The run through Normal difficulty had revealed some of the serious weaknesses of the Lich class, ones that were only going to get worse with time. Yes, it was nice that the Lich class could eventually reach humongous health and mana totals under ideal conditions, but all too often those ideal conditions were unlikely to be realized. I worried greatly about the beginning of each run, when I had miniscule numbers in both categories. And the +4 maximum health per monster kill did not scale as the game progressed, which meant that it was taking longer and longer to farm up those HP and MP values. It had taken two rooms to go from 35 health up to 100 health back at the beginning of this run; now it was taking half the dungeon, and it was only getting worse.
Most people naturally associate the Lich class with casting spells, due to their innate high Intelligence stat. However, I had determined in Normal difficulty that I would need to build these Lich heirs as physical damage dealers instead. This was largely due to the unreliability of their spells. Liches randomly roll one of three spells: the flame barrier, the conflux, and the crow storm spells. All of them are area of effect (AOE) damage dealers, very good at taking out large mobs of enemies, but poorly suited for single target damage. Conflux and crow storm are also pretty terrible against bosses, with flame barrier being the only one of use against the big opponents. The biggest problem, however, was one of magic point cost. All three of these spells have exorbitant mana costs associated with them: 15 MP for the flame barrier (and then another 15 MP per tick of its use), 30 MP for the conflux, and 40 MP for the crow storm. Even with Mana Cost Down upgrades, it's not possible to use these spells repeatedly without running out of mana. Unlike the game's other casting classes, the Archmage and the Spellsword, the Lich has no innate Siphon abilities either. There's no chance to get mana back from killing monsters, you are completely reliant on flasks dropping at random in the dungeon. And making matters even worse, the Lich begins each run with a paltry 50% starting mana value. The Lich must use Conversion to get anything decent going in the mana department. If I sunk all of my level ups into magic damage and mana, how would I ever get started at the beginning of each run? I'd run out of mana almost immediately, and then I would die. Plus I'd be throwing away 1/3 of all runs, since the conflux spell is a fairly weak option.
Long story short, I had no choice but to sink my gold into physical stat gains instead. I could not see any way to survive the higher difficulties for very long if I went the magic damage path instead. I would love to hear how it goes; if anyone gives it a try, let me know how it fares. In any case, it was time to begin with New Game Plus mode, using the 61k gold carried over from the last run.
Unlock: Imperial Helm, Guardian Cape, Attack Up x10, Health Up x8, Equip Up x5
I used the money from the previous run to pick up the Imperial Helm, the Guardian Cape, and the five equipment points needed to put them both on. Then everything else went into 10 attack upgrades and 8 health upgrades. Why make things more complicated? I simply took the stuff that would provide the most benefit.
13) Level 113 (Health 29, Attack 30, Magic Damage 1, Armor 5, Equip 22, Mana 1, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Miscellaneous 15): 56,877g
Starting values of 164 HP / 85 MP, which suggested that I would come close to maxing out mana by using Conversion once, after filling up the HP gauge. This would waste about 30 potential max MP, but it was a lot safer than using Conversion multiple times at lower levels of health. I nearly died in the very first room, when one of the Gray Barons (knight enemies) hit me through a wall. He did 109 damage. I had 172 HP at the time. One more hit would have meant my death, but I managed to get through that first room without further issue, and get off and running into the dungeon. I already saw this becoming a huge problem down the road in NG++ difficulty, since starting with only 35% of maximum health could mean instant death if the first couple of rooms happened to roll a tough enemy draw. It was only due to some solid play that my Lich didn't end his journey in the first five minutes. Another problem was how long it took now to accumulate the max life total from farming monsters; I started at 164 HP and could get up to 468 HP in total. That required 76 monster kills at +4 HP per kill to hit the cap, and then I had to use Conversion and drop down to 234 HP and then do it all over again. This still wasn't even close to done after finishing the castle, and required nearly all of the forest's denizens as well before I was finally finished. Furthermore, with only 85 starting mana, I couldn't do too much in the way of casting spells until I used Conversion, which meant that it took a very looooooooong time to get my Lich to his maxed out state. I had to use up all of the "easy" areas of the dungeon farming up my Lich, and burn through all of the chicken/flasks in the process just to survive. It would be so much easier just to start at a high health value, rather than forcing this extreme effort to reach it!
