I started back up again with Primrose's journey after completing the final Chapter 1 stories. This is one of those places where readers of the website arriving at a later date get to skip right past the long real-world delay between Part One and Part Two of this report. I set aside Primrose's solo quest for almost a year since I was growing tired of Octopath Traveler and I had a long list of other games to try. It was a stroke of bad luck that brought me back to this game once again: my main gaming laptop came down with a bootup issue and had to go into the repair shop for several weeks. That put a temporary hold on several games where the savefile was stored locally on that laptop... but Steam savefiles are stored on the server which meant that I could pick right up again with Primrose. I had nothing better to do for a few weeks and the break from Octopath Traveler was long enough that I was back to enjoying the gameplay of this RPG once again.
This is typically the point in the gameplay where I will send my solo characters off to do the optional dungeons in the inner ring. That was indeed the plan for Primrose as well, but before she headed off to Twin Falls and the Carrion Caves I traveled around to acquire some gear improvements. I had realized that Primrose's stats heavily leaned towards an evade setup over more traditional tanking with heavy physical and elemental defense. She had amazing base evasion combined with poor HP and resistances, making any attempt at tanking damage a futile endeavor. Much better not to get hit at all! Thus I traveled back to Noblecourt and bought the Silent Cape for its +147 evasion and then walked down to Saintsbridge to buy the Silent Bandana for another +111 evasion. (This was the very rare case of buying genuinely useful equipment from a store in Octopath Traveler, something that almost never happens.) These items decreased Primrose's physical and elemental defense while massively increasing her evasion, boosting it over 500 points in total. The side dungeons would provide a great test for the effectiveness of her new setup.
It turned out that stacking evasion was absolutely the correct choice for Primrose, much as it had been for Therion earlier. Most normal critters had extreme difficulty hitting her at all and she was avoiding something like 70-80% of incoming melee attacks. There were a bunch of encounters where she was getting the "Untouched" bonus thanks to avoiding all damage entirely. This was particularly fun since Primrose also had the Eye for an Eye support skill which was letting her counterattack 50% of the time, and as I mentioned in the first part of this report she could counterattack on a dodged attack just as easily as one that hit. Her physical attack was too low to deal any significant damage on those counterstrikes, of course, but they were very effective at breaking any monsters that happened to have a weakness against daggers. The chip damage from counterattacks did add up over time against bosses as well.
Anyway, Primrose went through all of the various optional dungeons while happily dodging enemy attacks all the while. Many of these places don't have bosses at all like the Untouched Sanctum or the Whisperwood where the main goal was hunting for the various stat-boosting nuts. Twin Falls had the Monarch (butterfly) boss which was weak against dark element and handled pretty easily with the assistance of a spear-wielding Guard NPC from Atlasdam. Heavenwing in the Carrion Caves had exactly the same weaknesses and a fully boosted Moonlight Waltz with the Peacock Strut buff in place dealt the pictured 2100 damage, not too bad against an unbroken target. The Peerless Strike from Primrose's NPC companion then did 2400 damage - hey, no need to show her up! Who's the main character on this journey again? These areas proved to be pretty easy and allowed me to get back into the swing of Octopath Traveler's gameplay once again.
During these side dungeons Primrose reached 3000 job points and unlocked the useless Panther Dance as her seventh Dancer ability. This buffs the target's speed stat for the next two turns which unfortunately seems to be completely useless. Higher speed never gives the user any additional turns and doesn't even seem to make characters go earlier in the turn order on a consistent basis. This ability unlock mattered only because it also granted Primrose her final passive ability, the rarely-used but very powerful Encore. As the text states, once per battle the equipped character would be revived from death at 25% HP. That was pretty handy for a solo game! I tested a little bit and found that Primrose would lose any unused actions on the turn in which she died (i.e. if a monster went first in turn order and killed her, she would not get to act until the next turn) and any buffs that she might have had in place were also lost on revival. This was not a magic panacea and when I tested running into a much more advanced monster encounter zone, Primrose died to one blow and then immediately revived to die again to the next one. Nevertheless, this was a fantastic insurance policy against getting wiped out by something random in difficult boss fights. Would it protect against Darius' infamous "Call Comrade" instakill cheese in Chapter 4? I would have to wait and find out.
