I resumed Olberic's journey after he completed the Chapter 2 stories in spectacular fashion. The Warmaster job didn't even need to use any healing items to polish off most of these past opponents, and while that streak wouldn't continue going forward, it was striking how little challenge Olberic had faced thus far. His access to all of the six weapon types allowed him to break the shields of any foe with ease and then rain down damage with one of the various Warmaster abilities. The open-nature world of Octopath Traveler allowed Olberic to proceed anywhere that he wanted next and I decided to visit the one town in the second ring that doesn't contain a Chapter 2 story, Wellspring. The oasis town had a few additional side quests for Olberic to fulfill and I went through the normal process of beating up every NPC via the Challenge mechanic. There are two individuals blocking entry into houses in Wellspring, and one of those locations ended up containing new gear:
Normally I don't enter these blocked houses because the NPC Guard in front has a 9 star rating and it's tough to get past him when using a non-Olberic solo character. Warmaster Olberic had absolutely no trouble dusting that poor sap, of course, and I quickly realized that some of the Merchants inside were holding great new weapons. The lesser of the two was an improved bow in the Augmented Bow of the Falcon; this was a weapon type that I'd been largely avoiding with Olberic because he had better stuff in his sword/spear/axe slots. I planned to get a better bow in the near future but it was still worth picking up for the moment. The better of the two weapons was the Forbidden Axe and this was a huge find indeed. The weapon had a massive bonus of +391 to physical attack which outperformed the venerable Golden Axe by more than a hundred points. This was a no-brainer Purchase and I was back to the axe weapon being the top choice for Olberic once again. As a side note, the penalty to accuracy on the Forbidden Axe never seemed to manifest in misses and this remains kind of a weird stat. The calculation for hit vs miss isn't something spelled out in the Octopath mechanics guide and I don't know how it works. No one ever seems to miss an attack in this game unless they've been blinded.
After thoroughly looting the town of Wellspring, Olberic returned to my usual pattern of exploring through the various optional dungeons located in the second ring. These are always useful places to clean out for additional money and experience, if not for anything particularly useful in terms of treasure. Octopath Traveler is strange in the sense that most of the best equipment comes from using the Purchase/Steal option in towns and not from finding items out in dungeons. Anyway, Olberic made his way through the very easy Tomb of Kings and the somewhat tougher Farshore region. He also dealt with the optional bosses along the way starting with Manymaws:
The plant creature had a swords weakness and this allowed the use of Guardian Liondog for shield breaking. This ability could pop three or four shields at a time without investing any boost points at the tradeoff of that steep 35 SP cost. Once the shields were down, Qilin's Horn hit for 9999 damage and that was a wrap since Manymaws only has 14k total health. Pretty easy stuff, I think this battle lasted all of four rounds. The Behemoth in the Tomb of the Imperator was a similar story, keep attacking with daggers to break the monster's shields and then use Qilin's Horn once it was stunned. The Physical Prowess passive skill came in handy here to dull some of the pain from the Behemoth's Boar Rush physical attack. The beast's Hydration healing ability wasn't a problem since Warmaster Olberic could overwhelm the healing in one massive strike. The Throne Guardian at the end of the Hollow Throne presented the opposite situation, an opponent with significantly more health but much weaker damage output. As we've known from the days of Diablo 2, giving a boss lots of health doesn't make them innately more dangerous, it just causes things to take longer, and the Throne Guardian is one of the easiest of the optional bosses. Olberic pounded it with sword and dagger attacks until it croaked.