In any case, this was quite an exciting run. I mentioned that I nearly died in the first room, and that was far from the only close call. I nearly died again in a crowded room elsewhere in the castle, one that had about a half dozen of the flying cloud enemies all swarming me at one. I slipped out of there on 30 HP, ate all of my saved chickens, then returned and cleared the remaining monsters. I got some fun use out of Conversion here as well, eating the chickens first and THEN using Conversion, to get the higher life value back, followed by them drinking the flasks when I had a higher MP pool. They are both based on returning a percentage of max health and max mana, you have to try and get the most out of them. Later on, I fought the dual skeleton miniboss and the dual flying mage miniboss, both times taking a good amount of damage but coming through intact. They dropped some sweet prizes too: the Royal Bracers from the first, and the Dragon Cape from the second. I would immediately make use of both after this run. Elsewhere, I also managed to find the Dragon Sword, the Royal Helm, and the Dragon Chestplate, which meant an equipment upgrade in every single slot! I knew where the money from this particular Lich was going to go. Furthermore, I found several more runes on this run, including two Vampire Runes, which would allow me to ditch those Balance runes for good. Actually, with the Dragon Cape, I would be up to +10 HP back per monster kill, very nice sustain indeed. I even killed Botis in the tower without taking a single point of damage, while having to bash him well over two dozen times before he croaked. Before this Lich was done, he full cleared the castle and forest, and got through nearly all of the tower before dying in one of those crazy fairy chest "kill all enemies" rooms. I was pretty sure I would die, but I went for it anyway, didn't make it. It was a great entry into NG+ difficulty, and I hoped that I could follow this up as well with future characters. The gear required TWELVE equipment upgrades, and that pretty much wiped me out on funds.
Unlock: Dragon Sword, Royal Helm, Dragon Chestplate, Royal Limbs, Dragon Cape, Vampire Rune, Vampire Rune, Sprint Rune, Equip Up x12, Health Up x2, Armor Up
14) Level 128 (Health 31, Attack 30, Magic Damage 1, Armor 6, Equip 34, Mana 1, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Miscellaneous 15): 9841g
Alzheimer's and ADHD, starting values of 184 HP / 110 MP. I now had 34 points of equipment weight, heh. I decided that I would try to Convert twice at 330 health, which would get me the closest to max mana. The danger was dropping myself down to only 165 HP after each Conversion, but I thought I'd run that risk and see what happened. The extra Vampirism with the addition of the Dragon Cape made a very real difference, getting 10 health back per kill was pretty nice. I had a run on pieces of Sky gear in the castle area of the dungeon, unfortunately all of which were sadly outdated by this point in time. The run came to a very abrupt end towards the end of the castle, where I was hit three or four times in succession in one room and killed outright. I was actually pretty shocked as it happened, I didn't even think I was that low. I had used Conversion once, and was down to only about 200 max health, which was almost surely responsible for my death. The Lich is in the most danger at the start of each run; I honestly think I could have gotten almost the whole dungeon clear if I had managed to survive the weak start. What a wasted run.
Unlock: Armor Up x3, Magic Damage Up, Crit Chance Up
15) Level 133 (Health 31, Attack 30, Magic Damage 2, Armor 9, Equip 34, Mana 1, Crit Chance 1, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Miscellaneous 15): 61,426g
Dyslexia, Savant. Same health and mana totals as before, I would try one more time for a double Conversion at 330 HP. I nearly died in the first room again, which had enemies placed down inside narrow holes where they were extremely difficult to reach. Dropped down under 100 health in there, but made it through and cleared the following rooms in the castle with extreme trepidity. These Lich runs are nerve wracking getting started! I did manage to use Conversion twice at 330 HP and get essentially the maximum amount of health and mana, but it made for some very difficult gameplay indeed. After the second Conversion, I took one hit and was sitting at 100 health again, a step away from death's door. I wasn't really safe until I had cleared out the entire castle and forest, which left me with 528 HP / 438 MP. I'm really dreading these Lich playthroughs going forward, because it will only get harder and harder to keep maxing out the numbers. In any case, I did get the chance to use the Lich's area of effect (AOE) spells to good effect in some of the rooms in the forest, where I simply spammed a combination of the conflux and crow storm to wave clear everything. (I had a Savant character, which meant randomized spells, although I never picked up the flame barrier. Only conflux and crow storm.) The Lich character probably needs to level up both Attack and Magic Damage to be truly effective; you can't go with spell casting alone or you'll run out of mana too fast, but when you do need to clear a room, the Lich's spells can dish out mass death in a hurry.
