After clearing the Glittering Mines, the second act of For The King gets underway. This is the largest act in terms of territory covered and the one that typically takes the longest amount of time to complete. Your party is sent outside the Guardian Forest for the first time, off to the Golden Plains to begin fulfilling a new series of quest objectives. I should back up for a second and make one thing clear though: nothing stops your party from leaving the Guardian Forest earlier in the game. FTK doesn't put plot progression barriers in your way like most modern games. It's just a bad idea to leave the starting area until the Glittering Mines are finished since the enemies in the other areas are much stronger opponents.
I ended my first playing session after completing Act One. When I started up again the next day, I kind of forgot that I was chronicling this adventure with the intention of writing about it later and didn't take much in the way of screenshots. Whoops, sorry about that! It's very easy to get sucked into this game and start One More Turning in classic Civilization fashion, losing track of time in the process. As such, I don't have any pictures of the initial exploration of the Golden Plains, the next part of the game. My party fought enough opponents to gain a level and a half worth of experience and visited the castle town of Parid, the next quest objective:
This is where I realized that I should start taking screenshots again, with my party having reached Level 4 outside the gates of Parid. I'll use this as an opportunity to explain how the leveling process works; characters gain additional health and one additional point of damage on each level up. They also get a health restoration and two points of focus back when they level, which is something to keep in mind while exploring lands far away from towns. The seven main stats of FTK do not go up from leveling, and can only be increased by equipping gear with stat bonuses. Note that I had already found and destroyed the Cult Device in the Golden Plains, gaining back the party life that I lost against Deimos as a reward. I like to have a little bit of leeway when it comes to lives, and having three in the bank felt safer than two.
I didn't have to worry about the chaos meter too much because I had a pair of "reduce chaos" side quests that I had taken from towns (listed on the left side of the screen). This is something that I haven't discussed previously: each town that your party visits will offer a single quest, with the options usually being a choice between reducing chaos, gaining an item, earning gold, or earning experience. Normally the quest tasks your group with killing enemies, although sometimes it merely involves running a fetch quest from one location to another. Towns will only grant a single quest and they never refresh; one quest per town for the whole game. It's usually best to pick the reduce chaos option since that grants more time to get through the main quest and earn additional levels and gold. On the highest difficulty, there's little choice other than to pick the reduce chaos option at every town or else there won't be enough time to get through the game. I had picked up two different chaos reduction quests from the two towns in the Golden Plains, and one of those quest objectives was right next to Parid itself, the enemy camp a single tile east of the city. Not exactly the hardest place to reach - you'd think that they could have cleaned that up on their own! It was practically inside the city walls. I had been waiting to clear that camp until my party reached Level 4, and now that they had hit the milestone, I went ahead and destroyed the monsters, removing the upcoming skull on the chaos meter for my troubles.
The main quests are listed on the other side of the screen, off on the right. Here in Act Two, the player always has to clear an enemy boss camp (the Mind Lord, visible about four tiles west of Parid), go through the Lich's Crypt dungeon, and find the Forgotten Cellar. These three quest objectives are always located one apiece in the Golden Plains, the Poisonous Bog, and the Rogue Isles, but not necessarily in the same map region in each game. This time the Forgotten Cellar was in the Poisonous Bog, and I've seen it appear in the Rogue Isles as well. I already knew where the Mind Lord was located and was waiting until my party was a higher level to do the miniboss fight. In the meantime, I decided to try and find the hidden location of the Forgotten Cellar.
Unfortunately the Forgotten Cellar was located somewhere in the Poisonous Bog. That was a problem, as this marshy region is my least-favorite area in the whole game. Movement slows to a crawl in the bog as characters only roll three movement dice (as opposed to the normal five dice, and six dice in the open spaces of the Golden Plains). The terrain is also full of green-colored clouds that poison anyone who walks through them. Since this whole game operates on a clock, you want to minimize time spent in the Poisonous Bog where movement is incredibly slow. Often I will do the whole area from the party's boat, disembarking to explore tiles along the shoreline and then reembarking each turn to avoid time spent in the swamps. That didn't look to be an option for this game though, as the Poisonous Bog didn't appear to have that much in the way of coastline. Instead, I decided to use a Vision Scroll to reveal the terrain and avoid having to wander around exploring the place myself. These scrolls can be purchased in towns, although usually enough of them will show up in random drops that there's no need to waste money on them. I selected the area in the clouds that I wanted to reveal, and...
