King's Bounty Rage Analysis Part 3: Lina


Aesthetically, I like Lina's concept. The melding of scifi Sufficiently Advanced Technology with ice works surprisingly well, and is an interesting idea in and of itself, as well as helping set her apart from her fellow Spirits visually. My on;y real issue with her aesthetics is the bizarre decision to have the hardened technomercenarymage wearing a bikini. It's bizarre in and of itself, but honestly it doesn't even work out from a sex appeal standpoint. Her coloration as a whole is so washed out that there's no sense you're looking at a half-naked woman, her body on display. I actually spent a good chunk of my first playthrough thinking she was basically an upper torso embedded into her throne thingy, unaware that her legs and all were actually existent.

So... why the bikini?

Still, her dialogue doesn't have any sexualized undertones, and I have a suspicion the mugshots came before the in-game models, so I wouldn't be surprised if this oddity has an explanation along the lines of 'the one guy who worked on her model didn't really know anything except that she was female and made of ice'. It's actually surprising how well The Legend manages to keep everything coherent, and indeed in going back to The Legend from the later games I've been surprised to, for instance, run across Wanderer Magic being talked about by a random no-name NPC in the Isles of Freedom. Most games of this scale have a lot more evidence of difficulties with keeping everyone on the same page.

Anyway, gameplay-wise Lina is a timely boost to the Chest of Rage's relevancy (Sleem's utility is usually falling before you reach Kordar, and while Zerock is on the ascent via Underground Blades, it's so expensive it can be a struggle to actually get it activated in a given battle), and is helped a lot by having her abilities all have at least some auto-scaling elements. Chargers' Mana/Rage generation doesn't scale properly, but their Action Point utility remains basically the same forever, Gizmo picks up effects that never lose their luster even if its healing and damage start out underwhelming and are unlikely to ever get all that great, Ice Thorns auto-scales perfectly, and Ice Orb benefits from generating an actual unit. It would be even better if it scaled to your Leadership, but benefiting from the player's Attack and Defense does an okay job of helping it keep up.

Her lack of direct attacking options is somewhat annoying (In part because it means her experience generation is fairly static), but on the flipside it's tied into why she stays relevant throughout the game, since as I've alluded to with Zerock and Sleem damage output is where Rage tends to experience serious problems in staying relevant.

Lina has 40 levels of Rage skill boosting to dump into.


Chargers
Chargers: 2
Mana/Rage Received: 4
Rest: 5
Rage: 10

Randomly places orbs in open, unoccupied tiles. Units that enter an orb's tile gain 1 AP and the unit's owner gains either Mana or Rage. Roughly half the orbs will be red and provide Rage and the other half will be blue and provide Mana.

I've always found it strange Chargers is Lina's most basic Rage move. It does a decent job of establishing that she's very different from Zerock and Sleem, who were both strongly oriented toward direct offense where Lina is much more of a supporting Spirit, but Chargers is terrible for helping Lina get experience, with its massive Rest period and its situational utility. It's so strange that when I've stepped away from the game for a long time, I've been repeatedly surprised by rediscovering that Chargers is her most basic move, rather than Gizmo.

I've never noticed any particular pattern to how Chargers places its orbs. Overall the game seems to prefer to avoid placing them directly adjacent to each other, but it's not any kind of absolute rule. The distribution of orb type seems to be a +/-1 thing: I don't think I've ever seen the orb ratio ever be more than 1 out from exactly half. (ie with 6 orbs I've seen it be 4 of one and 2 of the other, but never 5 of one and 1 of the other and certainly not 6 of one and none of the other)

On the other hand, I don't use Chargers that often. It's possible it's just rare.

Charger Upgrade 1: Chargers: 3, Rage Required: +5
Charger Upgrade 2: Chargers: 4, Rage Required: +5
Charger Upgrade 3: Chargers: 5, Rage Required: +5
Charger Upgrade 4: Chargers: 6, Rage Required: +5

I tend to have difficulty justifying the last two of these upgrades. The first two are worth considering, just because doubling the number of Chargers on the battlefield helps offset the randomness -at base, Chargers can easily throw both Chargers over next to your enemies, outside of your reach. Once you're up to 4 Chargers, usually at least one will actually be reasonable to your forces.

