The first part of Therion's solo journey had been a general walk in the park. Aside from a somewhat tricky battle against Gaston, everything else had fallen by the wayside as Therion used his HP and SP draining powers to carve a path through his opponents. Once Therion gained access to stronger weapons and superior armor by visiting Noblecourt out in the second ring, he'd been able to slice apart his foes by spamming HP Thief and Steal SP on every round of combat without ever running out of casting power. I'd been wondering about whether I would run into some limits on the Thief's innate power, and as Therion began his venture into the second sequence of story chapters, I did in fact come across a stumbling block:
Ah, status ailments. If there was one thing that could stop Therion from lifestealing endlessly against the monsters, it was the silence status that blocked all use of skills. (I was reminded here of the skeletons in Diablo 2 that lifesteal didn't work against, otherwise weak foes that could cause serious problems for leech-dependent builds.) This picture was taken in the forests heading north towards Victor's Hollow and I found that these woodland creatures commonly used various silencing attacks in other parts of the game as well. While silence was the worst status ailment for Therion, darkness/blindness status was nearly as bad. HP Thief and Steal SP did not automatically hit the target, and if they happened to miss, then Therion wouldn't gain back any HP/SP in the process. (This was a real contrast to Runelord Tressa's experience, as she could buff herself up with runes on the first turn and not worry about being silenced afterwards, and similarly not care about being blinded since her elemental pursuits would always auto-hit the target.) For that matter, some of the owl monsters in these woods liked to cast a physical attack debuff on Therion, and that was pretty bad as well! If he was doing less damage with each hit, he would regain fewer HP/SP at the same time.
The net result of all this was the fact that Therion's leeching abilities were somewhat of a snowball mechanic. The stronger that Therion happened to be and the more damage that he dealt with his attacks, the safer that he ended up being thanks to his lifesteal. Conversely, the more dangerous the situation and the weaker these attacks were, the more that Therion struggled because his lifesteal couldn't keep pace with monster damage output. HP Thief was therefore kind of like the Mejai's Soulstealer of Octopath Traveler, a bit of a "win harder" mechanic that performed best at times when Therion was already dominating. There were indeed weaknesses to the Thief class after all that I had to keep in mind and work around.
As usual for my solo characters, I took the time to clear out a bunch of the optional side dungeons in the first ring after completing all of the Chapter 1 stories. While passing through the Carrion Caves, Therion hit 3000 accumulated job points and was able to select his seventh and final non-Divine skill. This was a completely useless skill for his variant, Share SP, which grants 50% of the Thief's current SP to another ally. The idea is that Therion can keep stealing SP away from the enemies and transfer those spirit points across to his companions. Needless to say, this wasn't useful for a solo game. (It was actually grayed out on the interface and unusable when the other characters were all dead.) Picking up this skill was significant only because it unlocked the final passive support skill for the Thief class, Insult to Injury. This support skill caused debuffs and detrimental status effects that Therion inflicted on foes last for an additional turn. That was really useful as the base duration of Shackle Foe and Armor Corrosion went up from two turns to three turns. Therion consequently had to spend fewer turns debuffing his foes and could spend more time using HP Thief instead.
Most of these optional side dungeons weren't too bad. For the few that had bosses like Heavenwing pictured above, Therion relied on debuffing his opponents and then hitting with HP Thief to keep his health up. Heavenwing broke out its dangerous Meteor Strike on a couple of occasions and forced the use of Medium Healing Grapes at times when Therion didn't have enough boost points saved up to hit for a big HP Thief. These bosses had higher physical defense and couldn't be broken with swords or daggers, thus resulting in lower total damage output as compared to the Guardian of the First Flame and the Ghisarma at the end of Chapter 1. Keep in mind that the HP Thief and Steal SP skills don't reduce enemy defenses by very much and therefore are less effective against high defense targets than many other class skills. Still, they performed well enough and Therion had no significant issues clearing through these side areas.
