the Lore Store:

This is the Treasure Hunter class, the newest addition to For The King included along with the patch that added Into The Deep. The Treasure Hunter has good starting stats in Intelligence, Awareness, and Talent (74 in each) which makes it one of the most flexible classes in the game. Strength is the only poor stat out of the major four, and Treasure Hunters do get penalized with poor Speed and Vitality to offset their versatility. The class also brings two useful abilities, with "Mimic Whisperer" transforming Mimic treasure chests into normal treasure chests and "Find Treasure" giving them a chance to discover treasure chests on the world map each turn. This class even starts out the game with a Handgun weapon, making them an interesting choice to bring along when first setting out. I need to have a chance to test this class before getting a sense for where to rank them, but the Treasure Hunter feels like one of the game's better classes. They can fit well into most any party composition due to having three different stats that can be used as primary attack options.

You may have noticed in the picture above that there was a Pirate Den to the east of the Whale Belly along the rocky edge of the map. I headed in there next and found a major weapon upgrade:

Chopper had been using the Hand Cannon seemingly forever and she finally found something better to equip here. The Longsword added 9 extra damage to each attack and didn't need to be reloaded after each shot. While it lost the ability to hit all opponents at once, it more than made up for this with the "Precision Stab" secondary attack that had the piercing property on it. I was halfway through the game at this point and monsters with hefty armor were becoming commonplace. With piercing attacks on both Inkpot and Chopper, it was much easier to strategize my way through each individual battle knowing that if needed they could use some Focus points and ignore the defenses of the enemies. This was by far the most useful item that I picked up while clearing through this Pirate Den.

The Pirate Dens are unique to Into The Deep mode, and they function a little bit differently than a typical minidungeon like a Sea Cave. The first Pirate Den becomes available when your party initially picks up the ship deed in the Guardian Forest; it turned out to be Level 5 in this game. Defeating the initial Pirate Den then makes a second one appear on the world map, which happened to spawn back up near the Guardian Forest again, this time with Level 7 attached to it. I figured that I might as well do this one too while I was in the area, since my group had just hit Level 7 themselves. I didn't find anything particularly interesting in the second Pirate Den (although Sierra did lose her sanctum protection from a nasty enemy blow), and sure enough, after finishing it a third Pirate Den appeared on the world map, this one listed as Level 9. I wasn't ready to do that area quite yet and planned to come back to it later. The whole series of Pirate Dens was listed as an optional quest, and at this point I was curious as to what the point was supposed to be.

That wrapped up the eastern edge of the map, and next I cruised through the Rogue Isles heading west. It turned out that this world was relatively wide on an east/west basis while being short on a north/south axis. I had already reached the southern edge of the world where I found the town of Pirate's Cove and the second Water Tower. Since the dungeon was still listed as only Level 4, that was my clear target to pursue next. However, I had the chance to pick up a sweet new weapon via a town quest and decided to do that first. Destroying a nest of Drowned Corpses yielded this find:

Again, this was a quest reward from a town, not a random drop in battle. The Katana was perfect for Sierra though, a huge upgrade in damage that used the same 3 Talent checks. While the Katana lacked a piercing property, the damage that Sierra was picking up was simply too high to ignore. All three of my party members had now reached the mid-30s range for their basic attack damage, and none of them needed to worry about any reloading shenanigans any longer. I was getting close to an endgame-capable weapons setup.

Here's a danger to keep in mind while traveling through the ocean. I picked a fight against a pirate ship that had two Quartermasters on board. These guys have high health for enemies of their level and will target your ship with their attacks. Each one of these attacks dealt a point of damage to the ship's hull, and the damage was limited to a single point only because I was using the expensive Armored Boat which has some limited protection against these kind of moves. When we were running our Multiplayer game of Into The Deep, a group of Quartermasters smashed apart our unarmored Merchant Boat in a matter of seconds before we could do anything about it. The whole thing is kind of a cheap trick on the part of the developers, and if you lose your ship, the party is forced to use the Safety Stones again and purchase an entirely new ship. My ship ended up taking four points of damage here (which would have sunk any of the other purchaseable ships that lack armor) and I repaired it at the nearest town for about 100 gold. Honestly, this battle simply wasn't worth it. You're better off avoiding fights with Quartermasters if at all possible. Stick to weaker opponents, which is normally easy to do with the open waters that the ship travels through.

