Olberic picked up at the outset of the Chapter 2 storylines by running through several of the optional side dungeons in the inner first ring of towns. I've found that these optional areas tend to be slightly harder than the storyline portions of the gameplay in the same area, but easier than the following chapter's group of tales out in the next ring. Thus taking them on between the Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 storylines made a lot of sense for Olberic. There was no question about taking the time to clear these areas, as they held a couple more of the stat-boosting nuts as well as delivering additional experience and spending money into Olberic's pockets. He made his way through the Whistlewood, the Untouched Sanctum, and Whistling Cavern, none of which had a boss at the end.
These side dungeons yielded enough money that Olberic was able to purchase a major upgrade to his offensive setup in Stonegard. This was the Forbidden Blade, officially the third-strongest sword in the game in terms of physical damage with a massive +310 modifier. I had ventured to Stoneguard earlier and tried to Steal the thing, lacking the 75k asking price to use Tressa's Purchase command, only to find that Therion actually had 0% odds to make a successful theft. Apparently you aren't guaranteed a minimal 3% chance to steal everything as I'd previously thought. I even raised Therion up to Level 10 to see if that would make a difference, and no, it actually didn't change the odds. Still 0%. This was one place where it was better to be a Merchant than it was to be a Thief.
Like all of the forbidden weapons, the Forbidden Blade had a negative property to go along with its high physical attack. (That's what the townsperson is referencing with his "frightenin' tales" line above.) The Forbidden Blade has a small chance to grant the physical attack up property to anything that it hits, i.e. buffing up the physical strength of your opponents. Not exactly what you want to see! Based on empirical testing the chance seems to be about 5% that this effect will kick in, and it happened fairly frequently since Olberic was swinging his sword nonstop. That was still no reason to pass up the Forbidden Blade, as it represented an enormous gain of 150 points of physical attack over Olberic's previous weapon, the Divine Blade. With this in hand the pain train would only gain in size and strength.
This was also the point in time when Olberic acquired 5000 job points and mastered the Warrior class fully, unlocking his Divine Skill in the process. Brand's Thunder costs a hefty 30 SP (about a third of Olberic's scanty reserve of spirit points) to "unleash a tremendously powerful sword attack on a single foe." I've often been critical of the ability descriptions in Octopath Traveler because they don't include any numbers to explain what the skills are really doing, but that's more or less a perfect summary of how this skill works. Brand's Thunder has an absurd attack modifier of 12.75, the highest of any skill in the game (although in practice there are other skills that do more damage because they hit multiple times). It also has a defensive modifier of 0.60, meaning that it cuts out 40% of the target's physical defense in the process. Back in the first part of Olberic's report, I used a numbers example with his Cross Strike skill. Sticking with those same numbers, if Olberic had a physical attack of 50 and his opponent had a physical defense of 30, a max boosted Cross Strike would deal (50 - (30 * 0.67)) * 1.90 * 4 = 30 * 1.90 * 4 = 228 damage. However, the same calculation for Brand's Thunder would be (50 - (30 * 0.60)) * 12.75 = 32 * 12.75 = 408 damage. In other words, Brand's Thunder was almost *TWICE* as strong as Cross Strike - the same Cross Strike that had recently one-shotted the Guardian of the First Flame. This is the reason why the Warrior class needs the capacity to go over the 9999 damage cap as otherwise Olberic would hit it almost instantly while using Brand's Thunder.
Oh, but wait a minute, Olberic also upgraded his actual sword by picking up the Forbidden Blade. He was unlocking two gigantic sources of power at the same time by also unleashing Brand's Thunder almost simultaneously. What would that look like in terms of damage output?
More or less like that. This was an encounter with the Heavenwing miniboss at the end of the Carrion Caves optional dungeon near Bolderfall. Olberic boosted his defenses with Stout Wall, took his time breaking the evil bird by taking advantage of its spears weakness, and then unleased the Abide-boosted Divine Skill once Heavenwing was broken. The poor creature only has 9700 total HP and was therefore instantly slain. This felt a little bit too easy but I wasn't about to complain.