Traveling out to the towns in the second ring also opened up additional equipment opportunities for Therion. In addition to completing more of the various side story quests to pick up stat-boosting nuts, Therion was also able to get his hands on an improved weapon in the form of the Forbidden Dagger. This weapon added almost 100 additional points to physical attack and therefore increased the power of Therion's leeching skills in the process. (The boost to elemental attack was irrelevant since Therion never used his single fire-based skill, and ditto for the penalty to fire elemental damage.) Losing the evade from the Assassin's Dagger was a notable loss but I was still willing to make the trade. The interesting thing here was the method of acquiring the Forbidden Dagger. Even with Therion's higher than normal level, he still had 0% odds to swipe the thing via the Steal command! I had no choice but to use Tressa's Purchase instead at that hefty 72,000 cost. It was the same deal for the Forbidden Sword that could be found over in Stonegard, and Therion was forced to delay picking it up while saving the necessary 70,000 money. Fortunately he almost never used swords by this point and relied instead on the dagger-based skills of HP Thief and Steal SP.
Hoarfrost Grotto was the only side dungeon that caused any problems for Therion and it was entirely due to the presence of these ice elementals. I've made this point before and it bears repeating again: the strength of these enemies is wildly out of sync with their peers. All of the other monsters in the dungeons where elementals can pop up will be doing 100-200 damage with their attacks, and then suddenly the elementals will blast your character for as much as the pictured 1000 damage in a single attack. The elementals are also tough to break because they have no physical weaknesses to exploit and only two total weaknesses at all. I have no idea why this happens or what the designers were thinking here - did someone accidentally put an extra zero digit on the strength of their elemental attacks? (They also give poor experience and money when defeated as a final "screw you" to the player, sheesh!)
Anyway, the Hoarfrost Grotto was the only place where Therion routinely had to break out Medium Healing Grapes for emergency healing thanks to the influence of those elementals. Everything else couldn't do enough damage to get through Therion's ongoing HP thievery. For the J�tunn boss at the end, Therion focused on keeping the Armor Corrosive debuff in place and hitting repeatedly with HP Thief to keep his health up. I found that it was impractical to keep both Shackle Foe and Armor Corrosive running at the same time, just too many turns needed to be spent debuffing instead of attacking. It worked better to pick one or the other and Armor Corrosive seemed to be the superior choice. By debuffing the enemy's physical defenses, Therion would deal more damage while also healing himself for a greater amount at the same time. Unless the boss in question was hitting so hard as to put Therion in mortal danger, Armor Corrosive worked better than Shackle Foe.
With the various side dungeons cleared out of the way, I started up with the Chapter 2 stories and opted to begin with Therion's own tale. I always watch the full story sequences for the character that I'm playing at the moment as a way of refreshing my memory of that particular charcter's storyline (while skipping everyone else out of repetition). Therion's Chapter 2 story takes him to Noblecourt in search of the ruby dragonstone, which has fallen into the hands of a reclusive researcher named Orlick. Therion enlists the help of Orlick's former partner Barham to get into the mansion where the dragonstone is being held, and at first it looks like Barham is a real jerk for making Therion steal him a bunch of research components needed for various experiments. This is one of the most annoying chapters for solo characters since Therion has to do a bunch of thefts and the player can't get odds better than 8% on a couple of the mandatory steals. Let me tell you, having the theft odds sitting at 100% for all three of the required steals was a big relief on this particular playthrough.
There's a twist in the story though: it turns out that all of the stuff Therion has been stealing for Barham was needed to make a key granting access into Orlick's laboratory. Barham actually misses his former partner and wants Therion to steal the dragonstone because he hopes it will help snap Orlick out of his dangerous and obssessive pursuits. There's an extraordinarily unsubtle message here about forgiving others and learning to trust again after being betrayed. Could that relate to Therion in some way?!? We even get a flashback to Therion's former partner Darius just to drive home the message even further. Anyway, Orlick's Manse was quite a bit easier than some of the side dungeons that Therion had already completed. Orlick was weak against daggers and his bodyguards were weak against swords, making it simple to break both of them and then hit with Armor Corrosive + HP Thief for 9000 damage and a full HP restore. This isn't one of the tougher boss fights and Therion sailed through it with flying colors.
