Ophilia made it through the first two sets of character stories without too much in the way of difficulty. She was proving to be a sturdy adventurer and her massive healing abilities made it difficult for monsters to land a knockout blow. I decided that this would be a good moment to venture out into the third ring for the first time and visit some of the endgame towns. Grandport in particular holds so many goodies for a solo character that it's almost always one of the places that I prioritize. To undertake that hazardous trip, Ophilia recruited the Amnesiac old man who she had earlier brought from Victor's Hollow to Goldshore, an NPC with a 7 star rating who would be useful for the journey ahead. This guy helped to provide some additional offense against the vicious monsters on the path to Grandport:
This NPC turned out to have spears as his weapon type and that was useful against a number of the enemies along the way. I was having Ophilia use Heal Wounds or Heal More on practically every other round of combat to cure away the pounding that she was taking from these opponents. The Amnesiac was perhaps most helpful simply because he tanked about a third of the incoming attacks - better that he take the hit than Ophilia! I probably could have run away from these battles using Ophilia's Evil Ward support skill (which increases the odds of a successful escape) but she had just enough resources to win these fights and claim their hefty XP rewards. By the way, there are only so many NPC sprites in Octopath Traveler and Guiding them around can sometimes lead to amusing screenshots like this one. The old man twins!
Grandport held the treasure trove of equipment upgrades that it always does for solo characters. I used Tressa to Purchase the Forbidden Shield with its huge increase to physical/elemental defense along with the Protective Necklace with +80 to both of the same stats. The Forbidden Shield also has a massive penalty to evade but I still valued it since the stats were so much better than the other shield options. For situations where I wanted to emphasize a dodge setup, I also picked up the Ethereal Dancer Gear in the town. Poor evasion is one of the weaknesses of Ophilia as a character so this wasn't something that I would end up running very often but I did want to have it as an option. I would end up spending 150,000 money in Grandport and cleaned out Ophilia's wallet - time to earn some more income by slaying monsters out in the wilderness.
I followed my usual trend by clearing out several of the optional side dungeons at this point. The Tomb of Kings is surprisingly easy at this stage of the game, with the random encounters inside the dungeon notably less difficult than the encounters outside of the dungeon. That doesn't make any sense but it is what it is and I've never had any trouble claiming all of the chests inside. Farshore is similarly quite short and doesn't pose any serious dangers to a character who has completed the Chapter 2 stories. For the optional side dungeons that had bosses present, I brought along an axe-wielding NPC to help deal with Manymaws. While this wasn't strictly necessary (Ophilia overhealed up to 5000 HP and was never in any danger), it was highly satisfying to watch this townsperson club the plant monster over the head with a "Brain Bash" attack. Did that thing even have a brain? Heh.
Next I sent Ophilia into a dungeon that she wasn't quite ready to tackle yet, the Maw of the Ice Dragon in the northern wilds outside of Northreach. The monsters here were comparable to the ones outside of Grandport and Ophilia was only able to survive by healing herself constantly and making heavy use of Summoned allies. She was able to limp to the key treasure chest that I wanted, however, claiming the best helmet in the game in the form of the Adamantine Hat. With this item equipped, Ophilia was able to max out her elemental defense for the first time:
Once again I was annoyed at how this stat gets capped at 999 and can't go any further. Ophilia was nowhere close to being finished with her character build and healing scales off the elemental defense stat; it certainly would have been helpful if she could keep pushing towards 1100 or 1200 or whatever. The Adamantine Hat was a big part of that maxed stat thanks to its 104 physical defense, 180 elemental defense (best in the game), and 88 additional points of elemental attack. That last aspect was key for Ophilia since the Adamantine Hat would increase her damage output while also providing fantastic protection. I'm not sure if I ever removed the item for the rest of the game since it was so clearly the best-in-slot choice for Ophilia. Normally I would be running extra max HP in one of the accessory slots but Ophilia's overhealing via Saving Grace allowed her to skip that necessity and run the highlighted Elemental Augmentor instead. Ophilia's damage output was fairly low and having those extra 100 points of elemental attack made a noticeable difference. I could always tell when she had to drop it for a status-protecting accessory against many of the bosses.