I included a screenshot of one of the few places where Primrose did struggle in these side dungeons, showing her getting smacked around by the "Shining" attack from a Light Elemental monster in the Hoarfrost Grotto. I've mentioned in a bunch of other solo reports how these elemental opponents seem to be absurdly out of balance and that was the case once again for Primrose. She would be dodging most physical attacks or taking 100 damage when she was hit, only to have this blast of magic explode for close to 1000 damage. These monsters also provide pitiful experience and job points which is why I continue to think that someone accidentally put an extra zero on their damage numbers. There was a broader point to make about Primrose here, however: she struggled against incoming elemental damage since it can't be dodged with evasion. This was a side effect of Primrose wearing evasion gear that naturally had lower elemental resistance plus her inherent limitation of having low total HP. It actually made the Jotunn miniboss somewhat dangerous since the ice creature uses primarily elemental damage. Fortunately lategame items can nullify most elemental damage in boss fights but it was a bit tricky for the moment.
Soon enough the side quests were done and it was time to get started with the Chapter 2 stories. I had been using Noblecourt as an unofficial base of operations and decided to start with Therion's rather easy Chapter 2 story since I was already spending lots of time there. The most annoying part of Therion's story is the need to Steal three different plot-related items which have terrible success odds when keeping Therion at Level 1 as I do for solo games. There's an NPC in town who can be Scrutinized with Cyrus to increase those Steal odds but I couldn't remember which person it was and I didn't have all my Octopath Traveler reference documents on the computer I was using for the moment. That meant brute-forcing three different 3% Steals in a row which was extremely tedious - argh! Lots of saving and reloading there that we can skip over. Once Primrose made it into Orlick's mansion the worst part of this story was already over and she could concentrate on beating down her foes. Orlick and his goons had little luck in hitting Primrose with their physical attacks as indicated above. The Bodyguard minions were weak against ice element and Primrose brought along an 8 star Knight Ardante NPC from Saintsbridge who blasted them out of the picture with Glacies Claudere, after which everything was a matter of cleaning up. Nice and easy stuff.
It turned out that the strategy was pretty much the same against the similarly-named Omar in Tressa's Chapter 2 story:
Omar's two Footmen lacked a weakness against ice element but Omar himself had that particular vulnerability and I made sure to exploit it. I've often found Omar to be one of the toughest Chapter 2 bosses since he deals heavy physical damage, buffs the attack/defense of his two minions, and will keep resummoning them to the battlefield endlessly if they are defeated. The amount of incoming damage can overwhelm many solo characters who don't have the defenses in place to weather all of those attacks. However, this was one place where Primrose's dodge setup worked like a charm as she managed to avoid most of the physical strikes from Omar and his lackeys. This is an all-physical boss which meant no pesky elemental spells to worry about. The real star of the show was the Knight Ardante who did massive damage for this stage of the game with his repeated uses of Glacies Claudere, hitting all three opponents and breaking three of Omar's shields every time that it popped up. (Primrose couldn't control what actions her Allured NPC followers took any more than Ophilia had done with her Guided allies.) Even better, Primrose's dodginess meant that her NPC buddy rarely had to tank blows for her and stuck around much longer in these battles than normal. It appears that the game engine checks to see if your character dodged the attack first and only then sends the NPC out to block if that check fails. Long story short, this battle went about as well as it ever has and Omar didn't last long enough to resummon his Footmen a second time.
I went ahead and completed Cyrus' Chapter 2 story while Primrose was in Quarrycrest. The toughest part of this tale was the Sewers dungeon leading up to the boss where there were a bunch of undead enemies and more elementals that tossed those nasty spells in Primrose's direction. This was the first place where her Encore passive skill was popped for real, not simply me experimenting with how it worked, and it saved me a long walk back from the start of the dungeon. The monsters in here were no joke; imagine that, Primrose's dark element spells not working well against these undead foes. For Gideon, I remedied this problem by bringing another 8 star Kindly Cleric NPC from Saintsbridge. Sometimes this guy wasted his turn healing Primrose but he also had the chance to bust out the light element spell Lux Congerere which performed beautifully against this boss. The biggest danger in the Gideon fight comes from the player getting hit with a bunch of terror and blindness status conditions which Primrose was largely able to avoid thanks to dodging those physical attacks. She got things done OK with a big assist from her Cleric friend.
