Update 81: Strength

♪ No music ♪

Ah, yeah! This is happenin'!

So, Maddening. It's a little bit infamous, for good reason, although I don't think it's as blatantly unfair as other equivalent difficulties in past FE games. Broadly, the following changes are made:

I'll skip over the starting cutscene, but that's right, we're even gonna look at the Prologue in full again! I'll be doing full writeups of every non-auxiliary battle, now that we're on Maddening.
♪ Fódlan Winds ♪

The enemy here had 18 HP on Hard, and Claude had 87 Hit against him on Hard as well. You can already see a microcosm of what's gonna happen.

Hell, we're already seeing the EXP changes, just from this. 9 EXP on Hard, 7 EXP here.

Sword users on this map, crucially, can also double all of the lords.

Comparing kill EXP, Dimitri got 26 EXP for this same kill on Hard, and only 25 here. Do note that he is adjacent to Adan, meaning he's getting the extra 20% from Professor's Guidance. For the same kill on Hard, he was not adjacent to Adan.

Forest tiles remain as effective as ever, thankfully.

You can also see two axe users in forest tiles in the top-right of this screenshot—they weren't here on Hard.

By positioning himself here, Adan can not only kill the thief, but also:

A) Position himself so that Dimitri can get Professor's Guidance when attacking the enemy behind this thief.
B) Draw out the axe users from their forest tiles.

Edelgard has undeniably the toughest time in the prologue, due to her low Hit.

Smash helps.

This is a good time to mention, by the way, that Three Houses uses the standard True Hit (aka "2RN") system from FE6 to FE13. It does not use Fates and Echoes's bizarre weighted accuracy formula.

This is basically my gameplay for doing Prologue on Maddening, when not playing Verdant Wind: use Claude to weaken enemies for the lord I'll actually be using (Edelgard or Dimitri), always make sure the applicable lord is adjacent to Adan/Abby, and let the other lord be fodder for enemies.

Kostas and his assistants are on the move now.

So is Jeralt. Jeralt's actually a great help on Maddening, since he can't one-round enemies from full HP, but can severely injure them, and inflict severe debuffs on them, thanks to the personal ability that he has for some reason. He makes it easier to feed kills to whatever lord you're going to be using, and let Adan get some EXP as well.

Blade Breaker: If unit damages foe, foe suffers Str/Def -6 for 1 turn after combat.

If Kostas or either of his assistants want to attack Adan, they'll have to leave themselves out in the open, which is fine by me.

♪ Wrath Strike ♪

Big miss there.

Jeralt, thankfully, does not steal any of my kills.

Unfortunately, it's not gonna be possible for either Adan or Dimitri to get this kill.

I also can't get Dimitri adjacent to Adan for this.

But hey, he gets a level anyway.

This is a pretty decent start for Dimitri, though I do wish he'd gotten Spd. He's got a good growth, but his base is low, which can be a pretty big issue early on. The Def is very important, though—with how often enemies will be doubling you, Def and Res are basically doubly as effective as they are on other difficulties.

Combat arts are way more valuable on Maddening than they are on lower difficulties. Especially early on, they can be the boost you need to secure a kill, either through higher Mt, higher Hit, or both.

Yay, Adan gets a good start!
♪ No music ♪

Don't underestimate the prologue on Maddening.
♪ Guardian of Starlight ♪

I already know what most of these kids are about, but let's see how Dimitri's story plays out.
♪ Words to Believe In ♪

