This would be the hardest part of Cyrus' journey: the final bosses at the end of the Chapter 4 stories. For most of the other characters, I had a pretty good idea of what my strategy was going to be and how I planned to achieve victory against each opponent. Not so much for Cyrus though! While I was reasonably confident that he would be able to defeat about half of his remaining opponents, I still didn't have a clear plan for what Cyrus was going to do against enemies like Werner and Simeon. It seemed doubtful that Cyrus would be able to survive against the punishing blows that these bosses could dish out, and all the offensive capability in the world wasn't going to matter if Cyrus couldn't stay alive long enough to get his spells off. I would have to see how things went and try to improvise a solution on the fly if I couldn't come up with anything ahead of time.
Unlike my usual pattern of action, I immediately started out the Chapter 4 stories with Cyrus' own tale. Wait, I wasn't going to run around trying to do a bunch of side quests first? Well, as it turns out, I thought that Cyrus was probably strong enough to deal with his own final boss without need for further grinding, and there was a powerful new item which would unlock if Cyrus could manage to finish up his storyline. It would be helpful both for the other stories as well as any other side projects that I might end up trying out. Plotwise, Cyrus' Chapter 4 story takes him to the mysterious ruins of an ancient city buried in the forests of Duskbarrow. There Cyrus finds a secret library full of famous lost tomes, stashed away there by hidden forces. (One question I've always had about this: how would these ancient books remain preserved for any length of time? They're just sitting out in the forest completely exposed to the elements! Cool-looking environmental design but not very practical.) Cyrus eventually discovers that the true villain was not Headmaster Yvon but instead his assistant Lucia, who tries to tempt Cyrus over to her side with the lost knowledge contained in those texts. Cyrus again admits a temptation for the dark arts before resisting the lure and confronting Lucia in battle. She transforms into the beast that I've shown in previous screenshots:
Using those blood crystals apparently grants enormous power but with a side effect of monster-itis. Not recommended for home use! Lucia starts out the battle with 30 shields and weaknesses to all of the physical damage types except staves. The key to this battle is never to break through those initial shields, as Lucia is weakest here in her first form and only gets stronger in her second and third forms. Cyrus actually had no choice in the matter since he could never deal any of the five damage types anyway, with no access to swords/spears/daggers/axes/bows. I went into this battle using the same Empowering Necklace accessory for +1000 HP that Cyrus had been wearing for practically the whole game along with a Conscious Stone accessory to blow the stunning attack that Lucia could use. Her "Wallop" attack would deal about 1200 damage to Cyrus and that was a good chunk of his health bar. Fortunately Lucia remains at two actions per turn for the whole fight but it was still tough to keep Cyrus alive when she would get a sequence of three or four actions in a row.
In terms of damage, Cyrus effectively had two options here. When his boost meter was full, I would cast one of the two-hit elemental spells against Lucia. (The type didn't matter since she wasn't weak against any of the various elements.) Unfortunately, against an unbroken target with no weaknesses, this would only deal about 2000 * 2 = 4000 damage per casting. I did not want to fool around with Alephan's Enlightenment here either, as that required having multiple rounds free for Cyrus to attack, something that wasn't always the case. Lucia could also use an attack that drained boost points from Cyrus which made his Divine Skill impractical. More frequently, I would have Cyrus break some Large Soulstones for a consistent 2700 damage per use. That was a slow, slow process working through Lucia's 84k total HP but it did work over time and it was a way to deal decent damage without investing any boost points. I could always farm up more fire and thunder soulstones with Olberic if needed.
Even with Vim and Vigor ticking back 450 HP per round of combat, this was a long and difficult battle for Cyrus. I needed to be aggressive in his use of Refreshing Jams for full HP/SP restoration, and there were points in time where Cyrus was practically guzzling the things down. After a fair bit of trial and error to get the rhythm of this fight down, eventually I was able to defeat Lucia at the cost of about a dozen Refreshing Jams. That was the most that I'd ever used for a single boss fight to date in Octopath Traveler but it did get the job done. One boss down, seven to go.
With Lucia out of the way, Cyrus is able to return to that hidden library and begin researching through its volumes for more knowledge. He learns a new language in three seconds (what?!) and then proceeds to digest the book that started this whole search, From The Far Reaches Of Hell, which discusses the secret power of a demon sealed away behind the Gate of Finis. Cyrus is now able to translate a mural hidden in the ruins, which leads to one of my favorite scenes in the game's script. The mural reads "DEATH DOOM DESTRUCTION" repeatedly in all capital letters, and the immediate response of Cyrus is "I think we can safely assume this is a warning of sorts." It's a line that I can remember having me literally laugh out loud the first time I came across it - our genius detective, everyone! This whole sequence is a major tipoff about the secret boss of Octopath Traveler that pulls all of the various storylines together. As I've said before, I wish that completing all eight stories would naturally lead the player into that endgame sequence instead of hiding it behind obscure side quests.
