It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

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François
Posts: 1326
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:00 am

It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby François » Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:18 pm

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After Dragon Quest III's unmitigated triumph, Yuji Horii and his team were faced with the two questions that almost inevitably follow success. "Can we do better? And if it can be done, then how?" Dragon Quest IV attempts to answer these questions, and whether it does so or not seems to depend on who you ask. Whereas you can draw a direct line from progress from I to II to III, IV almost feels like a side-grade, a different evolutionary path, taking a step back in one aspect in a bid to take two in another.

Of course, as always, the question is made more complicated by context, especially considering the timing of the North American releases. Let's look at a release timeline for Dragon Quest, Phantasy Star and Final Fantasy games of the era.

- February 1988: Dragon Quest III is released for the Famicom in Japan.
- March 1989: Phantasy Star II is released for the Sega Mega Drive in Japan.
- February 1990: Dragon Quest IV is released for the Famicom in Japan.
- March 1990: Phantasy Star II is released for the Sega Genesis in North America.
- April 1990: Both Phantasy Star III (Mega Drive) and Final Fantasy III (Famicom) are released in Japan.
- July 1991: Phantasy Star III is released in North America, and Final Fantasy IV (Super Famicom) is released in Japan.
- November 1991: Final Fantasy IV is released for the Super Nintendo in North America.
- March 1992: Dragon Warrior III is released for the NES in North America.
- October 1992: Dragon Warrior IV is released for the NES in North America.

DW4 wasn't just released near the end of the NES generation: by the time of its NA release, it was competing with massive, high-quality 16-bit JRPGs on superior consoles. In that sense, it's no surprise that it ended up being the last Dragon Warrior game released in America for eight years, until Dragon Warrior Monsters for the Gameboy Color in 2000 and Dragon Quest VII for the Playstation in 2001. Looking at it in another way, in Japan DQ4 didn't have to suffer from being stacked up against FF4.

To sum up the release craziness, imagine a triple-A company releasing a big-budget main installment of its flagship series on the Playstation 3 two years into the Playstation 4's life cycle. Talk about a different era, eh?

Alright, here are a few more things I'd like you to keep in mind before we start.

First off, in case you're new to this LP series, I've just completed playthroughs for Dragon Warrior I through III, which you can find here, here and here. Dragon Warrior IV's storyline is not meaningfully connected to the previous games so it's not as important to get caught up as it used to be, but hey, it's nice to have context sometimes. On top of that, I like to have characters from the series pop in from time to time to offer color commentary, and it might not make much sense to you if you haven't met them yet.

Just to be clear...

These folk are from DW1:
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These are from DW2:
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Aaaand this is the DW3 crew:
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In terms of exact mechanics, as far as I know DW4 hasn't been "figured out" nearly as much as the previous games were. For example, I won't be able to go into individual monster AI routines or spell resistances or exact ranges of magic damage as I did in the previous LPs, and I'll have to make educated guesses on some topics based on a combination of personal experience and assumption that 4 does things roughly the same way 3 did.

In terms of characterization, I know that some of the game's remakes incorporate a "party talk" option, where characters can have conversations among themselves about various topics depending on plot progression and such. I've never played any version of DQ4 where party talk was included, so while I have a fairly good grasp of everyone's basic personality, my interpretation may (and likely will) differ in various details from established canon. I'll only play around with what the NES release gave us, because it's the one I'm familiar with, and I dare hope this doesn't cause too much distress to veterans of later versions!

Okay then, that'll do. The labors of Erdrick's bloodline may be accomplished, but we're not done Warriorin' Dragons yet. Let's do this.

User avatar
François
Posts: 1326
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:00 am

Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby François » Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:21 pm

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Aaaaaand here we go again.

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Image: That can't be right, there's no Z in there.
Image: Like that matters, kid. Just sit your butt down and stay quiet.
Image: ...kid?
Image: She is your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-aunt, dear.
Image: So, what can I call you, then?
Image: Madam or milady will do.
Image: Ah... Understood.

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The selection of female-only equipment in DW4 is better than it was in DW3, to the point where picking a dude comes at actual gameplay cost... but we've just had nearly forty updates of lady hero, so let's switch things up a little.

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There is occasionally stuff going on in battle that I wish I had more time to read in detail, especially with some uncommon magic effects and such, but on the whole I still can't imagine playing these games at anything less than maximum message speed.

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Image: Wait, what? Ragnar? Who's Ragnar? What happened to Francois? I'm already emotionally invested here!
Image: ...that was quick.
Image: Last time we saw someone's name get picked, we found out she was our ancestor!
Image: Or, well, this could be one of those new storytelling techniques I've heard about! Maybe... let's see... a non-linear narrative with multiple point-of-view characters!
Image: Glynn, we're bros and I love you, but you have to know that I understand maybe half the stuff you say.
Image: Color me pleasantly surprised! I would have pegged it at a third.

Curiously enough, Ragnar is one of the possible randomly-chosen names for the default Soldier waiting at Luisa's Place at the start of DW3. But there is no relation.

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Image: I bet Ragnar's second from the left on the bottom row.
Image: ...cute.

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Image: You must have heard the rumor that children have been vanishing recently. The mothers from Izmit Village came to me in tears this morning begging for help. As the King of this country, I cannot ignore this problem any longer. Find the cause of these disappearances and report to me! Go, my soldiers!

Image: Well would you look at that. A bunch of children disappear, and the king mobilizes his troops to investigate. How downright sensible!
Image: I still keep my notion that kings are dicks... but maybe the jury's out on Lord Burland here.

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As the other soldiers begin to leave, a woman immediately rushes to our side.

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Image: That's my duty, ma'am. Worry not, the king's men are here to help!
Image: They're alive! I know it!

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The mother returns to the eastern wing of the castle as the other soldiers file out the front gates. One of them seems to be lagging behind, though.

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Image: Hmm! Whatever works for you, I suppose.

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Now this is something new for DW4 that is easy to overlook: characters can now have scripted movement patterns. With so few exceptions you can count them on the fingers of one hand, for DW1 through DW3, characters in castles and villages either stood in place or took one step in a random direction every few seconds. But here, many characters have specific routes they follow, some of them surprisingly elaborate. The two castle guards here patrol the entrance hall, walking from the center of the gatehouse to the outer gate then back again. It's not a huge thing, but it adds a surprising amount of life to the places we'll be visiting, and I'll point out the most interesting instances as they come up.

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We could leave right away, but the bulk of the soldiers are already en route, and it wouldn't hurt to see if anyone here in the castle has any useful information for us.

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Image: We won't let you down, Your Majesty.

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Typical early game beginner's info, of course.

Oh, while I think of it, let's look at our menus right quick.

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DOOR makes a triumphant return. I know I was pretty hard on that command in DW1, but here it actually serves a purpose that we'll see before long. The other new element is TACTICS.

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For now it only allows us to reorganize our marching order, which isn't much help at the moment since Ragnar is alone. This option was under STATUS in DW3 though, which didn't make a lot of sense. And speaking of STATUS...

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DW3 gave us the option to look at our entire party's current and maximum HP and MP values at once, but comparing attack and defense power required going in each character's full status screen. Now we have also an option to see everyone's main combat stats in one place.

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Ragnar's class is indicated as "Soldier", and that's no lie. His abilities follow the DW3 Soldier archetype to the letter: high Strength, tons of HP, excellent heavy equipment selection, low Agility, no magic skill whatsoever.

Image: Ah, a man after my own heart.

As far as anyone has been able to discern, DW4's stats and battle formulas basically function the same as their DW3 equivalents.

-Strength is added to your weapon bonus to determine your attack power.
-Half of your Agility is added to your protective gear bonuses to determine your defense power.
-Vitality does nothing by itself; how much Vit you gain per level determines the possible range of your max HP gain.
-Intelligence still also does nothing by itself, having the same influence over MP gain as Vit has over HP gain.
-Luck governs ailment and debuff resistance.

Ragnar also starts with a Copper Sword and Leather Armor, which is classic Soldier starting equipment: not great, but better than most.

