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Killing Chaos before it was cool: Let's Play Dawn of Souls FF1: Mod of Balance!

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Hey everyone!

Let's play Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls... with a twist!



Back when Final Fantasy first released, it was basically Square's last hurrah as a game developer, as all of their previous titles before that point had been unmemorable flops. To everyone's surprise, their literal Final Fantasy turned out to be a runaway smash hit, giving them enough of a wind in their sails to not just claw their way back to relevancy, but to use as a building block towards the massive media property it is now. What was originally a kind of sadly sardonic title turned out to be ridiculously ironic, as Square-Enix has now put out more Final Fantasy titles than almost any other game series on the market, with each one beyond the first three enjoying pretty large amounts of popularity. It's kind of like Pokémon in that way.

It's also like Pokémon in that FF1 was an amazingly popular game despite its many, many bugs, glitches, and just plain awful design choices. Multiple spells and weapons simply do not function as intended, the treasure distribution is slapdash to the extreme, and the class balances ranges from "can solo the game without trying" to "literally worse than every other class with no redeeming factors". A game released with FF1's design quality in today's day and age would be a laughingstock, lambasted by games journalists before most of their audience even knew about it.

To answer this issue, Square released some remakes of the game, most notably a GBA remake (which included the previously Japan-only FF2 in a parcel). Polishing up the stat imbalances and eliminating most of the bugs, the Dawn of Souls version of FF1 is the version most people would go for when expecting that game, even if it ended up being significantly easier than its predecessor. It also added some new content in the form of the Soul of Chaos dungeons, adding four randomized postgame-ish dungeons to the map. It's the version I experienced the game on, and it's still got that classic appeal for sure. The story might be a little dated, but damn it all, it's charming and doesn't have any really gross elements, and that counts for a lot in older games!

Even with the bugfixes and new content, though, the game still has some flaws. The spells that didn't work before do now, but you still won't have cause to cast a lot of them (particularly the back half of the black magic spellset and its plethora of virtually-useless instakill spells). The treasures are STILL as slapdash as they ever were, with a handful of them somehow becoming even more useless (notably the Nunchaku style weapons due to the greatly buffed unarmed attack formula for Monks). Casters getting the benefit of Intellect meant they could actually do solid area damage, but they faded off to uselessness compared to the literally-oneshotting-bosses power you could get from a dedicated physical fighter. In short: a good game, but one that could stand to be improved on further.

Enter Jeff "ludmeister" Ludwig, who decided to create a romhack mod for Dawn of Souls that attempted to smooth out the balance issues and revamp a lot of the underlying mechanics. This Mod of Balance is what I will be playing here, which should be enough that even people who've played Dawn of Souls FF1 before should see some new changes. I'll hit the basics in this brief list:
  • Number of hits has been decoupled from accuracy, and is now a factor of both class choice and Agility. This allows for characters with lots of inaccurate attacks, or lethally-accurate slowpokes.
  • The spell lists have been reworked and rebalanced, notably with many instakill spells modified into damage spells of more curious natures.
  • The accuracy formula has been reworked, so everyone is more likely to miss attacks. On my endgame file, I even outright dodged the attacks of Chaos on one occasion.
  • Many enemies have additional spells or techniques they can do, including more frequent instances of status infliction on normal attacks.
  • All enemies have a chance to drop an item.
  • Status effects are much more persistent after battle, with Sleep being the only one that heals after every fight. They also are never something you can become immune to: I have succeeded in casting Death on a Skeleton despite their resistance.
  • The equipment list has been expanded and rebalanced. Notably, spellcasting items have had their selections nerfed, but there are a lot more weapons with slaying properties, and a lot more armor pieces with resistances.
  • The unique gear in the Soul of Chaos dungeons can be obtained in somewhat-less RNG ways.
  • The class change event has been removed and replaced with a max HP boost, but that's okay, because...
  • There are now 12 classes to choose from, rather than 6.



Yeah! What?

By far the biggest and neatest change of this romhack is the complete overhaul of the class system, allowing for multiple unique ways to play the game. They've all been very carefully balanced against each other as well, such that virtually any team composition is viable to complete the game. I can't speak to the efficacy of various solo runs, unfortunately. However, what I CAN do is offer you fine readers to vote on the classes you like, which I can build my team with! While I recommend getting a team with at least one class from each category, as well as some amount of both white and black magic, the sky's the limit, really. Here's your choices (with some gear from the Cornelia shops to reflect their gear options), from the following four groups:

Primary Physical Fighters
Generally magicless characters, setting themselves ahead of the pack with superior physical offense and defense.



Knight

As you might expect, these guys are very much like the classic FIGHTERs of old, with plenty of Strength and Stamina, and an impressively wide selection of equipment throughout the game to work with. At no point do they obtain spells, nor is their Intellect anywhere near high enough to leverage the spellcasting items, but that's okay. When you can withstand any physical attack and hit back just as hard as they do, you don't need magic. That said, their resistance is the lowest in the game: any kind of magical effect will have their way with a Knight, even with resistant gear on.


Rogue

Where Knights have power, Rogues have speed. Although their physical stats and equipment selection are underwhelming for a dedicated physical fighter, their sheer speed (and by extension, number of attacks) handily makes up for it. Not to call them squishy, mind you, they're still roughly middleweight as far as defenses go (and their excellent evasion and magic resistance helps). But the fact remains that while they throw out lots of attacks with decent accuracy, they suffer significantly against high-defense enemies, and the hits that do get through against them will add up quick.


Master

Yeah, we still got the unarmed characters. On paper, the Master appears to strike a balance between the heavyweight Knight and the speedy Rogue. The nuance here comes from their equipment list, or lack thereof. Masters have very few pieces of gear they can equip, instead largely preferring passive stat bonuses from leaving equipment slots empty, and the doubled attack count from fighting unarmed. Also note their high Intellect for this group. That's not for show: there is a small-yet-significant list of spells the Master can cast, largely built around martial arts flavoring. The biggest advantage of the Master is the money you can save from their low equipment upkeep, selling extra weapons more easily and buying them for your other teammates.

Primary Spellcasters
Characters that lack in physical power, but have unparalleled command of their spheres of magic.



Archmage

These are your classic Black Mages, armed with the highest base Intellect and MP in the game, and with nearly full access to the entire black magic spell list. As such, you should expect these guys to pack incredible magical power, especially when hitting elemental weaknesses or fighting massive crowds with wide-range spells. The drawback here is obvious, with their best physical stat being their middling Agility. Do not expect an Archmage to deal any kind of physical damage with their weapon, nor to survive more than a single head-on attack, if that. It goes without saying their equipment set is seriously lacking, too.


Priest

Similarly, Priests serve as the game's White Mages, with the best healing capability in the game. Don't necessarily discount them as magic attackers, with their high Intellect and the reworked spell lists, but their primary job on the team is healing. In an emergency, they CAN do some physical damage, and their equipment list is halfway decent as far as armor goes, but I wouldn't call them physical fighters by any stretch. One major flaw for Priests is that they're VERY slow, so you'll need to be proactive with their healing to keep up with the demands of the team, rather than patching them up after the fact.


Sage

If you've played FF1 before, you might expect Sages to be akin to Red Mages: generalists that can cast spells of either school or wield most kinds of weapon or armor without much problem, but who lack the raw stats to excel at any given role. That is very much not the case here. Sages have the worst physical stats in the game and it's not even close. Their low HP is especially jarring, as even a single area spell can be terrifying for them despite their resistance. In exchange for this, the spell list for Sages contains damn near every single spell in the game, and like the other two primary spellcasters, they definitely have the Intellect and MP to back that power up. Protect them well, and you'll have a powerful and versatile character to work with.

Auxiliary Physical Fighters
Characters that primarily focus on physical combat, but have some spellcasting ability.



Ninja

Ninjas are faster than Rogues, stronger than Rogues, have better equipment selection than Rogues, and can cast some small amount of black magic, unlike Rogues. If this is sounding like a retread of some familiar FF1 ground, let's interrupt that real quick: Ninjas are extremely fragile and die to any physical attack that actually connects. Their Stamina tends to be beaten by primary spellcasters, and while their resistance is okay, it doesn't come anywhere close to that of the Rogue. And that black magic sounds attractive right up until you look at your MP and Intellect. About the only spellcasting a Ninja will be doing is during boss fights, to apply buffs to either themselves or their team.


Paladin

While Knights enjoy solid amounts of both physical offense and defense, Paladins instead prefer to focus almost entirely on defense. Not that they can't fight, but with the best armor selection in the game and just enough white magic capability to serve as a healer in a pinch, your primary goal is to keep your team alive by taking as many hits as you can. And unlike Knights, Paladins have excellent resistance, so they don't have to be paranoid about every enemy with a status effect on deck. It does bear repeating, however, that between your stats and equipment selection, your Paladin will never hit as hard as a Knight.


Ranger

Rangers are probably as close as it gets to traditional Red Mages. They have decent equipment selection, but not amazing. They can cast a good amount of both black and white magic, but nothing super fancy, and nowhere near as well as the experts. They have no real bad stats, but no real good ones, either. The one thing that is noteworthy about Rangers is that they have the highest accuracy out of all the classes. This makes them uniquely well-suited to wielding axes, since they can weather the low accuracy and Agility penalty they impart and still get lots of powerful swings in.

Auxiliary Spellcasters
Characters with a solid grasp of magic, but with some other benefit in terms of physical combat.



Enchanter

If you want a healer that's actually fast, the Enchanter is for you. Although they're on the fragile side, Enchanters have access not only to white magic and an Intellect score to fuel it, but to a small set of black magic spells, specifically those centered around buffing teammates. They also have some very solid Agility and can deal out lots of hits, albeit without much power or accuracy behind each blow. Their gear selection is comparable to that of Rogues: lightweight, but gets the job done. In short: this is what you'd get if you used a speedster as a basis for the Paladin rather than a heavyweight.


Battlemage

Meanwhile, the Battlemage is black magic's answer to the Paladin. With an equipment list sitting comfortably between Knights and Ninjas and some solid Stamina, Battlemages can take a beating much more easily than any other caster, and they're not too bad at physical combat either. Their spell list, like the Enchanter, is mostly black magic, but it borrows some of the defensive spells from the white magic set. That said, Battlemages are SLOW, and their MP supply is notoriously weak for their role. And with all the equipment and spells you'll be getting for them, that doesn't leave much room for buying Ethers...


Monk

Yeah Monks are a spellcasting class now! Like Masters, they enjoy significant bonuses to their defenses while unarmored, but don't get the same kind of power they do from unarmed combat (although they can fight unarmed). However, their physical stats, aside from the best HP in the game, are nothing to write home about, and their Intellect isn't especially outstanding either. Their advantage comes from their versatile spell list: with the exception of direct damage spells, Monks enjoy a selection of spells across both black and white magic, as well as some exclusive spells themed around martial arts. Their biggest weakness is their equipment selection, but when you can get by without armor, that's honestly fine.

I'll need y'all to vote for which classes you want to see in the game, either vouching for individual classes or submitting full teams (with names that fit a 6 character limited included, if you like). I'll run with whichever one I like the look of most is the most popular, although I might have someone else do a parallel run with a different team, who knows...
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
I'd like to see this new magic, particularly the reworked black magic and the exclusive martial arts spells. That sounds like you'll need an Archmage and a Monk.
 
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Kzinssie

(she/her)
I've also played through this hack! I'll be following this thread closely, and maybe more...?

Anyway, I'm gonna put my votes in for a Rogue named Sonic, an Enchanter named Tails, a Master named Knuckles, and a Battlemage named Shadow. ...What? Look at that Battlemage sprite, with an edgelord design like that I had to give him a fitting name. The rest came naturally from there.

Alternative name set for whatever you end up with, to keep things topical: Eminem, EltonJ, DMX, Dr.Dre
 
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Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
Definitely put a Sage in the mix somewhere. I'd name my Sage Rosemary or Thyme.

You should probably throw in a Knight just so you have someone to wear the cool gear you find lying about.
 

Albatoss

Mellotron enthusiast
(She/they)
Oooh, this seems cool!

Team members:
-Master named Vahn
-Archmage named Red
-Ninja named Rondo
-Enchanter named Polka
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)
Oooh, this seems cool!

Team members:
-Master named Vahn
-Archmage named Red
-Ninja named Rondo
-Enchanter named Polka
I think we'll go with this team. It has a little bit of something most people want to see, and I didn't use any of these classes on my first run (my party was Ranger, Rogue, Battlemage, and Priest).
 

Kzinssie

(she/her)
Guess I'll go ahead and announced: having already played this, I'm also going to be doing a sort of companion playthrough (Kalir's already signed off on it) - it won't be as extensive as Kalir's, and it'll mostly be focusing on differences with his playthrough. Feel free to keep suggesting things for that, I'll probably start my save after Kalir makes his first post. Also, I only need suggestions for my fourth party member's name, since I'll be basing the other three directly on this image:

 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Right, let's get started. Uh, ignore the graphical issues. Turns out romhacking is really hard. The character select menu doesn't even scroll past the first six classes visually, although the class descriptions still line up with your selection.



Cutsceeeene!



In case you have never played a basic JRPG ever, here's the breakdown. Climate change is wrecking literally everything around the land.



We get treated to the shots of the worst disaster areas as the scene goes.



If you've played before, you oughta recognize where these places are, and how they link to each individual crisis!



Not to worry, of course: we, the prophesized heroes, are here to save the day!



Got us some shiny crystals, too.



So yeah. Save the elements, save the world. No problem.



And here we are, right outside the starting town of Cornelia!

This team, of Master/Ninja/Enchanter/Archmage, is a very fast team, with no shortage of offensive capability. They also won't need much money to spend on equipment, allowing them to circumvent the normally-punishing financial curve of the early game in this mod. That's a double-edged sword, though: the armor selection for this team is largely terrible, with Rondo's gear in particular being extremely backloaded. Weapons are less of an issue, but will still be somewhat difficult.



First thing you should do is head in, of course. Don't ask how we got here, or from which faraway lands, because I don't have an answer and these games were too early and meta-defining to make meta jokes.



The second thing and third things you should do are change the B Button Dash to On, which sets you to always-dashing speed, and the Message Speed to 1, which makes textboxes instant.



Because this is a New Game + run, I get to inherit my Bestiary tallies and entries, which will come in very handy for writing up the LP. Sure, I can't review movesets, but stats and resists are fair game, and very important.

This is where the other known issue with this romhack is: the dev hated the menu music and wanted it dead, and so it is slain. However, the Bestiary plays the appropriate battle music for encountering each enemy, without pausing the area music in the process. So any time you're looking at bestiary entries, you're listening to double music. Eh, it's fine.