Oh, I am so sorry, Professor! You just look the same age as the rest of us, and... Oh, and I'm sorry I just said that too! I really must watch my tongue...
I don't mind if you treat me as a friend.
You say that, but...I just don't know about all of this!
I'll admit, it doesn't sit well with me either. After all, we wish to show you due respect.
Sure, but if the professor says it's OK, shouldn't that be enough? That is...if Your Highness can consent to such a thing. After all, we're already speaking this way to our future king, so we may as well relax our speech with our professor too, right?
Well, we're not in the Kingdom, so it only goes to follow that we should all speak companionably...
I concede. If the professor says it's fine, we ought to accept that kindness gratefully.
As for me, I'm not sure I can manage...
You don't have to force yourself if it's too difficult. You're fine with that too, right, Professor?
Sylvain would have a line here if we were playing as Abby. Felix would also follow-up on it.
Such benevolence is a sight to behold! I don't suppose you would care to join me for tea? We could discuss education...and marriage.
Control yourself, Sylvain. I have more important matters to discuss with our new professor. Having heard of your skills, I'm eager to meet you in battle.
Come to the training ground later. There, you will show me what you're capable of.
You aren't wasting any time, are you, Felix? As it were, count me in for any such battle.
Pardon me, but I would also love to observe you in battle, for future reference. If that's OK with you...
Ashe, I won't have you speak of merely watching. You should join us as well.
If you get injured, simply say the word and I'll patch you up straight away!
Your Highness. Do take care not to go overboard.
You worry too much, Dedue. I'll be fine. I promise.
My companions! Is there not something inherently wrong with crossing blades as a way to bond with each other?
Huh, I never thought of it that way. Well, if that's how you feel, I suppose you'll just stay behind while the rest of us are at the training ground?
Ingrid, my dearest friend! You really are too harsh on me.
Well then, Professor, what do you think? As you can see, the Blue Lion House is a lively bunch, but you'll find none who work harder. I'm certain we'll cause our fair share of trouble, but I'm very much looking forward to the year ahead.

Honestly, that was considerably less rowdy than the Black Eagles' and Golden Deers' introductions.
♪ Life at Garreg Mach Monastery ♪

Y'know, I'm starting to get a bit tired of Part 1. Let's mix it up by having everyone be in servant outfits (butler uniforms for the men, maid uniforms for the women) for Part 1.

I also burn considerable renown on buffing up certain units' skill ranks immediately. Most notable is both Adan and Ashe getting Riding A+, and Movement +1 by extension.

I'll show off stat boosters this run, too. I found a giant shell and a speedwing in the Holy Tomb, in addition to the standard DLC stat boosters.

Here's the initial distribution. Dimitri's gonna get a lot of defensive stat boosters, since I'm extremely paranoid about making sure he's ready for Reunion at Dawn.
♪ A Guide for the Future ♪

Oh boy, the mock battle on Maddening, my favorite!
♪ No music ♪

♪ Respite and Sunlight ♪

Gods almighty I regret the outfit choice already.
I'm looking forward to it.
Excellent. I have high expectations for your command. That said, I've no doubt it will take everything we've got to pull a victory. I wouldn't worry too much about it. Our opponents are mighty, that much is certain. But I'm positive we can win.

Gods, the fucking contrast between Dimitri and the other lords, I'm losing it.
Nice try, Claude, but I do not intend to let slip our strategies. Especially when we are up against such strong opponents as you two.
Well now! Kind words from his kingliness. If that's the case, we'd better come up with some clever schemes so as not to disappoint. Right, Princess?
Right. No matter the tactics you devise, we will destroy you. The best you can hope for is to learn a thing or two.
Haha, there's nothing wrong with a friendly rivalry, but let's not get carried away. A rash attitude could be your undoing, after all.
Hmm... Perhaps your time would be better spent preparing instead of worrying about the competition's mindset.
Hey, now! If you two are getting this fired up before the battle even starts...it'll make it that much easier for my class to sweep up a win. So please, carry on.
A good point, Claude. I apologize—that wasn't my intention. At any rate, let's vow to make this a productive battle, shall we?
I don't intend to lose.
Oh? In that case, I won't hold back.

While I am pleased that you are taking the initiative to acquaint yourself with the students, I'm afraid it's about time for the faculty strategy meeting.
Ah, how time flies! In that case, I'll see you later.
I look forward to assessing your abilities. I hope you don't disappoint.

