Continuing on with Alfyn's journey, I took him to Victor's Hollow and used Therion to Steal the Robe of the Flame armor from one of the townspeople. This was an equipment item that Tressa had worn for a long time in her solo game, noteworthy because of its massive 317 elemental defense value which is the highest in the entire game. All healing in Octopath Traveler scales off the elemental defense stat and therefore this meant that Alfyn's First Aid would only become that much more powerful. He was rapidly becoming even more unkillable thanks to having so much healing power.
I took this time to clear out some of the optional side dungeons in between running the Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 stories. This is something that I've found myself doing with the solo characters often, as the challenge level of the optional areas like Twin Falls and Untouched Sanctum is just about right for this point in the game. The above picture was taken while clearing out Whistling Cavern in the Sunlands, a place where lots of the monsters have blinding attacks of some kind. Since Alfyn didn't have a Light Stone to block this status ailment, he relied on his Rehabilitate skill instead. One casting would remove any negative statuses immediately and prevent any more of them from applying for the next two turns. Much better than using a standard item to cure blindness only to have it reapplied by the next enemy in the turn order. Most of these random battles were handled by attacking normally once or twice and then using Last Stand to hit everything at once, interspersed with occasional battles where I auto attacked everything to refill Alfyn's SP gauge via his Inspiration passive. I even found Alfyn's first Cait in this dungeon and smashed a medium Light Soulstone to defeat it for a much appreciated 1000 XP payout.
Some of these optional areas don't have a boss waiting at the end, places like the Path of Beasts and the Whistlewood. Others do have an optional boss waiting at the finish such as Twin Falls and its Monarch (butterfly) guardian. This was the perfect time to demonstrate Alfyn's incredible healing powers:
Alfyn had gained the 3000 job points required to unlock his seventh skill, the thoroughly useless Empoison ability. This was significant only because it simultaneously unlocked his fourth and final passive skill in the process, the powerful Heightened Healing ability. 30% additional healing from all sources buffed up Alfyn's First Aid to an even larger degree, with the base value already stacked to a ridiculous level from his Robe of the Flame equipment. The net result was a First Aid skill that could completely refill Alfyn's lifebar with zero boost points invested, 2500 HP restored at the laughably small cost of 4 SP. Since the monsters at this stage of the game were doing nowhere near 2500 damage this made Alfyn effectively invincible, at least in terms of pure damage. Status ailments and debuffs that could lock up Alfyn were the real danger for the moment.
When it came to the Monarch here, Alfyn didn't have any easy way to break through the 10 shields on the boss. I mean, he could break the boss if he really had to, but there was no reason to waste precious limited components when Alfyn was in zero danger from the enemy. Just attack and keep healing and eventually the boss would go down. I relied on Amputation, using the skill whenever Alfyn's boost meter was full, and of course it missed half the time. No worries though, he could have won the battle with nothing but poison ticks dealing 1% damage per round. This would largely be the pattern for the rest of the Chapter 2 stories: Alfyn had too much freaking healing to be killed, and therefore I saved his components for later and more dangerous opponents down the road.
The most interesting of the optional bosses was the Jötunn in the Hoarfrost Grotto, one of the handful of opponents who unlocks as part of a side quest mission. If the player doesn't trigger the Slumbering Giant quest, they can travel to this dungeon and there won't be any boss present. The Jötunn has a lot of health at 30k total but fortunately not much in the way of damage. Incoming attacks were averaging around 200-300 damage apiece and that simply wasn't going to have much effect against Alfyn. The boss pulled out one Absolute Zero attack that did 2108 damage and dropped Alfyn down to 1 HP (it clearly did whatever damage was required to leave him with a single hit point), however that fortunately only appeared a single time. I think it was tied to the boss falling below 50% HP although I'm not certain. Everything here was unsurprisingly weak against fire and that meant lots of Noxroot-based concoctions. You might remember that Noxroot (fire element) and Essence of Grape (wind element) are the only two components that can be purchased in stores, and therefore I was happy to make use of their concoctions without fear of running low on supplies. Eventually the ice giant was worn down into defeat and Alfyn could go pick up the terrible quest reward (the Calamity Spear, not a particularly good weapon).