The one remaining optional boss to tackle at the moment was the Behemoth in the Tomb of the Imperator. This creature charges up its physical attack and then hits very hard:
Very hard indeed - poor Ophilia! That 2000 damage attack still didn't break through the overhealing though. Ophilia had brought along a woman named the Bazaar Shopper with an 8 star rating but the NPC didn't do as much tanking as I would have liked. The tricky thing about this optional boss is that it will heal itself with an ability named Hydration when it falls below half health and restore about 3500 HP with each usage. For the offense-challenged nature of a character like Ophilia, that represented a problem. My solution was to take advantage of the Behemoth's weaknesses to staffs and light element. This made it easy to peel through the monster's shielding and use Aelfric’s Auspices, then initiate a break and land a double casting of Holy Light at max boost. Each one of those pillars of holy energy dealt about 5000 damage and that was enough to finish off the beast. If only the treasure chest reward for completing the Tomb of the Imperator was something actually useful.
With the optional side content out of the way, I began the Chapter 3 stories with the easiest of the bunch in the form of Olberic. The lizardmen that he fights against are a fairly easy bunch as long as the player remembers to equip an Antidote Stone for this poison-heavy area. There was one monster type in this dungeon that could inflict unconsciousness after falling below half health, and after Ophilia was wiped out once by an unlucky streak of stunning attacks, I made sure to kill those enemies first whenever they appeared and avoided any problems. For the Lizardman Chief at the conclusion of this story, Ophilia equipped a Conscious Stone to protect against getting stunned and brought along one of the Guards from Atlasdam for assistance:
This ended up being a more difficult battle than I had anticipated. The Lizardman Chief would debuff Ophilia's physical defenses with its Armor Crush attack and then launch a series of powerful blows which could deal as much as 1500 damage if they landed. Sure, the Guard NPC was tanking some of them, but inevitably a few would get through and inflicted quite a pounding on Ophilia. She was able to clear out the lizardman minions without much issue whenever they appeared, and there was also a light element weakness on the boss to leverage. But the whole thing just took a while since Ophilia had to cut through 51k health on the boss and she was limited to the sort of damage output pictured above. There were a few close calls here when Ophilia's overhealing was broken through and she had to rely on her own rather modest health total. Don't get me wrong, there was never a serious threat to lose the battle, but it wasn't easy street by any means either. This was my main fear with Ophilia: as boss health and damage continued to scale up, her healing would eventually prove insufficient and her offense wouldn't be enough to cut it. This wasn't the most promising sign from the initial Chapter 3 opponent.
The other easy Chapter 3 story tends to be Tressa's tale in Victor's Hollow. This is one of the rare cases where the dungeon attached to the story can cause more problems than the boss at the end of it. Ophilia fought her way through to its conclusion and fortunately had just the right Summon to help out against the boss:
I had earlier recruited Mont d'Or back in town, one of the gladiators who features in the "A Promising Venture" side story. He can be Guided just like almost everyone else in the whole game and uses a series of spear attacks when summoned in battle. These are amusingly named "Hya! Hya! Hya!" in what is quite possibly a Zelda reference. Mont d'Or was a great choice for this battle because the Venomtooth Tiger is weak against spears and never locks out any of its weaknesses. Mont d'Or was smashing through one, two, or the pictured three shields every single turn and doing very solid damage in the process. Naturally he was also intercepting a number of the incoming blows against this all-physical boss as well. In contrast to the Lizardman Chief, the Venomtooth Tiger was a very easy opponent and Ophilia had no issues keeping her health up while pounding the animal with light element spells. I was having a lot of fun experimenting with the various Guide options and this was one occasion where I nailed a good choice.
I decided to take the unusual step of undertaking Cyrus' Chapter 3 story next. This sequence has the highest difficulty rating out of any of the Chapter 3 stories at 40 but I've found it to be one of the easier options in the past. Much of the damage in this tale also happens to be elemental instead of physical and that felt like something which would play to Ophilia's strengths. The random encounters along the way in Yvon's Birthplace had noticeably higher HP totals than the ones that I'd been seeing in the previous dungeons and that required more time spent casting Luminescence:
This was invariably Ophilia's tactic in random battles: defend or heal while the boost meter filled up and then cast Luminescence to hit everything on screen. Weaker monsters would die in one casting while stronger ones would take two. This dungeon was annoying because most of the enemies required three castings of Luminescence and that dragged things out for a while. (It wasn't quite as bad as this picture indicates because two of the enemies had been buffed with extra elemental defense but Ophilia's damage output still wasn't terribly impressive.) I usually run Octopath Traveler at triple speed for random encounters because otherwise everything takes forever to play out on screen. The visual effects in this game are great but they're also slooooow and I don't need to see the same flashy monster attack seven times in a row. While there was no danger here it took longer than usual to defeat the random encounters while proceeding through the dungeon.
