Vagrant Story - Cutscene

I’ll be honest. I’m being negligent with Vagrant Story, and I’m doing it in two ways. First of all, I play rarely because other things get in the way. Secondly, when I do play, I neglect taking notes, so it’s difficult to write about it. This time, I took some notes.

It’s not a train ride

Well, yeah, I usually play Vagrant Story on a train ride, but the game itself certainly isn’t one. It seemed like a train ride at first, with the game and the story funneling you from one place into another, without much choice on the matter. Sometime after fighting Guildenstern at the Keep, though, and even more so after getting Teleportation, Vagrant Story really opened up.

Vagrant Story - Grissom's Corpse

The story this time involves a misunderstanding.

Suddenly, I get to go wherever I want and do whatever I want, without it even being completely clear where the next part of the story actually is. Vagrant Story actually feels more open than most Final Fantasy games, which contain a world map and far more open than those that don’t.

It does things differently

Back at the start, the bosses felt like a big challenge and the rest of the levels was just routine. Well, technically, you could easily die there as well, but there was a shift in challenge between bosses and regular enemies.

As of lately, though, everything became almost equally difficult. You fight a boss and then fight two of them as regular enemies a few rooms later.

Because of that shift, there’s a very methodical feel to how I play Vagrant Story. I prepare for every room and use all the tools I can to break through. The spells are the biggest part. I cast Heracles and Prostasio on myself and use Degenerate or Leadbones and Tarnish on my enemies, especially when they use Prostasio and Heracles themselves.

Vagrant Story - Tiger

This guy is either Tiger or Tigger. I forgot, as usual.

The thing about buffs in Vagrant Story is that you can only have one stat and one equipment effect at a time. This means that casting Heracles (increases Strength) on yourself cancels out a Degenerate (reduces Strength) and vice-versa. In the same way, casting Tarnish (reduces equipment) on an enemy cancels out their Prostasio (increases equipment levels). This fact makes the effect of these spells more powerful and makes using them almost critical.

Similarly, the various elemental fusion spells are equally important against some enemies. The weapon fusion spells change the elemental type of your weapon attacks all on their own, so if you’re unlucky and your weapon’s elemental stat is wrong against the current enemy, a proper spell can shift the battle from you dealing 0 damage, to dealing 50 damage per hit.

With armor fusion spells, it’s not as pronounced, but it’s still a very noticeable effect.

This whole approach, even though it’s often very obvious, turns almost every battle which would feel like a chore in other RPGs into something extremely satisfying.

It’s also the story

The same thing happens with the story. I love it how all the supernatural and undead events around Lea Monde aren’t just something the characters accept because it’s „that type of game world“. On the other hand, it’s not like a zombie movie, where the whole thing is so out of the ordinary that everyone is panicking and no one knows what to do.

Vagrant Story - Ashley

Why indeed?

Instead, the game world has magic and supernatural things, but some of them have been long forgotten and are now reemerging. The characters accept that it’s happening, but they still react to the whole thing. There are also subtle difference between them, with some, like Rosencrantz embracing the whole thing and making use of it, other shunning away from it and others still trying to use it, but failing and getting hurt in the process. Grissom and his brother are good examples.

Also, Ashley often pushes the silent protagonist trope, keeping quiet when he should be talking quite often. It doesn’t really work out for him, though. Very often in the story, there are misunderstandings because of him staying silent, so he gets into trouble and needs to fight his way out.

Of course, it also adds to his character. It makes him look like the silent, but observant type, not acting rashly and taking time to plan things out, which fits very well with how Vagrant Story plays.

I also plan things out

While I wasn’t playing, I did buy myself a nice notebook. Why? Because I hate managing a lot of printed papers on a train ride and a notebook can be used for both planning and taking notes while I play.

I listed all of the items in the game, ordered in quality levels and types, so I have it all on paper now. I also did research on how to combine equipment, though not with all of it yet. I only have the sword and great sword category for now.

Vagrant Story - Not Analyze

I uploaded this picture because I thought it’s showing me casting Analyze. It isn’t.

With great swords, it looks like the best thing I can get from combining is a bastard sword. The best great sword in the game, holy win, can only be gotten as a drop. The next best one, the rune blade can be gotten by combining a wakizashi and a stiletto. While you can combine a wakizashi, it’s the highest combinable regular sword, so it would take a long time to do so.

The thing is, I think I already had a bastard sword in my possession, so I’m sure I can get another one.

As for regular swords, as I said, I can go all the way up to a wakizashi. For that, I need for falchions and for shamshirs. One of each of these combines into a khora, two khoras combine into a khopesh and two khopesh finally combine into a wakizashi. The strongest one-handed sword, the rhomphaia, can only be gotten as a drop, sadly.

