After going through more than two dozen Archmages in the initial Normal difficulty run, I had managed to reach the second quest of New Game Plus (NG+) mode. Here's a picture of my character sheet at that moment:
My upgrades had gone most heavily into the two key stats for an Archmage, health and magic damage. (Health is probably the most important stat for every class, to be perfectly honest!) Because I had put so little money into upgrading my physical attack, I only had a Strength of 35 against an Intelligence of 150. In other words, spells would be doing roughly five times the damage of melee attacks. It didn't take a genius to understand that Archmages need to stick to ranged spellcasting, and not try to melee their foes. I had also sunk large amounts of gold into three utility upgrades: Gold Gain Up, Potion Up, and Mana Cost Down, each of which I had already maxed before finishing the Normal difficulty. Those first two categories I prize very highly for all classes, as the Gold Gain upgrades increase the returns for all future runs forever, while getting back 15% health/mana from the chickens and flasks compared to the initial 10% return makes a huge difference in terms of survivability. Archmages (and all casting classes, I suspect) also have a great desire to grab the Mana Cost Reductions ASAP, and I had spent quite a bit to finish out that area of the upgrade tree. Most spells dropped in cost from 15 MP down to 11 MP as a result of these upgrades, allowing me to cast longer and more often. All told, I had spent about 100k gold into just those 15 utility points, and now that they were out of the way, I could concentrate on getting "real" stat gains with my monetary returns.
With regards to equipment, I was using the Ranger Sword as the best physical weapon that had dropped thus far. The Sky Helm and Sky Bracers were new additions, only recently showing up in the dungeon, and they were also top of the line at this point. The Guardian Chestplate is the best item in the chest slot for a long time, since armor is the primary stat for chestplates and the Guardian stuff all provides bonus armor. It was the best available by a good margin. And in the cape slot, I valued the extra armor from the Guardian Cape over the +1 Siphon from the Silver Cape. I could use the Guardian Cape for a long time, since I had little need for the critical strike chance and other physical stuff on a lot of the other capes. My runes included the double jump, dash, two points of Vampirism (for +4 health per monster kill) and a Haste run for lack of better options there. I didn't value additional Siphon points over anything that I already had, I would just make due as best I could in terms of mana usage.
Lady Charlotte IV was the lucky one who had defeated The Fountain and cleared the initial difficulty level. I had just over 44k gold to spend, which went into further stat and gear upgrades. I finally had enough runes to get what I consider my standard setup, the double jump and dash runes along with three Vampirism runes for sustain. This took absolutely forever for my poor Archmages, who needed only 12 more runes to complete the entire set (I had 43 out of the 55 total runes at this point). The rest went into stats.
Unlock: Vault Rune, Sprint Rune, Vampire Rune, Health Up x5, Magic Damage Up x5, Attack Up
27) Level 147 (Health 40, Attack 12, Magic Damage 35, Mana 15, Equip 20, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 10): 6360g
Still the same traits as before, Coprolalia and Tunnel Vision, along with that sweet dagger/chakram/time stopper spell combo. I was surprised at how well my damage held up in the castle portion of NG+ mode, with flying mages dying to two daggers and the stationary star enemies (plonky) dying in one spell cast. On the other hand, trying to kill anything at 36 damage per swing using the sword was almost laughable. Had to use those spells that did 162 damage instead. I ran into a really nasty room full of enemies that cost me most of my health, then died shortly thereafter. Not a very good run.