What am I doing.
♪ As Swift as Wind ♪

All of the enemy students on this map have, roughly, anywhere from +1 to +4 to all of their stats compared to Hard, and all of them have Dexterity +4. Lorenz, for example, has 7 Dex on Hard, and 14 here, giving him +7 Hit and roughly +3 Crit. Not cool.

The enemy lords, in particular, are trouble. Edelgard is capable of doubling some of our units, which would be unthinkable on lower difficulties.

Ferdinand and Ignatz deserve special mention for being exceedingly difficult to evade attacks from. Ferdinand also can be a pain to hit when he's at full HP.

Sure, I may be taking advantage of what New Game+ offers more than what some would be comfortable with, but I say "fuck it" to that. I wanna show off Maddening, but if I did it through pure New Game, we'd be here forever.

Here's who I'll be taking along. Dedue is non-negotiable, he's way too good at drawing out enemy attacks. I also need to be able to heal people without burning turns on self-healing through items, so Mercedes is coming along too. Ashe has Curved Shot already, which makes him a shoe-in for that final fifth slot.

Dedue also gets to take the Chalice of Beginnings, which'll be a big help in dealing with Ignatz.

Remember that we also have battalions already unlocked, with most of the paralogue ones already maxed out. Trust me when I say this is less of an advantage than it seems.

♪ Fódlan Winds ♪

Dedue will draw Dorothea out. He's got bad Res, but enough HP to survive, and he'll be able to get a counterattack in.

Adan will handle Lorenz.

You got it, Edie. Leave it to me.
Ferdinand. Hubert. If the enemy comes, stop them.
Leave it to us, although I could do this on my own.
Heh. Clearly not, or Her Highness would not ask me to watch your back.

One hell of a lucky dodge from Dedue leaves him at above half HP, instead of near-death. He also takes over half of Dorothea's HP in return.

No matter how many Dex buffs Lorenz gets, he still struggles with forest tiles. And the Aegir Astral Knights, I suppose.

Ignatz may be accurate, but that doesn't do shit when he doesn't have Close Counter.

This is why I brought Mercedes along.

One enemy down.

Yep, I gave Dimitri a training bow. Bows are incredibly useful on Maddening, even if the unit isn't actively training in the Bows skill.

Lorenz, thankfully, can't double Ashe.

Dedue will be quite important early on, so I want him to get early levels as quickly as possible. Thus, he gets the Lorenz kill, and I positioned Adan such that Dedue would get boosted EXP.

Hubert is a hell of a threat. 21 Atk with 1-2 range during the mock battle is unreasonable.

He can't double Ashe, though, and he'll eat a physical counterattack for trying.

While that did work out...

Ferdinand and Edelgard are closing in.

Mercifully, attacking Hubert from 3 range puts Ashe safely out of Ferdinand and Edelgard's range.

With this, Dimitri can't counterattack Ferdinand on the enemy phase, but he can at least be on a forest tile.

He can't hurt Dimitri that much, anyway.

Dedue is able to both take off a chunk of Ferdinand's HP, and get rid of +15 Hit/Avo from Confidence.

Meanwhile, Dimitri begins taking on Edelgard.

Very well. I accept your challenge. With you as my opponent, I won't hold anything back.
I would expect no less!

Edelgard is tough, but Dimitri is tougher.

And he just got even tougher, no less.

Every point of HP, Spd, or Def is invaluable for Dimitri. Combat stats are important, but they don't mean shit if I can't survive Reunion at Dawn.

Piss. Since I don't have Divine Pulse yet, I have to live with that miss.

There can be no victory unless I defeat you. So be it!

Getting Adan access to Swordbreaker early was a good idea.

I'd be happy with this in the lategame, but I also really want defensive stats for the earlygame, so... Bleh, I can't believe I'm saying this, but this damage stat + Spd level isn't good.

Ashe finishes off Edelgard, taking out one of the biggest threats on this map.

