I continued with Therion's journey in the wake of completing the Chapter 2 stories. Therion had little trouble making his way through the second set of story sequences and I was still waiting to see if he would run into any roadblock opponents along the way. His lifestealing abilities, powerful debuffs, and innately high evasion made him a surprisingly sturdy character. As long as Therion could keep leeching away HP and SP from his foes, he was a difficult individual to defeat. His first visit to a town in the third ring was designed to continue building upon these advantages:
One of the townspeople in Duskbarrow was holding the Viper Dagger and Therion was happy to swipe it from them. The Viper Dagger has the second-highest attack value amongst all daggers and constituted a nice upgrade over Therion's previous Forbidden Dagger. It had two useful secondary properties as well: first, the weapon had a chance of inflicting poison on each attack, and although each poison tick only deals 1% of max HP to bosses, every little bit of extra damage came in handy. Second, the Viper Dagger had a massive bonus to the speed stat with 132 additional points of quickness. If you remember the mechanics associated with Therion's Divine skill discussed on the last page, 132 points of speed translated into 132 / 400 = 33% more damage when using Aeber's Reckoning. Since Therion's base damage was also increasing by virtue of having a stronger weapon, the net effect was a major leap upwards for his Divine skill. Unbroken opponents had previously been taking about 4500 damage from Aeber's Reckoning and now the skill's output increased to about 6500 damage. To make a long story short, Therion was still easily able to one-shot every random encounter using his Divine Skill even as he ventured into regions with tougher monsters.
Duskbarrow is one of the smallest towns in the game and didn't have anything of note for Therion beyond the Viper Dagger. He'd been able to make it there without too much trouble, simply needing to survive long enough to get off Aeber's Reckoning before getting crushed by the enemies lurking in the forests outside. It was a similar story in terms of traveling from Goldshore to Grandport, spamming HP Thief into Aeber's Reckoning while passing through this dangerous area. Lots of my other solo characters have needed to run for their lives to make this trip but not Therion. He crossed the bridges into Grandport without any serious issues and that's where the item floodgates really opened up:
Grandport is the most crowded town in the game with more than 50 individual NPCs strolling about its streets. I think that Atlasdam is the largest town with five separate areas to explore (the entrance, the outside of the palace, the palace, the Royal Academy, and the library) but Grandport definitely has the most people to interact with. These NPCs are concentrated in Grandport's market district where there are all sorts of high-end items that can be Purchased or Stolen. (This is the reason why my characters inevitably make an early stop in Grandport, just too many goodies available here to ignore the place.) Having a high-level Thief felt like being a kid in a candy store, as I used Therion's talents to Steal everything in sight. Most of the goods had 100% theft rates and I took everything that wasn't nailed down even if it wasn't directly useful for Therion. It certainly was nice being able to pick up the Refreshing and Revitalizing Jams for free instead of spending 15,000 money apiece on those things!
In fact, I was having so much fun stealing stuff that Therion ended up getting caught five times and needed to pay to restore his reputation:
Whoa, the price to restore reputation was 100,000 money here?! Those fancy merchants must have had some tight security! This is supposed to be how the game is balanced: stealing items potentially obtains them for free, but get caught five times and your reputation is ruined and then the party has to pay to unlock the use of Path Actions once more. Grandport has an exceptionally high cost to restore the party's reputation, most towns only require a few thousand coins to fix the issue. I decided to solve the problem a different way: I reloaded back to my previous savegame file and made sure not to use up all of my theft attempts again. And no, I don't like abusing save scumming like this but I liked spending that kind of money even less.