Enough fooling around though, it was time to get down to the business of running the Chapter 2 stories. I thought about where to start and decided that I definitely did not want to begin with Tressa's storyline as I'd been doing in the past. The Omar boss at its conclusion can be awfully tough and it seemed better to wait until Alfyn had gotten a bit stronger before taking him on. I decided to start out with Therion's chapter instead, and after going through the annoying busywork of doing a bunch of low-odds steals, I made it to the boss at the end:
I tend to get this guy (Orlick) confused with Tressa's Chapter 2 boss (Omar) because of the many unnecessary similarities between them. The names are very close, they're both Chapter 2 bosses, they both are found at the end of manor house dungeons, and they both repeatedly call in minions to assist them in combat. Couldn't the designers have made them a little bit more distinctive? I guess that Orlick is technically a mad scientist inventor while Omar is a hired goon for a corrupt venture capitalist, but the in-game battles themselves are quite similar. Anyway, Orlick wasn't particularly threatening because he couldn't do much more than 200-300 damage and lacked anything in the way of status ailments or debuffs. I had Alfyn use Shadow Powder (Injurious Seed + Essence of Pomegranate) to remove the shields on the first minion, then didn't bother on the second minion to avoid wasting components. Orlick himself was weak to both axes and wind element, leaving him easy prey for Alfyn. When Orlick drops below 50% HP he calls in his golem protector, and the picture above captures Alfyn smacking that construct with his Amputation skill. I had gotten a bit lucky and landed the physical defense down property from his Blustery Powder concoction for an extra 50% damage on Amputation. There was never any danger in this battle although it did stretch out over some time.
There was a slightly better axe than the one that Alfyn had equipped hidden in his starting village of Clearbrooke. It was a 3% steal from one of the townspeople and Therion could assuredly manage to lift that with repeated cracks at the theft via save scumming. There was only one problem: the desired item was located inside a house that was blocked by another NPC. The person in the way was quite weak, only a 3 star rating, but for no clear reason Olberic couldn't use his Challenge ability unless he was Level 25, and he was quite a bit short of that. What to do? Well, it turns out that H'aanit actually does have a use after all:
Her Provoke Path Action does not have a level requirement to be used. It's the "dark" version of the ability, in the same fashion that Cyrus and Primrose don't need any particular level to use their Scrutinize and Allure abilities. Now this doesn't tend to be that useful because H'aanit's Provoke combats are a pain in the rear to fight, requiring the capturing of lots of monsters instead of just attacking normally, but in situations like this she was the one that I wanted. Even the basic Linde attacks were plenty to knock out this Granddaughter and open the path to her grandfather, who Therion then immediately stole from with absolutely no shame. Alfyn would put that Golden Axe to better use than him, that's for sure. It represented an increase of about +40 physical attack value over the old Hill Cleaver, nothing enormous but still a noticeable step up. I was mostly happy to find that H'aanit actually did have a use in these solo games. The only truly useless characters are Ophilia and Alfyn (when not being played as a solo himself), each of them made obsolete by Primrose and Cyrus respectively.
The next story that I decided to embark upon was Primrose's Chapter 2 tale in the northern wilds of Stillsnow. The boss here was Rufus the Left-hand Man, a truly odious character based on the cut scenes that are shown throughout this part of the story. His one distinguishing gameplay trait is the use of multiple different attacks that inflict unconsciousness status, and I belatedly realized that I didn't have any items to protect Alfyn from getting stunlocked. My previous characters had gone through Tressa's Chapter 2 storyline ahead of time and grabbed the Conscious Stone item hidden in Morlock's Manse. While I could always do that here and come back to Rufus later on, I decided that I'd try to work around this challenge with Alfyn's Rehabilitate skill.