Each town has some assorted clues about various areas, and you can dive in as much or as little as you want. Back in the ol' NES days, you had VERY little signposting about where you were supposed to go in these sorts of games, so the info you get from townsfolk is usually what you act on. We've got the following tidbits:

  • We gotta restore the Crystals to grace.
  • The princess has been captured by the former knight Garland! Oh no!
  • Pravoka, to the east, is being bothered by pirates.
  • The sage Lukahn foretold our appearance and then decided to vacation at Crescent Lake.



The first and most important thing to do in Cornelia is to buy up your starting spells for your casters. Which, in turn, means I should describe what each of these spells does! This is the black magic shop, where Red is going to get the bulk of their power from, but all of our party members can use at least a small amount of black magic. Also note the availability preview, most likely designed for the classes with the least clear indication of what spells they can use, and the variable gil costs even within levels!

Fire
Deals minor fire damage to one enemy.

MP Cost: 4
Availability: Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

Your basic offense spell to start out with. Fire is a solid basic attack that Red will be relying on for a good chunk of earlygame, although the damage scaling means it won't be as strong as later spells. Fire is also effective against many enemy types, among them plants, icy foes, and the undead, the last of which is a VERY deadly earlygame enemy type. We buy this instantly.

Thunder
Deals minor thunder damage to one enemy.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

Thunder deals a little more damage than Fire, costs a little more MP, and is more effective against different kinds of enemies, most notably aquatic foes. It's handy to have as an alternative for when Fire won't cut it, but by no means do you need to buy both, especially early on.

Sleep
Attempts to put all enemies to sleep.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

At our stage of the game, even weak enemies in large numbers can be lethal. Sleep gives us a way to even the odds, although it's not a surefire thing, and creatures that don't need to sleep (like the undead) will handily shrug the effect off. Sleeping characters are unable to act for a few turns, and take extra damage when hit, making this a very economical way of handling large groups. By the time the foes you tag have woken up, you've likely cleared out their comrades.

Focus
Attempts to lower the evasion of all foes.

MP Cost: 8
Availability: Monk, Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Master, Ranger, Battlemage

The other level 1 status spell allows us to keep our enemies from dodging so much. It's a good earlygame spell, especially given how characters like Polka might have accuracy issues, although hard to make a case for when Sleep is right there. Vahn will eventually grab it, seeing as that's one of the very few spells they can actually use. For now, though, we can ignore it, especially with how expensive it is.

Pain
Deals minor darkness damage to all enemies.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Monk, Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Battlemage

Cornelia's shops also each sell one level 2 spell, and the black magic offering is entirely new! Pain is a VERY early and cheap area damage spell that will be extremely welcome to anyone that can cast it before they leave Cornelia (which, naturally, includes Red). One neat bit of trivia about FF1 Dawn of Souls: the game makes virtually no distinction between status effects and elements when it comes to weaknesses/resistances. Pain checks susceptibility to "Darkness", which is what governs the Blind status effect!



We likewise check out the white magic store. Red is the only character on our team with no access to white magic, but by and large, Polka is the only one who will care about the contents of these stores. Which is fine.

Cure
Administers minor healing to one ally.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest

The first spell you grab from the white magic shop, and for good reason. I should not have to voice the importance of bringing healing on long excursions, and this is a much cheaper long-term investment than some meager potions. However, early on, Polka's healing will be kind of weak, owing to their relative Intellect score compared to, say, a Priest. Still grabbing it for them, of course.

Dia
Deals minor damage to all undead/evil enemies.

MP Cost: 8
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Priest

Dia, or HARM as it was originally known, was a solid anti-undead spell that was usually there to help your black/red mage out with their actual area spells. Not so in Mod of Balance. The Dia line of spells has been bumped down a tier (so this is technically Diara) and their use case has expanded significantly. It now deals damage not just to undead, but to "evil" enemies as well, which includes Garland, Astos, AND the Fiends! The Dia line is an amazing investment for anyone who can cast it, and we will definitely grab this for Polka eventually.

Protect
Increases the defense of one ally.

MP Cost: 3
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

Ehhhh. Protect certainly isn't a BAD spell, considering how well Defense tends to scale in this game from multiple-hit attacks. It's just significantly less important to me than the other level 1 white magic spells, is all. We'll eventually come back for this one for Polka, but in the here and now, Protect is a luxury.

Blink
Drastically increases the evasion of the caster.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Ninja, Master, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

Blink, though? Blink has been good since it was called RUSE, and that hasn't changed here. If anything, the wider availability of Blink to classes that don't mind it being self-targeting has made it even stronger. We're grabbing this for both Vahn and Rondo as soon as we get a chance, especially considering how reliant this party is on evasion. It's a little overkill on Polka, but might be worth it instead of Protect. I'll have to think about it.

Poisona
Heals poison from one ally.

MP Cost: 3
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest

Status curing isn't quite as exciting as the new Pain spell, but the early access to it is very appreciated. Even as early as Chaos Shrine, we'll have poisonous enemies to deal with, and while it'll take a little longer for Polka to hit spell level 2 than it will Red, we should be able to comfortably snag this by the time we're done here. Not that poison is especially damning outside of earlygame, but uh... this IS earlygame.



That about covers it for the casters. Vahn, as a Master, needs no further equipment. Right out of the gate, they can deal incredible damage with just their fists, and pack some nice defensive bonuses as well. Masters are... a little weirder than you might expect in this mod, but suffice it to say that even though Vahn will rarely get new gear, they will still be able to contribute just fine.



Unfortunately, Rondo still has their starting gear, and we don't have much money to spend on them. And even if we did, well, as strong as the Ninja equipment gets later in the game? Early on, it's...complicated. Let's go over the Cornelia armor shop first.

Chain Mail
Mail of interwoven chain links.

Slot: Body
Defense: 9
Weight: 8
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

The Chain Mail is a VERY nice investment to keep your team alive through basically all of early game. It is also rather expensive, and more critically: entirely unavailable to this party. No one here can equip the Chain Mail.

Leather Armor
Armor made of tanned hide.

Slot: Body
Defense: 6
Weight: 3
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Monk, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

The Leather Armor is as good as it gets for us. Polka can and will make use of this, even if they start with a meager Robe. Everyone else? Sorry, you're sticking to your starting Robe whether you like it or not.

Robe
Ordinary cotton robe.

Slot: Body
Defense: 2
Weight: 1
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Paladin, Ninja, Master, Priest, Battlemage

This mod removed the default Clothes item, by the way. Characters begin play with either a Robe or Leather Armor, depending on what they can equip. I doubt anyone here particularly minds this, but hey.

Leather Shield
A shield made of hardened leather.

Slot: Shield
Defense: 2
Weight: 0
Evasion: 5
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

Shields are generally very handy items, and by the time we do find some for Rondo and Vahn, they will want to make use of them since it doesn't mess with the unarmored bonuses they get. At this point, though, the Leather Shield is solely available to Polka. And don't get me wrong, we WILL want Polka to use one, but even with that, they're very frail, and need to be kept alive so they can heal the team. We will grab a shield for them once we have everyone else handled.

Leather Cap
A cap made of leather.

Slot: Head
Defense: 3
Weight: 2
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Paladin, Master, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

I swear to you all, I was not kidding when I said the Ninja gear selection was better than the Rogue selection! It's just, um... heavily backloaded. By a lot. Yes, this basic Leather Cap can be equipped by every character in the game EXCEPT a Ninja. It's also much too expensive to bother with this early. I wouldn't buy one for Rondo even if they could use it, I'm just mad.

Leather Gloves
Gloves made of leather.

Slot: Gloves
Defense: 1
Weight: 1
Availability: Universal

As if to add insult to injury, the Leather Gloves can be worn by everyone, but Rondo is the only character who WON'T take a pair. See, in the original Dawn of Souls, your unarmored bonuses were something of a factor of your stats, mostly Stamina, a little bit of Intellect and Agility. As soon as ANY armor slot got taken up, those stat bonuses vanish. That's not the case for Mod of Balance: now, your Body slot gets a bonus dependent on Stamina, your Head slot a bonus dependent on Intellect, and your Gloves slot a bonus depending on Agility. And Rondo, as a Ninja, has the best Agility in the game. Wearing Leather Gloves would only hold them back.



The weapon shop is slightly less heartbreaking, at least. We can't afford what we want on the first run, but no harm in covering it now.

Rapier
A sword with a slender blade.

Damage: 7
Accuracy: 8
Critical Rate: 5
Evasion: 3
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Enchanter, Ranger, Battlemage

Polka's starting weapon, and certainly not a bad choice for how cheap it is. You will never buy this from the shop: anyone who could use it either starts with it or something better equipped.

Hammer
A hammer made for battle.

Damage: 10
Critical Rate: 3
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Priest, Battlemage

The Hammer packs a significant kick for being a starting weapon on so many classes and for its price range. Same deal as the Rapier, though: you won't go out of your way to buy it when you already begin play with one if you need it.

Nunchaku
Wooden nunchaku.

Damage: 12
Accuracy: 10
Critical Rate: 15
Availability: Monk, Ninja, Master

The Nunchaku is expensive and available solely to the martial artist classes, but it's a great investment. In the original, you'd use a Nunchaku or whatever on your BlBELT until such time as their unarmed attack picked up steam. In Dawn of Souls, the Nunchaku was worthless: a Monk could already beat the damage with their doubled attack count effortlessly. In Mod of Balance, it's the most important thing Rondo needs to function, and it wouldn't be a terrible choice for Vahn if Rondo didn't need it so damn badly.

Scimitar
A sword with a curved blade.

Damage: 9
Accuracy: 10
Critical Rate: 5
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

Polka's next weapon upgrade. The evasion is a bit lower, but that's a fine price to pay for the higher accuracy. Each class has a hidden modifier to both the number of attacks they get and their accuracy, and Enchanters just so happen to be a class with low accuracy but solid attack count. Anything that can help Polka's accuracy is a good weapon choice for them (even if their Strength means they won't do a lot of damage per hit, shhhhh).

Axe
An axe made for battle.

Damage: 16
Critical Rate: 3
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

This basic earlygame Axe is a new addition to Mod of Balance! It's an expensive heavy weapon for sure, but functions much like a jumbo-size Hammer, packing plenty of power for when you can wield it. This is what a Ranger eventually wants to leave Cornelia with, and it's not half bad on the other classes that can wield it, either. Mostly a curiosity to us, though: nobody in our party will even get close enough to touch an axe of any kind.

Knife
A small knife.

Damage: 4
Accuracy: 12
Critical Rate: 10
Agility: 2
Availability: Rogue, Enchanter, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

Rondo and Red's starting weapon, and not exactly terrible? It's quite accurate, and the built-in Agility bonus means you'll get more attacks with it. Polka will prefer the damage of heavier gear, Rondo still wants the Nunchaku, and Red has better things to do than make piddly physical attacks with a Knife.

Staff
A wooden staff.

Damage: 6
Accuracy: 2
Critical Rate: 1
Evasion: 5
Intellect: 2
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Master, Priest, Battlemage

Staffs are the designated caster weapon of choice. Red's getting one when we have the time, it goes without saying. Polka miiight want one as a backup piece of gear for when they need to be a dedicated healer, but will probably stick to a sword whenever possible. Vahn will never bother to look at one. It's the starting weapon for Monks and Sages, the latter of which can't wield literally anything else from this shop!



In case you glossed over all of that, here's the most important bit of info. Here's Red with their starting gear...



And here's Red with the Knife changed for a Staff. Note the changes to their Agility and Intellect stats! Even the conventionally "weaker" weapon classes tend to have stat bonuses or extra elemental effects built in, to even the odds.



Oh, and here's the item store. I'm not gonna break down every single bit of gear here, y'all know what they do. The one bit I WILL highlight, however, is the Mind Balm, a new curative designed to heal all the status effects that used to expire after a fight but no longer do so (Blind, Silence, Paralysis, and Sleep even though it still wears off after the fight). Mind Balms are VERY valuable earlygame: their relative white magic spell is way up there at level 4!



Anyway, the first time we try to leave town, we get stopped and chucked into a meeting with the king.



I'm not gonna transcribe "cutscenes" such as they are here, just hit the major beats.



Party shows off their crystals: Vahn holding the Crystal of Water, Rondo with Fire, Polka with Wind, and Red with Earth.



Yes yes, we gotta restore the Crystals to grace.



The chancellor voices some concern that we might just be randos, prompting the king to give us a quest for heroes!



Garland will be the first boss we face!



The only way to progress past Cornelia on foot is by the north bridge!



We can putter around the castle after we're done, but there isn't much of note. There's some treasure rooms around this guy, but without the mystic key, we can't loot them. Unfortunate.



And away! we! go!!!



Oh no a battle! I better threaten you all with some stats RIGHT NOW before things get out of hand!

Goblin
HP: 6
Damage: 5
Accuracy: 9
Defense: 3
Agility: 3
Intelligence: 1
Evasion: 14
Magic Defense: 4
Rewards: 4 gil, 6 EXP, Knife
Weaknesses: Time, Stone, Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Confusion, Mind, Death

As weak as it gets. Only the most pathetic of adventurers fails to take down a Goblin in a single hit. The list of weaknesses is largely irrelevant, especially that Death weakness... save that I don't think I've yet seen another enemy that's actually weak to Death. Curious! Anyway, the only real danger of Goblins is that they attack in groups, which barely counts when even a novice party can clear 3-4 of them a turn.

Skeleton
HP: 15
Damage: 8
Accuracy: 17
Defense: 5
Agility: 6
Intelligence: 4
Evasion: 45
Magic Defense: 17
Rewards: 8 gil, 17 EXP, Leather Shield
Weaknesses: Fire, Dia
Resistances: Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

Skeletons aren't much scarier, but you do at least have to slightly take them seriously early on. They're just all-around stronger than Goblins, and especially nimble without all that pesky flesh to slow them down. Like Goblins, they'll often attack in groups, and they hit hard enough that they might even taken down an adventurer with focused attacks! If you encounter a group of Skeletons early on, use Dia, run away, or buckle in.



Here is how bad Rondo needs that Nunchaku from the store. Yes, they can attack twice a turn, but if either of those attacks misses, they can, as you see here, fail to take down a Goblin in one move.



Polka has the same accuracy issues, but can actually do damage when they hit.



Vahn is currently our best character by a significant margin, simply because they can take hits and will never fail to drop an enemy until Garland in a single strike.



Red has to depend on MP, but they pack even MORE power than Vahn.



As such, I have them toast the Skeleton, confident that damage spells never miss.



Just to give you some nice frame of reference for everyone's role.



Fanfare goes here!



