It's a game with the good kind of bugs! Let's Play Bug Fables

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Design Interlude: Discussing Astotheles

I hadn't planned to do a full design breakdown/repair post about Astotheles, but after the update and subsequent thread discussion I realised there was probably enough to say that it was worth doing. I want to be clear from the outset that, overall, I actually like the Astotheles fight and think it probably only warrants minor changes.

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This fight has two separate and distinct things going on. The first, of course, is the no-items gimmick. The second is the structure of Astotheles' attacks, largely a flurry of low-damage hits that heavily rewards blocking. The item restriction is the sort of thing that could be applied to any fight, but I do think it was a very smart decision to tie it to what is otherwise a simple and straightforward fight concept.

The structure of his attacks heavily rewards using Taunt and stacking defence boosts on Kabbu (well, Back Support at least, or you could get Defense Exchange from wave 30 of the Cave of Trials), and Spiky Bod if you're good at blocking (because it applies separately on every hit, it can add up fast). If you don't go that route, the fight becomes more or less a damage race (which is fine, there are still various ways to deal with that), but I definitely think this fight does a good job of encouraging players to try playing defence.

The one criticism I have of the attack patterns is that his damage output might be a bit too unpredictably random. The difference between his mildest attacks (one 4-damage hit, or two 2-damage hits), and his strongest (4-damage hit followed by a 3-hit combo) is pretty stark, especially late in the fight when he gets to roll those dice twice per turn. This can definitely make the difficulty feel a bit inconsistent: I have had runs of this fight which felt like I won due to good RNG, rather than any choices I made, and I think it might benefit from some kind of weighting element where the strongest and weakest attacks he can do each become more likely the more turns it's been since the last time he did them. This is a minor nitpick though, I'm certainly not averse to random elements in games.

So let's talk about the item restriction.

The core concept is straightforward: when you use an item, Astotheles reacts with a counter that destroys the item before it takes effect. Effectively, all items in this fight behave as though they've been replaced with a blank item that wastes the character's turn without doing anything.

This, in and of itself, is fine. It can feel bad to waste an item if you walk into it unknowingly, but every character's Spy dialogue gives a hint about how it works, so I think it's perfectly fair. It makes you recontextualise item use as part of your strategy: HP and TP management becomes something you need to really think about instead of offloading it to consumables, you can't use bombs or status-boosting items to boost your damage output, self-inflicted status strategies aren't viable, etc. It's a good way of making the player think and get out of their comfort zone if they've been relying too much on a specific strategy.

The problematic aspect is in what happens if you try to use an item while Astotheles is suffering from a disabling status effect (freeze, sleep, numb). He arbitrarily cures himself of the status, then breaks the item anyway.

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This is a problem for a couple of reasons:

(1) It counteracts what the game teaches elsewhere about how status effects interact with enemy reactions. In the Chapter 2 fight against Zasp and Mothiva, Zasp does not react to Mothiva being hit or KO'd if he is frozen or asleep when it happens, and that's absolutely something you can take strategic advantage of. Other enemies later in the game will behave similarly: Astotheles is very much an exception to the rule.

(2) It runs counter to intuition, meaning most players won't predict the outcome correctly. It's true that Bug Fables isn't a game absolutely dedicated to realism, but it's still the case that a player is going to have expectations, and it's better not to contravene them unless you have a good reason to.

(3) The self-cure leaves Astotheles in a better position afterward than before, making this even more counterproductive than wasting an item when he isn't disabled. The player is being punished more than usual for trying a natural way to play around the gimmick (whereas my design preference would be to reward players for getting clever).

The result is that this behaviour almost always takes the player by surprise and feels like a "gotcha" out of nowhere, or maybe even like the game is cheating against them. It usually leaves them in a worse situation than before, and (because players are often in a desperate situation when they feel the need to try it) very often leads directly to losing the fight.

I can think of three different ways to resolve the problem:

(A) When incapacitated by status, Astotheles doesn't react to item use. This is my preferred solution, it's more consistent with how other fights work, and changes the strategic value of status effects. I might also suggest lowering his freeze and/or sleep resistance, to give the player a bit more freedom to actually exploit it. This does make the fight easier; I think that's fine, but I would consider increasing his HP in compensation (especially if lowering his resistances).

(B) Make Astotheles immune to status effects. The main advantage here is that this would be the easiest to implement, and stays closest to the current version of the fight (you don't get to use items, he destroys all the items you try to use), while resolving the problematic aspect. The downside here is that this takes away a strategic option the player would otherwise have, so it's a nontrivial difficulty increase. Maybe his HP would need to be reduced a bit to keep things fair.

(C) Have the fight take place before Team Snakemouth recovers their possessions, changing the justification for "no item use" to them not having any. This might also require forcing Vi to sit out the fight, since all of her abilities are either tied to her Beemerang or her Stash (which would require a rebalance of his stats, but the game is definitely capable of having a fight without the full party, as we saw with Acolyte Aria). The main thing I don't like about this version is that it removes some of Astotheles' characterisation, "he's so fast/skilled he can intercept your item use" did add a little something I'd be sorry to lose.

Any one of those solutions, it seems to me, solves both the verisimilitude and unfairness problems while staying true to the intent of the fight. It doesn't require major changes.

To wrap this up on a different note, let's have a look at Astotheles' page from the art book:

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Genow's aside about the factory lockdown is interesting, because we don't get a lot of evidence for that ingame (though we did see spears like the ones the wasps use in the Power Plant, so it seems like they broke in there and may have run afoul of the Midge Broodmother).

Also, the concept art shows him with a sword or dagger hilt, which suggests his weapon might not be a cane or walking stick as I've always interpreted it. I maintain I saw what I saw.

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36: Concerning Horns

Last time, our adventure in the bandits' hideout led us to recover some stolen goods. Let's see what we can do with them.

Image 06 - Outskirts

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The bandits' hideout is very close to the Outskirts entrance to the Lost Sands, so let's head back that way. We can stop by Artis and check for a reward on the way.

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On the way, I failed to dodge one of the Underlings, which normally wouldn't be noteworthy one way or the other. Except...

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It's a Golden Seedling, which is convenient to demonstrate how much we've grown. These used to be a pain to deal with. Now, though, we have Strong Start and Chompy, meaning our first turn is composed of 5 guaranteed actions.

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(Leif relayed the Strong Start turn to Kabbu to avoid the damage penalty.)

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And Chompy deals the final blow. Easy and completely risk-free.

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These things are still worth ludicrous amounts of EXP. Honestly, it's kind of annoying, since we're already a bit on the overlevelled side and there's still a lot of side content left this chapter that will give us more. On the other hand, I've found being overlevelled tends to be less unbalancing in this game than a lot of others, so we'll deal with it.

If encountered in a formation alongside other enemies (especially if not in front, or if there are more than one), Golden Seedlings can still be nontrivial, but they're a lot less threatening than they used to be.

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I won't turn up my nose at a free Tangy Berry either, though now that we can buy them they're a lot less precious. (Also, we get a Danger Spud from the Underling formation's normal drops.)

Anyway, after that interruption, let's get back to what we were doing.

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Now for Artis.

Image Hey! You're back. Let's see how you have been doing with that Medal of mine.
Image Hmm! Good job, folks! You defeated that hardened Astotheles!
Image Was it too challenging for ya? You deserve a reward. Here, take this!

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Image Come back later when you've bonked some extra hard heads with that Medal, will ya?

Image Triumph Buzz is a counterpart to the Victory Buzz medal we acquired earlier. For 3 MP, this will heal each member of our party 2 HP at the end of each fight. Like Victory Buzz, this goes a long way toward making normal battles less taxing on our resources; if you're only going to wear one of them, Victory Buzz tends to be more consistently useful, but you can always just wear both, or swap to whichever you're in more need of recovering at the moment. It's a medal we'll certainly appreciate having, though I'm not going to put it on right now.

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In the plaza, we see Utter alerting us that there are new quests posted. Let's check the board.

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Two of these are obviously related to the stolen items we recovered (what on earth happened to poor Tanjerin?), but that's not the only thing going on. Let's accept all the quests.

That said, for anyone playing along, be cautious about accepting "Explorer Check!" if you want to do any business in the Ant Kingdom Commercial District; once you have the quest in your log, the events will trigger automatically when you go there (and blocks you off from accessing e.g. the medal shops until you've dealt with it).

Let's see what's going on with Tanjerin first, shall we?

Image 26 - Golden Lands

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There he is, in the eastern part of the Golden Settlement. That little orange-shaped house seems to be his. Not looking great, is he. There's no new banter, so let's talk to him.

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Image By the spicy berries of the land... your horn!
Image We're guessing that rock did this to you.
Image H-Huuuu...

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Image H-Hu. F-Fine. I'll tell ya.
Image I was gonna break the rock to be the strongest! But then my horn broke.
Image It doesn't hurt or anything, but some bandits nabbed it. I can't heal it!
Image What could bandits possibly do with your horn?
Image D-Don't ask me. But I need it. Or I can't break the rock!
Image That should be the least of your worries!
Image Look. Just leave it to us. We'll get it back from the bandits!
Image Try not to break anything else until we return.
Image Huuu...

Well then.

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Talking to him again prompts us to give him an item. Of course, we need to try the Bug Ranger Plushie first...

Image T-That's not it. My horn is orange like me, okay? Sniff...

He doesn't have a special reaction to the plushie, he'll say the same thing for any incorrect item.

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Anyway, it would be cruel to keep him waiting. Let's give his horn back.

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Well, that's one way to solve the problem, I guess? Duct tape fixes everything?

Image Alright. Now, you should definitely rest!

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The screen briefly blacks out, and when we come back, he's gone. Oh dear. This isn't going to end well, is it? Let's go see if we can find him.

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As we may have predicted, he's back at the rock.

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Image I implore you to reconsider! You've hurt yourself already!
Image Nah. Imma do it! Just watch!

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Oookay then? (We'll check this out in a moment.)

Image Well, it's not quite broken, but...

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Image I can rest now. I deserve it for working so hard! See you, and thanks!

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Well, at least he's happy, I suppose? I really don't know what to do with this, but it counts as completing the quest.

Now that the rock's gone, a new path has opened up for us to explore. Let's check out a few things before that, though.

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If we go back to the east side, we can find Tanjerin hanging out by his house.

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Image Now I'm gonna look for new things to break!
Image ...Please don't.

He has new dialogue, of course. (I'm still worried about him, having his horn just taped back on can't be a good thing. And yes, it will stay that way.)

For better or worse, there aren't any new banters for Tanjerin (honestly, I think it's a bit of a missed opportunity; I kept checking throughout this quest expecting there to be something).

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Let's check out our new medal. Image Mightier Pebble is, as you might have guessed, something of an upgrade to Mighty Pebble in concept. For 3 MP, this will give Kabbu the skill "Boulder Toss". Let's try it out.

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Boulder Toss costs 4 TP, and can target any above-ground enemy (including airborne enemies). If the action command is performed successfully, Kabbu will launch a giant boulder, which hits the main target for (Kabbu's attack + 3) damage, and adjacent targets for 2 damage. If you fail the action command, the boulder lands on Kabbu, dealing 4 damage to him. Only the main hit is affected by modifiers to Kabbu's attack and exhaustion penalties, the splash and self-damage are fixed values (though, as you can see here, the splash damage is still reduced by enemies' defence, it's not like Pebble Toss).

Honestly, this is a pretty solid skill. I've never used it much, but I'm not entirely sure why; it might just be that Under Strike unlocks around the same time, and serves a pretty similar role (hitting flying and burrowed enemies, hitting multiple enemies at once), and you can use that without dedicating MP to it. Still, this is pretty good.

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Let's check out the new path that's opened to us.

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What is this area? There's someone here behind the desk...

Image That's a big field.
Image It seems some activity is conducted here. Let's investigate.

Well, that's helpful.

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This sign is more informative. (Also, uh, Paper Mario fans might find the concept of 'Whacka Farms' moderately disturbing. It's nothing like that.) Remember the Whack-A-Worm game from the Golden Festival? Looks like this is a place where we can play that again. Let's talk to the attendant.

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Image Uh, excuse us...
Image What is it?! Can't you see I am-
Image Wait, are you... customers?!
Image Depends. What do you do here?
Image Oh, welcome! Welcome to the Whack Farms!
Image Here, we play a popular game called Whack-A-Worm!
Image Oh, that's the game we played at the festival!
Image Yeah. The festival hosts it sometimes, but here you can play whenever you want!
Image It's 10 berries for a try, and depending on your score, you can win quite a few berries or items back!