There were plenty of other useful items to pick up in Grandport from the poor merchants. I ended up using Tressa's Purchase again on several occasions where I didn't want to spend 10 minutes reloading endlessly to land a Steal at 3% odds. This included obtaining the standard Forbidden Shield (very high physical/elemental defense at the cost of a massive evasion penalty) and the Protective Necklace accessory (+80 physical/elemental defense). I wouldn't end up using the Forbidden Shield that much with Therion because I typically wanted to emphasize his evasion but it was useful on a couple of different occasions when it was more important to be tanky. There was another important evasion-based item to pick up in Grandport in the form of the Ethereal Dancer Grab, the chest armor with the highest evasion bonus in the game. When I combined it together with the Silent Bandana and Gustav's Shield, this was the net result:
649 points of evasion, very nice indeed! This was essentially Therion's default setup for the rest of the Chapter 3 stories, the weapons and armor displayed here along with the Empowering Bracelet (+500 HP) and the aforementioned Protective Necklace. I found that Therion dodged a high number of physical attacks, especially during random encounters where the monsters were sometimes hitting him as little as 20-25% of the time. It wasn't uncommon for Therion to get the "Untouched" bonus for taking no damage at all against random foes, something that almost never happened with any of my other solo characters. However, it's important to remember that evasion doesn't do anything against elemental damage since it always hits the target, and when opponents did hit Therion they often inflicted hefty damage. That was the downside of emphasizing evasion since it could lead to some unfortunate streaks of poor RNG luck. I still think it was the best option overall and Therion usually stayed very safe indeed.
Oh yeah, and there were actually monsters to fight too. This wasn't just the story of Therion visiting various towns and pilfering the unfortunate people who happened to live there. As usual for me, I took the time in between story sequences to clear out some of the optional side dungeons along the way: the Hollow Throne, Tomb of Kings, Derelict Mine, Farshore, and the Tomb of the Imperator. The most dangerous random foes in these areas continued to be the obnoxious elementals who could hit Therion for almost 1000 damage in a single round. His evasion was useless against them. Otherwise, the random encounters were generally a breeze and not worth mentioning. The optional boss pictured above was the Throne Guardian in the Hollow Throne, a foe who's actually pretty easy despite its intimidating appearance. The creature was weak against daggers and that always made for an easier opponent for Therion. He was able to land his biggest HP Thief attack to date against the Throne Guardian while it was broken and debuffed with Armor Corrosive, 5000+ health leeched away from the victim. Here's one aspect of HP Thief / Steal SP that I hadn't thought too much about previously: because they hit twice, they can be used to exceed the 9999 damage cap. While Aeber's Reckoning does more base damage, the Divine skill pretty quickly slams into that cap and can't go further. For lategame situations, HP Thief may actually end up doing more damage as well as providing the always-useful lifesteal effect.
Elsewhere, the Manymaws boss in the Derelict Mine fell very quickly to Therion. Aeber's Reckoning did 9100 damage against the hideous monster and that pretty much ended the battle on its own. The Tomb of Kings and Farshore don't have bosses inside and were useful only for gaining additional experience and money. (They have side story quests as well but neither one yields one of the stat-boosting nuts so these are very much optional locations. I still went through them anyway for fun.) The Tomb of the Imperator can be tricky for some solo characters because the enemies inside hit pretty hard and there are a lot of them. Therion largely ignored that problem by dodging nearly all of the monster attacks and lifestealing back whatever health he lost along the way. It was hard for him to die when the third round of every battle saw Aeber's Reckoning appear and one-shot the whole mob of opponents. The Behemoth at the end was debuffed with Armor Corrosive and then took 9999 damage from Aeber's Reckoning despite not having been broken - it was a short battle.
Then it was time to get the Chapter 3 stories underway in earnest. I started out with Olberic's tale as one of the easiest ones to complete. Therion equipped an Antidote Stone to protect against the poison used by the desert monsters around Wellspring and then went to town carving a path of destruction through their ranks. I think that he needed to use maybe two or three Healing Grapes and zero Inspiriting Plums in making his way through the Lizardmen's Den, he was crazily self-sufficient thanks to HP Thief and Steal SP. For the Lizardman Chief boss at the end, one casting of Aeber's Reckoning was more than enough to wipe out the unfortunate minions trying to protect their leader. This prompted a text line that read "Lizardman Chief appears flustered" which was an accurate assessment of the situation. I'd imagine your followers collapsing under a volley of daggers in mere seconds would be a bit concerning. After that the fight was a complete massacre, with Therion taking advantage of the daggers weakness on the Lizardman Chief to slice the reptile into ribbons. Therion was dodging the incoming attacks in an almost contemptuous manner and then going to town with HP Thief and Steal SP. The minions were summoned back once and immediately eliminated with another use of Therion's Divine skill. When the Lizardman Chief was broken, Therion pulled out another 10,000+ damage attack with Steal SP that leeched back an absurd 523 SP in the process. This was one of the most thorough ownings of a boss that I can remember - I kind of felt sorry for the Lizardmen!