Now I thought that it was time to begin the Chapter 2 storylines in earnest, and for whatever reason I started out with Tressa's tale in Quarrycrest. I think this was due to clearing the Carrion Caves dungeon nearby although I'm not exactly sure. In any case, it was a good opportunity to test out Omar, the boss at the end, and determine whether I had been mistake in dubbing him a tough opponent on my initial Tressa solo run. Omar appears with a pair of footman minions and fortunately they all had weaknesses that Olberic could exploit (spears for Omar and swords for his footmen). I made sure to get Stout Wall in place to block some of the damage from these all-physical foes, only to find that it was still substantial:
Even with his defenses buffed, Olberic was taking roughly 250 damage per attack. Since there were three such attacks per round this added up quickly over time, and I wanted to make sure that Olberic achieved victory by only using Healing Grapes and not dipping into the limited supply of Refreshing Jams. My first thought was to eliminate the footmen to cut down on the number of attacks faced. This seemed to work well enough: Olberic powered up with Abide and (without bothering to break their shields) smashed each footman with a serving of Brand's Thunder to remove them from the battlefield. I was feeling great about this right up until Omar summoned them back again immediately thereafter with his "Call Comrade" ability. Well that was a waste of time. The footmen do return at 50% HP and perhaps a max boosted Level Slash could have wiped them both out together but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth to keep fooling with them.
Instead I had Olberic focus on the main boss. Omar was fairly easy to break and an Abide-enhanced Brand's Thunder yielded 15k damage, roughly half of what was needed to defeat the boss. I just needed to do the same thing a second time, which involved a series of additional rounds to keep healing up (including using Inspiriting Plums to restore SP) and preparing Omar for another break of his shields. It was somewhat tricky to line this up because Olberic needed three consecutive rounds where he couldn't heal himself: one for Abide, a second to break Omar, and then a third round for Brand's Thunder itself. I chained this sequence together and did finish off Omar only to nearly die to the footmen:
That close to having to do the whole thing over again, whew. This was one of many points in time where I was glad for Olberic's massive life total. He healed back up to full with some item usage and proceeded to smash the footmen into the ground with further appearances of Brand's Thunder. Given that I was able to do this whole sequence with Stout Wall in place to reduce damage, I have to concur with my earlier assessment of this boss: Omar is a tough customer. He's so much more difficult than his attached dungeon that it's almost hard to believe. Tressa's Chapter 2 storyline should likely be one of the last to be completed due to the challenge associated with this ending boss.
Speaking of places where Octopath Traveler's challenge level is uneven, I wanted to flag these electric wisps down in the sewers underneath Quarrycrest, and the "elemental" monsters across the game more generally. These energy creatures always seem to use some kind of elemental attack and they inevitably do far more damage than all of the other enemies encountered in the same region. It can be even worse in a non-variant setting since many of these elemental attacks hit the full party simultaneously. I noticed this on my initial playthrough of Octopath Traveler and the same pattern kept playing out for the solo games as well. These enemies don't yield more money and experience than the other random encounters despite dealing out way more damage and being harder to break (they are just about the only monsters that have solely elemental weaknesses and no physical ones). So what gives here, designers? Why is this one class of enemy much more difficult as compared to everything else at a similar level? I suspect that they either got the numbers wrong or didn't have enough time to playtest everything properly. These opponents stand out for no apparent reason.
Gideon was the boss at the end of this chapter and he proved to be notably easier than Omar. This dark sorcerer appears with a pair of skeleton minions and all of his weaknesses are locked until they are defeated. He can resummon the skeletons (which will also return at 50% HP) and lock out his weaknesses again, thus starting the whole process over again. It turned out that the skeletons didn't have sword or spear weaknesses for Olberic to exploit, and while normally that would have been a problem, Olberic simply hulked out and one-shot them with Brand's Thunder despite not bothering to break them first. Seriously, he did 10,000 damage to the first skeleton without bothering to break it - yikes. The second minion quickly followed suit, and that allowed me to break Gideon (who happily did have a swords weakness) and unload for 20k damage. The boss summoned back the skeletons again at this point and re-locked his weaknesses, but of course Olberic didn't care about that and killed Gideon anyway with yet another Brand's Thunder to the face for 9000 damage. The biggest annoyance in this fight was the use of the terror status condition by the skeleton minions, which Olberic had to use items to remove. I would have equipped a Calming Stone to block the terror status but lacked the accessory.
Remember how I was Challenging every townsperson across the continent in the hopes of getting an important item drop? I finally found one:
The fighter names Estadas in Victor's Hollow dropped this Refreshing Jam upon being defeated. Now I have no idea how this works in practice: is this a guaranteed drop for the first victory over Estadas, or did I simply get lucky and hit on 3% odds or something like that? I'll have to do more testing to find out, and I couldn't repeat the experiment here because Estadas disappeared from view once I completed the side story quest associated with this figure (it was the "A Promising Venture" gambling quest for the curious). At the very least, I now knew that I wasn't wasting my time and that there really were some more Refreshing Jams to be found this way.