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Let's not, right now.

Image Ugh. Alright. If you ever change your mind, just come back.

There's also a banter about the attendant:

Image She didn't realize she was trapped?
Image Good for her. We'd have gotten antsy.
Image No point in bringing it up now... but isn't it depressing?
Image To be accustomed to not having clients...
Image W-Well, we could help her out a bit...

If even Vi feels badly for her, who am I to resist? (Or is she just eager to play the game? Who knows?)

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Image Alright! Please get in the arena so we can start!

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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It's the same Whack-A-Worm game we played before, just in a slightly different arena (the terrain isn't quite the same). Worms pop out of the ground, you try to hit as many as you can with the Beemerang in the 1-minute time limit.

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That run could've definitely gone better.

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Image Hehe! What do we get?
Image Here is something for your efforts.

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Image Thank you for playing, come back again!

Most of the time, you just win berries (it seems to be 1 berry per worm you hit). If you enjoy this game, it's not an awful way to grind berries, though other methods do tend to be faster. The sign said there's a special prize for getting 25 points, though, so let's keep trying.

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There we go.

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Image It's not 30 worms, but still super impressive!
Image Ha! It was nothing for me!
Image Here you go, this is a special prize!

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Image Thank you for playing, come back again!

The prize for 25 worms is a Heart Berry. That's really quite nice, it's well worth trying to get this (although it might take a bit of practice to get the score). I foresee a bit of voting ahead of us, we'll have to decide who gets to eat this one.

That said, we can't stop now; she mentioned 30 worms! That's... considerably trickier.

Image Click me for video!

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It took me over half an hour of attempts before I managed this. I won't claim to be any good at this minigame, but it seems to me that beating 30 points usually requires a bit of RNG cooperation in addition to skill. It goes a lot more smoothly if you get a few close groups of worms, or if they spawn close enough together that you don't need to move much to get to the next one, etc. One trick that can be helpful (you'll see me do it a handful of times in the video) is that, if you barely miss a throw, you can sometimes move Vi a little and get the Beemerang to catch the worm on the way back to her.

Anyway, let's see what we get?

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Image Heheheh.

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Image What was that?
Image A special code. For a special "menu".
Image THAT's the reward!?
Image When you figure it out, it's worth it...
Image How mysterious...
Image Oh, and take these, too!

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Image Thank you for playing, come back again!

You can tell from my berry count that I was at this a while. Anyway, our reward for scoring this well is... our first Menu Code! From here on out, we'll occasionally stumble across these. That conversation was a bit cryptic though, wasn't it? The game won't outright tell you what the codes are for.

The codes can be entered when naming your file for a new playthrough, and enable various changes to shake up the gameplay (usually extra challenges, but not exclusively). Entering the code doesn't actually name your file, either, so you can activate as many of them as you want and still call your file whatever you like. You don't actually need to have found the codes ingame to use them, but I do appreciate that they're hidden ingame.

So what does MOREFARM do? This first one is a little disappointing, honestly: it increases the amount of EXP needed to rank up. The wiki says the cumulative increase per rank goes from 1 point to 5 points. That is certainly a thing you can do. The other codes are more interesting, and we'll discuss them in due course when they come up.

With that, unless we want to grind more berries, we're done here. Let's investigate the next stolen item.

Image 37 - Defiant Root

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In Defiant Root, we can find that this shop in the commercial district has finally opened its doors.

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That looks like the lady whose silk was stolen. We'll talk to her momentarily, but let's check the banter first:

Image Ms. Kali's made quite a name for herself in town! Her wares are very popular.
Image Eh, they're way too expensive.
Image And we're already beautiful.
Image Al...right?

Heh. Leif certainly has his vain moments. Let's talk to her.

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Image That's gotta be Kali. Excuse us, miss?
Image Whatever could you want? Can't you see I'm devastated?
Image We're here to help!
Image You need not suffer any longer. Could you tell us what happened?
Image Aah... Explorers! Please excuse me, I've been very on edge.
Image I have ample reason to believe bandits have stolen my silk!
Image Not any silk, yes? This one costs both time and many berries to manufacture!
Image The bandits've really done a number on Defiant Root.
Image Leave it to us! You will be able to craft again soon!
Image So dashing! Please, return it before they ruin it!
Image You got it. Start getting that reward ready!

I do think it's a little odd that all these quests' starting dialogue is written as though Team Snakemouth are going to go out and look for the stolen thing, when the most likely case is they already have it since these quests don't appear until after you beat Astotheles. That said, it's not guaranteed we'd have the thing, and if we hadn't known to grab it (by the fact it was an item we could pick up) we'd have to go back into the Bandits' Hideout now.

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Talking to her again goes right to the prompt to give her things. We're going to try the plushie, of course.

Image No, no, no! This isn't it. How distressing!

She doesn't have a special reaction either, sadly.

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Let's hand over the silk; easy come, easy go?

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Image It did feel incredible carrying it back here.
Image Miss Kali, did you truly create such an exquisite texture?
Image That's right. Silks and the wondrous items of fashion and leisure it can be woven into are my absolute PASSION.
Image They've gotta be worth a fortune! No wonder it got stolen.
Image A fortune? Hah! You cannot put a price on a masterpiece.
Image ...Though I'll have you know my prices are very economical, darlings.

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Image This place is so cool though. I've never seen this big wheel before!
Image W-Wait! Do be VERY careful near that vase, my dear. It's a gift from a client very close to me.
Image Incredible. Your work touches the hearts of the wearer that strongly?
Image Shame we're not too much into fashion...
Image I'm itching to get back to work, so...
Image Please, let me reward you for all you've done for this shop.

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She gives us a Lore Book. Not too bad; we'll have to check this out soon, along with the other one we're currently holding onto.

Image And you all seem absolutely exhausted, you poor things. Breathe this in, my darlings, it should soothe and fix your wounds with ease.
Image Oh! Thank you so much!

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Welp. We all saw that coming, surely.

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Image That vase was a one of a kind design from...
Image Ah crud.

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Image I...I'm sorry!
Image Sorry is NOT enough! It's time to show you the consequences of touching things that do not belong to YOU!

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Image What's this smoke...?

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Image I digress. Come, my knight, let's give these two a proper thrashing!
Image Kabbu, what do you think you're doing?

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Image I... can't control... my body...
Image A puppet on silken strings, now... Let's begin, shall we?

ImageImage Click me for video!

Image 29 - Team, This One's Stronger! (Miniboss)

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Well, this is awkward! Kabbu's under some kind of pheromone mind control, and will be fighting on Kali's side. (That's not... quite... what pheromones do, but it's honestly one of the better excuses for mind control I've seen in a game.)

We're only going to have Vi and Leif for this battle (thank goodness it doesn't seem to have worked on him too). Let's spy.

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Image Kabbu's... our friend. We must seek an alternative to this.

25 HP?! He doesn't have that much when he's on our side! (For better or worse, Enemy Kabbu here is a fixed entity, and isn't affected by any of our medals or stat upgrades.)

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Image Maybe if I knock her around a bit, she'll stop dancing and start listening!

The spy dialogue for both of them is definitely implying we should be focusing on Kali here.

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To start off, Leif attacks her.

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Chompy, unfortunately, can only reach Kabbu. I'm sure he'll forgive her later?

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Kabbu still has his Taunt, of course, which he uses on Leif here. It works the same way Zasp's Taunt did when we fought him: a taunted character can only use basic attacks or do nothing. Taunt also doesn't cost Kabbu his turn (though he doesn't always use it), so he'll follow it up with something else...

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In this case, a variant on his usual Heavy Strike, for 4 damage.

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On Kali's turn, she uses a dance that boosts Kabbu's defence for the next turn. She'll never attack us directly, but she has all sorts of support moves she'll be using on him.

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So here's where things stand now.

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With Leif taunted, he can only do normal attacks, so I'm not inclined to get too fancy here. I do switch their positions, though, to put Vi in front since she's healthier.

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Chompy's still stuck hitting poor Kabbu, though with the defence boost it barely matters.

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Kabbu also has Pebble Toss! Though it seems to be more effective when he's using it against us, I wonder why that is...

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Kali has another dance which heals Kabbu for 5, conveniently undoing everything Chompy's done to him.

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At the end of that turn, TP Core kicks in. It's a bit wasted since we hadn't actually spent any TP yet, but this is handy to have in this battle. We only have two actions per turn, we don't want to have to spend them on recovery.

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Here's where things stand after two turns. We've made a bit of progress, but there's still a ways to go.

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Let's have Leif cast Empower on Vi. (In retrospect, this was a bit inefficient, but it made sense at the time.)

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Vi attacks Kali for 4 now.

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Chompy is still trying her hardest, for better or worse.

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Heavy Strike hurts, but it's not the worst thing Kabbu can do here.

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And this is genuinely scary. It's probably the most dangerous move Kali has: this dance gives Kabbu +2 charge-up. His attacks become terrifying with this on top of them (although you can get lucky: it doesn't boost his Pebble Toss damage, but using that will still consume the bonus, so sometimes he wastes it).

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That said, there's a countermeasure. Did you remember Leif's Cleanse spell? (I often don't, to be honest.)

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Cleanse completely nullifies charge-ups and temporary buffs, which is really handy in this fight. That's looking much better.

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And here's why casting Empower was a waste: I ended up deciding it would be too risky to attack with Vi here, and opted instead to have her use a Succulent Platter to set up some HP regeneration (as well as poison herself, I put the poison medals back on her after Astotheles). She only attacked once while boosted. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.

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Chompy is helping?

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Kabbu taunts Vi this time, then follows up with a new move! He can also use Under Strike against us. It has a base damage of 5, but thankfully only hits one bug one time.

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Kali boosts his defence again.

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Lots of things happen at end-of-turn this time! Despite the poison damage, the regeneration from Succulent Platter still has Vi net gaining health.

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This is a bit awkward. I'd been hoping to get a big attack in with Vi this turn, but she's taunted. Oh well.

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We'll still have Leif boost her (hopefully she can make better use of it next turn), but for now she'll attack normally.

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Chompy has a one-track mind.

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Kabbu uses Pebble Toss again, which isn't too bad (though Vi is looking a bit worse for wear after that).

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This time, Kali elects to boost his attack instead. It's not quite as scary as the charge-up (and still lasts for only 1 turn), but that could get bad.

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And there goes the last of the Succulent Platter. It did what it needed to do.

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With Vi finally free of the taunt, let's take advantage of all her boosts. It's time for a Hurricane Toss.

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11 total damage isn't too bad.

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Leif relays to Vi so she can attack again. With the boosts, that'll do more damage than Leif could do without spending TP (and, for better or worse, we can't quite finish her).

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Chompy is still chugging along.

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Kabbu's heart isn't really in this, he's still just throwing pebbles.

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Kali boosts his attack again.

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For better or worse, we'll just do some normal attacks this turn. Vi's poison and attack boosts have both worn off.

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Ouch. At least he wasted the taunt?

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That's worse.

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This isn't looking great, is it?

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At least we have Magic Seeds. Situations like these are what they're made for.

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Vi uses a Tornado Toss, and finishes Kali off.

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Which... ends the fight. Once Kali is defeated, Kabbu is freed from her influence and won't keep fighting.

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If you're paying close attention to the EXP amounts in both the video and the above screenshot, you may notice they don't quite match; I'm sorry about this, but as it happens I record most boss fights several times, and the run I liked best for video and commentary ended up not being on the same file as the Golden Seedling and Whack-a-Worm. The number in this screenshot is correct for the one we'll be going forward with.

Anyway, this fight! It's a fun surprise, you're probably not expecting it from what looks like a basic fetch quest, and the gimmicks are interesting. In addition to just focusing down Kali, status effects can be a good strategy here: Kabbu is very resistant to freeze at 80%, so that won't work for long, but he has 0% resistance to sleep, so if you pack a few Numbnail Darts or Sleep Bombs you can make this fight much less stressful. Another thing you can do, if you know this fight is coming and are worried about it, is unequip any medals Kabbu was using and focus all those MP on Vi and Leif instead (e.g. here the HP Plus, Favorite One, Spiky Bod etc medals I had on Kabbu all do nothing).

