Runelord Solo Game (with Tressa)
Part Five

Most of my Octopath Traveler characters wrap up their journey after finishing the eight Chapter 4 stories and defeating the main bosses associated with each one. Runelord Tressa had achieved that feat without breaking much of a sweat, and as a result I was sending her on to face the true endgame content of the optional superbosses. Octopath Traveler has quite a few of these and I was going to be breaking new ground for my reports in showcasing some of them. Let's get down to business and test the Runelord's abilities against some new opponents.

The first destination for Tressa was the uncreatively-named Forest of No Return dungeon. There's a side quest here named "Into Thin Air" that tasks your party with finding a lost girl named Ellie who has had the misfortune to get stuck in the woods and, uh, not return. The dungeon itself isn't particularly lengthy or difficult to complete, certainly a lot easier than the dungeons associated with the Chapter 4 bosses that Tressa had already completed. The danger comes entirely from the monster lurking at the end of this area, one of the game's optional superbosses named the Devourer of Men. I looked at the abilities associated with this enemy and spotted a mixture of physical attacks and dark elemental spells. This prompted me to bring the Void Amulet along with Tressa's evasion setup to dodge some of those attacks, plus the good old Empowering Necklace for an extra 1000 HP safety net. With these preparations in hand, Tressa steeled herself for what I knew would be a difficult battle.

The Devourer of Men turned out to be a weird plant creature that spawned along with a pair of Deadly Spore minions. The main boss itself only acted once per round along with its two minions, and therefore eliminating the Deadly Spores as quickly as possible was Tressa's first goal. In fact, the boss mostly used Black Magic and Shadow Magic spells which were blocked by the Void Amulet, thus leaving it the least dangerous of the three at the outset. By contrast, the Deadly Spores could use physical attacks, an Exploding Spore ability, or steal back health with their Drink Lifeblood move, although the HP restored in this fashion was too low to cause any real concern. Tressa went after the minions by exploiting their weakness to both axes and wind element. Windy Pursuit yielded the expected 9999 damage printouts with each attack and Tressa quickly made headway at hacking through this pair. They just had so much health to deal with: each Deadly Spore has about 38,000 HP in total and then the Devourer of Men itself had a further 225,000 HP afterwards. By way of comparison, this was more than double the Chapter 4 bosses who are each right around 100k health apiece. Nonetheless, the first part of this battle was pretty straightforward as Tressa kept using Refreshing Jams for healing as she killed first one, then the other Deadly Spore minions.

Once they were gone, Tressa could get to work on the main boss. The Devourer of Men was pretty toothless on its own, either launching a single attack of moderate strength or casting a dark element spell that was neutralized by the Void Amulet. The plant creature started out weak against fire element, and Tressa had no issues breaking it with Fiery Pursuit followed by a casting of Balogar's Blade for the now-common 50k damage once the shields were down. The boss switched over to a wind element weakness after the first break while also picking up a much-appreciated axe weakness in the process. The danger in the battle suddenly picked up when the boss dropped below 50% HP remaining, as it revived the two Deadly Spore minions and added a new attack to its AI routines. Since the minions don't come back a third time, the logical tactical approach seemed to involve removing them from the battlefield a second time to cut down on the amount of incoming damage. However, I hadn't counted on the new attack from the Devourer of Men:

Living up to its name, the boss used the "Devour" ability for an instant one-shot kill. There would be one turn's worth of warning as a short line of text would print out "The flower twitches ominously..." and then on the next round the plant would end the battle. It does not appear that there's any way for a solo character to avoid this attack; much like Darius and his "Call Comrade" move, Devour is an instant loss if it goes off. This meant that the second half of the battle would have to focus on eliminating the main boss as quickly as possible, to work around the appearance of Devour and stop it from ever landing. Unfortunately that meant letting the two Deadly Spores beat on poor Tressa throughout the process, and the "second half" of the battle involved working through 112k health, more than any of the Chapter 4 bosses has in total. Ugh. Devour could be prevented from appearing by breaking the boss during that one turn of chargeup time, but if I screwed up at all, Tressa was toast. This was going to require some repetitions to learn the timings on how best to take down the boss.