Yo dogg i heard you liekd palette swaps

Goblin Guard
HP: 30
Damage: 10
Accuracy: 19
Defense: 5
Agility: 5
Intelligence: 3
Evasion: 21
Magic Defense: 11
Rewards: 10 gil, 24 EXP, Leather Armor
Weaknesses: Time, Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep

Goblin Guards are pretty significant problems at this early stage, not least because they can actually cast a small set of spells! Protect, at this early stage, will basically require Red to spend a spell on whoever they target, and Focus will hamper our team's ability to dodge attacks, which you might recall is the main thing keeping this team alive under fire. Until they get those spells off, we can still just focus them with physical attacks from non-Red party members, fortunately.



Hey, remember how I said in the first post that every enemy can drop items? That's still true and still awesome. Sure, at this stage, we're not gonna get anything except weak gear on par with the shops in Cornelia, but later on, we can find some VERY nice items, including (but not limited to) permanent stat boosts!



This find, in particular, is gonna save us some money and go right on Polka.



Anyway, the Chaos Shrine where Garland plots away is to the northwest of Cornelia, as is this extra cave!



Before we enter it, a fight grants everyone their first level, increasing some of their stats!



This cave, Earthgift Shrine, is a new feature added to the Dawn of Souls remake. Four dungeons with randomly-ordered floors and psuedo-random treasures are on the world map, each available after clearing one of the fights with the Fiends, and each hosting, among other things, four fights with significant bosses from other early-era FF titles. They're tough, but the balance is such that you can clear each one roughly one Fiend after the one that unlocks it. And hey, even if you can't, you don't get a Game Over if you die in one, you just get booted to the entrance with all your loot. They're a bit time-consuming, but worth going into!

For those who already know about them: you'll be happy to know that the gear that used to be exclusive to these areas can now be obtained by other means, including (but not limited to) monster item drops.



Here we go, Chaos Shrine.



The Chaos Shrine is a very simple dungeon, even for early NES days. You can walk straight forward and encounter Garland before hitting even a single random encounter. However, if you want free loot, we can head off to the left side of the shrine. (The right side's treasure rooms are locked, so we'll need the mystic key.)



Oh hey neato! We got a preemptive strike! This is a factor of, I believe, your party's Luck and Agility: the higher they are, the better your odds of this, and the lower your odds of being ambushed.

Black Widow
HP: 27
Damage: 7
Accuracy: 13
Defense: 1
Agility: 15
Intelligence: 10
Evasion: 38
Magic Defense: 4
Rewards: 3 gil, 62 EXP, Spider's Silk

Black Widows crumple as soon as you hit them as much as twice, which is a good thing because their attacks can poison you! Remember, we can't heal poison without items until Polka gets up to spell level 2, so any turn a Black Widow gets to take is potentially cause for us to pack up and retreat to town, or worse, wipe out.



We'll get the treasures first, then back off if we need to and confront Garland when we're ready.



When a preemptive strike happens, we each get a free turn. When an ambush happens, the reverse happens.



Which is all the Black Widow needs to poison Vahn, drastically lowering our odds of fighting Garland this time into the Chaos Shrine.



Ey, free hat.



Curiously, Vahn is able to equip the Leather Cap, but does NOT suffer any kind of penalty for doing so! I don't 100% know for sure, given the site's notes on the mod are scattered and incomplete, but from what I can see, Masters get a persistent bonus to their Defense regardless of whether they're using gear in their slots or not. Monks and Ninjas still get the unarmored bonuses, and Monks and Masters both get to use their unarmed attacks just fine, I'm pretty sure.

This isn't as gamebreaking as it sounds due to the Master's sharply limited gear selection, but it is still extremely strong.



Anyway, back to business.

Zombie
HP: 35
Damage: 12
Accuracy: 1
Defense: 5
Agility: 3
Intelligence: 0
Evasion: 1
Magic Defense: 6
Rewards: 6 gil, 24 EXP, Leather Armor
Weaknesses: Fire, Dia
Resistances: Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

Zombies hit very hard and have a lot of health for this point of the game, and inflicting poison with each attack doesn't help. They're also the slowest enemy in the game and it's not even close. As long as our party is able to dodge them, Zombies should pose negligible threat. A less evasive party would consider busting out some spells to deal with them, but us? Naaaaah.



Here's Cure, since we don't have Poisona and it'd be nice if Vahn lived. Unfortunately, at Polka's current level, it's not even half as effective as a Potion would be.



Even factoring out Zombies being slow as hell, it really does bear repeating how king Evasion is earlygame, especially in this mod. Later on when we have more gear and spells become more common, I'd consider swapping Rondo and Polka's positions, but right now, Rondo is basically invincible.



Well that's unfortunate.



Hm... tempting, but no, we better go back to town to heal.



AS IF I NEEDED FURTHER CONVINCING



Neither Polka nor Vahn survives the trip home, so we've gotta shell out some serious dosh just to get them back on their feet.



This for two characters plus a 20 gil inn stay, OUCH.



Oh well, up ya get.



Inn stays scale with location, so if you need cheap healing and can easily make it back to Cornelia, do so. Not that the price will be that big a deal later on.



They each get their own bed! Hehehehe!



Remember, Goblin Guards can cast Focus and Protect! They're not just boring palette swaps anymore!!!



Back in the Chaos Shrine, I kill this guy all over again.

Ghoul
HP: 65
Damage: 10
Accuracy: 23
Defense: 12
Agility: 6
Intelligence: 3
Evasion: 3
Magic Defense: 14
Rewards: 18 gil, 93 EXP, Chain Mail
Weaknesses: Fire, Dia
Resistances: Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

Ghouls are what we in the roguelike industry might call an "out-of-depth encounter". Not that we can't kill them, but their impressive amount of HP and Defense, combined with their ability to land paralytic strikes, makes them a significant threat all-but-necessitating a magical response. Remember, paralysis (renamed to Stun for reasons) no longer wears off after battle! If a Ghoul stuns someone, you better hope you can survive back to town until they heal, or long enough in a fight for it to wear off without it reapplying!



Hell yes, another level!



This takes Red up to spell level 2, meaning they can now learn and cast Pain. The classes have different rates at which they advance in spell levels. Primary casters like Red advance fasters, auxiliary casters like Polka advance slightly slower (but can still reach spell level 8, usually), and auxiliary fighters like Rondo gain spell levels fairly slowly and never get any higher than spell level 6. Vahn is a special case that we'll discuss later.



This might feel boring and useless, but hey, we can still sell it. And due to how the gil curve in this game works, you're going to get your best earnings from treasure chests no matter how you slice it. Always take the time to hunt down chests whenever possible.



Tents are super handy, allowing you restore plenty of HP and MP in the field. It's actually stronger than the base Dawn of Souls version, due to the mod raising the cap on HP and MP (as well as on Accuracy, not that it matters as much anymore).



Right, now we can fight Garland. Let's save right outside the fight room, disregarding that Red is poisoned (they're not gonna get hit anyway).



Hay guyz



Yep, it's Garland, the villain!



omigosh he said the line


Garland
Former Knight of Cornelia

HP: 200
Damage: 20
Accuracy: 52
Defense: 12
Agility: 6
Intelligence: 12
Evasion: 15
Magic Defense: 69
Rewards: 240 gil, 170 EXP, Scimitar
Weaknesses: Poison, Dia

Garland isn't a very fancy opponent, basically having only slightly stronger stats than most things around the Chaos Shrine and a lot more HP. His most dangerous new trick is that he can inflict Sleep with his attacks, which means if he focuses on one person especially, he'll put out some real hurting. His defense is also high enough that characters without some heavy weaponry will find themselves unable to do a lot of damage, relegating them to item or spellcasting support. Fortunately, he's weak to Dia, so every character with the adequate preparation can handle him without much fuss.

If Rondo had the Nunchaku and Polka had Dia, this fight would've been trivial. Even though they didn't, I wasn't at much risk of anyone dying, especially with Polka around to heal people as needed. The Sleep infliction is scary, but just keep on your toes and don't let whoever gets knocked down stay down; heal them as soon as that sleep connects, because Garland, like all enemies, does extra damage to sleeping foes!



We get Sara back on her feet after we whup Garland.



Something tells me Cornelia doesn't see a lot of combat.



And that saves us the walk back! Wheee!



Having proven our heroism, the king keeps his word and fixes the bridge. Guess his resources were tied up in tracking down Garland?



True, but inaccurate. We're not gonna hit the northern continent for a LONG time, and this bridge isn't gonna cross the sea. But hey.



Princess Sarah gives us a lute, which we will need for reasons.



You know we'll need it because Vahn faces the camera and a fanfare plays.



Meanwhilst!



They sure are a-clankin'.



Sure!



The workers speed up the repairs, motivated by PROPHECY AND DESTINY!



Man I dunno, I just got here.



Anyway, the loot! With the money Garland had, plus what we can get for selling all this extra unusable gear, we'll be able to flesh out everyone's skillset a lot more!



Polka gets the Scimitar.



Rondo finally becomes useful, shortly after defeating the first boss.



Red gets the new Pain spell, ensuring that the next major fight is completely trivialized.



Polka also gets Dia, because believe me, WE'LL NEED IT.



And I buy Leather Gloves for everyone because why not.



Everyone EXCEPT Rondo, that is. Everyone knows Ninjas don't use gloves!



And that oughta do it for now.

Next Time: We'll make their bones go crunch!
 
Last edited:

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
One neat bit of trivia about FF1 Dawn of Souls: the game makes virtually no distinction between status effects and elements when it comes to weaknesses/resistances. Pain checks susceptibility to "Darkness", which is what governs the Blind status effect!

It's because it's painful when you get magic in your eye.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
The sage Lukahn foretold our appearance and then decided to vacation at Crescent Lake.
Sure Lukahn, just go hang out with your college buddies while the world is in peril.


Party shows off their crystals: Vahn holding the Crystal of Water, Rondo with Fire, Polka with Wind, and Red with Earth.
I have often wanted the FF1 remakes to provide some bonus to a character once their orb is re-lit (which would vary by class and orb). But I think even that still wouldn't be enough to make you want to fight Kary first.
Yo dogg i heard you liekd palette swaps
Palette swaps, in an RPG!? Why I never...
dungeons with randomly-ordered floors and psuedo-random treasures
I don't have the best grasp on how the extra 4 dungeons works but what do you mean by pseudo-random?
It's because it's painful when you get magic in your eye.
When the magic hits your eye like a big pizza pie - that's ... really painful. I mean can you just imagine what it would be like to have a piping hot pizza smack you right in the eye?
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
I don't have the best grasp on how the extra 4 dungeons works but what do you mean by pseudo-random?
To the best of my understanding: For most floors of the dungeon, there are a selection of possible pregenerated maps. In Earthgift Shrine, there are four "random" floors and four potential maps. Which map appears on which floor (and what treasure is accessible in it) is randomized. But the maps themselves are always the same, and the bigger dungeons have rules about which map can generate on which floor.
 

nosimpleway

(he/him)
Right. Earthgift Shrine is five levels. The fifth level is always the boss floor.

For each of the other floors, you get either Copy of the FF3 Altar Cave part 1, Copy of the FF3 Altar Cave part 2, a Forest, or a Desert. Those are shuffled between the other four floors of the Earthgift Shrine, so one run might have you go Forest -> AC 2 -> Desert -> AC 1 -> Boss, while the next run might be AC 1 -> Desert -> Forest -> AC 2 -> Boss, or whatever.

In vanilla Dawn of Souls, each floor number of the dungeon has a set list of treasures that can appear in it. Each map that can appear on a floor has a certain number of treasure chests on it.
So the first floor of Earthgift, whatever it is, can have a Hi-Potion, a Spider's Silk, a White Curtain, and a Remedy.
If the first floor is Forest or Desert, those have four chests in them, so you can get all four of those items. If you roll the first floor as AC 2, that only has three chests, so no Remedy for you. And if you get the first floor as AC 1, it has only two chests, so you miss out on the White Curtain and the Remedy both.

"Oh, so I just want to roll AC 1 for whatever floor has the worst treasure, I guess" well you see, the fourth chest on the second floor is a Kenpo Gi, third floor's fourth chest is a Black Cowl, fourth floor's is an Elven Cloak. So no matter what you roll where, you're missing out on some decent treasure. (None of those are gamebreakingly awesome but they're better than what you can normally get when the Shrine unlocks, post-Lich.)

Throw in that there are four bosses on the boss floor and you have to pick one for each run and you'll be doing Earthgift at least four, probably five or six, times if you want everything. Assuming you can beat the bosses, which are pretty damn hard, considering the difficulty curve of the rest of the dungeon.
And if you want more than one Kenpogi or Black Cowl? Well, you certainly can go back for more...

Now. Since you can, are expected to, but don't have to do these dungeon runs multiple times, the designers made sure you don't roll into the Ice Cave or the volcano or wherever you go next overloaded in levels and cash, so the encounters in the dungeon give utter shit for experience and money rewards. Random encounters do nothing but waste your time. (Oh, and the forest is a big switchback maze, and the desert is "endless" in that "the screen scrolls infinitely in every direction until you find the exit in a landscape largely devoid of landmarks to orient yourself" sort of way. Both include random encounters.)

"That doesn't sound great", you might say, "but it doesn't seem that bad." Unfortunately there are four of these bonus dungeons, one for each element, but following all the same rules for random floors and treasure generation and so on -- with up to ten chests per floor, later on. The fire one is ten floors, already bigger than any dungeon in the vanilla game. The water one is twenty. The wind dungeon is forty floors of this horseshit.

And you bet your ass there are some treasures that are never generated in the game at all because nobody bothered to check and make sure that the floors where you can get the Angel Ring or whatever it was could generate a map that actually had ten chests on it, whoopsie.

So I'm interested to see how or whether the mod changes or cleans up the bonus dungeons, if it does at all. Kalir said that the treasures you can get there were retrofitted into other monsters as random drops, and I guess whether that's better or worse depends on how often you can find the monster and how often it drops the treasure you want.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Right, now we can leave what might be called the tutorial area of the game.



Which means its time for a dang ol' cutscene!



Not transcribing it, because it's not actually that important, it's just "we sure are new heroes!"



But hey, it transitions from morning to proper daytime as you go! So that's cool.



TITLE SCREEN



So, we have a fork here, which can either take us north or east. The game made a big deal about going north first, so we will.



This leads us into our first encounter outside of Cornelia's wilderness! Not to mention, we get to see Rondo's attack power with the Nunchaku is actually really good, especially since they start play with two attacks and will only get more of them, and quickly, as we go.

Lizard
HP: 95
Damage: 14
Accuracy: 23
Defense: 12
Agility: 12
Intelligence: 3
Evasion: 4
Magic Defense: 19
Rewards: 15 gil, 153 EXP, Elven Balm
Weaknesses: Ice

Lizards are fairly chunky foes to face us with right outside of Cornelia, but by that same token, now that we've defeated Garland, we can take it. It also helps that Lizards tend to be solitary foes, so we can focus the actually-significant attacks of Vahn, Rondo, and Polka on it and leave it heavily injured over a single round. Note also the Elven Balm it drops: this is a consumable item that duplicates the effect of the Healara spell, allowing you to heal the party!