There are a few other wrinkles to the fight we didn't see:

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Kabbu also has access to Dash Through here, and it hurts! It's base 4 damage to both Vi and Leif, and it only gets scarier if he's boosted. (This was also more awkward in older versions of the game, in which this move unlocked later; it was really weird seeing Kabbu bust out this move when he didn't know it yet.)

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Going after Kabbu first is a futile endeavour; Kali will always use this "healing dust" move to revive him with 9 HP at the first available opportunity. You do get more EXP for the fight if you KO him at least once, though.

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Image I...I'm sorry. That smoke made me dizzy, I couldn't help it...
Image ...
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Image It was quite uncouth of me to lose my temper.
Image Let's put this behind us, hm? Water in the oasis, as it were. I'll see if Butomu can fix the vase...
Image Fine with us. We're too lazy to press charges.

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Image Despite the downward turn... we hope you make great things with that silk, Kali!
Image Oh. I assure you, I can and will, my dear knight.
Image ...Please remove yourselves from my shop, if you would be so kind.

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Despite that... unexpected turn, shall we say... we have now finished the quest. There's a bit of fun commentary in the bestiary entries, too:

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(You obviously can't get Kabbu's spy dialogue in this fight, but it's not confined to the bestiary either. If you replay this fight in the B.O.S.S. system, he'll be on both sides of the fight and can spy on himself, or on Kali, to see these comments there.)

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If we try to talk to Kali any further, this is all we'll get. This could definitely have gone better.

Kali, as you may have guessed, is a silk moth. The wiki suggests her name may be derived from Bombykol, the pheromone silk moths use to attract mates. Which does raise some questions here, namely, why did her spray work on Kabbu, but not on Leif? (Are pheromones more universal in Bugaria that they work across species? But that still isn't sufficient, because Leif's immunity is still a mystery... maybe something we'll learn later could help make sense of this.)

We have plenty more quests to do, but at least we've resolved the issue of the stolen goods, so this seems like a reasonable place to stop for today. Before that, though, let's go check in with Artis again.

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Image Was it too challenging for ya? You deserve a reward. Here, take this!

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Image Come back later when you've bonked some extra hard heads with that Medal, will ya?

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Our reward is Image Heavy Throw, another skill-granting medal. This one's for Vi, and costs 2 MP. Let's check the skill out.

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Heavy Throw is... interesting. For 5 TP, it does one big hit, which deals (Vi's attack + 3) damage and also inflicts Defence Down for 2 turns. If you fail the action command to catch the Beemerang when it returns, though, Vi will also hit herself for a flat 3 damage.

Everything this skill does (well, except the self-damage anyway) sounds great on paper, but I find it tends to be awkward in practice. When you want an enemy's defence lowered, you generally prefer that to happen before dealing damage, and it's better if someone other than Vi does it so she can take advantage of the lowered defence with a big multi-hit attack. It's fine, you can definitely use this to good effect, but the other tools available just tend to get the job done better.

Anyway, we've certainly gained our share of new skills this update! Next time, we'll continue with the sidequests, and start looking into what our newfound digging abilities make available to us.

In the meantime, how about some voting? Who gets to eat the Heart Berry this time?
Last edited by Explopyro on Mon Sep 13, 2021 3:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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37: Impostor Syndrome

Last time, we got a start on our latest batch of sidequests by returning the stolen goods (with, of course, some complications). Let's look into some of the others; specifically, let's head to the Ant Kingdom commercial district and see what Gen and Eri were worried about.

Before that, though, some management:

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I've restocked our items, since we were starting to get low.

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We won this Heart Berry last time, for scoring 25 points in the Whack-a-Worm game. The thread voted that it's Vi's turn to eat one, so let's give it to her.

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Vi now has 10 max HP (though 2 of that is from a medal).

Also, this screen's a good reminder that I haven't been to the library in a while. We'll turn in those Lore Books soon enough, I promise.

I've also moved some medals around:

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I thought it'd be a good idea to show what we're wearing, it's been a while. That said, you'll notice some differences here, mainly that I've moved all the poison medals to Kabbu. After the incident with Kali last time, I thought it might be nice to give him a turn as the main attacker.

Image 17 - Ant Kingdom

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Let's head into the commercial area.

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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If you have the "Explorer Check" quest accepted, this scene starts as soon as you enter the area. Hope you didn't want to do any business first!

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Image Explorers don't lie! You should check again!
Image I know how to do my job! Don't you dare try to swindle me!

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Image What is the matter here!?
Image They're trying to steal Amber's items!
Image We're not! Look at our permit!

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Image ...That permit's fake.
Image What'd ya say!?
Image Uh, really?
Image It's missing its crystals. Haven't you noticed? This is obviously some cheap imitation.
Image Thieves, and a farce to boot!? You will answer for your crimes!
Image Whew, good thing you're here. We had no idea...

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Well, that escalated quickly!

ImageImage Click me for video!

Image 29 - Team, This One's Stronger!

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Looks like it's going to be a fight. Let's start off as we usually do, by getting some information:

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Image It's not only to gain riches, but to help others! Now, let's count up your sins!

Kabbu, predictably, really doesn't think much of this pair.

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Image Doesn't seem like you're willing to listen... Our ice will sneak past your defenses.

I don't know quite what Leif is trying to say here (aside from the fact he usually mentions ice because it's his answer to everything). Pisci's defence works just as well against ice as everything else.

For now, let's just do some basic attacks and see what they can do.

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Leif relays to Kabbu for slightly better damage.

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Chompy's helping!

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Cenn attacks by throwing his stick as a boomerang. This hits the same character twice, with base damage of 4 and then 3; it hurts a lot, especially if you don't block well.

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Pisci, meanwhile, builds a rock wall for them to hide behind. Sometimes she'll take multiple actions in a turn, but that's all she did this time.

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Well, this is awkward. The rocks count as the front-most enemy, so Kabbu and Chompy can't reach with most of their attacks. However...

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Kabbu can just go underneath it! Under Strike is pretty great in this fight, and it's even better if you can time it exactly right; I was a little off this time.

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Leif and Vi will just keep hitting Cenn for now.

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And poor Chompy has no choice but to eat rocks. (The rock wall appears to have 1 defence, for some reason.)

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Cenn uses a different attack this time. He can also just hit us with the stick, for 4 base damage (Favorite One and Super Block+ are cancelling each other out here).

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This turn, Pisci chucks some rocks at us. These don't have to target the same bug (though she decided to focus on Kabbu here), and do 2 damage each.

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We're making progress.

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Kabbu's Under Strike goes much better this time, hitting both of them! The timing for this feels pretty tricky (I'm still not all that consistent with it, as you can see), though I don't actually know how small the window is.

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Leif and Vi continue hitting Cenn.

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Chompy hits the rock pile again, causing it to fall apart. Pisci's rock walls have 4 HP, so you can get rid of them if you want to.

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At the start of their turn, instead of attacking, they decide they've had enough and run away.

(As far as I can tell, the trigger for this happening is either of them being below half HP when their turn begins. Also, if anyone is wondering, it's not actually possible to win this fight: I did some fairly extensive testing, and found there's a script in place which arbitrarily stops their HP from being reduced below 2.)

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Image This is bad. They'll just come back and harass someone else!
Image We have no idea where they'd flee to, though...
Image That permit's fake, right? Maybe they'll try to steal a real one?
Image We'll check out the area near the Association, then!
Image We shall as well. Let's get them with haste!

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Gen and Eri leave, and the game gives us back control. Let's head to the Outskirts, I guess, and see if we can't track them down.

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We pass by our house on the way, though, so it only makes sense to rest up first.

Image 06 - Outskirts

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We eventually find them here, on the other side of a fence near the exit that eventually leads to Golden Path.

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We can, of course, dig and go under the fence. As soon as we get closer, a cutscene will start:

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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Image How did you find us so fast!?
Image It's cuz we're, like, actual explorers!

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Image Gen, Eri! Good job locating the frauds!
Image We won't waste our breath negotiating.
Image Yeah! Let's just beat 'em up!
Image Darn, they're too strong. What do we do!?
Image Just give it up! There's a reason Maki refused your application!
Image What would he know? Y'all are just the Queen's lapbugs!
Image No one has the right to tell us we can't explore!
Image ...
Image I get how you feel. But... the answer wasn't to become criminals!
Image It was to train and become stronger, so you could do the dangerous stuff!
Image Don't lecture us! We'll see who needs to get stronger after this!

It's time for round two (the real fight).

ImageImage Click me for video!

Image 29 - Team, This One's Stronger!

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In a way, they did us a favour by running away, because it means we start this fight already having their spy data. No need to waste any actions this turn, let's just get to fighting.

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Let's start off by having Leif cast Empower on Kabbu.

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Then we poison him with some Spicy Fries. Admittedly, in retrospect this was a minor mistake (why did I use Empower instead of doing something else with Leif? Or why didn't I get Burly Chips instead?), but the durations stack so we won't need to refresh the attack buff later.

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Now it's Under Strike time! Look at that 18 damage. This can be really potent if you're good at using it; just because Vi's skills are the most obvious way to output lots of damage, don't rule the other two out. (I also really like Under Strike in this fight because it completely ignores Pisci's defence.)

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To finish out the turn, Vi and Chompy attack normally.

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Cenn hits Kabbu with his stick (and I fail to block).

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Pisci does something new this turn - she pulls out a Crunchy Leaf and heals Cenn. Supposedly, both of them can do this, though only to heal each other; in practice, I don't think I've ever seen Cenn do it. (Also, I've seen quite a few people comment on it being odd that Cenn is able to eat leaves with a proboscis.)

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Immediately after that, she builds a rock wall.

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So far, so good. Let's keep doing that.

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Unfortunately, this time my timing is less good and I only manage to hit Cenn. Still, if I were choosing one to prioritise hitting, it would be Cenn (given his higher damage output), so it could be much worse.

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Leif attacks.

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Vi uses a Crisbee Donut to restore our TP, since we were nearly out. It doesn't take much skill use to burn through our 15 points.

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Chompy attacks rocks for lack of anything better to do.

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Ouch. The boomerang attack really hurts if you miss blocking.

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At least Pisci's rocks aren't much of a threat.

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We might need to do a bit of regrouping this turn.

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First things first, though, Kabbu's going to keep Under Striking. This time, he only managed to hit Pisci, though. Still, damage is damage. (Also evidence of how finicky this skill can be - his positioning looks right here, but clearly not.)

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Leif freezes Cenn with Frigid Coffin. I would have liked to just KO him this turn, but missing with Under Strike ruled that out; freezing him is nearly as good at taking him out of the fight.

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Vi gets Leif out of the woods with Secret Stash.

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And Chompy hits the rocks again, which should be enough to do for them.

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Well, it was enough to get rid of the rocks, but Pisci just puts them right back after healing Cenn. She's very persistent about this; trying to keep the rocks gone is honestly a losing proposition here.

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We should definitely be able to finish off at least one of them this turn.

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Tornado Toss with full charge against a frozen target is honestly a bit overkill; there goes Cenn. (Meanwhile I'm just thinking all that wasted damage is a bit inefficient; feels like I got a bit sloppy.)

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We're out of TP, so I just had Kabbu hit the rocks.

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While Leif hits Pisci, though without the +1 charge he wouldn't have managed to do any damage.

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And Chompy finishes the rocks off; let's see if they stay gone.

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At the start of their turn, if either Cenn or Pisci has been defeated, the other will gain a permanent Attack Up. (This is definitely another reason to try to take down Cenn first, I wouldn't want to be fighting him with boosted damage.)

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Pisci throws some rocks at us. They're a bit more threatening with Attack Up, but still not that scary.

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We've gotten Pisci low enough with incidental damage that we should be able to finish things now.

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It feels a bit awkward using an item so close to the end of the fight (and with better planning I could probably have avoided this), but getting through her defence is a lot simpler with a bit of TP.

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Vi's Needle Pincer does the job quite nicely.

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That wraps up the fight! It's a decent chunk of EXP too, more than enough for us to Rank Up. (Also, I have to say, I've always thought Kabbu looks good in purple.)

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This brings us to 50 total MP. (That sounds like a lot, but it really isn't hard to fill that up.)

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Image Tch. You preachy bunch...

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Something stops them as they try to run away again.