Alright then, back to the castle.

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Image: Yes, of course, that's obvious.
Image: You'd be surprised...

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We're finally allowed to look inside objects in an adjacent tile! Pots and chests of drawers are no longer completely decorative, but I'm pretty sure bookcases never have anything worth looking at.

Image: Why I never!

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This particular one is empty. We'll be checking every drawer in the world one by one, though. That's what heroes do.

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Ah-ha!

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This old man spends some time reading at the table, goes to the easternmost bookshelf after a while, then resumes his reading.

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Image: It would be wise to find out if something like this ever happened before. Please do let me know if you discover anything!

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Image: They're alive! I know it!
Image: We will find them. Have no fear.

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Image: It's nothing that a good blade can't solve, I'm sure. Now... if only I could get my hands on such a blade, we'd be set.

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Image: If they go into their work blindly, they might be the ones falling behind me, my lady.

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Image: Haven't the others already left for Izmit Village?
Image: You know I work better alone.

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There's no opening that door without a key, and besides, Ragnar wouldn't make it three steps into that trapped room before dying.

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Image: Let's hope it's only monsters. If we have a gang of human kidnappers on our hands, they could be hiding in plain sight.

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Since we went to the second floor and returned, the king and his minister have returned upstairs.

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Image: Wherever you go, find one... and record your progress on the Imperial Scroll of Honor.

That's right! We no longer need kings to save for us; any House of Healing attendant will do the job. This is actually a big quality of life improvement.

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Image: Yes, well, I did just start, Your Highness.
Image: You must find the cause of the disappearances at once. I am counting on your good work, Ragnar.

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I do like how this throne actually looks throne-like, instead of being made up of generic "fancy chair back" tiles.

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Whew, alright then, time to go.

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We have two cool things going on here. First off, of course, is the lavish gate-opening animation. The second one is more subtle. Remember this?

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In DW3, when there was a castle inside a town, it was represented by the usual 2x2 castle tiles, which was a fine compromise for the time. But here, Burland Castle is an actual large-scale fortress.

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Image: Aye, that it is. Makes a man proud to serve!
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Image: I... I suppose it wouldn't hurt. I won't be one to judge you by your age. If you think you can keep up, please feel free to accompany me.
Image: Really!? I shall follow you then.

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The old man does follow us... but very slowly.

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Image: I understand. Please take care of yourself.

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He keeps following us around at a distance, but nothing else comes of it.

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Image: Unfortunately he can't spend much on your equipment.
Image: ...yes. Well. Yes.
Image: Accumulate gold to buy more powerful weapons and armor. Be sure to equip yourself with them after you buy them.

Ragnar has 50 gold to his name, not quite a royal bounty.

Image: Nah, that's exactly a royal bounty.

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That's the usual basic item shop fare. I'm not sure when we'll start having to worry about poison, but historically it's always been sooner than I thought, so let's buy one Antidote Herb right away.

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Being a Soldier, Ragnar can equip everything here... but not on his usual pay. The Club offers +7 attack power, the Copper Sword +12, the Thorn Whip +14, and the Chain Sickle +20. Considering we already have a Copper Sword, upgrading to the Whip would probably be a waste... but that Sickle is pretty dang expensive.

It's worth noting that in previous games, only item shops would offer to buy stuff from you, but here all stores have the option.

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Ah, there's the goold old House of Healing. REVIVE, DETOXICATE and UNCURSE still work as we know; SAVE is new and extremely convenient, and INFORM...

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Speaking to a king to save our game used to require that we sit through them telling us how much experience we need to level up every time, but now we only have to hear it if we want to.

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Image: Hmm. Maybe those responsible for kidnapping children are beginning to move on to adults. Bold fiends!
Image: Tell me if you see him!
Image: Certainly, ma'am.

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Sensible inn price for the starter town.

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Image: ...right. Yes. Thanks for your counsel, citizen.

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This old man slowly walks from his house to the well and back.

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Image: Nnnnnno?
Image: Some doors aren't locked. They open without a key.

And that's the use of the DOOR command: you need an option to open unlocked doors, which actually didn't exist in the series before now.

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Now this is neat. When you walk in front of the counter here...

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...the merchant immediately runs to you.

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DW4 now has separate armor and weapon stores! Seeing as there are more options now, this is quite welcome.

Leather Armor offers +12 defense, Chain Mail +18, a Leather Shield +4, a Scale Shield +7, a Leather Hat +2, and a Wooden Hat +6.

Ragnar can equip all of this of course, but the variety is extremely welcome for possible future party members, as caster-types can now equip the lighter types of shields and helmets.

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Image: But why do children vanish?
Image: It's possible that monsters aren't responsible. Or... that... Hmm. Could children be leaving town on their own?

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Image: Sadly, it is.
Image: I'm not a kid anymore, so I guess I'm safe.
Image: Best not take unnecessary risks either way, young man. Let us soldiers sort this out first.

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Aaaand that's it for daytime Burland.

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Image: Wait, he's just leaving on his own?
Image: Yeah. What of it?
Image: That seems foolhardy!
Image: Sometimes you just have to have a go at it solo, you know what I mean?
Image: But what about the other soldiers?
Image: Gone on ahead, I guess.
Image: Solitude is the price of gathering information!
Image: He'll be fine. He's clearly a sturdy sort.
Image: Right, this would be something else if he was just one squishy wizard. No offense, Gwen.
Image: None taken, I'm quite fond of having a meat shield around.

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Image: This is new! Let's see...
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Image: Gah. Don't we have the budget to write on both sides of the sign?
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Image: Good thinking, my liege. That'll do it.

User avatar
François
Posts: 1326
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:00 am

Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby François » Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:23 pm

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We know there are monsters outside, so let's spend some time making sure Ragnar's fighting skills are up to snuff. It won't hurt to make a bit of coin either. We know Izmit is on the other side of a cave, so maybe we can just find that cave and see how things are going.

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Here's a notable technical improvement: animated background layer tiles! For the previous games, all animation was limited to the sprite layer, but not anymore. It's not used very often to my recollection, but when it is, it's typically to good effect and I'll point it out as we go.

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Welp, had to happen sooner or later. Dig that battle theme though! Good grief, what a triumph.

Aaaaanyway, one Diverat. Diverats come with up to 14 HP (all monsters appear with between 75% and 100% of their max HP, as usual), with 11 attack, 2 defense, and 7 agility; they're squishy, but they're fast and hit reasonably hard, and they can spend a turn attempting to summon another Diverat to the fight. This is actually a pretty tough first encounter. Presumably we'd be running into weaker monsters if we had stayed in the immediate Burland region.

That said, it hits Ragnar for 2 then 1, and he hits back for 7 twice. Soldiers are hella tough!

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Stag Beetles are weaker in almost every way, with up to 9 HP, 9 attack, 5 defense, and 3 agility. They're no threat unless they show up in great numbers, but we won't run into more than two enemies at a time for a while yet.

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It's quite possible to make it to Izmit on your first trip, but I want to have a look at Burland after sundown, so we'll just keep getting in fights on this side of the river for a bit.

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Ah, now we're talking. Slimes come with up to 8 HP, with 9 attack, 5 defense, and 3 agility. Giant Worms are a bit tougher, with up to 11 HP, 10 attack, 6 defense, and 2 agility. Ragnar will usually one-shot the former and two-shot the latter.

Monsters don't calculate their defense power from their agility as player characters do; their agility is only used to determine the order of actions in combat, which is useful for designing fast and fragile creatures like the Diverat above. As far as I can tell, initiative is rolled the same way it was in DW3: everyone rolls between 25% and 100% of their agility, and the highest numbers go first.

All monsters in the Burland region have a chance to drop Medical Herbs, which is helpful but hardly game-breaking.

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Oooh, first critical hit! I expect it's still a flat 1 in 32 chance per attack.

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This battle gets Ragnar to level 2, for 4 Strength, 1 Vitality, 1 Luck, and 2 HP. That'll be a Soldier level alright.