This run was characterized by boss fights, which were numerous. I faced Botis in the castle and then again in the tower, picking up the useless Holy Helm and a much more useful +1 Strength bonus for winning. I also faced the dual skeletons in the castle (who gave me some outdated junk equipment, I think it was the Retribution Cape) and then the dual plant miniboss in the tower. The plants nearly killed me, as I whacked them with my sword and cast spells with reckless abandon. I'm not sure how to fight them with melee attack without taking a lot of damage, every time I get close I get hit. I've only done that battle successfully with spell casters. I did win at grevious cost to my lifebar, but it was worth it when they dropped a +5 health upgrade. Nice! Over the course of this run, I cleared out the castle, forest, and tower. At that point, I could either face the bosses or go into the basement, and I chose to go for the bosses to get them out of the way. I fought a good Khidr battle until the eyeball was nearly dead, and then I took two more hits because I saw how close he was to death, and I wanted to get that last hit. Blargh, that's a good reason why you should just ignore the boss health and simply concentrate on not getting hit. The Alexander boss fight went better, as I was able to use the mass damage of conflux and crow storm to keep clearing out the flying skulls that he spawned. This was one place where the Lich's class abilities worked well. Then it was on to Ponce de Leon, who I faced with full health and full mana... only to play one of the most embarassing, cover-your-eyes-in-shame boss fights that I've ever done. I took hit after hit without dealing much of anything in return, and died without even dropping Ponce down into the red zone. What an embarassment. I guess I should have gone down into the basement instead.
I had picked up a lot more runes on this run, none of which were useful though. I still needed about a dozen more to finish them up and then start getting stat bonuses in fairy chests. The Lich class seems to be especially good at picking up the fairy chests, since any "kill all enemies" challenges can be met with the crow storm spell. I had also found a bunch of Imperial and Sky and Dragon equipment along the way, all of which was inferior to what I was already wearing. From here on out, I needed Royal or Slayer or Dark stuff only. I spent my 61k gold on a whole bunch of attack upgrades to keep pumping my physical damage, and then more health for more survivability. Nothing fancy.
Unlock: Attack Up x10, Health Up x6
16) Level 149 (Health 37, Attack 40, Magic Damage 2, Armor 9, Equip 34, Mana 1, Crit Chance 1, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Miscellaneous 15): 86,701g
Gigantism and Tunnel Vision, 206 HP / 112 MP starting values. This one was big dude with the Gigantism character model. I decided to use Conversion one time at max health, and while this would miss out on about 40 potential mana, it would also be far safer for my overall lifebar. I managed to do this without any real problems, for once, and never really came close to dying while slowing working up to my maximum of 588 HP. (Then I had to do it again after using Conversion, which required pretty much the whole castle and tower to complete.) This was the first Lich that ventured into the NG+ basement in any detail, where I found the Slayer Sword in one of the random chests. I had to retreat once to rebuild health in the forest, and nearly died in the woods when running through some unexpected tough rooms. I reached a low of 40 health there at one point - thank goodness for the saved up chickens at the teleporters! Eventually, I did manage to get a full dungeon clear for the first time, making it through every room and wiping out every monster. Or nearly so; this poor Lich had the conflux spell, and there were three different "kill all enemies" fairy chests that could only be reached with the crow storm spell. That's three more chests that I would have been able to get with a better spell selection. I searched for a spell altar far and wide, but it never appeared. What a shame.