Also note that this should be the lowest priority out of Charger upgrades. Arguably you shouldn't be bothering with it at all until you've gotten the Mana/Rage generation up to 10 per Charger: at that point you're roughly breaking even on these Charger count upgrades.

Rest Upgrade 1: Rest: -1
Rest Upgrade 2: Rest: -1

Pure benefit, of course. It's a bit frustrating how high a Rest period Chargers still ends up at, though. It makes me think the developers thought Chargers was really good, which is strange.

Mana/Rage Upgrade 1: Mana/Rage Received: +2
Mana/Rage Upgrade 2: Mana/Rage Received: +2
Mana/Rage Upgrade 3: Mana/Rage Received: +2

The single highest priority on Chargers. It's free, it de-facto reduces Chargers' cost, and it means you get more Mana, which is really the main thing Chargers brings to the table.

Final Stats
Maximum Stats: Chargers: 6, Mana/Rage Received: 10, Rest: 3, Rage Required: 30

Notice how Chargers doesn't actually have any Rage-down options. In theory this is covered by the increase in Chargers and the increase in Rage from Chargers, recouping Rage spent, but in practice Chargers rapidly becomes one of the more expensive Rage skills in the game while having a lackluster, somewhat random payoff.

Part of the problem is the player usually doesn't want to play the aggressor. Outside of Keeper fights, the player is usually best off harassing the enemy with ranged attacks as the enemy closes the distance. Since on most battlefields the player's forces have their backs against a wall, added mobility isn't very useful unless and until you start trying to kite enemies or the like. As such, Chargers is really primarily useful for its Mana generation, which it's not even that good at. In practice, it's really easy to end up with Chargers helping the enemy more than you, as the Chargers are scattered across the battlefield with no particular bias. If you've got a fast flier or two (Or Archdemons teleporting about, of course), it's not so bad, but only in the sense that you can pretty consistently collect the Chargers. The actual AP 'gains' generally don't end up being useful.

It looks good on paper, what with a maxed-out Chargers usually being Rage-neutral (30 Rage spent to generate 6 Chargers, usually 3 of them will be Rage chargers worth 10 Rage apiece=0 Rage actually lost), but it's such a pain to actually consistently achieve that result, and all it's worth is some Mana if you're forcing it. There's other, better ways of keeping your Mana going, and if you want a way of spending Rage that doesn't hurt your Rage intake Reaper becomes available not long after Lina does, with Rage Draining being a far better choice for that sort of effect.

It's too bad, because I basically like the idea of Chargers, it's just that subtle elements of the game design conspire against it in actual execution.

Thankfully, Armored Princess seems to have understood all of Chargers' flaws, as it has a clear equivalent that dodges all of the problems I'm laying out here.


Gizmo
Healing: 140
Damage: 100-300
Rest: 4
Rage: 7

Spawns a 'Gizmo', an autonomous pseudo-unit (Like Cloud of Poison), which once per turn picks either an ally to help or an enemy to hinder. When hindering an enemy, it does Magic damage. After it has taken action twice, it leaves.

Behold! The closest thing Lina has to a direct attack!

Note that the Gizmo does have an actual limit on how far it can travel in a single turn. (4 tiles, specifically) This means that if you spawn the Gizmo early in a battle, you get some control over whether it attacks enemies or heals allies, as it prioritizes doing something now over doing something later... it's imperfect, though. I've seen Gizmo wander off and accomplish nothing, clearly aiming for a target beyond its immediate reach. I'm not entirely sure what its internal logic is like, in no small part because I honestly don't use it that much. Which is compounded by the uncertainty as to whether it will do what I want.

Interestingly, its movement range of 4 doesn't work like a normal unit's range of 4: it doesn't burn an AP on attacking. It can move 4 tiles and do nothing, or it can move 4 tiles and attack or heal something, where a normal unit with 4 Action Points would either move 4 tiles or move 3 and end its turn with an action.