The solution was to maintain Rehabilitate protection at all times. By investing the maximum of three boost points, Alfyn would get 8 turns of protection that blocked all status ailments. That was enough time to run two full cycles of boost points that looked like this: with Rehabilitate status at 1 turn remaining, boost to max and add 8 more turns of the friendly shielding. Then over the next four turns, gain back three BP and use a max-boosted Amputation on the boss (which missed about a third of the time). The next four turns filled up the boost meter again for another max-boosted Rehabilitate when the protection dropped down to a single turn remaining. Rinse and repeat over and over again with healing as needed. This was an exceedingly slow process but it stopped Alfyn from being stunned and that was the only way that he was ever going to lose this fight. Even plinking away with 3000 damage Amputations that missed a fair amount would eventually translate into victory. Let's be clear: while I would have much rather just equipped a Conscious Stone, I did enjoy coming up with a creative way to win this battle using Alfyn's unique abilities.
Gideon was the next target on my list, chosen at least in part because he and his skeleton minions were all weak to either axes or fire element. (They were also weak to light element but I wanted to avoid wasting Addlewort components here.) Alfyn made use of standard tactics for the most part, breaking the individual minions with Fiery Powders and then hitting them with Amputation once shields were down. When Gideon resummoned his Dancing Bones back to the battlefield, I simply hit them with a max boosted Last Stand to take advantage of their weakness to axes, downing them again almost instantly. (The minions come back at half HP which makes them easier to defeat a second time.) The biggest danger in this fight came from the terror status condition which I lacked a Calming Stone to block. More Rehabilitate and more healing with First Aid powered Alfyn through to a victory.
I typically used the single-target concoctions that were mixed together from seed ingredients. However, once in a while it was better to employ the multi-targeted concoctions derived the dust ingredients instead:
Everything here was weak against fire and that made the Fiery Plume concoction (Injurious Dust + Noxweed) more useful than the standard single target Fiery Powder. Two such concoctions broke the skeletons in the back, allowing them to be wiped out by Last Stand, and then a Fiery Powder broke the last two shields on the dark elemental in the front for Amputation disposal. This random encounter was taking place in the Derelict Mine optional side dungeon located near Quarrycrest, and the enemies were noticeably tougher than what Alfyn had been seeing in the Chapter 2 dungeons. The optional Manymaws boss at the end of the area was weak against axes and Rehabilitation kept Alfyn safe from the smorgasbord of status conditions that it could toss out.
I traveled to Goldshore with Alfyn next, visiting the coastal town for the first time. Goldshore is another one of the towns with unusually good equipment available, much like Noblecourt and Victor's Hollow and Grandport later on, which usually causes me to travel there as soon as it's feasible. Alfyn was able to Purchase the Dragon's Vest armor for when he needed more physical defense beyond with the Robe of the Flame held, along with the Protective Bracelet's +50 physical/elemental defense combo. I tend to run as much defensive equipment as possible in the accessory slots since I've found that solo characters need to minimize incoming damage as opposed to dealing out more of it to their foes.
Goldshore is also the setting for Alfyn's own Chapter 2 storyline, in which he exposes rival apothecary Vanessa Hysel as a morally depraved practitioner, secretly making the townspeople sick with a rare disease and then charging them exorbitant prices for her cures. Vanessa is a fantastic character and I was enormously pleased when I came across this storyline for the first time on my initial playthrough. Alfyn's excessively self-sacrificing nature needed to be balanced out by a morally-compromised healer looking to get rich in the process. Vanessa calls out Alfyn for his apparent (but not actual) stupidity and then sets her guards loose on him. She couldn't have him muscling in on her con artist operation, now could she?
In terms of actual combat and not plot, Vanessa is probably the weakest of the Chapter 2 bosses. Vanessa herself doesn't deal much damage at all, instead tossing out poison and sleep status ailments while buffing up the attack of her minions. I made sure to equip an Antidote Stone as usual and didn't have to worry much about falling asleep; solo characters take all the hits so they never stay at rest for very long. Her Sellsword minions pose most of the threat and she'll summon them back again at full health against after they're defeated... but only one time, they don't come back after that. Therefore the whole battle is essentially just defeating the pairs of minions twice and then cleaning up Vanessa herself afterwards. The Sellswords didn't have particularly great weaknesses for Alfyn to exploit and I mostly kept hitting them with Last Stand repeatedly without trying to break their shields. Note the extra damage for Last Stand above since Alfyn was well below half health. In a situation like this one where he was guaranteed to act first on the next turn, I could allow the lifebar to drop into the red without taking on much risk. Slow and steady won the race again here along with a whole lot of healing power.