Then it was time for some more equipment upgrades to Olberic's setup. There's a blocked house in Quarrycrest guarded by a tough opponent with an 8 star rating. If the player can defeat that individual, there's an elderly woman inside who has the Forbidden Spear for Purchase. This was another place where Therion was useless since his Steal odds were 0%, and I hadn't had enough money to pick up the spear using Tressa until this point in time. The Forbidden Spear had a nearly identical physical attack value as compared to the Forbidden Blade (320 to 310) and had the advantage of bringing along a huge +303 elemental attack as well. At least, that would have been huge if Olberic had any available elemental attacks, which, sadly, he didn't. This was still a massive upgrade in spears damage nonetheless, even with the attached penalty to the speed stat. I'm still not convinced that speed does much of anything in Octopath Traveler beyond making it easier to run from battles. For the moment, Olberic's sword and spear were virtually identical in damage output.
I was also slowly visiting the towns in the second ring, one at a time, methodically going through them to fulfill side quests and beat the living snot out of all their NPCs via Challenges. Goldshore was the second town in the Coastlands region, offering the Dragon's Vest and Protective Bracelet on sale to increase Olberic's defenses. Both his physical and elemental defenses increased by about 100 points as a result of switching to these new types of gear. They would only make it more difficult for opponents to put much of a dent in this tanky individual.
Goldshore hosted Alfyn's Chapter 2 story and one of the game's best villains, Vanessa Hysel. In contrast to the hopeless idealism of Alfyn, Vanessa is running a medicine-based extortion scheme and refusing to heal the sick unless they pay outrageous prices for their cures. As someone who works in the healthcare industry, I can attest that this is uncomfortably accurate in the real world. Vanessa herself is fairly weak and largely relies on summoning a series of sellsword minions to do her bidding. She will resummon them once defeated, but only one time - after that, she's out of sellswords. This provided a good opportunity to showcase another one of Olberic's abilities:
Thousand Spears (and H'aanit's corresponding Rain of Arrows abilities which functions the same way) is one of the most confusing skills in the whole game. The key overall takeaway is that these are skills intended to be used for breaking shields, not for dealing damage itself. Thousand Spears has an attack modifier of 0.80 and a defensive modifier of 1.25, which means that it deals less damage than a normal attack and actually increases the target's defense instead of decreasing it. The skill also has a terrible boost modifier of 0.40; in practice, that means that boosting it to maximum only does 2.4x damage and not 4x damage as expected. Since the damage is lousy, that means that Thousand Spears is intended to be used for breaking shields, and that's where it starts to get weird. The skill description and animations both state that it attacks 5 to 10 times, and it would be logical to assume that these attacks would be affected by things like accuracy and evasion since a bunch of the spear attacks inevitably miss. But no, that's not what happens at all! Thousand Spears will always hit at least 3 times and it never seems to hit more than 5 times, no matter what the animations might be playing in the background. The evasion and accuracy stats are completely irrelevant here, the skill always seems to hit 3-5 times. Anything else taking place is just graphical noise.
Anyway, the takeaway is that Thousand Spears is useful for breaking a single opponent with a spears weakness by cutting through 3-5 shields without investing any boost points. This is a pretty specific circumstance and I found myself using the ability much less often with Olberic than I'd been expecting. The biggest drawback was the random nature of the skill; splashing a bunch of spear hits across multiple targets just wasn't very effective and not worth the cost of 20 SP. It was helpful here against Vanessa, although of course I ended up getting "unlucky" and landing all five hits here which broke the boss and prevented me from getting in an Abide turn with Olberic. (I was hoping for three or four shield breaks.) It didn't really matter though as Vanessa still went down very quickly. I had even equipped an Antidote Stone on Olberic to stop Vanessa from poisoning him, about the only semi-dangerous thing that she could have done.
