Here’s a random musing: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has a rather infamous chapter known as ‘A Reason To Fight’ and it’s awful. 3-6 is infamous for its sheer meanness and how it combines all the unfun parts in the series. Darkness, difficult terrain, a weak army, and strong enemies make it a test of strategy and patience. I have some strategies and solutions, though. I’m just pointing out how it’s a flaw in the game’s design that highlights its deeper issues.
‘A Reason to Fight’ is a pseudo-rout chapter, where you need to kill a number of enemies to pass the map and move on to 3-7. It’s easier said than done, especially on a first run without knowledge of what’s to come.
Radiant Dawn and Hidden Items
Radiant Dawn allows you to buy items at the Base and occasionally find items in the field. This is a completely fine mechanic on paper that falls apart when you realize it hides items that might be necessary to progress in the distant future.
The Beast Killer is a D-rank Knife first appearing in 1-4. It deals Effective damage to beast tribe laguz (Cats, Tigers, Lions if they had one). It appears again under Bargains in 3-6 in case you broke or missed it. The Beast Killer allows Sothe to contribute, at least against the squishier cats. By Part 3 Sothe has begun to fall off in effectiveness, so this helps extend his lifespan a little longer.
The real source of aggravation is the Beastfoe scroll. It also appears in 1-4, ‘A Distant Voice,’ and only one is obtainable in normal gameplay. Unlike the Beast Killer, it’s hidden, and quite deviously, too. 1-4 pits you against a number of Tigers and Cats. Your team isn’t great, and the scroll is hidden in the northwest pile of treasure and left of the healing jar. This makes 3-6 much easier, as it makes all of your weapons effective against the laguz. The problem is how hidden it is and how much time passes between 1-4 and 3-6. It’s a great solution to a problem that the player might not even think about until much later.
These two items make the chapter miles easier, but their importance is poorly communicated to the player ahead of time.
Radiant Dawn 3-6: The Yawn Brigade
The Dawn Brigade is the army you control throughout the first Part of Radiant Dawn. As a general rule, they come in at low levels with relatively poor bases but fair-to-good growths. They’re high-investment units, a popular archetype in gameplay. The problem is that they compete for a very small pool of experience and only a few have long-term potential before they become hopelessly outclassed. These are units you have been unable to use for all of Part 2 and some of Part 3, and the enemies are much stronger than the ones that appeared in Part 1.
A Reason to Fight arbitrarily removes some of your most powerful units, leaving you with potentially a very weak army. Tauroneo, Tormod, Ilyana, Vika, Rafiel, Nailah, and Muarim are all unavailable, leaving you with few options. Nobody has Fire magic to easily exploit their innate weakness.
First among your options is Nolan. Nolan is a Fighter who’s had great availability and is one of the best units in the Dawn Brigade early on. He gets Tarvos in a base conversation, which is an exclusive weapon that’s lighter and more accurate than a Silver Poleax. The added 4 to his Defense helps him soak hits, too. If you’ve promoted him to a Warrior, you can buy him a Crossbow and put the Beastfoe scroll you totally found in Part 1 on him. Nolan also has to compete for EXP with another potential monster: Jill.
Jill is another potential carry. She starts as a tier-1 Dracoknight and joins in 1-6 as the only flying unit available to the Dawn Brigade. While her other allies, Tauroneo and Zihark, overshadow her at first, Jill’s great class makes her a solid long-term investment. She benefits quite a bit from Path of Radiance transfers, which can increase her base stats by 2 (5 for HP) if she capped any of them in the prior game. With the Brave Axe, she can take out untransformed enemies and easily reposition herself. There aren’t any Thunder Mages in 3-6, so her major weakness isn’t an issue. Jill can defect, refect, and redefect constantly, but the Dawn Brigade needs her for her flying utility.
Zihark is the third carry option. He’s a Swordmaster with an Earth affinity, which can potentially net him a hefty Avoid boost. Like Jill and Nolan, he’s one of the few able to consistently inflict damage on the many, many laguz in this chapter. Be sure not to send him out too far, as he lacks bulk. He will even switch sides if he talks to Lethe or Mordecai, who are hidden among the reeds. The Greil Mercenaries don’t need Zihark, but the Dawn Brigade sure does.
Volug is the last carry for 3-6. His Halfshift lets him transform at any time without worrying about his gauge at the cost of reduced stats at transformation. You can finally remove it in Part 3, but the convenience of a laguz who can stay transformed is very nice.
What Everyone Else Is Doing
What do the rest of your units do? Generally, they huddle behind the Daein Partner Units and hope for the best. Meg has a lopsided growth and is probably still at base level. Fiona is completely mired in the swamp. Micaiah’s Magic will allow her to deal solid damage to the low-Res laguz, but she’s too frail to be exposed. Laura probably still has no combat ability at this point, but she can use Torch and apply Physic as needed.
One potential strategy is to have these characters stand back and help from the backlines. The major weakness of laguz is their transformation gauge and lack of 1-2 range. Every combat raises it if they’re untransformed, but while transformed each combat lowers their gauge regardless of the outcome. Ranged weapons allow you to safely lower their gauges to make the Tigers and Cats easy kills for the units who can actually contribute. Hand Leonardo a longbow and start shooting. Laguz don’t transform until they activate it on their turn, but you can cause them to revert out-of-turn. The attack doesn’t have to hit, let alone do damage, to lower the gauges. For many of the Dawn Brigade, this is the most they’ll be able to do, but it’s arguably better than nothing taking up a deployment slot if you’re very careful with your positioning.
Eventually, the Black Knight appears and takes pity on you. Here’s where you can make things work. Unequip Alondite, and enemies will prioritize attacking him whenever possible, even as it does nothing. If you’re really stuck, you can also use him to clear, though this only exacerbates the underlying EXP drought of the Dawn Brigade. If it’s really bad, it might even make maps like 3-13 unwinnable by insanity.
The Dawn Brigade’s success comes down to knowing ahead of time how much experience will be available, who makes the best use of it, and why. You also can’t afford to forget a hidden item the game never tells you about. Micaiah’s army is full of units that need room to grow, but the game never really gives them that opportunity without hamstringing the player.
I think I’ll start a new playthrough trying to make use of the Great Value units once I wrap up this one. If they were given more screentime and additional maps that they can readily handle, I think the Dawn Brigade would be better received.
Images are used under Fair Use for commentary purposes.