Unlock: Health Up x2
28) Level 149 (Health 42, Attack 12, Magic Damage 35, Mana 15, Equip 20, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 10): 63,840g
Endomorph. This Archmage also had amazing spells, with dagger/axe/time stopper in tow. Hope that I keep getting spell sequences like this. The axe was especially good at killing the flying mages, since it usually translated into a double hit on them. I went ahead and tried to full clear the castle first to get some decent gold income, and it wasn't too bad in terms of difficulty. I even found the Imperial Bracers towards the end, which should be an upgrade over the current bracers. I did clear out the whole castle (passing on Khidr for the moment since I didn't have the chakram available) and made my way into the forest, where I found the Royal Helm almost immediately. That was a BIG find, since that's the best in slot for that particular group of gear. Very very nice. Even better, I had a room later in the forest where three chickens all appeared in random drops. That's something I've literally never seen before, insane luck. Full cleared the forest and went deep into the tower as well, where I found the Imperial Helm (not as good as the Royal Helm). I finally ran into a real problem there: I ran out of magic points. Oops! This meant that my Archmage was a crippled fighter until I could find another flask to restore MP. Much to my shock, I managed to full clear the tower as well, finding the Royal Cape in the last room. This had turned into quite a nice run indeed! Off into the basement then, and even cleared out a fair portion of it. I found the Dragon Bracers and the Royal Bracers down there, another best in slot item, deep in the back corner of the basement. Wow!
This character had exceeded every expectation of mine. Finally died, but not before bringing back 63k gold for use by the future descendants. Three cheers to this Archmage! I sunk a large amount of gold, nearly half the total, into unlocking the Royal Helmet and Royal Limbs, along with 7 more points in Equipment Weight to use the pair. The other new equipment was inferior to these two; I had actually found three new bracers that were all upgrades, but none of the rest as good as the Royal ones. The Royal Cape's +3 Flight was not useful enough for me to take it over the bonus armor from the Guardian Cape. After this, I still had over 30k gold remaining, which went into stat upgrades, including more mana so that I would be less likely to run out of MP again.
Unlock: Royal Helm, Royal Limbs, Equip Up x7, Magic Damage Up x5, Mana Up x5, Attack Up
This picture should give you an idea of just how big of an upgrade the Royal Helm was over the previous Sky Helm I had been wearing. Now granted, this picture doesn't factor in the -50% penalty to health for an Archmage, so I would actually only be getting 25 health (going from 295 to 320 health), but it also doesn't factor in the +50% bonus to mana, which would take max mana from 472 to 540. As the helm with the best base stats in the game, I could happily live with this item for the rest of my days as an Archmage.
29) Level 167 (Health 42, Attack 13, Magic Damage 40, Mana 20, Equip 27, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 10): 101,480g
No traits, a rarity. This Archmage did have another awesome spell group though: dagger, chakram, and time stopper. Hard to decide if this group or the one replacing the chakram with the axe is better, they're both really strong. I now had 615 max mana, with flasks restoring 92 MP each, so hopefully that would make it harder to run dry again. Started out in the castle and had an extraordinarily unusual room where FOUR chickens randomly dropped together. Of course I had full health at the time. The major piece of equipment turned up while playing was the Holy Sword, which looked to be a slight upgrade over the very old Ranger Sword that I had been using for ages. There were also some older helmets like the Dragon Helm which weren't as good as the current Royal Helm. I fought several bosses on this run as well, largely due to having the chakram as an available spell. Khidr went down in about ten seconds in a barrage of throwing weapons; I took one hit and picked up two magic damage increases along with a mana increase for the victory. Not worth a picture. Then I full cleared both the forest and tower, only to venture inside against both bosses. Alexander was almost shockingly easy, with the chakram getting two or three hits with each spellcast, and the boss falling before his little minions could swarm me. I didn't take even one point of damage, and received health, mana, and magic damage bonuses.
Since I hadn't taken any injuries, I went from there to the Ponce de Leon boss fight, and won that encounter without much fuss either. A single hit taken, and not even from Ponce but from one of the bouncing spiked balls in his chamber. The treasure chest provided two health and an armor upgrade. My Archmage eventually fell in the basement without managing to get a full dungeon clear, but not before taking home over 100k gold in the process. This playthrough is uploaded to YouTube with commentary, for those who would like to see it play out in real time. I put most of the gold into a massive upgrade in Magic Damage, a full dozen points there.