At some point around here I went to Noblecourt and raced through Therion's Chapter 2 storyline. The most time-consuming aspect of that quest was the need to steal three different plot-related items at 3% odds per attempt; one of those items took about 50 tries to succeed. Annoying. The boss at the end was Orlick and he didn't do enough damage to pose much of a threat, even if a fair bit of it was elemental rather than physical in nature. The picture above was from Rufus the Left-hand Man, the boss lurking at the end of Primrose's Chapter 2 storyline. He was an all-physical opponent and once Olberic equipped a Conscious Stone to block his unconsciousness-causing "Pummel" ability, that was pretty much it as far as the difficulty went. Most of the attacks from Rufus were dealing two digit damage, and when I took a picture of his big chargeup "Left-hand Man" punching attack, it dealt all of 110 damage. Uh, was that it? Meanwhile Olberic powered up and hit the boss back for 17.5k damage on another flashy usage of Brand's Thunder. This turned out to be easy enough that Olberic didn't even have to use any healing items: his health total in the above picture demonstrated that he had taken all of 224 HP worth of damage at about the halfway point of the fight. So yeah, this was pretty darn one-sided in terms of the battle, and not in the enemy's favor.
I was confident enough to take Olberic for a spin out to Grandport, the third ring town at the furthest edges of the Coastlands. He faced two random battles en route and won them both without too much trouble, relying on Brand's Thunder to clear a path through the encounters along the way. This had been a key destination for Tressa to reach and Olberic wanted to take advantage of the equipment on sale as well. The biggest pickup here was the Forbidden Shield, a massive increase of nearly +100 physical and elemental defense over the old Spiked Shield that Olberic had been using for most of the game to date. With another upgrade in the Protective Necklace and the replacement of the Fur Cap by a slightly better Oasis Hat, Olberic was up to roughly 770 physical defense and 670 elemental defense for his normal gear setup. He had been helped in this regard by finding a bunch of Tough Nuts and Resistant Nuts along the course of his journey, and all of those defenses combined with tons of experience from Challenging so many opponents meant that Olberic had outscaled his remaining opponents in the Chapter 2 storylines. Take a look:
This was Hróðvitnir, the boss of Ophilia's Chapter 2 tale, and it was completely helpless against Olberic. It wasn't even managing double digit damage, it was stuck on single digits! What this meant was that Olberic's physical defense was higher than the physical attack of the boss; instead of printing zero damage in these situations, Octopath Traveler rolls a random number from 1-10 so that every successful attack always deals at least some damage. Now you might notice that Olberic was nowhere close to full HP in this image, but that wasn't the handiwork of old Hróðvitnir. No, it was due to me blundering into the cutscene that started the boss fight without realizing it, not even using the pre-boss save point ahead of time. I was lucky that this fight turned out to be such a joke (which it most certainly was: Olberic's first Brand's Thunder inflicted 19,950 damage and that was pretty much all she wrote).
Next up was Olberic's own Chapter 2 storyline in Victor's Hollow. I was extremely amused at having to conduct a pair of plot-mandated Challenges against a couple of completely hapless townspeople. Olberic pretty much sneezed on them and moved on to the series of bosses that constitute the remainder of the chapter. Victorino had a swords weakness so I didn't even bother to try breaking him, I simply had Olberic power up with Abide and then hit him with Brand's Thunder for 15k damage and an instant KO. Joshua and Archibold both lacked any weaknesses that Olberic could exploit, no swords or spears weaknesses, and therefore these battles were fought without making any attempt at breaking them. That can actually be easier sometimes, as there's no need to spend a bunch of rounds working through the enemy's shields, just get to three boost points and then fire away with a Divine Skill. The tradeoff of course is that damage is doubled against a broken target and therefore these Brand's Thunder usages were only hitting for 10k damage instead of 20k damage. Aside from needing to equip a Conscious Stone against Archibold, these encounters were pretty routine.
Gustav is the final boss of this sequence and he can be a bit tricky. I knew that he would be breaking out non-stop use of the terror status condition thanks to my earlier experience with Tressa, and I prepared ahead of time by picking up a Calming Stone down in the Quicksand Cave optional dungeon. Safely protected against terror, Olberic was able to work through this boss fight at his leisure. Gustav's pair of Shield Wielder minions were weak against swords and that made them easy prey for Brand's Thunder. There was a real incentive to one-shot them here since they can pull out a move that inflicts unconscious status, but only when they drop below 50% HP. By finishing them off in one fell swoop Olberic was able to dodge that possibility. Gustav's weakness was to spears which meant another chance to pull out Thousand Spears and use it for breaking purposes. Brand's Thunder dealt 19k damage once Gustav was broken, enough so that two such usages would be more than enough to win. After he dropped below half health, Gustav began using "Black Blade" at the end of every single round, only to find that the terror status had no effect - score one for preparation. All of Gustav's physical damaging attacks were too weak to penetrate Olberic's armor and the whole thing was effectively a rout. (It was a bit hilarious watching the text afterwards talk about how "songs will be written about this duel". Well, one side was completely helpless and the other side was roiding out with a forklift-sized sword. I guess you could write a song about that, if not quite what the game's text may have been implying!)