We can also show off Red's new spell in this encounter!

Wolf
HP: 12
Damage: 8
Accuracy: 7
Defense: 0
Agility: 18
Intelligence: 1
Evasion: 40
Magic Defense: 2
Rewards: 2 gil, 24 EXP, Leather Gloves
Weaknesses: Paralysis, Poison, Sleep

Wolves are the new Goblins. They're fast enough to dodge attacks, plus they obviously attack in packs, but the only character who can't drop one in a single physical attack is Red, and Red has Pain available. Long as your frontliner can either dodge or weather a Wolf pack's attacks, they're trivial.

Warg Wolf
HP: 44
Damage: 12
Accuracy: 30
Defense: 2
Agility: 27
Intelligence: 3
Evasion: 68
Magic Defense: 15
Rewards: 5 gil, 93 EXP, Leather Cap
Weaknesses: Paralysis, Poison, Sleep

Like Goblin Guards before them, Warg Wolves are just bigger Wolves. With enough health to conceivably survive an off-attacker's move and enough speed and power to damage even a frontliner, they're slightly more important to focus down than the other Wolves. I still wouldn't call them dangerous by any stretch, though.



By the time Red actually gets around to casting Pain, half the encounter is gone already.



The other half goes down without much fuss.



That encounter gets Rondo their first spell level, and it gets Polka their second spell level AND their second attack! Level 4 is very good to this team.



Our first destination is a little bit north, not far at all, and no trouble considering the encounters we've seen thus far.



Matoya's Cave, huh?



Seems to be going well.



Aha. Guess we have our first new quest: recover the Crystal Eye of Matoya!



We also rob the blind old lady, because we're heroes. The other two chests contain a Phoenix Down and an Antidote, both very handy to have this early on.



Matoya's animated brooms give us a mysterious spell to try to cast. Do YOU know what it does?



Anyway, moving on. We return to the fork and head east.



In short order and with minimal fuss, we find ourselves at the next town!



Pravoka? Wasn't there a guy from there in Cornelia saying something about pirates?



Eh, we'll get to that. Right now, shopping!



The white magic store still doesn't have the full list of level 2 spells, but it's fine with introducing level 3 spells to us. Where could those missing spells be? Hmmmm!

Heal
Administers minor healing to all allies.

MP Cost: 7
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest

Hell yeah, area healing, and one level earlier than in Dawn of Souls. The per-target healing is weaker than that of Cure, which says a lot considering Polka's currently unable to keep up with basic Potions. Honestly though, with this team's low max HP? Less of an issue than you'd expect! We'll be picking up Heal eventually, that's for sure.

NulShock
Grants Thunder resistance to all allies.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

NulShock might not seem that strong to go for early on. After all, how many enemies are we going to find that cast offense spells early on, much less those we can clearly identify as being specialists in electrical spells? Don't dismiss it, though, especially in Mod of Balance. Remember, even the meager Goblin Guards can cast Protect and Focus now. Who knows what might be a spellslinger of some kind?

NulBlaze
Grants Fire resistance to all allies.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

NulBlaze is a little easier to work with, since it's usually very obvious if an enemy has a fiery bent. Do note that you can only apply a single resistance spell to your team at once, so if you're facing an enemy juggling multiple elements, you're going to have some trouble. We will eventually get all of the Nul spells for Polka, especially given the armor capability (or lack thereof) of this team.

Cura
Administers moderate healing to one ally.

MP Cost: 9
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest

Bigger, stronger Cure, complete with a bigger, stronger MP cost. We'll grab this eventually, but I'm not in a major hurry, partly because of this party's low HP, and partly for another reason you'll see soonish.

Mute
Attempts to silence all enemies.

MP Cost: 8
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest

One of the rare status effect spells available to white mages, Mute is a very situational but powerful spell. If you find yourself up against a powerful spellcaster, and they don't have some kind of immunity to Silence, Mute can effortlessly shut them down, leaving them free to be pummeled by your squad of battle jocks. Note that some enemies have techniques that cannot be blocked by Silence, such as breath weapons or what have you.



Similar curiousities to be found in the black magic shop.

Blizzard
Deals minor ice damage to one enemy.

MP Cost: 6
Availability: Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

The third element of basic magical offense, slightly higher in spell list for reasons. Blizzard has the highest relative power and MP cost, but the weakness list is pretty underwhelming, being mostly useful against cold-blooded reptilian foes, or those with an obvious fiery nature. We'll grab it eventually, but I'm not in a major rush.

Slow
Attempts to slow all enemies.

MP Cost: 6
Availability: Monk, Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

This is something like the physical alternative to Mute. A Slowed enemy gets a meager single attack per round, no matter how high their Agility is. It's also not commonly resisted, falling under the domain of Time magic as it does. Of course, this does nothing against enemies that already have only a single attack a round, which can be annoying when that one attack could potentially already do massive damage.

Fira
Deals moderate fire damage to all enemies.

MP Cost: 10
Availability: Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

The next step in the Fire line, and therefore a must-have spell for Red (and probably Rondo too once they get that far). Never enter the first major dungeon without Fira available if you can afford it. Pain is nice and all, but Fira is on a whole different level, not least because enemies tend to be weak to Fire a hell of a lot more than Blind.

Thundara
Deals moderate thunder damage to all enemies.

MP Cost: 12
Availability: Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

Same deal here. Thundara will be especially useful once we start dealing with seafaring enemies in large numbers, and hitting slightly harder can make a difference when our enemies aren't susceptible to or resistant to either element.

Blind
Attempts to blind all enemies.

MP Cost: 7
Availability: Monk, Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

Coming up from the usual spell level of 2, Blind is a significantly stronger spell than Slow, even if it's more easily resisted. Blindness in the original NES game did nothing, and it wasn't much stronger in Dawn of Souls, where it only reduced your accuracy by 25: barely worth the trouble it'd take to cure it. Now, though? Not only does Blindness persist after battle, but it halves your hit rate, and also applies the same damage multiplier to inbound attacks that Sleep or Stun does. Rondo DEFINITELY wants this when they get a chance, but Red might need their last slot for the other level 3 black magic spell.



Pravoka's weapon store also has some new toys, some of which we can even use! In addition to the Axe, Scimitar, and Rapier, we can now get:

Saber
A long sword made for piercing.

Damage: 12
Accuracy: 9
Critical Rate: 5
Evasion: 5
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Enchanter, Ranger, Battlemage

A solid upgrade for Polka. If you're memorizing the stats of every weapon I've posted, first off, that's amazing, and second, you might think that this weapon is weaker than the earlier options. Turns out that, again, the documentation for stuff in this mod is all over the place, so I'm using the reported in-game values plus whatever extra kibble the databases on the site indicate. Anyway, the Saber's good.

Venom Dagger
Knife laced with poison.

Damage: 7
Accuracy: 20
Critical Rate: 15
Evasion: 3
Agility: 3
Element: Poison
Availability: Rogue, Enchanter, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

Our first elemental weapon! Note that Poison is NOT the same as the status effect on the player's side of things: we have no way to inflict the Poison status effect on enemies. Instead, this checks the same flag that the ol' instakill spell Scourge did to see if it deals extra damage. And unlike most instakill spell flags, there are a large amount of enemies that are actively weak to Poison, most notably humanoid enemies and non-venomous beasties! That alone makes the Venom Dagger worth looking into, if perhaps solely as a sidearm for Polka or Rondo rather than a primary weapon.

Falchion
A sword that widens toward its tip.

Damage: 13
Accuracy: 8
Critical Rate: 3
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

A bigger, heavier, and slightly more expensive Saber. It's up to you whether the extra power of the Falchion is worth the loss of evasion, crit chance, and accuracy. I'll use whichever one I get, probably.

Broadsword
Sword with a wide, double-edged blade.

Damage: 14
Accuracy: 6
Critical Rate: 3
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

The heaviest sword here is simply too heavy for anyone in our party to wield. Fine by me, honestly.



Are you sure? I've been browsing shops and have yet to see a single pirate.



Oh, there they are. All nice and lined up politely. Anyway, other shops.



Pravoka sells tents and I forgot to check the armor shop before this fight. Whateeeeevs it probably sucks.



Actually I was wondering if you accepted new crewmates.



Guess not.



This fight is only significant by location, it consists of the same kind of enemies we could pull from random encounters in the next area. As such, I won't grace it with a video, merely the usual statblocks.

Pirate
HP: 25
Damage: 11
Accuracy: 16
Defense: 4
Agility: 26
Intelligence: 3
Evasion: 52
Magic Defense: 15
Rewards: 25 gil, 40 EXP, Rapier
Weaknesses: Poison, Sleep, Confusion, Mind

Apparently, Pirates are fast enough to attack twice a turn, and they're also quick to dodge. They also attack in groups, even outside of this fixed encounter. Your best bet if you're unprepared to fight a crew of Pirates is a Sleep spell, which should shut down most, if not all, of them for long enough to even the odds. Course, a proper area spell like Pain does the job too.

Buccaneer
HP: 60
Damage: 16
Accuracy: 25
Defense: 10
Agility: 18
Intelligence: 6
Evasion: 41
Magic Defense: 26
Rewards: 60 gil, 72 EXP, Saber
Weaknesses: Poison, Confusion, Mind

Bigger, slightly slower Pirates. With no weakness to Sleep and over twice as much HP, it's no guarantee that you can solve an encounter with Buccaneers with a single area spell. You might have to throw in a single extra normal attack on top of that. I believe in you.



Going into this fight in the earlier versions was sort (but not really) of scary, because SLEP didn't buy you enough time, and even if it did, you could very easily have rolled a team incapable of casting it. That'd leave you dependent entirely on your frontliner's ability to weather an entire crew of Pirate attacks each turn, which was trivial for a FIGHTER/Warrior and not too bad for most other characters.



In Mod of Balance, not only is there a much wider range of characters available, virtually guaranteeing you have access to Sleep, you also have decent odds of having Pain before ever setting foot in Pravoka. Even upgrading two of the Pirates to Buccaneers barely registers.



Gottem.



The Bikkeneers go down, leaving the captain to defend himself.



So, rather than a big boss fight, he surrenders an entire damn boat to us and promises to be a dependable worker around town.



I doubt his honesty, but hey, free boat.



At this point, we're free to sail the Aldean Sea, although we're still locked into the same continent that we've been on before.



Before I do, I stay at the Pravoka Inn. Yeah, slightly more expensive, whatever.



Oh, and here's the stupid armor shop for jerks. Most of the stock is the same as Cornelia: Chain Mail, Leather Armor, Leather Shield, Leather Cap, Leather Gloves. There's a few upgrades, but...

Iron Armor
Armor made of thinly-hammered iron.

Slot: Body
Defense: 15
Weight: 24
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

The Iron Armor is very heavy, very expensive, and very good at keeping whoever wears it alive. Sure, you won't be dodging many attacks with that weight, but when each individual attack will reduce the blow to single-digit damage, who cares? Of course, it's entirely unavailable to our team.

Helm
A small helm.

Slot: Head
Defense: 5
Weight: 5
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

We literally don't have Leather Caps for everyone yet, and already we're being taunted with the upgrade we can literally never use. RUDE. And, as with the Leather Cap before it, it's a little too expensive to justify getting one for everyone as soon as you can. That's fine, I don't like you anyway.

Bronze Gloves
Gloves made of bronze.

Slot: Gloves
Defense: 2
Weight: 4
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

Yeah, that's right. The Pravoka shop, to this party, is effectively identical to the Cornelia shop. Anything new they sell, we cannot use. Lots of other parties get to upgrade at least one of their party members, but here we are with our martial artists and smug wizards, unable to put literally any of this stuff on.



We'll return to Pravoka for its magic shops and to vandalize the armor shop every so often, but for now, it's time to hit the seas!



As you can see, the seas have their own encounter list, starting with the same kind of Pirates we already trounced earlier.



Back at Cornelia, I get some info about what kind of plot hook I should focus on next from the dancing girl.



Oh, by the way: upon hitting level 5, Vahn finally learns how to cast basic magic! As such, we grab some Blink spells for them and Rondo. Let's see how the spell sets are coming along!



Vahn is doing their best.



Rondo has a nice basic spellset to work with. Their Intellect will never be high enough for their spells to get anywhere near Red's power, but that doesn't have anything to do with buffing spells, and it's pretty minor when it comes to status effect spells, so those will fall to Rondo for the most part.



Polka's going to be the only person on this team using most white magic spells, which is fine, we've already got most of what we need here anyway. They won't get spell levels nearly as quickly as Red, so we're going to have some slight issues with keeping up with the curative properties expected of us later, but it's fine.



Red has the largest spell selection of the group and it's only going to get larger. They might be exclusively locked into black magic, but that just means all of their damage spells get a tasty, tasty kick from their high Intellect. And while in Dawn of Souls, casters tended to fade off compared to physical fighters in boss fights, don't discount Red there yet. We haven't even see what some of the later new spells can do...



Right, let's go south first.



The sea doesn't just have Pirates...

Bigeyes
HP: 33
Damage: 6
Accuracy: 46
Defense: 0
Agility: 42
Intelligence: 6
Evasion: 88
Magic Defense: 46
Rewards: 14 gil, 128 EXP, Mind Balm
Weaknesses: Lightning, Darkness
Resistances: Quake, Fire

These oceanic mutants might seem underwhelming statwise, not to mention some nice weaknesses to Thunder and Pain. They still need to be taken down quickly, with their one-two punch of a paralyzing Gaze attack and the Sleep spell. Any turn a Bigeyes is allowed to attack is a turn where you risk your team getting disabled and left as easy prey for other denizens of the deep.

Shark
HP: 180
Damage: 25
Accuracy: 42
Defense: 0
Agility: 36
Intelligence: 8
Evasion: 56
Magic Defense: 58
Rewards: 10 gil, 373 EXP, Wyrmkiller
Weaknesses: Lightning
Resistances: Quake, Fire

Sharks are sacks of health that bite you really hard. They have enough health that even a single cast of Thunder might not be enough to bring them down. They also tend to come with other friends that make it easier for the Shark to kill you to pieces. Not even a hardy frontliner is safe from a Shark attack, and if they happen to aim at someone in the back, they can potentially oneshot them.



Confident that the physical fighters can handle the Bigeyes, I have Red smite the shark with electric justice. It ends up working out.



There's a dock across the sea from Cornelia, which is where your next goal is.



The encounters here are stronger than those around Pravoka, but still roughly on par with the ones on the sea. Sometimes, anyway. Don't know why this Cobra is flying solo.