Unlock: Holy Sword, Magic Damage Up x12, Mana Up x5, Health Up x3, Equip Up, Upgrade Barbarian
30) Level 189 (Health 45, Attack 13, Magic Damage 52, Mana 25, Equip 28, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 11): 112,560g
Coprolalia, Stereo Blindness. This Archmage had a really weak selection of spells: the flame ring, the conflux, and the sword wall. Ugh. The flame barrier requires you to get too close to the monsters, and so you always end up taking a lot of damage. The flame circle also inevitably eats through magic points like crazy, and you normally get two "ticks" of the MP cost (at 11 MP each) before it can be turned off. That's simply not efficient to kill enemies when Siphoning back 8 MP per kill. I just tried to clear out as much of the dungeon as I could with this weak Archmage. The highlight of this venture was fighting the duo flying mage minibosses in the tower, and defeating them in return for a magic damage upgrade. I did also pick up the Slayer Chestplate outside the tower boss door, which might be an upgrade over my current Guardian gear. I managed to full clear the castle, forest, and tower, after which I went back and fought the dual plant miniboss (seen above), resulting in the Holy Chestplate dropping afterwards, and then picked up the Royal Chestplate in the basement. One way or another, I would have some new chest armor after this run! I nearly managed to clear out the basement, before finally falling when I ran out of magic points. I have absolutely no idea how this run made it as far as it did, with those crummy spells, but somehow this turned into 112k gold, the most to date for an Archmage. Out of the three chestplate options, the Royal Chestplate was the best choice with a straight +30 armor (from 103 to 133), although it did necessitate getting a full five Equip Up upgrades to wear it. I had the gold though! My Archmages were now wearing the Royal Helm, Chestplate, and Bracers. I put the rest of the money into a full thirteen (!!!) Magic Damage upgrades. Hopefully I only needed one or two more runs to finish this difficulty level.
Unlock: Royal Chestplate, Magic Damage Up x13, Equip Up x5
31) Level 207 (Health 45, Attack 13, Magic Damage 65, Mana 25, Equip 33, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 11): 117,820g
No traits on this Archmage, but she did have the dagger and axe spells (along with conflux) so I hoped to get another good run. I picked up my 55th and final rune on this run (the Siphon rune in the Cape slot), meaning that from this point forward, all of the fairy chests would produce stat bonuses. Nice. The dual plant minibosses wound up producing the Retribution Sword... at the cost of 300 health from my Archmage. Yikes, almost died there. Later in the tower, I faced the duo skeleton minibosses, and fared a lot better, taking only a single hit. That battle produced the Royal Sword, the weapon with the highest base damage in the game. I will likely switch over for those situations where I have to swing the sword. I spent a lot of time running back and forth between different areas, working the harder parts of the dungeon interspersed with the easier parts to restore health and mana. The basement required several different retreats into the forest, but I did find the Slayer Sword down there in another chest. After clearing out most of the dungeon, I went and fought Herodotus, using the axe as the primary weapon for this battle. Well this one did not go at all how I planned, as the axe mass-cleared the blobs, resulting in far more of them on the screen than I wanted. I wound up having to jump around the top of the room tossing axes in random fashion, wildly hoping to clear the blobs on the floor. I went down as low as 40 health, but did survive, just barely, in a nail biter. In retrospect, I don't think the axe was the right weapon for this boss, the chakram would have been a lot better, maybe even the flame barrier to be honest. The rewards for winning included two health bonuses and an armor increase. Whew.
That took me up to the final two bosses, and I had indeed hoped to try them with this particular Archmage, since the knife is pretty good against them. Johannes was surprisingly difficult, as he refused to back away to a distance. I was hit repeatedly by his axe and dagger attacks, even as I tried to counter with my own versions of the same spells! I did manage to kill him, although I was redlined in the process and wouldn't have full health for the Fountain battle even after getting the free chicken drops. Well, this proved to be irrelevant as I defeated the Fountain without taking a single point of damage! He raised swords from the ground initially, then chose to try his melee attack twice in a row after that. I pulled my Archmage back to a safe distance and hurled knife after knife into the boss, each one dishing out 277 damage. The Fountain went down in about ten seconds of real world time. I truly do think that Johannes is harder for an Archmage, because you can't remain safe at a distance, which is always what the spellcasting character wants.