My characters were pushing Level 8 at this point, which made them more than a match for the inhabitants of the Level 4 Water Tower. I had no difficulty making my way to the boss:

Only 29 HP on the Merling Fighter? All three members of my party could one-shot that poor fellow, heh. The Merling boss had started the fight by raising a shield of protection for all three of them, but that was countered instantly by Inkpot's "Area Blast" move that hit all opponents. Shorn of their invicible shielding, the minions went down in a real hurry, followed by the boss himself. I'll take this opportunity to point out a major weakness of this party setup: it wasn't very fast. Inkpot had decent Speed at 69 (after having to use the Safety Stone earlier), but that was only passable, not good, and the other two party members were even worse. This was a run where I never found much in the way of gear that added to Speed, and virtually every battle started out with the enemies getting to attack first. It was one of the few things holding back my group as they always seemed to take at least a little damage in every fight instead of acting first and preventing damage with fast kills.

I took this picture as I was sailing west through the Rogue Isles, with Sierra rolling all five Talent checks successfully and hitting the maximum of nine movement points. This is the most that the game will allow; it won't even let you spend Focus for more movement since apparently it only tracks movement to a single decimal place. The group healed up in Devil's Wharf and completed another quest for an item, this time for the Aegis of Husher shield that I gave to Chopper. While I didn't like that -4 Speed penalty, it was hard to argue with +5 Strength and a party-wide +5 armor. This took Chopper up to 93 Strength and she would end up capping the stat at the maximum of 95 before the game came to a close. The armor was particularly helpful on Inkpot since the Intelligence-based gear that he was running didn't provide much protection against physical damage.

After stopping to grab the Sanctum of Health for Sierra to replace her lost sanctum, I sent the group into the final remaining Pirate Den. Although this one was listed at Level 9, it didn't prove to be any longer than the previous two Pirate Dens that I had completed earlier. Just five rooms in all with only two battles to face, three battles if you could the Mimic chest that my group hit at the end. It was surprisingly easy and I found that my prize for completing all three pirate areas was... another ship deed, heh. This one could be turned in for the Pirate Boat, a ship that had the same movement rate as the Armored Boat but came with additional health for a grand total of 14 HP. Was it really worth clearing three dungeons for this minimal upgrade in transportation? Eh, probably. My characters needed to grind their way up to higher levels of experience and equipment in order to face the ending boss anyway. Might as well get the top tier ship in the game while going through that process, right? I figured that more health on the ship couldn't hurt and might very well come in handy.

With the Pirate Boat in hand, my focus turned at this point to the remaining Water Towers. I knew where the Level 8 version was located in the Ashfall Islands after having stumbled across it earlier, but I was still missing the hiding spot of the Level 6 version somewhere in the Poisonous Bog. This is an area that exists in the main For The King game mode as well, and it's the worst place to have to travel due to the horribly slow movement rate and toxic swampy terrain. It's always best to minimize the time spent in the boggy area by exploring it from the ship where the movement rate is much better. This was the time to break out those Vision Scrolls to speed along the process:

There we go, no need to waste time traveling around in the interior of the region. I had Inkpot use a bunch of Focus points to explore those few remaining unexplored tiles in the extreme south, then walk back into Yoniburg and use the Meditation service to restore all his Focus, followed by Chopper pulling him back onto the ship again. That allowed me to sail to the north in counterclockwise fashion without missing anything in the fog. Later, I would use a Teleport scroll to fulfill a delivery quest for Castle Vakker, grabbing an item at the stone statue and then popping over to the town. These brief stops also allowed me to clean out both towns of their supplies of Godsbeard herbs to keep up a healthy stock. I even replaced Inkpot's current sanctum with the Sanctum of Wisdom when he was surprisingly dropped in a random battle and cleared out the Bandit King scourge when he appeared in a corner of the bog. I was fortunate to be able to pick up everything of interest in this region without needing to waste time in the swampy grounds.

The missing Water Temple turned out to be in the northwest corner of the Poisonous Bog. I was once again significantly overleveled for this area, with my party having hit Level 10 already and with most of their endgame gear in place already. Into The Deep turns out to be fairly lenient in this regard, with the top dungeon only coming in at Level 8 as opposed to the Level 9 and Level 10 dungeons in some of the other game modes. Like the other Water Temples, this one had nine total rooms with three of them holding normal battles plus a fourth boss fight at the end. Once again the boss at the finish was a Merling, only this time it brought along Poison Puffs as companions:

I had Inkpot use his "Area Blast" attack to start the fight even though all of the monsters were packing some sizable magic resistance. He didn't need to do much damage though, only enough so that Sierra and Chopper could one-shot the Poison Puffs on their own attacks, and it did the trick nicely. That exploding Poison Puff looks way too much like a Pokemon to my eyes; I also like the Merling casually looking to its left as the poor thing dies, heh. The worst thing that happened in this fight was Chopper getting poisoned as no one ever fell below half health. Another easy victory.