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Image YOU didn't notice OUR plan!
Image Incredible! Good work!
Image We're gonna ship these off to be judged. Thanks for your help!
Image Let's see. Confiscate the permit and... huh. They had this on them.
Image You should take it, Team Snakemouth!

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Another Lore Book for the pile.

Image Pleasure to help.
Image We'll see you around. Good luck in your other quests!
Image Heheh. See you around!

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With that, we've completed another quest. Cenn and Pisci are a good fight (and I think it's also a nice touch that their inexperience is represented in game mechanic terms by them both having very small movesets).

Also, did you notice? Put together the names of all the characters involved in this quest and you get Gen, Eri, Cenn, Pisci, or... "Generic NPC". There you go, it's the punchline to a joke begun with Gen and Eri's names all the way back at the beginning of the game. (Honestly, the most impressive aspect of this is that all of the individual names look fine in a vacuum.)

Completing another boss fight, of course, means we should check in with Artis.

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Image Hmmm! Good job, folks! You defeated that hardened duo of fake explorers!
Image Was it too challenging for ya? You deserve a reward. Here, take this!

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Image Come back later when you've bonked some extra hard heads with that medal, will ya?

Our Hard Mode reward for beating them is our fifth copy of HP Plus. We've now seen every copy of this medal in the game (there are six; the last one is currently waiting in Shades' shop though we haven't bought it yet).

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Also, now that we've finished helping them with their quest, Gen and Eri will go back to hanging out at their usual spot here in the Association.

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They have new dialogue, though it's fairly sparse. The banter has also updated:

Image Gen and Eri seem a bit unreliable.
Image It's good to know they have our back, though!
Image Indeed. This camaraderie is what being an explorer is all about!

Seems like their stunt with the Sleep Bomb back there definitely impressed Vi.

With that quest out of our way, let's do some exploration. Now that we can dig, we can finally find out what's hiding under all those dirt mounds we've been seeing across the world (and find a few other neat things too). Let's go on a backtracking tour.

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Though let's start with something new. If we return to where we just fought Cenn and Pisci, there's one hiding just past them.

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It only has a Danger Spud. A bit disappointing, but it has its uses. I guess it helps establish early that not all of these are going to be incredibly impressive.

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Next up is this one we saw at the very beginning of the game, right in front of the Explorers' Association.

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That's certainly something new! We've been hearing about Dark Cherries from time to time, but now we've actually found some.

They're an interesting item. They don't actually do anything unless you cook them (in fact, as an item, they take up space in our inventory and can't be used), but they're used to make some of the best consumables in the game. Also, the "high price" is not a lie, they can be sold for 50 berries each if you're so inclined (though berries are so plentiful by this point in the game that there's usually no need to).

We'll talk more about Dark Cherries later this update, but for now I'm going to put a pin in the subject and get back to exploring.

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There's one more dirt mound in this part of the Outskirts (though how it got on top of that rock I have no idea).

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This one has a Crystal Berry inside! It's always nice to get more of these, and you can find a lot of them this way.

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Moving on to the plaza, here's one just next to Bugaria Theatre, off the path toward the Ant Palace.

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Another Crystal Berry!

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And in the Commercial District, there's one here just by the entrance to the Underground Tavern.

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This one has a Lore Book inside (how did that get there?).

We've now seen all the types of rewards from these digging spots: they can have Crystal Berries, Lore Books, Dark Cherries, or occasionally miscellaneous consumable items. They're well worth remembering. We've got a lot more still to check, so let's keep going.

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Remember this gate the Ants put up blocking the way back to Snakemouth Den, after we got back from there?

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Now that we can dig, it's no longer an obstacle. We can just go under it if we want to head back there.

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Which is convenient for checking this digging spot.

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All it has is a Spicy Berry, though. (I guess we've now replaced the Spicy Fries I used in the boss fight. Thanks, game?)

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Here's a sneaky one. This one's in the room where we fought Monsieur Scarlet. In order to get back here, you have to remember the illusory wall and just walk through it.

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Another Lore Book! This brings us to 5 now; looks like we're going to have a fair bit of reading ahead of us.

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Continuing on to the Golden Path, there's this one if we jump across some flytraps in the first area.

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More Dark Cherries!

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While we're here in the Golden Path, let's stop at Chomper Caverns on the way, there's something new we can find there now as well.

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Remember this crack in the far wall? Now that we can dig, we can burrow and go through.

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This room, with the flowers and nail resting by the wall (and possibly also the shape of the medal here?), is generally considered to be a tribute to Hollow Knight.

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The medal here is a really interesting one, too. Image Berserker costs a whopping 6 MP, and comes with a hefty share of drawbacks. Equipping this on a bug makes them unable to block, prevents them from using skills and items, and they can neither give nor receive turns with Turn Relay, but in return they get a flat +3 to their attack.

The best thing to do with it now is probably to pair it with Strong Start, since even with the double exhaustion, the character will still do more than usual damage on the second hit. Vi is probably the best candidate if you want to do that, since she can hit any enemy, but losing her other abilities is a real tradeoff and I have to say I personally don't use this much. I'll definitely show some strategies with it later, though, I think there's even a good opportunity next update.

One other thing worth noting about this is that, if you want, you can come get this before fighting Astotheles (all you need is the digging ability). If you're really bad at blocking, you can use this to give you a big boost in the damage race instead; I definitely took advantage of this on some of the bonus difficulties.

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Reaching the Golden Settlement, there's a digging spot in the entrance area, surrounded by this circle of rocks.

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It has another Crystal Berry in it.

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In the western side of town, we can also use the digging ability to get inside the pen where the aphids and cochineals live. (Remember this digging spot? We could see it when Vi was playing the Whack-a-Worm game during the Golden Festival.)

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Another Crystal Berry.

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We're not done here just yet, either.

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We can also sneak around the back of the fortune-teller's stall, and dig under the fence there. What happens if we talk to him?

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Image Well, if you want me to try to find things you have not found yet, please talk to me from the front of the desk.
Image... Here, to commemorate my fated scare.

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Image Please refrain from doing it again, though.
Image Even though I was expecting it, it really gave me a scare...

The first time we talk to him from this side, he'll give us a Crystal Berry. Not bad! (Although this is easy to miss if you don't already know about it...)

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Talking to him again just gets us this line.

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Heading into the Ant Mines, let's take a stop in the back room. We haven't been there in a while.

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Most of the miners are gone, having left to build the various shortcut tunnels we use. The digging spot is still here, though!

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Yet another Crystal Berry.

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Let's briefly return to the Lost Sands. This is the ruined Roach city where Hawk gave us the key.

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There was a digging spot inside this ruined building.

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Another Crystal Berry! This is another one that's easy to overlook, since you can't see the dirt mound from outside the building.

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Finally, let's return to Metal Island, and check out what's beyond this fence.

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There's a spring here.

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With it, we can get on top of Master Slice's restaurant, where a Crystal Berry is just sitting out in the open. Not bad!

That wraps up the Digging World Tour (at least for now). There are still a handful more things we can access, but as they're more involved, that will be for the next update.

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For now, let's go read some books.

Image 18 - In the Court of the Ant Queen

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Did we find some books, she asks. Did we ever.

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Many dialogue boxes later, the shelf looks significantly more full, wouldn't you say?

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Let's see what they have to say!

Image Snakemouth Den. Rumors say that during Elizant I's rule, roaches that lived in Snakemouth Den were faced with a sudden demise. In one night, all the roaches that lived there were gone, and fungi monsters appeared. Expeditions sent have always suffered losses, so the search for the reason was put on hold. Snakemouth Den is rumored to be a host to many Ancient Crystals. Could that be the cause?

Most of that isn't exactly new, but clearly we've only scratched the surface of the mysteries in there. We're surely going to have to investigate more later.

Image A Brief History of Bees. The Bees are close allies with the Ants, and came in shortly after Elizant I settled down in these lands. While they used to make honey themselves, technological advancements made robotic drones slowly take over the honey's production. Many bees of the younger generation, barring scholars, do not fully understand how to make it. Their society is mostly composed of females, with males residing in the Queen's chambers.

It's a cute detail that the modern bees are forgetting how to make honey now that they have technology to do it for them. (Also, we haven't and will not meet any male honeybees, despite this book acknowledging their existence.)

Image A Brief History of Wasps. Although they've been around long before Elizant I's arrival, the Wasps live just outside of Bugaria. Thus, the Ants hold the title of first settlers. The Wasps control most of the northern territory comprising the Far Grasslands and Wild Swamplands, and will attack anyone they catch intruding. Due to a history of internal conflict, even the young are well-versed in military tactics and combat.

(This one's definitely reflecting the politics of its Ant author...)

Image A Brief History of Termites. The Termites, like the Wasps, lived in these lands before Elizant I, and, like them, live just outside of Bugaria. An isolationist society, they say the Termites were close allies of the Roaches and as such possess advanced technology within their dome. Unlike Bees and Ants, the Termites possess both male and female soldiers and workers in their society. They are also very good builders, and know how to use clay well.

We haven't met any termites yet, but clearly we're going to eventually. Fun fact: in evolutionary terms, termites are more closely related to roaches than they are to ants, so that alliance makes a certain amount of sense.

Image The Roaches. The roaches are the oldest of the bugs that rose after what they call the Day of Awakening. Having mastered the art of crystals, their civilization rose on top of this abundant power source. However, they suddenly disappeared. Many have speculated on the reason. Popular sentiment is some sort of civil war must have led their civilization to crumble. Personally, I doubt it. Surely some would have remained, then? If some roaches did survive, they live far from Bugaria. Perhaps not even they would know of what their ancestors did.

This one is very speculative. We still know very little about the roaches, except that they're gone.

I continue to enjoy the way the Lore Books are both an in-universe item and a way to convey backstory details that would otherwise be hard to fit in naturally.

There's one final stop I'd like to make before wrapping up today's update.

Image 34 - Dodgy Business

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Now that we've found our first Dark Cherries, this fellow shows up in the Underground Tavern.

Image Huh. This guy's new.
Image He keeps staring at us... Let's see what he wants.

Let's talk to him.

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Image You've found some Dark Cherries, haven't you?!
Image Uh, well, yes. How did you...

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Image I have a lot of Dark Cherries with me, you see... I can smell them from miles away!
Image So rare and valuable... Dear cherry lovers, I'll sell some of mine for 50 berries each!
Image What?! Can't you lower that a bit?
Image Finding these cherries is no easy task! Even for my expert nose!
Image 50 berries. It's a steal.
Image We did hear of some amazing recipes using them... Hmm...
Image Hyuk hyuk hyuk! Please consider it, cherry lovers! It's an amazing deal!

This charming fellow is known only as the Dark Cherry Salesman. As that name suggests, he sells Dark Cherries. Notably, he actually sells them at cost, so you can use this as a crude way to store money (though it's a bit pointless considering the bank can hold up to 10,000, and we have limited item storage).

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Talking to him again, he offers some hints in addition to giving us the option to buy the cherries. Let's see what he can tell us.

Image Haha! Lots of things! These cherries aren't just an easy way to get cash, y'know?
Image You can bake them, add a bit of explosives, try them out with other ingredients...
Image These ARE rare and expensive, so don't be too liberal with your experiments! Hyuk hyuk!
Image Do mix it with rare ingredients, though! Oh, I don't know... A Tangy Berry, perhaps? Hyuk hyuk!

Those are actually some very concrete hints; he's basically told us three of the four recipes we can make with them.

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Image Hyuk hyuk! Well, it's a free kingdom! I'm free to set the prices, and you're free to reject them.
Image But these cherries aren't that easy to find! See you soon, my friends!

That's all he has to say for now. There's also a new banter after meeting him:

Image This, uh, peculiar bug seems obsessed with Dark Cherries.
Image They ARE rare and delicious. Don't you wonder where he found so many?
Image Maybe he has, like, a secret underground garden full of them!
Image We must find that garden ASAP.
Image ...You're not planning a robbery in front of him, are you!?

That's a cute one.

So, enough stalling; let's finally talk about Image Dark Cherries in detail.

Dark Cherries are the closest thing Bug Fables has to a Megalixir or equivalent. There are a handful hidden throughout the world, usually buried in the ground or given as rewards. Finding your first one also causes the salesman to appear in the Underground Tavern.

On their own, Dark Cherries they do absolutely nothing. You can sell them for 50 berries each, but you cannot actually use them as a consumable item. If you want to unlock their potential, you have to cook them, and that means figuring out the recipes (which could be a bit tricky, but between the Salesman and Dan's dialogue on Metal Island, there are ingame hints for all of them).