Then it was on to Ophilia's Chapter 2 story in Saintsbridge, another tale that involved saving stupid kids from the consequences of their dumb actions. The boss at the end of this area was the massive wolf named Hróðvitnir who distinguished himself by tossing out a bevy of buffs and debuffs. In the picture above, the boss had buffed his own attack along with debuffing Alfyn's physical attack and physical defense. Hróðvitnir can also inflict the terror status condition and although Alfyn's Rehabilitate was indeed protecting against that, unfortunately Rehabilitate only stops negative status conditions from hitting, not debuffs. Hróðvitnir also goes up to three actions per turn after he falls under half health, and all of this would have been really concerning if the base stats on the big bad wolf were higher. The good news is that the actual stats on this boss are fairly low and that meant that Alfyn wasn't in any real danger. Debuffing Alfyn's attacks meant that this battle lasted for a longer period of time, not that it created any higher chance of him being killed. Once again I opted not to waste components breaking the boss shields and simply used Amputation attacks that frequently missed. Who cared if it took a while? Alfyn could heal for almost 3000 HP per use of First Aid, and that meant he would never ever die. This was another example of Alfyn's innate tankiness serving him well. He soaked up damage like a sponge and didn't care.
I went back to Victor's Hollow next to embark on the series of scripted boss fights that constitute Olberic's Chapter 2 story. The dapper Joshua and his minions were all weak against fire, and that made them easy to first break and then chop into sausages with Alfyn's axe. Archibold didn't have any weaknesses that Alfyn's normal setup could exploit, however his minions did have that same fire weakness to set them up for a Last Stand multi-attack. Once the encounter was down to just Archibold himself, I stopped making any attempt to break through the shields and simply used Amputation whenever Alfyn's boost meter was full. You know the story there by now, 3000ish damage wasn't much but Alfyn would never die thanks to his healing powers.
For Gustav and his shield-toting minions, I wanted to knock out both minions before their health fell under 50%. They gain an unconsciousness-inducing attack when their health falls below the halfway point, and I still lacked a Conscious Stone to equip. The solution was to hit them with an initial unbroken Last Stand for roughly 2000 damage apiece, then break them and follow it up with another Last Stand at low health:
Apologies there on the flashy graphical display hiding things, it can be hard to get a good screenshot sometimes and the Victor's Hollow arena seems to be a particularly bad place for this. You might recall from the previous page of this report how Last Stand gets a damage bonus at low health, up to 2.5x damage when Alfyn's lifebar is completely empty. It was close to that here and I was able to get all the way up to 8000+ damage as a result, finishing off the two minions immediately. Gustav has almost 40k HP and would take a while to hack down, helped by the fact that he does have a weakness to axes. When Gustav falls below half health he starts using "Black Blade" at the end of every turn, an attack that inflicts terror status. I still had no Calming Stone to prevent this, with Alfyn instead relying on good old Rehabilitate to block the negative status ailment. I repeated the same process from the Rufus fight earlier and kept Alfyn in perma-protected mode, never letting him fall prey to fear. Once again healing and defensive abilities paved the way to victory.
Alright, so now it was finally time to head back to Quarrycrest and finish up with Tressa's Chapter 2 story, picking up a belated Conscious Stone in the process. I found that Omar was significantly less dangerous when faced at the end of the Chapter 2 stories as opposed to the beginning of the set:
Omar can put your character into stunlock which meant that the Conscious Stone saw use immediately. Aside from that threat, Omar is dangerous because he will re-summon his minions endlessly while buffing up their physical attack and physical defense. The key to winning this battle is getting a high enough physical defense stat to minimize the damage from the all-physical nature of this boss encounter. Some of my previous solo characters were taking 300-400 damage per hit at a time when they only had about 2000 HP, and the math just doesn't work out very well in that situation. By contrast, Alfyn had enough physical defense to cut that down to 100-200 damage per hit, and some of them even missed as pictured above. I have no idea why that happened, attacks never seem to miss in this game. Perhaps his evasion stat had increased thanks to those stat-boosting nuts I'd been feeding Alfyn in every town? In any case, add in Alfyn's 4000 max HP and his immense healing powers and there was no chance to lose this battle. I used a lot of Last Stand here to keep wiping out Omar's minions as they were resummoned again and again (I think four times in total) and switched to Amputation on the rarer occasions when Omar was the only target standing. Eventually this got the job done.