Tressa's Chapter 3 story was next and the most dangerous enemies here continued to be more of those elementals. Argh, why do they pop up in so many of the various dungeons in this game?! Anyway, they were tougher than the Venomtooth Tiger boss at the end since Therion was well prepared to counter its poison. He dodged about 50% of the attacks from the big cat and mostly relied on HP Thief for damage in this battle. Aeber's Reckoning did more damage but was also less safe since it didn't restore health in the process. Better to go the slow and safe route of endless lifestealing instead of risking death from a series of unlucky failed dodges. While Therion did have to drink a number of Medium Healing Grapes at times when his HP Thief wasn't fully charged, he stayed safe in this battle and eventually won without any real trouble.
I'd been wondering whether it would be better to stack heavy physical defense against Miguel or go with Therion's standard evasion-based gear. I decided to test the latter option first and ended up highly pleased at how well it worked. Miguel seems to have a low amount of accuracy because he missed an enormous number of his attacks, with notably more misses popping up in this battle as compared to other bosses that Therion had faced. I could track how many dodges were taking place because Miguel's Twin Spears ability debuffs the player's physical defense when it hit, and most of my solo characters end up having to do this whole battle with their defenses permanently reduced. Not Therion though! He just avoided both hits of the Twin Spears over and over again, spending only a small amount of the battle with his physical defenses lowered. This allowed me to concentrate Therion's own debuffs on Armor Corrosive instead of needing to use Shackle Foe for safety, then hit Miguel with either Aeber's Reckoning (if Therion had full health) or HP Thief (if he needed to top off his own lifebar). The whole thing ended up being a shockingly easy fight to navigate.
By way of contrast, H'aanit's Dragon was notably more difficult even with an Inferno Amulet equipped to block the damage from its fire breath. The problem was the Rending Claw attack pictured above, which would hit for roughly 1500 damage at a time against Therion. I figured that he would be able to dodge most of those attacks, and Therion was indeed dodging roughly 75% of the normal physical attacks from the boss. However, the Dragon's Rending Claw must have had heightened accuracy as compared to its normal attacks because Therion barely dodged any of them at all. Maybe 25% evasion rate at best from what I could tell. Clearly individual abilities have different accuracy ratings associated with them, it was the only way to explain what I was seeing in this battle. Anyway, Therion had no way to break the Dragon (its swords weakness having been blocked) and that was also part of the reason why this was a tougher fight. I ended up using a lot of HP Thief and a lot of Healing Grapes here. Aeber's Reckoning was mostly out as an option, I could have used it for more damage but then would have needed to fall back on Refreshing Jams for healing and that wasn't worth it. Slow and steady carried the day here again.
At this point I took a quick break from the Chapter 3 stories to head off into an optional side dungeon again. I'd been wondering if Therion was strong enough to take on the Giant Python in the Quicksand Caves and decided to give that a try:
I made sure as always to equip a Wakeful Stone for this battle as otherwise Therion would have been quickly put to sleep and instakilled by these dangerous opponents. Out of the two bosses, the Giant Python deals much more damage and has more health while the Snake Charmer constantly buffs up the attack of the snake. Unfortunately the Giant Python still needs to be killed first because it will go into a berserker rage if its human companion gets eliminated. I had to do a bit of trial and error for this battle until working out a successful plan of attack. My biggest discovery was that I needed to keep the Giant Python's physical attack debuffed with Shackle Foe at all times for safety. The Snake Charmer would buff up the Giant Python's physical attack and by keeping Shackle Foe in place I could cancel that out, then immediately reapply the debuff afterwards. The Python's attacks went from doing 1500 damage while buffed to 750 damage while debuffed and that made a massive difference. Of course this meant largely abandoning the extra damage from Armor Corrosive since Therion could only realistically keep one of those two debuffs running at a time; it had to be done though to make the fight survivable.