So... New Game Plus difficulty, uh, wasn't that difficult? I needed only five trips through the dungeon to defeat it completely, and it only counted as four total heirs because I carried over my first attempt from the end of Normal. I believe that this was due to a combination of two factors. For one thing, I was probably overleveled coming into this venture, since I had needed a few more attempts at the end of the previous difficulty than was really necessary. All of that extra gold had made me stronger than I would have been otherwise at the start of NG+ mode. But probably more important was the fact that I rolled so many strong spell combinations for these Archmages. I only had one weak group of spells, and even that Archmage managed to clear 110k gold (somehow) on a sweet run. Now that I had cleared out all of those utility upgrades and gotten myself enough mana to cast spells pretty freely, my Archmage was actually rather strong, and pretty safe as long as I didn't get swarmed by monsters. In any case, it was time to move on to the third and final difficulty of New Game Plus Plus (NG++).
Here was a quick picture of my character sheet upon entering the game for the third quest. The biggest difference was a switch in equipment over to the much stronger Royal gear; I would pick up the Royal Sword a few minutes later from the Blacksmith for a near-full set. As far as the upgrades on the skill tree:
I had put nearly everything into the right side of the castle here, which is where most of the spellcasting stuff is located. My goal had been to make it into NG++ difficulty without putting even one point into Armor Up, which is located on the left side of tree behind a bunch of Ninja unlocks (for some reason). Now that I was into the hardest difficulty, anything went from this point. If I had to max out Attack and Critical Strike values, and then kill bosses with the time stopper while they were frozen and couldn't fight back, I would go ahead and do it, if only as a last resort. Still hoping to do this with spell casts, of course. I had no idea what would and wouldn't be viable out there in the wilds of the dungeon. As with the Paladin class before, I would not make use of the Architect at all, but otherwise I would try to complete the game as quickly as possible. I also did still have quite a bit of gold to spend:
Unlock: Royal Sword, Magic Damage Up x10 (maxed), Armor Up x5, Equip Up x3, Unlock Shinobi, Haggle, Upgrade Shinobi
The Royal Sword increased the melee sword attack damage by about 50% (from 36 to 56 damage), which meant that it was worth giving up the +1 Siphon on the Holy Sword. There's always some situations where even an Archmage has to fall back on basic attacks. I used the rest of the gold to finish maxing out the Magic Damage stat (which would certainly be needed against the NG++ monsters) and open up the Armor category for upgrades. From here on out, I would be pumping Health and Armor nonstop in a desperate attempt to survive the dungeon's hazards.
I expect to get a serious ass-kicking over the next few character runs.
31) Level 228 (Health 45, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 5, Mana 25, Equip 36, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 70,967g
This run went better than I was expecting, to be perfectly honest. Monsters seemed to take 3 or 4 hits on average to defeat, not as bad as I had feared. On the other hand, when a flying mage fireball hit me, it did 130 damage. My Archmage had all of 350 max health. Uh oh. Need more HP. Despite these setbacks, I managed to clear the entire castle and get a good chunk of the forest done as well, on a run that produced 70k gold. I even found a fairy chest with an Armor bonus inside. This was much further than I thought I would get, and I was extremely happy with the result. I put the money into mostly health and armor unlocks, along with five more points of mana. I did find myself running low on magic points, and if I ever had run out, it would have been a disaster. Physical attacks were not even an option unless forced by dire necessity.
Unlock: Health Up x8, Mana Up x5, Armor Up x5
32) Level 246 (Health 53, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 10, Mana 30, Equip 36, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 13,560g
Stereo blindness. This Archmage only had the flame barrier as a useful spell (along with conflux and sword wall), which I expected would mean a rapid demise. It did. In addition to all of the other problems with the flame ring (short range, highly dangerous to use, expensive mana cost), the thing is also pretty graphically intense with the fire particles. When there are a ton of enemy shots flying about, it's hard to see what your character actually needs to dodge. This is a major problem in the bullet hell of NG++ difficulty. I didn't make it very far at all, just 13k gold. At least I managed to find a mana bonus in a fairy chest along the way.
Unlock: Health Up x2, Armor Up
33) Level 249 (Health 55, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 11, Mana 30, Equip 36, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 1601g
OCD, mana back for breaking objects. This Archmage only had the chakram as a useful spell (along with the scythe and sword wall), but hopefully that would be enough. Unfortunately it wasn't: I died in the very first room, largely because the chakram I tossed out woke up TWO flying paintings by accident, as I was swarmed under by half a dozen other foes. Ouch.