Now I could have stopped there since this is typically when I would revert back to the main quest and begin the Chapter 3 stories. However, Olberic could gain a powerful new weapon if he moved up another one of the optional side quests and completed it immediately. The player can tackle these side quests pretty much whenever they want in Octopath Traveler so there was no reason not to venture into the Quicksand Cave and confront its dual bosses:
The opponents in question were the Giant Python and its Snake Charmer companion. The big trick in this battle is that the snake will put your party to sleep and therefore equipping a Wakeful Stone accessory to counter this move is mandatory. Even with that preparation in place, the Giant Python can be a difficult opponent because it has a lot of health for this stage of the game (68k) and can dish out some serious punishment with its melee blows. The Snake Charmer will grant the python additional rounds of attack, buff up its physical damage, and occasionally block some of the weaknesses on the snake. For many solo characters, the Giant Python does enough damage to overwhelm their healing capacity and it's not worth consuming a bunch of Refreshing Jams for an unnecessary optional fight. This was a situation where Physical Prowess was once again worth its weight in gold; not only did it provide lots of extra damage on Olberic's physical attacks, it also cut the incoming damage by a third against these all-melee foes. This allowed me to rely on Medium Healing Grapes for healing instead of needing to dip into rarer consumables. The Giant Python was dealing about 500 damage from its normal attacks and that wasn't enough to cause serious concern.
On the offensive side of things, I was able to switch between spears and axes depending on whichever weapon type wasn't being blocked at the time. The Snake Charmer would rotate them throughout the fight but there was never a situation where both of them were blocked at the same time. I soon realized that Qilin's Horn would max out the damage gauge at 9999 when the Giant Python was broken... but Tiger Rage would *ALSO* max out the damage in that situation, and it would hit the Snake Charmer as well! That was a nice perk from having the new Forbidden Axe with its enormous base attack value. Olberic needed to pause for many rounds to heal himself and went through about 20 of those Medium Healing Grapes but this battle was always well in hand. He defeated the pair and claimed his reward:
This might be the weapon with the best name in the whole game, the Transcendent Bow of Shadows. Although the physical attack value was well short of what Olberic was sporting on that Forbidden Axe, the new bow constituted a major upgrade over the Augmented Bow of the Falcon and brought the bow slot into the same general region as Olberic's other weapons. At the moment, his axe was the top damage dealer by a good margin, then the sword/spear/dagger/bow group were all roughly comparable at about +300 physical attack apiece, followed by the staff slot lagging well behind. Staffs never catch up to the other weapons since they are designed for elemental attack, not physical attack, and it makes sense that bonking people over the head wouldn't be that good. Note all of the Forbidden weapons that Olberic was using at the moment; I could have picked up the Forbidden Bow as well but held off since it increases the rate of random encounters. The Transcendent Bow of Shadows was a better weapon anyway if also harder to acquire.
I decided that I would make one more stop by visiting Grandport out at the edges of the third ring. There's too much good stuff available in Grandport to pass it up and Olberic didn't have any trouble fighting his way there. Even the nasty monsters on the route heading out to the town weren't that bad, although Olberic did need to hit them with Tiger Rage instead of cutting them down with auto attacks like he did in most random encounters. One use of Tiger Rage wiped out everything on screen despite the strength of these opponents. Once in Grandport, Olberic was able to Purchase the Forbidden Shield and Protective Necklace for some further increases to his defensive stats along with a bunch of additional stat-boosting nuts. (This is yet another example of how Purchase/Steal is by far the best Path Action, none of the other three types even come close.) Then Olberic battled his way through the densely packed marketplace and knocked out everyone to demonstrate his mastery of the Challenge option. Between all of these fights with hapless NPCs and his Extra Experience support skill, Warmaster Olberic was sporting a notably higher level as compared to my other solo characters. That was fine with me though - this wasn't a low level variant and I was having a lot of fun with this character.