Now if you've read through the previous two solo reports on my website, you might have already picked up on how this general strategy with Alfyn would run into problems down the road. The endgame Chapter 4 bosses hit ridiculously hard and get 2-3 actions per turn. Alfyn's hobo-fighting strategy of getting punched in the face repeatedly until the opponent grew tired and fell over wasn't going to cut it with the more dangerous foes later on. What was I going to do when that happened? I still didn't have an answer at the moment.
Things seemed to be working out OK for the time being though. I had saved H'aanit's Chapter 2 story for last because it seems to be the most difficult of the bunch, both in terms of the boss at the end along with the need to get through two different story-mandated Provoke fights. I did the first one normally and then broke soulstones for the second battle against the ancient tree thing. The monsters in the Spectrewood dungeon like to use silence as a status condition, and that actually was the one status condition that Alfyn had to watch out for. He couldn't cure away his troubles with Rehabilitate or First Aid if he was silenced in the first place. An Articulate Stone kept this danger at bay and allowed Alfyn to cut apart the plant denizens of this region. Almost everything in here was weak against axes or fire.
The Lord of the Forest is the boss at the end and he's a tough cookie for a Chapter 2 foe. This opponent summons three rounds of minions one after the other in succession, and if the player gets close to defeating them, the Lord of the Forest will kill the minions himself for a one-time 5000 HP heal and then bring out the next group of minions. Each group of minions can inflict a different status condition, blindness/sleep/silence in succession, plus the boss can also inflict unconsciousness. I chose to block silence and unconsciousness as the two most dangerous status conditions and relied on Rehabilitate to cleanse blindness if it appeared. Standard operating procedure was in effect here, hitting everything on screen with Last Stand while allowing Alfyn's HP to drop as low as I could safely manage for the damage boost.
Once the third round of minions was gone, the Lord of the Forest couldn't summon any more of them and I could get down to the business of destroying him in earnest. Breaking the boss was easy with both fire and axe weaknesses to play around; I opted for Fiery Powder concoctions since Alfyn could get two shield breaks and a chance to inflict poison without investing any boost points. Then I used Amputation as usual once the boss was broken and couldn't dodge. This did reveal something about the boss AI routine that I hadn't pieced together fully with previous characters:
The Lord of the Forest uses this Consume Life move on recovering from being broken. It reduces the target down to 1 HP and restores an equal amount of health back to the boss. Now the danger here isn't as bad as it seems: since the Lord of the Forest only pulls out this move when recovering from a shield break, and since enemies that recover from broken status always go first in the turn order, Alfyn was guaranteed to get a turn following this move and have a chance to heal before facing another attack. There was no chance for the Hurricane/Vaccuum Wave cheese combo that some of you will remember from Necrophobia in my Final Fantasy 5 solo runs. But I still didn't like seeing this sequence pop up in the first place, and I quickly stopped making any move to break the boss to avoid it. No thank you, let's avoid going down to 1 HP at all where a mistaken command input from me could result in having to do the whole battle over again. All those Fiery Powders ended up poisoning this boss repeatedly and poison ticks ended up doing a fair amount of damage. The axes weakness along with that poison caused this battle to conclude faster than some of Alfyn's other boss fights, and with the Lord of the Forest in the rear view mirror, Alfyn was able to put the final Chapter 2 storyline to rest.
Alfyn continued to make steady progress thanks to the amazing power of First Aid to tank through endless amounts of damage. I was most concerned about his low damage output and hoped to improve on that going forward. He had reached the halfway point of his journey but the biggest challenges still remained to be overcome in the days ahead.