Poof! Almost the whole Poisonous Bog was revealed in a flash, with no need to wander around aimlessly. There were several objects of immediate interest here: the town of Yoniburg in the east, the volcano to its northwest where this map region's scourge was hiding out, and the Forgotten Cellar itself over on the western edge of the swamp with the little blue marker floating above it. There was also a minidungeon in the center of the bog, another Cult Device near it along the southeast coast, and an additional Sanctum in a very inaccessible spot along the western shoreline. The yellow markings indicated that it was the Sanctum of Wealth, which grants a single character a +20% gold multiplier. That would be perfect for BraveSirRobin, who already had a modest +10% gold multiplier from his lute. In other words, there were a lot of goodies in this area that I wanted to access, if only I could find a way to avoid the slow movement rate in the swamps and provide a place to heal between battles. The western half of the Poisonous Bog in particular was a remote area with no immediate towns nearby which I would have to work around.
This was my solution:
I used a Portal Scroll to set up a magic portal from a tile just outside Oarton into the center of the swamps. The magic portals will last for nine turns, or three full rotations through the party's turn order, and it does exactly what one would expect, connecting together two different parts of the map. Step into one end of the gateway, step out the other end instantly. There are all sorts of clever uses for Portal Scrolls in this game, and a creative player can get a lot of use out of them. In this screenshot, I had already destroyed the Cult Device for another chaos reduction, leaving the chaos meter empty of the little skulls as far as I could see. (There was still a scourge coming up which I would need to deal with in the near future.) Next I ventured into the minidungeon next door known as the Catacombs, clearing the four rooms inside for some additional gold, experience, and treasure. An upgraded set of robes for Smoky appeared in here with more Intelligence and additional armor/resistance over what he already had, very nice. Then my injured party was able to hop right back through the portal afterwards and heal at the inn in Oarton rather than needing to expend one of my precious Tinder Pouchs in the field.
This is what movement looks like for anyone starting their turn in the Poisonous Bog. One guaranteed movement point (the gold icon) and then a Speed check roll for the other two movement points. Even Bowstring with her fast Speed rating failed one of the two dice rolls and was left with a paltry two movement, ugh. It's very easy to get stuck in this blasted swamp and waste a ton of turns simply trying to move from one location to the next, dodging poisonous clouds all the while. Trust me, it's an excellent idea to dip into the stash of scrolls to minimize time spent in the Poisonous Swamp. Use the open stretches of the Golden Plains or the seaborne transit through the Rogue Isles to grind out more gold and experience for the party and stay out of the bogs.
Back at Oarton, I had enough gold left over after healing to max out Smoky's pipe level:
There's the full list of benefits from upgrading the pipe from level 2 to level 3. While it was nice to get more results from Panaxes and Golden Roots, the real advantage of increasing the pipe level came from the additional health restored via the Godsbeard herbs. Now a Party Heal would restore 45 HP to each member of the group, enough to get me through the next few areas of the game in relative safety. Each level of upgrade gets significantly more expensive, of course, starting at about 20 gold for the first upgrade and then 80 gold and then 300 gold for the last upgrade. The price depends on the level of your character, and this scaling applies to the services in town and the purchase of herbs as well. Godsbeards will start at 10 gold cost and retail for about 300 gold at the very end of the game. It's an awkward element of the game's balancing and has caused a lot of frustration for the online community, since it understandably doesn't make much sense why the herbs keep getting more and more expensive. It's one of those things that's logical from a gameplay perspective if not a realism perspective. I suppose that they could have had multiple different levels of herbs that get more expensive as the game goes along, but then what would stop someone from buying 100 of the initial starting cheap herbs and then having near-infinite healing available to them? This is a rougelike game and the whole genre relies on having strictly limited resources for the player. While I don't love this mechanic, I don't see an obvious alternative either. Pretty much all of the "fixes" in community mods just turn the difficulty level of FTK into a joke.
This screenshot also demonstrates the list of services available in towns, which remain the same in all locations. The service that I use the most often is the Inn, which will restore about 70% of a character's maximum HP and two points of focus when chosen. It's always the cheapest option and provides great value, albeit it does use up any movement points that a character might have remaining. Meditation is pretty straightforward, pay a fee to restore all Focus points. Ditto for Blessing which will remove all curses from one character. This service is often the only way to get rid of curses, since the Hag's Bane item tends to be rare and expensive. The Healer is most similar to the Inn, costing a bit more gold to restore all health and any non-curse status ailments that a character might be suffering under (most often poison). Note that the Healer does not end a character's turn when picked, and this may justify the higher price sometimes to salvage a turn's worth of movement for that character. All of these services scale up in price as the game goes along just like the herbs in the marketplace. There are no free lunches in FTK, everything keeps getting more and more expensive with time.