Therion returns the ruby dragonstone back to Ravus Manor afterwards and, OK game, we get the message already! Geeze, no need to lay it on quite that heavy. Cordelia Ravus explains that she trusts Therion and she's willing to remove the band on his wrist, only for Therion to reply that any trust will be betrayed and he's only doing this mission because he has no choice and he's going to go off in the corner with Squall and sulk now. (I may have made that last part up.) More seriously, I'm being a bit too hard on Therion here. The writing and voice acting are honestly pretty decent, I just don't care that much for Therion as a character. Can't we skip ahead to the part where he grows up and gets over his misanthropy?
Anyway, in the aftermath of finishing up with Therion's Chapter 2 story, I'd managed to save up enough cash to Purchase the Forbidden Sword in Stonegard. While this weapon was rarely used, it did give Therion another strong option for his alternate non-daggers damage type. By this point in time Therion had also accumulated the 5000 job points needed to unlock his eighth and final skill for the Thief class, the Divine skill known as Aeber's Reckoning. Let's a take a look at this ability in more detail:
Like all Divine Skills in Octopath Traveler, Aeber's Reckoning can only be used by investing the maximum three boost points. The biggest benefit of the skill is the fact that it hits all enemies on screen at once, the only Thief skill that has the multitargeted property. There's also a bonus effect that causes the skill to deal more damage based on how much speed the user possesses. This is another case where the in-game text is somewhat confusing and doesn't accurately describe what's happening; Aeber's Reckoning doesn't deal damage "proportional" to speed, it deals bonus damage based on the speed stat. To be more precise, damage from Aeber�s Reckoning is multiplied by a factor of R = 1 + Speed / 400. In other words, having a speed of zero wouldn't penalize the user, it would simply lack any bonus damage. Similarly, a speed of 400 would result in a multiplier producing double damage, and a speed of 800 would result in triple damage. So yes, the skill is proportional in the sense that higher speed results in more damage, but it's more accurately described as a bonus effect since having poor speed will never lower the base damage.
Let's plug in some numbers to get a sense for how much damage Aeber's Reckoning would deal in practice. We'll keep using an assumption of 50 attack tested against 30 defense with maximum boost points invested in each skill. I mentioned on the last page how Alfyn's Amputation worked out to 228 damage in this scenario, and Therion's HP Thief and Steal SP worked out to 212 damage. What about Aeber's Reckoning? The formula would break down as (50 - (30 * 0.67)) * 7.70 = (50 - 20) * 7.70 = 231 damage. That's pretty good, higher than Amputation or the other Thief skills and hitting all targets to boot. But wait, that calculation was carried out without including the extra attack modifier based on the user's speed. Therion had a speed around 250 at this point in time, which upped the damage to 231 * (1 + 250 / 400) = 231 * 1.625 = 375 damage. Alright, now that's more like it! Kick in the fact that Aeber's Reckoning would hit everything at once, and the fact that it would keep scaling upwards as Therion's speed stat improved, and it was no contest. This was Therion's best damaging skill by a good margin, not surprising given that it was his Divine skill. .
With that said, there were still some weaknesses to Aeber's Reckoning. The most obvious was the SP cost associated with the skill, requiring the pricey investment of 30 SP each time that it was used. I think that this is how the designers intended this skill to be balanced, working off the fact that Therion is tied for the worst SP growth in the game and theoretically would run out of spirit points very quickly if he tried to spam this skill. However, my impression is that the designers underestimated how much siphoning could be done with the Steal SP skill, as I found Therion easily pulling back 40-50 SP even with zero boost points invested in the skill. Most random battles broke down as follows: use Steal SP on the first turn to recover spirit points from the last battle, use HP Thief to recover health, then use Aeber's Reckoning to kill everything on the third turn when the boost meter was full. Rinse and repeat again and again. The Divine skill was hitting for about 4000 damage against unbroken opponents and at this stage of the game there wasn't anything outside of boss fights which could survive that punishment. Pretty easy stuff.