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It's not much longer before the sun goes down.

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Image: Ugh, you knave! Get out of here!

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Image: We'll find him. Worry not.

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Being a royal soldier, we have free run of most of the castle at night.

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One guard makes his rounds on the ground floor.

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Image: That's why you're paid for it, young man.

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Image: ...that's not a good sign.

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Image: It is proper for us to dream of valor, but not while we're on duty!

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Image: Hmm? Did you find something?
Image: The present weather resembles that of past times when monsters reigned.
Image: Ah. Well. If you can find a way to locate the missing children by examining weather patterns, do let me know.

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Welp, that's it. Better hit the hay.

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We have 78 gold to our name, so we could splurge on a Leather Hat, but... nah. We only pick up an extra Medical Herb, and we are on our way.

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Yeah, those are still no danger.

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Cool drops though.

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Oof, a Healer already! At least this one's alone. Healers have up to 16 HP, with 13 attack, 8 defense and 12 agility, making them easily the strongest creatures we've seen yet. Of course they can cast Heal, and they have effectively infinite MP. The fight takes about a dozen rounds, with Ragnar getting hit twice for 4 damage each.

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A fight against a pair of Diverats gets Ragnar to level 3, for 3 Str, 2 Vit, and 4 HP. It leaves him with 13 HP too, so we'll probably use an Herb after the next fight.

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Can't have too many of those at this point.

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Image: I spent the whole day pumping the townsfolk for information. I wonder what's your excuse.

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This might be the first time in the series a chest containing 40 gold isn't a huge disappointment.

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Aaaand we're out. That wasn't too difficult, and the guaranteed Medical Herb is a big help if you didn't stock up in Burland.

Image: I've never liked the look of that old tower, but unless the local children took swimming lessons, I don't see how it would be related.

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Diverats are still pretty dangerous; a single 3 damage hit is nothing to worry about, but it adds up!

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Image: Ah, right, better follow the coast then.

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Considering Ragnar can only count on Herbs to regain HP, it might be worth it to spend some cash on Fairy Water at some point (if you'll remember, it prevents encounters with foes of a lower level than your main character), but we have better things to buy for now.

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Still affordable, but we pass for now.

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Image: Oh! Do you think you could help us with this missing children situation, then?
Image: A chosen one will soon appear somewhere in this world.
Image: Ah, so, that's a no, then. Thank you for your time.

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Image: Dang, that bath sure is fancier than Kol's.

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Nice!

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Image: I'm sorry to bother you, good sir, but might you have any information in regards to the missing children? Anything could help.
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Image: ...shoes? Well, alright then. Thank you.

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Image: That poor innkeep must be overwhelmed by worry and grief. Better solve this case quickly!

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Image: It seemed like a wise course of action. Wait, are you the only other soldier who decided to come here? Good grief!
Image: The tower west of here looks suspicious. I wonder how we can get in.
Image: It could be a red herring. I doubt the children would have been taken that far.

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Image: Yes, criminals are often afflicted with curious cases of amnesia once they are within reach of justice.
Image: He acts like a child. He must have been through some ordeal.
Image: Hmm. Like a child...

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Ah, a House of Healing. We drop a save. I can't stress how much nicer it is to be able to save at the local healer's now.

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Image: You cut a pitiable figure, I must say. But my hands are tied. The law is the law.

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Oof, that's some expense right there. Bronze Armor is +25, Half-Plate is +30, and the Iron Shield is +12. Hopefully we won't need to grind for all that. I do drop 120 on a Wooden Hat for now, since it's the best headgear we've seen yet.

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Unlike in DW3, where the attack and defense values displayed in the corner only updated if you pressed A to select the piece of equipment, here it updates in real time as you move the cursor around. It's little things like this that really show polish and attention to detail.

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The Boomerang is +18 (only two points weaker than the Chain Sickle), and the Iron Spear is +28. Strangely enough, you can "throw" the Boomerang using the in-battle ITEM command instead of just the FIGHT command, but doing so offers no special advantage: it still hits a single enemy for the same damage. Obviously I'd like to go straight to the Spear, but just as it was in DW1, we'll get the upgrades we can afford, not the ones we want.

Oh hey, I just noticed the animated fountain.

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Neat.

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Image: He vanished like smoke before my eyes!
Image: Oh, so we might be dealing with supernatural criminals after all. Hmm. Maybe the innkeep was on to something, then.

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Nothing here.

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Heh, here we have a little kid being chased around the room by his teacher.

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Image: Well this takes me back.

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Image: Perhaps we can talk at night.
Image: Right, I'll be back, then. Thank you.

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Image: I'll be a royal soldier someday.
Image: We'll be glad to have you, boy.

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Image: My apologies!

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Image: He flew away into the sky.
Image: Hmm. I'm sure he did.

And that's all of Izmit for now.

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Image: So. Children playing with shoes, flying into the sky, and vanishing before their parents' eyes. This is going to be more complicated than I thought. Better do some reconnaissance until nightfall, I suppose.

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That's everywhere we can reach on foot: no dungeons, no caves, only that lone tower on the lake. We better find some more leads in Izmit, or this investigation is at a standstill.

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Image: Hmm...

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Image: Right then, my apologies. Don't let me keep you, I'm just going to check on something in the back.

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Image: I'd agree with you, but if it truly is impossible, then we've already failed our king and our people. We have to keep looking.

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Image: What do you think you're doing?
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Image: Are you quite sure about that?
Image: Keep quiet, and I'll tell you something.
Image: No promises.
Image: I saw the man in the underground jail before... in the Castle Town of Burland... maybe.
Image: Hmm. Did you, now?
Image: Why don't you go back there?
Image: Maybe I will.

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Image: Alex! That's Flora's husband's name! If the children are beyond my reach, maybe I can sort this out at least.

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Image: Are you Alex, by any chance?
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Image: You really are acting like a child, aren't you? I don't know what you've been through, but maybe it's connected to the disappearances.

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Image: Who's doing this? What do they want?
Image: Oh I quite intend to find out. Leave it to us!

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Image: Children always have secrets.

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Image: Do you have any insight for me?
Image: I believe the children know something.
Image: Or... someone who acts like a child might, at least. I believe I have a plan. For now though, do excuse me, I'll be leaving early tomorrow.

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Image: How are you still here!?
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Image: I'd offer to help, but at this point you really need to establish a baseline of competence and get out of this yourself.

Ragnar reaches level 4 on his way out of the tunnel, for 1 Str, 2 Vit, and 4 HP. Stat gains on level up are still random within a range appropriate to the character's archetype, so every once in a while you'll get a dud like this.

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Image: Ma'am, I found your husband in Izmit. He's... been jailed for theft.
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Image: Take me there, please!
Image: It's the least I can do. Let's go.

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Flora will now follow us around, but she's no warrior, and she won't participate in combat.

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Whuh-oh, Babbles show up around Burland after sunset. They have up to 12 HP, with 11 attack, 9 defense, and 8 agility, still with the ability to inflict the poison status ailment with their standard attacks. This effectively makes them the most dangerous of all the creatures we've seen yet. They do have a chance to drop Antidote Herbs, at least.

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Image: Ah, now that's the spirit of a true Burland man-at-arms!

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Flora rushes to the cell as soon as we reach the prison.

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Image: Don't you recognize me? I'm Flora, your wife!
Image: ............
Image: Don't you even remember this? Smack!
Image: ............

Image: Whoa!
Image: Oof, trouble in paradise right there.
Image: Eh, if it works, maybe it's worth it...

Image: ...Flora!
Image: Yes, it's me!

Image: Welp, there you go.

Image: What came over me? I must have lost my mind in fear after being attacked by monsters. Soldier, thanks for finding me.
Image: All in few days' work, citizen.
Image: I remember... hearing this from some children... the secret playground is 4 steps to the south and the 4 steps to the east of the village signpost.
Image: ...the secret playground? Ah, I don't like the sound of this.
Image: Something may be there. You'd better check it out.
Image: Be careful, Soldier.
Image: Right, I'll be going, then. Thank you for the information.