Cobra
HP: 38
Damage: 9
Accuracy: 28
Defense: 2
Agility: 15
Intelligence: 6
Evasion: 37
Magic Defense: 13
Rewards: 5 gil, 123 EXP, Antidote
Weaknesses: Ice
Resistances: Poison

The most interesting thing about Cobras is that they can poison you with their regular attack, but could not in the NES version. They are trivial to take down and barely do any damage with their attacks.



The next town is here, but then I remembered: I haven't gotten the rumor lowdown from Pravoka yet! How am I supposed to go to a new place without Gathering Information?



This did not go well.



I also learned that Pravoka churches demand a LOT more money to raise your dead than Cornelia ones do.



Since I saved right after getting everyone their new spells, I cut my losses and go straight to Pravoka for the rumor mill.



There we go.

  • The elves living across the sea have a problem: their prince has fallen into an eternal sleep.
  • A refugee from the eastern land of Melmond tells tales of the rotting earth and monsters attacking in the night.
  • Our cool new boat can't dock at the northern continents! Rough.



I have a shield now.



Right, let's try going to the new place again.



Psh, what's the worst you can do?



OH, I SEE

Sahagin Chief
HP: 60
Damage: 17
Accuracy: 40
Defense: 6
Agility: 39
Intelligence: 7
Evasion: 80
Magic Defense: 28
Rewards: 27 gil, 105 EXP, Red Curtain
Weaknesses: Lightning
Resistances: Fire, Quake

Sahagin Chiefs are the elite version of the Sahagins we haven't encountered yet somehow on the sea. They're agile and deal solid damage, but more dangerous is their ability to inflict Sleep with their attacks. That plus a Shark is a solid recipe for getting a party member killed. However, they still have low enough HP for a single Thunder spell to effortlessly destroy them.



Seeing the kind of damage enemies can do to afflicted teammates, I shrug and go get the Protect spell for Polka. Curing would be better, but Protect should at least keep them from getting pasted the second a status effect lands.



Oh there they are.

Sahagin
HP: 20
Damage: 9
Accuracy: 11
Defense: 2
Agility: 36
Intelligence: 4
Evasion: 68
Magic Defense: 8
Rewards: 8 gil, 30 EXP, Potion
Weaknesses: Lightning
Resistances: Fire, Quake

Gee Aldean Sea, how come you get two types of smallfry?



Landfall on the south coast of the Aldean Sea gets us another new set of enemies.

Ogre
HP: 75
Damage: 16
Accuracy: 35
Defense: 15
Agility: 9
Intelligence: 2
Evasion: 10
Magic Defense: 3
Rewards: 60 gil, 193 EXP, Hammer
Weaknesses: Time, Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Confusion, Mind

Big, chunky and slow. Ogres look a lot scarier than they actually are, even with the ability to inflict Sleep with their attacks. Physical attacks will have no trouble hitting them, but you'll need some real kick to punch past their defense. That said, area spells to the rescue: Ogres are easy pickings for Sleep and Pain from the first moment you encounter them, and if you happen to have grabbed a Venom Dagger, it'll do a number on them, too.

Gigas Worm
HP: 32
Damage: 13
Accuracy: 27
Defense: 3
Agility: 12
Intelligence: 9
Evasion: 9
Magic Defense: 18
Rewards: 5 gil, 63 EXP, Potion
Weaknesses: Fire

The game is just gonna have a lot of these smallfry enemies that die if you look at them funny, and we all have to accept that.



Okay NOW we can visit Elfheim.



The main topic here is the curse on the elf prince.

  • The elf prince has been cursed into eternal slumber by Astos, king of the dark elves. Astos' whereabouts are unknown.
  • The Western Keep, which is actually northwest of Elfheim, has fallen into ruin, and few are the explorers who dare to investigate.
  • Apparently sages get oracular visions.
  • Mythril weapons and armor are lightweight and strong, allowing them to be used by many more people than similar weapon types. Who knows, maybe people not named Polka can equip some?



Elfheim has its fair share of shops, so let's see...

Longsword
A large, double-edged sword.

Damage: 18
Accuracy: 10
Critical Rate: 3
Evasion: 3
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

The usual big sword upgrade for classes that aren't us. Solid, reliable, it's the adventuring standard!

Rune Blade
A sword effective against spellcasters.

Damage: 15
Accuracy: 15
Critical Rate: 8
Slaying: Mage, Evil
Availability: Knight, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

Elfheim sells some very nice, very expensive weapons that will eventually find their way into the party. Slaying weapons, by the by, got a significant power boost in Mod of Balance, to incentivize switching off of your primary weapon to use them when they'll find an edge. I doubt that we'll buy a Rune Blade, but as soon as we find one, Polka's grabbing it and not letting go for some time.

Crosier
A heavy bishop's staff.

Damage: 13
Accuracy: 5
Critical Rate: 1
Evasion: 8
Intellect: 3
Slaying: Undead
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Master, Priest

The least expensive weapon in Elfheim, the Crosier isn't a bad caster choice if you're able to wield it. It's also not bad for Vahn if we really need the slaying bonus compared to raw attack count for them. If we find one, great, but I'm not going out of my way to buy one.

Power Staff
This staff drains magic energy.

Damage: 12
Accuracy: 8
Critical Rate: 25
Evasion: 10
Strength: 3
Intellect: 3
Slaying: Regen, Mage
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Master, Priest, Battlemage

The low base stats in the shop hide the true might of the Power Staff. Obviously, we want one for Red, and when they wield it, enemies might actually pretend to notice when they hit with a physical attack! It'd also be a fine choice for Polka if the Rune Blade isn't immediately available. The slaying bonus is okay but not great.

Iron Nunchaku
Nunchaku made of iron.

Damage: 20
Accuracy: 15
Critical Rate: 20
Availability: Monk, Ninja, Master

Rondo's next weapon upgrade. Like the basic Nunchaku before it, the Iron Nunchaku are beastly good compare to everything else around this stage of the game. Depending on how the next area goes, we might get this here, or wait to see if the game drops one in our lap first.

Mythril Knife
A knife wrought from mythril.

Damage: 11
Accuracy: 25
Critical Rate: 25
Evasion: 2
Agility: 2
Availability: Rogue, Enchanter, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

I'm sure some characters would make use of this, but Rondo already has Iron Nunchaku to look forward to, Red will basically never use their weapon to physically attack, and while the accuracy boost for Polka is nice, it just doesn't compare with heavier weapons for them.

Kotetsu
A small katana designed for easy use.

Damage: 18
Accuracy: 24
Critical Rate: 25
Evasion: 10
Agility: 2
Availability: Monk, Enchanter, Ninja, Master, Battlemage

The Kotetsu is the most expensive item in the shop, but its mere appearance gives Rondo a spark of hope for what could be. All the accuracy and crit chance of knives, but with the raw power of Nunchaku, any kind of katana is a welcome addition to our armory, and Rondo will have the most freedom to wield them.



Elfheim has two magic shops for each school, and we're going to look at the more ordinary of the two first:

Warp
Teleports the party to the previous floor, or out of the dungeon if on the first floor.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

That's right, you get Warp an entire TWO spell levels earlier than Dawn of Souls! What's more, generating it in the Elfheim shop means you get to have access to this beauty well before you even get in eyeshot of Marsh Cave if you play your cards right. Get this on at least one of your casters and never look back.

Blizzara
Deals moderate ice damage to all enemies.

MP Cost: 14
Availability: Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

As before, Blizzara kind of misses out on some usefulness owing to the rarer weakness to Ice in the game, but it makes up for it with higher base power. Also costs slightly more and is accessible later. Up to you if you want it, but better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Confuse
Attempts to confuse all enemies.

MP Cost: 11
Availability: Monk, Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

We can't poison enemies, but we are the only people able to access the Confuse status effect! A Confused foe will drop their usual AI routine in favor of making basic attacks on their comrades, going one better than taking them out of the fight! If you lack confidence that you can blast everything in sight in a single turn before you start taking casualties, Confuse is another strong option for widescale status effect hell.

Temper
Increases the attack power of an ally.

MP Cost: 16
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

Temper is almost the exact opposite of Warp in terms of its Mod of Balance treatment. It's an entire two spell levels later, costs TEN TIMES as much gil to grab, and oh yeah: there's a cap to how much you can buff your stats in this mod. In the NES version, TMPR was broken and useless. In Dawn of Souls, it was arguably the strongest black magic spell in the game. In Mod of Balance, it's fine, it's okay, you can grab it but you don't need to if you don't want to. We will, of course, we have three people who can cast it.



White magic is entirely level 4, looks like:

Healara
Administers moderate healing to all allies.

MP Cost: 15
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Priest

Area healing but again! One whole spell level lower, again! Get this sucker, again!

Aero
Deals moderate damage to all enemies.

MP Cost: 10
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Ranger, Priest

The game description for Aero says it does wind damage, but that's not exactly right, because there IS no Wind element in Dawn of Souls. Instead, Aero is your earliest access to entirely non-elemental damage. On our party, it gives Polka a way to use their MP to area attack when Dia doesn't cut it, but you don't need to go for it if the other spells for this level are more attractive, and honestly, for this team? They are.

Clarity
Heals sleep, stun, silence and blindness from one ally.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest

Yeah screw it, all the status cures get to be grouped into a single spell. This is the spell that the Mind Balm item is bound to, and it is pretty much essential for you to have at least one party member that's capable of casting it to obtain. The second Polka gets spell level 4, this, not Healara, is what we're getting first.

NulFrost
Grants Ice resistance to all allies.

MP Cost: 5
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

Somewhere between the other two Nul spells in terms of overall usefulness. Icy foes are more easily telegraphed than enemies with electrical spells, but they're still less common than fiery enemies by far. Still getting in Polka's spell list some day.



I'm sure someone can use this to fit Dawn of Souls into the Zelda timeline, but that someone isn't me.



OH YEAH BY THE WAY THE OTHER MAGIC SHOPS IN ELFHEIM SELL THE MARTIAL ARTS SPELLS.

Yeah! Every single spell Vahn will ever learn is available right here in Elfheim! Rondo might get some of them too, I dunno.

Chakra
Administers serious healing to the caster.

MP Cost: 12
Availability: Monk, Enchanter, Master

And this is why we don't need to worry about single-target healing spells for Polka as much. Chakra lets Vahn self-heal for hilariously high amounts, way beyond what they could ever hope to accomplish with anything shy of Curaga. And remember, Vahn's the only person with an actually-high amount of HP! Basic Heal-line spells should cover everyone else just fine.

Meditate
Increases the attack and accuracy of the caster.

MP Cost: 15
Availability: Monk, Master, Priest

Behold, the first white magic spell Polka can't cast. Those of you familiar with the original game might recognize this as the Saber spell, but that one's actually a little different to compensate for the existence of Meditate. You'll see what I mean when we get there.



Oh yeah I buy Focus here because why not, but spoilers: the other spells here are where it's at.

Pummel
Deals heavy magic damage to one enemy.

MP Cost: 10
Availability: Monk, Ninja, Master

The only thing that keeps Pummel from being busted is the relative Intellect scores of the only classes capable of casting it. This serves as their main way to circumvent a target's physical defense. It's expensive enough that you can't rely on it all the time, but it's great if you're up against someone that your physical attacks just can't dent, or that keeps dodging everything you throw at them.

Qi Strike
Attempts to instantly kill one enemy.

MP Cost: 25
Availability: Monk, Ninja, Master

Oh, an instakill spell, huh? Seems underwhelming until I mention the catch: this is a nonelemental spell. The only thing that can save a monster from Qi Strike is their magic resistance. Which means yeah, most bosses will shrug off this one, but honestly? With Qi Strike, you can theoretically instakill ANY ENEMY IN THE GAME. The major saving grace for enemies is that the infliction rate, coupled with the relative Intellect of the classes that have access to it, means it won't always, or ever, be a sure thing.



And now? DISAPPOINTMENT. They sell Helms and Bronze Gloves here, too.

Bard's Tunic
A light, loose-fitting tunic.

Slot: Body
Defense: 6
Weight: 2
Evasion: 6
Resists: Silence
Availability: Rogue, Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Master, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

The Bard's Tunic is the first piece of armor we've seen since the start of the game that could actually count as an upgrade for us! Great for Polka, great for Red, and perfectly fine for Vahn. The Silence resistance makes it especially attractive even into midgame, although the defense will have trouble keeping up.

Magical Robe
Robe warded against minor magic.

Slot: Body
Defense: 7
Weight: 8
Resists: Paralysis
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Paladin, Ninja, Master, Priest, Battlemage

The Magical Robe, despite the name, is actually not as good for our casters as the Bard's Tunic. It's more ideal for Vahn (and even Rondo, unarmored bonuses aside). Seriously, it took us until Elfheim for Rondo to have a piece of armor they actually care to equip! Rude! At least it has paralysis-resistance built in, that's very welcome here.

Watchman Mail
Mail for restless guards.

Slot: Body
Defense: 18
Weight: 16
Resists: Sleep
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

The Watchman Mail is too heavy for anyone here to equip, but it's the heaviest body armor Elfheim serves. Comes with a handy Sleep resistance, but that's not as handy as the resists of the Bard's Tunic and Magical Robe above, seeing as Sleep wears off after fights (and during them, quite frequently).

Iron Shield
A shield wrought from iron.

Slot: Shield
Defense: 5
Evasion: 8
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

For those of you who care, the Iron Shield marks the beginning of the Rogue's decline from equipment relevance. While the Ninja gets even cooler options as the game progresses, the Rogue peaks very early with their gear selection, and rapidly falls off as soon as even slightly heavier gears shows its face. Nobody in our party can use the Iron Shield, though, so who are we to judge?

Buckler
A small shield.

Slot: Shield
Defense: 3
Evasion: 5
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Enchanter, Archmage, Paladin, Ninja, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

The Buckler is a more expensive alternative to the Iron Shield whose only advantage is availability. Polka will ignore it, fine with their Leather Shield. Red and Rondo will briefly look at it and then decide their money is better spent on stronger spells.

Elven Cloak
A cloak enchanted with elven magic.

Slot: Shield
Defense: 9
Weight: 1
Evasion: 6
Agility: 2
Intellect: 1
Spell: Chakra
Availability: Rogue, Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Master, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

If you REALLY have money to burn, you can buy the Elven Cloak here for a whopping 24500 gil. Unlike the Buckler, though, this one is very worth it to anyone who can equip it, and will likely remain in the shield slot for any of our party members that snag one well into lategame. Note that this is the first piece of gear we have that can cast a spell when used, which is really good because that spell is CHAKRA. Any time we have one NOT equipped and a party member needs to self heal? Look no further!

Feathered Cap
A light cap woven of silk.