There are additional side stories that open up when each of the Chapter 4 stories is completed. One of the side stories associated with Cyrus is called "Princess Mary, Redux" and it involves the tutor of the princess, a guy creatively named "Paul", getting lost at sea in a shipwreck. Paul turns out to be located in the Undertow Cove, and since this is a boss-less dungeon, apparently this side quest is the main reason that it exists at all in the game. The reward for Guiding/Alluring Paul back to Rippletide is the Absolute Zero Staff, the weapon that I most wanted for Cyrus. This staff has a slightly lower elemental attack value (+293) as compared to the Knowledge Staff that Cyrus had been using (+333), but it brought with it the unique property of causing additional damage from ice element: 30% additional damage to be precise. There are other weapons that grant the same property for fire element and lightning element but none of them are staffs and therefore they can't be used by the Scholar class. The 30% damage bonus for ice element was strong enough to outweigh the slightly lower elemental attack value on the Absolute Zero Staff, and it looked like Cyrus had a good chance of capping elemental attack at the 999 maximum value regardless. From this point forward, he would be using his Blizzard spell against all broken opponents since it would do significantly more damage than Fire Storm or Lightning Blast.
The next boss that I wanted to try was Mattias at the end of Ophilia's Chapter 4 story. Not only was he the easiest of the remaining opponents, finishing off this story would open up a bunch of the stat-boosting nuts for Purchasing. I equipped Cyrus with the new Absolute Zero Staff for this battle along with a Void Amulet to block Mattias' dark element damage. I also maxed out the elemental defense on Cyrus at 999 by equipping the Robe of the Flame, as this is one of the rare boss fights where most of the damage is elemental. Things started out well enough here, with the newly empowered Blizzard spells dealing 7500 * 2 = 15k damage against Mattias when he was broken. Very nice! Then Mattias fell below 75% HP remaining and used an ability called Infernal Flame which did this:
What the heck was this?! Infernal Flame applies an aura to the battlefield that makes your party members unable to use magical skills, specifically multi-targeted elemental skills. Unfortunately that was basically every single skill that Cyrus had available - uh oh. The good news is that Mattias will only use Infernal Flame twice during this battle, but the bad news was that you have to break his shields to end the effect... and Cyrus first had to defeat these minions to unlock Mattias' weaknesses before breaking him would even be possible. It would have to be a two-step process, in other words: kill the minions, then break Mattias, then end Infernal Flame to get his spells back. And then Cyrus would have to do the same thing a second time later on when Infernal Flame appeared again. Good grief, I guess this battle was shaping up to be a bit harder than expected after all!
Now here was the good news: Mattias was almost completely irrelevant in terms of dealing damage to Cyrus. His physical attacks were weak and his dark element spells were blocked by the Void Amulet that Cyrus was wearing. It was only the wind element nature of his Black Gale spell that had any effect at all, and passive healing alone was virtually sufficient to take care of that. Cyrus was able to eat the occasional Healing Grape and otherwise he was fine as far as health went. This meant that there was plenty of time to work around the problem posed by Infernal Flame. As it turned out, the answer was fighting fire with more fire:
The initial Senior Cultist minions were weak against fire element and that meant they could be toasted with a Fire Soulstone. Thanks again for stockpiling them, Olberic! The initial minion pair went down almost immediately to three of those soulstones, only to be replaced by the second group of Black Matter minions before Cyrus could break Mattias and end the Infernal Flame debuff. The Black Matters turned out to have another easily exploitable weakness: they were vulnerable to Cyrus' staff! So rather than waste unneeded soulstones, I had Cyrus beat these minions to death with his staff attacks over the course of two dozen rounds of combat. It was both slow and thoroughly safe. Then Cyrus could finally break Mattias afterwards, cancel the Infernal Flame debuff, and get back to pelting the boss with spells. I worked around the second appearance of Infernal Flame by using Thunder Soulstones on the last group of minions, and then finally killed Mattias with a deluge of Blizzard spells once all of his minions were gone for good. I think that Cyrus had to use a single Refreshing Jam here at the tail end of the battle and otherwise he made it through unscathed. This was significantly easier than Lucia even with the need to deal with the annoying Infernal Flame situation.
The defeat of Mattias unlocked the Battle-tested Staff for Purchase, the item with the highest boost to elemental attack in the game at +399. This was enough to cap out Cyrus' elemental attack stat at 999; however, as mentioned before, it was more useful to continue using the Absolute Zero Staff for that damage boost to ice element. And Cyrus could already muster 958 points of elemental attack even with the lower boost on the ice staff so it's not as though there was much of a drop off here. The bigger advantage from finishing Ophilia's Chapter 4 story came in the form of the game's final Nourishing Nut: 60 * 4 = 240 more max HP for Cyrus, yay! He badly needed that to keep himself alive. The extra health finally had Cyrus right around 5000 HP, again still wearing his Empowering Necklace for +1000 HP, and that seemed to be the bare minimum amount needed for surviving the Chapter 4 bosses.