We get hints to try "baking them" (Bag of Flour), "mixing with other rare berries or rare seeds" (Tangy Berry, Magic Seed), or "add explosives" (Spicy Bomb). Those are, in fact, the four possible recipes. You can also cook Dark Cherries by themselves, but it will be disappointing, you just get a Succulent Platter. Anything else just becomes a very expensive Mistake. Let's take a closer look:

Image Cherry Pie
"A deliciously expensive pie made from rare Dark Cherries. Recovers 8 HP to the party and 5 TP."
Sell: 32 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Cherry Pie is the least impressive item on offer, but it's still pretty good. Queen's Dinners are usually better and easier to get, but they cure status and this doesn't (meaning if you're doing poison or other status strategies, you might want this since it can activate Weak Stomach or heal everyone without interrupting your strategy).

Image Miracle Shake
"A perfect blend of strong healing items. Restores 6 HP to the party while reviving fallen allies."
Sell: 35 berries
Made by combining Image andImage

Here's the best revival/comeback item you could ask for. Miracle Shake is the only item that lets you revive two fallen bugs in a single action, which can really help salvage an otherwise losing battle. Technically speaking it's not a strict upgrade over a Magic Seed, since it recovers 1 fewer HP to the fallen bug, but as it heals the living bugs as well it's almost always better.

You never want to end up in a situation where using these looks like a good idea, but if you do, nothing else compares, so it's usually worth carrying at least one if you can.

Image Berry Smoothie
"A most delicious blend of exotic berries! Fully restores the party's TP."
Restores 99 TP
Sell: 17 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

The best TP recovery item bar none, though if you aren't putting a lot of levels into TP, Crisbee Donuts are nearly as good and Queen's Dinners are probably better. If you're going with a heavy TP build and relying on expensive skills (many of which we still have yet to see), you'll love these and will probably burn through a lot of them in long fights. It's worth noting that, unlike the rest of the Dark Cherry recipes, we'll eventually find another way to make these, though not until much later in the game (i.e., Chapter 7).

Image Cherry Bombs
"Powerful, unstable and explosive! Toss it at enemies to deal huge damage and a random status!"
Randomly chooses Spicy Bomb, Burly Bomb, Poison Bomb, Sleep Bomb, Numb Bomb, or Frost Bomb and inflicts its effect with +2 damage. (In practice this is 6-7 damage to the main target, 4-5 damage to others in the radius, either ignoring defence or inflicting a status ailment.)
Sell: 37 berries
Made by combining Image and Image, Image, or Image

And here we have arguably the most powerful offensive item in the game (Abombination does more damage, but needs to be used carefully to mitigate the self-damage). That said, Cherry Bombs can also be tricky to use effectively, because the effect is a bit unpredictable and getting a status you're not expecting (such as Numb, which boosts defence) can throw a wrench in things. If all you want is big damage, though, these are wonderful. Imagine using Strong Start and opening a fight by throwing 4 of these.

Overall, the items you can make with Dark Cherries are some of the most powerful in the game (though none of them quite outclasses the Queen's Dinner, they complement it very well). On the other hand, they are also very definitely superfluous: you never actually need anything this good, and there are lots of other items serving similar roles.

As such, I personally like to pretend the Dark Cherry Salesman doesn't exist, and treat Dark Cherries (and the items you can make with them) as a limited commodity (aside from him, there are 9 of them in the game, and one endgame enemy can very rarely drop them). That way, instead of facing the temptation to overuse them and trivialise most bosses, I have to think carefully about what to make and when to use it (and being able to use them without penalty in B.O.S.S. or the Cave of Trials feels a lot more special). I also feel like treating them this way is more consistent with the way the characters talk about them in-universe, and the way the cherries are hidden in the world as though they were a collectible. (Given there are four recipes, 9 of them total also feels like a perfect number.)

Dark Cherries in this game have honestly given me a lot of appreciation for the occasional "megalixir" type rare consumable in games, and changed how I think about game design as a result. I know conventional wisdom is that these type of items are bad design because they encourage hoarding, but I think used very sparingly there's a good experience there that it's a shame to lose entirely. (There's a case to be made that having them buyable is better for accessibility, and I don't begrudge the game doing that, but I definitely prefer things without.) Please do discuss this in the thread, I expect a lot of people will disagree with me on this one.

Anyway, Dark Cherries. They're a thing. I'm open to suggestions for what to do with the two we've just found.

With that, I'll end today's update. Next time, we'll investigate some more places we can get to by digging, and maybe encounter unexpected characters and sidequests.
Last edited by Explopyro on Tue Sep 07, 2021 6:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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(The character limit has been giving me far too many problems: even with this in, the post is supposedly under 50k characters until I try to submit it, and then it's suddenly too much. So I'm going to make this small extra post instead of splitting the update.)

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Also, after today's treasure hunt, we currently have 20 Crystal Berries. As a reminder, Shades currently has the following available for sale:

Image HP Plus (2 Crystal Berries)
Image EXP Booster (2 Crystal Berries)
Image Power Exchange (5 Crystal Berries)
Image Poison Defender (4 Crystal Berries)

Instead of a shopping list, let me just ask: should we buy him out? (except for EXP Booster, I'm not buying that) He'll get new stock at the start of Chapter 5, but these are all solid medals we could be using in the meantime, we'll probably want them long-term anyway, and we'll still have 9 berries left over. Please vote one way or the other in the thread.

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I suspect what Leif was trying to say in their spy comment is that Cenn and Pisci didn't take time to make sure their fake permit passes muster and instead of cutting their losses and run they chose to fight it out, both things more experienced con artists would know to do.

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Robindaybird wrote:
Tue Sep 07, 2021 5:15 pm
I suspect what Leif was trying to say in their spy comment is that Cenn and Pisci didn't take time to make sure their fake permit passes muster and instead of cutting their losses and run they chose to fight it out, both things more experienced con artists would know to do.
Oh, I'm sure he was implying that, but apparently I was also unclear in trying to say what I thought was unclear. Well done me.

What I meant to say was, I find it strange that he says "my ice will pierce her defences" when, in fact, his ice attacks behave exactly the same as any other attack against her so it's not actually a valid hint. I think the purpose of the line is to draw the player's attention to the fact Pisci has defence, so it's a hint in that respect, but I think it could have been worded better.

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38: The Magician and the Fool

Image 17 - Ant Kingdom

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Once again, we're starting off with a bit of management. First off, I dropped off the two Dark Cherries we found last time with Amber; I'm sure we'll make use of them soon enough, but for now they can go into storage so they don't clog up our inventory.

Image 34 - Dodgy Business

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Next stop is Shades' place, since the thread universally voted to buy him out (with the exception of EXP Booster, that's for challenge runs). We're down to 5 Crystal Berries now, but these are all useful medals we'll be glad to have.

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Now that we have a full complement of six HP Plus medals, we can start really thinking about how to distribute them. For now, I'm just going with two for each bug, but I'll probably change that around soon enough (Kabbu might want a greater share for tanking purposes, or we might consider not using all of them to free up MP for something else).

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And Vi's back to carrying the poison medals again, though for now she's only getting one of each, I didn't quite have the MP for the second copy of Poison Defender and she honestly doesn't want it that badly.

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Kabbu can get the second Super Block+ for now. I generally like them better on him than the other bugs because of the synergy with Spiky Bod (each copy is 1 more point of counter damage per Super Block).

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Now, let's get moving. Our first stop today is going to be in the Far Grasslands (the small preview area we could access from the Power Plant).

Image 56 - Lands Untamed

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This root was blocking us before, but we can dig under it now and see a bit more of this area.

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The first thing we encounter on the other side is yet another new enemy. (It's a bit hard to see in this area sometimes thanks to all the foliage; the game does its best to make it selectively transparent, but there's only so much that can do...)

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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We've seen the Mantidfly before, but let's find out what's up with the spider.

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Image Well, and steal. I must make sure our inventory remains safe!

Jumping Spiders are another Chapter 5 enemy. Apparently their attacks can steal items if not blocked, though I don't think I've ever personally seen it happen.

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Let's relay to Kabbu and have him hit it.

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Leif freezes the Mantidfly to keep it out of our hair while we deal with the spider.

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Conveniently it's not quite dead, so we'll get to see at least something it can do.

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As you might expect from a jumping spider, it attacks by jumping on us.

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Conveniently, we're in a good position to clean everything up this turn.

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Kabbu finishes off the spider.

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While Leif, Vi, and Chompy have exactly enough damage between them to kill the Mantidfly.

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The enemies here are still worth ludicrous EXP.

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Past the spider is a path leading to a new area.

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This place seems... strange. We immediately see big spiderwebs.

Image Shadiest place in a while, huh.
Image Can't say we're not curious.
Image I'd rather we focus on the mission... but surely a small detour would not hurt?

Well, our party is curious, so let's check it out further.

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The signs are certainly inhospitable.

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Is that some kind of building?

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More pleasant signs.

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Yeah, that's definitely some kind of tower. Who could live here?

Climbing up on the rocks here, we get a prompt that allows us to inspect it. Let's do that.

Image A tower, in this wild place?
Image Let's break in.
Image Aw yes! We're on the same page!
Image I-Isn't it private property!?

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After that conversation, we get a discovery.

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Awkwardly, the discovery text here might be a bit too informative. Still, this certainly sounds like an interesting person we should try to meet.

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Interacting with this spot again just produces this text.

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To get closer to the tower, we need to use Leif's bubble shield to cross the brambles.

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More of the same.

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Whoever lives here, though, they're serious about not wanting visitors. The front door is firmly shut, we can't get in that way.

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Cutting some weeds over this side, though, reveals a hole in the ground. Maybe we can jump down?

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Image 25 - Caves

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Team Snakemouth lands with a crash in what looks like an underground library.

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Image Bleh. I hate when the treasure turns out to be books.
Image This must be someone's residence! We're... we're tresspassers!
Image Shh. Relax. We've just gotta get out before-

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Image Get outta here, aight? Or I'll kick you out myself!
Image And don't you dare touch any books! I'll track you down!

Someone's grumpy, but can you blame him?

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Image W-Was that a spider?
Image Seemed more like a friendly neighborhood Tarantula.
Image We... we could've gone to prison...
Image Guess we'd better get out before he calls explorers on us.

Well, while we're here, we may as well have a look around. Let's check for a banter first though:

Image Yay... so many books...
Image This Tarantula is quite well read! There's a few classics in here!
Image Oh, we've been meaning to read this one. "World Round Pastry".
Image Maybe if we don't take it outside, he won't mind?
Image Absolutely not! We can't risk it!

This is cute. (And of course Leif found a book about food immediately.)

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Ooh, that's a Crystal Berry up on the shelf. We'll definitely want to take that with us. (Hey, it's not a book, maybe wizard friend won't miss it?) Before that, though, we can read the papers on the table:

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Hmm, maybe we'll be able to help him out with that.

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On the eastern side of the room, there are stairs up toward the exit. Before that, though, there's something sneaky here:

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There's a little gap between the stairs and the wall, where we can find this Burly Tea.

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We can use the miscellaneous junk to climb up on top of the bookcase.

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And Vi can grab the Crystal Berry with her Beemerang. We're a bit low on these after spending so many, so this is much appreciated.

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There's nothing else to do in this cellar, so let's head upstairs and see what else is here.

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We come out on the ground floor. There's a save crystal here, but it looks like the front door is locked, so we can't actually get out...

Image Wow! Look at all the flying books!
Image Weird, we can't feel any magic here. The Tarantula must not use any crystals.
Image I understand your awe, but the door is locked! We'll... have to ask for help.
Image Gulp.

Nothing else for it, let's head upstairs.

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We have a bit of a ways to climb; the camera angle rotates around as we do. I love the aesthetic here, the room's full of rainbow smoke and flying books.

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At the top, we find an exit to another room.

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It's the wizard's room, of course. Is that a gacha machine? (We'll get to that.) First off, let's see what our team have to say:

Image That's a dream catcher! Incredible!
Image It's unusual to see you so pumped up!
Image Mother always nagged father to buy her one. They were very expensive, though.
Image Bleh, who's gonna pay up for that? Those don't even work!
Image But this one's owned by a wizard. Maybe...
Image ...Ah, we don't really need it any more, do we...?
Image Leif...