A more surprising drawback popped up during Therion's boss fights. Aeber's Reckoning was fantastic for clearing out the minions associated with each boss, quickly wiping out the skeletons that appeared alongside Gideon. However, Therion needed to use most of the turns while his boost meter filled up debuffing the physical attack or physical defense of his opponents. And if he poured his boost points into Aeber's Reckoning, while he would do more damage overall, he wouldn't be lifestealing back health with HP Thief in the process. If there was only a solitary boss to contend with, it was sometimes better to hit with HP Thief and take advantage of the lifesteal rather than use the Divine Skill for more total damage. This was something that I hadn't been expecting and I enjoyed the fact that I had to use some more creativity in thinking my way through these fights. HP Thief, Steal SP, and Aeber's Reckoning were all valid choices for a big attack depending on the needs of the moment.
Since Therion was already in Quarrycrest for Cyrus' Chapter 2 story, I had Therion next undertake Tressa's tale located in the same town. This is a useful story segment for a solo character because the Morlock�s Manse dungeon contains a Conscious Stone accessory which will block stunning attacks from landing. I typically have to complete this dungeon before heading off to Stillsnow for Primrose's story segment for that exact reason even though Omar is a tougher boss than Rufus. In any case, Therion was able to use Aeber's Reckoning to clear out Omar's minions and that made the battle a lot easier. It took two uses of the Divine skill to remove them for the first time, and then a single use afterwards when Omar inevitably summoned them back to the battlefield at half health. Omar himself was hitting hard enough that I tried to keep him debuffed with Shackle Foe as much as possible. As pictured above, he could deal 500 damage even with the physical attack debuff in place, pretty ugly stuff. This was one of those situations where it was often better to use HP Thief for the health restoration over Aeber's Reckoning, at least once the minions had been eliminated as a threat.
I was able to pick up a few additional items of note for Therion afterwards. Victor's Hollow had the Robe of the Flame available as a Steal target, with this item having the distinction of holding the highest elemental defense value in the whole game. It also had solid physical defense for the moment and Therion wore it for the time being for lack of superior options. Oddly, the Robe of the Flame still had 3% theft odds for the Steal attempts, exactly the same as Therion would have had at Level 1. There's a handful of items like this one where leveling up Therion doesn't seem to make a difference. I was also able to grab the Silent Bandana from one of the NPCs in Quarrycrest, the helmet with the highest boost to evade (+111) in the game. I opted to use this over the Oasis Hat in most situations since there Therion's naturally high evade was a stat worth emphasizing further. He was dodging pretty well against most of his opponents, both in random encounters and in boss fights.
As I mentioned above, Rufus is generally an easier opponent than Omar. The danger here comes from his "Left-hand Man" attack that can inflict unconsciousness, and once that's been blocked with a Conscious Stone, the fight is pretty straightforward. His Obsidian Associate minions were weak against daggers and that meant 30% additional damage from Aeber's Reckoning for an immediate one-shot kill agaist both lackeys. Rufus brought them back a few times and Therion bowled them right back over again with repeated uses of his Divine skill. I kept debuffing the physical defenses of Rufus with Armor Corrosive and leeching away his HP and SP as needed. This was one of the easier Chapter 2 boss fights.