I had been spending so much time in Saintsbridge that Ophilia's Chapter 2 story was a natural one to undertake next. The random encounters in the Murkwood tend to use a lot of silencing attacks which has been super annoying for many of my previous characters. This wasn't an issue for Primrose as she kept dodging frequently enough that she was rarely hit with any kind of status ailments. I typically defended on the first round of combat, then used Peacock Strut to buff her elemental damage, followed by a max boosted Night Ode to hit all of the enemies on screen. Rinse and repeat, battle after battle. It was highly convenient how Primrose kept regenerating 5% of her max SP after each round of combat thanks to the Dancer's The Show Must Go On passive ability, this meant that I never had to worry about using Inspiriting Plum items and kept casting away endlessly.
Soon enough Primrose reached the boss of this story sequence in the Hróðvitnir. The wolfish beast is another all-physical opponent who likes to buff its own attack while debuffing the party's physical defenses. In the past, I've found that the trick to defeating this boss has been to stack high physical defense since the Hróðvitnir has a low base attack value and relies on buffing/debuffing to deal damage. Primrose has one of the worst physical defenses in the game though so I continued to rely on her evasion rather than slowing her down with tanky stuff. She dodged and dodged the creature's various slashing attacks and it quickly became clear that the enemy wasn't proving as tough as I had feared. In fact, the Hróðvitnir seemed to be unable to hit Primrose at all! I had brought along the Knight Ardante from Saintsbridge again and his Glacies Claudere was shredding through the ice element weakness on the boss. It went up to three actions per round after falling below half health and nothing changed at all. This boss fight turned into an epic triumph for Primrose:
See that Untouched message granting 10% additional money on the victory screen? That indicates that Primrose took NO DAMAGE at all throughout the boss fight!!! I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't played through the whole thing myself, too bad I wasn't recording video at the time. The boss was entirely physical in nature and it never landed a single attack. Primrose had to have dodged something like 30 blows over the course of the battle, absolutely unreal!
Most of the remaining Chapter 2 stories were located over on the eastern side of the continent and Primrose headed to Stonegard and Goldshore next. She collected the usual side story quest rewards and picked up the various stat-boosting nuts available in these towns, always an important part of strengthening these solo characters. The other noteworthy item that Primrose acquired in these areas was an Elemental Augmentor which provided +100 to her elemental attack when equipped. Primrose had a pretty good base value for her elemental attack but she was limited by being tied to daggers as a weapon type which have few options for boosting elemental attack further. She was still using the Soul Knife that I had picked up earlier in the Chapter 1 stories and Primrose would remain tied to that weapon for a long time yet to come. In a normal game, Primrose benefits enormously from multiclassing into Scholar or Cleric so that she can equip staffs and pick up their boost to elemental attack. Obviously not a possibility here so I made use of the Elemental Augmentor whenever there wasn't a more pressing need for defensive equipment in the accessory slots.
I also want to mention the most unique Dancer ability: Bewildering Grace. The in-game text states only that this "causes a curious effect to occur" but in reality there's a big table of different effects that can pop up depending on how many boost points are invested into the skill. All told there are 19 positive effects and 12 negative effects that can take place when Bewildering Grace is used at max boost, ranging everywhere from weak attacks and minor heals up to massive experience/job point gains or self-killing the whole party. I'll link to the Bewildering Grace spreadsheet here for anyone curious. The obsessive grinders love this skill because there's 0.1 percent odds (one tenth of one percent) to get experience x100 or job points x100 from the skill, and since a max boosted Bewildering Grace causes four different effects, the odds are slightly better than that (almost 1 percent odds to land at least one of those two). These numbers were much too low to be relied on with any regularity and there are some seriously negative results as other possibilities so I rarely used Bewildering Grace with Primrose. The one time where it was genuinely helpful was when a Cait monster popped up in a random encounter. I could kill the Cait immediately and then fish for a big XP payout using Bewildering Grace. That's what happened here as Primrose landed the EXP x5 result (2 percent odds) which turned into nearly 8000 experience points and three full levels. This was something I could play around with more in the lategame but for the moment any experience gains in the midgame would be a drop in the bucket later on.
