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Posted by AuthenticM

@GrantHeaslip said:

@AuthenticM said:

For the two-member party, you should try starting with a commando and ravager, and then switching to ravager-ravager once your commander has landed a combo, until you stagger the enemy, after which you can switch back to COM-RAV. This is the fastest way to kill enemies. It should work on most standard enemies, anyway. It's been a while since I played the game, but I definitely remember using the COM-RAV-RAV for my three-member party and then immediately switching to RAV-RAV-RAV until the enemy is staggered. This works until you get to the Archylte Steppe, where you'll need one sentinel pretty much at all times if there is more than one enemy.

I picked up basically what you described yesterday. I had run into problems with RAV-RAV parties letting the chain expire, and I didn't realize that the Commando chain retention effect would stick even if they changed roles.

I've been starting with SYN-SAB (if I've got them in my party, and if the enemies I'm facing are a threat), moving to COM-RAV, switching back and forth between RAV-RAV every second cycle, and moving to COM-MED or RAV-MED for healing (depending on how the chain is doing). I'll see how SEN fits in once Snow is back, but they're basically tanks, right?

Yeah, Sentinels are tanks. You'll be needing one once you get to the Steppe. Just play as you do normally once you get there (after saving) and you'll know what I mean. Try to get as far as you can without using Sentinels. There is quite the difficulty spike at that point; you'll see why they're essential.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@UlquioKani said:

During the parts of the game where you don't have access to a Commando, a saboteur can help to stop the chain gauge from dropping as well. This is really useful for the Pulsework Soldiers in the Vile Peaks when your with Sazh and Vanille. I can tell you that the Vile Peaks start becoming really tedious as it seems to go on for a while.

Oh man, I didn't know that, and it's too late now :).

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@AuthenticM said:

For the two-member party, you should try starting with a commando and ravager, and then switching to ravager-ravager once your commander has landed a combo, until you stagger the enemy, after which you can switch back to COM-RAV. This is the fastest way to kill enemies. It should work on most standard enemies, anyway. It's been a while since I played the game, but I definitely remember using the COM-RAV-RAV for my three-member party and then immediately switching to RAV-RAV-RAV until the enemy is staggered. This works until you get to the Archylte Steppe, where you'll need one sentinel pretty much at all times if there is more than one enemy.

I picked up basically what you described yesterday. I had run into problems with RAV-RAV parties letting the chain expire, and I didn't realize that the Commando chain retention effect would stick even if they changed roles.

I've been starting with SYN-SAB (if I've got them in my party, and if the enemies I'm facing are a threat), moving to COM-RAV, switching back and forth between RAV-RAV every second cycle, and moving to COM-MED or RAV-MED for healing (depending on how the chain is doing). I'll see how SEN fits in once Snow is back, but they're basically tanks, right?

Posted by UlquioKani

During the parts of the game where you don't have access to a Commando, a saboteur can help to stop the chain gauge from dropping as well. This is really useful for the Pulsework Soldiers in the Vile Peaks when your with Sazh and Vanille. I can tell you that the Vile Peaks start becoming really tedious as it seems to go on for a while.

Posted by AuthenticM

For the two-member party, you should try starting with a commando and ravager, and then switching to ravager-ravager once your commander has landed a combo, until you stagger the enemy, after which you can switch back to COM-RAV. This is the fastest way to kill enemies. It should work on most standard enemies, anyway. It's been a while since I played the game, but I definitely remember using the COM-RAV-RAV for my three-member party and then immediately switching to RAV-RAV-RAV until the enemy is staggered. This works until you get to the Archylte Steppe, where you'll need one sentinel pretty much at all times if there is more than one enemy.

Posted by Ryanmgraef

They definitely throw different combos of monsters at you throughout the game to keep it interesting.

Posted by Slag

@GrantHeaslip: oh

well that would have been nice to have, but sadly that's never an option to my knowledge.