Hr��vitnir was more interesting since the giant wolf creature made use of its own buffs and debuffs. The pictured "Sharpen Claws" is a physical attack buff that Therion was countering with his own Shackle Foe debuff, with the effects of both skills canceling one another out. Hr��vitnir also had a "Bestial Fang" attack that debuffed Therion's own physical attack, and while I couldn't do anything to remove that malediction, Therion could respond by debuffing the physical defense on the boss with Armor Corrosive. Debuffs all around, debuffs for everyone! I found that it was helpful to keep Armor Corrosive in place to ensure that Therion would be able to deal meaningful damage, thus keeping his HP Thief and Steal SP abilities running at a healthy pace. Fortunately the creature was weak against swords and Therion kept chipping away at that vulnerability by landing Incidental Attack procs while he was casting various debuffs. Aeber's Reckoning did 8400 damage when Hr��vitnir was broken and debuffed with Armor Corrosive and that was some impressive damage for this stage of the game. Fortunately this is a boss with fairly low direct damage capabilities and Therion was able to stay safe throughout the battle.
I decided to head for Victor's Hollow and complete Olberic's Chapter 2 story next. Most of the various boss fights here were handled through the same tactics described above, typically smashing any minions right away with Aeber's Reckoning and then wearing down the main boss with debuffs and HP/SP thievery. To my great surprise, Therion was actually wiped out on my first attempt against Joshua. Yes, the very weak Joshua miniboss fight that takes place at the beginning of the Arena sequence!
What happened was Therion repeatedly getting charmed through this Rhapsody of Love ability on the boss. Confusion/Charm status tends to be relatively innocuous for solo characters because they get knocked out of the status ailment as soon as they take damage, and you're always getting hit by something during a solo game. However, the problem was that Therion was too darn shifty for his own good here. He kept DODGING the attacks that would knock him out of charm status, including his own self-attacks! I don't even know how that's possible, dodging an attack that you launched against yourself. The net effect was a long sequence of turns in which I was never able to issue a command for Therion as he was repeatedly re-charmed and plinked away until he was dead. It was a crazy coincidence that the dodges lined up in exactly the wrong order to produce this outcome and I was half laughing / half annoyed to see it play out in practice. "Did that really just happen?!" I had Therion equip the Clarity Stone on his second attempt and put an end to that nonsense. Just say no to getting charmed!
The second Arena fight against Archibold was a non-issue but the last fight against Gustav was not. His two Shield Wielder minions hit Therion for lots of damage and it took two Aeber's Reckonings to down them, with Therion gulping down Medium Healing Grapes the whole time because he didn't have spare boost points (or action rounds) to use on HP Thief. Once Gustav was the only opponent remaining, the fight should have been a routine affair, and it was for the first half of the battle. However, when Gustav drops below half health he starts using "Black Blade" at the end of each round and inflicting permanent terror status on your character. Therion didn't have the Calming Stone accessory required to block this status ailment and that meant needing to work around an inability to gain or spend boost points. The solution that I came up with was hitting Gustav with Armor Corrosive followed by HP Thief while slowing draining away at the lifebar of the boss. Therion couldn't use boost points and that meant hitting for the minimum base damage of the attack each round. This was a slow and inelegant process but it did work eventually. Aeber's Reckoning was unfortunately unavailable since it would have required spending boost points and terror status blocked that from happening. I think that Therion went through about two dozen of those healing grapes in this battle before slugging his way to a victory.
Winning this battle drops an item named Gustav's Shield, one of the more useful shields in the game because it has +64 evasion on it as opposed to an evasion penalty like most other shields. I was surprised to find that Therion could Steal a copy of the same shield in the staging room of the Arena before the battle took place. How many copies of his shield did this guy have anyway? I ended up with two of them, not that the second one could be used on this solo run.
Typically I'll venture out to a couple of the towns in the third ring to pick up additional equipment at an early date. Therion had proven strong enough as a character that I hadn't felt the need to do so, and as a result I was late in visiting Goldshore to pursue Alfyn's Chapter 2 story. (The path to Grandport runs through Goldshore and as a result it's often one of the first places my solo characters visit.) Therion continued having no problems with the random encounters along the way: Steal SP, then HP Thief, then Aeber's Reckoning worked over and over again. I should note that Therion is an extremely speedy character in Octopath Traveler and he still seemed to get hit with a lot of surprise attacks from the monsters along the way. Whatever the speed stat does in this game, it doesn't appear to prevent those enemy attacks from taking place. Therion did seem to act early in the turn order a bit more often than some of the other characters, but again, everyone gets exactly one action per round in Octopath Traveler. Speed seems to be a mostly useless stat based on everything that I can tell.