Now you might ask the question: why not simply gain some more levels with Cyrus to give him more total health? Well, the problem there was the fact that Octopath Traveler discourages lategame grinding by handing out paltry rewards for the later level ups. For example, Cyrus gains 622 HP by going from Level 10 to Level 20, and 487 HP by going from Level 50 to Level 60, but he only gains 288 HP by going from Level 60 to Level 70, and then the same 288 HP for the next ten levels after that. As a percentage of total HP, the character is getting less and less health with each level... at the same time that the total amount of experience needed for each level starts skyrocketing. Beyond roughly Level 70 the XP requirements start getting enormous while the stat gains per level continue to get smaller and smaller. There's a real sense of diminishing returns here which was surely intended to discourage players from engaging in grinding shenanigans.
Oh, and it gets even better than that! When I mentioned that Cyrus gains 288 HP by going from Level 60 to Level 70, I didn't mean that he would average about 29 HP per level. No, the game is much more insidious than that. Instead, the game backloads the stat gains over the course of these ten levels: Cyrus gained 6 HP at Level 61 and then another 6 HP at Level 62. Yes, all of *SIX* health! I am not making that up. Of course that was balanced out by picking up about 50 HP apiece at Levels 68 and 69 but you can see the problem there in the math. The designers are telling the player, "Look you're not going to get a darn thing from the next few levels, if you want to see anything noticeable, you're going to need to grind out ten more levels - are you sure you want to do that?" Then the same process repeats at Level 70-80, and again at Levels 80-90, etc. More backloaded stat gains for each of those ten level groupings. I'm actually impressed at the anti-grinding mechanics that the designers put in place here even if it was making life miserable for Cyrus.
So yes, of course I would gain more levels for Cyrus, but the point is that the gains from them were strictly limited. That single Large Nourishing Nut from finishing Ophilia's Chapter 4 was worth roughly the same amount of extra HP as gaining ten full levels. The truth is that Cyrus was pretty close to being maxed out from a stats perspective. I could pick up another 300-400 HP by taking him up to roughly Level 80 with correspondingly small increases to his other stats but that was about it. I did clear out all of the various side areas for their assorted treasures and to pick up more experience in the process; pictured above was a very rare encounter in the Maw of the Ice Dragon dungeon. This is the only place in the game where it's possible to get an encounter with all three types of Caits at once: the normal Cait, the Cultured Cait, and the Chubby Cait. Unfortunately even this battle only pays out about 2000 XP in comparison to a typical lategame battle resulting in about 500-800 XP. Octopath Traveler is not a game where the player can kill a metal slime or whatever and get 100 times the gain from other combats.
I took a break from hunting around in the side areas to clear out the Grimsand Ruins and confront Redeye. This was a low danger area perfect for accumulating more experience and I was almost sad to reach the end of it. Redeye is one of the easiest Chapter 4 bosses to defeat thanks to the player not having to worry about petrification attacks. All three of the shifting vulnerability cycles on the boss had at least one elemental weakness for Cyrus to exploit, either fire or lightning, and that made this a simple opponent to target. For the first half of the battle, I made sure not to break the boss to leave that option open for later on. Redeye didn't hit too hard and Cyrus was able to make due with Healing Grapes for sustain, that together with the constant Vim and Vigor passive health regeneration. Over 500 HP gained back per round was no joke. Redeye even kicked in its own Unholy Elixir healing from time to time which was always a nice surprise.
The second half of the battle was more dangerous purely because Redeye goes up to three actions per round instead of the initial two. I started breaking Redeye at this point to increase the damage output from Cyrus and he was able to pound out more of those 7500 * 2 = 15k results that I had seen earlier against Mattias. (I didn't break the boss earlier because each time Redeye recovers from a break the total number of shields increases, making the next break more difficult.) The incoming damage was severe enough that now I had to start using some occasional Refreshing Jams but fortunately they were limited in number. I think that I needed three in total and that would be all. Cyrus had no serious difficulties and I did emerge victorious on his first attempt.
I found that the best place for Cyrus to gain additional XP was in the Everhold Tunnels optional side dungeon. The most lucrative battle was the one pictured here against three Demon Goat enemies which would yield almost 1200 XP for winning. There was also the chance to find Chubby Caits occasionally who would pay out 2000 XP for a victory, and the Animated Armors would very rarely drop a Refreshing Jam upon defeat. I badly wished for the Captain's Badge accessory to increase experience gain by 50% but unfortunately that required finishing Olberic's Chapter 4 story and I wasn't at all confident that Cyrus could deal with Werner. I fought until Cyrus reached about Level 75 and roughly 5200 HP in total. At best he could gain a few hundred more HP but the XP costs were hitting about 40,000 per level and continue to go up higher and higher. I figured that I would try his hand at some of the remaining bosses and see how he did, then I could always come back later for more grinding if it proved to be necessary.