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Posted by GrantHeaslip

@Slag said:

btw you can also change your battle starting default paradigm out of battle in the paradigm menu as well change what order they appear and create your own paradigm sets. Doesn't do you a lot of good if you don't know what you need ahead of time, but I found myself doing that fairly often as I tended to use different ones for grinding and boss battles.

Yeah, I've been doing that — what I want is a quick L1-style menu to change the default on the fly. The menus aren't too slow, but they're slow enough that I don't want to be constantly messing with them.

Edited by Slag

yeah the city thing was from in-game party member comments. "wow look at this old city" or some such. I agree with you it was just kinda tossed off without meaning.

and most definitely the battle system really gets good at this point.

as for the star ratings after battles it's all speed based, so if you aren't getting a 5 you just have to win faster.

There is 1.2X multiplier bonus for pre-emptive attacks. And I believe there may be small penalty for using promoted weapons and gaining segments in your ATB gauge. But the latter isn't really an issue until much later.

btw you can also change your battle starting default paradigm out of battle in the paradigm menu as well change what order they appear and create your own paradigm sets. Doesn't do you a lot of good if you don't know what you need ahead of time, but I found myself doing that fairly often as I tended to use different ones for grinding and boss battles.

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Posted by GrantHeaslip

Chapter 4 (Vile Peaks)

Gameplay

After taking a few days off, I made my way through a bunch of Vile Peaks. Now that the battle system has mostly opened up, I’ve been enjoying messing with different paradigm progressions in battles, and feel like I’ve developed a much better grasp of the mechanics. I may be giving the developers too much credit, but this section of the game feels like it was designed to give the player an opportunity to do exactly that — they force a bunch of different character combinations on you, and force you to play without a Commando, demonstrating how important they are for damage dealing and chain retention.

Setting up paradigms appeals to me in much the same way setting up build orders and unit compositions did in Starcraft II — they’re obviously quite different, but they both require you to prioritize competing factors and understand timings. You’ve got to balance chain building (RAV); chain retention and damage dealing (COM); buffs (SYN); debuffs (SAB); healing (MED); and tanking (SEN). For the first little while, I wasn’t putting enough stock in buffs and debuffs, but after hitting a hard battle, I decided to lead off with RAV/SYN/SAB and sometimes switch to MED/SYN/SAB (rather than MED/RAV/RAV), which made a huge difference. Of course, this also burns time (which stops you from playing too defensively), so I’ve been trying to find a good balance. Realizing that I could save the chain gauge from expiring by expediting an attack felt awesome, and it wasn’t something I needed to have spelled out for me. As with any gameplay system (especially one in a 50+ hour game), I’m sure the novelty will eventually wear off, but this one deserves credit for allowing you to make meaningful tactical decisions, rewarding exploration, but still being easy to pick up.

It’s definitely not perfect, however. I’ve hit a few battles that I’ve scored 0–3 stars in despite not obviously doing anything wrong — I’m hoping this was just a result of being stuck with two non-complementary characters. It would be nice if the game gave you a quick way of switching your opening paradigm — while I like leading with buffs, it’s probably not worth the time investment for easier battles, and I’m sure there will be points in the game where I’ll want to vary my opening depending on the enemies I’m facing. I’d love it they gave you a Xenoblade-style countdown timer for charging enemy attacks, as I’ve had trouble getting a handle on when they’ll hit.

Story

I don’t have any real story progress to comment on, as this section was gameplay-heavy, but looking back through my Datapad events section I came across this entry:

Having made their escape, Lightning and the others pass through the ruins of a city damaged several centuries ago in the war with Pulse.

Amidst the rubble, they happen upon an airship which they board in the hope of finally shaking the relentless army.

I may have missed something, but the fact that I was running through the ruins of a city wasn’t totally clear to me until I read this. I know I’ve already talked about the aimless nature of parts of this game, but finding out that I basically totally missed the significance of an area was a telling example. It’s possible that I missed some in-game comments from a party member, but considering how messed up the mixing can be for these when you’re not near the speaker (and I play with headphones!), I’m not taking full responsibility for that.