For my next immediate task, I opted to split up the party. I wanted to give BraveSirRobin the Sanctum of Wealth, and therefore opted to have him use a Teleport Scroll to hop immediately to the location, tribute it, and then walk back out of the swamps again on the same turn. Teleport Scrolls work similarly to Portal Scrolls, only providing a one-way journey instead of a temporary passage between two points. It's a good idea to make sure that everyone has a Teleport Scroll in their back pocket for emergency situations, which normally isn't too tough since they drop after battles on a regular basis. While the Minstrel was off getting richer, Smoky was heading into the Forgotten Cellar. It was the little building with the blue roof immediately south of Oarton, and unlike every other dungeon in the game, only one of the three player characters can go inside. This always produces a boss fight with the Acid Jelly:
The big cube of goo has the obnoxious property of using an acid attack that will destroy your equipped gear. I made sure to bring poison immunity for Smoky because the Acid Jelly will also use a poisonous attack as well. The boss is slow to act and has zero evade or armor/resistance, but it has enough health that you'll almost certainly lose some kind of equipment before the battle is over. The only solution is to bring a high-damaging character and try to win as quickly as possible. I had one character on a prior run lose their weapon to acid immediately, equip a backup weapon, and then lose that to acid as well. I had to finish the encounter by punching the jelly over and over again for minimum damage. In retrospect, I probably should have used Bowstring here because she was significantly faster than Smoky (85 Speed against 64 Speed) and would have been able to get off more attacks. Even Smoky was able to get 3 rounds of action for every 2 rounds of the Acid Jelly, and Bowstring could have done better than that. I had a good result here overall and only lost a single item, the anti-poison ring that Smoky had been wearing. I could live with that.
With all of my objectives completed in the Poisonous Bog, I regrouped my party and headed back east to the Golden Plains again. I didn't quite make it in time before the scourge on my timeline triggered, kicking the harmful effects of The Old One into play. While this scourge is active, each party member has a slight chance of losing their turn, nasty stuff. I don't know the exact odds and it didn't end up hitting anyone on this particular adventure, but this scourge needs to be cleared as soon as possible. Of course I had known the location of The Old One for some time, avoiding the battle only because the scourge was listed as being Level 6 and I didn't want to put myself into excessive danger with underleveled characters. Now the time was right to face the enemy though, and my party had been heading straight for the scourge ever since leaving Oarton (aside from a brief stop to take out the Mind Lord quest objective along the way). The Old One also lacked accompanying minions, and he will typically try to defeat your party through magical attacks that can stun or confuse individual characters. This didn't end up being a very difficult battle, and I walked away with another artifact for winning:
I love seeing The Old One appear as a scourge because he always drops this item on defeat. The Golden Hourglass is an outstanding piece of gear, one of the rare places to get a huge +10 bonus to Speed along with another movement point on the world map. I opted to give it to Smoky to get his Speed up to 74, which also resulted in 5 percent more evasion since apparently every two points of Speed corresponds to another point of evasion. Bowstring and Smoky were my primary damaging characters and I wanted them both to be as fast as possible. BraveSirRobin was more of a support character, and his stats were a bit lower because I had given him a ring with +15% gold rather than something that added damage or defensive capabilities. The Minstrel was more than pulling his weight though; between lute and ring and Sanctum of Wealth, he had a grand total of nearly +50% additional gold multiplier, and that was making a huge difference in terms of party funds. Since money is so tight in this game, it's a very good idea to load up one character with lots of gold multiplier bonuses in the hopes of staying ahead of the expense curve.
The last thing that I had spotted in the Poisonous Bog was the location of another scourge in Warlocks Volcano. This is the domain of Coal Heart, a wizard who dresses in red and wears a hat that looks like an exploding volcano. You'll never believe this, but he uses spells with a fire effect. It was important to clear out this scourge while I was in the area to keep his unique effect from popping up later; Coal Heart causes volcanos to spawn across the map that leave a burning effect on nearby tiles. He had just appeared on the chaos meter at the top of the screen as a looming threat down the road. The boss was fortunately located right on the edge of the swamps, and I was able to have Bowstring trigger the battle with the other two characters pulled in via support combat range items. This was a place where I wish that I'd had some fire immunity items, but it was still too early in the game for that. I tanked my way through the burning effects at the cost of a single Party Heal from Smoky. The artifact drop was something called the Volcano Hat with several useful properties: +1 party resistance, +3 magic damage, +100% damage against ice enemies, and status immunity from burning. While it wasn't good enough to replace what I was already wearing, I held onto it for potential future situational use.
