Cyrus continued his journey in the aftermath of finishing the Chapter 1 stories for all eight characters. Cyrus was playing out thus far almost exactly the way that I'd been expecting, an extraordinarily fragile character paired together with tremendous damage output. He was the very definition of a ranged DPS character from an online MMO RPG, the focal point of a fight that all of the tank and support characters would be trying to protect in a pitched battle. Of course, with this being a solo game, there was no one else to protect Cyrus and I knew that was going to be a recurring problem. Since there wasn't a lot that I could do in terms of providing Cyrus with more health, the best thing that I could do was unlock superior defensive equipment to reduce the incoming damage from the unending cascade of enemy attacks.
This was another spot where the Elusive Maneuvers support skill came through for Cyrus in a big way. I had already taken advantage of the reduced random encounters to walk Cyrus over to towns like Noblecourt, Stonegard, and Goldshore at a far earlier date than I'd ever tried with other solo characters. Now I continued onwards out into the third ring of the Coastlands by jaunting to Grandport, one of the farthest-flung destinations to be found in Octopath Traveler's world map. This wouldn't have been possible with anyone else since they couldn't survive even a single random encounter, and indeed Cyrus was brutally killed whenever he ran into monsters along the way. It didn't matter though, since the increased step counter from Elusive Maneuvers always alllowed him to make it to the next save point or screen transition before he was crushed by enemies. A simple process of rinse and repeat allowed him to stroll into Grandport at something like Level 20, absolutely crazy stuff.
I always target Grandport in my solo games due to the excellent defensive equipment that can be Purchased using Tressa. The Forbidden Shield is the best option, holding by far the highest physical and elemental defenses in the shield slot until the Battle-tested Shield comes online. (That item lacks any elemental defense at all but still performs better in most situations thanks to the HP/SP regen that it carries.) By way of contrast, the previous best shield is the Spiked Shield and it's about 80 points lower in both physical/elemental defense as compared to the Forbidden Shield. This is a must-have item for solo characters. I also made sure to purchase the Protective Necklace accessory for +80 defense in both stats, another item which would be highly useful for boss fights. These two purchases cleaned out Cyrus' coffers and therefore it was back to monster hunting in dungeons afterwards.
Cyrus had earned enough job points by now to unlock his seventh active skill (the mostly useless Analyze) and therefore his fourth and final support skill. This was the best passive skill of the bunch, Vim and Vigor, which restored 10% of his maximum HP each round. As pictured above, Cyrus would gain back 212 of his 2116 max HP following each of his actions in battle. There's a bit of a cruel irony here in the sense that Cyrus gets a passive skill scaling off maximum HP despite being the character with the lowest HP growth in the game. He's the single worst character to make use of this ability! What I wouldn't have given to put Vim and Vigor on someone like Olberic or Alfyn who had gigantic pools of health and would have seen a correspondingly large benefit. It genuinely was helpful for Cyrus though, doing a lot to keep him safe in both random encounters and scripted boss fights. I had Cyrus equipping accessories with extra HP on them for safety's sake and that synergized nicely with this support skill at the same time. More total HP meant more per-round regeneration and a Cyrus who hopefully stayed upright.
The above picture was taken in the Whistlewood, one of the half dozen optional side dungeons that I tend to clear out with my solo characters after finishing the Chapter 1 stories. This collection also includes the Path of Beasts, the Untouched Sanctum, Whistling Cave, Twin Falls, and Carrion Caves. It's worth the time to check out these optional areas since they contain extra stat-boosting nuts and additional Refreshing Jams. The Whistlewood was probably the easiest of these areas since the monsters were almost entirely weak to ice element. One such casting of Icewind would already deal 2500 damage to all enemies at max boost, wiping the board of all hostile opponents. Cyrus certainly didn't lack for mass targeted elemental damage, that was for sure.
Pictured above: more fun with Elusive Maneuvers. I'd written previously that Cyrus could travel basically anywhere in the world using this support skill and now I was putting that rhetoric to the test. (It's no wonder why the Octopath Traveler speedrun likes this skill so much, it can take you pretty much anywhere in safety.) The best helmet in the whole game is the Adamantine Hat, available in a purple treasure chest hidden in the Maw of the Ice Dragon dungeon deep within the Frostlands. The suggested level for the place is 45 and Cyrus wasn't even half of that yet, not to mention playing the game as a solo character to boot. Nonetheless, Cyrus sauntered in there and plucked the helmet out of its chest, then fast traveled back to town for safety with his heist secured. The Adamantine Hat was a truly remarkable pickup for Cyrus, with the highest elemental defense in the whole game paired together with excellent physical defense, plus a bonus 88 more points of elemental attack. It was almost like getting another Elemental Augmentor accessory for free! Goodbye Oasis Hat, say hello to an item that would almost never leave Cyrus' noggin for the rest of his days.
