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(following the link here will technically spoil something, though I won't be referencing that aspect myself)
The Absolute Worst
1. Thracia 776 Chapter 24x - The Altar of Loptyr
Oh hey there, Thracia fog. Can't see the terrain at all? Fun. Map layout that encourages you to get lost (look at that path on the left that leads to nothing but stat boosters that mean little at this stage and a god damn promotion item in the second last chapter of the game) because you can't actually see where you're going? Fun. Poisonous weapons, which of course never wears off on its own because status effects in Thracia are permanent unless you heal them manually? Fun. Thracia really likes the whole infinite poison chipping you away in the darkness gimmick, this is like the third time its used it. Status staffs that you can't know about going into the map because of the dark? Fun. Fenrir tomes and their ten range plus poison, on tiles that give +10 magic to the units on them? Fun. Dark mage reinforcements that teleport into the darkness to ambush you, possibly with Hel tomes whose "HP to 1" effect is instant death for a poisoned unit if hit on enemy phase? Fun. Almost every enemy on the map is a Berserker, who have Wrath in this game to make fighting them on player phase obnoxious? Fun.
Everything I just said? Pretty much completely irrelevant. All could be annoying but would be manageable to some extent, even in combination. The real problem with this map is, of course, the warp tiles.
Remember how in 16B, there were warp tiles that would send your units backwards through the forest for more tedious walking? Well, here we are with more warp tiles, more than twice as many in fact. And this time, they send you to that room in the bottom. You know, the one with no exit? So any unit that gets stuck in there can only get out if you have a Rescue staff (or a combination of Warp and Rewarp, which is more resource intensive). Do you also remember in 16B how I mentioned that it was an escape map, and any unit left on the map when Leif escapes is considered captured? This is after the prison break chapter where you get to rescue captured units. Anyone captured at this point is effectively dead. So anyone who gets stuck in that room is effectively dead if you can't get them out.
Did I mention that the warp tiles are invisible, with absolutely no indication that they exist, no way to know which tile is normal and which will teleport you into the doom room? So depending on your inventory, these tiles can effectively just auto-kill a unit that ends their turn on one. With absolutely nothing to even tell you they're there in advance. The only thing that even tries to indicate their placement is that enemies will avoid standing on them. On a fog of war map where you can't see the enemies. On a map with low enemy density so you barely get to see them anyway.
Oh yeah, if Leif gets warped into the doom room and you can't teleport him out with staffs of your own, he can't escape, and thus the game is softlocked. Gee what do you know, a Thracia chapter designed with the deliberate intent of trying to softlock you! Not even for the first time! This is clearly the absolute pinnacle of game design, best game in the series, 10/10.
There's a few actions you can take on warp tiles without being warped, mainly involving the rescue command, which is helpful if you know about it but utterly meaningless if you don't look things up online. In fact, it just creates potential confusion when you see that a tile is "safe" because someone stepped on it and didn't get warped, then you move there with another unit and they DO get warped. Speaking of, one of those actions you can take is opening a door. Take a good look at the map. Notice how three of the five doors on the map have warp tiles directly in front of them? So you'll stand on that tile to open them, and think that it's a safe space. Then on the next turn, if you're looking for a place to move someone, you can remember that the space by the door is safe! And then you get warped to the doom room. Punished for the sin of actually paying attention to the game and expecting it to hold true to its own apparent rules. They literally programmed and place these tiles with the explicit purpose of tricking you into getting wrecked by them.
Earlier in this topic, I referred to Revelation Chapter 10 as "an absolute atrocity". To call Thracia Chapter 24x the same would be an insult to atrocity.
I can't even begin to fathom how this ever got made. The entire map is built on an incredibly punishing, deliberately unclear gimmick that cannot be overcome except by brute force trial and error or looking up a map. I don't know if there was a strategy guide for this game being sold separately that Intelligent Systems was getting a cut of the profits on, but it would sure explain a lot about this map. And the game in general, to be honest.
The nicest thing that can be said about this map is that its unlock condition is almost as absurd as it is. In chapter 24, one of the NPC children you're trying to rescue (always one of the male ones, IIRC) will be selected randomly. If that child is rescue dropped within range of the door at the north end of the map, he'll move to open it. But only after turn 5. Before that they don't do anything but shuffle around. And no, none of this is hinted at in the game anywhere to my knowledge. So to even get to 24x you probably need a guide. Which just adds to the insanity, and doesn't change that even if you use a guide to unlock the map, you don't necessarily want to use a step by step walkthrough to deal with the map itself. I know I personally look up side chapter unlock methods, but try to play maps blind on my first go otherwise. With this being the sole exception really, as I'd had the details of it spoiled to me already.
Now that I've written a detailed summary of this chapter, I want you all to understand how hard I've tried to keep this civil and polite. It's hard to do and I may not have done a perfect job, but I've tried hard. I tell you this because I'm about to stop trying and tell you how I really feel.