We stay the night at the inn, and leave in the morning.

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Image: What was it? Four, and...

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Image: Here we are, then. The game is afoot, but playtime is over!

Image: Better workshop that one, mustache man.

User avatar
Rico
Posts: 517
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:29 am

Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby Rico » Thu Oct 25, 2018 12:41 am

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

User avatar
François
Posts: 1326
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:00 am

Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby François » Fri Oct 26, 2018 11:35 am

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Image: Ugh, these fumes! This is no place for children!

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Image: And this old well! If I didn't already know the children were taken by sorcery, this would be the likely culprit.

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Image: ...eh? Hmm. If whatever is down there is expecting a helpless child, let's see how it measures up to a soldier of Burland!

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Jumping down the well leads to a dead end with no obvious way back up. Let's hope this wasn't just a bad idea.

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Image: Right, sure.

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Image: Huh. Better do what it says for now.

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We're definitely being guided somewhere. And we haven't seen any monsters down here yet. This voice is meant to take children along a safe path.

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Image: There's a treasure chamber any child would be thrilled to discover!

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Image: ...huh. So this is what the kids brought back home, then. Let's see...



Ragnar puts on the Flying Shoes and is immediately launched into the air... where he hits his head on the the tunnel's ceiling. He unceremoniously drops back to the floor.

Image: Well... ugh... that explains that, I suppose. Better try this again under the open sky.

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There is no longer a strange voice trying to keep us away from certain passages. This means it's time to explore! Besides, it's not like we know how to leave yet.

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A monster jumps us almost as soon as we step off the "safe" path! Sizarmagi have up to 17 HP, with 16 attack, 10 defense, and 7 agility. They also know Blaze, and come with enough MP to cast it exactly once, making them (repeat after me!) the deadliest creatures we've seen so far. Just as a reminder, Blaze causes a small amount of fire damage to one target, entirely bypassing its defense power.

Ragnar takes out this particular Sizarmage in two rounds, taking only 6 points of physical damage. Whew!

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Image: Ah, this strange creature must be responsible for what's going on here! Better find a way around.

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Whoa, dang! 600 gold, would you look at that!

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Lethal Gophers have up to 16 HP, with 19 attack, 15 defense, and 10 agility, so they're pretty hardy overall. They also have an entirely new ability: they can "build up power", skipping their turn to increase their normal attack damage on the next. I don't know by how much exactly, but my best guess is that it doubles their attack power, which would mean that they get the equivalent of two attacks but where only one is reduced by their target's defense power (since it's just one strike total). The critters down here don't mess around!

That said, Ragnar here goes after the Sizarmage first, just to reduce the odds of having to tank a Blaze cast. If the Gopher powers up, at least we'll have advance warning to use our PARRY command, reducing incoming damage by half.

Ragnar can't one shot the Sizarmage on the first round, and in fact he takes 8 points of fire damage while the Gopher powers up. Better parry for now.

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Yeah, being defensive paid off there for sure. Ragnar reaches level 5, for 3 Str, 1 Vit, 1 Luc, and 1 HP. Not great, but it'll help. We also use a Medical Herb here.

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Demon Stumps attack as we make our way back to the main path. They have up to 21 HP, with 18 attack, 8 defense, and 1 agility. They're fairly tanky, and their one claim to fame is the ability to use a Medical Herb to heal their wounds. It's a long fight, but not an especially dangerous one.

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Gah, that's a dangerous fight. These basic monsters are pretty scary when you're just one Soldier with limited resources trying to hang on to 600 gold.

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...aw crap.

Image: Happens to the best of us.
Image: Hmm-mmm.
Image: I knew he shouldn't have left alone!

Welp, there goes a ton of money. On the plus side, the "game over mang" track is easily one of my favorite music tracks in the entire series, before or since. It's not exactly cheerful, but it really gets to me.

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At least we don't get sassed by the House of Healing attendant.

Image: Ugh... Ow... Gah. These Gophers are something else. Maybe I should have brought a shovel too. I could be... some sort of... Shovel Soldier? Hmm.

We still lose half our money on party wipe, so this time it's 475 gold. Good grief.

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We pick up a Scale Shield with what's left. It's not the best, but it'll help more than upgrading to Chain Mail will (the shield gives 7, and there's a difference of 6 between Leather Armor and Chain Mail), and it's not like we can afford much else.

We could try the Shoes again, but we did see some more weird stuff in the well, and we'd better make sure it's cleared out, just in case. Back down, then!

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Let's pick up where we left off.

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Ragnar reaches level 6 here, for 2 Str, 1 Agi, 5 Vit, 1 Int, and 9 HP. That'll be a decent one.

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Image: What manner of foul beast are you?
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Image: Oh. Hmm. Do you, now?
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Image: I... don't think that's how it works. I'll have to pass.
Image: No? If you change your mind, come back again, OK?

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Image: Hmm. On second thought... far be it from me to deprive the willing of their rehabilitation.

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"Healie joined the party!"

The short music track that played in DW2 as we joined up with the other descendants of Erdrick makes a triumphant return! There were no story-based party members in DW3, so the jingle skipped a game.

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So we have our first ally, and it's a monster too!

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Healie's level being a question mark basically means that he will not level up. He is in fact a sort of guest character. His stats remain as they are forever, he has no inventory space and cannot hold items, and we don't get to control his actions in combat. He has a similar AI to enemy Healers though, in that he'll give very high priority to casting Heal on Ragnar if he's at all wounded, even to the neglect of his own HP. He will attack more often than usual Healers would though, and he's smart enough to parry sometimes if he has nothing better to do.

So, yeah, if we had made it even a little bit further last time, we could have had Healie's help in leaving the well with all of our gold intact. Oh well! It'll make the rest of this expedition a lot easier, though.

Oh, and as you may have noticed, Healie has the Heal spell in his battle spell list, but he has no travel spell list, which means that we can't have him cast it outside of combat.

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As we see here, Healie has no loyalty towards his former colleagues, and will gladly help us defeat them... even though his damage output isn't exactly amazing.

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That's a new quality of life improvement right there: if we can't carry an item and don't want to discard something on the spot, the new item is returned to the chest and we can come back for it later.

Ragnar reaches level 7 off a pair of Sizarmagi, for 2 Str, 1 Agi, 2 Vit, 1 Luc, and 3 HP.

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This is the only place where we can still hear the strange voice, and also the only corridor we haven't taken yet.

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Image: Is that really the way out?
Image: I wouldn't know, I never tried to leave before. It's scary out there!
Image: Well, you got that right. Anyway, apparently the children made it back to town alright, so it must have been through here. I mean, do the other monsters keep any kids here?
Image: No one tells us Healers anything. You see the hurt, you heal the hurt, that's it.
Image: Grunt work, I get you. You got my back if I break my legs in this hole, right?
Image: I can take care of all kinds of fractures!
Image: Even a broken heart?
Image: I've never tried, but maybe!
Image: Heh, I'll keep it in mind then.

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Whoops, we're out of space again. We put it back, use one of our Herbs on Healie, then retrieve the one in the jar.

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Gah. I'm not sure of the specifics, but apparently stat seeds still have the drawbacks they had in DW3, given that stat gains from leveling up are random and still subject to the soft cap mechanic. Ragnar's Agility growth is always going to be awful though, so I don't think it'll be a problem to give him this one. In fact, this Seed takes his Agility from 6 to 8.

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Aaaand we're out.

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I really like this introductory dungeon for a variety of reasons. You can get in, pick up your progress-critical item and get back out without getting in a single fight. There's a lot of cash in there and an optional yet incredibly helpful ally just off the beaten path though, so it pays to stick your neck out and explore.

The enemy population is also interestingly put together. On the trip from Burland to Izmit, few enemies can deal more than 1 or 2 damage to Ragnar, which gives you the notion that he's incredibly tough. But the well tunnels contain Sizarmagi and Lethal Gophers, which both have their own way to be a real danger to Ragnar despite his high defense. And on top of that, both threats are mitigated: once a Sizarmage spends his 2 MP, he's harmless, and Gophers give you advance warning for the incoming heavy blow so you can parry it.