Next up on the schedule was Alfyn's Chapter 2 story and one of the game's best villains in Vanessa Hysel. This is one of the easiest Chapter 2 story sequences but it's frequently one of the last that I complete with each character due to the long walk out to Goldshore. Anyway, once again Alfyn's story presented few issues as Primrose methodically slaughtered the various critters in her way en route to the boss at the end of the Caves of Azure. Vanessa herself does little in this battle and mostly relies on her Sellsword minions who she can resummon once if the initial pair are defeated. The two of them were weak to ice element and that meant once again I was relying on that same 8 star Knight Ardante from Saintsbridge. I think that Primrose brought him to five different bosses just in Chapter 2 alone; I hope that she treated him to a nice dinner for all that hard word he was putting in! Glacies Claudere continued to rampage through these foes by hitting everything on screen and breaking three shields at a time. This was important because Primrose's own direct damage capacity was rather on the low side. Even with her elemental attack buffed with Peacock Strut, Primrose's max boosted Night Ode was barely cracking 2000 damage against unbroken targets. She had insane evasion and proved to be quite sturdy so long as she could keep dodging physical attacks but her own damage output was pretty modest.
I went to Victor's Hollow next with Primrose and this was much later than I normally visit the Woodlands town. Typically it's one of the first places that my solo characters go in the second ring due to easy accessibility and lots of useful equipment to steal. However, there wasn't much in Victor's Hollow that Primrose wanted since she had already found all of the evasion gear that she needed elsewhere. The various arena fights involved more dodging of physical attacks and then countering with Night Ode and Mystery Waltz. Primrose took very little damage since all of these minibosses were heavily physical in nature and didn't seem to be able to crack Primrose's dodging. Gustav was the only boss that looked potentially tricky... but of course his two Shield Wielder minions were both weak to ice element and that meant yet another use of the Knight Ardante NPC again. Just put a ring on his finger Primrose, this guy was a keeper! Gustav can be super annoying since he starts using the terror-inflicting "Black Blade" every single round when he drops below half health. However, Primrose simply dodged all of those attacks and was never inflicted with supernatural fright. Well then, I guess that solved that problem! More NPC ice magic along with repeated Moonlight Waltzes dropped the boss soon enough.
Stillsnow (and Wellspring which doesn't have a Chapter 2 story) were the only towns that I hadn't visited yet in the second ring which meant that it was now time to begin Primrose's own story sequence:
Primrose travels to this northern town in search of the man bearing the mark of the crow on his left arm. Let's get one obvious issue out of the way immediately: Primrose really would have benefited from an alternate sprite design during this chapter because her outfit is completely ridiculous for this snowy village. The skimpy two-piece Dancer outfit was already a bit problematic in Sunshade (since none of the other characters dress this way) but there was at least some logic to the costume given that it was a hot desert town. It's completely absurd in the freezing northern reaches where snow is constantly falling from the sky. And it's not as though the designers couldn't have thrown together some other sprite design since we see Therion and Olberic have alternate costumes at various points in their chapters. The fact that no one ever comments on Primrose's attire being laughably unsuited to the local climate strains credulity.