I realized over time that the key factor was when to break the Devourer of Men for the second time. The first break happened so fast that it wasn't worth worrying about, and besides Tressa needed to deal 112k damage at some point to trigger the second half of the battle anyway. I figured out that the ideal scenario was waiting to break the boss for the second time until the creature was just about to drop below half health, when it was sitting at roughly 115,000 HP remaining on its lifebar. This actually required Tressa to attack with her axe WITHOUT having one of her runes in place, knocking the Devourer of Men down to a single shield remaining but not dropping it below that halfway health point. I also found that I could use a Small Wind Soulstone if I needed to hit for 200 damage and a single shield break to get the numbers to line up right. So that was the plan: knock the boss down to just above the tipping point, then break with a Windy Pursuit auto attack, then use Balogar's Blade for the big damage spike. This would cause the boss to summon back his minions with only 55,000 HP remaining and then Tressa could sprint to the finishing line from there.

Even with this setup, she was still losing to Devour because I couldn't break the boss fast enough before it popped up at the tail end of the battle. I finally hit on a solution to this as well: drop the Empowering Necklace in favor of a Bright Stone to block the darkness status. As much as it hurt to lose that extra 1000 HP, blocking the darkness status ensured that Tressa's auto attacks would always hit the target. This would allow me to drop more boost points into her auto attacks and smash through the shields on the Devourer of Men in Tressa's frantic attempt to break the boss a third time. Here's an example of that in practice:

Note the lower max HP total on Tressa here as compared to the previous screenshots. I had also learned that I needed to swap from Windy Pursuit to Bright Pursuit before breaking the boss a second time since the final set of boss weaknesses contained light element but not wind element. Thankfully the other boss weakness was swords and thus the screenshot demonstrates how Tressa was about to break five shields on the boss at once: four auto attacks and then the Bright Pursuit. Tressa was guaranteed to break the boss on the next turn if needed, with her default sword hit plus another Bright Pursuit, and that would interrupt the Devour attack as it was charging up before it could take place. With the insta-kill move temporarily blocked, Tressa then had enough time to finish off the Devourer of Men followed by taking out the two minions one at a time again. This was a long and involved process of trial and error but I did manage to find a path through to the end. Victory over the first superboss:

For her troubles, Tressa received a short cutscene of the girl Ellie being reunited with her father as they both spoke in some kind of local dialect. Why this girl thought it would be fun to play in a forest decorated with human skulls remains an open question. You might thing that Octopath Traveler would reward the player with some kind of awesome equipment for winning this battle, and that's where you'd be wrong. The quest reward item was the Deathly Blade, a sword with a moderate physical attack value (+219) and a small chance to inflict instant death on the target. Obviously the instant death feature doesn't work against any of the game's bosses and the base attack value is badly outdated by the time that your party is strong enough to defeat the Devourer of Men. So what is the point of this item again? It's almost insulting that the designers decided to troll the players by handing out a nearly-useless item as the prize for overcoming such a deadly opponent. Oh well, it's not as if Tressa needed much in the way of items at this point.

The other superboss associated with an optional side quest hangs out in the Forest of Purgation. This is the most dangerous area in the game from a random encounters perspective, with a difficulty rating of 58 and some noticeably tough monsters that pop up to threaten those who venture inside. The quest this time is the "Scaredy Sheep" venture, triggered by talking to a nearby shepherd who mentions that the local flocks have been ravaged by some kind of creature. This might sound like an entry-level quest for your new World of Warcraft character but instead it leads to a frightfully powerful opponent:

Managarmr is a palette swap of the Hróðvitnir boss faced by Ophilia at the end of her Chapter 2 story, just as the Devourer of Men was a palette swap of the Manymaws boss in the Derelict Mines. This evil wolf was a vastly more difficult opponent than the one that Tressa had faced earlier, however, with a simple but deadly AI routine. Managarmr reminded me of Werner in the sense that the creature largely just made a series of physical attacks, but yikes, the damage from those attacks was outrageous! Bestial Growl would increase the physical attack of the boss and then the pictured Savage Claw could hit for almost 3000 damage at once. Even the accompanying Direwolf minion was hitting for more than 1000 damage at a time against Tressa. It was clear that these enemies had a higher accuracy rating than Werner because they were only missing about a quarter of the time despite Tressa running her evasion gear. I kept hoping that she would get a lucky streak of misses and it kept failing to take place. After running this battle about a dozen times and only managing to kill the minion once or twice, to say noting of making a dent against Managarmr itself, I called things off. Either I was missing something and would need a new approach or this simply wasn't going to be a battle that Tressa could win. (It looked like a better matchup for the Warbringer class if I end up getting around to that one.)