As for Vanessa, she's another one of the easiest bosses in the game and didn't give Therion any trouble. The screenshot captured above shows the different damage output from Aeber's Reckoning with the Armor Corrosive debuff in effect (33% more damage) and two attacks critically striking (30% more damage). When combined together they almost doubled the overall damage output. I had actually made a mistake here taking the time to debuff Vanessa's two minions, as they each have 9000 HP and would have required two hits from Therion's Divine skill regardless of whether their physical defenses were reduced. Oh well, a bit of overkill wasn't the worst thing. This was a battle where Aeber's Reckoning was the skill of choice since it took two uses to clear out the hired guards, then another two uses when Vanessa resummoned them at full health. She was on her last legs after eating four hits from Therion's Divine skill and a fully boosted HP Thief finished her off.
I almost always leave H'aanit's Chapter 2 story for last because I think it's the most difficult of the group, both in terms of the boss at the end as well as the dungeon that has to be cleared along the way. The small Highlands region between Stonegard and the entrance to the Spectrewood in particular has a couple of very difficult random monsters, and I wonder if the designers either didn't realize this or accidentally put enemies from a future encounter zone in there by mistake. Anyway, the Spectrewood is full of enemies that have silencing abilities and I had Therion equip an Articulate Stone ahead of time to ensure that he wouldn't lose the ability to keep using his skills. Therion never, ever used his basic attacks because HP Thief and Steal SP were always better choices. I needed to keep the Vampire Therion train rolling along with its endless lifestealing powers! Some of the plant-based enemies also have this obnoxious tendency to keep splitting off additional copies of themselves in a way that's really bad for characters that only have single target damage. Fortunately that wasn't an issue here because Aeber's Reckoning burned everything to the ground all at once, keeping the evil plants from taking root a second time.
For the Lord of the Forest, I opted to bring protection against silence and unconsciousness statuses for Therion. Either one would have been a real threat and I was able to work around the blindness inflicted by one of the minion groups through normal status-curing items. Once again the star of the show was Aeber's Reckoning, with Therion breaking it out repeatedly against the three groups of minions summoned by the boss. I was deliberately letting Therion's boost meter fill all the way up to five points and leaving it there until the next group of minions appeared, then slamming them with double Divine skills over the next three turns to eliminate them quickly. The various woodland creatures died fast enough that the Lord of the Forest was never able to consume one of them with its "Circle of Life" ability for the 5000 HP heal. Once the boss was the only foe remaining, I could have tried to break the enemy with sword attacks but opted to stick with daggers instead. The Lord of the Forest knocks your character down to 1 HP when recovering from a break and that seemed like introducing additional danger into the fight for no reason. Therion dodged many of the incoming blows and kept hacking away with HP Thief and Steal SP until he emerged victorious.
The Chapter 2 bosses ended up being a more interesting group for Therion on the whole. While none of them were precisely tough, I did have to spend more time thinking about which attacks to use, how many rounds to spend debuffing as opposed to attacking, and how to avoid dangerous status ailments that could stop the lifestealing gravy train. The addition of Aeber's Reckoning was a huge help and the Thief's Divine skill significantly increased the overall power of the class. If I end up putting a tier list together later on, the presence of that Divine skill is probably worth a rung or two on the ladder all by itself. The Chapter 2 opponents did highlight the fact that Therion wasn't invincible, and anything that could put a stop to his blood-sucking abilities threatened to knock him out of his comfort zone. I was looking forward to seeing how he fared as the difficulty level continued to ramp up in the remaining story sequences ahead.