I had actually forgotten about H'aanit's Chapter 2 storyline and belatedly now realized that I needed to complete it as well. I found this to be the hardest of the second chapters for a solo character, both due to the boss at the end along with an annoying pair of mandatory Provoke encounters. The first such fight in Stoneguard took several minutes to work through with H'aanit dealing all of 200 damage per attack from Linde. Not dangerous but tedious. For the second Provoke battle with the Ancient One miniboss, I broke out a soulstone:
This opponent has 5600 HP and H'aanit's use of Linde was limited to that same 200 damage, even when boosted to max and used against the miniboss in broken status. Rather than stand around forever, I opted to use a large soulstone to wipe out the Ancient One immediately. I did remember to equip an Antidote Stone this time to guard against poison and reduce the potential danger of this foe. I spent a full 15 minutes of long turns on end fighting this enemy on my initial Tressa solo run, and using the soulstone was worth it to skip over that tedium.
For whatever reason, the monsters located in the Spectrewood (H'aanit's Chapter 2 dungeon) are significantly harder than the ones in the other Chapter 2 stories. The official danger rating isn't any higher than what gets listed elsewhere, and I guess it's just one of those places where the difficulty level turned out to be tougher than the designers anticipated. Olberic equipped an Articulate Stone while passing through here to prevent himself from being silenced, although that status condition wasn't nearly as bad for him as it had been for Tressa. (Olberic spent most of his time auto-attacking and didn't care as much about being unable to use skills.) The boss at the end was the pictured Lord of the Forest, and this guy was easily the most difficult of the Chapter 2 bosses. The creature calls a series of minions to aid it in battle, each with an attack that can inflict some kind of status condition. This runs through first a pair of Weeping Treants (blindness), then a pair of Toxic Spores (sleep), and finally a pair of Flitting Fungoids (silence). Furthermore the Lord of the Forest itself can inflict unconsciousness with one of its attacks, although it doesn't use that move very often. All of these status ailments are bad news since the player can only defend against two of them using the two accessory slots. I chose to block blindness and silence with Olberic, as sleep wasn't too bad (a single hit would wake him up) and unconsciousness didn't appear very often. Unfortunately the use of both accessory slots for status defense meant giving up the chance to get extra defensive stats or more physical attack, but there wasn't much that I could do about it.
I made no attempt to attack the Lord of the Forest at the start of the battle, instead focusing on killing the various minions. It's much safer to do this since the minions kick in their own damage and have an unusual interaction with the boss. It can pull out an ability named "Circle of Life", which consumes a friendly minion to heal for 5000 HP and increases elemental attack for 4 turns. Thus any damage dealt to the boss would just be erased anyway when it ate the minions for food. The minions had 6000-8000 HP apiece and it was safest to use Brand's Thunder on them one at a time, ignoring any attempt to break them and relying on the heavy damage from the Divine Skill. This took some time (and required a bunch of Inspiriting Plums to restore SP), eventually succeeding in limiting the encounter down to a one-on-one fight. Fortunately after all three sets of minions are gone the boss is unable to summon any more of them. However, the boss can start breaking out another deadly move at that point:
Consume Life targets the player instead of the enemy minions, dealing whatever damage will reduce the player down to 1 HP and healing the Lord of the Forest in the process. I suspect this isn't quite as bad in a normal party setting since it only hits one character, but yikes, this is a nasty attack for a solo game! Fortunately Olberic always seemed to get at least one turn to react after Consume Life popped up, which he used to gulp down a Medium Healing Grape to get 1750 HP restored. I typically had to spend two turns eating double grapes to get him back to a safe health total afterwards. Throw in 43k health on this boss and a shifting series of weaknesses and you have one tough customer for a Chapter 2 opponent. Honestly a number of the Chapter 3 bosses are easier than this one. The good news is that Brand's Thunder was still dealing about 20k damage to the Lord of the Forest when it was broken, and I used a pair of those attacks plus a third Brand's Thunder when the boss was unbroken to finish it off for keeps. Ugly stuff, definitely not an easy opponent.
This finished off the group of Chapter 2 storylines for Olberic. Most of them had been relatively easy once he unlocked his Divine Skill, thanks as well to my consistent upgrading of his defensive equipment. I was highly pleased with Olberic's progress to date, and looking forward to seeing how he would handle greater challenges as he continued onwards.