Well that was disappointing but there were other opponents for Tressa to face. The four secret jobs in Octopath Traveler are each guarded by their respective divine spirits and provide four additional endgame superbosses for players to challenge. This is how the Runelord class is unlocked in normal fashion, by traveling through the short Shrine of the Runelord dungeon and then defeating the boss at the end. Aside from being thematically appropriate for Tressa, I thought that the Runelord spirit would be the easiest of these opponents for Tressa to defeat. Who would prove to be the superior embodiment of this job?

Balogar himself was the boss confronting Tressa, and in a nice bit of design work, all of his various attacks were Runelord abilities of some sort. Balogar could use six different attacks keyed to each of the six elemental runes; when they hit, they would deal about 1000 damage and (unlike Tressa's elemental runes) inflict some sort of status ailment. Tressa had equipped a Conscious Stone to block the most dangerous of these, the stun that could be inflicted from the Rune of Thunder, but I found that the sleep status caused by the Rune of Ice was a bit of a pain as well. Maybe she should have blocked that status as well instead of taking the extra 1000 HP via the Empowering Necklace. Anyway, Balogar's runes dealt elemental damage but were delivered via a physical attack, and this meant that Tressa had a chance to dodge them as pictured above. I'd say that she was evading about a third of them at a rough guess, enough to make using the Ethereal Dancer Garb and Mikk and Makk's Shield worthwhile. Offensively, Tressa was hitting with her Shadowy Pursuit to take advantage of the unblocked dark element weakness on the boss, using Balogar's Blade whenever she was able to punch through the shields. This was surprisingly easy and I'd been expecting Balogar to be tougher than what I was seeing here.

Unsurprisingly, Balogar stepped things up a good bit once he fell below half health. His runes began hitting everyone in the party rather than a single target (not that this mattered for my solo character) and he unlocked his ultimate chargeup attack named Runelord's Resolve. This was essentially the same thing as the Divine Skill of the Runelord class, hitting six times with all six elements in succession. There was one turn's worth of warning with that "All the elements are united" message and then the Runelord spirit let loose his super ability. I feared that this would kill Tressa instantly but it actually did about 500 * 6 = 3000 damage in total. A serious attack to be sure without constituting anything that was unsurvivable - honestly not that bad. Now this was probably due to Tressa's Elemental Edge passive skill working in the background, keeping her permanently boosted with the elemental defense up buff at all times. I imagine that this would have been considerably worse without that damage mitigation operating in her favor. That's one of the many reasons why the Runelord class is so strong though, and Tressa was able to heal up with another Refreshing Jam and keep on ticking. Between pounding the boss with more Shadow Rune attacks and hitting with Balogar's Blade whenever there were sufficient boost points available, Tressa ultimately didn't have too much trouble here. She laid claim to her birthright and unlocked the Runelord job in truth:

Excellent! I honestly wasn't sure if the Runelord class was going to be strong enough to defeat the superbosses protecting the four secret jobs. They all have around 180,000 HP and some nasty abilities that I had struggled to defeat with a full nonvariant party back when I was starting out with this game. I've learned an enormous amount about the Octopath Traveler gameplay since then and the proof was a solo character taking down Balogar, albeit with one of these incredibly strong secret jobs. One amusing thing about unlocking the Runelord class: this was actually the first job that I'd unlocked on this particular playthrough, and therefore I received the "here's what a secondary job is!" popup screen when I opened the menu. I bet that hasn't happened to anyone else when they defeated Balogar!

Having conquered the Shrine of the Runelord, I decided to send Tressa onwards to the Shrine of the Starseer next. This secret class is the best in the game for buffing and debuffing other characters while lacking too much in the way of direct damage capabilities. I thought that this would be the easiest of the remaining three options, although I quickly discovered that it wasn't going to be an easy battle at all.

Steorra was the divine spirit associated with the Starseer job and all of her abilities had a celestial association of some kind. She had two major attacks: Baleful Star, which hit a single time for about 1000 damage, and the pictured Shooting Star, which had three separate hits for about 350 damage apiece. Each of the three hits from Shooting Star had a different element associated with it (wind, light, and dark elements) which made an elemental defensive accessory choice impractical to use. Steorra's damage was almost entirely elemental in nature though, and therefore I soon realized that I should drop the Ethereal Dancer Garb in favor of the Robe of the Flame. Evade gear was pretty useless here and more elemental resistance was helpful. Occasionally Steorra would use her Supernova attack, a flashy attack that stole a boost point from Tressa, or her Omniscience ability that exploded for almost 2000 damage. These damaging spells weren't too bad overall, thanks again to the additional protection of Elemental Edge.