One of the easiest quirks of Gizmo to overlook is that it can heal anything. Undead? Yep. Demons? Totally. Cyclops? Absolutely. Plants? No problem. This is completely unique, as every other form of healing in the game is cut off from at least some units. As such, it can be useful to extend the tanking ability of eg Cyclops and Ancient Ents, which both have issues at this role from the inability to heal them normally even though they're otherwise very good tank choices.

Unfortunately, Gizmo is outside your control, and learning to parse its priorities to maximize its utility is a fairly significant endeavor in its own right. Its limited movement range also means that in more spread-out fights, such as Keeper fights, it's entirely possible for a Gizmo to end up contributing nothing for a turn, or two, or even three, because you've finished off its targets. As such, it's... unreliable.

As an aside, it's possible to have multiple Gizmos on the field at once, and they get in each others' way. This is largely a minor detail -the main way it can happen is if you get Rest down to 2 and have a unit that goes earlier than Gizmo and choose to use Gizmo a second time before the first Gizmo moves- but it's worth mentioning. You don't need to worry about destroying the existing Gizmo when you summon a new one in the way you do with eg the Phoenix Spell.

Healing Upgrade 1: Damage: +50-100, Healing: +80, Rage Required: +2
Healing Upgrade 2: Damage: +50-100, Healing: +100, Rage Required: +2
Healing Upgrade 3: Damage: +50-100, Healing: +120, Removes Ally Harmful Effects: Yes, Rage Required: +2
Healing Upgrade 4: Damage: +50-100, Healing: +140, Gives Friendly AP: Yes, Rage Required: +2

This is healing-focused, of course, but the real payoff is the last two upgrades: 'removes ally harmful effects' means the healing will also purge all negative effects (eg Slow) from the healed unit, while 'gives friendly AP' means it will give the target some AP and a second turn if it's turn is over.

... unfortunately, both of these 'real payoffs' aren't actually much of a payoff. Purging negative effects is nice in theory, but in The Legend you don't often deal with negative effects worth purging, and when you are -such as Evil Gremlins Sheeping your forces- they're generally so serious you can't really afford to wait and hope the Gizmo happens to choose to fix them. The second turn effect is an amazing effect in theory... except the Gizmo is placed fairly high in the turn order -something like Initiative 5 or 6- and so most forces will end up with few, if any, of their troops in a position to actually get that that second turn.

In practice I tend to end up ignoring the healing upgrade line. 140 Health being granted is already most or all the Health of most units, upgrading the damage will also increase the healing some, and the secondary benefits aren't very worthwhile. On top of all that, my experience is that Gizmo has a strong preference for attacking enemies anyway!

... though it's possible that its AI does this because I focus on the damage upgrades. So you might want to experiment with that yourself?

And also note that the healing upgrades only increase the Rage cost a little, so it's not like you're doing that much to make Gizmo more accessible if you ignore the healing upgrades. So it's a little more complex than I'm suggesting it is.

Note also that this healing does not include resurrection. This is a big part of why Gizmo's healing utility is not very high, and it's compounded by how late Lina shows up: if she was a basic Spirit, Gizmo healing stuff like Guardsmen would actually potentially avoid casualties. As-is, the healing is only helping in a substantive way if it gets aimed at a high-Health unit that's currently injured a decent amount... and my own experience is the Gizmo's targeting tends to have the opposite priority.

Damage Upgrade 1: Damage: +100-300, Healing: +20, Rage Required: +5
Damage Upgrade 2: Damage: +200-400, Healing: +20, Rage Required: +5
Damage Upgrade 3: Damage: +300-500, Healing: +20, Removes Enemy Useful Effects: Yes, Rage Required: +5
Damage Upgrade 4: Damage: +400-600, Healing: +20, Decreases Enemy AP: Yes, Rage Required: +5

'Removes enemy useful effects' is, of course, purging positive effects like Haste on the attacked target. It's... a little more consistently useful than purging negative effects on your own units is -there's a decent pool of units that impose reasonably strong buffs on themselves or others, such as the Archmage's Fighting Trance and Magic Shield or the Ogre's temper tantrum- but erratic and mostly not too amazing. A nice bonus you happen to get for free.