DW3 throws you in something of a deep end right off the bat, with fights against 5+ Slimes and Ravens on the overworld, and squads of Magicians in the Tower of Najima who will cast Blaze until the cows come home. The ramping up here feels both a bit smoother and at a smaller scale. Despite this, we're still in the introduction, and we've seen a bunch of enemy abilities already! Diverats can summon help, Healers and Demon Stumps can heal, Babbles can poison you, and of course there are the Sizarmagi and Lethal Gophers.

We've got 752 gold in our pocket right now, so let's head back to Izmit before we examine the Flying Shoes.

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Upgrading our Leather Armor to Bronze Armor is tempting, but adding on raw defense is not as important now that we've got Healie with us; we'll be better served by being able to one-shot a wider variety of critters. We're really close to the Iron Spear at this point, especially if we sell our Copper Sword first, so I don't mind grinding the rest for a bit right quick.

While I earn us some money, let's talk about a little somethin'.

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Nobody in Izmit bats an eye about Ragnar walking around with a monster in tow. But if you reorganize your formation and put Healie first...

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Every different villager sprite has their own little MONSTERS!!! freakout line, just as we saw in DW3 with the Staff of Change.

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Image: Ouch!
Image: Settle down, lady! He's with me!

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Image: A human-in-training! Nice to meet you!

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Image: Okay!

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And that's it for that. Let's see a man about a weapon, then.

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Oh yeah, 50 attack power. Our body armor and our shield could be better, but we don't have to mitigate damage from dead monsters.

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Image: So, how do these work?
Image: I'm sorry, I don't have feet, I couldn't tell you.
Image: Oh, um, right. Well. Okay then, let's hope they don't launch me directly into some kind of cage. Here goes nothing!

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Image: Ah, it's that creepy tower! I knew it!

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Image: Halt! In the name of the King!

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Image: Healie, after them!
Image: Right!

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Mothra
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby Mothra » Fri Oct 26, 2018 12:20 pm

Swapped the link in the header image (like I did for the last change from DW2 to DW3), buuuuuuut don't have any time to make a new image sorry.

Thankfully this one is general enough that it could be talking about "any" Dragon Warrior!

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François
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby François » Fri Oct 26, 2018 1:33 pm

It's all good, I'm definitely not tired of seeing it up there! :D

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WingSounds
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby WingSounds » Sat Oct 27, 2018 2:57 pm

GYANYANYA!~

Aaaaaah, I'm livin' the dream!..

Now I'm terribly nostalgic, but being in a legendary thread, hehehe... I love the peanut gallery's comments, of course. And Ragnar is perfect. Also, you always find stuff I missed, it's like playing the games again myself, but - not being dumb and unobservant as I was... Snrk.
However...

François wrote:We're finally allowed to look inside objects in an adjacent tile! Pots and chests of drawers are no longer completely decorative, but I'm pretty sure bookcases never have anything worth looking at.


Why I never (x2)! Hehehe!..

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TA
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby TA » Sat Oct 27, 2018 10:48 pm

François wrote:To sum up the release craziness, imagine a triple-A company releasing a big-budget main installment of its flagship series on the Playstation 3 two years into the Playstation 4's life cycle. Talk about a different era, eh?


It'd be like releasing the first Dragon Quest in the US in nine years on the PS1 two months before Final Fantasy X's PS2 release.
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Niku
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby Niku » Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:27 pm

That dungeon tileset in the well is reeeeeeeeal sharp.
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François
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby François » Sun Oct 28, 2018 10:22 pm

TA wrote:
François wrote:To sum up the release craziness, imagine a triple-A company releasing a big-budget main installment of its flagship series on the Playstation 3 two years into the Playstation 4's life cycle. Talk about a different era, eh?


It'd be like releasing the first Dragon Quest in the US in nine years on the PS1 two months before Final Fantasy X's PS2 release.


Hmm, I get what you mean, but man, DQ7 and FF10 are such different animals I didn't even occur to me they might be competing for the same audience.

Niku wrote:That dungeon tileset in the well is reeeeeeeeal sharp.


I especially like the custom down staircase with the rough wall edge!

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François
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby François » Sun Oct 28, 2018 10:23 pm

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It's the kidnapper-chasin' hour, with Ragnar and Healie!

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Lilypa are all-around much stronger than everything we've fought yet, with up to 21 HP, 26 attack, 20 defense, and 20 agility. They have enough MP to cast Upper once, doubling one ally's defense power. That makes for long battles, especially in the company of Healers, so I'm glad we could upgrade Ragnar's weapon before we came here. We can in fact one-shot a Lilypa as long as it didn't buff itself before we could act.

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Image: Oh crap, Ozwargs already?
Image: These don't look quite as dangerous as ours.

Ozwargs here come with up to 33 HP, with 17 attack, 24 defense, and 14 agility. They only know IceBolt (single-target ice damage, a bit stronger than Blaze) and can cast it once. So we're spared the fire breath and the Sleep spells or whatever it was they used to be able to do in DW2.

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Continuing the Enemy Ability Showcase, Ducksbills can cast Sap once, reducing a single target's defense power to 0. They have up to 22 HP, with 25 attack, 18 defense, and 12 agility. Alone they're not much of a threat, but we won't always be so fortunate.

Ragnar levels up here, for 3 Str, 1 Agi, 5 Vit, 1 Int, 1 Luc, and 12 HP. That's pretty nice!

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Hmm. The Wing is of limited use to Ragnar for now. We can leap off the tower roof and land across the lake, and just walk to both Izmit and Burland with minimal difficulty. It might sell for decent coin though, so I use a Medical Herb to make room for it.

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Image: By chance? Never underestimate the power of blind luck.
Image: The monsters in this tower are very tough! I should have let Healie whom I met in the well join me.
Image: You're right, you should have!
Image: I envy you.

That's your clue to go back to the well if you didn't find Healie there. This tower is rough chuckles for a solo Ragnar, especially considering his eight-slot inventory space is limited by his four pieces of equipment and the Flying Shoes.

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We're missing the northeastern corner of this floor; it must be accessible from underneath.

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This door looks intimidating, but I bet it's not locked.

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Giant Bantams are pretty brutal; they come with up to 31 HP, with 28 attack, 22 defense, and 18 agility, but their true threat comes from having a chance to put their target to sleep with a normal attack. So, yeah, these huge chickens are probably the most dangerous critters in this tower. Ragnar can't quite one-shot them, so we have to eliminate the Healers first.

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Pixies have up to 29 HP, with 26 attack, 22 defense, and 15 agility. Their deal is that they can cast SpeedUp once, doubling their entire party's agility. It's irritating, but it's not quite something that kills you as much as IceBolt or Sap or sleep.

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This puts us at 1058 gold, almost enough for a suit of Half Plate. Healie's only got 12 MP left, so let's start heading back right away. I don't want a repeat of the last time we found a fortune in a chest.

Or... maybe we can go around the room to the south, find a way to that other chest. Yeah. That should be fine, right?

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Ah, we'll be able to jump off from here instead. Whew.

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Welp, we already have one of those. We can put its value towards getting an Iron Shield though, so it's no loss.

Ragnar levels up just before we leave, for 2 Str, 3 Vit, 1 Int, 1 Luc, and 9 HP.

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Whew, jumping off the south ledge does deposit us on the outside edge of the lake here.

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It's interesting that for once we're exploring a tower dungeon from the top down. It gives it a neat sense of progression and increasing complexity as the floors get larger and larger.

We return to Izmit, rest up, sell our extra gear, and buy a suit of Half Plate Armor. It takes Ragnar's defense power from 29 to 47! That ought to make the next trip a lot easier on Healie's MP.

We save, pick up a couple Medical Herbs just in case, then use the Flying Shoes again.

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Once more, from the top.

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Ah, there's that missing corner then.

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Gah. That one will definitely screw Ragnar over in the long term, so we leave it behind.