The real danger in this battle came from Steorra's various buffing and debuffing abilities. The "Song of the Starseer" increased Steorra’s physical defense, elemental defense, evasion, and speed for 4 turns - pretty nice as far as buffs go! (This same ability is available to the Starseer class and I'm looking forward to experimenting with it down the road.) Steorra also liked to use "Reflect" to put up a counterattack against physical attacks. Once she had this in place, Tressa was forced to fall back on Balogar's Blade to avoid taking counterattacks from her melee attacks. Equally bad was the "Restore Balance" ability, which removed all status enhancements from Tressa and prevented her from receiving status enhancements/buffs for the next 5 turns. I read that in Steorra's move list before the battle and didn't realize that the Runelord's elemental runes counted as a status enhancement - whoops! This enemy could wipe out Tressa's elemental pursuits and keep them offline for much of the fight. Talk about a pain in the rear.

None of these various buffs and debuffs were terribly bad on their own, it was rather that Steorra kept stacking more and more of them as the battle raged on. When she fell below half health remaining, a notification popped up stating "Steorra's Body Grows as Light as Air" and the boss went up to three actions per turn. That's always a bad sign and it meant that Tressa was getting hit with more damaging spells each round of combat. When Steorra fell down to one quarter HP remaining, she added two additional buffs. One of these was named Heavenly Protection and it granted 25% odds for any incoming damage to be nullified completely. Tressa would hit the boss and a zero would simply pop up instead of actual damage. Random and highly annoying, great. Much worse was Steorra's Ethereal Healing: she immediate regained 10% of her max health (17k out of her 170k HP) and then proceeded to regenerate a further 3560 health (2% of her total) at the end of every round. Not only was this boss hitting for damage left and right, she was also now regenerating like crazy at the same time! I kept running into situations where Steorra would get to act five or six times in a row due to the randomness of the turn order and that would spell doom for Tressa even if she started the sequence at full health. What was she supposed to do here?

The answer that I found was to stop using the elemental pursuits that had served Tressa so well throughout the game and focus on repeated uses of Balogar's Blade instead. Attacking with one of the elemental runes worked fine for the less dangerous early portions of this boss fight, and it was a good way to whittle down some of Steorra's massive life total. However, once she went up to three actions per turn, and especially after Steorra began regenerating health at the tail end of the battle, there just wasn't enough time to waste individual rounds buffing up with the elemental runes and then attacking. Even maxing out the damage meter at 9999 per swing wasn't fast enough. I needed to be hitting for 25,000 damage against the unbroken Steorra or 50,000 damage if Tressa was able to line up a shields break ahead of time. That was the kind of brutal punishment needed to punch through the divine goddess and her various regenerative abilities. With a few more repetitions of the fight and aggressive use of Revitalizing Jams that restored BP along with HP and SP, Tressa was able to find her way through to a victory:

I had been wrong; this was not an easy fight at all. Steorra was one tough cookie thanks to all of her buffs and debuffs. The overall effect was to make me much more interested in playing the Starseer class down the road, since almost every ability that the boss broke out in this battle is something that the Starseer job gets to use for itself. (Typically in a weaker form but more or less the same mechanics.) By way of contrast, I had been greatly worried that the divine guardian of the Sorcerer job would be a huge problem for Tressa and instead he turned out to be a much easier opponent:

The pictured boss was Dreisang the Archmagus, a spellcaster who blasts the party with the same triple-hitting elemental attacks used by the Sorcerer class. (Side note: why is this class named the Sorcerer again anyway? The associated dungeon is the Shrine of the Archmagus and Dreisang's title is Archmagus as well. This is the only one of the secret jobs where the class name doesn't match the associated shrine. Weird.) I had remembered Dreisang as being extremely difficult for my non-variant party to defeat on my first playthrough of Octopath Traveler and I was worried that Tressa would simply be blown away by his powerful spells. Much to my delight that proved not to be the case: stacking up the maximum 999 elemental resistance and pairing that with the Runelord's Elemental Edge passive skill ensured that Tressa was able to hold up just fine. Ignis Ardere hitting for 150 * 3 = 450 damage wasn't exactly scary when Tressa had nearly 8000 HP in reserve. She had been able to equip double Empowering Necklaces here for +2000 HP thanks to Dreisang not having any status ailments in his kit.

