Combat in Vagrant Story is a fairly complex affair. Once you get
used to it, it will seem second nature, but in the beginning especially, it can be
a bit overwhelming. Hence, this combat primer.
Battle Mode /
Types and Affinities
DP and PP /
Break Arts /
Press the Attack button (the Circle button by default, I think). Ashley Riot
will pull out his weapon and shield, if he has any equipped, and an indicator saying
"BATTLE MODE" will flash in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. This is
Battle Mode. In this mode, you will be able to attack enemies; however, your
recovery and movement will be much slower, you won't be able to jump as high or as
far, and you won't be able to grab onto ledges and pull yourself up. However, if
you step on a trap, you'll take less damage than you would if you had not
been in Battle Mode.
There is a meter marked "RISK" in the upper left-hand corner. This clever concept is key to the
game. Think of RISK as a gauge of how exhausted you are. If it is high, you will be
more exhausted, meaning you won't be able to fight as well - you'll miss more often,
you'll block less hits, and you'll have a tendency to take more damage. However, if it
is low, you will block more hits, land more hits and take less damage.
Unfortunately, just about everything increases your RISK. Taking a hit will do it,
landing a hit will do it, triggering a trap will do it, blocking a hit will do it, and
trying to chain attacks together will send it sky high. This is the game's balance to
chain attacks, which I'll talk about a bit later.
There is a class of items that will lower your RISK when used. They're called "Vera"
items. However, these should be used sparingly, as you'll have a finite amount and no
immediate way to replenish them. On most occasions, you'll have to rely on recovery
to lower your risk (I'll cover that later as well). Just make sure to keep your RISK
low whenever you can, especially before entering a new room.
Now you're in Battle Mode, and an enemy comes charging at you. What to do? If you're
in Battle Mode, pressing the Attack button again will freeze the action and bring up a big
wire-frame sphere around you. The radius of this sphere is equal to the attack range of your
weapon - if you're armed with a bow, the sphere should be very large, whereas if you're fighting
with your fists, it should be very small. If an enemy is within the sphere (meaning within
attack range), he will flash brightly and a menu will come up next to him. You can press
Left or Right to scroll to other enemies in range - since the action is frozen while the sphere
is out, you can take your time.
The menu next to each enemy will display all the possible body parts of that enemy that you can select
for your attack. You can press Up and Down to scroll through the list. Whenever you pick a body
part, the game will estimate the damage you are likely to do if you attack that part, followed
by the probability that you won't miss. The estimates aren't always accurate, since they don't account
for critical hits, but they're good guidelines. If you switch weapons, these numbers will change,
since some enemies are much more vulnerable to one kind of weapon than to another.
Now, highlight the body part of your choice and press the Attack button again. Ashley will
attack that body part, hopefully do some damage, and the action will resume without warning. The enemies
will attack you the second they get in range, and the action will freeze while they're attacking you, as well.
However, since you can bring up the sphere right again right after attacking, you will often get in
several attacks for each one of theirs.
Magic works the same way. Once you select it, you will bring up a sphere and be able to
either select separate enemies or, in the case of area-attack spells, to raise or lower the height at
which the spell will strike. All of these preparations will take place while the action is frozen.
Certain enemies will suffer special handicaps if you hit some of their body parts too hard.
For example, humanoid enemies will move half as fast as they usually do if you go for their legs.
This, however, applies to Ashley as well. Take a look at the lower left corner of the screen - there's a little
graphic of Ashley there, and as enemies strike certain parts of his body, those parts will turn yellow, then orange,
then red in the diagram. If they're red, Ashley will himself suffer a handicap until such time as he can
restore those parts (it's easy to do, just use a curative item). If his legs are red, he'll only move
half as fast; if his right arm is red, he'll attack with only half the strength; if his left arm is
red, he'll defend with only half the strength; if his head is red, he'll have trouble casting spells;
if his body is red, his RISK will increase at twice the normal rate.
Types and Affinities
This is fairly complicated. Enemies fall into several categories - they can be
Human, Beast, Dragon, Undead, Evil or Phantom. Often you'll be able to tell who is what just
from their appearance. Your weapons have types too - they can be Edged (swords), Blunt
(Maces), or Piercing (bows). So do Grips - when you assemble weapons,
be sure to find a Grip that has the same type as the blade. Additionally, there are seven kinds of affinities
a weapon or enemy might have - Light, Dark, Fire, Water, Earth, Air and Physical. The
strength of an affinity is quantifiable - if you have an Air affinity of 100, you are likely
to be resistant to Air attacks. If your Air affinity is 2, you are likely to take
increased damage from them.
When you kill enemies of a certain affinity, your weapon will gain points in that affinity
while losing points in its opposite. It will also gain points in one enemy type and lose them
in another. To clarify, say you kill an Earth Dragon, which has a high Earth affinity. The
weapon you used is likely to get a small boost in the Earth and Dragon categories while losing
them in the Air and Evil categories. This means that your weapon will be better against
Dragons and Earth-based enemies and worse against Evil and Air-based enemies. The same
goes for armour, except there the gains and losses are applied when you get hit by an
attack of a certain type.