Decreasing enemy AP is far, far more useful than its positive counterpart, precisely because of the Gizmo's high Initiative. It will pretty much always end up crippling an enemy before they get a chance to move, on top of the actual damage. While the lack of precise control is still inconvenient, in practice it will still be a reasonably consistently useful effect.

... except when the Gizmo goes and heals one of your guys instead, of course.

Rest Upgrade 1: Rest: -1
Rest Upgrade 2: Rest: -1

Might as well.

Rage Upgrade 1: Rage Required: -5
Rage Upgrade 2: Rage Required: -5

This should be your top priority if you're intending to use Gizmo as your main means of leveling Lina.

Final Stats
Healing: 660, Damage: 1300-2500, Removes Enemy Useful Effects: Yes, Removes Ally Harmful Effects: Yes, Decreases Enemy AP: Yes, Gives Friendly AP: Yes, Rest: 2, Rage Required: 25

Ultimately, I feel Gizmo really should've either done one of its lanes (Only been a healing/supporting tool or only been an attacking/impairing tool) or actually done both of them at once. (eg each time it acts it heals an ally and it also hurts an enemy) The lack of control would be much less of an issue if it could be counted on to that extent. As-is, you can end up with situations where you summoned a Gizmo intending to use it for decent damage, and then instead it healed allies twice and left. Imagine it doing that if you grabbed all the damage upgrades and none of the healing upgrades -which it's done to me, regardless of my own commentary on it overall preferring to attack.

It does get a second chance in Armored Princess, and it's honestly kind of amazing there, but it's still hampered by this particular problem.

That said, Gizmo is probably Lina's best Rage skill for building experience. It won't necessary do anything that actually matters, but it'll probably do something at least slightly useful, no matter the actual situation. Lina's other Rage skills are too situational or, in the case of Chargers, able to outright backfire, Gizmo can be tossed out there without worrying overly much about the details.


Ice Thorns
Rest: 5
Rage: 30

Generates a roughly circular formation of Ice Thorns (They surround a 3-tile triangle), 1 HP neutral objects which serve to impede movement. Can be placed freely, simply failing to generate individual thorns where their particular destination is invalid.

Ice Thorns basically invalidates Zerock's Stone Wall.

It can delay enemies for multiple turns if you get a couple of Ice Spikes in a row in a chokepoint, Stone Wall ultimately isn't any more durable in real terms, the Ice Thorns will ultimately end up cheaper to summon, it's not nearly so finicky, and all its upgrades are pure improvement.

It's harmed some by the timing of Lina's arrival -flying enemies are fairly common in the mid to late game and splash damage is more typical- but it really is largely superior to Stone Wall.

Though there's not a lot to say about Ice Thorns in real detail. It's a fairly straightforward skill. There's no Snow Elves in The Legend to add nuance to the Ice Thorns.

Rest Upgrade 1: Rest: -1
Rest Upgrade 2: Rest: -1
Rest Upgrade 3: Rest: -1

It's free, and will get Lina into a position to do something else sooner. Useful.

Rage Upgrade 1: Rage Required: -5
Rage Upgrade 2: Rage Required: -5
Rage Upgrade 3: Rage Required: -5

Also free, makes it easier to arrange to get real use out of it, and saves Rage for other Rage skills. Useful.

Final Stats
Rest: 2, Rage Required: 15

Note that Zerock's Stone Wall has an initial cost of 10 Rage, and its final Rest period is also 2. Ice Thorns really does just invalidate it eventually.

A very simple skill with little to say about it.