That's a bit sad.

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We're going to have to ask him to let us out.

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Image ...You're still here!? Can't you see I'm busy!?
Image The door's locked. We literally can't leave.
Image Not without breaking something...
Image O-Oh. Sigh... Blimey. I get really into my potions.

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Image ...It is?
Image I'm a wizard! You dare underestimate me!?
Image Um, thanks for letting us out. Our apologies for breaking in.
Image It's whatever. All I care about is finishing this brew!

Well, that was painless enough. (I like this guy.)

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Still, seems like we're not done here quite yet. We can clearly talk to him again.

Image Sir wizard?

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Image Yes! You seem... troubled. We're explorers, yes?
Image Good for you.
Image What he means is, it seems like you need help.
Image Do you know anything about extracting the magical compounds of materials?
Image Nooooope.
Image And you boast you can help me!?
Image Well... can't we?
Image ...
Image There's a potion I want to make. But its materials...
Image I'd have to travel everywhere! I hate leaving the tower!
Image What kind of ingredients?

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Image That sounds super cool! So what's the ingredients?

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Image A riddle from one of the 10 great sorcerers!
Image We'll try. Make it worth our while.

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Honestly, I don't blame him being a bit cheesed off at us for that. Still, as the logbook notification suggests, we've gotten ourselves a sidequest.

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It automatically gets added to our log. We'll need to figure out what these three components are and bring them back for him.

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If we talk to him again, he'll ask us this. If we say no:

Image Then begone and only come back when you have them!

And if we say yes without them:

Image You're still missing some! Weren't ya gonna help?

After either line, he'll repeat the clue again. I guess that's helpful for anyone who didn't realise it's also in the quest log.

There's a banter about the wizard too:

Image This tower is incredible. Did he build it all by himself?
Image I hope so. It'd cost a fortune to buy...
Image He truly seems to be a sorcerer. It must've been child's play!

Incidentally, while the game only ever refers to him as "The Wizard", the artbook does give this character a name. He's apparently called Tarantular. :effort:

Before we leave, there's a bit more to see around his room. For instance, you might've noticed this peeking out of a corner:

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Image Blimey! That book's... garbage! Take it with you.
Image Bleh. If it's bad, I don't want it.

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Image G-Guh...
Image Hm. Maybe Reeves will take interest in it...?

That's right, after all this time, it's the third Bad Book! (And also some fun dialogue. I love a good bookish grump. We'll deliver this soon enough.)

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There's also this gacha machine.

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The gimmick here is that the price varies randomly each time (as far as I know, it can range from 10-19 berries). Let's see what we get?

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No matter what you pay, all the capsules are the same.

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It's a new kind of combat item. We'll test this out shortly. In addition to using them in combat, you can also use this as a means of (slowly) grinding money: Longleg Summoners always sell for 18 berries, regardless of what you pay for them.

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Let's head back down. The banter in this room has updated now, too:

Image Wow! Look at all the flying books!
Image Weird, we can't feel any magic here. The Tarantula must not use any crystals.
Image He must be one of the 10 sorcerers! What an honor! To think we'd trespass his property...
Image Eh, we're helping him out. So it's okay!
Image Right.

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The door is open now, so we can leave.

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Conveniently, it will stay open, so we don't have to go back in through the cellar again.

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On the way back, an opportunity presents itself to demonstrate the Longleg Summoner. Using it, well, summons a longleg spider that will then stomp on the targeted enemy (no, I don't really get how that works). It attacks a single enemy for 6, and ignores 1 point of defence (as seen here against a Wild Chomper which has 2 defence).

Against a single target, these can output more damage than most of the bombs we can make (and they're significantly cheaper than Cherry Bombs). They're not bad at all, though I'll admit I don't make frequent use of them.

Image 18 - In the Court of the Ant Queen

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Let's stop in at the library and deliver that book to Reeves.

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Image Ah! This is one of the worst ones! Let's see...

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Image NO! THIS ONE'S TOO AWFUL!
Image Sir, please remain calm. This is a library!
Image This book was perfect. Such a beautiful story...
Image Incredible prose! Tight pacing! Amazing characters!
Image ...And it's a bad book?

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Image Yikes...
Image This is too much, even for me. I'll destroy it later...
Image Thank you for everything, explorers. Here's my last reward.

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Image Uh, hope you enjoyed them...

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That completes Reeves' quest. The real reward here is the dialogue, of course (can you imagine actually reading this book? He paints a surprisingly vivid picture of it).

...I really wish I could introduce Reeves to the Wizard. They'd either be fast friends or despise each other and either way it'd be amazing.

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If we talk to Reeves again after completing the quest, this is all he has to say.

Speaking of sidequests, let's see what we can do about those potion ingredients.

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"Nectar from the critters of the land" refers to Aphid Dew. It's a reasonable clue, so long as you remember that's an item that exists; considering it's only available from this one shop in the Golden Settlement, it's an easy thing to forget about.

The other two ingredients are a bit trickier, and honestly the clues aren't going to help us find them. They'll identify the correct thing once we find it, but that's a different matter.

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Let's head back into the Bandits' Hideout. I realise this will seem like it's coming out of nowhere, but there are actually a couple things worth seeing here.

Image 47 - The Bandits' Hideout

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Among other things, if we come back to Astotheles' room, we can read his journal.

Image Day XXX. An unprepared moth was spotted near the sandpits. He carried quite a few berries. Although I truly pitied him, the funds will let us get through this month smoothly.

Image Day YYZ. The flowers bloomed in our garden. Our hideout comes closer to becoming a home.

Image Day ZZZ. I was shown mercy today. Mercy I have not shown others... I need to think. I've left the hideout in charge of my trusted advisor. But I'll return.

A bit of insight into his character there.

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Let's go back to their kitchen.

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There's someone new behind the counter now.

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He won't fight us. (There are some other bandits wandering the hideout still, who we can fight as usual, but this one is friendly.) There's also a banter:

Image A bandit!
Image Chill, Vi. He doesn't seem to want to fight.
Image Indeed. We can't just go around hitting everyone!
Image Hmph!

(As far as I can tell, the cook is just one of the cricket bandits with his hood down.)

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Just south of the cook, we can find a new item. This Squash is the "fruit that blooms in lifeless soil".

Normally, these can only be found in an area called the Forsaken Lands, which we won't be able to go to for quite a while yet, but the bandits seem to be able to source them somehow. I used to think there was only the one available, but it apparently respawns here periodically, so with enough patience you can keep coming back to collect as many as you want.

In addition to its use in the sidequest, this can be used in a handful of recipes:

Image Squash Puree
"Some mashed Squash, simple but good! Restores 2 TP and gradually restores 2 TP for 2 turns."
Sell: 3 berries
Made by cooking a Image by itself

Image Squash Candy
"Candy made from squash and a lot of sugar! Restores 5 TP and then 2 TP for 3 turns."
Sell: 8 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Squash Tart
"A delicious and smooth tart made out of squashes. Grants increased attack and TP regeneration for 3 turns."
Sell: 6 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

Image Plumpling Pie
"This pie makes you feel as strong as a plumpling! Grants increased defence and TP regeneration for 3 turns."
Sell: 12 berries
Made by combining Image and Image

The real highlights here are Squash Tart and Plumpling Pie: the other boosting items we've had access to lasted for 2 turns, but these last for 3, which is a substantial upgrade. They also work to trigger Weak Stomach. I always transition to these as my boosting item of choice once it's reasonably easy to acquire Squash in bulk (right now it's inconvenient enough I don't think it's worth the bother). Squash Puree and Squash Candy are okay, but I usually prefer to stick with Crisbee Donuts for TP restoration. When you need TP, you generally need it now rather than later.

Unfortunately, the third item the Wizard wants us to find, "the essence of frost itself", is out of reach right now. We'll hang on to the others, and keep our eyes peeled for something that might meet that description; it'll come along in due course.

(This is where I apologise and admit to screwing up. I had forgotten we still don't have access to that item when planning out the updates; I fully intended to complete the quest here and demonstrate the reward in the next big fight, but obviously I can't exactly do that. We will eventually see it, no need to worry, it's just that these things don't quite flow together as nicely as I had hoped they would. Mea culpa.)

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Let's head to Metal Island now.

Image 34 - Dodgy Business

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Specifically, the Spy Card arena. Remember this crack in the wall? We can now dig through.

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...That may not have been the best idea.

Image 13 - It's Getting Scary!

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Image Aaaaah! You destroyed the wall! You think I won't mind because I'm rich!?
Image How dare you! I thought you were decent bugs!

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Image Yeah. You've really gotta complain to management.
Image And you're blaming ME for the hotel's faults!?
Image Err, no... just...

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Image Click me for video!

Image 29 - Team, This One's Stronger!

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Well, that escalated quickly! Looks like we're going to have to fight Carmina. Let's see what we're dealing with here.

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Image Ah, crud. She heard us. Let's see where that roulette lands...

Roulette, eh? Looks like her love of games of chance even extends to her fighting style. We'll see how this works soon enough.

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Also, this fight might go pretty long: 85 HP and 1 defence is a lot of durability. I suspect the devs were assuming most people would come here a bit later.

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Leif relays to Kabbu to get an extra point of damage through her defence.

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So far, so good. What's she going to do?

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At the start of each turn, Carmina spins a giant roulette wheel. This can have all sorts of unpredictable effects, both on her and on us; each time it shows up, there will be six icons present, though that's only a subset of the possible effects. This time, she healed herself for 5 HP and undid most of our damage. Goody.

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After spinning the wheel, she goes directly into attack mode. This attack has her chuck 2-3 cards at a single bug, each of which hits for 4 damage; it can also inflict status effects if not blocked, depending on the colour of the card. Leif only got poisoned here, since the first card was a neutral one; other cards can inflict Sleep or Numb also. Carmina really isn't messing around, this attack can get nasty.

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We've barely made any progress here: the healing undid most of our work, and she took a big chunk out of Leif.

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For now, we'll just have Kabbu keep hitting her.

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Vi can heal Leif with Secret Stash, conveniently curing his poison too.

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While Chompy goes for the kneecaps again.

What'll it be this time?

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Oh. The roulette results aren't always good for her. In this case, Carmina puts herself to sleep, which immediately ends her turn (though, unfortunately, this does mean she gets more healing). Still, it's a bit of a reprieve regardless.

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We could leave her asleep, but that would be counterproductive: she'd just heal more.

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Okay, now it's her turn and...

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Wait, what? She skipped her turn?

This is a bit of an odd glitch. If you hit an enemy while they're asleep, it will immediately wake them up, but for some reason this also causes them to skip their next turn. As you might imagine, this is pretty exploitable if you actively use sleep attacks (e.g. you can put an enemy to sleep, then wake them up the same turn to disable them without them getting to heal).

I don't like to proactively take advantage of this (it feels cheesy), but the game's handed it to us here so we may as well capitalise on it. Let's keep attacking.

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Spin the wheel again?

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Ouch. This is one of the nastier effects, putting our entire team to sleep.

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And she throws cards again. At least this wakes Vi up, and the poison isn't exactly unwelcome.

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Well. The sleep gives us some passive healing, at least, but the loss in action economy really hurts. Still, with Vi poisoned, we can at least try to deal some damage.

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We can put her in front and do a Hurricane Toss. Without any charges it's just 8 damage, but that's still more than we could have done otherwise. (In retrospect, Needle Pincer would actually have done more, at 4 + 3 + 3.)

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Chompy, of course, keeps chomping.

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Oh no. This is one of the more annoying results. The ink blot inflicts a status effect we haven't encountered yet: it's called "Inked", and it makes the affected characters unable to use skills. Unlike other negative status effects, this one also can't be cured (even by items which "cure any status effect"), you just have to wait it out. It can really throw a wrench in your plans if you weren't expecting it.

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We also see a new attack from Carmina this turn. The dice bomb deals a random amount of damage, as shown on the die, but it's a bit weird. This attack cannot be blocked, and the damage ignores defence, but it can still be increased if Carmina has Attack Up (which she can get from spinning the wheel).

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With the whole team inked, our options are limited.

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Let's get Kabbu in front and have him do the attacking, it's the best we can manage right now.

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Notably, ink only prevents the use of skills, items are still fair game. I ended up going for this Succulent Platter; it's a bit risky not to get the healing right away, but this will also help keep Vi's poison bonuses going.