This was another situation where Aeber's Reckoning wasn't practical for Therion. It was partly due to the fact that I didn't want him to accidentally kill the Snake Charmer, but mostly because Therion needed the constant healing from HP Thief. The Giant Python couldn't be broken by Therion's attacks and without Armor Corrosive in place the damage was unimpressive. At max boost HP Thief would deal about 5000 damage and lifesteal for 2500 HP back to Therion. This was mostly enough to keep Therion sustained throughout the fight along with some Medium Healing Grapes when Therion had a sequence of failed dodges. The most obnoxious part of this battle was the fact that the Snake Charmer would use an ability called "Now’s your time to shine, my beauty!" which would grant the Giant Python an extra attack on the next turn. This would cause the upcoming turn order to reshuffle into a different configuration from what was displayed - very, very dangerous stuff! Like, I wouldn't heal Therion because he was going to act first on the next turn, and then suddenly the big snake is attacking twice before he takes his turn. You might as well call this the Lying Action Bar. Well, that mendacious interface caused me to lose this battle once, and afterwards I made sure to keep Therion's health high enough to survive the Giant Python suddenly attacking when it wasn't scheduled to attack. This was another long, slow battle and I was highly pleased when Therion emerged victorious without needing to resort to Refreshing Jam usage.
The next few Chapter 3 bosses were quite a bit easier to defeat than the Giant Python. I equipped the mandatory Bright Stone to prevent Therion from being blinded against Albus and that was largely sufficient to win the battle on its own. The one-eyed boss was weak against daggers and that always made things much simpler for Therion. The only dangerous moment in the battle came when he dropped under 50% HP and summoned his two minions, just because combining together their four attacks resulted in more damage than Therion could sustain through lifestealing. Two uses of Aeber's Reckoning knocked them out of the picture and then Therion could go back to hacking away at Albus with his daggers. I noted that Albus took 2000 damage from an unboosted and unbroken use of HP Thief which translated into 1000 HP for Therion. This was easily enough to keep him perfectly safe, with his lifestealing exceeding the damage that the boss could do each round. Only during the brief period that the minions popped up was this fight in any way dangerous.
I had Therion take a hike up to Northreach at the edges of the Frostlands afterwards. This third ring town allowed him to Steal a copy of the Empowering Necklace, the upgraded version of the Empowering Bracelet with +1000 HP instead of +500 HP. He also completed the useful side stories in the town for a Large Nourishing Nut and that meant another 300 HP on a permanent basis. The net effect was that Therion had a much higher max HP total for his next boss fight, 4600 HP as compared to 3300 HP:
This was the Yvon battle at the end of Cyrus' Chapter 3 story. The setup was a bit reversed from what Therion had seen against Albus, with a pair of minions present from the start of the encounter instead of showing up halfway through. Those two Research Fellows cast a series of wind element spells and they were somewhat dangerous since Therion couldn't evade their magical abilities. This might have been cause for concern if Therion hadn't been able to wipe them out so quickly with a pair of Aeber's Reckoning dagger flurries. (Note that the damage from Aeber's Reckoning was over 8000 at this point against unbroken targets, nearing the point of maxing out against everything on a permanent basis.) Yvon himself was a total joke, getting only one action per round and using purely physical abilities that Therion dodged most of the time. Yvon was also weak against daggers and I've already explained repeatedly about how much easier that made opponents. I was having Therion hit Yvon over and over against with either HP Thief or Steal SP while keeping both HP and SP topped off at maximum. The battle ended with a Steal SP ability that dealt just shy of 12,000 damage and siphoned back 586 spirit points. Yeesh, the Venomtooth Tiger was tougher than this guy.