Since Cyrus had proven he could raid the Maw of the Ice Dragon, he kept right on going and strolled into Northreach as well:
At the risk of repeating myself, I have to stress again that Northreach is one of the most inaccessible locations in Octopath Traveler's world map. It can only be reached by climbing up a long, winding trail at the edge of the Frostlands packed full of dangerous beasts. Elusive Manuevers simply didn't care about that and allowed Cyrus to reach the town in complete safety, skipping from the Maw of the Ice Dragon to a save point and then to the town itself without ever winning a random battle along the way. Northreach had been one of my targets because it holds an Empowering Bracelet accessory: +1000 HP for the wearer, desperately needed for Cyrus and another way to increase the benefit of his Vim and Vigor passive. Finally, I also Purchased the Dragon's Vest armor in the less exciting town of Goldshore, retiring the Exotic Garb and its SP regeneration in favor of the superior defensive stats on the new gear. I could restore SP with Inspiriting Plums (and had the money on hand to do so now), and the higher defensive numbers were simply too important to pass up.
Cyrus was now carrying an assortment of endgame or near-endgame quality defensive equipment and that made a real difference in terms of taking on the Chapter 2 bosses. Most of the enemies in the random encounters couldn't even scratch his armor, pinpricking him for single digit damage which was then refreshed away by the healing power of Vim and Vigor. I used spells to defeat them since it would have taken forever to beat them to death with Cyrus' staff, but it would have been possible to win with physical attacks alone since the danger level was quite low. (This wasn't the time to break out the Iron Fists variant all over again.)
I thought about which Chapter 2 bosses to try first and decided to go after Tressa's opponents in Quarrycrest. This mission has a low suggested difficulty rating but has proven tough for some of the solo characters thanks to the boss (Omar) at the end. I wanted Cyrus to get this one out of the way since it's a place where a Conscious Stone accessory can be picked up and that would be needed against some of the other upcoming threats. After breezing through the associated dungeon, Cyrus was able to cut loose with his elemental spells against the boss and his minions. Those two minions are the biggest danger in the fight, with Omar able to buff up their damage and resummon them endlessly throughout the battle. Fortunately this didn't pose a problem for Cyrus: the minions were weak against lightning damage and a max boosted Lightning Blast wiped them off the map. Omar summoned them back only to have Cyrus blast them away again with Blizzard, taking advantage of the fact that the minions come back at half health. With Cyrus regenerating 275 HP per round, he rarely found himself needing to heal and had no trouble with this opponent. This was one situation where having heavy multitargeted damage made a massive difference.
I continued with Cyrus' own Chapter 2 storyline next since it took place in the same town of Quarrycrest. The plot for this tale has Cyrus tracking down a former colleague and investigating a series of missing townspeople. It's a little bit weird how no one else seems to realize that all of the disappeared individuals vanished right next to a huge network of underground sewers. Huh, I wonder where they could have gone? Come on people, it doesn't take a genius to sort this out! Anyway, Cyrus follows the trail to a hidden subterranean laboratory where the poor townspeople are being sacrificed to make blood crystals in a scene highly reminiscent of Full Metal Alchemist. Ever the brilliant thinker, Cyrus spouts off lines like the one above before admitting that he also has a fascination for the dark arts. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen! More seriously though, Cyrus does get down to the business of rescuing the kidnapped individuals who are still alive, which means picking a fight with the individual responsible, Gideon.
Gideon is somewhat reminiscent of Omar in the way that he relies on skeleton minions and keeps resummoning them repeatedly. The biggest difference is that Gideon's damage tends to be mostly elemental in nature, not physical, and his Dancing Bones will inflict blindness and terror status ailments. Cyrus didn't care about the blindness since he never used physical attacks, but I would have equipped a Calming Stone to block the terror if he'd managed to find one. The good news was the fact that the skeleton minions had a predictable weakness to fire element, allowing Cyrus to roast them over and over again for big damage. Once they were gone the boss weaknesses were unlocked, however that had no effect since Gideon wasn't weak against any of Cyrus' three elements. This was one of the first bosses where that proved to be the case, and I certainly wasn't going to waste soulstones trying to hit the light element weakness on Gideon. The net effect was that the battle dragged out a bit, with Cyrus unable to hit for more than roughly 3000-3500 damage at a time from a max boosted Fire Storm. He ate a few Inspiriting Plums to restore spirit points and otherwise didn't have much to worry about.
The real key to these boss fights was the stout defensive gear that Cyrus had acquired on his earlier forays out into the third ring of towns. If these bosses couldn't get through his armor and HP regeneration, it didn't particularly matter how long it took to defeat them. Take a look at the incoming attacks from the Orlick fight at the end of Therion's Chapter 2:
That's a minion attack, with the physical attack up buff in place, still doing less than 200 damage to Cyrus. He could nearly make it through the whole encounter by relying on Vim and Vigor healing alone without even needing any items. As with the last few bosses, Cyrus attacked the ice element weakness on the two minions to clear them from the fight, then went to work on Orlick himself. The big guy also lacked any weaknesses for Cyrus to hit and again it didn't matter. Cyrus kept casting away and the enemy was defeated soon enough. I'd like to tell you that I was doing something clever or interesting for these battles and it just wasn't the case. Spells, spells, and more spells were plenty to get the job done.
