Finished playing right now and I wanted to share my thoughts on the hack:
First of all, I really liked the overall lenght of the hack and I personally think that shorter stories are able to make someone invested on them faster. I don’t think it really creates balancing problems if you handle late game recruitment well, which I think you did.
As a general thought for all chapters, but more apparent in the mid to late game, enemy attack stats are quite volatile, with shaky hitrates but a lot of damage. I think this creates a problem where dodgetanking becomes too risky as a character like Matly dies in 2 unlucky hits but a tankier character like Godfrey and Aars still take 10+ damage from the same enemies but with more consistent hitrates. This makes the hack way more player phase focused than it should be and enemy phase is just a “brace for impact” if you didn’t kill everyone on player phase. Enemy crits were also a thing during the entire game and, as mentioned in a reply above, luck is pretty low. You could very well just lose a character to a 11 damage 7% crit and reset the map since there are no true “replacement” units due to the lenght of the game.
Now for the chapters:
The hack starts out pretty simple, all the enemies being axe users make so that Domino starts out feeling strong and also eases up on Matly who can die pretty easily. I like the idea of splitting up the party right at the beggining and Matly and Bayleas arrive at a good time to help clearing up the enemies near the village. Only thing I would change would be swapping Domino’s and Matly’s swords to better fit their classes.
Chapter 2 is a great chapter overall, I think the side objectives were one of the best parts of this hack but the villages and Godfrey are really well designed. Aars (who became an absolute god in my playthrough) joins pretty weak and in a point where most enemies use axes but there are some easy soldiers and a merc up north to feed him some exp with his javelin. The early strange brew is also a great reward and its interesting to see a plus 5% growth so early (I gave it to Matly, further proving that Aars is just broken). Saving Godfrey has only a single flaw, after he kills the adjacent enemies he just stands there, the fighter slowly chipping him isn’t a problem, its more that I thought I should hurry or he would suicide charge the boss and was disappointed when he didn’t even move. (Also, shield lance is awesome)
This chapter is quite ok, it could suffer a bit if the player doesnt split and go straight west but I decided to split and try to get Domino to the thief… until I realized there were no door keys anywhere on the map. This is where the chapter fails, communicating with the player. I wasn’t ready for Noyra to arrive with keys but at the same time she can handle the enemies leading up to Therou if she doesn’t miss any shots, so its ok. Enemy movement is also non intuitive and many enemies including Booly just don’t move so I was extra careful to not take any chances with his buffed devil axe. The fleet was also kinda meh as it doesn’t really work as an anti-turtle but the chapter is almost over when they arrive anyway. Giving a poison sword as a reward is fine but its not really ever gonna be useful later.
Chapter 4 is a defense map with 3 side objectives that are placed on different ends of the map. The village and boss are really well placed and their rewards, a killer axe (+the fancy axe if you visit with Hylvar, but its not that good) and access to 4x, are worth the trouble. Elia joins in this chapter and she fills a role nuch needed on the party, a healer. There is also Senn, I could go on and write a whole paragraph on why Senn is better than Bayleas, but it just boils down to Senn hitting shots consistently. I do think him being stationary is a little bit dumb, since you need Domino to recruit him and I at least also wanted Dom to fight the boss. The reinforcements are nicely done and the terrain favored some riskier strategies with dodgetanking on the western mountain tiles. Only thing I didn’t like was the poison weapons, although pretty much every chapter after this has them.
I’ll be brief on this one, fog maps are hard to do well, but fighting an onslaught of (mostly) archers, on narrow swamps, with fog hindering your vision was really fun. Cealou was really easy to find and recruit, I didn’t use him though, so if anyone could tell me if the flux? tome does anything on chapter 9 i’d be glad. Also liked the story on this one a lot, it starts to set up the overarching shadow of the astral cult which I wish had more relevance to the story aside from controlling everyone from the shadows.
I played this hack on version 1.0 and oh boy, chapter 5 was too glitchy to even be fun, but it also has some gameplay problems that I think shouldn’t be overshadowed by the bugs:
- This chapter suffers from battle before dawn syndrome, Lewis might just die if you are unlucky and you can’t do anything to reach him in time.
- The chapter start event says specifically that either Domino or Matly should go talk to Lewis, but Matly can only recruit Canyi but the game doesn’t tell you this, on my winning attempt this lead to me getting overwelmed on the bottom right trying to save the greens and not having Matly killed by javelins, though I miraculously survived.
- The whole chapter gimmick is supposed to be aproaching the boss from the forest, but even if you do that, if you end your turn anywhere in the area in front of the boss (I think thats the trigger zone) he will call in the reinforcements from the forts (some of which ignore people standing on them) meaning you have to kill him the turn you reach the gate, but also the forest path feels more populated than the south path, which is not consistent with the whole “boss can’t see the forest” story, I get that if the south was more populated the greens would be in trouble but it still makes no sense.
Now for things the chapter did right:
- Calvis is a great mid-chapter event, it adds tension since he is kinda strong and you don’t know if he’ll join in on the fun or not. (You can absolutely kill him with Lewis’s longsword if you want though) although this intermission does suffer from the boss problem since tge way you approach the boss is what makes him stay or leave.
- That’s it actually.
This chapter is definetly the weakest point of the hack in my opinion and the bugs didn’t help it.