The easiest of the remaining foes was the Ogre Eagle at the finish of Alfyn's story, and therefore that was the opponent that I headed after first. The danger from the Ogre Eagle comes from the Toxic Rainbow ability that it deploys when it falls under half health, ticking away 8% of the party's max HP each turn and eventually causing certain doom. That's a more serious problem for low offensive characters, which didn't apply to Cyrus and his elemental mastery, but it could potentially be tricky for someone who also had a low maximum health total to begin with. Fortunately the Ogre Eagle has a weakness to ice element and that was the single best vulnerability to spot on a boss thanks to the Absolute Zero Staff. For the first half of the battle, I made sure not to break the Ogre Eagle while working its health down to 51% remaining. A max boosted Blizzard did amazing damage here, 5800 * 2 = 11.6k total damage against an unbroken opponent. I was setting up the boss in preparation for spiking it with as much damage as possible as it dropped below the half health threshhold. This worked just as I planned: break the boss for the first time with a 3 BP Blizzard spell for about 10k damage, then immediately follow that up with a max boosted 9000 * 2 = 18k damage Blizzard against the stunned target. This limited how much remaining health Cyrus had to cut through during the more dangerous second half of the fight.
Once Toxic Rainbow was in effect, I focused on casting Blizzard spells as quickly as possible. If Cyrus was low on health I used a Refreshing Jam since there was no time to waste with the less powerful Healing Grapes. If his HP looked good but his boost meter was empty, I had him use Energizing Pomegranates to replenish those boost points to blast away with more Blizzards. The Ogre Eagle likes to inflict poison on the player and I simply ignored the status with Cyrus, with it not being worthwhile to spend a round removing the poison. It was amusing to see both the poison ticks and also the Vim and Vigor passive healing both decreasing over time, since they both operate based on a percentage of max HP. After a sequence of frantic turns, Cyrus was able to win the damage race with 3547 HP remaining. He could have lasted a little while longer but time was indeed starting to run out.
The Ogre Eagle was the halfway point for the Chapter 4 bosses and also the last remaining one where I felt confident about achieving a victory. I didn't know what I was going to do about the last four, or even if it would be possible to defeat them at all. If any of them were going to go down though, Werner should be the first since he would unlock some useful items for the remainder of the crew. With a great sense of trepidation, I therefore headed to the Lord's Manse to give the boss a shot.
The first question for Werner involved what accessories to bring into the battle. Typically solo characters will equip Calming and Conscious Stones to block the terror and unconscious statuses, both of which Werner will break out in this fight. However, bringing the pair of them would mean that Cyrus could not equip the Empowering Necklace and his max health would drop down to a mere 4200 HP. That sounded like complete and utter suicide to me, to the point where there was no possible chance Cyrus could survive the battle. I remembered that Werner only uses his unconsciousness move ("Boot to the Head") after he falls below 50% health, and he doesn't use the move too often. Plus there's only a "chance" for the move to stun, not a certainty, so perhaps Cyrus could get really lucky and dodge the stun chance from that move. Maybe? That sounded like a flimsy pretext to me but it was all that I had at the moment. Cyrus absolutely needed that extra health and Werner can apply terror with all of his normal attacks, making the Calming Stone a mandatory choice. I would have to roll the dice and hope for the best.
Right away it became obvious that Cyrus needed that extra health from the Empowering Necklace to have any chance at success. Werner would use his Oppression ability to debuff Cyrus' physical defense, after which his Sweep attack would deal 1500 damage and his Two Strikes would inflict 800 * 2 = 1600 damage. A full sequence of four consecutive rounds from Werner would dish out something like 4500-5000 points of damage to Cyrus, something that he simply could not survive with his base HP total. As long as I was willing to use Refreshing Jams for healing though, Cyrus proved that he could indeed survive the first half of this battle. I did my best to set up the second half of the fight: take Werner down to 51% HP remaining and then use Alephan's Enlightenment. This would allow Cyrus to break Werner with a Lightning Blast for 5k damage and then land the max boosted Blizzard for the pictured 9999 * 2 = 20k damage afterwards. By spiking Werner's health in this regard, Cyrus could get him down to as little as 25k health remaining for the vastly more dangerous second half of the battle.
But the problem was that Cyrus couldn't make any more progress than that. I found that I could get off one more max boosted Blizzard spell for roughly another 10k damage, dropping Werner down to just 15k HP remaining. And... that was as far as I could get. Once Werner went up to three actions per round there was no chance at all for Cyrus to survive. A sequence of five or six actions in a row from Werner (Cyrus going first on one round and then at the end of the next round) was certain death. That wasn't even counting the stun from Boot to the Head, which was also certain doom whenever it appeared and which I still had no defense against. Cyrus couldn't even manage to survive based on pure health total alone. And combat in Octopath Traveler is more deterministic in nature than in Final Fantasy 5; this wasn't a case of being able repeat the battle endlessly until I could get luck factors to line up in my favor. If Cyrus didn't have enough HP to survive, he didn't have enough HP to survive - end of story. This was not a boss that I was going to be able to defeat, not with the setup that I was using here at least. I limped away for now and retreated to lick my theoretical wounds.