Anyway, Primrose arrives in town and starts gathering information in the only way that she apparently knows how: by dancing on a stage in the local tavern. This attracts the attention of a woman named Arianna who used to work for house Azelhart and has a preexisting relationship with Primrose. During a private conversation, Arianna reveals that she does know someone who has the mark of the crow: a local mob boss of sorts named Rufus who runs a high class brothel outside of town. Arianna admits that she herself is a prostitute (she actually says it twice just to get the player's attention) and can sneak Primrose into the manor house undetected. I have to point out again that the tone of Primrose's story is wildly different from the lighthearted fare we get from Tressa or the highschool anime shenanigans of Cyrus. That's not necessarily a bad thing - it's good to have tonally distinct stories in an ensemble game like this - but the designers keep making the mistake of thinking that "dark" and "violent" themes inherently make the story better. Primrose's tale continues to feature violence against women at every turn, showing the player all of that abuse in Sunshade and now featuring prostitution and sex trafficking in Stillsnow. Take a look at Rufus' dialouge if you haven't played this game for yourself:
Rufus acts the part of a mafia don, forcing the women that he controls to perform sex acts in return for "favors" that he collects from individuals in important positions. There's a disturbing conversation with this local bishop in the Church of the Sacred Flame who talks about how his daughter was "sullied" before her marriage and he wants revenge. Rufus responds by saying that one of his women looks like the bishop's daughter and he should go "use her as he likes" - WHAT?! That is some seriously messed up stuff and the writers are throwing this out way too cavalierly for shock value. I'm reminded of Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire which, for all that it was an amazing story, went out of its way at every turn to feature rape and violence towards women. I wouldn't be bothered as much if at any point in time we saw something similar happen to any male character but that's not the case. All of the worst stuff is invariably directed towards women and yes, that's a problem in terms of crafting a narrative. The writers probably weren't even aware of what they were doing which says a lot about unquestioned background assumptions.
These are cheap shortcuts for making the audience detest a villain but I suppose they do work in making Rufus a thorough scumbag. The in-game battle against Rufus turned out to be uninteresting after all that buildup, as he was another physical-only boss who had great difficulty hitting Primrose. She equipped a Conscious Stone to block the possibility of getting stunned and brought along (you guessed it) the Knight Ardante NPC to hit yet another ice element weakness on Rufus' two Obsidian Associate minions. After the fight concludes, Primrose checks off one of the targets on her list and heads back home to Noblecourt to pursue the next crow-marked individual. I did pick up on one thing that I had missed on previous playthroughs: Primrose keeps saying that her only goal in life is to get revenge by killing the three men who murdered her father. However, Primrose is being an unreliable narrator here; from her conversations with Arianna it's evident that this blood-soaked path of revenge is not bringing Primrose peace or happiness. This is easy to miss because Primrose is stating the opposite but I do want to give the writers credit for making this point. It's something that they will circle back upon (in poorly done fashion) during the last two chapters.
Before leaving Stillsnow, I used Tressa to Purchase the Forbidden Dagger in town for a pricey 72,000 money. This dagger had a huge increase of +285 physical attack but lower elemental attack at only +155 to the Soul Knife's +188. It also had the side property of decreasing dark element damage which made it impractical for general use. I held onto the weapon in case I needed to use physical attacks against an opponent but that felt pretty unlikely. (Primrose has no physical damage skills which is why she seems to work better as a spellcaster.) Then it was back to Stonegard for the final Chapter 2 sequence featuring H'aanit. I almost always leave this one for last because the Spectrewood dungeon and the Lord of the Forest boss at the end are both challenging to complete. This is another dungeon where the monsters use a lot of silencing attacks which Primrose fortunately dodged at an incredible rate. I did not need to equip an Articulate Stone and relied on her evasion to get through the random encounters.
For the Lord of the Forest itself, Primrose brought along a new NPC follower to take advantage of its weakness to fire element. I couldn't find anyone in the second ring towns that had both fire element abilities and a high star rating and thus settled on a 6 star Old Man from Stillsnow. He could break out the Firestorm spell for a double fire hit but lacked the three-hit Sorcerer version (Ignis Ardere) and dealt significantly lower damage than Primrose's Knight Ardante friend by virtue of being only a 6 star NPC. The Lord of the Forest has 41k health and keeps summoning more minions as the initial versions are killed off so this took some time. On the positive side, Primrose was up to dealing 6800 damage from a max boosted and Peacock Strut enhanced Moonlight Waltz when the boss was broken. The Lord of the Forest always knocks your character down to 1 HP with its Consume Life ability when recovering from a shield break but otherwise this fight was fairly routine. Primrose kept dodging the blindness/sleep/stunning physical attacks and restored health with Healing Grapes as needed.
This successful quest completion brought the Chapter 2 stories to a close. They had been pretty simple on the whole thanks to Primrose being able to dodge so many physical attacks. If that ever ceased to hold true then I knew she would be in a lot of trouble given her frail nature. I often felt like this whole enterprise was a smoke and mirrors exercise that could fall apart at any moment. Hopefully she would be able to keep things rolling along in the upcoming Chapter 3 stories.