With the ability to Fast Travel instantly back to Northreach, this opened up the opportunity for Therion to clear out the Maw of the Ice Dragon optional side dungeon. I wanted to run through this area to pick up the Adamantine Hat, the helmet with the best elemental defense in the game. This wasn't a piece of gear that Therion used on a general basis since he preferred the evasion on the Silent Bandana, however it was going to come in handy against the next major bosses. The Dreadwolf optional boss at the conclusion of this side dungeon hit extremely hard with its Rampage and Vorpal Fang attacks, wiping out Therion a couple of times. He just needed to survive long enough to get off two uses of Aeber's Reckoning and I refought the battle a few times until Therion landed enough dodges to make that happen.
The new equipment with higher elemental defense was needed for the bosses waiting at the end of Ophilia's Chapter 3 story. The Mystery Man and the Shady Figure together constitute one of the rare situations in Octopath Traveler where the damage is almost entirely elemental in nature. Knowing that evade wouldn't be useful here, I loaded up Therion with the Forbidden Shield and the Adamantine Hat and the Robe of the Flame. Evasion fell all the way down to 173 points in exchange for nearly maxing out elemental defense at 934 points. The result was the elemental spells from this pair dealing almost no damage at all, with the pictured Luminescence hitting for all of 50 damage. Unfortunately these bosses will also sometimes break out their Arcane Blade ability, and despite what the name would suggest, Arcane Blade is a physical damage attack. This was the only ability from the two bosses that Therion had to worry about.
These two opponents can be very difficult for low damage variants because the Shady Figure heals both of them for 800 HP at the end of every round. If you can't get through their health regeneration you'll never be able to win the battle. That wasn't an issue for Therion though, with Aeber's Reckoning hitting both of them for the maximum 9999 damage when it appeared. I mostly had Therion concentrate on lifestealing while his boost meter filled up and tried to even out the damage on both targets so that they would die at the same time. This was trickier than expected since the Shady Figure was weak to daggers while the Mystery Man was not, plus the Shady Figure has 4000 more HP than its partner. I ended up getting the math wrong and killed the Shady Figure alone, which caused the Mystery Man to start spamming Arcane Blade repeatedly. Therion had just enough damage to finish off the remaining opponent before he was wiped out. Overall this was a pretty simple fight with slightly botched execution on my end.
I'd been saving Therion's own Chapter 3 story until the end since it can be so difficult for solo characters. First, a few words about the plot sequence taking place:
Therion sneaks into Wellspring while following a rumor tracing the loction of the next missing dragonstone. He discovers that it's about to be sold for auction at an underground Black Market outside the town and steals a disguise to slip into the gathering. (Once again, it was very nice not having to do these mandatory Steals at 3% odds!) In a surprise twist, the Black Market comes under attack from a band of thieves who make off with the dragonstone in question. These thieves are led by Therion's old childhood partner in crime Darius (of course) and we get a flashback explaining their falling out. Darius double-crossed Therion by accepting an offer from a rival bandit group to have him killed, thereby currying favor with a new circle of associates. Therion was thrown off a cliff's edge and, uh, survived somehow? This is never explained anywhere in the story and it's a pretty gaping plot hole. Why exactly was Therion able to survive falling hundreds of feet into a rocky gorge? It's a real mystery. Anyway, Therion's understandably pretty upset about the whole deal and now he has a chance to gain some revenge. Darius leaves behind his lackey Gareth to deal with Therion and thus we get our boss fight that closes the chapter.
For a random flunky that gets no character development and all of five seconds of screen time, Gareth certainly is a royal pain in the butt to deal with. He pulls together two different and profoundly unfair abilities for a solo game. First, he has the exact same Steal SP ability owned by Therion and he likes to spam it frequently throughout the fight. I failed to get a good screenshot of this but you can barely see above that he was hitting Therion for 1042 damage and stealing away 63 SP in the process. A character with no SP can't use abilities and Gareth would sometimes use Steal SP two or three rounds in a row. Therion's own leeching abilities were useless if he didn't have the spirit points available to use them. Second, Gareth will start stealing your items away after he drops below 50% HP. The only way to recover these items comes through breaking him and that's not even something that many solo characters can do. It's very easy to find yourself in a situation with no SP to use abilities and items entirely locked out, a death sentence for almost any character.