Now then, on to the actual Chapter 3 stories in earnest. I often start out with Olberic's tale and it seemed like a good choice on this occasion as well. With an Antidote Stone to protect against poison, he made his way through the Lizardmen's Den and soon reached their chief at its conclusion. This opponent will summon two minions throughout the battle but they were easily one-shotted at full health from a single use of Tiger Rage. The unfortunate minions only had 3100 HP apiece and I didn't even need to use a fully boosted Tiger Rage to wipe them off the board. The Lizardman Chief resummoned them only to have the poor minions flattened each time that they reappeared. As for the boss itself, the lizardman had an Armor Crush ability which debuffed Olberic's physical defenses and effectively canceled out the buff from Physical Prowess. That was still a far better situation than other characters (who would have been debuffed rather than sitting at neutral state) and the Lizardman Chieftain couldn't deal anywhere near enough damage to be a serious threat. Its top attack did about 800 damage and that was never going to cut it, not with the boss only getting one action per round. This is a pretty easy fight overall and Olberic rolled right through it as expected.
Afterwards Olberic has a story sequence battle against Erhardt. This is simple enough that I can always manage to win even when Olberic isn't my featured solo character and he's sitting at Level 10 or something. This time Erhardt had to go up against a Warmaster version of Olberic and the results weren't pretty:
Here's Phoenix Storm in action, one of the Warmaster abilities that I hadn't featured thus far. The damage formula is exactly the same as Qilin's Horn and causes truly enormous pain for a single targeted opponent; the only reason why I hadn't been using Phoenix Storm previously was due to a lack of a strong bow weapon. The Transcendent Bow of Shadows had remedied that problem however and the result was an easy 9999 damage printout against the blond prettyboy Erhardt. I'd be looking to use Phoenix Storm more often and bring it into the main rotation of Warmaster skills whenever there was a bows weakness to exploit.
I decided that I would proceed through the Chapter 3 stories in clockwise fashion for lack of a better alternative and that brought Olberic to Saintsbridge to undertake Alfyn's Chapter 3 story. This has also become one of the easier sequences after figuring out how to deal with Miguel at its ending, just make sure to stack as much physical defense as possible. Olberic's Physical Prowess support skill ensured that he would be able to stay at neutral status when Miguel debuffed his physical attack and physical defense, therefore undercutting the primary danger in the battle. Miguel shifted his weaknesses throughout the fight and Olberic shifted right along with him, using whatever weapon types happened to be appropriate for the moment and then hitting with Qilin's Horn when defenses were down. There was one oddity in the boss fight: Miguel's spears raining down from above always did 2 damage apiece when they hit Olberic. Not the normal 1-9 damage that Octopath Traveler typically uses when the target's defense is higher than the incoming attack strength, always exactly 2 damage. I have no idea what was going on here, it was strange. Needless to say though, Miguel's big featured attack dealing exactly 2 damage per strike didn't put Olberic in any danger and he mopped the floor with this dishonest bandit.
Victor's Hollow was next on the agenda and... what in the world was this?!
Something glitched out when the party fast traveled to Victor's Hollow and the characters all appeared as half sized munchkins. I have no clue what caused this and the visual bug disappeared as soon as I saved the game. I could not get it to repeated afterwards, this seemed to be a one-time oddity. What the heck was that?
Anyway, hijinxs aside it was time to run through Tressa's Chapter 3 story. This was another one of those rare situations where the dungeon was arguably more difficult than the boss lurking at the end of it. The Venomtooth Tiger did not have any abilities that debuffed Olberic's defenses and as a result he was well armored against its all-physical attacks. The most dangerous Venom Fang attack from the tiger did a little less than 700 damage to Olberic which simply wasn't enough to pose a threat. It was noteworthy to me how the defensive buff from Physical Prowess kept changing the math of these encounters for Olberic, dropping these bosses down into the range where Medium Healing Grapes were sufficient to keep health topped off. The difference between taking 1500 damage per round and 1000 damage per round meant far fewer turns spent needing to pause for healing items. Offensively, I discovered that Olberic could max out the damage meter with Qilin's Horn without even breaking through the shields on the Venomtooth Tiger. Take a look at that screenshot above, the boss still had its shields intact and ate the max damage possible in a single blow. It was a real shame that Olberic was lacking the Surpassing Power passive from the Warrior job which allows characters to go above that limit, he was wasting a lot of potential damage when hitting broken targets. (Don't worry though, the Warmaster Divine skill can get around this limitation as we'll see eventually.) Once again the boss fight was smooth sailing through calm waters for Olberic.