Ice Ball
Health: 300
Damage: 110-130
Rest: 4
Rage: 10

Summons a friendly, controlled Ice Ball to the field. The Ice Ball can only travel in straight lines, and travels until it hits a non-friendly unit or impassable terrain, at which point it automatically attacks the unit it impacts. Each tile it travels before impact doubles its base Damage. If an Ice Ball already exists on the field, the old Ice Ball is destroyed.

Note that the Ice Ball is a proper unit, which benefits from your stats and everything. This makes it one of two damaging Rage Skills in The Legend that kind of scales into the endgame! It also means it can be used to, for instance, pin down enemy ranged units so they can't attack your Gold-costing units. Even better, it can effectively recoup its Rage cost, because as it deals and takes damage it will generate Rage! (Note that Ice Thorns and Stone Wall do not generate Rage when taking damage)

Also note that generating the Ice Ball can interrupt normal turn order. If you spawn the Ice Ball after it would've gotten its turn, you'll actually be ripped away from whatever unit you're currently controlling to the Ice Ball. This is overall fairly convenient... so long as you actually remember it, and don't habitually attempt to give an order to the current unit the instant the Ice Ball is finished spawning.

It's especially convenient because the AI is actually fairly obsessive about not letting its troops line up for the Ice Ball. Ideally you'll only generate Ice Ball after your prospective target has moved, unless it's so slow the Ice Ball will go before it. Since it's only got 2 Initiative and 2 Speed, there's very little in the game that will go after it.

The fact that using Ice Ball destroys the old Ice Ball actually isn't an issue very often, since they're difficult to keep alive long enough for it to crop up.

Health Upgrade 1: Health: +200, Damage: +10, Rage Required: +10
Health Upgrade 2: Health: +400, Damage: +10, Rage Required: +10
Health Upgrade 3: Health: +600, Damage: +10, Rage Required: +10

I don't really consider this a worthwhile priority. Generally the Ice Ball will either die instantly to endgame stacks, or its massive Magic resistance will let it shrug off a given attack regardless of its actual Health. The Rage cost increase is crushing for such a questionable benefit, and worse yet it'll still get a respectable durability boost out of focusing on the damage upgrades instead!

Damage Upgrade 1: Damage: +50-60, Health: +100, Rage Required: +10
Damage Upgrade 2: Damage: +70-80, Health: +100, Rage Required: +10
Damage Upgrade 3: Damage: +90-100, Health: +100, Rage Required: +10

Worth it. Ice Ball can do astonishing damage if given enough room to roll ten-ish tiles, and increasing its base damage scales that effect quite nicely. The damage potential is so high it can compete with Soul Draining if the Ice Ball gets in a single good hit! And meanwhile the Ice Ball will also distract the enemy for a minimum of one turn and may even get in other attacks.

Rest Upgrade 1: Rest: -1
Rest Upgrade 2: Rest: -1

Might as well.

Rage Upgrade 1: Rage Required: -5
Rage Upgrade 2: Rage Required: -5

With Ice Ball's crushing Rage cost increases, this is really important to prioritize.

Final Stats
Health: 1800, Damage: 350-400, Rest: 2, Rage Required: 60

Note that it's a mere 30 if you take both Rage downs and ignore the Health upgrades, which is a much more reasonable cost for Rage skills in the endgame. 60 is nightmarish, only vaguely affordable to the Warrior.

Let's show the actual unit, too, for completeness' sake.


Ice Ball
Level: 5
Leadership: 10
Attack/Defense: 40 / 40
Initiative/Speed: 2 / 2 (Note that Speed is only relevant for Initiative calculations, due to the Ball Ability)
Health: (See previous numbers)
Damage: (See previous numbers) Physical
Resistances: 25% Physical, 80% Magic, -100% Fire
Talents: None
Abilities: Ice (25% Physical resistance, -100% Fire resistance), Ball (Base damage doubled per tile traveled before attacking, but can only travel in straight lines, travels until it hits something, and automatically attacks whatever the thing that stops it if it's an enemy. Targets cannot retaliate when struck. Conversely, the Ice Ball will never retaliate. Additionally, the Ice Ball cannot be healed), Magic Immunity (80% Magic resistance and immunity to Spells)

No, I have no idea why the Ice Ball has 10 Leadership, instead of the 1 found on other summons.