Well, first things first. I wanted to get my hands on the Battle-tested Shield for Cyrus and I'd been hoping to get it the easy way via Purchase after defeating Werner. If he wasn't going to play along though, I could always pick up the item the hard way by defeating the Muttering Codger in Flamesgrace at those 2% drop odds. I picked up some levels and job points with Olberic alongside Cyrus in the Everhold Tunnels until he was Level 40 and had his Divine Skill unlocked. Then I started Challenging the NPC in question in hopes of getting the shield to drop. I was fortunate and it ended up appearing on the 24th battle in total; the odds are about 40% that it will drop within the first 25 attempts at this fight. It was a sign of my growing desperation that I was willing to go through this tedious ordeal to unlock the Battle-tested Shield. Now Cyrus would heal back an additional 200 HP per round on top of his Vim and Vigor passive, taking up to the 700 HP range. It was an impressive amount of overall sustain, although somewhat less useful in boss fights where he was often using Refreshing Jams and therefore wasting the health regen.
Out of the four remaining bosses, the only one that I could see any chance to defeat was Esmeralda. I headed to Grandport and tested out a slightly different accessory setup:
Esmeralda doesn't inflict any status ailments and that leaves the accessory slots free to be used on just about anything the player desires. Typically I will take the Inferno and Void Amulets to block her fire/dark elemental attacks and reduce a good portion of the incoming damage. For Cyrus, I opted instead to bring DOUBLE Empowering Necklaces, taking him up to 6200 max HP. This also boosted his passive health regeneration, now ticking back an amazing 824 HP per round when paired with the Battle-tested Shield. Of course, the tradeoff was a complete vunerability to all three of Esmeralda's elemental blades but I felt that it was worth the risk. Having more total health on Cyrus went a long way towards keeping him alive.
The biggest danger in this battle came from Esmeralda's "Five Strikes" attack. She uses this move every time that she recovers from a shield break and also tosses it out fairly frequently in general combat. The attack hits five times and it would do incredible damage to Cyrus whenever it appeared. Esmeralda will debuff your character's physical defense and this only makes Five Strikes that much worse. In fact, I realized almost immediately that Cyrus needed to be using the "Defend" action whenever Five Strikes appeared or he would die instantly, even from full health! An unprotected Five Strikes would deal roughly 1100 * 5 = 5500 damage and then anything else from the boss would finish off Cyrus, extra health total or not. While Defending, Cyrus could get that down to the pictured 650 * 5 = 3700 HP and that was survivable, if still pretty brutal to deal with. I had to keep trying this boss fight until I had the enemy pattern down, knowing when Esmeralda was about to use Five Strikes so that Cyrus could get his Defend in place ahead of time. Of course, he also had to be sitting on full health too or else Defending alone would be pointless! Nasty stuff as you might imagine.
Esmeralda will also lock out your character's various offensive abilities throughout the battle. She starts out by locking physical attack and while Cyrus normally wouldn't care about that, the initial Esmeralda vulnerabilities have a staff weakness but no fire/ice/lightning weaknesses. I ended up having to use Wind Soulstones to make it through this first pattern. After that there were fire and ice weaknesses to play around and it was easier to break the boss. Breaking Esmeralda was absolutely necessary too, since she makes use of a ticking death timer with her "Black Blade" ability:
Note the situation picture here: Cyrus had exactly one turn left before the instant death timer ran out and killed him, fortunately with a Blizzard spell queued up and ready to go. I actually had to use Esmeralda's stunned turn for healing Cyrus instead of attacking, since she would use Five Strikes upon recovering from her break and then kill him instantly. This whole battle was like that, a wild ride of narrow escapes and managing to break the boss one step ahead of the instant death attack landing. Twice Cyrus survived with double digit health, under 100 HP remaining, despite having the double Empowering Necklaces. If he had been Level 75 here instead of Level 77, he would not have survived - it was that close. I wish I had been recording this on video because the whole sequence was an incredible edge-of-the-seat thrill ride. In fact, it was such a tight squeeze that I was focusing on my role as a player and not my role as a reporter, therefore missing out on more screenshots to document the fight. Somehow, Cyrus threaded the needle and landed the killing blow with a final Blizzard spell. I could not tell you how I managed to get everything to line up perfectly if I tried. He had pulled it off at the cost of another dozen Refreshing Jams and nearly giving his player a heart attack.
Defeating Esmeralda was a great victory indeed, and it allowed me to pick up another Magic Nut that maxed out Cyrus' elemental attack at 999 even when he was using the Absolute Zero Staff. In other words, his damage was completely maxed out at this point, with only very small increases possible via the hidden level multiplier that slowly goes up with each new level. While I was quite happy to have conquered five of the eight bosses in the Chapter 4 stories, I couldn't see any possible way to get through Werner or Simeon or Darius. Leaving aside Darius and his item-stealing nonsense, both Werner and Simeon were going to hit Cyrus really really hard, inflicting more damage than he had any chance of surviving. Cyrus didn't have enough health or any way to remove their physical defense debuffs. Heck, he couldn't even break Simeon at all since that boss is only weak to daggers! Cyrus was going to get smashed in the second half of both boss fights and there was nothing I could do about it.