Slot: Head
Defense: 6
Evasion: 10
Availability: Rogue, Sage, Enchanter, Ranger

The Feathered Cap is an odd one. I get the availability to Sage and Ranger, given that it's very clearly supposed to be the iconic Red Mage hat, but the only other characters capable of equipping it are Rogue and Enchanter? It's good headgear and we're getting one for Polka when we can, but uhhh... what?

Steel Gloves
Gloves made of steel.

Slot: Gloves
Defense: 4
Weight: 6
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Battlemage

I guess gloves are a very exclusive armor slot.



Okay, let's go get da quest.



Yeah, sleeping prince. The healer wonders about a possible medicine, but uh... can't we just defeat Astos to break the curse?



Nothing else really new in here, save for a rare instance of pre-Tolkienization dwarf/elf relations being on good terms...



And another treasure house we can't access.



Let's go check out the HAUNTED CASTLE before we go.



See some new monsters along the way.

Werewolf
HP: 77
Damage: 15
Accuracy: 43
Defense: 6
Agility: 21
Intelligence: 8
Evasion: 58
Magic Defense: 27
Rewards: 9 gil, 135 EXP, Antidote
Weaknesses: Dia
Resistances: Poison

Werewolves might look like palette swaps, but there's a lot to differentiate them from normal wolves. They can poison you with their attacks, have some regen (although not enough to matter) and a notably different resistance set, being resistant to Poison effects but weak to Dia. There's also some slaying effects you can use on them if that change to abilities is THAT intimidating (it probably isn't).



There's some Black Widows around here as well, and enough to get us a level. I think Red gets to spell level 3? Not sure.



We can probably take this fight with a preemptive, right?

Tarantula
HP: 72
Damage: 10
Accuracy: 25
Defense: 9
Agility: 12
Intelligence: 3
Evasion: 54
Magic Defense: 9
Rewards: 13 gil, 141 EXP, Antidote
Resistances: Poison

Tarantulas, in the original games, weren't that scary, they were basically just non-venomous Black Widows. This time around, though? They can stun you. All the fun of Marsh Cave, right here on the overworld, sonny jim! And they can't be chased off with Dia!



Ehhhh this is fine let's just go to the Western Keep, it's probably fine.



AAAAAH! COBRAS!



See? Protect is justified now!



Oh yeah, it probably completely slipped your notice, but Poisona being level 2? That is NOT NORMAL. That is ordinarily a level 4 spell!



Aaaayyyy Western Keep what's good.



The place is a wreck, to no one's surprise.



I like that the bats in FF1 aren't enemies, they're just NPCs that only squeak. It's charming.



I'm sorry what



IM SORRY WHAT



Yeah for whatever reason, Western Keep has undead encounters in this mod!



IT'S FALLEN UNDER THE CURSE OF THE UNDEAD TOO

Anyway, this guy wants us to go get a crown to restore the keep, which if it means not dealing with undead ambushes is GREAT.



Well, I'm glad I saved before I came up this way, because it's a LONG trek for Red to cart everyone all the way back to Cornelia to heal.

This is one of the most commonly criticized parts of this hack: money earlygame is VERY tight, and every setback like this represents a huge cost to your meta-progression. The amount of money needed to recover from this at Elfheim would kneecap this run's viability. Be sure to save before any expedition to an unknown land, because you don't know if you're coming back alive.

Next Time: Lali-ho!
 
Last edited:

nosimpleway

(he/him)
I think they're just called "gloves" because "gauntlets" keeps running into the character limit for the names of stuff.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
Sabers *pounds table* are *pounds table* not *pounds table* piercing *pounds table* weapons. You put Falchions in the game mod man! Clearly you knew to look up apparently random sword types to stick in the game, take the extra step to look up what they're actually for.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
You could stab with a saber if you wanted to.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
In saber fencing, you can score on the tip or the edge.

Why is Clarity such a big deal when you can just buy Mind Balms for like 3% of the cost of the spell?
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)
That's a good question, partially answered by the fact that I forgot to post the Elfheim item shop stock.

They sell a few item types we've already seen, and some you already know: Potions, Elven Balms, Ethers, Antidotes, and Phoenix Down.

They notably do not sell Mind Balm. Instead, they sell Remedies, which cure everything except death on all party members... but cost 600 gil, way beyond what we can shell out for a consumable.

Then you have to factor in that we're going to Marsh Cave, and beyond that, the Cavern of Earth, in a mod where stun does not clear at the end of each fight.

Yes, for the price of Clarity, you could get 17 Mind Balms. That might legitimately not be enough.
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


This update brought to you by Asema, who wished to voice her displeasure at me going for a ninja instead of a battlemage, and by my Patreon.



And now, back to your regularly scheduled LP.

If Western Keep is capable of flooring us, we're gonna need some extra edge before we tackle Marsh Cave. Fortunately, that doesn't JUST have to be grinding!



The first and most important thing we do is go up the coast leading to the Chaos Shrine.



Here, have a map for reference! Turns out that magic spell the brooms were talking about is the button code for opening the map! How wa-wa-wacky!



Anyway, our ultimate goal is to find a way to leave the Aldean Sea, which is currently effectively landlocked. The only water route goes around Mount Gulg to the southeast, and our ship is too large to handle the rivers there. From where we are on this map, you can see a lot of places we've been to: Western Keep by the rivers, Cornelia on the edge of the map, and Elfheim in the bottom corner.



Spell demo time! Vahn's first spell is Blink!



By creating illusory doubles of themselves, Vahn skyrockets their evasion by a factor of "probably Polka's entire Evasion score". Against enemies depending on physical attacks, Blink is the best spell you could ask for on a frontliner hoping to mitigate attacks.



In classic FF1, Blink/RUSE was still this good, but it was also limited in who could cast it. Prior to promotion, only a White Mage could learn Blink, and you're usually better off keeping them off the frontline entirely rather than relying on Blink (save for solo runs, of course, where it's a staple spell). After promotion, it becomes accessible to Knights (who will instantly grab it) and Red Wizards (who might be bothered if they're frontlining for some reason). Compare that paltry selection to the availability in Mod of Balance, and you'll find yourself getting Blink on a lot more characters than usual!



So yeah, Blink is good. So is Sleep, as seen here.

Ogre Chief
HP: 140
Damage: 26
Accuracy: 68
Defense: 20
Agility: 15
Intelligence: 5
Evasion: 17
Magic Defense: 33
Rewards: 105 gil, 282 EXP, Axe
Weaknesses: Time, Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Confusion, Mind

The usual upgrade recolor, most notable for no longer being weak to Sleep. Since they're commonly encounter with other Ogres and their resistance isn't the best, you'll still have pretty solid success with it anyway. Don't forget, both Ogres and the Chiefs now inflict Sleep themselves with their attacks!



There's our goal.



Mount Duergar isn't a location you need to visit more than once or twice in a run, but it's still super important for a lot of reasons.



First, of course, is that the dwarves here are great. Rock and stone, brother!



Second: some armor and money. The armor is just money with delayed gratification baked in for our party.



Third: the dwarves are great, and give a lot of really useful clues about some mysteries in the game, ranging from our immediate problems to endgame.

  • Not content with messing with the elves, Astos stole the crystal eye of Matoya the witch. Don't know why! Astos is just a jerk like that!
  • Two of the dwarves are working on different projects here. Smyth, as his name indicates, is working on smithing up a sword of legend, but he needs some adamantite for the finishing touches.
  • The other, Nerrick, is trying to blast some rock apart at that narrow land bridge north of Western Keep. The aim is to make a canal that leads out of the Aldean Sea, but he doesn't have the nitro powder he needs.
  • Another dwarf is looking for levistone, a material that apparently hovers on its own!



Buddy, I hate to break it to you, but armlets were removed from Mod of Balance. I know, they were super good body slot armor, but they're not here anymore.



Man when we get that key we're going on a pillaging spree.



Anyway, to tackle Marsh Cave, we need supplies.



Red hitting spell level 3 is the first step. With that, they can learn Fira (which will hands-down kill any encounter in Marsh Cave) and Warp (which will eliminate the threat of getting jumped while backtracking).



Some healing items would be good too. Polka's middling Intellect means that their spells are frequently less useful than just throwing back a potion (or in an emergency, having Red throw an Elven Balm).



Those Buccaneers dropped a Saber, though, which I'll happily take.



Here's our stuff as it currently stands. All of that equipment is getting sold, of course.



Fira we get here, naturally. Warp we'll grab on the return to Elfheim (and we'll be careful to save 500 gil for it).



I also get Heal and NulShock for Polka. Heal is mostly just to have it, the Intellect penalty is still very real, but NulShock will be highly useful.



Hey remember when I said I'd save money for Warp? What if I forgot what button was what and bought a Venom Dagger instead? Haha what a whoopsie.



Yeah hit that elemental weakness Red. Great. I'll sell it later and try not to think about how much gil I just wasted.



Fortunately, I can still get Warp.



I see the wilderness is stepping up its game.

Ghast
HP: 80
Damage: 14
Accuracy: 33
Defense: 10
Agility: 23
Intelligence: 3
Evasion: 18
Magic Defense: 29
Rewards: 28 gil, 146 EXP, Chain Mail
Weaknesses: Fire, Dia
Resistances: Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

Remember Ghasts? No? Well, they're about to make a big impression, despite statwise being fast Zombies. For whatever reason, the dev decided to give them the Fire and Thunder spells (although they generally prefer Thunder). At their current Intelligence, that doesn't really mean a lot. However, them casting does mean undodgeable, significant damage. NulShock is suddenly worthwhile to learn early on, thanks to these jokers!



In case you skipped the spoilerpop: YEAH GHASTS GET TO CAST SPELLS FOR SOME REASON.



Given their preference for Thunder, I have Polka throw up a NulShock.



My Fire is better nurd



I forgot a thing I wanted, so I'm going back to town, and also using the inn, so enjoy this overkill.



FWOOSHING NOISES



Yeah. Pain will still do perfectly for most encounters with half the MP, although it won't guaranteed kill everything in the fight. Fira is what you use this early if you don't want to even risk mop-up.



Again, Ghast magic isn't super deadly, this sort of hit doesn't worry me, but it is undodgeable. Vahn and Rondo survived a lot of early fights simply by not being hit, which they can't do against Ghasts.



Oh and Ghasts can still attack twice and inflict poison, so here's Slow.



You don't get a visual indicator of debuffs on the enemy, just a little MISS popup if it doesn't affect them.



Oh, and for some reason I cast Dia in this fight.



This is Polka hitting an elemental weakness with a spell. It's not bad, really, and Dia being what it is, it will always hit a weakness, but suffice it to say that any Intellect boosting items we get are going to them.



Okay, Marsh Cave. It's past this mountain range and then down south. Don't just go left here, it's a dead end.



I spent all of the first update dunking on Rondo, now I guess it's Polka's turn.



That's your Heal spell, huh?



Hey look, a topic change!



Rondo hits spell level 2, which doesn't sound that exciting until you remember that this means they can learn Pummel.



Polka hits spell level 3, which doesn't sound that exciting, and is also not exciting. We'll get a spell we won't cast until we're out of Marsh Cave and fill out the rest of their list when we feel like it.



Anyway, that's later. Now is Marsh Cave time.



And by that I mean our first pass into Marsh Cave. Yeah I forgot to grab Mind Balms. Go away.



Marsh Cave's infamous reputation largely comes from its set of monsters. As an actual dungeon, it's not too bad. You can go north for some treasures, or south to get the crown.



Yeah that's the Marsh Cave welcome party right there. Each of those Ghouls is a chance to stun a party member, and remember, in this mod, status effects like stun persist out of fights!



Polka got stunned before Fira went off, so that's unfortunate.



The rest of Marsh Cave's enemy list is mostly okay.

Shadow
HP: 33
Damage: 10
Accuracy: 17
Defense: 0
Agility: 18
Intelligence: 12
Evasion: 99
Magic Defense: 37
Rewards: 11 gil, 90 EXP, Mind Balm
Weaknesses: Dia
Resistances: Quake, Ice, Stone, Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

On paper, Shadows are all-or-nothing foes, almost always showing up either in an ambush or a preemptive attack, sporting absurd evasion for this stage of the game, and packing a blinding effect on their own attacks. In practice, their raw stats are so unthreatening, especially their pitiful accuracy, that you can sleepwalk through a party of Shadows and come out completely fine.



Focus is what you use in a Shadow fight if it's too tedious and you don't feel like casting Dia (or are unable to).



I use this fight to buy enough time for Polka to heal from the stun, earning Vahn a Blind effect in exchange. That's fine honestly.



The stairs to the next floor down are very easy to access.



There's two different areas of the second floor, and most of you who are used to the base game might go "yeah whatever Marsh Cave's treasure broadly sucks".



In Mod of Balance, this is not the case. There is no such thing as a dud chest unless it's already opened.



The Venom Dagger is really good for some characters, but due to accidentally wasting my gil on one, I'm not quite ready to forgive it yet. Give it a while. (Also Marsh Cave doesn't have many poison-weak foes anyway.)



Y'all know these jerks, right?

Green Slime
HP: 12
Damage: 11
Accuracy: 5
Defense: 110
Agility: 0
Intelligence: 3
Evasion: 1
Magic Defense: 190
Rewards: 7 gil, 84 EXP, Protect Drink
Weaknesses: Fire, Ice
Resistances: Quake, Lightning, Stone, Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

No, that Defense stat is not a typo. Green Slimes are completely designed to hard wall any physical attacker, and can even absorb a full assault from Vahn effortlessly. While they can poison you if they hit, their attacks are so completely useless that you can spend as much time as you want running away if they're the only threats to handle. Which should be your gameplan for them, honestly, unless you want to throw Fira for an instant win at no threat to you.



Either scorch 'em or ignore them. I chose the former, but only because this fight spawned four and that's some good XP.



Meet the second-meanest enemy in the random encounter tables here.

Gargoyle
HP: 55
Damage: 11
Accuracy: 24
Defense: 25
Agility: 23
Intelligence: 11
Evasion: 45
Magic Defense: 101
Rewards: 21 gil, 132 EXP, Great Helm
Weaknesses: Dia
Resistances: Quake, Stone, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind

Gargoyles might not be able to completely shut off your entire team, but they're durable, hit decently hard and attack multiple times, can inflict silence, and have only a vulnerability to Dia. If you don't have Dia (or again, can't cast it) at least try to get a Slow in there. Consider that MP an investment to actually keep your MP supply available for later use.



Marsh Cave's encounters really are just like that. One moment you're getting bodied by Ghouls or Gargoyles, the next you're laughing because a Green Slime or Shadow ambush happened.



Money in this mod, again, has mostly been balanced so that random encounters don't give much, but treasure chests do. I can see why people call this overly punishing, but to me, it just sweetens the prize even more, knowing that every chest I see could be a potential gamechanger.