I ran a bit of an experiment against Yvon by bringing along Dan the windmill guy from Atlasdam as the Summon option. Dan had the skill that I wanted in the form of the Dagger Storm ability which would punch through Yvon's weakness to daggers. The damage was zero but the shield breaking was excellent. What I didn't realize was the fact that Dan couldn't take a hit at all: as soon as he blocked one attack from the boss, he instantly retreated back into the shadows. This happened repeatedly so it clearly wasn't a coincidence. It appears as though the star rating of the NPCs actually does matter in terms of how many hits they can absorb and poor Dan with his 3 star rating was badly outmatched against Yvon. This was going to shift up my strategic planning for the lategame boss fights since it would be pointless to bring along any of the townspeople with a low star rating. Even having nine chances to summon someone wasn't going to accomplish much of anything if they retreated immediately after each use.
As far as Yvon went, the first half of the battle wasn't too bad. Ophilia was able to clear out his Research Fellow minions fairly quickly and Dan did help out with shield breaking quite nicely when his face wasn't getting smashed into the ground. The second half of the battle was a lot more dangerous as Yvon gained the ability to drain SP and BP with his Shatter Soul and Pulverize abilities. Nevertheless, Yvon never gets more than one action per turn and that just isn't too dangerous in Octopath Traveler. I kept Ophilia's health in the 3000-5000 HP range at all times and that allowed her to use Inspiriting Plums for SP recovery as needed. Eventually she worked her way through Yvon's hefty lifebar without ever truly being threatened.
Primrose's story was next and it's another one of the Chapter 3 stories that seems to be easier than the formal difficulty rating would suggest. Ophilia's character level had risen high enough that she could Guide 9 star townspeople for the first time, such as this Guard Captain from Bolderfall. I spotted that this person's Guillotine attack would be perfect for hitting the swords weakness on Albus and it proved highly effective in practice. The Guard Captain was dishing out heavy damage and helping Ophilia to break through the shields on the boss, and then when Albus summoned his minions halfway through the fight, the NPC broke out this big multi-targeted move and sliced everything in sight. This is the one moment in the Albus fight where things can get dangerous and the Guard Captain + Luminescence cleared out the minions almost immediately. Afterwards Albus alone wasn't much of a threat. This Guard Captain NPC was so useful that I would end up bringing him along for several of the other Chapter 3 boss fights, particularly any opponent who also had a swords weakness to exploit.
I was able to snap one of my favorite screenshots of Ophilia's journey against the Dragon:
I hadn't been getting any use out of the Reflective Veil skill up to this point in the Chapter 3 stories but there it was finally proving effective against the Dragon's flame breath. Most solo characters have to equip an Inferno Amulet to neutralize this ability and reduce the damage by 99%. I actually still used the Inferno Amulet because I wasn't entirely sure that this tactic would work, but Ophilia was indeed able to do even better by reflecting this attack back at her Dragon opponent. The reflected dragonfires bounced back for roughly 1500 damage apiece and this was significant enough that I kept refreshing her elemental protection. It was a perfect opportunity to make use of Aelfric’s Auspices and get 4 * 2 = 8 uses of Reflective Veil at once. With that elemental threat neutralized, Ophilia only needed to be concerned with the melee attacks from the Dragon. She brought back the Guard Captain NPC again for some help with blocking those attacks and otherwise kept healing and casting Holy Light whenenver there were boost points available. This wasn't a fast battle but it was a very safe one and I was happy to have a chance to do something with Reflective Veil. (The vast majority of boss abilities in this game are physical damage, it's strange how one-sided this is.)
I took the time to prep another 9 star Summon for Miguel in the form of the Resilient Gladiator from Victor's Hollow... and then never ended up needing to use him. Miguel will debuff your character's physical attack and physical defense constantly, to the point that it's not even worth trying to neutralize those debuffs because they're applied so often. However, Ophilia didn't care about her physical attack being reduced and her physical defense was high enough that she wasn't taking much damage even while penalized. Miguel's "spears raining down from above" attack was dealing about 100 damage per spear and I was often able to use the Defend command with Ophilia which would further reduce that damage into single digits. With Ophilia spending most of the battle above 5000 HP and having ample healing on hand, this was not a serious danger. Meanwhile, Miguel was weak against light element for his first two shield breaks and Ophilia was crushing him with Holy Light damage whenever her boost meter was full. I was able to set up an Aelfric’s Auspices double-cast of Holy Light while the boss was broken to get 8500 * 2 = 17,000 total damage. Miguel couldn't take that kind of punishment for long and crumpled in short order.