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Chompy chomp.

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This time, the wheel gives us all Defence Down. That could be a problem.

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We also get to see the last of Carmina's attacks. This blown kiss attacks with a base damage of 4, always inflicts Defence Down for 2 turns, and inflicts Numb if not blocked. The debuff duration will stack with the one that was just inflicted, so Kabbu's defence is going to be lowered for quite a while after this. At least it wasn't the cards, I suppose.

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At least the ink status is gone now. Between that and finally getting a charge-up from Kabbu being hit, this seems like a good time to try to do some damage.

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Let's get Vi in front and have Leif Empower her.

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Much better.

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After a relay, she can attack again.

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And Chompy is helping.

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Oh, goody, more ink.

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At least she rolls badly on the dice this time around.

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We could be in worse shape, although being inked is never pleasant.

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We're left with little choice but to keep attacking. At least Vi can still take advantage of Poison Attacker and Empower.

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Hey, Carmina, stop hitting yourself.

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Okay, I take it back, you can hit yourself all you want! It's better than this! (Vi could have survived this if I'd blocked every card perfectly, but that's a tall order here.)

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Carmina's pretty low on health; we should be able to finish this soon. First things first, though...

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Let's get Vi back up.

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She'll get a bit of damage in...

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Before Leif uses Frigid Coffin to freeze her. She only has 50% resistance at base, and we haven't frozen her before, so the odds of succeeding are quite good. (In retrospect, I sequenced this turn inefficiently, I should have had Kabbu use the Magic Seed instead of letting Leif gain exhaustion.)

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Let's not forget we can have Chompy do nothing; wouldn't want to break the freeze early.

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And, with that, we can bring the fight to a close.

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This fight against Carmina is pretty interesting, if weird. I'm never quite sure if I like it. For all that the AI for every enemy in Bug Fables involves RNG, this fight is much more capricious than most, and almost any strategy you use will require a certain amount of luck. Staying on top of healing makes this a lot less fraught, but even then some bad luck with sleep or ink can quickly cause the fight to turn against you. It's not hard to feel backed into a corner in this fight; it can feel rewarding to salvage the sticky situations it puts you in, but it can also get frustrating if you end up on the back foot due to RNG. And sometimes, Carmina just gets unlucky and clowns on herself, which is funny but makes for an unsatisfying battle.

Also, it's worth noting, the Inked status effect was a new mechanic added in v1.1; it only appears in a few select boss fights, but this is one of them. Those spaces didn't appear on her wheel in prior versions.

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Here's a demonstration of the fact that status-recovery items (like Queen's Dinner) don't do anything about ink. (I'm genuinely not sure if this is intentional, or if the "all status effects" is a hard-coded list they forgot to update, but regardless this is how it works.)

There are some other interesting effects on the roulette that we didn't see this time around:

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This space will heal Team Snakemouth for 3 HP each.

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She can boost her attack or defence.

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She can inflict Attack Down on our entire party.

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She can poison herself (or all of us).

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And finally, there's this space, which is absolutely terrifying. As you might expect, this gives her an extra turn. It's not like a Hustle Berry, though: it's an extra turn this turn. Meaning, as soon as she's done attacking, she'll get to spin the wheel again and then attack again after that. If you're really unlucky, this can chain. I've seen her spin this twice in a row and end up taking three full turns; it is pain. (Here is an alternate take where that happened, if you want to see it.)

This fight is very unpredictable, and can turn against you with next to no warning.

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Image We ARE sorry, but no.
Image ...*Sigh*. I'll go tell management about the gap...
Image We're... we're truly sorry!
Image Whatever. Get out. I've got to prepare for the tournament.

After the fight, she just dismisses us. This fight isn't associated with a sidequest or anything, it's just... here. There isn't any reward, outside of the usual things, like getting Carmina's entry in the bestiary and associated Spy Card (which we saw her play against us quite a while ago!), and the usual Hard Mode medal. I think this is probably the most secret of the optional bosses in Bug Fables, it's really easy to overlook and I'm pretty sure on my first playthrough Carmina was the last entry I needed for bestiary completion.

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Image *Sigh* ...Why did I teach you how to play...

Trying to talk to Carmina again is not very productive. (She was a lot more friendly to us in the tournament, wasn't she? It seems a shame to leave things like this but, well, we don't have much choice...)

There is also a new banter:

Image Carmina's a pretty formidable duelist.
Image And she can fight well, too!
Image Team, perhaps we should discuss Carmina... outside of her room?

Always fun when the game hangs a lampshade on things like this.

Well, regardless, there's nothing else to be done here. Guess we can always go check in with Artis...

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Image Was it too challenging for ya? You deserve a reward. Here, take this!

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Image Come back later when you've bonked some extra hard heads with that Medal, will ya?

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Our Hard Mode reward for beating Carmina is, fitting the theme of the fight, the Image Random Start medal. This costs 2 MP, and can make the equipped bug start each battle with a random status effect. The possible outcomes are: Attack Up (2 turns), Defence Up (2 turns), HP Regeneration (2 turns), TP Regeneration (2 turns), Poison (2 turns), +2 Charge-up, or 1 extra action.

You may notice that, with the exception of poison, all of those are unequivocally positive (and poison's not exactly that bad). And, for that matter, poison is a really easy thing to take advantage of, so that may as well be a positive effect. If you're already using poison medals on someone, giving them this is a pretty easy sell. I don't use it all that often, honestly, but you can definitely have some fun with this.

Next time, we'll finish exploring the desert and go hunting for ore in Stream Mountain. That's the last remaining sidequest before we can finally get back to... story progress?
Last edited by Explopyro on Tue Sep 14, 2021 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Someone on the team apparently watched Kamen Rider W. Honestly makes sense for Kabbu to do that kind of shout-out anyway...

(this is about the "count up your sins" line; that was W's catchphrase)

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39: Crossing the Streams

Image 06 - Outskirts

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The last loose end we can wrap up before getting back to the plot is Stream Mountain. Butomu's quest for ore is the starting point, but there's more there than just that. We'll be starting with that, though.

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Also, moving some medals around again. We're going to take a break from poison strategies so I can fit in Triumph Buzz and Victory Buzz, as they make exploration a lot less annoying.

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So, how do we get to Stream Mountain, exactly? We've seen the exit before, at the oasis in the Lost Sands, but there's no way up from that side. There's a single spot on the Lost Sands map we haven't been to yet, so let's start from the Outskirts entrance and see if we can't get there.

Image 36 - Lost Sands

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We need to take the northwest exit from this first screen.

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And here's where we can find a new path!

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Specifically, with our digging ability we can now get under this fallen log.

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The exit here leads to the place we haven't been, but this enemy's in the way first.

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These enemies are basically trivial now, but this is technically a new battle.

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Let's head north.

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Looks like we found it. There's also a save crystal in case we need it.

Image Fancy place for a cave.
Image This has gotta be Stream Mountain!
Image What an imposing name! It must be extremely dangerous!
Image Nah. There's just water coming out of the side!
Image That's it?
Image Hm. Still, call it intuition, but... We feel the need to explore it.
Image Let's do it!

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Before we cross that bridge (is that a toy rake?), let's take a quick detour east.

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It's the big central sand pit area! This side has been taunting us since we first saw it, but now that we've reached it we can knock down both of the twigs.

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With this done, we've finally opened all the paths in this room. This theoretically means getting around the Lost Sands is now a lot easier, but at the same time, we're nearly done with everything here, so it ends up feeling a bit pointless. Still, a shortcut is a shortcut.

Let's head back.

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Crossing the rake leads to a cave entrance. Let's go inside.

Image 25 - Caves

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The first thing we see on entering is the notification for a new discovery. Let's check that out.

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Well, that sounds ominous. (If you remember all the way back to when we saw the Bounty postings, Stream Mountain might sound familiar...). Anyway, Stream Mountain is yet another optional dungeon for us to explore.

There should also be a banter, let's check that.

Image This must be Stream Mountain, the source of the desert's oasis.
Image It's, like, underground water coming up and stuff. Right?
Image Indeed. Defiant Root's well must be linked to this place too.
Image There are stories about the strong monsters here... we must tread carefully.

I'm not actually sure what Stream Mountain is supposed to be, in-universe. It's smack in the middle of the Lost Sands (which are, explicitly, a sandbox), but this place is more reminiscent of a natural cave formation, and it isn't clear to me where the water comes from.

Anyway, let's have a look around.

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It isn't long before we might find ourselves stymied. Just west of the entrance is this stream, which is too wide to jump across. We could assume we need a new movement ability, and come back later, or...

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We could dig underground and head into this cracked wall. You could be forgiven for not noticing it earlier, what with the grass right in front of it.

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There's a narrow path behind the crack which we can follow to come out on the other side. (It can be a bit tricky to actually get through here, since you can neither see the team nor the exact shape of the path and need to kind of feel your way through.)

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We are immediately faced with an intimidating-looking new enemy on this side.

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These things can get pretty aggressive, spotting us from a decent distance and pulling boulders out of the ground to chuck at us. Thanks to Crazy Prepared, I don't take a first strike, but even so...

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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Let's find out what this thing is.

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Image I know it's no Spider, but...-?! Whoa! It's got a giant rock! Kabbu, hurry up and hit it!

These are loosely based on the Belostomatidae, or "giant water bugs" (among other names).

They're really bulky, with a solid combination of HP and defence. 2 defence is enough that you need to actively think about how you're going to get through it (though we have plenty of ways to do that). We'll find out what she means about giant rocks eventually, I'm sure.

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We'll start off just by having Kabbu hit it a few times. His innate 1 pierce really comes in handy.

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Leif and Vi can't even scratch it with their basic attacks.

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And Chompy's only able to contribute thanks to the Pretty Ribbon.

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On its turn, we see its most straightforward attack: it just walks up and smashes someone for 4 damage. I find this attack one of the easier ones to block, with how telegraphed it is.

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I decided to have Leif use Empower on Kabbu, so he can get a bit more damage through. Break might have been better, but Empower's the one I happened to have equipped.

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That's definitely an improvement.

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Chompy is still helping.

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This time, it punches Vi.

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After two turns, it's down to 8 HP, well within range of us finishing it off.

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Kabbu's Under Strike is a decent choice against these, since it pierces all defence.

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And with a relay, he deals the final hit too.

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Triumph Buzz and Victory Buzz kick in at the end of the fight, recovering most of the resources we used (just assume this is happening every fight for the rest of the update, I don't think it's worth showing evey time). This is a big help in here, since the enemies here can be a real pain to take down without some TP expenditure.

Most of the enemies here will eventually reappear in Chapter 6, though it feels more like they're Stream Mountain enemies that cameo there rather than being properly Chapter 6 enemies.

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Belostoss are also worth quite a lot of EXP at our level.

Image 25 - Caves

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Interestingly, like the Chomper Brutes, these are another enemy that inexplicably like to drop cooked food items (and, once again, I think version 1.1 either added this or increased the drop rates, I don't remember them being so generous before that).

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In this case, just a Baked Yam, but there are a decent variety of things available. It makes managing resources in here slightly less painful.

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Past the Belostoss is the path forward. There isn't a whole lot going on in this room.

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That's certainly about to change, though! Let's see what our team think before we start messing with things in here.

Image Ugh. Water. And water spiders. This is the worst combination.
Image This ancient crystal seems to be linked to the tide!
Image Let's lower it and keep it low, then.
Image I think we should try going up too, though...

Water level puzzles!

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Hitting this big crystal causes the pit to fill with water; hitting it again will drain everything out.

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The water striders rise up with the surface level, too. With the pool full, though, we can't get anywhere; we're going to have to lower it again and investigate further.

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Easy enough to lower it again.

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Let's jump down into the pit and have a look around. First things first, the strider is a new enemy, we should probably deal with that...

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Image 04 - FIGHT!

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Looks like there are two of them.

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Image Yet, its attacks are quite pressurized... We must not drag this battle out!
Image Vi, keep it low to the ground!

These aren't quite as bulky as the Belostoss are, but they can present problems in their own way. (These are obviously based on Gerridae, commonly known as, well, water striders. They're known for being light enough to walk on water without breaking the surface tension. They are insects though, not spiders; maybe Leif was talking about something else in here?)

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That's a hefty amount of HP to chew through, but at least these have no defence.

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The damage adds up a lot faster when they have no defence!