Anyway, this floor isn't very big. One good clockwise or counterclockwise sweep should get you to every treasure.



Got a Protect Drink from some Green Slimes. This beverage applies a significant defense boost to whichever ally you use it on. Might be good for putting on Vahn or Rondo in a boss fight, or even Polka.



Not bad. If you have a party who can use a Broadsword, you probably already bought one in Pravoka, but A: maybe you didn't, and B: maybe you have multiple people who can wield it but only could afford one. The other chest here just holds money.



The skeletons return with some new friends!

Crawler
HP: 85
Damage: 5
Accuracy: 19
Defense: 6
Agility: 21
Intelligence: 5
Evasion: 24
Magic Defense: 41
Rewards: 45 gil, 186 EXP, Speed Plus
Weaknesses: Poison

If you ever needed a reason to use the Venom Dagger down here, Crawlers are it. Their stats don't seem threatening until you realize they can make as many as 8 attacks, each one capable of blinding you! Granted, with that low of accuracy, few of those attacks will hit, but they're still dangerous. Oh, and check it out: our first rando enemy that can drop stat boosters, if I'm not mistaken!

Bloodbones
HP: 166
Damage: 30
Accuracy: 52
Defense: 16
Agility: 21
Intelligence: 9
Evasion: 68
Magic Defense: 76
Rewards: 188 gil, 378 EXP, Falchion
Weaknesses: Fire, Dia
Resistances: Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

Bloodbones are a serious upgrade compared to their recolor base. Durable enough to potentially survive even a Fira from Red, with plenty of power, accuracy, and evasion, Bloodbones is a threat you can't ignore. But you also need to be careful about leaving allies alive, because Bloodbones know the Temper spell! Pick your poison: have them kill you directly, or have them sauce up the now-threatening allies in the fight?



Nothing else of note happens on this floor, and I do want some Mind Balms before I chance the other branch, so up we go.



Once on the first floor, I test out the Warp spell.



Some FF1 NES player is looking at this image and tripping endorphins they didn't even know they had.



Warp is super convenient in dungeons, but on the overworld, we're still stuck with legging it. And Mind Balms aren't sold in Elfheim, so we get to sail all the way to dang ol' Cornelia again.



Not all bad, though. We grab our first martial art technique for Rondo!



We can also sell off all this cool garbage we found.



Let's see what animation this uses.



Oh neat, it's one of the Gaze animations, the one that just did damage!



Well hot damn. Rondo just went from "yeah sure they have spells" to spike damage on par with Red with that spell. Still no area damage potential (and yes, I say this knowing full well we're getting Pain for Rondo) but now we can save Red's MP for crowd control, and let Rondo magically delete single foes.



Woooooo



While I'm browsing everyone's inventory, a thought occurs to me: knives in this mod boost Agility, right? Which, in turn, influences number of attacks, right?



Yeah Rondo's good now. Sure, that's 5 points of raw damage lost, but an extra attack, good evasion and crit chance, plus the actually-good Poison element on top of that? I will gladly take that.



Look at they go!



Anyway, some spells. NulBlaze and Cura for Polka, neither of which is exciting, but they're both good additions.



For some reason, this is an encounter you can have outside Pravoka.



EH MAY AS WELL



Okay we're good, let's go finish Marsh Cave.



I'm going this waaaaaay!



Not that way, though. There's just a large enough dead end to make you think it's worth investigating, but it isn't.



Treasure?



Nope, path down.



Marsh Cave, second floor, second take, action!



First Mind Balm!



Treasure?



Nope. Don't 100% know why, but the chests on this floor are all opened. I remember some apocryphal bit of rumor about this, that the chests are actually keyed to the same items in either branch, so you can get, say, the Broadsword on either branch, but it then "disappears" from its partner in the other branch. Do not take this as truth because I don't have a source and don't feel like looking it up. Besides, someone reading this is already writing the actual answer.



In any case, go through this weird double door building to progress.



The third floor is our goal, both for mega loot stashes and for the actual plot token.



Some of it is consumables, but actually-good consumables.



Die out of my way.



Oh cool, Spider's Silk. This consumable item casts the Slow spell at no cost to the user!



More money, fewer problems. Never quite got why they thought it was the other way around, to be honest.



Oh, that's a new one.

Scorpion
HP: 68
Damage: 24
Accuracy: 44
Defense: 8
Agility: 27
Intelligence: 6
Evasion: 53
Magic Defense: 24
Rewards: 35 gil, 235 EXP, Antidote
Weaknesses: Time, Sleep, Confusion, Mind

Bigger, more chitinous Cobras. They have greater accuracy and more attacks, so poison is almost a guarantee here, but if you didn't pack Poisona by now that's your own damn fault.



Can't really say anything about that fight, we got a preemptive on some squishy foes and tore them apart.



I CAN say exciting things about this level. Vahn and Red both went up a spell level, so now Vahn can learn Chakra and Pummel, and Red can learn every level 4 black magic spell except Qi Strike!



Okay.

Gray Ooze
HP: 88
Damage: 21
Accuracy: 23
Defense: 7
Agility: 2
Intelligence: 2
Evasion: 6
Magic Defense: 55
Rewards: 15 gil, 255 EXP, Strength Tonic
Weaknesses: Lightning
Resistances: Quake, Fire, Ice, Stone, Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

Why do these guys give out such high rewards for how unthreatening they are? Why are they named Gray Ooze when they are quite clearly blue? Why are they resistant to everything except Lightning, when they barely have the HP or Defense for that to matter? These are the mysteries of the Gray Ooze, none of which I will bother investigating beyond this point.



You ever just pull an entire cottage out of a treasure chest?

Cottages are inn stays on the overworld. They're nice.



I might have overestimated Marsh Cave somewhat, but I don't regret having a surplus of Mind Balms. I know what comes next.



Noice. That goes straight to Red, especially since Polka has actual body armor, unlike everyone else still trucking around in their starting Robe.



Oh, this is the danger box. Save before you approach this one.



Fun fact: when trying to spring bosses on you without prior plot reasoning, the FF1 engine just traps some squares and says "you're getting an encounter here, you can't run from it, chew on it." So despite this transition looking like any other fight transition, this is a miniboss!



Like the Pirates, these guys don't get a full video.

Piscodemon
HP: 95
Damage: 24
Accuracy: 62
Defense: 16
Agility: 33
Intelligence: 18
Evasion: 66
Magic Defense: 77
Rewards: 80 gil, 322 EXP, Mythril Knife
Weaknesses: Dia
Resistances: Fire, Ice, Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind

Despite their appearances, the Piscodemons don't wield any magic. For all intents and purposes, they're just another big chunky foe, somewhere between Garland and Bikke's pirates in terms of the threat they're meant to pose. Notably, they're incredibly resistant to almost every kind of magic you're expected to wield at this point in the game, save for Dia (which they're weak to) and Thunder (which they're neutral to). As you can see from the screenshot aove, they're absolutely boss caliber.



The most important thing to do with the Piscodemon fight is to end it quickly. If I had Thundara as well as Fira, and knew the Piscodemons wouldn't shrug it off, that'd honestly be a turn 1 win. Fortunately, stacking Fira and Dia does plenty of damage too, and in the meantime, Vahn and Rondo need to keep each other standing and get their Blink spells off.



Given Polka's track record with healing, I just have Rondo chuck a potion at Vahn.



Besides, Dia is a better use of their MP right now.



Noice. Now we can fix the Western Keep!



Strength Tonics are just Protect Tonics with a different polarity.



Given how we came out of that fight mostly okay and still have MP for Warp, I take the risk of looking for more treasure.



The entire bottom row of the cave is off-limits for now, though. We'll be back with that key!



I love Warp.



Let's tent up outside and heal before we return to civilization. Wouldn't do to die in a bog after retrieving the crown, y'know?



Gonna sell ALL THIS STUFF with the possible exception of the Nunchaku. Rondo's agility might reach a point where we can get three attacks with it soon.



Blizzara for Red. The other two spells are expensive and kind of situational.



Chakra for Vahn. That oughta solve our biggest healing woes.



Mute for Polka because reasons.



OUT OF MY WAY ZAMBONIS



Yeah yeah shut up



Expardon me?



Ohhhhhh yeah that actually makes a lot of sense how nobody mentioned a king still residing in Western Keep huh.



Astos shifts to his true form!



Yeah yeah you're gonna claim the true elven sovereignty or whatever. Let's tussle.



Let's tussle, but maybe this time, Polka can stick the Mute.


Astos
Dark Elf Usurper

HP: 666
Damage: 25
Accuracy: 72
Defense: 15
Agility: 39
Intelligence: 13
Evasion: 61
Magic Defense: 124
Rewards: 1500 gil, 2250 EXP, Magical Robe
Weaknesses: Dia

Physically speaking, Astos is roughly on par with the Piscodemons we just fought. Unlike the Piscodemons, though, Astos has a huge amount of spells and techniques available to him. With access to Fira, Thundara, and Sleep at the very least, any time Astos gets a turn free to cast is a turn you might have to Heal everyone up or just flat out bite it. Even if you do Silence him (which is possible but not a guarantee), Astos still has some tricks available, including Icestorm to deal some area damage, and Poison Darts to attempt to poison your entire party.

Your strategy for Astos varies sharply depending on whether you can land a Mute spell or not. Left free to cast, Astos' raw magical power will destroy your team without nearly constant healing, forcing the rest of your team to pile on as much offense as they can when not keeping themselves afloat. Higher HP characters can weather more spells in sequence, while those that have been relying on dodging up until now (like us) are far more dependent on outright negating those spells with Mute (and with multiple elements available, you can't rely on a Nul spell to offset the difference). Astos denied of their spells is still dangerous, but not significantly moreso than the Piscodemons.



Mine now, Matoya's in like ten.

Next Time: Yipes! Peoples!
 
Last edited:

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
I believe the Marsh Cave chest explanation you gave is the correct one, more or less. Chest state is governed by event flags like most RPGs, so it's probably something like the chests in both wings reference the same set of flags.
 

nosimpleway

(he/him)
Need a boss battle to guard the crown? Why not Zoidberg?

I've always liked Astos's single purple-and-yellow horn. It looks like he's wearing a little party hat.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
I believe the Marsh Cave chest explanation you gave is the correct one, more or less. Chest state is governed by event flags like most RPGs, so it's probably something like the chests in both wings reference the same set of flags.
Both the original NES version of FF1 and the remakes had these "linked chests" in a bunch of places. Opening one empties them both.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
In RPGs, I believe it goes "mo' problems, mo' money."
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I am trying to remember if the chest thing is a bug or was a consequence of the limited memory on the original NES. (Which makes me wonder why they weren't changed in the remakes. Which also makes me wonder whether the remakes used the original code as their basis or if they were made with all new code based on the original design.)
 

Kalir

Do you require aid.
(whatevs)


Trekking back to Matoya requires a lot of distance, but not a lot of danger, so let's breeze on through.



Oh, and grab another level, why not.



Level 11 marks the point where Rondo can get 3 hits off of the Nunchaku as well as the Venom Dagger, meaning the Venom Dagger is no longer the straight upgrade it used to be. We'll hang onto it anyway, just in case we meet a troublesome foe that needs poison damage.



There's a dock just south of Matoya's Cave, remember.



Anyway, this here kicks off the entire sequence of events that gets us out of the Aldean Sea.



As thanks for retriving the crystal eye, we get...



This thing! It'll probably work on the elven prince, right?



Ain't here to look pretty for you.



apply the medical gatorade



The jolt tonic has to be bottled with tinted glass, specifically so it doesn't radiate heat all over the place while out and about.



But hey, can't knock the results.



Hello we are the Warriors of Light and now we're going to hunt



TREASURE



So, there's a few different places we need the Mystic Key to unlock, as follows and roughly in order of difficulty to access:

  • The treasure room in the Elven Castle.
  • The treasure room in Cornelia Castle.
  • The treasure room in Mount Duergar.
  • The right half of the Chaos Shrine.
  • Astos' vault in the Western Keep.
  • The bottom row of rooms in Marsh Cave B3.



Naturally, we start with the Elven Castle. The only new thing in here is the Mythril Hammer, everything else is either gil or the already-seen-and-unusable Bronze Gloves.

Mythril Hammer
A hammer wrought from mythril.

Damage: 19
Accuracy: 8
Critical Rate: 5
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Priest, Battlemage

The Hammer, except bigger. For us, it's useless, of course, but it's a considerable upgrade for a Priest that doesn't want to use a staff for better healing, or anyone who's fine with sacrificing some accuracy for raw power.



Woooooo Polka's Heal can break the teens values.



I'd like to get the harder-to-reach treasures next, which means starting with Western Keep, now with encounters.



Including some new friends, of course.

Mummy
HP: 70
Damage: 25
Accuracy: 49
Defense: 18
Agility: 12
Intelligence: 16
Evasion: 22
Magic Defense: 38
Rewards: 89 gil, 300 EXP, Crosier
Weaknesses: Fire, Dia
Resistances: Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

Especially chunky undead, whose attacks can inflict Darkness. And since they attack in packs, they're a strong disincentive for trying to explore Western Keep before Marsh Cave. Still, we can take them now.



To get to the treasure room, we have to loop back around Astos' throne room.



This specific square is spiked, specifically to bait people who just book it straight for the chests. Go around it if you don't want a fight.



We'll be fiiiiine.

Wraith
HP: 90
Damage: 22
Accuracy: 27
Defense: 4
Agility: 45
Intelligence: 8
Evasion: 63
Magic Defense: 68
Rewards: 48 gil, 231 EXP, Venom Dagger
Weaknesses: Dia
Resistances: Quake, Ice, Stone, Paralysis, Poison, Darkness, Sleep, Silence, Confusion, Mind, Death

About as dangerous as Mummies, but they trade raw toughness for agility, and are capable of casting Blizzard. A non-issue if you've been able to use Dia to clear out encounters, but they might do some damage to your frontliner if they're left alive for too long.



Five or so Blizzards, aimed primarily at Vahn...



At this rate, it's barely survivable.



BARELY.



The chests hold a Falchion, some Steel Gloves, and a Power Staff that goes right into Red's eager hands. Polka could equip the Falchion, but I think lighter weapons suit them slightly more for now (and once we finish this whirlwind tour the Falchion will be soundly outclassed).



Anyway, back on down to Marsh Cave next.



From left to right, every single chest here is spiked.



This one is different though!

Anaconda
HP: 75
Damage: 22
Accuracy: 41
Defense: 5
Agility: 18
Intelligence: 11
Evasion: 73
Magic Defense: 21
Rewards: 15 gil, 165 EXP, Luck Plus
Weaknesses: Ice

Anacondas would be extremely dangerous encountered early in Marsh Cave and absolutely crumple as soon as your caster hits them with an area spell. We have an Archmage with Blizzara, so they're even more of a pushover. They might have a status effect on their attacks, I wouldn't know.