Certain kinds of enemies also tend to be stronger or weaker against certain types of weapons.
For example, Phantom enemies are strong against Piercing weapons. Sometimes this is intuitive -
it makes sense that skeletons are weak against bone-crushing Blunt maces, after all - but sometimes it
isn't. You can always open up a battle sphere to see the game's guess at how good your current
weapon is against an enemy. So, in the ideal situation, you will be fighting an enemy with
a weapon whose type and affinity he's weak against, enabling you to win easily. This won't
always happen, but you can make it easier by carrying multiple weapons, each geared against a certain
kind of enemy.
This sounds really complicated, but most of the difficulty occurs in the beginning.
As the strength of your weapons increases, they will become more versatile. I usually
get by with a multi-purpose Edged one-handed sword, which I use about 80% of the time,
and a Blunt mace and a Piercing bow for support the rest of the time.
DP and PP
Weapons have Durability Points (DP) which will be gradually depleted as the weapons
are used. Fortunately, you can repair weapons completely with no cost at any Workshop.
Weapons will become unusable if their Durability Points are depleted, but the rate of
depletion is reasonable. I have never had any trouble with this, and if you don't stray
too far from a Workshop for too long, you won't either.
Additionally, weapons have Phantom Points (PP), which increase with use
and decrease with disuse. So, if you use a given weapon for a long time, its Phantom
Point meter will fill; if you then de-equip it for a long time, its Phantom Point meter
will gradually empty. Phantom Points don't have too much bearing on what happens in the game,
but weapons do tend to perform better with more PP. Also, there's a Chain Ability that uses
PP; it's called Phantom Pain.
Chaining attacks together will allow you to devastate enemies without even letting the action
restart. In the menu, you will be able to set certain buttons to Chain Abilities.
These abilities can be offensive (you'll use them when you attack) or defensive (you'll use
them when you get attacked). There are many different Chain Abilities; the more enemies you fight,
the quicker you'll learn them. In my opinion, the first ones you learn are the most useful.
If you've ever played Super Mario RPG or Final Fantasy VIII, you'll have a good idea of how to use
Chain Abilities. For example, say you linked the Triangle button to some offensive Chain Ability.
Now attack an enemy, selecting a body part in the wire-frame sphere and all that. Now, as Ashley
goes through the attack animation, just as his weapon hits the enemy, press the Triangle button. If
you timed it right, Ashley should immediately launch into the attack you linked the Triangle button to
earlier. Defensive Abilities work the same way. When you're attacked, just as the enemy's attack is
connecting, press the button you linked to a Defensive Ability earlier. Ashley will then perform that
ability. The game will display little blurbs such as "Excellent" to indicate how good you are at
timing the attacks.
As in the case of Mario's Super Jump in Super Mario RPG, you can chain many attacks together.
You can't perform the same chain ability twice in a row, so just keep alternating two buttons linked to offensive abilities,
pressing the right button when the previous attack connects.
I usually have Triangle linked to Heavy Shot (offensive) and Square linked to Gain Life (offensive).
Notice that in the Chain Abilities menu, each ability has a little number next to it. This indicates
how much your RISK will increase every time you use that ability. So if the number is 3, your RISK will increase
by 3 every single time you try to use that ability. It gets worse. If your chain contains over seven
hits, your RISK will start to increase exponentially, by dozens of points at a time. Obviously,
this puts a cap on the size that chains can have while remaining useful. If your chain is too big,
your RISK will increase, the chained attacks themselves will start missing, and you'll be saddled with
a nasty RISK that will cripple your ability to inflict any further damage. However, it is still to
your benefit to chain, since chained attacks can increase in power as you do more damage. For instance,
a successful Heavy Shot will inflict 70% of the total damage done by your chain so far on the enemy, which
will be greater than the damage done by your initial attack if your chain is long. The trick is to
strike a balance between chain effectiveness and length.
Break Arts are weapon-specific abilities; that is to say, whenever you equip a weapon,
you gain access to that weapon's class of Break Arts. You don't start out with access to all of them,
though. Instead, they are unlocked as you kill enemies with the right kind of weapon. For instance,
the more enemies you kill with a Mace, the more Mace-specific Break Arts you will learn.
Like weapons, Break Arts have types and affinities. You'll have to pick them in such a way
that the enemy you're fighting is weak to both. However, all Break Arts have one thing in common - they
drain a fixed amount of HP from Ashley. This makes them useful only in desperate circumstances
where you have no other way to kill an enemy. I personally never use them.
Since there are no inns or shops in Vagrant Story, the game designers put in a way
for you to recuperate from your wounds that doesn't involve them. If you just stand
and do nothing, your HP and MP will slowly rise and your RISK will decrease. If it's
happening too slowly for your liking, press X to get out of Battle Mode. Now, you'll lose one RISK
point per second, gain one MP every two seconds, and one HP every four seconds. It doesn't
get faster than that, unfortunately, but at least it doesn't cost anything.
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