34) Level 249 (Health 55, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 11, Mana 30, Equip 36, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 9897g
Tunnel Vision, Alektorophobia. This Archmage had the chakram and time stopper spells, along with that pointless scythe in the third slot. This Archmage could only make it through three rooms before being gunned down as well. As I mentioned before, this is fully what I expected from NG++ mode, absolutely brutal difficulty.
Unlock: Health Up x2
35) Level 251 (Health 57, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 11, Mana 30, Equip 36, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 52,773g
OCD trait again, with the dagger and the axe spells. I hoped that this Archmage would be able to replicate the success of my first character. This one did in fact fare much better than the creampuffs I had just plowed through, and I feel like the biggest reason was access to the axe. The ability to hit targets above or below the Archmage's position was immensely helpful on many occasions. This run managed to find the Slayer Bracers in the castle, although they were not as useful for an Archmage as the current Royal ones. Crit chance and damge were not that useful here. I made it through most of the castle and part of the forest, and I was happy to make it that far. I put the gold from this run into a major armor boost, with eleven upgrades there.
Unlock: Armor Up x11, Mana Up
36) Level 263 (Health 57, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 22, Mana 31, Equip 36, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 9529g
CIP: no visible health bar. Oh crud, that's never fun. At least this Archmage had the chakram and time stopper for spell choices. I don't know why, but not being able to see the health bar always messes me up when playing. I had a miserable 9k run and died almost immediately in the castle. Not much to say, this run sucked.
Unlock: Health Up, Mana Up
37) Level 265 (Health 58, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 22, Mana 32, Equip 36, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 82,853g
Far sighted, ADHD. The vision problem was highly annoying, everything around your character is blurry. At least I had the axe and dagger to play around with again. Those spells seemed to make all of the difference, as I was once again able to make my way through the dungeon with far less difficlty. I found myself with full health outside the castle boss door, and so ventured inside to face Khidr despite lacking the chakram spell. The dagger proved to be a fair substitute, if a bit weaker, but the real story of this battle was flawless execution from me. I dodged all of the red goo, and managed to win without taking a single hit. I've gotten infinitely better at this boss compared to when I started. The rewards were a bit of a motley collection, health + mana + magic damage stats, but I happily accepted them. The outdated and unneeded Dragon Sword and Sky Sword were even waiting in chests just outside the boss room. I ended up clearing the whole castle and a large amount of the forest before finally dying in a room full of skeleton bone tossers, raiding down death from above at me. It was becoming clear that having a powerful spell selection (axe, dagger, chakram, etc.) was the difference between successful and failed runs. I would either knock out a strong 50k-80k run, or die within the first few rooms of the dungeon. The gold from this run went into a bunch of health and armor upgrades once again.
Unlock: Health Up x7, Armor Up x8
38) Level 280 (Health 65, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 30, Mana 32, Equip 36, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 29,436g
Gigantism, and that same weak spell selection again (flame ring, conflux, blade wall). Not a great group of choices. This made for a very difficult fighting combination, having to get close to enemies to hurt them with the fire circle but also having the huge character model which made it almost impossible to dodge incoming attacks. I was happy just to get 29k before dying in the castle. The run did have one highlight though: I won the axe-throwing minigame for the first time ever, which contained the Dark Bracers as a prize.
Wow, that was the first time I had ever seen any of the "Dark" equipment. Do you have to win a minigame to get these pieces of gear? I never seem to turn them up with any other characters. After checking the stats on the Dark Limbs, I decided that I did indeed prefer them over the Royal ones; there was a decrease of 10 magic damage, but in return I picked up +1 Vampirism, +1 Siphon, and +1 air jump. That was worth the minimal drop in damage from my spells. Plus, the dead black graphics just looked cool.