I continued heading in the same clockwise direction and that led to H'aanit's Chapter 3 story. The most annoying part of this sequence is the need to win a Provoke battle with H'aanit at low level; I always burn some soulstones to do so and it always feels like a waste. When it came to the Dragon boss at the end, Olberic found himself running back the same situation that he had recently experienced with the Venomtooth Tiger. The Dragon had no debuffs in its ability list and this limited how much damage its attacks could do. Rending Claw maxed out at about 700 damage and of course Olberic had an Inferno Amulet equipped to block the fiery breath attacks of the creature. The Dragon locked and unlocked its weaknesses throughout the battle but always had at least one of sword/axe/bow options available for Olberic to target. I amused myself by hitting with Tiger Rage (a multi-target Warmaster ability) while the Dragon was unbroken and still dealing 9400 damage. Yeesh, Olberic! He was hitting the point where he didn't even need to break through enemy shields and he could still cap out on damage anyway. The Warmaster was becoming even more frightening as this run continued.
Continuing onwards, Primrose's Chapter 3 story was next on the docket in the familiar haunts of Noblecourt. Albus was another one-trick opponent who could be largely shut down by equipping a Bright Stone to block his blindness attacks. He summoned a pair of Obsidian Officer minions halfway through the fight and Olberic immediately cut them down with Yatagarasu and Tiger Rage. (I should have used the latter to hit their axes weakness but accidentally used the dagger-based attack first.) When Albus himself was the only opponent left standing, I tested out the one remaining Warmaster ability that I hadn't featured yet. Fox Spirit also uses the same damage formula as Qilin's Horn and Phoenix Storm but unfortunately relies on a staff weapon as its damage type, the weakest of the six options. I was amused to see that even Fox Spirit would max out the counter at 9999 damage when used against a broken version of Albus. Of course I could also attack with Phoenix Storm and deal max damage without even breaking Albus and that worked better in most situations. It was highly amusing to smack this guy with a dorky staff attack and still get the big damage printout.
Typically I'll save Therion's Chapter 3 story until the end because Gareth is such a variant-busting opponent. However, I wanted to shake things up for the Warmaster run and I was confident that Olberic could deal with this opponent. This is another irritating story sequence because Therion has to pull off a pair of Steals at 3% odds which can force a lot of reloading until the dice rolls shake out correctly. My luck was decent this time without too much repetition and eventually Olberic made his way up to the boss at the end:
Gareth and his compatriot Darius are both royal pains for variant characters due to the way that they steal away your items. They will also steal your health and your spirit points which can make it impossible to heal or use abilities throughout the combat. Warmaster Olberic was fortunate here by having the Physical Prowess passive reduce the amount of damage taken from Gareth's Steal Life ability and therefore how much HP the boss could leech back with this attack. I started out the combat by using an Energizing Pomegranate for an additional boost point, then flattened one of Gareth's two minions with Qilin's Horn on the second round for an instant kill. Generally speaking, the player wants to remove one of the two minions to cut down on the total enemy attacks in this battle but not eliminate both of them since it grants Gareth an extra action each round afterwards. I needed to use Qilin's Horn right away because I knew that Gareth would quickly steal Olberic's SP and leave him unable to use any of the Warmaster abilities. This would force the need to consume Inspiriting Plums for SP recovery or alternately dip into the rarer Refreshing Jams for the first time... and of course neither would be an option once Gareth stole away Olberic's items. It's easy to see why this battle is so difficult for many solo characters, needing to break Gareth to get their items back and lacking anything that can target one of his weaknesses to break those shields in the first place.