The math was clear on this: Cyrus could not survive getting hit by these bosses. As a last desperate longshot before giving up, I decided to try one last thing. What if...
What if Cyrus *DIDN'T* get hit by these opponents? The only other thing that I could think to try was to max out Cyrus' evade stat and see if he could dodge some of their attacks. Now you have to understand that the evade stat seemed to be completely pointless as far as I could tell in Octopath Traveler. Outside of Alfyn and his hilariously inaccurate Amputation skill, attacks always seemed to hit the target and never missed, for both player characters and the enemies. I had tried equipping items that granted evade with my original non-variant party and they never did anything, no effect at all as far as I could tell. I was grasping at straw here, however, willing to try anything in the hopes that it might work. What if I took all of the lategame equipment with big boosts to the evade stat and stacked them together, would that make a difference? Keep in mind that most shields in the game have a massive penalty to evade (the Forbidden Shield has -171 evade and even the Battle-tested Shield has -88 evade) so equipping Gustav's Shield, with +64 evade, would make a huge difference all by itself. Then I stacked on the Silent Bandana (+111 evade) and the Ethereal Dancer Garb (+166 evade) to get the maximum value in both the helmet and chest armor slots. This took Cyrus up to 774 evade at the cost of crippling his physical defense, all the way down to 652. If he wasn't able to dodge Werner's attacks, this was going to be one short fight.
Now for the million dollar question: did Cyrus have enough evade to consistently dodge Werner's attacks?
Much to my surprise, the answer turned out to be yes! That's a picture of Werner using his Double Strike move and missing with both attacks. I discovered that Werner seemed to miss Cyrus roughly 65-70% of the time with his attacks, with something like twice as many of them missing as hitting. This was an incredible revelation: instead of needing to spend most of his time healing and desperately trying to survive, Cyrus could spend most of his actions attacking Werner! In other words, superior defense translated into superior offense. Now there were some points in time where Werner landed two or three attacks in a row and Cyrus was squashed like a bug, but as long as those bad streaks of randomness didn't cluster together, Cyrus was reasonably safe. I had plenty of Refreshing Jams available to heal him and his Vim and Vigor passive regeneration kept ticking along as well. I set up the same damage spike with Alephan's Enlightenment to minimize the length of the second half of the battle and prepared for the worst of the fight.
There was one giant hurdle remaining to be overcome: Werner's stunning move. If he hit even one time with Boot to the Head attack, Cyrus would fall into unconsciousness and that would cause his evade to fall to zero. Evidently stunned characters can't dodge attacks because Cyrus was instantly doomed as soon as this took place. I had to run this battle several times because Cyrus kept getting hit with Boot to the Head and then instantly dying thereafter. I considered dropping the Empowering Necklace for a Conscious Stone accessory, but no, that wouldn't leave enough of a buffer on total health. Dropping down to 4200 HP was still too dangerous even with this newfound nimbleness. I just needed Cyrus to evade the one move that would absolutely result in his demise and keep trying until that happened. On the fourth or fifth total attempt, Cyrus dodged a pair of Boot to the Head attacks and that was that:
As soon as I saw that Cyrus was dodging most of Werner's attacks, I knew that he was going to win the fight eventually. Just had to try a few times until I could get the stunning attacks to miss when they showed up. This whole revelation about the evade mechanic was like opening up a new world of Octopath Traveler gameplay for me. I was absolutely, one hundred percent wrong here: evade is not a useless stat at all! While it's less consistent than stacking physical/elemental defensive gear, I have no doubt that there will be future characters who want to take advantage of the randomness of the evade mechanic as a means of slipping past bosses. I'll have to test this more thoroughly with Therion or Primrose, the game's two best characters in terms of evade. At the very least I'll make sure to accumulate the gear with high evade going forward, in case I need to rely on the dodge mechanic again.
Finishing off Werner opened up the usual assortment of additional equipment: the Battle-tested Shield (which Cyrus already had), the Battle-tested Blade, the Crystal Armor, and the Crystal Vest. None of this was going to be useful against Simeon though, as I already knew that Cyrus would need to rely on getting lucky with dodges again since he couldn't possibly survive the physical attacks from the boss. It also raised the question of what accessories to bring for this boss encounter. I could take the Empowering Necklace, or the Void Amulet, or the Articulate Stone, but not all three at once. After thinking it over, I decided to take the first two options for the extra health and to block dark element damage. This would leave Cyrus vulnerable to silence status which of course would be terrible for a spellcaster. However, it was more important to minimize the incoming damage to Cyrus and keep him alive if at all possible. I only needed to use skills on the turns when Cyrus would actually be attacking, and he could always toss out more soulstones for damage in a pinch. This was a new setup for me and I was relishing the challenge of trying to work around the weaknesses of Cyrus while still finding a way to defeat these bosses.