Making matters worse was the fact that Therion couldn't blow away the annoying two minions that accompanied Gareth. Removing the minions just increases Gareth from two actions each round up to three actions each round and that tends to be a poor trade. (The minions will also revive Gareth out of a shield break with their "Smelling Salts" ability and there's not much to be done about this.) The best option seems to be killing one of the two minions and leaving the other one alive, something that Therion was able to do by debuffing one of them with Armor Corrosive and then hitting with a max boosted HP Thief. Unfortunately Aeber's Reckoning would one-shot them and therefore it was essentially out of the question.
I could largely manage the first half of this battle by dipping into Therion's stock of Refreshing Jams for the first time. Therion would keep getting drained of all spirit points and he typically needed to restore health at the same time, thus making Inspiriting Plums impractical. With the help of those Refreshing Jams, Therion would get a full HP/SP restoration and he could keep chipping away at Gareth's lifebar with HP Thief attacks. However, once Gareth fell below half health he would start using Steal Item and locking out this option. I could break him to get the items back but this only worked *ONE* time; after being broken, Gareth would lock out his swords weakness and it was impossible to break him a second time. After some experimentation, I came up with this solution:
Make sure that when Gareth stole Therion's items for the first time he was sitting on exactly one shield remaining. That's the pictured situation, with Therion about to break Gareth and recover his items for the first time. Ideally this would happen with a full boost meter but I wasn't able to line that up properly on this occasion. Then break the boss, hit him for as much damge as possible, and race to finish the battle before he stole Therion's items again since they couldn't be recovered a second time. When a character is in a damage race like this, it's worthwhile to expend whatever item resources are required to finish the encounter ASAP. That meant popping a Revitalizing Jam for the boost point recovery as well as HP and SP, then hitting Gareth with Aeber's Reckoning for max damage. The boss was already about to re-steal Therion's items but the Divine skill was enough to finish him off:
If this had failed, Therion was going to use a Healing Grape and then hit again with Aeber's Reckoning on the following turn. I was saved here by the fact that Gareth has a low health total for this stage of the game, only 38K HP overall. This would have been much tougher if he'd been a beefier opponent. Unfortunately Darius uses similar skills and has far more health but at least Darius is always weak to daggers. That should make things a bit easier down the road. Anyway, this was by far the toughest of Therion's Chapter 3 opponents and required multiple different attempts until I worked out a strategy. Gareth seemed to have very high accuracy on his attacks and swapping out Therion's evasion setup for a tankier build emphasizing physical defense did seem to help a bit. This is not a situation where the player gets much benefit out of trying to dodge.
Finally, we wrap up Therion's Chapter 3 story with some expected character development. Therion explains to Heathcote and Cordelia Ravus that he wasn't able to secure the emerald dragonstone and that he plans to chase after Darius to recover it. Therion continues to be aloof and standoffish at the offer of friendship from the other two characters, eventually leading up to the expected line of "you don't know what it feels like to be betrayed". Cordelia explains that she knows exactly what it feels like, as a wealthy orphan whom everyone tried to befriend in order to gain access to her family's money. But unlike the moping Therion, Cordelia has been able to move past that and continue to live her own life, as expressed through trusted friendships with people like her butler Heathcote. In the least shocking plot development ever, Therion starts to realize that he needs to be willing to trust other people again if he's ever going to be able to heal and move forward. (The best exchange in this chapter comes a bit earlier, when Therion notes to Darius "I see you've found some new partners" and Darius responds with "they aren't my partners, they just work for me." Great writing that distills everything about these two characters into a five second pair of quips.)
That brought the Chapter 3 stories to their conclusion for Therion. Most of the foes along the way continued to be pretty routine aside from a major roadblock that took place against Gareth. Therion would be further tested as he continued onwards to the last set of bosses and the conclusion of the main story sequences. I was hoping that he'd have a chance to take on some of the optional endgame superbosses but time would tell how far he was able to go.