Its Spell immunity is useful, among other points letting you do stuff like hurl a Fire Rain on top of it without doing any damage to it, but it's worth commentary that it does make it immune to Teleport, which sucks, as Teleport would be a fantastic way to get multiple high-damage hits from a single Ice Ball use, as well as protecting the Ice Ball, especially if you were clever with turn order timing stuff. Oh well.

The Ice Ball itself is very strange as a unit, ignoring the normal retaliation mechanics entirely and having extreme elemental matchups, not to mention only traveling in straight lines and with no option to stop of its own accord. It's a good thing it's not a normal unit, because it would be unwieldy to say the least.

As a Rage-spawned method of attack, it works fine, and playing bowling alley with it is fairly fun. Its lethality can be astonishing, but it's not mindless the way Smashing Sword would be if it could do ten thousand damage a pop. Its awkwardness actually serves to keep it sane: you'll generally only get one good hit from a given Ice Ball summoning, as enemies prefer to stay out of its line of fire and even if they didn't most battlefields are roughly rectangular, which means you can only get back-to-back high damage hits if you're arranging to just roll back and forth from one enemy to another. This is only liable to crop up with certain Keeper fights, whether through Gremlins conveniently spaced perfectly for this or through bouncing between widely-spaced enemies being kept in position via eg Blind. As such, Ice Ball's potential damage output isn't some gamebreaker.

I'm not actually 100% sure the rolling mechanic actually doubles damage per tile. I used to think it actually added base damage per tile, but that doesn't explain some of the damage numbers I've seen in real play. Yet doubled-per-tile seems like it would grow faster than what I see. I've wondered for a while if the in-game description is incorrect, or at least incomplete and thus misleading. Maybe it starts out by doubling, but has some diminishing returns effect? Testing its actual damage variance is also a nuisance, as there's not many tools for moving enemy units a tile in The Legend, and I tend to end up using Lina least of the Spirit anyway. So take that description with a grain of salt: you may well find my implied numbers are very wrong.

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Lina as a whole is support-oriented/focused on indirect effects. She has two ways of inflicting damage, but neither of them does damage directly, and indeed it's entirely possible for them to fail to do damage at all. (Gizmo spending its turns healing, Ice Ball being destroyed without having hit anything) This puts her in a very different place from the other Spirits, and unfortunately it's a bit of a bad one, as every single skill of hers is at least somewhat specialized/niche. If you're in a situation where none of her skills really applies, there's no real cause to use her. The other Spirits can at least mindlessly toss out damage and expect it to be a little useful, generally speaking, at least outside of endgame fights against hordes of Black Dragons and the like.

In conjunction with her inability to get Rage experience through kills, Lina tends to level slowest of the Spirits, which in turn makes it even harder to justify using her skills, which means she levels even slower. It's a nasty positive feedback loop, and more than anything else, this problem with The Legend's Rage design is why I'm glad every later game reduces Rage experience down to a single meter.

Lina is also just hampered by seeming to have been designed for a game environment that The Legend didn't end up being. This kind of applies to all the Spirits, but Lina is hit worst by it. I'm not entirely sure what this hypothetical design space would've actually looked like, but I'm fairly confident The Legend wasn't designed under the expectation that ranged attacks and No Retaliation would be king from the player's perspective, and I don't think the developers really anticipated the extent to which it's possible to get through the game with few or no casualties, even all the way up to Impossible. Similarly, I talked about how negative effects of actual note don't get inflicted on the player's forces much, and I have the impression negative effects were intended to be much more relevant -certainly, they're much more notable in later games. Gizmo purging negative status effects would be much more appreciated in literally every later game.

It's really too bad, because I think she's arguably the most interesting of the Spirits in concept, even if I have a personal soft spot for Zerock. Ah well.

Next time, we finish Rage off with Reaper, the keeper of time. Or whatever is going on with him, exactly.

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