The Warmaster class had a simple and brutal answer to these problems: don't bother trying to recover spirit points. In fact, I would do the whole rest of the fight with Olberic sitting on zero SP. He didn't need to use any of the Warmaster abilities because he could rely solely on his massively powerful auto attacks (and, unlike Darius, Gareth never steals away boost points). Gareth was weak against swords and axes which made things fairly simple for Olberic: use items for healing as needed and otherwise keep chopping away. I was able to get off the maximum four auto attacks against a shieldless Gareth at one point in the battle, spending full boost points in the process, and the damage output was excellent:
It's a bit hard to see with the flashy graphics but that was roughly 9000 total damage, about as good as Olberic would have done from using his Warmaster abilities. Who needed spirit points? Auto attacks alone were perfectly fine here. Gareth kept stealing away Olberic's items in the second half of the battle and each time I would immediately break through the thief's shields to restore those items once again. Gareth never had more than 5 shields at a time and I could invest boost points for additional auto attacks to keep popping those shields. No class was better equipped to handle this opponent and the Warmaster emerged victorious in a surprisingly straightforward battle. I won't lie, this was a weird encounter but it played out just the way that I had hoped that it would.
By way of contrast, Yvon and Cyrus' Chapter 3 story more generally were barely worthy of a mention. Olberic was able to hit the 9999 damage cap from his first usage of Tiger Rage, even with the two Research Fellow minions unbroken at the time, and it all went downhill from there for the evil headmaster. The two minions barely had enough health to survive the first use of Tiger Rage only to die immediately afterwards to an unboosted second Tiger Rage on the next turn. Easy come, easy go. Yvon weirdly never increases beyond one action per round and Olberic completely embarassed him over the following turns. Although the boss was only weak to daggers (and staffs) amongst the physical damage types, Olberic simply pounded him with dagger attacks over and over again. I could use Yatagarasu even when Yvon wasn't broken and hit for 8000+ damage. This was another fight that could have been done with auto attacks alone but I made use of the Warmaster abilities as needed to speed things up. This was significantly easier than Gareth and I don't have much more to say about it.
The last opponents remaining were the Mystery Man and the Shady Figure at the end of Ophilia's Chapter 3 story. Their endless healing can pose a major problem for characters that lack offensive capabilities or multi-targeted abilities. Fortunately the Warmaster job suffered from neither of these weaknesses:
The two enemies each had a different set of weaknesses and I switched up Olberic's abilities to try and hit each of them. Pictured above was Yatagarasu to target the dagger weakness on the Shady Figure; I alternated this with Tiger Rage to hit the axes weakness on the Mystery Man. It's important to even out the damage between the two of them since both enemies will become much stronger if they are the sole boss left standing. This was one place where the Physical Prowess support skill wasn't as useful since most of the incoming damage was magical for a change (though of course Olberic was still getting the physical attack buff as always). The Mystery Man had one genuinely dangerous ability named Arcane Blade which was hitting for more than 1000 damage at a time, coming close to exceeding the healing provided by Medium Healing Grapes. At least all of the other abilities that these two employed didn't have much of an effect, only dealing out damage in the 100-300 range. I used a few Energizing Pomegranates in this battle when Olberic was low on boost points but didn't need to heal and they helped to speed the battle along. Olberic's fifth use of a big area effect ability was a Tiger Rage that dealt 7000+ damage to both opponents and wiped them out simultaneously. That was good to see - I was hoping that they would drop together but I hadn't been tracking their health to the exact amounts. This was the first boss fight in the whole game that wasn't completely routine and required some real thought.
Overall then, it was another easy pass through the set of Chapter 3 bosses for the increasingly-obvious overpowered Warmaster job. You would expect that kind of performance from a secret endgame class and the Warmaster was absolutely living up to its billing. Next on the to-do list would be the Chapter 4 bosses where I would finally allow Olberic to unsheath his Divine skill for the first time. He'd also have the chance to start collecting his ultimate weapons in earnest before moving on to the optional superbosses. We were getting closer to the end here but there were still a lot of challenges remaining to be overcome.