The Chapter 1 stories had been an introduction to the Warmaster class and the first chance to get a taste of its abilities. With Olberic moving out of the inner ring of towns for the first time, he'd have access to better equipment and more dangerous opponents. This is typically when I explore some of the optional side dungeons with my solo characters and Olberic would be heading down that path as well shortly. His other big objective was improving his weapon selection and that was something that I could knock out first. There were other weapons similar to that Golden Axe that Olberic had stolen at the end of the last report and the town of Quarrycrest was tops on my list:
There was a blocked house in the town guarded by a Laborer with a 9 star Challenge rating. I wasn't even sure if Olberic had a high enough level to fight this individual but it turned out that he was OK at his current Level 29 status. When it came to the battle, the Laborer hit with a series of powerful melee attacks but didn't have enough damage to one-shot Olberic with any abilities. There was always enough time for me to use a Medium Healing Grape for 1750 HP recovery and this ensured that Olberic would win eventually. He even picked up 1500 XP for winning which was more than a Cait granted. The reward for defeating the Laborer was access to the inside of his house where Olberic could Purchase the Forbidden Spear for 69,000 money. (And yes it was Purchase in use here and not Steal; Therion was unable to use his Path Action at all, presumably for having too low of a character level.) I have no idea what this Elderly Woman was doing with a powerful spear but I was happy to hand over some cash for the new weapon.
The Forbidden Spear represented a massive increase in physical attack strength and was even better than the Golden Axe (+320 as compared with +265). None of Olberic's other weapon types had as much as +100 to physical strength and therefore his spear and his axe were by far the best options at the moment. Having an excellent spear was particularly useful because it was the weapon type associated with the Qilin's Horn skill that I mentioned in the last section of the report. Olberic now had a multi-target ability in Tiger Rage (making use of the Golden Axe) and a single target ability in Qilin's Horn that used the new Forbidden Spear. I could have done the whole game with nothing more than these powerful skills and everything else that he'd be picking up later was a bit of overkill. Quarrycrest even had a better staff in the form of the Pole Mace that Olberic Purchased for use, although like all other staff weapons the physical bonus was paltry as compared with the other weapon types.
Olberic had enough job points acquired by this point that he finally started unlocking some of the passive Warmaster support skills. Here's the full list:
The initial support skill was Extra Experience which provided a simple +50% experience from all battles. That sounds insanely good, and I suppose that it is for those players who like to grind their whole party up to Level 99 or whatever in the extreme lategame. Due to the exponential nature of increasing experience requirements, however, this support skill wasn't as great as it might sound. Olberic was consistently a few levels higher than my other solo characters but it wasn't a dramatic difference or anything like that. (I had the same situation when I played the solo Cannoneer in Final Fantasy 5 which also gained an experience-boosting passive skill.) Extra Experience had unlocked slightly earlier while running Ophilia's Chapter 1 story and it was the reason why the XP payout had been so large for defeating that 9 star Laborer. The next Warmaster skill that Olberic learned was Yatagarasu, an ability which was functionally identical to Tiger's Rage except that it used daggers instead of axes. This skill wouldn't get much use for the moment until Olberic could find a better dagger weapon.
As for the other support skills, learning Yatagarasu unlocked the second passive ability in the form of Stalwart Defense: +50 physical defense. This was honestly pretty sad for one of the secret jobs and I can't say that it had much of a noticeable effect. More defense is always better, of course, but a non-variant character would certainly run something better here. Later on, Olberic would learn the Fortitude passive which increases damage as the Warmaster gets close to death. It's not the best skill since the Warmaster has to be below one-third health to see any benefit and that's too dangerous to be relied upon. Still, the passive would deal +50% more damage at 1/4th max health and +140% damage at 1/10th max health. For someone willing to gamble, that was potentially a lot of extra damage - perhaps I'd find a use for this down the road someday. The final passive skill, Physical Prowess, is potentially the best support skill in the whole game and I'll discuss it in more detail when it unlocked.