The remaining area that I needed to explore in Act Two was the Rogue Isles. These are not suprisingly located out on the water, and reaching them requires purchasing a boat:
Boats can be bought or repaired at any of the little docks scattered around the coasts. They're pretty common and one of the docks was located a little south of Parid. That said, the need to spend 300 gold to purchase a boat is kind of a jerk move on the part of the developers. In a game where money is always very tight, the need to spend this much cash on a mandatory plot progression vehicle always feels like a cheap shot to me. The other item for sale is Caustic Ink, which will ward off an encounter with the Kraken for the next nine turns when used. I wasn't going to spend money on that, as I figured my group was strong enough at this point to drive off the sea monster if it appeared. I also had a break of good fortune while moving the other party members over to the coastline: a random monster dropped a powerful magical tome for Smoky, one that had the resistance-piercing property on its main damaging attack. I had been struggling a little bit against enemies with high resistance since both Smoky and BraveSirRobin dealt magical damage and neither of them had a weapon that pierced opponent resistance. High armor monsters were no trouble since Bowstring's spear did have an armor-piercing secondary attack, and high armor didn't bother the magical damage of my Herbalist and Minstrel, but the resistance-packing enemies had been slow going for a while. This item drop helped to change that and made a noticeable difference in my battles.
Movement on the boat is a little bit different than movement on land. Characters roll Talent as their movement stat at sea instead of the normal Speed, making Minstrels particularly good at getting about under this mode of transportation. The boat can also pick up any party member within five tiles, and it's often quite useful to have a character leave the boat and walk inland to explore, only to have the next character magically pick them back up and head a little further down the coast to do more exploring. Using the boat to group up the party can save a lot of time and avoid wasted movement. Anyway, the first thing that I spotted in the water was this Sea Cave. There are always a bunch of Sea Caves in the ocean, and they're some of the best places to gain valuable gold and experience. BraveSirRobin headed inside immediately, grouping the party with him to tackle the minidungeon together.
Here's a picture of Smoky's new magical tome in action. The primary attack here was Surge, which rolled his Intelligence stat for its three checks and would ignore enemy resistance if all three succeeded. The odds of that were already up to 59% for a perfect attack, and if I needed to down a strong opponent immediately, a single point of Focus would guarantee the first dice roll and boost the second two dice rolls to 94% each. This made it almost certain of landing a perfect Surge attack and piercing the enemy resistance. His old staff had dealt 23 magic damage without any such piercing property; it would have dealt 15 damage on a perfect roll against the Chaos Mage pictured above instead of 25 damage. This was a major difference and sped up my killing pace notably.
By the way, I should mention that Smoky died again in a random encounter outside Parid just before purchasing the boat. I ran into a difficult encounter with a pair of Fire Jelly cubes, and all of the enemies concentrated on Smoky at once, downing him before I could get off a heal. That left me with only the two lives again and Smoky noticeably behind the other two characters in experience. I'd have to catch him back up by tributing more stone statues for additional experience.
The Sea Caves nearly always drop one of these Precious Pearls when completed, and they are some of the most helpful items in the game. Each pearl will remove all status ailments (not counting curses) from the party while simultaneously restoring all Focus to maximum. They are enormously useful in the final boss gauntlet, and it's a very good idea to clear a bunch of Sea Caves to stock up on them before reaching the last dungeon. As for this other item, this was the first time that I had ever seen the Swordspell in action. It was an Intelligence-based weapon that did physical damage, not magical damage, and had an armor-piercing property for one of its alternate attacks. Since the overall attack rating was slightly higher than the Mage's Tome, I went ahead and make the switch for Smoky.
Most of the Rogue Isles were located to the east of the Golden Plains in this particular game. The Rogue Isles always consist of a series of small islands with the town of Devil's Wharf located somewhere amid the archipelago. I took this picture to highlight the boat's pickup range: five tiles in every direction. The game is quite generous in this regard. I had also found another Cult Device on this little island to the east of Cazeli's Watch, which I destroyed to gain back the party life that I had lost a short time earlier. Getting back to three lives again made me feel a lot safer. My final main quest objective was also nearby as well, the Lich's Crypt dungeon found on the island to the east. First I needed to take my party back to town for healing, and then I'd be freel to delve deeply into the earth and eradicate the foul minions inside the crypt.