Unlock: Dark Limbs, Armor Up x3, Equip Up
39) Level 284 (Health 65, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 33, Mana 32, Equip 37, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 37,062g
Eid. Memory, and with three good spells (dagger, chakram, time stopper). This was more like it. Unfortuanately, I messed up in a packed room of enemies in the forest, lost nearly all of my life, and wasn't able to achieve anything of note. The one point of interest was getting a health bonus from a fairy chest in the castle. More and more, I believe that the axe is the crucial weapon to have on these runs. It's nearly impossible to progress very far without being able to hit targets above or below your current position. In any case, the upgrade gold went into more health and armor.
Unlock: Health Up x3, Armor Up x3
40) Level 290 (Health 68, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 36, Mana 32, Equip 37, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 110,869g
ADHD, faster movement speed. I had the chakram once again, but only the scythe and sword wall to pair with it. My hope was that I could make it to the forest boss with enough life to do a real attempt, since the chakram is such a good boss weapon. I lost half of my health in the very first room, but rebounded from there, making it through most of the castle and the forest. I use the term "most" because I bypassed some ridiculous looking rooms that almost certainly would have been the death of my Archmage. Anyway, I did find the forest boss door, and after going back to raid all the saved up chicken drops, went inside with about 380/470 health. It was the best I could do. This Alexander battle played out almost exactly the same as the one in NG+ difficulty, with my character dodging all of the big pink shots while firing off chakram non-stop. I took no hits and won flawlessly after about fifteen seconds of action. I actually GAINED health from the battle, thanks to Vampirism, heh. Rewards were a mixture of health, mana, and magic damage bonuses.
With about half of the forest still incomplete, I headed into the tower in search of the third boss. I fared really well in the tower for some reason, perhaps in part because I was able to get some use out of the scythe, using it as a poor man's axe to hit enemies hovering above in the air. I think that I may have misjudged the scythe a bit; even though the blades are very awkward to use, they do hit enemies a long distance away and can hit monsters floating above you. They have their place in this game, if as a weaker option compared to stuff like the axe and chakram. In any case, I soon enough found the boss door and went inside again, this time with about 350 health. This battle was also a repeat of the NG+ run, only I took two hits against Ponce this time instead of one (well, not against him - the boss never touched me - but against the bouncing spiked balls in his room). Rewards were armor, mana, and magic damage upgrades. That was as far as I made it, my Archmage falling just a few rooms later in another of the dungeon's endless deathtraps, but I wound up with 110k gold and two more bosses down. Not to mention, I picked up three or four fairy chests along the way for stat bonuses. It was a lot better than I had expected! Gold finished maxing out health (75/75 points) and dumped the rest into more armor.
Unlock: Health Up x7 (maxed), Armor Up x9
41) Level 306 (Health 75, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 45, Mana 32, Equip 37, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 137,322g
ADHD and EDS, neither trait too significant. I had 510 HP after maxing out that particular stat, and that would be it unless I could turn up more health bonuses from defeating bosses or finding fairy chests. Unfortunately, this Archmage had weak spells again: flame circle, scythe, and sword wall. I decided that I would try to use the scythe more heavily with this guy - at least it was a ranged weapon. I followed my same pattern from the last few runs: full clear the castle (to make all of the teleporter room chickens/flasks available), then I went into the basement seeking the boss door. I actually managed to get good use out of the scythe, using it to take out a number of foes from a distance or hit enemies vertically above. The strangest thing that I found on this run was a fairy chest in the basement that had an equipment weight bonus inside (pictured above). I had no idea that such a thing even existed.
Anyway, I found the boss door about halfway through the basement, and raided all my accumulated chickens and flasks to go inside. I was going to use the flame ring and see how that fared against the little blobs. Well, this turned into an absolutely WILD ride, with the Heredotus blobs dying incredibly fast, and blobs + flying mages everywhere. It was pretty crazy, but it also worked like a charm, and my 4 points of Vampirism were giving back health with each monster death. I went into the battle with 480 health, and came out with 467 health, despite taking several hits while fighting. Very nice indeed. Rewards were two health upgrades and one magic damage one. I knew that I had little chance against the final boss with these spells, so I tried to clear as much of the dungeon as I could. I went to the forest and got through about 90% of it before running out of magic points, which effectively meant my doom. Trying to melee the monsters was either high comedy or high tragedy, take your pick. This was still a great run, and set me up to complete the game. I put the 137k gold into a whole bunch of mana upgrades to prevent me from running dry on MP again. I should have maxed out armor here, but completely forgot about it.