This is the unquestionable worst thing in all of Fire Emblem. s***ty maps exist, full of tedium and gimmicks, but they pale in comparison to 24x. Stupid plot points exist, undermining interesting conflicts with dumb deus ex machinas, but they pale in comparison to 24x. Awful characters exist, some full of tiresome gimmicks, others dragging down plots with their intolerably poor portrayals of what could have been interesting ideas, but they pale in comparison to 24x. This rancid s***stain on the underwear of humanity is not merely the worst Fire Emblem has to offer but quite possibly the most detestably abysmal garbage I have ever seen in a video game. The world is a worse place for hosting it. The concept of human intelligence is called into question by its very existence. The simple fact that we're capable of using all our wonderful technology for the sake of creating "entertainment" whose sole purpose is to bait people into wasting their time and feeling frustrated makes you wonder if maybe all those generic fantasy villains were right and we don't deserve to exist.
Or maybe 24x is just a f***ing atrocious map and everyone involved in its creation had no bloody clue what they were doing. Either or.
Thank god that's over and I can be happy again.
Up next: The best map in Fire Emblem, naturally.
(edited 4 weeks ago)
Today I learned that the GameFAQs character limit is apparently 8000 these days
That sounds like 24x to me.
Link isn't the only one who kicks ass.
Congrats to Advokaiser for winning the CBX Guru Contest!
I don't know, I feel like I may have gone a little too easy on it in the end
Not sure if I'll have time to do the last write up this afternoon or if I'll need to wait until later on tonight when I get home
Let's wrap this list up, shall we?
This will feature mild spoilers for Genealogy of the Holy War (FE4)
1. Genealogy Final - The Final Holy War
After an entire game's worth of fighting across literally the entire continent, you come to the last battle kicking off right where it all started. Twenty years after Sigurd set out from Chalphy castle to repel the Verdane army, Seliph sets foot in his home for the first time in preparation for the final battle. You can even see the similarities between this map and the prologue. While some additional forests have grown to the west, you can clearly recognize the same layout, with the first village you ever saved right there and the village and church Lex and Azel once showed up at nearby. That little stretch of the map may serve little purpose in gameplay but to house some reinforcements you'll probably never even fight, but it certainly helps maintain the continuity between maps that this game is known for.
And of course, you have good music to listen to. It's not my favourite chapter theme in the game, but it's definitely in the upper half.
Right off the bat you're surrounded by dark mages on the cliffs, ready to pelt you with Fenrir and Sleep as you head out to deal with the first wave of enemies. After you deal with them it's on to the first real test of this map, castle Edda and its vast array of status staffs and siege tomes. Probably the largest concentration of long range magic in the entire series and guarded by a crew of strong and fast foot units, including an extremely strong swordmaster boss, this can be a long, brutal battle to slowly pick off the threats, abusing canto, dancing and the almighty Rescue staff to safely approach this gauntlet...or with those same tools and a bit of planning, you can slip right through them, take out the comparatively weak dark bishop boss and seize, immediately eliminating the entire threat. This same choice between epic showdown and sneaky trick is present for three of the five castles on this map, and even arguably the fourth to a lesser extent.
As soon as you've taken Edda you're beset by a swarm of great knights, lead by the master knight Brian. Once again the final battle of a generation puts you up against the Helswath and its monstrous defensive boosts, and Brian surpasses even his grandfather Langbalt with an insane 47 defense and 27 defense (in a game where stats cap at 30, mind you). Even holy weapons and non-holy magic will struggle to do damage, and he's a 9 move unit with canto on road tiles who will abuse all those things. Taking him down is no mean feat, but he can be bypassed with some quick thinking (or given the same treatment you give every high defense boss - throw the Forseti tome at him and see what happens), though it's much more difficult this time due to his minions blocking the way (although that can be to your advantage with some deep knowledge of the Rescue staff mechanics...)
The only real downtime of the map follows, with a relatively dull walk up to Freege to take on an armada of barons. They don't hit hard at range, but their high Pavise activation rate is a nightmare to deal with, and you'll have a brigade of bow knights showing up from behind you to try to catch you off guard...though in practice, it's pretty easy to seize before they can even catch up. Once again you can bypass most of this army if you can clear a path to the castle, though most players will probably want to take the opportunity to finish off Hilda personally, ideally with Arthur or Tinni. And the castle seize does not solve all problems this time, as the dark bishops nearby are not linked to Freege and will continue to pester you until you deal with them somehow, which can bode poorly if they're still active heading into the next part.
The final stretch of the map is definitely the hardest, as you have two of the hardest enemy groups in the game heading your way, Ishtar and her crew on the one hand, and a trio of Falcoknights with Leg Rings and nearly capped stats on the other. Trying to fight them all at once is a tough task for even combat monsters like Shanan and whoever your Forseti wielder is, but there are a bunch of clever ways to minimize their threat. The Falcoknight trio can be baited south and their AI will tend to attack at one range for the sake of setting up their triangle attack (did I mention they can do a triangle attack?), allowing you to lure them away from the rest of the crew and/or deal with them on enemy phase if you have a unit capable of handling them (like Shanan). Ishtar is as deadly as ever, but there are mountain tiles to give you at least a slight chance of dodging Mjolnir, she's still frail enough to be taken down before she can counter with critical weapons, and even her better than capped resistance isn't quite enough to save her from a nearly capped magic unit with a magic ring turning her off with a status staff. Or if you like RNG s*** you can use the sleep edge (or berserk edge!) because a glitch results in the status always triggering on her when it hits due to her resistance being over 30.