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Giant Bantams only hit Ragnar for 3 damage now, so that armor was money well spent.

One hidden advantage of guest characters is that they only decide what their round's action is when it's actually their turn, instead of at the beginning of the round. This doesn't always mean much, but it can sometimes make a difference. Here, an Ozwarg's IceBolt reduced Healie's HP from 22 to 8, and Healie immediately healed himself in reaction.

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We're back where we left off last time, with 24 MP to Healie's name. That's better!

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Image: Hmm, there's no way this is already the path to the floor below.

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Image: ...what the...?
Image: Oooh, a healing stone!
Image: You've seen one before?
Image: These are sacred to my people.
Image: I can't say I ever imagined that monsters could really hold something sacred.
Image: Oh, we don't. I'm just saying that because I heard a human say it once.
Image: Oh. Okay. Is this really a healing stone, then?
Image: Absolutely!

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Stepping on this tile causes the screen to flash for an instant, and everyone's HP and MP are restored to full. How's that for convenience?

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Back to the tower, then.

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Eh, Ragnar's Luck growth is pretty bad, this should be okay to use.

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Welp.

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Image: Wow. Good... work?
Image: Yay!

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Oh, nice! The Sword of Malice offers 45 attack power (compared to the Iron Spear's 28), and it also casts Firebal for free when used as an item in battle. (Firebal is the basic group-targeting fire elemental damage spell). That's an amazing find; it takes Ragnar's attack power from 55 to 72.

Image: Good grief. What was I even using when I was level 9? Leonor's old Chain Sickle?
Image: With a name like that, you'd think it would be cursed.
Image: He seems to be doing fine with it.
Image: Huh.

You know, selling our Iron Spear should get us enough cash for an Iron Shield. I'll just make the trip to Izmit right quick; I'll be back before you know it.

...oh hey, Ragnar levels up as we leave, for 3 Str, 1 Agi, 3 Vit, 1 Luc, and 6 HP.

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And we're back. Ragnar can now one-shot everything we've seen so far, so it wasn't too difficult to return here.

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We could walk out the front doors here. We'd still be on the island, but we could use the Flying Shoes outside to return to the top of the tower, and jump off from there to leave for good.

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Image: Ho! Comrade! What ails you?
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Image: Somewhere in this world, the Ruler of Evil is about the resurrect. Also, according to prophecy, the Hero who shall defeat him is now growing up. The evil ones intend to destroy the Hero while he or she is growing and still weak. Ragnar, save all children...
Image: ...understood. You... you rest now.
Image: Are you really going to save all children? That sounds hard.
Image: Well... We can at least start here.

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Image: That's why I'm here, boy. You're safe now.

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Image: What kind of abomination are you?
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Image: But us royal soldiers certainly have business with the likes of you!

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Image: So you're the beast behind all this? You've done more than enough harm already. Your evil deeds end today!
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Saro's Shadow comes with a ludicrous 250 HP (exactly as much as Malroth had!), and it has 52 attack, 36 defense, and 16 agility. The Sword of Malice is definitely not overpowered for this battle! It has a standard attack, as well as the ability to cast Blaze, Firebal, and to "emit a fireball", which hits our entire party and is functionally equivalent to a low-grade fire breath in DW3.

Image: Who's this Saro, though? This shadow must belong to someone.
Image: I'unno!
Image: I'm sure we'll find out!

As tough as the Shadow is, you ignore the Giant Eyeball at your own peril. It only has up to 42 HP, with 29 attack, 32 defense and 20 agility, with a basic attack and the ability to parry. However, once it takes a certain amount of damage, it "changes expression", gaining a chance to attack twice every turn and having a 50/50 chance to either miss or land a critical hit for each! It's a lot less durable than its master though, so it's best to get rid of it quickly.

Technically you can leave the Eyeball in its basic form and only go after the Shadow, but even before the transformation, Healie may not be able to keep up with their combined damage output for very long, especially if they decide to pick on him for a bit. The second place in the formation isn't exactly the back rank.

Image: You're finished, demon!
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Image: I'm sure other monsters will seek out and destroy the Hero...
Image: Not if I have anything to do with it! Your schemes will fail!
Image: All mankind will eventually be offered up to the Ruler of Evil. I'll see you in the Evil World... Gasp!

The "Evil World". I'm tempted to link that idea with the notion of "Shadowtime" from DW2, or of wherever Zoma came from before he arrived in Alefgard... but he's probably just saying "I'll see you in hell".

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The cell to the west opens, and both children join us.

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Image: Ha, don't mention it, boys. It was all the king's doing.
Image: We can go home, right? I heard you can go home if you jump from the top.

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We get to "hear" our fellow soldier's final request again. It must be pretty important!

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Saro's Shadow was clearly not the ultimate evil force behind everything, but we're still not running into any monsters anymore. It should be a while before they get bold enough to attack anyone in Burland again.

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The day/night cycle is also halted. It's not the ending, but it sure behaves like it is.

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Image: I think we did good today, Healie.
Image: Yay! Am I a human yet?
Image: It might take a bit more than this. But I'd say you're on the right path.

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Image: Your fealty and your trust have been rewarded, citizen.

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Image: Of course I remember! Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention, so that we could resolve it quickly.

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We have enough money to buy ourselves an extra celebratory Half Plate Armor, so we do so of course. How could we not?

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Image: Not if the king's men have anything to say about it!

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Image: Haha, maybe so. But I couldn't have done it without Healie here!
Image: I'm helping!

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Image: Yeaaaah!
Image: ...

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Image: I didn't do anything, to be honest. He stole a loaf of bread, it's not like he was going to stay in there for five years.

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Image: Absolutely not.
Image: I was only kidding. You're so naive.
Image: Nice try.

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Image: I'm sure you've earned your peace, sir. Don't feel bad about letting us carry the torch in turn.

There is technically nothing stopping you from returning here right after completing the tower with the children in tow, but if you do so...

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...the king will have none of that nonsense. And if you have Healie in front, Ragnar will automatically switch ahead of him as you approach the king.

So here's what actually happens.

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Image: Oh, my Lord! This is far too much ceremony!
Image: I'm truly impressed with your accomplishment. I'm proud of having a soldier like you!
Image: You honor me, Your Majesty!
Image: It must be such a comfort to have exactly one competent soldier!
Image: Shh!
Image: I will give you a reward. Name anything you want.
Image: Investigating these disappearances was only part of my duty, I need no reward. But... I would humbly request your permission to travel abroad for a time.
Image: What? You want to go on a journey?
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The implication of these ellipses of course is that Ragnar faithfully reports what transpired in the tower.

Image: You intend to find and protect the Hero who is still a child... I see... You'll have my full support! Ragnar, this is a farewell gift from me. Take it!

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Just like that, the king gives Ragnar 3000 experience points.

Image: ...what?
Image: Kings can just give away experience?
Image: Nobody's ever bothered to tell me this!
Image: I suppose your father didn't teach you about this in order to avoid uncomfortable questions about why he didn't give you any.
Image: I died to a pack of wild mice on the day I left! What a butt!
Image: Kings are often dicks, as it turns out. Who knew?

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It's enough to get Ragnar two levels, for 7 Str, 1 Agi, 8 Vit, 1 Int, 1 Luc, and 12 HP.

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Aaaaand that's it for Chapter 1! It went by pretty quick, didn't it? It's surprisingly short (two towns, two and a half dungeons), but it does a good amount of set-up work.

Perhaps most importantly, it introduces the notion of a main antagonist in a much more natural way than in the previous games. DW1 is like, "The Dragonlord kidnapped the princess. Go kill him. Also rescue the princess if you feel like it maybe?" DW2 is all, "The evil wizard Hargon killed your uncle. Go kill him back." And DW3 goes "There's this Archfiend Baramos somewhere in the world. He sounds like a real asshole. Your cool dad fell into lava, so you inherit the kill order." But here, our actual job was to rescue missing children, and though we learned of the existence of a mysterious "Ruler of Evil", what we actually want to do is find the legendary hero who is apparently very young right now, and protect him while he grows up. Narratively, that's a huge step up.