Simeon Phase One was pretty easy, as it usually is. The one trick here was making sure that Cyrus didn't damage the two puppets into the red zone on health simultaneously, as they gain much more dangerous abilities when they fall below 50% HP. The Father Marionette even gets the ability to stun and Cyrus had no protection at all against that status condition. The solution was to use Alephan's Enlightenment again: set up the puppets one shield away from being broken, cast the Divine Skill, break them, and then use a max boosted ability for 9999 * 2 = 20k damage. I had to time this sequence so that it didn't get interrupted by Simeon's silencing attack and otherwise it worked like a charm. Cyrus destroyed the dancer first, then the father, then worked through Simeon himself. Simeon is very weak in this form and Cyrus simply blasted him with repeated Blizzards until the more serious second phase could begin.
Simeon Phase Two can also be divided into two parts: before Simeon falls below half health, and after he drops below half health. The first part of this battle, while Simeon's health was in the white area, was again quite easy for Cyrus to handle. Simeon only had two actions per round and he wasted a bunch of them using Silence Comes and Hushed Melody, both of them dark element spells that bounced harmlessly off the Void Amulet. Silence Comes was annoying because it infliced silence status, and Cyrus did spend long stretches of this battle unable to use his abilities. I could counter by using Herb of Clamor items to remove the status and then hit Simeon with Blizzard spells when the boost meter was full. They did about 4000 * 2 = 8000 damage per usage, not bad considering that Cyrus had no way to break through the shields on the boss. None of this was too dangerous though, and I knew that the real fight wouldn't begin until Simeon dropped under half of his health (less than 48k of his 96k total HP).
I did my best to hit Simeon for as much damage as possible in knocking him beneath that hidden 48k HP line but I was limited in what was possible due to the inability to break the boss. Simeon immediately went up to three actions per turn and started stacking up his double buffs: physical/elemental attack up on himself along with physical/elemental defense down on the player. Simeon's elemental damage was fortunately all blocked thanks to the Void Stone, all of it being dark element in nature, and without the accessory this battle would have been impossible. As for the physical damage, check out how much one of those Act of Impulse blows did when it landed:
Over 4000 damage - yikes! Hopefully you can see why it was so important for Cyrus to be wearing his evasion gear, and why I had previously thought that this battle would be impossible. Even with the tankiest armor and 999 physical defense, Cyrus would have taken 3000+ damage from this setup and he couldn't possibly have survived. In the worst parts of the turn order, I had sequences where Simeon used Act of Impulse three times in between Cyrus' turns and he never, ever could have lived through that. The only way to have any chance was to make sure that those blows whiffed on their target. As the battle drew closer to its conclusion, I was more aggressive in using the Revitalizing Jam items that restored BP as well as HP and SP. The goal was to be either attacking with a max boosted Blizzard or using one of those items on every round. Unfortunately I had to waste a number of rounds clearing silence status but that was still preferable to the other alternatives. I needed that extra 1000 HP from the Empowering Necklace, Cyrus would not have been able to survive without it, and he also needed dark element protection from the Void Amulet. I kept healing and attacking and cleansing silence status, and there were four or five different Act of Impulse attacks that would have killed Cyrus if they landed... only to miss each time. In the end, he actually won the battle on his very first try:
And that was a huge relief because the Simeon boss fight is the longest in the whole game (outside of the optional super bosses). It's so annoying to have to go through the tedium of Simeon Phase One every time that a character dies during the vastly more difficult second encounter. This is another battle that I didn't think would be possible for Cyrus, only to see him conquer it on his very first try! The evade gear was turning out to be a formidable asset indeed.
That left Darius once again as the last remaining Chapter 4 opponent. I make no secret of the fact that I hate this guy for being such a variant-wrecker. His ability to steal your items is supposed to be easily countered by breaking through his shields, but many solo characters literally can't break through those shields without having access to items! It's a perfect Catch-22 situation. Throw in heavy damage, status debuffs, and the incredibly unfair "Call Comrade" nonsense that he pulls at the tail end of the battle, and you've got a customer seemingly designed to ruin solo character runs. I stacked Cyrus with his increasingly familiar evasion gear along with his trusty Empowering Necklace and a Conscious Stone to prevent being stunned in the battle. Cyrus ended up wearing that HP-boosting accessory for every single boss fight in Chapters 3 and 4. I always through that he'd have to remove it at some point and I always managed to find a way to keep it on. Anyway, with his gear in place, Cyrus could get down to the business of facing Darius.
Darius always steals your items on the first turn of the battle, and unfortunately the effect always took hold even if Cyrus dodged the attack itself. (Rats! That was one possible solution invalidated.) Cyrus seemed to have roughly the same dodge success rate against Darius as he'd experienced against Werner and Simeon, somewhere in the area of 70% if I had to guess. I'm legitimately curious how the accuracy and evade stats interact with one another, which unfortunately the mechanics guide doesn't explain. Anyway, Cyrus was therefore able to dodge most of the physical attacks from Darius, but the boss also used two fire element attacks that did pretty good damage and they always hit the target. Future characters that don't need the Empowering Necklace should bring an Inferno Amulet to block this damage, which would make them almost impervious to Darius' attacks.