From Quarrycrest, Olberic headed north and made his way to Victor's Hollow for the first time. This was a place where Therion's thieving ways did come in handy as I was able to Steal the Robe of the Flame from an unsuspecting Merchant. (After failing about 40 times in a row, of course; thank goodness for save scumming.) This was an excellent piece of gear for Olberic not just due to its massive elemental defense but also because it had a large bonus to maximum SP. The Warmaster abilities were tremendously expensive at 35 SP per use and Olberic was working with a cap of 94 SP at the time. This new equipment boosted that up to 150 SP and made it much easier to use his skills without running out of spirit points. To celebrate his new gear, I had Olberic walk around town Challenging everyone in sight and eventually knocked them all out onto the cold paving stones. There was no real need to do this but I love the Challenge Path Action and it amuses me to no end smacking around the poor NPCs who are only going about their daily business. Olberic sometimes feels more like a psychopath from a slasher film than a worthy hero out on a quest.
When he wasn't terrorizing helpless townspeople, Olberic was running through the usual assortment of optional side areas to pick up the quests and stat-boosting nuts that they contained. The Whistlewood, the Untouched Sanctum, Carrion Caves, and so on - this was the same drill that I'd run a bunch of times before with other solo characters. Most of these areas don't have bosses at the end but Twin Falls was one of the few that did in the form of the Monarch butterfly. This was a chance to test out one of Olberic's new abilities:
Nightmare Chimera is a unique skill that destroys the weapon in question in the process of making the attack. The player is prompted with the full list of weapons from their inventory when selecting the skill and it causes the destruction of whatever is chosen, a bit like using the Throw command in some of the older Final Fantasies. Unlike those games, however, the damage didn't seem very impressive from Nightmare Chimera, at least not when using the pictured War Lance with its 71 attack strength. Perhaps the ability works better when sacrificing a more powerful weapon, I'll have to experiment further and find out. Still, the other Warmaster abilities are so good that it's hard to find a reason to use Nightmare Chimera when the player could use something like Qilin's Horn or Tiger Rage instead. Olberic could already deal thousands and thousands of damage while using Qilin's Horn thanks to his very nice Forbidden Spear and this simply didn't measure up.
Speaking of Forbidden weapons, the next town that Olberic visited was Stonegard where the Forbidden Sword was on sale for a hefty 75,000 money. The fearsome blade did not require fighting through a blocked house and as a result I will often pick up this weapon for use in Olberic Challenge battles even when he's not my featured solo character. The Forbidden Sword had +310 to physical attack which made it slightly less powerful than its cousin spear. The larger effect was to have three useful weapon types now: sword, spear, and axe. Between them, they covered just about any opponent that Olberic was likely to face.
I mentioned that Nightmare Chimera had looked like small potatoes compared to Qilin's Horn. Here's what the latter ability did in terms of damage:
That was poor Heavenwing getting dumpstered at the end of the Carrion Caves dungeon. The unfortunate bird only had 9700 HP in total and this casting of Qilin's Horn sent the creature crashing down to earth. So much for that potential obstacle. The one other optional boss that Olberic faced during this sequence was the Jötunn in the Hoarfrost Grotto. The ice giant was weak against axes and that meant breaking out Tiger Rage to hit the big creature along with its ice elemental minions. Two uses of Tiger Rage dropped the minions and then it was a series of Qilin's Horn abilities used in succession until the monster was dead. (Get used to hearing that because it was the basic pattern for the rest of the Chapter 2 bosses.) Olberic had strong Warmaster abilities and excellent weapons in the axe and spear slots and therefore that's what I found myself using over and over again.
Clearing the optional side dungeons gave Olberic enough job points to unlock his last non-Divine Warmaster skill (the mostly useless Fox Spirit staff attack) and more importantly claim that fourth and final support skill. The in-game text for Physical Prowess very unhelpfully states that this "augments physical attack and defense during battle" which could mean about five hundred different things. Thanks for nothing, designers! What Physical Prowess actually does is put the user into permanent physical attack up and physical defense up status. This means 50% more physical damage dealt and 33% less physical damage taken, from everything, forever. It's the physical equivalent of the Elemental Edge support skill that the Runelord gets for maxing out their class. For a non-variant group this is an absolute must-have on any physical damage dealer and quite possibly on everyone for the defensive property alone. Keep in mind that a large majority of enemy damage is physical in nature as there are relatively few elemental attacks in this game, even from bosses. This means that Physical Prowess is even better than Elemental Edge for general use although of course spellcasters will prefer the latter for their builds.