On top of that, we've been introduced to a lot of enemy mechanics. Apart from Slimes, Stag Beetles and Giant Worms, every monster we've fought came with a different spell or ability, two of them being completely new to the series (Lethal Gophers building up power, and the Giant Eyeball's berserk mode). In comparison, DW3 introduced you to large groups of various jabroni melee monsters with progressively more dangerous combat stats before really getting you to deal with special abilities in a big way. Getting to fight a tough unique boss so early is also a first for the series, though DW3's Kandar comes pretty close (if you don't skip him, that is).

The solo journey could have been pretty difficult, and Ragnar is handed a lot of power fairly quickly to compensate. Getting a healer buddy is probably the most noticeable aspect of this, but the free Sword of Malice is also an incredibly strong weapon for the early game, and there are a couple chests with a ton of money, so you can get equipped with very good gear without much hassle despite soldier-types being expensive to outfit.

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We're given a chance to save, which we take. Next time: Chapter 2!

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Friday
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby Friday » Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:32 am

And by Chapter 2 you mean Alena Kicks A Whole Lot Of Ass
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WingSounds
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby WingSounds » Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:14 am

Friday wrote:And by Chapter 2 you mean Alena Kicks A Whole Lot Of Ass


The official title; accept no substitutes!

Ah, thank you for running an update that gives purpose to Monday, François. I kind of want to do something as tribute - minecrafty overworlds? Watercolours? Something... But I'm gonna settle for saying that about 1:09 of the BGM is just, really nostalgic.
Ragnar's duty done, and Saro's Shadow schooled, I suppose it's time to move forward!

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Rico
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby Rico » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:41 pm

As an aside, it is really impressive how well the PSX/3DS remake translates the dungeon layouts. I distinctly remember having a minor freakout when I was about halfway through Chapter I by almost muscle memory and my brain suddenly started trying to reconcile the updated graphics and engine with still playing on auto-pilot. I think I'm going to do a play-along and strongly encourage anyone else to.

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TA
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby TA » Tue Oct 30, 2018 10:32 pm

It really did feel like, while Dragon Warrior 3 was where the series finally started to come into its own as video games, it wasn't until Dragon Warrior 4 that they were actually RPGs. This game has legs.
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Rico
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby Rico » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:58 am

This game has legs.
Thick thighs save lives:
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François
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby François » Wed Oct 31, 2018 3:21 pm

Rico wrote:As an aside, it is really impressive how well the PSX/3DS remake translates the dungeon layouts. I distinctly remember having a minor freakout when I was about halfway through Chapter I by almost muscle memory and my brain suddenly started trying to reconcile the updated graphics and engine with still playing on auto-pilot. I think I'm going to do a play-along and strongly encourage anyone else to.


Dang, yeah, I know what you mean, I had that same experience with the DS version. I've been wanting to replay the NES version ever since to see how it holds up in comparison, and I gotta say I am not disappointed yet.

TA wrote:It really did feel like, while Dragon Warrior 3 was where the series finally started to come into its own as video games, it wasn't until Dragon Warrior 4 that they were actually RPGs. This game has legs.


It would have been difficult to improve on 3 the way 3 improved on 2, so it's like they said "fuck it, let's just polish this sucker until it shines". As mechanically solid as its predecessor has been, in the big picture 4 definitely feels more dressed up to me, so to speak.

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François
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby François » Wed Oct 31, 2018 3:22 pm

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y
Image: Oh, right, this must be about Burland's princess!
Image: Hmm...

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Image: Well-
Image: I forbid it. You're the princess of this country. I won't allow you to venture into the outside world where monsters lurk!
Image: You can't keep me trapped in here forever, dad.
Image: Never go outside this castle! Is that clear? That's all!

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Image: Wait, this isn't Burland. And this isn't Ragnar.
Image: I wonder what clued you in.

That's right, Chapter 2 introduces us to a new character in a new castle, at level 1. Meet Princess Alena!

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Her class line says "Princess", but don't be fooled: Alena is the spitting image of DW3's Fighter archetype. She has great Strength and Agility growth, decent Vitality growth, and no magic ability. The "equipping weapons decreases your attack power" gimmick is gone now, but her gear selection is extremely limited to compensate for her high stats. She also inherits the Fighters' level-based critical hit chance growth.

Image: Well, it's good to see another kick-ass princess!

The Silk Robe she's wearing offers 10 defense power, which is better than Basic Clothes and Wayfarer's Clothes, but weaker than Leather Armor by two points; it can only be equipped by women.

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Image: Oh, I understand perfectly. It's just that he's wrong.

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Image: Pfft. Why isn't everyone?
Image: Your late mother was so refined. As your tutor I feel responsible for how you've turned out.
Image: You could have picked a more direct way to tell me how proud you are.

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Image: But I worked really hard on that hole!
Image: Don't ever kick the wall again, please.
Image: I do what I want!

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Image: Is that the wall she kicked through?
Image: Goodness!
Image: Alvaro, are you able to kick through walls?
Image: Well, it... depends on the wall, I suppose. Impressive, nonetheless!

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Image: Waiting is all I'm allowed to do, apparently.

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Raiding her own drawers, Alena retrieves a +8 Feather Hat, which is actually 2 points better than the Wooden Hat Ragnar bought in Izmit; it can only be worn by women. She puts it on right away of course.

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And the door to the royal bedroom is locked.

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Image: I'd like to see her in person. Heh, heh...
Image: What a lucky day it'll be for her.

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Image: If you keep making excuses for him, he's never going to change.

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We'd probably have to go around the outside of the castle to speak to that old man, but that's a locked door, so we won't bother.

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Image: Ugh, I'm not in the mood.

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Image: And I regret telling him every moment.
Image: That's so reckless! I...
Image: ...?
Image: I mean the King will be devastated.
Image: It's all the more reason for me to get so strong that no one can lay a finger on me. Come on, Cristo, logic!

Image: Oh dear. He's got it something bad, hasn't he?
Image: There's the look of a young man convinced he's dreaming beyond his station.

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Image: I hope nothing terrible will happen to our Castle.

Image: Dun dun DUNNNNNNN!

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Image: So, what? They're going to take me to a castle and keep me there and I won't be able to get out? Ooooh, that's a terrible fate!

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Image: Why does everyone else have to be so obedient around here?

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Image: I'll find a way!
Image: Never! Why are you so reckless?
Image: ...okay. Okay dad, you win. I'm staying.
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Image: I'll just be reading about flowers every moment I'm not working on that crochet project. You know how I love crochet.

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Image: Ah, good.

I'm not sure what exactly triggers the completion of the repairs, but it's guaranteed to happen once you've spoken to everyone.

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Image: Wooden boards? It's almost insulting.

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Image: Alright then, time for this little birdie to fly away! Hup!

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Image: Don't tell anyone, okay?

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Image: Huh. That was almost too easy.

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Man, that's a fun tune. I've never really felt Ragnar's theme much, but Alena's song definitely fits her.

Image: Gah, what is it with these people leaving home on their own, though?
Image: It's not like she has much of a choice.

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Image: Aw, come on!

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Image: ...oh. Oh! Well. Alright then. But you better remember who's in charge!
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Image: Ah, that's better.

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Cristo's a "Chancellor", but in this case, it really means "Pilgrim". He hangs out at the House of Healing, which in the Japanese version is of course a church, so he's probably meant to be assistant to the royal chaplain or something like that. He's got some combat skill, a semi-decent gear selection, and access to a variety of healing and support magic; even at level 1, he starts with Heal. He also comes with Wayfarer's Clothes and a Club.

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On the other hand, Brey's a Wizard both on and inside the tin: weak combat stats, strict equipment limits, and a good spread of offensive and utility spells. Unlike a DW3 Wizard however, he starts with IceBolt instead of Blaze, and it only costs 2 MP this time. In fact, if I remember correctly, Brey never learns direct damage spells of any element except for ice. He only starts with a Cypress Stick and Basic Clothes, which are effectively worst-in-class.