Just for those who didn’t get to play 1.0 chapter 5, you could have Domino, the lord needed to seize the gate, completely dissappear if you approached the boss unnoticed, which made not triggering reinforcements impossible, but at the same time if you DID trigger the reinforcements, the game would just keep spawning them infinitely. You could have abused this for infinite exp but I only killed the ones that I needed to get Dom from the south to the gate to end this map forever. Ok, rant’s over
Chapter 6 is a good example of a split map done right, none of the routes are overwhelming and the ballista threatens both of them, good side objectives on the chests and I liked the thief spawning all the way up in the boss room, it caught me by surprise and I was barely able to kill him before he stole a chest and made me lose the member card, even though I don’t remember what I bought in the secret shop. The boss having a longbow was a nice change of pace and the secondary sniper boss having the game’s only (free) Orion’s bolt was a good reward for going for the optional challenge.
Chapter 7 goes back to the more traditional “straight line” map and is maybe a bit easy, but it has not one, but two anti-turtling methods, the pegasi squad with the only free elisian whip and Learen himself, who can pretty much one-round anyone in your party, its a shame that by the time he appears you will be already near the castle so it doesn’t even matter. I’d suggest making them spawn a turn or 2 earlier to keep the player cautious. Falhair joins pretty naturally but I wish he were a green unit like Clarine in FE6 where he just runs to Domino and you need to talk to him to recruit him. Bantien’s intermission was really fun to see although it made me wonder if you could save Lewis’s lover from him, probably not. Overall the chapter is pretty easy but still enjoyable to play, Domino gets his forced promotion and personal weapon at the end of the chapter and they are both really good, I like that while Refierclm wins against all weapons it loses to all breaker weapons as well. My only criticism is that its supposed to be the “Molten Blade”, why is its icon white and blue? It looks like its made of ice, not lava.
Chapter 8 is a good chapter, it keeps tension high since you have 3 villages to save and their rewards are good, the master seal is useful to increase the power of your army and the rapier is a good weapon for the next 2 main chapters. Khayl is only good for his wind sword and extra fighter seal, if you’ve been using Matly he is just too weak but he might be a nice replacement swordmaster if you lost her before for some reason. The enemy diversity is pretty bad until the boss decides to go after you and the boss itself is really scary due to the tomahawk crit rate and he ended a few of my runs with some lucky hits. And the enemies near him are also wag tougher than the brigands and pirates you fought before.
This chapter is like FE6 chapter 21, A LOT of reinforcements and really big map size. Aars promotes and gets the biggest promotion bonuses in the history of Fire Emblem. The chapter has some nice shops to improve your equipment. The start asks the player to split the army in half but I found that the sheer amount of reinforcements makes half an army not able to progress so I decided to just go with everyone to the left and also got overwhelmed so I baited the enemies into following me to the center ruin and killed everyone there. This chapter is really hard but it felt so good to beat it. The guiding ring and knight crest you get are nice, but I didn’t need them and just sold them for stat boosters in the 9x secret shop.
The other fog map, this one however is kinda hard since it features a lot of myrms and assassins with random effective and killer weapons and the lack of extra torches or a torch staff makes it really hard to advance if you go in blind and I got junpscared by a killer edge or wind sword myrm several times. The 2 chests are nicely placed and the Hoplon Guard is an absolute must-have if you want to have any chance against Learen so losing it to a thief is really something you want to avoid. The boss of this chapter is pretty weak and by the time he comes to you, you should already have the HG and his killer edge gets trivialized.
Chapter 10.1 and 10.2
Really good final map, the enemy lineup is diverse and challenging and the army split is really natural. I don’t get why you would bother putting chests in thr final map of the game, especially since you have to go through either an eclipse druid or a sleep druid (mind that there are no restore staves in the game). The boss is kinda easy but it doesn’t matter since when you kill him you have to face Learen coming from the entrance. The second part of the chapter is way harder, with more promoted enemies and agressive foes coming from all sides, I absolutely wasn’t ready for him to just BREAK DOWN THE WALL and start attacking the center area, thankfully I had my main units close to the wall and I could defeat him with Aars and dealing the last blow with Domino. Stat-wise, Learen isn’t that better than Domino or your other good units but his sword is completely busted, he gets 58% crit??? I seriously don’t know how anyone could beat him with no casualties without the Hoplon Guard and it seems like the game punishes you if you don’t try to get all the gaidens and treasure.
Ending and final thoughts (story spoilers)
I really liked the ending, it makes a lot of sense and it shows that not all stories have happy endings. I felt really bad for Bayleas’s ending, especially since I didn’t use him and I think that the ending sequence could have been a chapter in itself. Ibdo wish there were more on the astral order and they really need an extra chapter or 2 to wrap up their arc, I especially had a lot of questions about the hooded monster (?) that appears in the 9x cutscene. I really wanted more of the story so good job on your writing!
This hack was really good and engaging, I wish more people would make this smaller campaigns since the story develops faster. I feel like the overall difficulty was consistent and scaled really well in the late-game and aside from some minor annoyances like the poison, lack of torches and needing an optional chapter for the Hoplom Guard, the hack is mostly fair to the player. The characters were charismatic and I liked the focus on them being mercenaries.