With the Flood Meter set back to zero once more, I could have spent a long time grinding out additional levels and looking for more gold and items. However, I figured that I had more or less maxed out this particular group and there wasn't much point in sailing around in circles for the next hour attacking random pirate ships. I went ahead and cleared out Coalheart, the current scourge, even though his ability to create volcanoes on the map was nearly useless. Into The Deep has so much water that the land-based volcanoes don't block off terrain or pose much of a threat. I figured that I would go through the final remaining Water Temple, and that would take my characters up to Level 11 or very close to it, which should be enough to defeat the final boss. There was no point in grinding for the sake of grinding; it would take forever to reach Level 12 and I looked to have everything that I needed already.

After another uneventful tower, I came across this boss fight in the back end of the dungeon. This Merling boss had much more difficult minions in the form of these two Weresharks, who were sporting a beefy amount of health and decent armor and resistance. They hit hard enough that Sierra ate one of her many Godsbeard herbs and Inkpot had to consume a Golden Leaf for additional Focus use. At least the Weresharks were pretty slow as my party methodically cut their way through the monster health totals. Ultimately we did manage to make it through yet another boss fight without losing anyone. After those early disasters, my party had settled into a nice rhythm and no one had been defeated in some time.

I had been wondering if anything different would happen after clearing the final Water Tower, but nope, it was the standard Flood Meter reduction and nothing else. I couldn't even see the next wave on the timeline, much less the next three of them, which meant that this game wasn't even remotely close to forcing a conclusion. There seems to be a lot more time available in this mode as compared to For The King or Dungeon Crawl; even on Master difficulty, I think there would be plenty of time to farm up each character for the endgame. At the very least, I never felt any time pressure while playing this game mode as I so often do in the original game modes.

Inkpot and Chopper were both Level 11 coming out of the last Water Tower. Sierra was about 200 XP short, and I had her consume four Scholar's Wort herbs to pick up enough experience to have her reach Level 11 as well. Everyone needed another 1400 experience to hit Level 12, and that was going to take more time than I wanted to spend grinding. Therefore it was time to face the Sea King superboss who had been patiently sitting in the middle of the map while waiting for my party to become strong enough to defeat him. I made one last check on my items and clicked the boss to get the battle started.

There was no final dungeon to complete here, only the boss duel itself. As it turned out, the Sea King was essentially a souped-up version of the Kraken fight. The big guy himself has about 800 HP and pretty good armor for defense, along with a pair of Tentacles sporting their own 300 HP and decent magic resistance. The Tentacles have an interesting portrait graphic, and it looks, ummm, rather phallic on the action bar at the top of the screen. Feel free to make your own jokes here, I was certainly thinking them while playing. Per standard endgame boss tactics, I went after the Tentacles first to remove as many attackers from the battlefield as possible. The sooner that I could get the encounter down to my three characters against the ea King, the better. It soon became clear that there was a real danger in this battle, and it didn't have anything to do with my three characters. No, the threat in this fight was to the Pirate Boat itself.

This fight takes place not inside a tower or atop a mountain peak, but from the deck of a heaving ship. Just as the Kraken can choose to go after your ship in that encounter, the Sea King and its Tentacles can do the same thing. I soon discovered that the Tentacles have an attack that deals 2 damage to the ship (reduced to 1 damage by the Pirate Boat's one point of Armor) while the Sea King has an attack that deals 3 damage to the ship (reduced to 2 damage by the Pirate Boat's armor). It didn't take a genius to realize that this was a dire threat indeed, with the 14 HP on the Pirate Boat suddenly not looking as sturdy as it had a bit earlier. I concentrated on downing first the right Tentacle, then the left one to remove their chance to smash apart the Pirate Ship. Good news: I found a Ship Repair Kit in Sierra's inventory that added +2 HP back to the ship. Bad news: I only had one of them and it was gone as soon as I used it. Note to self: make sure to purchase more Ship Repair Kits when playing this game mode in the future. Like, a lot more Ship Repair Kits.