With regards to bosses, I killed the duo skeletons in the forest for something useless (Holy Sword?) and Botis down in the basement, which dropped the far more useful Royal Chestplate. That was an upgrade over my current Dragon Chestplate, if not by a lot. Then it was into the boss rooms to face Ponce de Leon, where I experimented by spamming the conflux spell everywhere. In such a small room, it was likely to be effective there if anywhere. The conflux worked decently well, if not great, and I did take a hit or two when trying to spam it repeatedly. (There is a very short delay when casting the spell.) The conflux spam only took Ponce down to about half health, and then I had to do the rest from there, which went off without too much trouble. I thought that I would clear Herodotus next, but instead I horribly messed up in that boss fight, as bad as the Ponce battle from the previous Lich. I was actually swearing in disgust at how poorly I did this one, losing all of my health and never getting even remotely close to winning. Good thing this one wasn't done on Livestream. So even though this was an 86k run that cleared the tower boss, I was not at all happy or satisfied afterwards.
Unlock: Slayer Sword, Royal Chesplate, Armor Up x6, Attack Up x6, Equip Up x4, Health Up x4, Crit Chance Up
17) Level 170 (Health 41, Attack 46, Magic Damage 2, Armor 15, Equip 38, Mana 1, Crit Chance 2, Gold Gain 5, Potion 5, Miscellaneous 15): 135,727g
Stereo Blind, 222 HP / 112 MP starting totals. I looked at the numbers and saw that I would be missing only about 20 potential mana by using Conversion once at max health, so I went ahead and did that without any issue. This was a fairly uneventful run, with my Lich now strong enough to make it through the NG+ dungeon without too much trouble. Having five points of Vampirism for +10 health per monster kill obviously helped a lot, along with the fact that I was over 600 HP now when the Lich was fully maxed out. It just took a long time to reach that point. This was a smooth clear of all four areas of the dungeon, with no close calls or particularly interesting battles along the way. Maybe the highlight was winning the axe throwing minigame again - I now have a clear pattern that can win every time, which I'll demonstrate here in the report:
First throw an axe from just slightly outside the bottom corner of the box of targets, on each side of the screen. The screen should look roughly like this afterwards:
Next jump into the air and throw an axe from the position shown, repeated again on the opposite side of the screen.
For the fifth and final axe, throw from just outside the left (or right) corner again. This will take out nearly all of the remaining targets, and should yield a result of roughly 94 or 95 targets destroyed.
Done correctly, you can win the axe throwing minigame every time. This particular dungeon didn't have any minibosses; instead, it had about four different "kill all enemies" fairy chest challenges, which yielded up some easy prizes. I wound up getting a lot of runes on this run, nearly finishing the full set. 53 out of 55 runes by the time this Lich was finished. The Lich spell set (with crow storm) makes them particularly good at obtaining runes in fairy chests.
Once the dungeon was cleared, it was boss run time again. I was muddling my way through the Herodotus battle without playing particularly well or poorly, when I decided to turn on the flame barrier and speed things up. As with the Archmage class that I had played earlier, this led to a wild fight that had blobs everywhere. But they died in a real hurry as well, since the flame ring works extremely well against all of the blob-type monsters. I never dropped too low on health and won with about 300 HP remaining. That only left the final two bosses to face, where my battles against them played out much the same as they had in Normal difficulty. I used a combination of melee attack and the flame barrier to deal with Johannes; the flames were particularly useful to push him back when he tried to jump over me. I took some hits, never was in any true danger though. And then against the Fountain, I ran the flame barrier again any time that I could get close. Even though I was a bit sloppy here, my Lich used a successful combination of sword and fire to defeat the boss and claim my victory over NG+ mode. The 135k gold that I banked was a nice prize.
That meant that I had successfully cleared New Game Plus mode in relative ease, using five total heirs and without encountering any real difficulty. If anything, I was TOO successful here; I was finishing the difficulty at only Level 170, one of my lowest ever, and I knew that things would only be that much harder in New Game Plus Plus mode up ahead. How would things go when I faced a brutally tough dungeon with a starting value around 200 health? It didn't figure to be pretty...