Part of the reason why Ophilia's damage had been higher against Miguel was the fact that I could equip an Elemental Augmentor accessory since there was no need to protect against a particular status ailment. It was also partly due to Ophilia picking up a series of the stat-boosting nuts scattered across the third ring towns of the world. I had been visiting those locations in between the Chapter 3 stories and completing the various side quests associated with each village as I went. All of those nuts make a big difference when collected together; for example, Ophilia acquired three medium Magic Nuts and two large Magic Nuts in this process. Together they were worth +101 points to the elemental attack stat, equal to another Elemental Augmentor completely for free. This is one of the unglamorous but highly important aspects of any solo character's journey.
There were two Chapter 3 stories remaining and both of them had the potential to be troublesome. I decided to tackle Therion's story first despite normally leaving this one until the end. Gareth, the boss at the end of this story, can be a real pain due to his ability to steal items, steal SP, and revive from being broken by his minions. The Black Market dungeon associated with this boss is trivial and Ophilia easily made her way up to the challenge at its conclusion. I spent some time thinking about which NPC to bring along and ultimately decided on the Bazaar Shopper from Grandport again. This woman was packing the Sorcerer's Glacies Claudere spell which hits everything on screen three times with ice element. It's captured in the screenshot above although there's so much visual clutter that you can't really see that this is the Gareth boss fight. (The turn order bar at the top is about the only part that isn't blurry.) Gareth is weak against ice element and I thought that this would be the best way to cut through his shields and also deal as much damage as possible.
Now a side effect of bringing along a mage with multi-targeted damage was the fact that Gareth's Master Thief minions were also getting hit with icy projectiles. Normally this is something that the player wants to avoid because Gareth increases from 2 actions/turn up to 3 actions/turn after the minions are gone and he's more dangerous than they are. However, the minions will also snap Gareth out of a break if they're still around and I wanted to remove that possibility. I decided to have Ophilia concentrate on hitting Gareth for as much damage as possible while letting the Bazaar Shopper eliminate the minions with her Glacies Claudere. They went down relatively quickly and that allowed Ophilia to hit Gareth with a max boosted Holy Light when the boss was broken for 7700 damage. Gareth responded by going up to 3 actions and stealing Ophilia's items but I had a plan in mind for that as well:
After recovering from a break, Gareth will block his ice element weakness but he fails to lock out something else: staffs. Yes, the rare weakness to staffs was exactly what I needed here as Ophilia invested a few boost points to bonk the enemy thief over the head with her staff and break through his shields. This restored the lost items and allowed for a max boosted Holy Light on the next turn which finished off the battle completely. I was aided here by Gareth's low health total of 38k HP but it was still a big relief to get this fight out of the way. The Bazaar Shopper had been the perfect choice for this encounter, not only hitting that ice element weakness and removing the minions but even contributing a staff attack herself after Gareth recovered from his initial break. Victory on the first try without Ophilia ever running into serious danger.
The only Chapter 3 story remaining at this point was Ophilia's own tale that takes place in Goldshore. I had been saving this for last because the bosses at the end can cause issues for low offense character setups and that definitely described Ophilia. As far as the narrative elements are concerned, Ophilia arrives at the town's cathedral and finds the local archbishop acting in extremely suspicious fashion. He tells Ophilia that he needs more time to prepare for the Kindling ritual and screams "untrustworthy character" in seventeen different ways during their conversation. Ophilia ends up Guiding one of the town's children again (what is it with her and kids?!) and the full story comes out from the archbishop: his daughter was kidnapped and held hostage in a planned exchange for the Sacred Flame that Ophilia is carrying. Our heroine naturally won't stand for this and sets out to confront the kidnappers. Up to this point the plot has been pretty bog-standard as far as questing goes in an RPG.