The way the game plays also affected my approach with Vagrant Story. Slowly, but surely, I’m relearning all the things a lot of modern games made me unlearn. I’m thinking things through more often, making plans and reacting to events the way I should.

A recent example:

I got into the Limestone Quarry. The enemies there are phantoms, which are easy to kill, two rooms with two ogres each, which take a while but also aren’t a huge challenge, but most rooms contain gremlins, which are extremely annoying. They do a moderate amount of damage, can silence you had have resistance to physical damage and edged attacks. Since my Light’s Hope is a great sword, that means I do low damage to them, even though they are evil affinity monsters.

Vagrant Story - Time Attack

I got two time attack challenges. These are the easy ones.

I made a circle through the quarry, using Heracles and Prostasio to get through the tedious gremlin fights, but then I realized I took a wrong turn by not solving a puzzle and the level wrapped back around into the starting room. I paused the game here because I didn’t feel like fighting those gremlins again.

Then I thought, why am I not preparing more?

I cast analyze on one of the gremlins and learned they are weakest to water. I looked through my backpack, but couldn’t find a water gem. Then I looked at the stuff I picked up. One of the shields actually had two water gems. I put the strongest one into my last remaining slot on the Light’s Hope and suddenly, I’m doing 80-100 damage per hit, without any buffs on me. I went there from 30 damage per hit, fully buffed. Now the gremlins are no trouble at all.

Additionally, I realized I got a gem which increases physical damage of a weapon, so I put it on my Exorcist dagger, so I can kill phantoms in a single combo.

Limestone Quarry felt tedious at first, but with some planning and preparation, it’s a breeze to get through.

Some minor gear changes

I didn’t do a lot of combining this time, but I did make some changes with my items.

I try to upgrade my armor to the highest possible level as often as I can, so there are some changes there. Also, I renamed my Exorcist axe, to avoid confusion with the Exorcist great sword type. My great axe for fighting humans will be called Beheader from now on.

Vagrant Story - Not Analyze

I uploaded this picture because I thought it’s showing me casting Analyze. It isn’t.

Outside of that, I’m noticing I have a lot of unused grimoires in my inventory. I guess I still need to learn or relearn that part, because I keep forgetting to use them in fights, even though some of them seem very useful.

Also, I’m still looking for a decent crossbow, to replace the Exorcist dagger, which I’ve been using from the start of the game.

I’m getting my first titles

Titles are sort of like achievements in Vagrant Story. I didn’t realize this, but I actually got three of them already. Two involve hitting things over 500 times with specific weapon classes and one of them is for the Chest key I found last time. As it turns out, the chest key is an option, relatively hard to find item, so it seems I’ve been doing some very optional stuff without even realizing.

I also got two of the sigils for the locked Keep rooms. These rooms are actually time-attack boss battle challenges. One of them was with the Minotaur and the other with a dragon. I beat both in about 3 seconds, so it will be an interesting challenge to beat those times.

Vagrant Story - Chest key

I did not expect the Chest key to be part of a title.

How did I do it so fast? It’s easy. Time is only running when you’re between attacks, moving around the map, so as long as in the menus, or executing a move, I have all the time in the world. This is actually how you get to do some of those timed requirements within the regular levels, such as the one I wrote about in the abandoned mines.

The story

As for the story, I didn’t see much of it. I met a guy named Tiger, or Tigger, or something. He was accompanied by the woman whose name I forgot again, but she was seen already around Romeo and his girlfriend. They found Grissom’s body in a place it shouldn’t have been in and, since Ashley was nearby, blamed him for his death and attacked. Sure, it was technically Ashley’s fault, but the body still wasn’t supposed to be there.

Anyway, there was an easy boss battle and after that, Grissom stood up. He heard some voices in his head, went mad as the undead usually do and ran off, as the undead usually don’t. After that, I got to the Limestone Quarry, where I am right now.

On a side note, I’m amazed on how quickly Vagrant Story deals with loading, especially when teleporting across the game world. A lot of the time, there’s no loading at all. I just instantly appear at my destination. I’d be very interested on how the dev team managed to do it on such a limited piece of hardware.

Vagrant Story - Rosencrantz

I got lost after Snowfly Forest. My assumption was that I needed to use the bronze key to go further, but I couldn’t find any bronze doors. From Snowfly Forest, I got through the City Walls South back into Lea Monde’s Town Centre West, but I couldn’t find anything beyond that. I had to resort to a walkthrough.

Where to go after Snowfly Forest?