The problem, as always, was working around the item stealing mechanic. Cyrus could get past the initial item theft by breaking Darius with ice element spells, immediately restoring his items before his starting HP could run out. Unfortunately Darius would then lock his ice element weakness, leaving wind element as the only available option via soulstones (since Cyrus couldn't make use of daggers or spears). This would then set up another problem: repeated Wind Soulstones could get Cyrus through the second set of boss weaknesses, but if he waited too long to break Darius, then Darius would steal his items again and that would naturally rule out any more soulstone use. And then the third set of boss weaknesses locked out both ice and wind together, leaving Cyrus no option for breaking Darius at all. If I could manage to make it to the end stages of the fight despite those problems, Darius would pull out his infamous "Call Comrade" cheapness:
Which removes everyone other than Therion from the battlefield, i.e. an instant game over if it happened to appear. (This is the Hurricane + Vaccuum Wave combo of Octopath Traveler, at least as far as solo games are concerned.) Cyrus somehow needed to break Darius once to get his items back, then not break him again until he could use that second break to interrupt the Call Comrade move, and then win the fight afterwards before Darius could steal his items again. I think that that particular sequence was theoretically possible if absolutely everything lined up perfectly, with Cyrus dodging everything in sight and never needing to waste rounds healing. But in practice, something always went wrong somewhere along the way and I wasn't interested in running endless repetitions of this battle to trying and hit on the perfect RNG streak. This battle actually isn't all that hard for solo characters, they just need a reliable way of breaking Darius to get past his item-stealing cheapness. And the only reliable way of breaking Darius is to hit the one weakness that never gets locked out throughout the fight: daggers.
Say hello then to Dancer Cyrus! He looks utterly ridiculous in this garb, like someone from a punk band rocking out in an underground club. I decided to treat this situation the same way that I had with Alfyn, adding another subclass job that could equip daggers solely for the purpose of using that weapon, nothing else. I don't feel bad about this either: this is the one battle in the game that some solo characters cannot solve on their own merits. Most of the classes can figure out a solution (and anyone who can use daggers can win without much trouble) but some characters like Alfyn and Cyrus just don't have the tools necessary on their own. I view Darius as being akin to the Atomos fight in Final Fantasy 5, an exception to the rest of the game where I don't feel bad about bending the rules a little bit. You can add a mental asterisk or whatever to this fight for Cyrus and I don't really care. I just wanted to defeat this guy, not walk away and let Darius win.
It helped of course that the Dancer class had an innate bonus to the evade stat and then Cyrus was able to equip the Battle-tested Dagger for another +140 evade. Did that evade bonus apply while he was spellcasting with his Absolute Zero Staff? I think so but I'm not entirely sure. Anyway, now that Cyrus could break Darius at any point in time using his dagger, my focus shifted from worrying about stolen items to worrying about that Call Comrade instant kill move. That's not to say the rest of the battle was a joke - there was one point in time where Darius landed three attacks in a row through that evasion and Cyrus instantly died - just a recognition that the unfair cheese kill was the biggest remaining threat. I had to set up a situation where Darius would fall under 25% HP remaining, the trigger for Call Comrade to be launched, while also making sure that Cyrus was first to act on the next round. Here's a picture of that puzzle about to be solved:
I was carefully tracking Darius' health bar and he had about 26k HP remaining at this point. When he falls below 24.5k health, he will use Call Comrade try to break out the instakill cheap move. However, note that Cyrus is randomly scheduled to act first on the next round of combat. Thus on this turn of combat I could have Cyrus cast Blizzard for about 4500 * 2 = 9000 damage, sending Darius tumbling below that critical HP threshhold and triggering the boss to shout "Heh...I'll steal yer most prized treasure!" Cyrus then acted first on the next turn, breaking Darius and interrupting the Call Comrade ability, therefore not dying in a puff of smoke. This was the only sequence which would allow Cyrus to get past this obstacle and reach the end of the fight without dying to the one-shot cheese move. As soon as that was out of the way, it was pretty simple to toss out a few more Blizzards and that was that for the final boss:
As I said before, I do think it's theoretically possible for Cyrus to make it through this battle without needing to adopt another job that can equip daggers. A tool-assisted speedrun (TAS) could likely find the seeds necessary to make it happen. Here in the real world with the game played by actual humans, I was content to have Cyrus finish off his run in the same fashion as Alfyn. He legitimately beat every other boss and nearly managed to beat Darius without the use of daggers, which was much better than I'd been expecting for most of this character run.
I knew that Cyrus was going to have a long Part Four to his report and this ended up meeting those expectations. I hope that you enjoyed reading about the journeys of this frail spellcaster and the way in which he was able to find a solution of some kind to all of his opponents. Cyrus remains one of my favorite characters in Octopath Traveler even though he's a poor choice indeed for a solo run. I'll never forget having to work with such a pitifully low HP total for the whole game, a situation so bad that he clung to his Empowering Necklace like a life preserver in a hurricane. As much fun as it was to blast away at the monsters with three different types of elemental magic, I think that I'd happily have traded some of those offensive tools for some defensive abilities and a bit more health. Thanks again as always for reading along and sharing the experience.