Then it becomes a bit more interesting with this conversation:
Ophilia runs into someone that she met at the outset of her journey, the merchant Mattias. He's perfectly polite on the surface but keeps directing their conversation towards the topic of the Church of the Sacred Flame. It's not hard to see that Mattias is bitter and disillusioned towards the church and its faith, questioning the unfairness and seeming randomness of life. He asks Ophilia how she can retain her faith in the Sacred Flame given the injustice of the world around them and Ophilia responds with a simple but elegant defense of her beliefs. Ophilia states that she believes in her faith because she chooses to have that belief, and even though that means that she may be the victim of unscrupulous actors, she prefers believing the best in others to living a life of cynicism. This is remarkably well written for such a short passage and directly ties into the themes of Ophilia's story in a beautiful way. I am not personally religious but I think this captures a core element of what it means to live a life devoted to faith, the recognition that belief is ultimately a personal choice along with understanding and accepting that as such. I would argue that this little scene is Ophilia's best in her whole storyline.
Of course there was still the matter of passing through the Seaside Grotto dungeon and confronting the bosses at its conclusion. The Mystery Man and the Shady Figure are some of the rare opponents who deal primarily elemental damage and I wasn't concerned about the spells that they would be tossing Ophilia's way. The only real danger would come at the tail end of the fight when one of the pair was defeated and the surviving member of the duo would start launching physical attacks. No, the problem here was dealing enough consistent damage to overcome the 800 HP of healing that the Shady Figure would grant these opponents at the end of every round. My plan was the same that Ophilia had used against the Dragon earlier: turn the incoming elemental spells back against the casters via Reflective Veil and combine that together with damage from the good old Guard Captain. The only real question was whether this would be enough to overcome the innate regeneration from the Shady Figure.
This was a weird situation where the spells bouncing off Ophilia's Reflective Veil actually did more damage to the bosses than they did to Ophilia. She took roughly 100 damage from the initial Fireball casting before I could get her spellshield enacted and subsequent enemy attacks were reflected for the pictured 1400 damage. I guess their elemental defense was a lot lower than Ophilia's capped 999 value. I barely had to spend any rounds healing Ophilia and that left her free to use turns attacking with Luminescence, re-summoning the Guard Captain when the duration ran out, or using Inspiriting Plums to feed Ophilia's voracious SP consumption. As for the Guard Captain, I had picked him specifically because of his Guillotine attack that would hit for roughly 3000 damage against both targets which was more than enough to outpace the Shady Figure's healing. The Guard Captain's sword attacks also hit a weakness on the Shady Figure which was perfect because the Shady Figure has slightly more health (32k) than the Mystery Man (28k). I figured that this would even out the damage between the two of them and it worked more or less perfectly. The Shady Figure died first followed by the Mystery Man keeling over on the very next round. It looked like Ophilia did have enough damage after all thanks to a bigtime assist from her faithful Guard Captain companion.
So now let's talk about the incredibly dumb ending to Ophilia's Chapter 3 story from a plot perspective:
Ophilia returns back to town with the kidnapped child in tow and performs the Kindling ceremony at the cathedral. Afterwards, she's surprised to find her adoptive sister Lianna in Goldshore as well. Lianna admits that their father has passed away but stops herself before going into any more detail and suggests that they discuss the matter further at the town's inn. At the inn, Ophilia collapses after drinking some tea and realizes that her sister poisoned her, with Lianna stealing away the Sacred Flame and walking out accompanied by a shadowy figure in a dark cloak. This should be a fantastic twist - the innocent young priestess betrays her sister, what a surprise! - but the whole thing is ruined because it doesn't fit with Lianna's characterization that we've seen thus far in the story. Lianna isn't jealous or bitter or ambitious or anything like that. She specifically said that she was glad Ophilia was the one to head off on the pilgrimmage instead of her! And now she's willing to poison her sister and hand over the church's most sacred artifact to an extremely suspicious person that she's never met before (in ominous black robes, no less) because, ummm, her father died and this guy says he can raise people from the dead? You'd have to be the stupidest, most gullible person on the planet to believe this. I'll have more to say about this in the Chapter 4 conclusion to Ophilia's story but yeesh this is a bad look for Lianna. She is written as the dumbest character, by far, in this game.
Anyway, that wrapped things up as far as the Chapter 3 stories were concerned. Ophilia had a bit more trouble with some of the earlier bosses in this group before finding her stride against the ones at the end. This may have been due to her unlocking the 9 star NPCs for Summoning use as several of them were powerful allies in the boss fights. Up ahead, Ophilia would look to finish her quest by defeating the remaining Chapter 4 opponents and bring her storyline to its conclusion. Hopefully she wouldn't run into any roadblock bosses along that path.