Anyway, Olberic the Warmaster was pretty much destroying everyone even before he unlocked this passive support skill. What was going to happen now that he had half again as much damage on every attack and reduced damage taken from all physical blows?
That more or less summed it up. Olberic moved into the Chapter 2 stories and began kicking some serious monster derrières. I started out in Quarrycrest for its dual story sequences and this picture summarized what happened to Gideon at its conclusion. The empowered Tiger Rage was nearly strong enough to one-shot the skeleton minions thanks to their axe weakness (they have 7500 max HP) and once they were cleared out with a few additional axe swings, Olberic carved his way through Gideon himself with no problem. The biggest irritant in this boss fight was needing to cure blindness and terror status repeatedly since I hadn't turned up the accessories that blocked them as yet. Then it was over to Tressa's story to confront Omar where the exact same result played out, Tiger Rage smashing right through the Footman minions thanks to their axes weakness. It wasn't just the attack boost coming in handy from Physical Prowess though, I noticed that Olberic was also taking noticeably reduced damage from Omar's physical blows. Omar's big windup attack was only dealing a little over 100 damage and that simply wasn't enough to threaten Olberic with his 3500 max HP total. This one turned into a laugher despite Omar often being a boss that can be legitimately dangerous.
What do you think happened to Vanessa Hysel in Alfyn's Chapter 2 story? If you guessed that Olberic used Tiger Rage against her Sellsword minions, congratulations! I don't know how you figured it out. As for her own attacks, I mean...
Yeesh, was she even trying here? I knew that the Warmaster was an extremely powerful class going into this venture, I'm just not sure that I had been expecting this "doesn't even need to use healing items in boss fights" level of dominance. I'm not writing much about these bosses because there simply wasn't much to say. Olberic's access to all six weapon types made it easy to break through their shields and he could employ either Tiger's Rage when minions were present or Qilin's Horn when they weren't for tons of damage after the shields were down. These Chapter 2 opponents didn't have enough health or deadly enough abilities to pose much of a threat.
The Hróðvitnir at the end of Ophilia's Chapter 2 story was slightly more noteworthy because its swords weakness and solo status allowed me to use another one of the Warmaster skills. Now that Olberic had the Forbidden Sword available, Guardian Liondog was back to being helpful again with its 3-6 sword attacks in succession. This was a great ability for breaking through a swords weakness if there was only a single target in sight (no good if there were minions present since the player can't control what gets hit) albeit at the cost of that expensive 35 SP per casting. Then Qilin's Horn could be used once the shields were down and that was a guaranteed 9999 damage already, sheesh. It wouldn't be too much longer until Olberic could start maxing out the damage gauge without even bothering to break his opponent's shields ahead of time. This was starting to get a bit ridiculous.
Olberic headed to Stillsnow next where he was able to Purchase another powerful weapon in the Forbidden Dagger. While the physical attack value was slightly less than the Forbidden Sword and Forbidden Spear at +285 points, this was nontheless a gigantic upgrade over the dagger that Olberic had looted from defeating Gideon (physical attack +118) which he had previously been employing. All of the Forbidden weapons have a negative attribute of some kind and the Forbidden Dagger's property happened to be reduced fire and dark element damage, not something that mattered for the all-physical Olberic. This weapon also opened up the use of the Yatagarasu skill for the first time as Olberic finally had a good weapon in the daggers slot. As we saw when looking at the mechanics back in the previous page of this report, Yatagarasu and Tiger Rage dealt exactly the same amount of damage, just keyed to different weapon types. I could switch between them depending on whatever fit the situation better, and unsurprisingly the enemies at the end of Primrose's Chapter 2 story were sporting dagger weaknesses. The Obsidian Associate minions only had 5000 HP and therefore died instantly to the dagger flurry. Goodbye and good riddance! Rufus did all of 54 damage with his big Roundhouse Kick attack and expired soon afterwards. It was another boss fight where Olberic's healthbar barely decreased at all.