Of course it wasn't quite as easy as this first screenshot suggested. Dreisang started out the battle by using an ability called "Divine Majesty", which prevented Tressa from using status enhancements and buffs for the next five turns. It's the little gray arrow with the "X" mark next to it on the interface, and I discovered that this prevented her from using any of the elemental runes until it wore off. Tressa fell back on casting Balogar's Blade repeatedly when this ability was in effect. Dreisang also liked to use "Might of the Archmagus" to buff up his own spellcasting: elemental attack up for Dreisang and elemental defense down for the party. That was a nasty move even with Elemental Edge working to soften its effects. When the boss fell low on health, Dreisang switched over to "Extreme Elemental Augmentation", which caused the name of his spells to shift and deal increased damage:

Thus the lightning spell Tonitrus Canere became Tonitrus Maximus and so on; the Archmage/Sorcerer spells seem to all be written in Latin for some reason. With Might of the Archmagus and Extreme Elemental Augmentation in place, Dreisang could inflict close to 3000 damage at a time against Tressa. However, Dreisang never increased his attacks beyond two per round and he wasted a surprising number of them with ineffective physical attacks. The overall damage output wasn't too bad considering Tressa's enormous life pool. She made use of Shocking Pursuit whenever Divine Majesty wasn't canceling out the use of her elemental runes and kept pounding the boss with Balogar's Blade whenever the boost meter was full. This ended up being a surprisingly easy battle and my Runelord won on the first attempt:

I had thought that Tressa would have decent odds to win against all three of the divine spirits that she'd beaten thus far. Balogar, Steorra, and Dreisang all dealt mostly elemental damage and the Runelord's Elemental Edge support skill gave Tressa inherent defensive protection against their attacks. I was under no such illusions regarding the fourth and final boss guarding the last secret job, however; Winnehild the Warmaster would be dealing exclusively physical damage and the Runelord class had no such protections in place against that. This was almost certainly a bridge too far for her to handle, an opponent that the Warmaster class itself would likely be needed to conquer at a later date. Nonetheless, there was no reason not to make the attempt and I steeled Tressa for another incredibly difficult boss fight.

Winnehild had all manner of dangerous and deadly abilities that needed to be countered to have any chance at success. For starters, she immediately used something called "Counter Position" which would cause her to counterattack any physical damage dealt by Tressa. This pretty much ensured that attacking with the elemental pursuits wasn't an option and Tressa would have to rely on her Divine Skill for damage. Winnehild had three different attacks that she would use at the start of the battle, all of them actual skills available to the Warmaster class. Yatagarasu was a dagger attack that hit twice and had a chance of inflicting poison. This was annoying enough that I found Tressa needing to bring an Antidote Stone to the battle, much as I would have preferred to take another Empowering Necklace for the extra HP. Phoenix Storm was a nasty multi-hit attack that could strike anywhere from three to six times, with about 800 damage accruing to Tressa per successfully landed blow. If she was unable to dodge at least some of the attacks, this could wipe her out in a real hurry. Finally, the other attack that could pop up was the pictured Tiger Rage, a single massive blow that would hit for almost 3000 damage. Even with Tressa's endgame equipment setup and hefty life total, this was honestly more punishment than she could take and I found her getting wiped out over and over again.

But wait, it gets better! That was just Winnehild's default starting setup. When she fell below half of her 204,000 HP total, she would increase from two actions per turn up to three actions per turn, a bit like fighting a supercharged version of Werner. Winnehild also picked up three new moves in the process, again all of them different Warmaster class abilities. Guardian Liondog wasn't too bad since its unique property was hitting the whole party, irrelevant for a solo game. Qilin’s Horn only did about 1000 damage but carried the physical defense down debuff along with it, causing near-certain death afterwards from the other skills on the boss. Last but not least was Fox Spirit, an attack that dealt moderate damage but carried a chance to stun in the process. I was not equipping a Conscious Stone for Tressa because this attack didn't appear until later in the battle and had low odds to show up, but if it did appear, any attack that wasn't dodged was an instant death. On that note, Winnehild clearly had much higher accuracy than Werner because Tressa was only dodging something like 25% of her attacks despite running the same evade setup. Unfortunately evade can't solve every problem even against all-physical opponents.