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The main thing the striders do is this charging attack where they launch themselves into us (interestingly, if you miss the block, they'll charge right through instead of bouncing off).

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The second strider charges Kabbu, which was quite unlucky for it. A Super Block from him now deals 3 points of counter damage, now that he's wearing both Super Block+ medals.

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Significantly less scary now.

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First off, we'll have Kabbu finish the one in front.

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While everyone else starts in on the next one.

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Here's their other attack, which is a bit scarier than the charge. The striders can spit a volley of water droplets at us, hitting 2-3 times for 3 damage each. (It can change targets between shots, Kabbu just got unlucky this time.)

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And after attacking, it raises itself up tall. The striders can do this after either attack, though they don't always; it's effectively as if they were flying for targeting purposes.

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Being up high is usually just a minor annoyance, though. It's not going to help the thing here.

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Vi finishes it off.

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Water Striders aren't worth nearly as much EXP as Belostoss, but they're still giving us plenty.

Image 25 - Caves

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With the strider out of the way, let's take a closer look at this area.

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There's a cave entrance down here, but we'll ignore that for the moment (Butomu's quest says the ore can be found at the peak, so let's go up first). Let's knock down some twigs.

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What good did that do us...?

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Let's try raising the water level now.

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Looks like the twigs float on water! We can now use them as a way to get across. It's neat recontextualising the twigs a bit like this, since we'd been used to just bridging gaps with them.

(If you come here a bit later in the game, there's an easier way to cross water that makes it unnecessary to do this: in fact, the first time I explored this area, I completely missed the bottom level in this room because I just raised the water and went right through...)

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Looks like there's yet another new enemy here!

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We get ambushed as soon as we step ashore, I couldn't have avoided this one if I'd wanted to.

Image 04 - FIGHT!

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Another new enemy that comes in pairs. Let's see what these are about.

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Image It uses its bubble to avoid attacks for a turn as well. Let's prepare to strike back.

These must be the "water spiders" Leif was complaining about earlier. They're not as scary as Spuder, at least? (These are based on the diving bell spider,Argyronetica aquatica, which live underwater in bubbles of trapped air.)

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Everybody attacking isn't quite enough to take down the one in the front, so let's see what these things can do.

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Diving Spiders have a fairly simple attack: they spit droplets at us. Some of them are just water, and some of them are poisonous (if we don't block), but they all have a base damage of 3. Like a lot of these attacks, it can hit 2-3 times, and is capable of switching targets.

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After shooting, it encloses itself in a bubble. This is pretty much the same as Leif's Bubble Shield, it's impervious to damage (with only a few exceptions).

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The second spider gets a full three shots, and I mess up blocking and get a few bugs poisoned.

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Then it, too, shields. Diving Spiders are a very predictable enemy and more or less always do the same thing.

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Well, that's annoying. Can we do anything this turn?

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If we don't want to spend the whole turn twiddling our thumbs (or doing recovery), Leif's Cleanse skill can come in handy.

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Cleanse just straight-up removes the shield, leaving them vulnerable again.

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Kabbu takes advantage and finishes it off.

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Rather than unshield the second spider, I elected to have Vi use her stash to heal Kabbu.

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Chompy's not getting through that. (I could have ordered her to do nothing, but this way we can see the shield in action.)

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While shielded, they still just attack with the same pattern (though, obviously, they don't renew the shield afterward).

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The shield only lasts a single turn. With those charge-ups, we can now just finish it with normal attacks.

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That wasn't too bad. These are also worth decent EXP, more than the striders at any rate.

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For better or worse, most of the berries they left behind ended up falling into the drink. The game is generally nice and tries to respawn items if they fall into water or a pit, but sometimes (like here) it gets into a loop and they immediately fall right back in again.

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Let's head to the next area.

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This is a pretty big room, and we can already see it's probably going to be a vertical one, there are bounce mushrooms over to the left. Let's check the banter.

Image Up, and up we go! To the very toppest of tops!
Image You're getting way too excited there, buddy.
Image Nonsense. We will proclaim ourselves conquerors of this heap, and none will stop us.
Image Well said! Let us climb with haste!
Image Okay...

Kabbu is weirdly enthusiastic about heights, sometimes. It's cute.

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Before climbing, though, let's deal with this Belostoss.

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It's still just the one.

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Let's Empower Kabbu, like last time.

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This isn't a huge amount of damage, but it gets the job done.

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This is new! In addition to the punching, this is the other major thing they can do: throwing boulders. This looks a lot like Kabbu's Boulder Toss skill, but it doesn't do any splash damage, just hits one character really hard (okay, I missed blocking here and Kabbu has Favorite One on, it's 6 damage at base).

The peculiar thing about this attack is that, sometimes, Belostoss will stop after pulling up the boulder, and just stand there holding it over their head until throwing it the next turn. If they do that, you can hit them with a flipping attack to make them drop it. (The faster variant is apparently a Hard Mode exclusive thing; on Normal, they only have the two-turn version of this attack.)

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Let's just end this.

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Vi's Needle Pincer is another great way to deal with high-defence enemies.

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And Kabbu finishes things off.

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It's also enough EXP for us to rank up!

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Of course, we're going to get more MP.

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Also, as a bonus, we learn a new skill! This sounds a bit weird, though, doesn't it? Since when did Kabbu have ice skills? More on that in a moment.

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Loads of items, though nothing particularly interesting. Still, I won't complain.

Let's check out Frozen Drill.

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Wait a second...

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Frozen Drill shows up in Leif's skill page too. That's because, for all the message said Kabbu learned it, this is actually something new: it's our first Team Skill! (Is this why they've been called Teamwork Points the whole time?)

Team Skills are what they sound like: they involve multiple bugs at once and combine their abilities. They show up in the same skills menu as everything else, and any bug involved can initiate them (in this case, either Kabbu or Leif can choose Frozen Drill on their turn). They cost an action from every bug who participates, though, so they do have a downside (though if one of the bugs has no actions remaining, you can still do the skill, it'll just take the action on credit and have them start with one fewer on the next turn).

We're going to have to try this out.

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For now, though, let's go climbing.

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Oh look, a guinea pig!

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Let's do it.

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That spider is very, very dead.

So... how does this work? Frozen Drill uses the attack stats of both characters, the base damage is (Kabbu's attack + Leif's attack)/2, rounded up (accounting for all charges, positioning bonuses, etc). It hits four times: the first three pierce 1 point of defence (with all the usual caveats), and the final hit deals +1 damage and can freeze. This attack also flips enemies if possible.

It's a bit impractical to use, considering it costs both Leif and Kabbu a turn (and Vi's Hurricane Toss or Needle Pincer are usually more efficient), but it's definitely powerful and sometimes it's just the thing you need. If Kabbu and/or Leif end up with some surplus charges on them, this isn't a bad way to spend them. (Also, we're not quite done yet...)

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We'll take a chunk out of the Water Strider too.

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It plinks away at us a bit, but we can easily finish off the strider now.

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Okay. So what did I mean by saying we haven't seen everything with Frozen Drill yet?

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Let's do something a bit goofy, and put the Berserker medal on Kabbu.

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Those geysers are obviously a puzzle, and we'll get to them in just a moment.

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There's a convenient experimental subject just over here, so let's do that first.

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So... well, Kabbu can't use skills, that's how Berserker works...

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But team skills appear in both characters' skill menus, and Leif can select it just fine. (Also, you can notice a side-effect of the Berserker medal here: Kabbu's in his angry pose all the time in battle now.)

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The attack boost from Berserker gets applied to the team skill at full power. This is absolutely brutal. (Remember, nobody had any charge-ups or attack buffs here. This is base attack + positioning bonus + Berserker, nothing else.)

If you want to use Berserker, this is one of the best ways to take advantage of it. I honestly consider it more of a gimmick strategy than anything else, though, because the downsides of Berserker are so significant. Being unable to block and relay locks out a lot more options than you might think at first, and no matter who you give Berserker to, though, you're giving up important utility (whether it's Vi's healing, Leif's freezing and buffs, or Kabbu's taunting and revival). These are all significant tradeoffs, and I don't think any of them are quite worth it.

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Oh, right, there was a Psicorp here too. Let's fix that. (Even with exhaustion, Berserker makes big numbers happen.)

Chompy can finish it off from here.

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As per usual, EXP gain starts dropping off post level-up.

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Now, to return to the geysers. This is something of a timing puzzle: we're going to have to build a staircase by freezing them when they're at appropriate heights. (Let's not forget that, while they thaw naturally if left alone long enough, Kabbu can also shatter them with his horn if we need to unfreeze them early.)

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So far, this is straightforward. However, it's usually not possible to jump from here to the ledge when the geyser's at a height we could reach from below...

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So it's usually easier to freeze this one and use it to get to the ledge.

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It might have been possible to just go straight to the left, but it's better to play it safe. Letting this geyser thaw and then freezing it again at a higher point makes it a lot easier to make the jump.

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There we go.

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Our prize is a new medal. Image Antlion Jaws is kind of weird. It's 5 MP, and gives the equipped bug's basic attacks (and only their basic attacks) the ability to "pierce 1 point of defence".

We've discussed in the past the various peculiarities of how that ability works, but the short version is that under the hood it's actually just adding +1 to damage if the enemy has positive defence. This means that this medal can produce extra damage in some circumstances. We've already discussed what happens when an enemy has 1 defence and a Defence Down debuff, for instance. Additionally, this medal stacks with Kabbu's innate 1 pierce, and with other copies of itself. If Kabbu equips an Antlion Jaws medal and attacks an enemy with 1 defence, he'll deal 1 more point of damage than you would expect (e.g. Kabbu has 3 attack, enemy has 1 defence, he will deal 3+2-1 = 4 damage; if that enemy had Defence Down, it would be 5 damage). This is weird and unintuitive, but can be very effective.

As an aside, this seems like a good time to point out something I like about the way Bug Fables handles attack increases. You may have noticed that, so far, every medal that increases our attack has some kind of drawback associated with it. Favorite One makes us take more damage and manage charges, Last Attack only activates on low HP, Power Exchange reduces defence, Poison Attacker requires us to get and stay poisoned, and now Antlion Jaws only affects normal attacks (and only against certain enemies). This is very definitely a trend. The game's not saying we can't have attack boosts, but we have to pick an approach and figure out how we're going to work around the drawbacks (or turn them into advantages somehow). This is a good way to make build decisions interesting and encourage variety, rather than (say) just being able to slap on a Power Plus or two and call it a day.

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Back to exploring. Heading west from the geysers just leads us to the path onward. The beam of light suggests maybe this will take us outside?

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Yes indeed. Looks like we've reached the end of the line. Is that the ore?

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Yes it is.

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To the south, there's a switch and an elevator here.

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Hitting the switch turns the elevator on, which means we can now get back in from the oasis side as well. Very convenient. (You don't want to jump down without hitting this, that way lies frustration.)

Let's head back to Defiant Root and deliver the ore.

Image 37 - Defiant Root

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Butomu is in the smithy by the shops.

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Before we give her the ore, we have to try this.

Image Hrm. No, this will not do. You must have made a mistake.

Sadly, she doesn't have a special reaction.

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Let's give her the ore.

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Image No problem.
Image Pardon me, but I will get to work immediately.
Image I've been itching to finish this Medal.

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Things fade out for a moment while we hear sounds of her working...

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Image Hohoh! Sorry... I thought I made it light enough for you brave folk!

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That's the quest completed. Simple enough!

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Image First Plating is a pretty nice reward, too. It's 4 MP, and nullifies the first hit (whatever it is) the equipped bug would take each battle. This can be pretty handy if you're going with low-HP strategies, etc, making them a little less risky than they would otherwise be (it definitely pairs well with things like Power Exchange and Last Attack), though you can't rely on it in long fights. 4 MP is a lot for something that only works once each fight, but the effect is good enough it's often worth it.

You don't want to equip this on someone who's doing poison strategies, though. It doesn't prevent the poison damage, but taking poison damage is enough to shut it off, so unfortunately you get the worst of both worlds.

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Talking to Butomu again, this is all she has to say.

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On the way back, let's check in with Amber briefly... I'm just going to take this Abombination out of storage and hang it on the mantelpiece over here.

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Let's head back inside, we're not done with Stream Mountain just yet.

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After all, we can't forget about this lower path we didn't take! We'll pick up here next time. Until then!

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