Unlock: Mana Up x27
42) Level 333 (Health 75, Attack 13, Magic Damage 75, Armor 45, Mana 59, Equip 37, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Mana Cost Down 5, Miscellaneous 14): 24,225g
Ambivelous (spells come out backwards) and Nearsighted (everything far away is blurry). Ugh. What a tough trait combo to try against the final bosses. Still, I had the dagger and axe spells (along with the conflux), so there was no reason not to make the attempt. I also now had 1260 max mana, which was pretty amusing to me. (Still with 16 more points to put in that stat category too!) In any case, I went right into the boss door and took on Johannes. This fight went much more smoothly than the NG+ attempt, as I was able to run away to max distance and throw repeated daggers at Johannes - facing backwards the whole time! Heh. He smothered me in the left corner at the start of the battle, and never managed to get close again after that. One hit taken, which was easily wiped out with the four chicken drops between the two bosses. The Fountain was basically the same story, keep distance and continue throwing more and more daggers. The Fountain has significantly more health on this difficulty compared to NG+ mode, but the battle itself is exactly the same. I used the triple jump to dodge over all the stuff on the ground, and kept on backwards-tossing those daggers until he croaked. The Fountain hit me one time as well, and that was it. At the end of the fight, my Archmage had full health and full mana. Not a nailbiter. And that, as they say, was that.
Look at all of the mana on that character sheet, heh. That's one thing that the Archmage isn't lacking. Since I had the chance to use all of these different spells in great detail, let me talk briefly about their usefulness. The Archmage has access to almost all of the spells in the game, and due to the spell cycle innate ability, gets to use more of them than any other class. Here's my quick thoughts about each one in particular, in general order from least to most useful.
Sword Wall: I found this to be the least useful spell overall. The sword wall summons a large blade in front of your character, and any monsters who touch it will take the standard about of magic damage (whatever your Intelligence happens to be). This does have the occasional use, particularly against enemies who charge towards you. It's pretty good against the wolves, for example. But it doesn't block projectiles, and it's useless against anything at a distance, nor is it very good against a swarming mob of monsters. Supposedly a defensive spell, I never found this to be very helpful.
Conflux: This spell shoots out four bouncing spiked balls, which will richocet off of walls and ceilings for some time, damaging anything that they hit. It sounds like a great spell, and it can be useful at times against a big crowd of opponents, but there are some serious drawbacks. For starters, conflux is an untargeted spell that's almost impossible to control; once the spiked balls bounce away, you have no idea where they're going. The only way to use this spell with any certainty is to spam it repeatedly and hope that it connects. Secondly, the spell only deals half damage compared to the other spells, a very sizable dropoff in damage. Finally, the mana cost is double the normal rate, at 30 MP compared to 15 MP for most other spells, which discourages the very spamming needed to make this effective. I could never get too much out of this spell either, despite trying on a number of occasions.
Time Stopper: For a normal player randomly running through all the different classes, this could very well be the best Archmage spell. Use it to take down bosses, freeze them in time where they can't react, and rely on high physical damage to see things through. Unfortunately, for a pure Archmage run, this spell is a lot less useful. I chose to put almost no upgrades into Strength, and as a result the time stopper was fairly ineffective. It took more than a dozen swings to take down normal monsters; how long would it have taken to kill bosses? I did get decent utility from the time stopper by using it to claim some "take no damage" fairy chests and the like, but otherwise it paled in comparison to other spells.
Scythe: This was a spell that I didn't consider to hold much value until the very end of this series of Archmages. But it's not quite as bad as I thought, and can even be helpful in a lot of circumstances. The scythe tosses out two small blades, at angles of roughly 15 degrees and 70 degrees from the horizontal. These are some weird directions, and it takes practice to hit anything. On the positive side, the scythe blades can hit multiple enemies, and will travel a long distance to hit opponents a good distance away. It's useful for taking out those eyeballs and star monsters that shoot projectiles, especially ones above your head. On the negative side, the scythe is useless for hitting anything below your position (it only goes up), and it will normally miss a target direction in front of your character. All in all, a mixed bag, still with some value.