I actually was able to get Winnehild down to 25% HP on a few occasions through a combination of lucky dodges at opportune moments and constant spamming of Balogar's Blade. That's when the last surprise from the boss made its appearance:

This screenshot is the Octopath Traveler version of the "I'm in danger!" meme. When this text pops up, Winnehild will use her War Cry ability on the next turn unless broken. This causes her to attack with all six weapons in succession:

With each of them dealing more than 1000 damage to Tressa. There was no way that she could survive that kind of damage, not when Winnehild was getting two other attacks per round at the same time. I was pretty sure that this meant the battle was impossible to win. Tressa needed to land some lucky dodges just to stay alive for any length of time at all once the boss went up to three actions per round, much less try to set up the proper conditions to work around the appearance of War Cry. What I needed to do was break Winnehild right before she fell below 25% HP, hit her with Balogar's Blade for the guaranteed 50k damage which would ensue, and then hit with another Balogar's Blade for the final 25k damage before War Cry could appear and ruthlessly crush Tressa out of existence. The odds of that coming to pass were almost zero. And yet... they were not completely zero. I kept trying this battle and, by dint of dumb luck, I managed to line things up perfectly:

In the picture above, Tressa had just broken Winnehild and hit her with Balogar's Blade to knock the boss down into the "red" on health (under 25% HP remaining). Winnehild came out of her break and announced that she had drawn all six weapons, about to use War Cry on the very next turn and crush the Runelord off the face of the earth. However, due to complete chance, Tressa would get the chance to act at the end of the current turn and then *FIRST* in the turn order on the next round. This allowed me to restore boost points with an Energizing Pomegranate and then land one final Balogar's Blade for the finishing blow. I was legitimately shocked by this turn of events, something that required everything lining up just right to land the repeated Balogar's Blades without Tressa getting annihilated in the process. She really, truly did it though - all four of the secret jobs unlocked completely naturally by the solo Runelord!

With the bosses guarding the four secret jobs all defeated, the only remaining challenge for Tressa involved taking on the endgame gauntlet leading up to the final hidden boss. Before heading there, however, I wanted to demonstrate what the Runelord would look like if it wasn't held back by the limitations of a single class. Sometimes it's easy to forget just how much of a variant these solo challenges actually are in practice, tied not only to one character but also to a single set of skills. First of all, I had Tressa learn enough skills in the Warrior job to unlock the support skill that allows the 9999 damage cap to be exceeded. How much damage would her elemental runes inflict if they weren't limited by that artificial number? I set up a break on a random monster and made sure to use Ice Rune for the bonus damage via the Battle-tested Axe. The result:

Yeah, that's what I wanted to see! Tressa nearly tripled the 9999 damage cap against this poor sucker. I was admittedly stacking things in her favor here, targeting a monster with shields down and with an equipment setup designed to add as much elemental attack as possible. Still, it was a good sign of how an unhindered version of this class would be able to perform. Some of the various opponents that Tressa had conquered would have been a lot easier if she'd been getting 15k or 20k damage per elemental pursuit instead of being stuck at the 9999 limit.

But that was only the damage that came from adding the Warrior's Surpassing Power support skill and getting to ignore the damage cap, not anything which granted the Runelord class new abilities. Tressa had tens of thousands of unused job points sitting around and there was nothing stopping her from grabbing a bunch of support skills from the other secret jobs that she had unlocked. Let's take a look at her setup if I were to make use of all those new powers gained from defeating the divine guardians:

Octopath Traveler limits characters to four support skills although there's no limitation to what classes they can be drawn from. (This is in contrast to the active skills, which are tied to their associated jobs and can never be divorced from them.) For Tressa's ideal setup, the only support skill that I kept from the Runelord job was Elemental Edge. Permanent elemental attack/defense up status was far too good to lose. I paired it with Surpassing Power to allow her to keep exceeding the damage cap along with two new support skills from the secret jobs. BP Eater comes from the Starseer class and constitutes another one of the game's best support skills: 50% additional damage from any skill when a boost point is spent. It does nothing when basic auto attacks are boosted but it sure does magnify everything else. Then from the Sorcerer class I grabbed Elemental Aid: your elemental skills cost double SP and in return deal 50% more damage. It was too bad that there wasn't another support slot to pick up Augmented Elements (another 20% bonus to elemental damage), yet another goodie from the Sorcerer class. Then I slapped double Elemental Augmentors into the accessory slots to max out Tressa's elemental attack value at the 999 cap. What would happen if she used Balogar's Blade when juiced up with the best possible support skills from the other secret jobs?