Enjoy Blizzara while you can, I'm not likely to cast it for a While.



Absolutely disintegrated.



Cool, we'll give that to Vahn.



The stat boost is okay, but the real prize here is giving Vahn paralysis resistance heading into the next area.



The other spiked squares around here just have Piscodemons as usual. It's a good place for Rondo to bust out the Pummel spell since it's guaranteed high single-target damage, at least.



Prior to this point, Red's attack was less of an attack and more of "I want to pass the turn instead of spending MP on this encounter". With the Power Staff on deck, we can actually deal more than 2 damage, sometimes!



Again, this would be great for parties that aren't this one.



This room empty. I don't even think it has spiked squares.



Last one and then we can leave Marsh Cave FOREVER



Yeah dogg



Popping back to Elfheim, I sell off everything we can't use from our haul, ending up with enough money to improve our loadout a bit. Skipping equipment for now, since we still have more treasure to go.



Fleshing out Red's spell list for level 4. We still don't have Thundara, we'll need to backtrack to Pravoka for that one.



Castle Cornelia is next.



Most of the weapons in here aren't useful, just a Longsword and a Mythril Knife, but this Iron Nunchaku? Yeah that's going straight to Rondo.



The other side holds a useless Iron Armor and Iron Shield set, but it also holds nitro powder! If you recall, Nerrick over at Mount Duergar wanted some to blast open a canal out of the Aldean Sea.



On our way to the Chaos Shrine, we find what's supposed to be the out-of-depth encounter for the start of the game.

Crazy Horse
HP: 60
Damage: 10
Accuracy: 27
Defense: 2
Agility: 11
Intelligence: 4
Evasion: 44
Magic Defense: 8
Rewards: 6 gil, 94 EXP, Mind Balm
Weaknesses: Poison

At the stage you are expected to encounter it, the Crazy Horse is an incredibly evasive foe with a lot of health and enough power to win a prolonged fight, or at least expect you to use some magic to even the odds. Rondo can overkill it twice over in one turn with the Iron Nunchaku.



Anyway, Chaos Shrine. The encounters here are trivial to defeat by now, so we just gotta get the loot and leave.



Bearing in mind the spiked squares with Gargoyles guarding the good stuff, guv'nor.



Make no mistake, though, it is indeed the Good Stuff.



The Rune Blade is light enough for Polka to wield and packs some seriously nice stats compared to their boring old Saber.



North end has two chests, although I'm not as excited for either of them as I am for the Rune Blade.



Still.

Werebuster
A sword effective against werebeasts.

Damage: 20
Accuracy: 10
Critical Rate: 5
Slaying: Were
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

The Werebuster is a strong sword on its base stats alone, for where we are. Too heavy for Polka, but still fine as an actual weapon. Wereslaying, though, is almost completely useless as a flag: there is only one, to my knowledge, enemy with the Were tag in this game past this point, and we haven't needed any help dealing with Werewolves yet. Not to mention, by the time we DO find a new Were enemy, we'd have to be desperate to switch to a weapon with Werebuster's stats.



The Holy Water is a consumable item that casts Diara, which if you recall how the spell rebalancing went, is actually Diaga as a 5th level spell. We'll hang onto it for Red to use in case there's a swarm of undead and we're low on MP.



AYYYY FINALLY



Spell checkup!

Vahn's spell list remains tiny, but potent. Blink and Chakra makes them an extremely self-sufficient tank, and Pummel gives them a reliable option for breaking down the rare enemy their fists can't touch normally. Focus is also here. The major issue here is Vahn's low MP, which will remain an issue throughout the game.



Rondo's spell list is a little fancier, but not by much. Fire is already soundly outclassed by Pummel, even factoring in elemental weaknesses. Most of this spell list is kind of weak outside of Pummel and Blink, honestly, although they have some niche uses.



In Rondo's case, the weakness of their spell list is handily overcome by their agility and physical firepower. Polka has almost as much agility and better armor, but their spell list has to be designed around their weaker Intellect gain compared to a raw caster, at least to a degree. Still, lots of their spells, especially the Nul spells, are useful to this party no matter what, so this kit is pretty reliable in general.



Red remains the undisputed magical champ of this party. Strong area damage, the best status effects in the game, they're starting to get into the buffing business, and they can even get us out of dangerous places with Warp for very cheap. And as we've seen so far, they'll get levels faster than anyone, reaching spell level 8 likely when the next closest contender, Polka, is still toying around with spell level 6.



Zapped.



This is our last stop in the Aldean Sea.



So many boxen!



Most of this is consumables or money, but there are three new pieces of gear to look forward to if you aren't this party.

Great Helm
A helm that covers the entire head.

Slot: Head
Defense: 8
Weight: 8
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

Bigger and heavier Helm. It's not very exciting, but neither is safety, and that's important too.



Oh hell-O there.

Wyrmkiller
A sword effective against dragons.

Damage: 17
Accuracy: 18
Critical Rate: 12
Agility: 1
Slaying: Dragon
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

Wyrmkiller used to be another sword you'd throw on the pile, but likely not actually touch due to the versatility of Rune Blade on characters that could use it. In Mod of Balance, though, it's the Rune Blade with the lowest stats, the Werebuster with the highest, and the Wyrmkiller being sort of middle of the road. Unfortunately, while dragons aren't exactly a rare enemy type, we're not likely to run into many for a while, again making the slaying property somewhat less useful.



And some armor or something

Mythril Mail
Mail crafted from mythril.

Slot: Body
Defense: 20
Weight: 12
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

Mythril gear, in large part, is much more available than other types of gear in that category. It is still entirely unusable by this party.



And now for the greatest treasure of all:



HEAVY DEMOLITIONS.



Nerrick does a spin and a hop and gets right to work.



Hey whatcha doin can we see



OH PARDON ME



The party runs away up the tunnel as far as they can.



We get about this far before the festivities begin.



Hm... that's an okay view, but can we zoom in, get it a little more cinematic?



Perfect.



The explosives tear through the earth, splintering massive chunks of it off into the ocean!



And now we can leave the Aldean Sea and go get some dang crystals restored to grace!



We leave Nerrick to his spinjumping celebrations and hightail it to our boat.



Say, what's that whirlpool?



Remember Earthgift Shrine way back in like the first gameplay update?



Here's another one!



They tried to fold all of these dungeons into the existing lore somehow, which doesn't really make a lot of sense when you enter them, but hey, they tried.



No entry until we do something about this big stinky statue though.



This town is closest so we'll dock here. Nothing keeping us from passing it and sailing all the way to the river-slashed mountain down southeast except the encounters, though.



Oh hey, wasn't there a refugee from this place back in Pravoka?



That'd make sense.

  • Melmond used to be a verdant paradise, receiving the blessings of the Crystal of Earth from its location in the Cavern of Earth, on the Devil's Tail peninsula to the west.
  • However, a vampire has appeared in the Cavern of Earth, blocking the Crystal's power and rendering everything from here to there a barren wasteland. To add insult to injury, they've lead hordes of undead to ravage Melmond directly.
  • As a direct gameplay result, Melmond has no church to revive our guys, nor an item shop to restock at.
  • A civilization to the north had apparently mastered flight-capable vehicles in the past, but that civilization has long since collapsed and fallen into ruin.
  • The south part of the Melmond continent is apparently home to a sage by the name of Sadda.
  • A giant that has a culinary fondness for gems, especially rubies, resides in a cave to the west.
  • There's a self-proclaimed "genius scholar" named Dr. Unne here, but they refuse to teach us anything except who they are right now.



Right, now for the shops. For some reason, the weapon shop in Melmond specializes in axes. It also carries Mythril Hammers and Mythril Knives.

Viking Axe
An axe once wielded by vikings.

Damage: 24
Accuracy: 15
Critical Rate: 5
Evasion: -10
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

As far as axes go, the Viking Axe is a pretty reliable choice, particularly if your character doesn't rely on dodging to survive enemy attacks. Which, given the classes that can wield it, is pretty much a guarantee, save for the Ranger.

Great Axe
A large axe made for battle.

Damage: 25
Accuracy: 2
Critical Rate: 3
Agility: -2
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

Conversely, the Great Axe is an excellent choice for the Ranger, who has enough innate boosts to accuracy and Agility to ignore the relative weaknesses here in exchange for the higher power. It's also cheaper than the Viking Axe. That said, the power increase isn't THAT much, so it's more a matter of how much you care about your evasion score and whether you're close enough to an attack increase from Agility.

Mythril Axe
An axe wrought from mythril.

Damage: 28
Accuracy: 10
Critical Rate: 4
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

The luxury axe, highly desired by anyone capable of equipping it. Costs a lot though, so you might have to wait until your spell selection is where you want it if your casters can use Melmond's shops.

Mythril Sword
A sword wrought from mythril.

Damage: 23
Accuracy: 16
Critical Rate: 8
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

The Mythril Sword basically exists to keep the Rogue from feeling left out. Everyone else that can equip the Mythril Sword has other axe-based options they would rather have.

Great Sword
A sword effective against giants.

Damage: 30
Accuracy: 5
Critical Rate: 3
Agility: -1
Slaying: Giant
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Battlemage

Yo what if we made a sword that was actually an axe? Giantslaying is honestly a pretty decent tag, there's a lot of enemies throughout the game that count as giants. This is, of course, the most expensive option in Melmond's store.



Yo do you guys like Mana



Next up, the black magic shop, only just out of Red's reach for now.

Firaga
Deals heavy fire damage to all enemies.

MP Cost: 20
Availability: Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Battlemage

From level 5 onward, the thunder element spells move out from the fire spells' apartment, leaving Firaga as what would ordinarily be the sole elemental attack spell for this level. We will, of course, get it as soon as we can, this'll prove very useful throughout the Cavern of Earth.

Scourge
Deals heavy poison damage to all enemies.

MP Cost: 18
Availability: Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

Scourge used to be the first of many situational and frankly useless instakill spells. After all, why waste time rolling the dice on lethality when A: it doesn't work on anything big enough to warrant it, and B: you get Firaga literally the same level to clear out encounters? Well, now Scourge is just a straight up area damage spell (and available to Rangers where Firaga isn't)! Remember, poison works best on humanoids and non-venomous beasts!

Stun
Attempts to stun one enemy.

MP Cost: 9
Availability: Monk, Sage, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

It's very easy to dismiss Stun under the same grounds as we would have dismissed the instakill version of Scourge. DO NOT DO THIS. Even some bosses can be tagged with Stun, turning them from terrifying setpieces into hilariously trivial punching bags. And while paralysis resistance helps, it is NOT a guarantee anymore! Red is getting this, and Rondo probably is too once they get high enough in level.

Haste
Cures Slow and doubles the attack count of an ally.

MP Cost: 25
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Archmage, Ninja, Ranger, Battlemage

The big dog of offensive buffs. Nothing skyrockets your damage output quite like the ol' Haste spell. And lucky us, we have three possible candidates who can cast it! Red might give it a pass due to the rest of the very strong spells for this level, but Rondo's taking it for sure, and we'll have to check the white magic store to see if Polka wants it.



Hmmmm...

Curaga
Administers serious healing to one ally.

MP Cost: 14
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Priest

Ordinarily, you'd snag Curaga as one of your two first spells here and never look back. Bigger healing is exactly what you picked a white magic user for, after all. But on this party, with Polka's only average Intellect, everyone except Vahn having low enough HP that Cura will still likely do the trick, and Vahn having Chakra? Yeah we're gonna skip Curaga this run!

Life
Restores one teammate to life at 1 health.

MP Cost: 16
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest

We're definitely getting the Life spell. Getting eight Phoenix Downs for the most common status effect in the game is simply not enough, especially when it's super easy to reapply midfight.

Diara
Deals heavy damage to all undead/evil enemies.

MP Cost: 15
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Priest

Diara is a marked jump up in potency compared to the Dia spell, on par with Firaga for raw damage. We miiight get it? Depends on how Polka's healing capability with Healara shapes up, really. If we don't see much improvement, we'll leave Diara and just load up Polka with buffs, that's fun too.

Protera
Increases the defense of all allies.

MP Cost: 20
Availability: Monk, Sage, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

As soon as you get Protera, you will never bother to cast Protect again. Well, unless you need to spot defend a squishy character and are low on MP or something, but if that situation ever comes up, there's still so many other better spells you could cast (Curaga and Clarity both come to mind). Anyway, partywide defense boost, you love to see it, great for physical foes that you can't rely on evasion for.



Armor shop doesn't have much that's new, but some of it is. We've seen the Mythril Mail, Iron Armor, Watchman Mail, Iron Shield, Great Helm, and Steel Gloves, leaving us with...

Mythril Shield
A shield crafted from mythril.

Slot: Shield
Defense: 8
Evasion: 6
Availability: Knight, Rogue, Enchanter, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

Shield upgrade for Polka, wooooo! It's also going to be a nice shield upgrade for a lot of your team on a run that doesn't use our characters. Seriously, the Mythril Shield is very accessible.

Mythril Helm
A helm wrought from mythril.

Slot: Head
Defense: 10
Weight: 5
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

The Mythril Helm makes the Great Helm look like terrible garbage. It's much more lightweight and available to Priests where the Great Helm was not. Sure, it's a little more expensive, but you can still get one, I won't stop you.

Mythril Gloves
Gloves made of mythril.

Slot: Gloves
Defense: 6
Weight: 3
Availability: Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Priest, Battlemage

Mythril Gloves : Steel Gloves :: Mythril Helm : Great Helm.



Let's end this update with a look at everyone's gear.

Vahn has had all of one gear upgrade since kitting out in Cornelia. They still have higher defense than everyone else in the party and it's not even close.



Rondo's actually starting to get better than Vahn at killing things, armed as they are with the powerful Iron Nunchaku. Sure, they can't take a hit to save their life, but with their naturally high evasion, further bolstered by their new Buckler, when are they ever gonna get hit?



I've been downplaying Polka's ability to heal, and rightly so, but I do have to establish that they really aren't that far behind Vahn or Rondo as a physical character. Their defenses are at the midpoint for the two of them, and being literally the only person in the party that can wield real weapons (for now) gives them a major leg up when it comes to fighting enemies we can tag the weaknesses of.



Red will never be a physical character of note, but they're not exactly a pushover. When they aren't annihilating entire squads of foes with raw magical potential, the Power Staff lets them contribute slightly noticeable damage (and don't forget, it has slaying bonuses built in, uncommon though they are). Silence resistance off of the Bard's Tunic is the best thing their gear provides for them.

Next Time: Mmmm! Nothing tastier than rubies!
 
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