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Even unarmed, Alena is already stronger than Cristo!

Interestingly, while Chapter 1 mirrored DW1 with its lone hero, Chapter 2 mirrors DW2 by furnishing you with a strong melee warrior, a caster with some combat skill, and a pure mage... only with the specialists' genders reversed.

If we return to the castle...

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...the guards let us in...

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...but not back out.

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Image: You don't have to explain. I know you'll go out again even if I try to stop you.
Image: Hmm! I'm glad you finally get the picture.
Image: Remember one thing, though. Never venture into lands where I can't look out for you.
Image: I'm not making any promises!

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Once we've spoken with the king again, we're finally allowed to go outside... where we immediately run into monsters.

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Elerats have 11 HP, 11 attack, 6 defense, and 9 agility, with no special abilities, making them a bit tougher than Diverats were but unable to call for reinforcements. Prank Gophers have 10 HP, 10 attack, 6 defense and 5 agility, and lack the ability to build up power.

Alena and Cristo can take out the Elerat together in a couple rounds, and Brey's IceBolt will usually one-shot a Prank Gopher. Not a tough fight!

Before we can reach the nearby town though...

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Kaskos Hoppers have 8 HP, with 8 attack, 5 defense, 8 agility, and no special abilities. Even level 1 Ragnar could have dealt with these easily, but here the game is clearly not too shy to throw us in battles with large enemy groups, so the early going for Alena and company is slightly more difficult than it was for the Soldier even though she has companions from the start.

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Alena starts with 100 gold to her name. Everyone can wear Leather Armor and Leather Hats, and both Cristo and Brey can wield Leather Shields, but we need to be able to start one-shotting critters without spending MP, so we'll have a look at the weapon store before we think about defense.

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Image: Yeah, what of it?
Image: I recommend you build your strength about this town first.
Image: Wise words!
Image: If I feel like it!

That's definitely the game suggesting you might want to grind some.

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Ragnar got a lot of free money and cool equipment, but Alena's gonna need to earn her keep.

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Image: Huh, news travel fast around here.
Image: That's extremely bad!
Image: Who could possibly have talked to strangers about this? I'll have them flogged!
Image: I guess it doesn't help that I just came into town wearing this fancy dress.
Image: Oh. Oh dear.
Image: That's as good an excuse as any to find some good traveling clothes.
Image: I'll lend you mine!
Image: ...?
Image: And what are you going to wear then? My dress?
Image: Uh... My apologies, I've spoken out of turn.
Image: Anyway, pass. We'll just have to make some money.

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Image: Hmm.

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The Thorn Whip can be used by Alena and Cristo, so we might want one sooner or later. What I think is the wisest way to go for now though is to upgrade Cristo to a Copper Sword with all of our starting money, and hand his Club down to Alena, since she can use the latter but not the former.

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We can see a new interface element here, as choosing who will take a piece of gear you've decided to buy will show an "E" mark next to characters who are able to equip it.

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Even with her inferior weapon, Alena still hits harder than Cristo. She's a Fighter alright.

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Dang but the Houses of Healing have only gotten more elaborate since DW2!

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Image: Oooh, a mountain village, how quaint!
Image: We haven't been much in contact with the mountain folk in some years. The road must be very dangerous.
Image: We're still going, though.
Image: Not before you replace that dress, we're not.
Image: Brey, I'm not taking fashion advice from you.
Image: How about advice on making sure I don't have to watch my lord's daughter trip on her skirt and break her neck?
Image: That doesn't sound like me. You'll be fine.

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Image: Um.
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Image: Yes, I'm sure that's what the problem is here.

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Image: Blue Sky, Wandering Clouds, La, La, La, La...
Image: Spare me, I get enough of that crap at court.

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That's another type of locked door. Looks like that's all Surene has to offer in the daytime.

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Which means we'll pick a bunch of fights until sundown! How convenient.

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Oh hey, Red Slimes again. 10 HP, 9 attack, 5 defense, 3 agility. They're just not dangerous.

Alena levels up here, for 2 Str, 1 Agi, 1 Vit, 2 Luc, and 2 HP. It's not huge, but in the early game, the numbers are so low that you don't need a big increase to make a difference. Cristo follows suit, for 2 Str, 1 Vit, 1 Int, 1 Luc, 1 HP, and 5 MP. Aaaaand Brey gets to level 2 as well, for 2 Agi, 1 Int, 2 Luc, and 4 MP.

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Troglodytes come with 13 HP, 13 attack, 8 defense, 5 agility, and the ability to call for reinforcements. They're not too tough, but this is a battle that can easily snowball in their favor, so IceBolt is a good idea.

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Image: Everyone's worrying about you, princess.
Image: All the more reason for me to prove they shouldn't.

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Heh, the hungry soldier we met is straight up sneaking to the kitchen, and he just stays there.

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Image: Hmm.
Image: I'm known to be tight-lipped. Heh, heh, heh!
Image: Well there's our answer to that question.

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Image: Oh, and whose reckless acts are you talking about again?
Image: Oops, Princess!? Excuse me...
Image: Bah.

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On our way back to Surene, Alena levels up, for 2 Str, 3 Agi, 2 Vit, 2 Luc, and 5 HP. Cristo follows for 2 Str, 2 Vit, 2 Int, 2 Luc, 4 HP, and 2 MP. And Brey again for 2 Agi, 1 Vit, 2 Int, 2 Luc, 1 HP, 3 MP, and the Sap spell.

Now this is interesting; Sap still costs 3 MP and attempts to reduce one target's defense power to zero, but in DW3 it was on the Pilgrim spell list, and Wizards got Upper instead as their equivalent (doubling one ally's defense). At least for now, this means Brey is a lot more on the offensive side of the scale than we know even typical Wizards to be.

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Image: I can't believe I stayed up late for this.

We spend the night at the inn, and we have enough money left over to buy Brey a Leather Shield; he's the least likely to get hit, but he only has one more HP than he had at the start, and Troglodytes could conceivably kill him in three hits, so he needs it pretty bad.

We haven't actually learned much of anything here, but this sets the tone for the beginning of this chapter: we're not going after some great evil, we don't have any kind of mission to accomplish. We're just traveling to prove our strength. Sure, there are monsters around, but as far as we know, there's no looming crisis, or at least nothing specific.

For the first time in the entire series, we are just plain not out to save anyone. Nobody needs our help. There are no threats. Our only drive is that we're a cool fightin' princess looking for asses to kick.

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Hopefully that mountain village we heard about will hold the excitement we crave.

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Fights are already heating up here. Alena and Cristo work together on the first pair while Brey one-shots the other two with an IceBolt each; our defenses are still low enough that we can't afford to just chip away at them over several rounds. It puts in sharp relief how much of a fridge full of bricks Ragnar was by comparison.

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Case in point, the game only starts throwing Giant Worms at us a fair bit away from Surene. Alena levels up here, for 2 Str, 2 Agi, 3 Vit, 1 Int, 2 Luc, and 7 HP.

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Rabidhounds come with 23 HP, 19 attack, 18 defense, 7 agility, but no special abilities. They hit hard and take a while to bring down though, so here it's wise to ignore the Hoppers and just focus the one hound down before it bites Brey clean in half.

Cristo levels up, for 1 Str, 1 Vit, 2 Int, 1 Luc, 1 HP, 5 MP, and the Upper spell.

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Image: Absolutely n-
Image: Of course we did!

Heh, so much for not having anyone to help.

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WingSounds
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Re: It's raining protagonists: Let's play Dragon Warrior IV!

Postby WingSounds » Thu Nov 01, 2018 12:53 am

Yessss, an update before I gotta go! You're the best.

Also... 'For the first time in the entire series, we are just plain not out to save anyone. Nobody needs our help. There are no threats. Our only drive is that we're a cool fightin' princess looking for asses to kick.'

That's just - really satisfying to read. Sure, it didn't last long, but who cares? Butt-kicking! For goodness!
Also, Alena talking to the cat was just too great.

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