A complete and utter ass-kicking of this unfortunate patsy, that's what happened. I tallied up the numbers from all six attacks and ended up with 170,238 damage - an amount which would have been just barely insufficient to one-shot Dreisang (who has 171k HP). Holy moley that was a lot of damage! I think that the Warbringer is the only other class with a shot of producing the same kind of offensive output, I'll have to make the same comparison later on and see how it stacks up. Anyway, all of this was just for fun to see what the Runelord would look like if it didn't have to work within the solo class restrictions. I sadly unequipped Tressa of these extra support skills and went back to the default Runelord setup. She did have one last series of tests remaining at the Gate of Finis.

In order to make it to the game's "true" hidden ending sequence, the player has to complete a series of side quests that are otherwise indistinguishable from the dozens of other quests clogging up the party's journal. Half of these involve following the "Daughter of the Dark God" storyline in which the extremely suspicious woman Lyblac goes around searching for her "perfect man" to use in a sinister ritual. The other half involve the journey of the kind-hearted but hopelessly naive traveler named Kit, a man searching for his missing father. Kit joins up with a traveling theatre group thanks to your actions and then eventually leaves them to continue the search for his vacant parent. These two parts of the storyline eventually meet up with one another in the form of a monster attack against the Impresario's traveling show, with a beast that must be defeated for the group to pass onwards. The Azure-eyed Tiger pictured above is a joke of a boss fight, a monster with only 33k health and a weak physical attack. Compared to the Devourer of Men and the divine guardians, this was a complete stomp with Tressa finishing off the enemy in mere seconds. 200 damage per attack was not a threat.

Of course, the "Azure-eyed" name and the golden fur on the creature is a giveaway: this is poor Kit after being transformed into a monster. He was dumb enough to follow the obviously-evil Lyblac and get tangled up in her schemes to resurrect the demon god Galdera. Defeating the tiger opens up a new location otherwise inaccessible on the Octopath Traveler map: the Gate of Finis. Lyblac is waiting for the party there and tells them to stay out of her way before passing through the gate into the spirit world beyond. Your characters follow and find themselves in a creepy rundown temple containing the endgame boss gauntlet:

There are eight of these bluish-purple flames sitting atop eight different altars. Examining each one will trigger a boss refight against one of these "unholy presences", an opponent associated with each of the eight characters in Octopath Traveler. Half of these come from the set of Chapter 3 bosses and half of them come from the group of Chapter 4 bosses. Specifically, the player gets matched up against Mattias, Simeon, Werner, and Darius (ugh) from the Chapter 4 group and Yvon, Miguel, the Dragon, and the Venomtooth Tiger from the Chapter 3 group. In each case, these boss refights have higher health (roughly 175k apiece) and higher damage as compared to their initial counterparts, especially for the Chapter 3 bosses. However, their AI scripting is exactly the same as when they were fought previously, no new moves or abilities introduced here in this demonic setting. That makes these battles somewhat uninteresting since they are literal repeats of the same opponents defeated earlier in the game with higher stats attached.

That's an indication of what the opponents look like, in each case appearing as a shadowy figure of blue and black. From a design perspective, this was a way to wring out some extra content by setting up palette swaps of the same previous monster artwork without programming any new AI scripting. The most interesting battles are probably against the Chapter 3 opponents since their stats are so much higher than their original incarnations; the Venomtooth Tiger in particular hits like a truck here in this endgame refight. Nevertheless, the same strategies still work here against these bosses and they don't do anything new or different this time around. The danger largely comes from the marathon nature of the boss refights: there are no save points anywhere inside the Gate of Finis and all eight boss refights must be done in succession without suffering a defeat. Runelord Tressa was certainly capable of beating Darius and Simeon and Werner, but could she defeat them all back-to-back-to-back on a single life without screwing up even once? That was a tougher challenge.