The thing is, I didn’t really need the walkthrough. I just needed to look more closely. From the City Walls South, there was another door, leading to the keep. The one leading to Town Centre West was just there so I could visit the workshop if I had to. Just in case someone else gets lost, after Snowfly Forest, you need to go through City Walls South and into the Keep, or optionally, into the Iron Maiden B1.

Iron Maiden B-1

This! This is the furthest I ever got to in Vagrant Story. I thought it was Snowfly Forest, but I guess I did get through it at some point, because I now distinctly remember getting to Iron Maiden. I also remember getting stuck here and completely giving up.

Well, these were my thoughts when I found Iron Maiden B1. However, when I entered it, the second room was completely unfamiliar to me. It was probably just a glitch in the Matrix, I guess.

Some googling told me that Iron Maiden is a bonus, optional dungeon, made to be more challenging than the rest of the game. As a kid, I didn’t know that, so I thought the game was made to be that way. This is probably one of the main reasons I gave up.

The second room of Iron Maiden B1 contained a Wraith and two Gargoyles. This fight is designed to be annoying. The wraith is a ghost-type enemy, so its pattern is to teleport around and cast spells. One of the spells it casts silences Ashley, so his ranged damage gets disabled, unless I use a crossbow, which I don’t. The gargoyles, on the other hand, inflict the Numbness status effect, slowing Ashley’s movement, so it’s even harder to get to the wraith. The gargoyles, other than casting numbness didn’t do much, except that they loved just running away from Ashley, making his slowed movement even more annoying.

Even so, I focused on the wraith first and it went down in two hits, thanks to my Exorcist being a dagger with piercing damage. Killing it gave me a Mandrake Sigil, which apparently unlocks a door in City Centre South, as well as Grimoire Exsorcer, which casts the Exorcism spell, exorcising undead foes. Using Soil Fusion made damage against the gargoyles skyrocket, so they were easy to dispose.

Other than this first room the rest of Iron Maiden B1 was locked for now, so I went back to and through the first few rooms of the Keep, which were empty of enemies, but contained a lot of locked, colored rooms. I ended up at Warrior’s Rest, where I fought Rosencrantz

Boss Fight: Rosencrantz

Rosencrantz was easy. He kept using his break art, Cherry Ronde, which did about 60 damage to Ashley. Once he got low on health, he started using cure bulbs, so he prolonged the fight a bit, because his dodge rate was high. Still, eventually, I dwindled him down.

Vagrant Story - Rosencrantz

Rosencrantz was an easy fight, but it probably won’t be the last.

After the fight with Rosencrantz, I was at Town Centre South

Town Centre South

This was another large hub-like area infested with Crimson Blade soldiers. It connected directly to City Walls South, which opened up a shortcut for me. It also connected to Abandoned Mines B2, where I had to go next. The hint? The gate to it required the bronze key.

Abandoned Mines B2

Orcs! Lots of orcs.

Orcs are humanoid enemies, like goblins, so I used my executioner. There were also some slimes, but they died in two hits with the Hunter most of the time. The first boss I fought was an Air Elemental

Boss Fight: Air Elemental

I put two air affinity gems in my rounded shield to reduce the incoming damage. I then used Soil Fusion to boost my weapon, but it’s getting apparent I should switch to an axe or some other edged weapon against phantoms. The air elemental had a large amount of piercing resistance, so I did 15-20 damage per hit with my Exorcist dagger. Since it’s silver, I couldn’t combine it yet, so for now, I’m stuck with it.

Vagrant Story - Air Elemental

I’m pretty sure the elementals get stronger versions later on.

At this point, I also realized you can’t use a weapon fusion and armor fusion spell at the same time. Somehow, I didn’t notice this before, but one obviously overwrites the other. In this case, the choice was easy. I had two air affinity gems, but no earth affinity gems, so I used gems to boost my defense and magic to boost my offense. In the future, it might not be as simple, though I can’t imagine it being much more complex than that. Either I’ll go all offense, all defense or try to keep a balance.

More Abandonded Mines B2

Next up was a challenging area, though in part because I was careless. Ashley starts in a large room with a save point. Exiting this room to the next area starts a two minute timer. Within those two minutes, you need to get through about a dozen rooms, each with enemies, get all the items you want to collect, defeat an Earth Elemental boss and finally get through the room after that to end the timer.

To make it even worse, the first room after the timer is over does contain a save point, but in order to get to it safely, you need to defeat a dragon-type enemies (one of those lizard people) as well as two gargoyles, one of them earth-type and the other water.

Basically, I first ran out of time a couple of times. Then I managed to defeat the boss only to die at the above room. Then I did all this one more time before I finally managed to clear it and save my game. I decided to skip one of the two optional chests within this timed section, because I tried looting it in one of my failed attempts, but it didn’t contain anything useful. The other one, however, had some nice items, so I looted that one.