My boy gets an okay start. Bow users don't need defensive stats as much as units like Dimitri do, though they certainly don't hurt.

Not sure why Ferdinand opted for Dedue over Adan or Mercedes, but hey, whatever.

Dedue is off to a...bizarre start, to say the least.

Alright, Manuela is the only Black Eagles unit remaining. The Golden Deer are fast approaching, but thankfully they took the long way around.

You know that was a joke, right? Jeez, not so much as a smile...

Oh yeah, Adan borrowed the Chalice of Beginnings for a bit.

Well, that was easy. Claude didn't even damage anyone.

Here's his dialogue against Dimitri, by the way.
Psst, Your Princeliness. You've got a thing for Edelgard, right? Come on, fess up. You'll feel better.
Claude, please. This is no time for idle banter. Your defenses are wide open.
That didn't get to him, huh? What a shame. I'll find a better way to ruffle him up next time.

Ashe weakens Manuela from outside her counterattack range.

Dimitri eats a pretty severe counterattack from Hanneman, but ultimately one-rounds him.

I didn't have Dedue attack Manuela, since that would've guaranteed his defeat on the enemy phase.

Yeah, that was gonna happen, not much I could do to stop that.

Thankfully, Manuela does not go for Ashe, even though she easily could've finished him off.

I should've used Tempest Lance there.

No matter, though, Dedue was able to finish it.

Unfortunately, though, I've made a serious tactical error. Having Dimitri eat the counterattack from Manuela has left him at 1 HP, something Hilda can easily finish off. If Dimitri is defeated, that's a game over. Mercedes has no healing left, and no way to actually damage Hilda. I'm down to this 25% Hit chance, which is considerably lower than it actually sounds due to True Hit.

Holy shit.

I...I guess that really pissed Hilda off, because she's gonna go for Ashe instead of for the unit that causes a game over when defeated.

Yeah, this sucks, but it's not a game over.

Phew, that was way too close.
♪ No music ♪

My tactical errors aside, the mock battle is easily one of the hardest parts of a Maddening run, in my opinion. The limits on your weapon choices and especially the availability of magic hurt you way, way more than they do on lower difficulties.
♪ Words to Believe In ♪

I'm invited?
Of course. Why wouldn't you be?
Come now, Professor! We can't very well celebrate without the key to our victory present.
He's right! He really is! We were only able to win because we had your help, Professor!
Yes. Compared with that boar who knows nothing save frontal attacks, your tactics were nearly decent.
Felix! You really ought to stop picking fights with His Highness.
Don't worry, Ingrid. I encourage all to speak freely. And I must agree that the professor's tactics were truly extraordinary. I have much to learn.
Oh, sure, but today was exhausting. I'm so hungry I can barely stand...
To be honest, so am I. Let's head to the dining hall. Together.
Professor. I'm sorry to intrude, but...you don't look too happy for someone who just won.
You're mistaken.
You say that, but your eyes tell a different story. I know we only just met, so this may be difficult for you, but... I'd love nothing more than to share our happiness with you. Joy can be so fleeting, after all. We're all in this together...so I hope you will consent.
I'm sure the rest of the class feels the very same. Well...come along, Professor. Let's enjoy the fruits of our labor!

Next time: Kostas's revenge.

Speaking of Kostas, actually, allow me a moment of seriousness, belated though it may be.

Kostas's English voice actor, Brad Venable, passed away on January 7th, 2021, three days ago at time of writing. Additionally, he was the voice of Nardel, the Almyran general who also served as Claude's retainer. I'm not familiar with many of his other roles, but he also voiced Kagami in AI: The Somnium Files, the detective who Date can never remember the name of.

I don't really have any calls to action here. I didn't know the man personally, he was just the voice of some memorable minor roles in video games I enjoy. I'm a bit clumsy when it comes to stuff like this. Still, may he rest in peace.

Next Update
Previous Update
Table of Contents