I needed to make sure that she wouldn't run out of healing resources from facing all of these bosses in succession. That meant grinding out some additional Refreshing Jams with Olberic, taking advantage of the NPC in Grandport who will drop them repeatedly when defeated in a Challenge/Provoke battle. I took half an hour to do that and get 50 of them in inventory, enough for Tressa to be able to spam the items at will without fear of running out. After that, it was largely a matter of practicing the three battles that were actually dangerous (Darius, Simeon, Werner) and working out a strategy for the newly increased HP totals of each one. Darius required landing an immediate break to restore items along with Balogar's Blade, then setting up a second break with Wind Rune into a second broken Balogar's Blade, and then a final Divine Skill for the kill. Simeon was all about delaying the much more dangerous second half of the fight until Tressa had the perfect setup, then pounding the boss with repeated Balogar's Blades to minimize time spent during the more dangerous AI routine. Werner was another case of the same strategy, deliberately not breaking him until he fell under 50% HP and then hitting with Balogar's Blade again and again to end the fight quickly. The other five bosses (Mattias, Yvon, Miguel, the Dragon, and the Venomtooth Tiger) were easy opponents and would never defeat Tressa unless I screwed up. They were easily handled using various parts of the Runelord's total kit. I went ahead and recorded a video of Tressa defeating all eight of these boss refights in succession; here's the link on YouTube with my commentary.

Each time that one of the boss refights is defeated, a journal entry appears to explain more of the behind-the-scenes plot taking place in Octopath Traveler. This is the place where the stories of the eight characters finally tie together and the information is highly interesting for anyone playing the game. The reader discovers that Mattias and Simeon were both over 100 years old and working together to bring back the dark god Galdera, Mattias using his ritual followers and Simeon using the resources of the Obsidians. Mattias had Ophilia's adopted father murdered to gain control of the Sacred Flame while Simeon killed Primrose's father and set into motion the plan to steal the dragonstones that drives Therion's plot. Werner and Darius were willing pawns in these schemes. Meanwhile, Yvon assassinated the previous headmaster of the Royal Academy to gain control of the forbidden tome that Cyrus spends his quest searching out, and we finally get the backstory of Graham Crossford, the apothecary who healed Alfyn in his flashback sequences. Graham was the original author of the journal that Tressa carried around in her story, writing down his experiences as he traveled in search of a cure for his wife's deadly disease. He failed to save his wife and instead used the elixir on Alfyn, then was lured to the Gate of Finis and used in a ritual that turned him into a monster. The last entry from Graham shows his sanity ebbing away as he transformed into the creature known as Redeye, H'aanit's opponent that drives her own quest.

It's pretty neat how all of these stories link up here at the very end of the game. This is the only way for the player to find out what's really been taking place over the course of Octopath Traveler's plot. However, what baffles me is the fact that all of this is hidden behind a series of optional side quests that the majority of players will likely never complete. This is some of the best writing and worldbuilding that the designers put together - why would you hide it like this where few people will see it?! Argh.

All of this leads up to the final battle with Galdera. This battle is not possible for a solo character to win - literally not possible, since it's a two part battle with half of the eight characters fighting the first part and the other half facing the second part. It's also the most difficult boss in the game by a wide margin, with massive damage capacity and a full 500,000 HP just for Galdera's first part alone. What makes the boss even more obnoxious is the lack of a save point available before combat takes place. You must defeat all eight of othe boss refights before facing Galdera, and if you lose against the last opponent, tough luck for you. Start all over again from the beginning. I haven't spent much time trying to learn the best tactics for this battle because of the obnoxious need to spend 20-30 minutes on all of the boss refights ahead of time. Given that the whole thing was literally impossible for solo Tressa to win anyway, there wasn't much point in grinding out repeated attempts. She was wiped out almost instantly each time that I tried to fight Galdera anyway; this really isn't a place for variant solo characters to be messing around.

So that's our stopping point, with Runelord Tressa making it all the way up to the absolute final secret endgame boss. She wasn't able to defeat Managarmr or Galdera but everything else fell to her elemental blades. In case it wasn't obvious, I had a total blast playing this class and exploring all of the additional endgame content. The Runelord is an amazing job and absolutely belongs at the very top of the tier list for Octopath Traveler. Put one of these in your non-variant party and give them some equipment with high elemental attack, you won't be disappointed. Thanks for reading through this lengthy solo report; I hope you enjoyed following along with Tressa while running a class even stronger than her default Merchant job.