Boss Fight: Earth Elemental

The earth elemental wasn’t exactly difficult, but my Exorcist wasn’t as effective against it as I wanted, so it took a while. There was no danger, though, so I wasn’t worried about beating it. The thing about the timer is that it does not count down when you’re in a menu or executing an attack – only when you’re moving, so it isn’t really an issue to get through it all in time, unless you get lost and have to backtrack too much.

Vagrant Story - Earth Elemental

The earth elemental is in the last room of the timed section.

Boss Fight: Sky Dragon

Right after the room with the second save point, the Sky Dragon was waiting for Ashley. This one was an issue. For some reason, my Dragonslayer spear is not a piercing weapon. It makes absolutely no sense, because it absolutely does look like a piercing weapon. Instead, its type is blunt.

Because of that, even with Soil Fusion or Prostasio (I tried both), I did zero damage with my regular attacks. Luckily, I have learned a Spear Break Art which does piercing damage, so I used that to damage the dragon.

Still, it only did a maximum of 60 points of damage per hit, it damaged Ashley as well, so he had to heal, and it had only a 50-60% hit chance, to it took a while to take out an almost 700 HP dragon. The dragon also does about 120 of damage with his tail strike, which it loved to use, so this meant even more time spent on healing.

Vagrant Story - Sky Dragon

The sky dragon has a lot of defense, and a lot of dodge, so he takes a while to beat.

Basically, the battle was long. It wasn’t especially hard, but it was long. I need to create a piercing Dragonslayer as soon as I can.

The Story

It’s getting weirder, but also far more interesting. As expected, Rosencrantz had a lot to hide. That’s probably not a big reveal, but it is a big plot point. The major plot point, however, is that the entire city of Lea Monde is actually the Grand Grimoire.

Vagrant Story - Gran Grimoire

This sounds like a big reveal, but the game doesn’t make it look that way.

Also, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern know each other, Rosencrantz was expelled from the riskbreakers and Samantha can actually do the whole clairvoyance thing with Ashley in the opposite direction, which is how she was able to realize Ashley was listening in on their conversation.

Finally, Rosencrantz and Ashley did use to work together and both killed the picnicking family, so I guess that part wasn’t a lie told by Sidney. Or is it?

Vagrant Story - Cal Merlose

Callo has powers of her own…

Meanwhile, Ashley is fine tuning his clairvoyance abilities and can now communicate with Callo Merlose even more effectively. Callo, on the other hand, turns out to be a Heart-seer, meaning she can extract information out of people’s minds, somehow. It didn’t look like mind reading in the game, so it’s hard to describe.

Vagrant Story - Callo's Powers

…she can “read” minds.

Also, the duke Barbossa is something called a Key Holder – he holds the key over Lea Monde, having some control of the city’s powers. If he dies without a successor, then the powers are lost.  Sidney is also… something and has an interest in the city, but it isn’t yet revealed what he is or what he wants.

Character Development

I finally found a workshop that can handle hagane equipment. It was at the Keep, in Warrior’s Rest, right before the battle with Rosencrantz.

A footman’s mace dropped, which has much higher base damage than my wizard’s staff, so I decided to disassemble the staff and assemble the mace into my new Paladin undead weapon. Its undead staff is negative right now, but I’m hoping it will turn into a good long-term mace. Once I get to a workshop that can handle silver, I’ll be able to combine it with the wizard’s staff to transfer the points over.

A tower shield also dropped, so I combined it with my circle shield to get a spiked shield. This was a no-brainer straight upgrade. I further combined it with a circle shield to get an even better round shield. This one has two gem slots, so I fitted it with a White Queen (20% change to evade numbness) and a Nightkiller (20% chance to evade a non-magical attack).

I combined my hagane Dragonslayer spear with a bronze scorpion and got a hagane scorpion, which was also a straight upgrade. I also did this with my armor, several times. Basically, I have a higher material class, but lower tier item. I combine it with an item of a higher tier and lower material class to get a higher material class, higher tier item.

My hagane spatha Hunter became a bronze norse sword. The material class is lower, but the item there is much higher, so it does more damage. However, I’m now having trouble upgrading the material class back to hagane. It should work with an iron blade, but it refuses to upgrade. I might have to find an iron norse sword to do it. Sadly, what I didn’t realize at the time was that the norse sword is a two-handed weapon. I’ve saved the game after, so now I’m stuck with it. Hopefully, it won’t take too long for me to turn it back into a one-handed sword.

Completion Progress

I’m about 13—14 hours in and at 45% of map completion. I keep guessing how long it will take, but I’m going to stop doing that now. It’s obvious that map coverage doesn’t really correlate well with battles and story.