However you handle it, you'll then move on to face off with the Deadlords and another little surprise I won't go into detail on here for spoiler purposes. With tremendous stats and deadly skillsets (each posses Pursuit and at least one other damage boosting skill) and equipment, they're a threat to even your best units if you don't plan out very carefully what the worst case scenario is for exposing someone. And all of this happens under the watchful eye of the final boss, crown prince Julius. His Meteor tome covers a lot of ground and with Accost he can trigger multiple attacks with, and the Deadlords will actually retreat back into his range even if you've lured them away if there's no one in their attack range on enemy phase. If you can get up close with him, you'll find yourself barely able to damage thanks to the attack halving effect of his Loptyr tome, and while his attack stat is actually not as high as a few other bosses thus far, once he dips below half health he will crit on every attack thanks to Wrath, and a Wrath crit from Julius is strong enough that even capped HP and resistance can't withstand it, while he himself is immune to critical hits, as well as Astra and Luna.
While it is actually possible to take him down (safely, in fact) right away, for the sake of plot you'll actually end up sending some units around the forest to the north, leaving the bulk of your army behind to deal with the Deadlords while they head up to finally get a shot at Manfroy, the man responsible for pretty much the entire story. He's no joke to deal with quickly, as he has an army of dark bishops with sleep staffs and Hel tomes guarding him, and they start moving when you get relatively close. A single hit from Hel will drop you to 1 HP, another Hel will kill you, and Manfroy himself will try to pick you off with Fenrir, and with his high stats and 4 leadership stars, he's pretty accurate. Seems a place to take it slow, except you can't do that or you'll risk bad things happening. And Manfroy is durable enough that Seliph cannot ORKO him conventionally, even with a Power Ring. You'll need to either chip first or use a critical brave sword to actually get through him and seize without having to end a turn in range of the horde.
And then finally, you get Julia with the Naga tome that lets her utterly obliterate Julius in a bit of an unusual twist. Usually it's the main character who is "destined" to kill the final boss, not someone else!
This write up is huge, but the chapter can go by surprisingly fast. The enemies are strong and often well positioned, but you have so many tools in this game to work around them. Any given segment can be approached as slowly or quickly as you want, so long as you have a solid plan in place to make it happen. At the end of a game that can occasionally drag its feet, you find a chapter with great pacing that delivers a truly wonderful finale.
Part of my love for Genealogy is how much it nails its biggest moments. A lot of games have issues in this regard, with overly long and dull introductions, climaxes that go full stupid in one way or another, final battles that don't deliver on any of the hype, etc. Genealogy...does not. The prologue, as detailed at length earlier, is as good an introduction as it gets. The end of the first generation in chapter 5 can be a bit slow in gameplay but is great in every other way. The beginning of the second generation in chapter 6 can be a bit slow as well, but the first part of the maps is solid. And the final battle does not disappoint in the slightest. When it matters most, this game always delivers an unforgettable experience, and that all comes to a head with The Final Holy War.
(edited 4 weeks ago)
And with that, the listing of my top twenty and bottom ten chapters in Fire Emblem is complete!
Big thanks to everyone who followed this chapter, guessing at my often painfully obvious hints and reading through my frequently overly long rambling. It's kind of funny, I'm often bothered, especially in video game stories, by writing that is drawn out too much instead of being more concise and efficient, but as you can tell my own writing tends to be the polar opposite of what I think I value. Either I'm wrong about my own tastes or I'm a huge hypocrite <_< Regardless, it's been a lot of fun doing this.
I don't have anything else specific in mind, but if people have requests for other Fire Emblem topics they'd like to see me talk about or rank or whatever, feel free to make them. I'm definitely in a Fire Emblem discussion mood these days. I don't tend to get attached to many characters so I probably don't have a lot to say on topics like "top fifty best characters for non-gameplay purposes" or, god forbid, "top five FE waifus" and it's hard for me to discuss music without my comments getting hugely repetitive, but aside from that I'm open to almost anything. And even on the character side I still have favourites and all, just expect me to put a lot more weight on how much I enjoy using them in gameplay than most people would.
Or if you like RNG s*** you can use the sleep edgeGod that sword is fun to use. Lets you safely take out Julius or Ishtar during their murder competition, even.
Nice write-up for Final Holy War. It really is a chapter that throws everything at you, but you have enough tools by that point that you can handle it, in a bunch of different ways even. As you said, it makes for a great climax. And has probably my favorite player phase music in the game!
Thanks for doing this ranking, I enjoyed reading it a lot. Would definitely read another ranking if you decide to do one.
Congrats to BKSheikah, who knows more about years than anyone else.
God that sword is fun to use. Lets you safely take out Julius or Ishtar during their murder competition, even.
Huh. I've never tried using it there. Makes sense though, Julius has over 30 resistance so the sleep should trigger on him every time. The vast majority of my sleep edge shenanigans are just cheesing the arena with scrubs like Patty