One dungeon later, my group found itself facing off against the boss at the end of the Lich's Crypt. Not surprisingly this was a Lich who came with two skeleton minions, all of them packing pretty decent armor and resistance. I managed to capture Smoky getting a killing stab off against the skeleton on the right, which looked quite amusing. This old man Herbalist running forward to attack with a magical sword at melee range? Great stuff. The Lich hit pretty hard and buffed the attack of his companions, but I had enough healing items and the Party Heal ability to carry this group through without any serious trouble. We had outleveled the monsters a bit, with everyone on my team already at Level 7 and the boss minions quite a bit lower than that. I should probably point out that I'd been continuing to purchase Godsbeard herbs nonstop the whole game, picking up a few at every town that the group visited. There were 17 of them in inventory now and that was not excessive, trust me. My stores would diminish considerably over time as I cleared out dangerous in remote parts of the map. Keep buying those herbs throughout the game, you won't regret it.
Now all that I needed to do was return to the Golden Plains and clear my way through the King's Maze, the final dungeon of Act Two. It was best reached by sea, and on my way over there, I had an unpleasant surprise: the Kraken reared its vile head!
There's no way to avoid this encounter once it appears; the only way to stop the Kraken with any certainty is to purchase the Caustic Ink and use it proactively ahead of time. We would have to fight off the Kraken to continue with the quest:
Fortunately the Kraken isn't too bad, at least not if your party has reached an appropriate level. While the Kraken doesn't deal that much damage, it has a ton of health and one of its three components must be destroyed to ward it off. The tentacles are much easier to defeat than the main body of the Kraken and that's what I went after here. (I don't know if killing the core of the beast does anything special.) The real danger in this encounter comes from attacks directed against your boat. It has its own separate life meter on the left side of the screen, and many of the Kraken's attacks will target the boat instead of your party. What happens if the boat is destroyed? Nothing good, I'm sure. Probably a game over, although it hasn't happened to me yet. This is the time to go all-out on offense and drive off the Kraken before it can smash apart the boat. I was able to win this battle at the cost of about 5 points of damage to the hull. I would repair the boat at one of the docks afterwards to get the thing out of the danger area on health.
The King's Maze itself was located just to the southwest of where I fought the Kraken, only five tiles away from the starting town of Oarton. It's locked by plot progression until finishing all of the other quests in Act Two, which means no chance of stumbling in there accidentally with an underpowered group. As a major dungeon, the King's Maze is about the same size as the Glittering Mines that closed out Act One, only without the chance to use a Tinder Pouch in the middle. My very first game of For The King ended in the King's Maze, largely because I expected to have a chance to take a party rest in the dungeon and was sorely disappointed. That party was strong enough to defeat the boss at the end and simply ran out of healing items along the way. I did not make that mistake this time, bringing 16 Godsbeard herbs into the dungeon with me. The monsters inside were tough opponents and I went through three of those herbs on the way through the twisting maze's passages. That still left 13 in inventory for the boss:
The final opponent in Act Two is this undead Bisontaur along with two magical priestesses attuned to fire and ice. All of them hit hard and have serious armor/resistance for protection. I think that the Bisontaur got off a perfect attack against the lightly-armored Smoky and it did about 40 damage along with a stun effect. The two priestesses concentrated on area of effect magical damage, applying the enflamed and frozen debuffs respectively. For my part, I concentrated on eliminating the two mages first as usual, with BraveSirRobin applying a speed down debuff from his lute whenever he was able to get off a perfect attack. The armor-piercing properties of Smoky's and Bowstring's weapons were enormously helpful here against the Bisontaur's 12 armor, and there was a huge difference between Bowstring succeeding on a perfect roll versus missing one of the three Awareness checks. A perfect roll ignored enemy armor and dealt 23 damage; getting only 2 out of 3 dice rolls would deal 16 damage minus the 12 armor on the Bisontaur = 4 damage. Quite a difference there. This was another situation where getting the Encourage bonus to kick in, as pictured above, was a lifesaver. There was one casualty in this fight: BraveSirRobin was smashed around by the Bisontaur and saved from death only by his Sanctum of Wealth, which crumbled afterwards. Argh! Better than dying but that was a real shame to lose the +20% gold bonus.
Victory over the boss meant an end to the King's Maze dungeon and Act Two in general. At this point, the party would be moving into the last section of the game in Act Three, heading off to the last two areas and preparing for the endgame boss showdown. The toughest parts of the run were still ahead of me.