The battle soon turned into a damage race between my party and the boss, the health of the ship versus the health of the Sea King. His attacks were not inconsequential, able to do about 30 damage to everyone in the party together or roughly 45 damage to a single party member. The Sea King could also inflict the Shock debuff, but that was essentially pointless since I was burning through Focus like crazy. I had picked up four different Precious Pearls over the course of the game and they allowed me to be reckless in spending Focus. Inkpot and Chopper had scores of 90 and 95 to their primary stats, which meant that a single Focus point would give them 100% to-hit odds and ensure that they never missed. The defenses of the Sea King were irrelevant in the face of their respective piercing attacks. Sierra's Talent score was a bit lower at 85 and I had her use some of the "items as spells" effects, like a pair of Blizzard Orbs to put the Sea King in Frozen status and get decent damage at the same time. I had made one mistake with my recovery items, not splitting them up evenly between all three characters and leaving Chopper with only three Godsbeard herbs. It didn't look like it would matter as the ship would give out before her health total, but that was still sloppy of me.

This battle become uncomfortably close as it wound down. I had realized earlier that I wanted to put the Sea King into Bleeding status to get those bleed ticks adding in some extra trickle damage, and that was something that one of the secondary attacks on Sierra's Katana was able to do. I kept the enemy giant in that Bleeding status for the whole second half of the fight, and it ticked four or five times in total. That turned out to be critically important, because the Pirate Boat went down to 1 HP remaining while the Sea King still had about 100 HP left. He attacked once with the hull at 1 HP, and didn't go after the ship on that particular round. Whew. I got in two more attacks to leave him at about 15 HP, but the boss was still going to get off a second attack before Inkpot could land the final blow. Please please please don't attack the boat this round, I only needed one more character turn to achieve victory!


And right before the Sea King could attack and potentially destroy the Pirate Boat, another bleed tick popped and finished him off, 24 damage for the win. Wow, what a close victory! Without picking up the Pirate Boat earlier this would have been a defeat, and without that random Ship Repair Kit that had dropped from a monster in the early stages of the game, this also would have been a defeat. Chalk this up to a combination of good planning and good luck. Of course, now that I know what this final boss fight looks like, I'll know to bring a bunch of Ship Repair Kits and it should be pretty straightforward in the future. It probably would have been worthwhile to finish those two quests for Obsidian Swords (listed on the left side of the screen) and use them in the final battle as well. While the Obsidian Sword is useless for general combat (huge damage but shatters on a single missed attack roll), in a situation like this with essentially infinite Focus it would have been handy to cut through the Sea King that much faster. I used a similar strategy in my Frost Adventure writeup with the Ancient weapons if you'd like to read about what that looks like.

There's a neat bit of in-game For The King lore after winning, as Captain Bradach explains that he had taken all of his accumulated pirate gold to the top of Frostbite Peak out of fear of the Great Flood. Then he cuts off mid-sentence, evidently devoured by the great dragon Whitemoon and thus providing an explanation for why all of that loot was on top of a mountaintop. I appreciate this way of tying the different game types together on the part of the developers, with their characteristic tongue-in-cheek humor about the whole thing.

Taken in full, Into The Deep mode is a lot of fun to play. It's definitely easier than the classic For The King and Dungeon Crawl modes, between the longer time granted between new ticks on the Flood Meter and easier dungeons to clear out. Moving on the ship is also easier than moving on land, as your characters stay grouped together as a party and it's much easier to avoid unwanted battles due to the wide open spaces on the ocean. The hardest part of For The King comes from the need to balance exploring the map against keeping your characters concentrated as a party, and Into The Deep mode largely allows the player to avoid those dilemmas. With that said, the default For The King mode is extremely difficult and beyond the abilities of most players, so I'm glad that the other game modes that the designers have been adding have erred on the side of being more forgiving. Into The Deep is a more structured setup like the For The King mode, and therefore likely won't provide the same amount of replayability as Dungeon Crawl mode. I still think that Dungeon Crawl is the most interesting setup for variants or other experimental playthroughs due to the way that it keeps changing from game to game.

I'm not sure if I'll continue to run more FTK games but I've very much enjoyed the time that I've spent with this title thus far. If you enjoyed reading these reports, you may as well think about picking up this game for yourself given how cheap it is. Thanks as always for reading.