I had forgotten about Therion's Chapter 2 story and returned back to Noblecourt to polish it off. This one is pretty annoying since Therion has to Steal three different plot-related items and he always has terrible odds when running other solo characters. I managed to fail the first 15% Steal chance 27 tries in a row which was pretty impressive from a bad RNG standpoint. Anyway, Orlick is one of the easier bosses in the Chapter 2 group and his minions were easy prey for Tiger Rage as well; at least they managed to absorb two hits before collapsing. Orlick himself ate a max damage Qilin's Horn followed by his golem suffering 7000 damage from Yatagarasu without even being broken. This was as easy as you'd expect.
Amongst the two remaining stories, I went after Olberic's tale in Victor's Hollow next. It ended up being an extended sequence of Olberic beating the stuffing out of one miniboss after another, first smashing their retinue with either Tiger Rage or Yatagarasu followed by more Qilin's Horn. Victorino was nearly one-shotted with the first use of Yatagarasu since he and his minions were all weak to daggers. Joshua managed to confuse Olberic a couple of times and the biggest danger came from self-inflicted attacks. Archibold's Duelist minions were weak against axes so whoops, I guess they just died instantly at the start of the fight. Sorry about that! With four different weapon types that had strong attack values, it really didn't matter what weaknesses these bosses had. Everyone was weak against some combination of swords/spears/daggers/axes and it was easy to break their shields for huge damage. I did make sure to equip a Conscious Stone to avoid being stunned by Gustav's guards and wiped them out quickly. While Olberic didn't have a Calming Stone to block Gustav's repeated use of terror, I could work around that via the turn order:
Gustav uses "Black Blade" and inflicts terror status at the end of every round of combat after he drops under half health remaining. However, if Olberic acted at the end of a round, I could cleanse the terror with an Herb of Valor and then use a boosted attack during his next turn before the terror could be reapplied by the boss. This made it possible to break the last remaining shield on Gustav and then hit with Qilin's Horn for 9999 max damage. I'll also point out here that I had deliberately let Olberic's health run down to take advantage of his Fortitude support skill. Gustav couldn't deal much more than 100 damage at a time and I figured that Olberic might as well pick up the extra damage from that rarely-used passive ability. I was also testing to see if I could do the whole fight without ever using a healing item and yes, it did work out that way successfully, if a little bit tight at the end. I guess this is another sign of the Warmaster's strength: creating new variants within the variant to make things harder.
That left only the Lord of the Forest at the end of H'aanit's Chapter 2 story and this was shockingly a place where Olberic did suffer a defeat:
Not in that screenshot, mind you, but immediately thereafter. I had forgotten that the Lord of the Forest will use its "Consume Life" ability after it recovers from a shield break. This knocks the player down to a single hit point remaining (no matter what the starting HP value might be) and heals the Lord of the Forest for the same amount. Olberic was utterly trashing the boss by breaking it and using Yatagarasu for 9999 damage only to get hit with Consume Life after the boss recovered. That dropped him down to 1 HP and then one of the minions attacked and did 2 damage... which was enough to seal the deal. Ooops. That was a stupid cheese kill but I had indeed been sloppy here. On the second attempt at the battle, I made sure not to break the boss unless there were no minions left alive and avoided any further unpleasantness. I did have to use healing items after the Lord of Forest broke out Consume Life so this was one boss encounter where I couldn't keep the no-healing streak intact. Ah well.
Overall this was an extremely easy set of chapters to complete. Olberic's acquisition of additional strong weapons combined with the arrival of the amazing Physical Prowess passive skill meant that the Warmaster was practically untouchable in combat. I didn't expect Olberic to be challenged but I didn't think it would be quite *THIS* easy to roll through the bosses. It was all a ton of fun and I was looking forward to reaching more serious challenges as the game continued. That probably wouldn't happen in the Chapter 3 stories but it would take place eventually.