I took a few pictures of Cyrus facing off against Rufus, the boss at the end of Primrose's Chapter 2 story, and it was the same thing all over again. Cyrus equipped a Conscious Stone to protect against being stunned and then jolted the boss with repeated doses of electricity. When Rufus was broken, a max boosted casting of Lightning Blast hit for 4000 * 2 = 8000 damage in total. His DPS was scaling up rapidly enough that I was now confident Cyrus would hit the 9999 damage cap before the end of his journey. It was almost too bad that he would be limited to dealing 20,000 damage at a time instead of being able to ignore that restriction like Olberic gets to do. Apparently I didn't take any pictures at all of the Vanessa Hysel boss fight at the end of Alfyn's Chapter 2, which should tell you a lot about how not dangerous it proved to be.
I had accumulated enough job points by now to unlock Cyrus' final Divine Skill, Alephan's Enlightenment. (I had actually done so much earlier than I realized; it takes 5000 job points to unlock the final skill and Cyrus had nearly 10,000 of them by the time that I noticed. Whoops.) Alephan's Enlightenment is a unique skill that deals no direct damage, instead causing all skills from the wielder to hit a single target at doubled intensity for its short duration. It was a bit on the unwieldy side for Cyrus, since Divine Skills can only be used at max boost points and Cyrus had no one else to buff other than himself. The ideal situation was to cast Alephan's Enlightenment at max boost, then break the opponent on the following turn, and then used another max boosted skill on the final turn before the Divine Skill's duration timed out. Was it really worth going through all that trouble as opposed to simply casting Cyrus' normal skills at max boost?
The answer to that was a definitive "yes", at least in some circumstances. Going through the rigamarole associated with Alephan's Enlightenment allowed Cyrus to spike his opponent for a huge burst of damage at one point in time, rather than dealing that damage in more spaced out fashion. Due to the way that the boss AI is programmed in Octopath Traveler, it would absolutely be worthwhile to hit for roughly 20,000 damage right before triggering a more dangerous AI scripting change. I could already envision making use of this against several of the Chapter 4 bosses, at least assuming that Cyrus could survive long enough to put this kind of setup into action.
I was using some of the remaining Chapter 2 boss fights to get some practice in using this Divine Skill, finding it to require the aforementioned heavy setup work and in turn producing impressive results. Cyrus hit Archibold in the Victor's Hollow arena for 17,000 damage and then repeated the same process against Gustav in the final boss fight. (I had searched out a Calming Stone to block Gustav's terror attack and it made the boss fight much safer.) Then it was on to Saintsbridge to face Hróðvitnir and the same combination produced the screenshot pictured above. The beast snarled and clawed but wasn't strong enough to punch through Cyrus' defensive gear no matter how many buffs and debuffs it stacked up. Keep in mind that these Chapter 2 bosses only had about 30k total HP and Cyrus was eliminating about half of that with one snap of his fingers. It was a little bit like Olberic's ability to exceed the damage cap and hit for 20,000 damage, only in a much weaker form since it required so much setup ahead of time. And while Olberic could keep piling up more offensive might until he was hitting for 50k damage, Cyrus would never be able to go beyond 20k damage due to the 9999 damage cap (i.e. hitting for max damage on both ticks of his spells). Can you tell that I was missing Olberic a bit?
H'aanit's Chapter 2 story was the only one remaining still to be completed; I almost always leave this one for last since I think it's the hardest of the bunch. The one small change that Cyrus made to his setup was equipping an Articulate Stone to block the silence status ailment, one of the worst things possible for a character so reliant on his spellcasting. Many of the random monsters in the Spectrewood use silencing attacks and the boss at the end employs them as well. I continued using the Articulate Stone and the Empowering Necklace with its +1000 HP boost against the Lord of the Forest, even knowing that the boss had a stunning attack that Cyrus would be unprotected against. I valued the extra health more than protection from unconsciousness, especially since Cyrus would keep regenerating HP even on turns when he was stunned. Sure enough, Cyrus was knocked out a couple of times but kept restoring 334 HP per round like some kind of zombie. This was preferable over him having a mere 2344 max HP, far too low to feel safe.
On the offensive side of things, Cyrus fared better than most of my previous solo characters. The Lord of the Forest battle involves repeatedly clearing three rounds of minions, one after the other, and Cyrus was very much up to that task. The first two groups of minions were weak against fire, as was the boss, and the last minion round had a weakness to lightning damage. Cyrus kept mowing down each group of enemies until he was left with only the boss remaining. With a fire weakness to attack into, it didn't take too long to wear down the forest creature and burn it to the ground. With the constant HP regeneration keeping Cyrus in healthy condition throughout the fight, he might even have had the easiest time of any solo character to date.
The Chapter 2 bosses were therefore pretty easy on the whole for Cyrus. I'm sure that this had a lot to do with him raiding all of that endgame equipment at such an early date, making Cyrus effectively stronger than he was supposed to be for these opponents. Unfortunately, the enemies were only going to keep getting stronger and Cyrus wouldn't be able to rely on his superior gear for much longer. The task was going to become significantly harder in the days ahead.