Flame Barrier: Here's another spell that looks amazing at first glance, but isn't quite what it's cracked up to be. The flame barrier summons a circle of projectiles that surrounds your character and remains until dismissed, damaging anything that it touches. The ring of fire is very good at dealing with swarming monsters in large groups, and it can whittle down thick enemy health bars in a hurry with its continuous damage. In return, the flame barrier has a long list of disadvantages already explained earlier on this page: high mana cost, useless at a distance, puts your Archmage in dire peril, graphically intense and hard to distinguish from monster projectiles, the flames not "tight" enough and monsters can even slip inside the ring where it does nothing. I found it to be a good spell against the Heredotus blobs, but not too helpful against the other bosses.
Axe: This one is very simple, tosses an axe in a vertical loop that damages anything it hits. (This is exactly the same as the same weapon as the one in the Castlevania series.) The axe is one of the best spells by virtue of being easy to use (much easier than the scythe) and granting the ability to hit monsters above or below your position. Along with the flame barrier, it's one of the few ways to target things on lower platforms or otherwise underneath your character. The axe can also hit the same monster more than one time, which is particularly good against the flying mage enemies, who will normally get knocked backwards into the second hit after taking the first hit. The only real drawback is that the axe will miss an enemy direction in front of your position, as it arcs about their head. I was always happy to see this weapon appear in my Archmage spell grouping, and it's pretty much always a good option.
Dagger: Probably the most basic spell in the game, this tosses a dagger directly forward in a straight line. The dagger has a very fast projectile speed, it will go a long distance (quite a bit beyond the visible screen), and it costs 50% less than the normal MP cost (10 MP instead of 15 MP). The tradeoffs are a tiny hit box, making it very easy to miss with the dagger, and it can only hit one monster at a time. The dagger will not pass through to hit more than one target, unlike pretty much every other spell. I still loved the dagger, as I could spam it over and over again and take out opponents with pinpoint precision. There are few things more satisfying than tossing a knife right into one of those flying eye monsters. And the dagger is also really good against bosses, as I used it to take out Johannes and The Fountain on more than one occasions. In fact, it's almost as good a boss spell as this last weapon...
Chakram: I think that this is probably the best overall spell available. The chakram is essentially a boomerang weapon, going out a short distance and then returning back in the opposite direction. It's easy to get multiple hits against the same target, the hit box is notably larger than the dagger, it's pretty good against large groups of monsters, and it has the same range as the dagger if thrown "backwards" away from the intended target. It is also by far the best boss-killing spell in the game, not even close. The one real downside is the inability to hit anything above or below your horizontal position, but that's a weakness that most other spells share. If I could only have one spell to use, this would be the one.
My personal most desired group of three spells: dagger, axe, and flame barrier. Yes, no chakram in there! But the dagger and flame barrier together are better at hitting targets far away and close up, while the axe goes after enemies above or below as needed. I'm not sure that everyone would agree, but that would be my ideal combination for an Archmage.
In the end, it took me 42 Archmages to complete the three dot run, finishing at Level 333. Compare this to my Paladin Legacy group, where I needed 40 Paladins and finished at Level 372. My Archmages needed more total characters and brought back less overall gold in comparison to my Paladins. That said, I would argue that I played significantly better with this group of heirs. The Archmage is a lot weaker overall as a class compared to the Paladin. You are always one step away from disaster due to your tiny health bar, and the skill threshhold for playing an Archmage is much higher compared to the melee classes. Casting jobs require more total upgrades to be effective (they absolutely need those Mana Cost Down ones) and because of the lack of critical strikes on spell casts, they will never be able to output as much raw damage. Do not trying playing an Archmage for anything beyond boss rush mode in NG+++++++ scenarios; the monster health outscales your spell damage too quickly, and you need to drain your whole mana bar just to kill a handful of enemies. I was starting to see this already in NG++ mode, and I would not have wanted to go any further.
I had a ton of fun playing these characters, and I learned a great deal more about some of the more complex gameplay mechanics in Rogue Legacy. Next up will be something considerably more brainless: Barbarian King ahoy!