King's Bounty Rage Analysis Part 4: Reaper

Reaper is interesting more on a meta-level than on the level of how he's actually depicted within the game, in non-gameplay terms. He's a Grim Reaper! Obviously he's going to be a manifestation of Death itself!

... but then he's actually a guardian of time or something, with no real acknowledgment from the story of the whole 'grim reaper appearance' thing. I've always wondered if there's something cultural I'm missing here -Slavic mythology?- or if Reaper really is meant to be a bit of a fake-out, but either way I find it interesting.

Mind, his access to Soul Draining means the Death Incarnate thing isn't wholly irrelevant, but it's actually his only overtly death-themed Rage skill.

It's too bad whatever is going on with him isn't really followed up on by the game. His hourglass crops up as, basically, a plot device in Armored Princess, but... for a being that's explicitly kind of cosmologically important, Reaper gets very little attention from the series. It's a bit odd.

I do like his actual aesthetic. It's a pretty generic grim reaper figure, when you're just looking at a static image of it, but there's enough cool little touches in terms of how he appears and disappears and the like that it's reasonably distinctive. I also like the touch that you can actually see his hourglass on his in-game model. The game doesn't call your attention to it, but it doesn't just ignore it and have you assume it's somewhere inside his cloak or the like. It's a nice attention to detail or consistency or something of the sort.

Reaper has 38 levels of Rage skill boosting to dump into.

Soul Draining
Damage: 10%
Rest: 3
Rage: 10

Targets a single enemy stack, inflicting 10% of the stack's total Health in Astral damage. Cannot target unliving units or Plants.

Soul Draining's use of percentile damage is unique in The Legend, and notably makes it the only direct attack Rage skill that remains consistently useful into the endgame. Indeed, Soul Draining can produce astounding damage numbers, even just at 20% damage, if used early in a fight. The fact that it doesn't work on Undead, Cyclops, Plants, or Gremlins isn't too big a deal either, because while there is an Undead region in the late-game after Reaper and Plants crop up in Elf forces, the late game/endgame is actually mostly focused on susceptible targets, such as (living) dragons, Orcs, etc.

Something to keep in mind is that, contrary to other sources of damage, Soul Draining shouldn't be used on the most urgently threatening target, it should be used on the biggest stack on the battlefield, as its damage is higher the bigger the stack is. Jump comparing the listed damage when previewing is usually a workable shorthand, but in cases where unit Health varies dramatically you may be doing more 'real' damage by picking the smaller damage number. This is particularly relevant to the Warrior and Paladin -the Mage may prefer to focus Soul Draining on high Health groups because those are the hardest for them to kill with Spells, but for the Warrior and Paladin the bulk of their damage will generally be coming from their army, and Health-per-Leadership and Defense are usually 'pick one', meaning their armies will actually find it easier to burn through the Health of eg a Peasant stack than of eg an Archdemon stack.

Also note that Soul Draining is a big factor in why Reaper is so easy to level, since the experience he gains ramps up with enemy army size outright if you've got him using Soul Draining,

Finally, note that Astral damage is unresistable in The Legend, and indeed the only time the game itself actually refers to Astral damage is in Black Hole's description. In fact, the icon for Astral damage I've been using comes from the later entries, as The Legend has no such icon.

Damage Upgrade 1: Damage: 20%, Rage Required: +5
Damage Upgrade 2: Damage: 30%, Rage Required: +15
Damage Upgrade 3: Damage: 40%, Rage Required: +25
Damage Upgrade 4: Damage: 50%, Rage Required: +35

The first upgrade is worth it, of course -double your damage for 50% more Rage spent? Yes, please- and the second is probably worth considering, but the third is shaky and the fourth is a firm no. 35 Rage is half the cost of a 'final stats' version of Soul Draining! Why would you double your price to get a 25% increase in real damage, especially when 35 Rage is already difficult for a non-Warrior to scrape up without leaning on Rage Draining, which directly competes with using Soul Draining?

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

Get it! Making Soul Draining spammable is amazing.

Rage Upgrade 1: Rage Required: -10
Rage Upgrade 2: Rage Required: -10

Something to note is that you can get the first damage upgrade and then the first Rage upgrade to end up with a 20% kill for 5 Rage. If you're the Warrior, this sweet spot is probably not worth pursuing, but for a Mage or Paladin it can be a nice way of ensuring you can use it reliably without 

Final Stats
Unit Death: 50%, Rest: 1, Rage Required: 70

As mentioned earlier, you could alternatively have a 5 Rage version that still kills 20% of the target stack. Also as mentioned earlier, a better endpoint than the above is 40% damage and 35 Rage. The former gives you an astoundingly spammable Rage skill that can be used to dramatically whittle down oversized fights in the early stages of a battle -particularly useful on Impossible, where battlegroups can be outrageously large- while the latter is harder to keep funded, but also slashes enemy stacks much more effectively.

Going for the fully upgraded version is just making it borderline impossible to use for negligible benefits. Your endgame Rage will generally be -/+30~ from 100 Rage, ignoring gear, so 70 Rage is just outrageously expensive.

I kind of wish The Legend had deliberately embraced the kind of dichotomy I'm laying out, though. Rage would be a lot more interesting if you were choosing the nature of a Rage skill's evolution, rather than just getting some control over the order things improve. Even with it being impossible to max every skill, you're mostly not making actually interesting decisions with Rage upgrades. Alas.

Rage Draining
Damage: 50-180
Rage Generated: 10
Rest: 5
Rage: 5

Hits an area (2 tiles out in every direction from the target tile) for Astral Damage, with no friendly fire. If any enemies are damaged, also generates some Rage. (This effect does not scale to the number of targets hit)

Note that Rage Draining does nothing to environmental obstacles, which includes Gremlins. Since it only generates Rage if something is actually injured, that's no small caveat!

To re-iterate: Rage Draining does not scale Rage generation to number of stacks hit. You'd think it does, given its name and all, but nope. It just needs to do damage at all. I'm honestly not sure why the skill was designed this way, as opposed to automatically generating Rage when used even if no targets are hit. I can imagine some weird edge case stuff, like keeping a stack perpetually Charmed to prevent a battle from ending and using Rage Draining to fund Chargers to give you the Mana to cast Resurrection to undo all the casualties of a very bloody fight, that is affected by this (To wit: you can't use Rage Draining indefinitely, since eventually it will kill all enemies if you're actually generating the Rage), but mostly it just seems like a strange detail to include in the behavior at all.

Rage Draining has a somewhat odd aiming behavior, in that even though the center tile is in no way distinct as far as damage output goes, it's the determining part for allowed-to-target purposes. This doesn't usually matter, but it can lead to situations where you really want to center Rage Draining on an impassible rock or something, and are barred from doing so. It's a bit of a bizarre, frustrating design when it crops up.

This is actually common to basically any freely targeted effect in The Legend, but it crops up as a problem with Rage Draining far more often than with any other effect due to its huge strike zone. (Okay, Zerock's Rockfall can have an equivalent strike zone, but it's seriously not worth taking Rockfall so whatever) eg it also applies to Fireball and Fire Rain, but it's pretty rare to be in a situation where you'd want to drop it on an impassible fallen tree to hit two enemy units, but can't. This kind of things crops up tons with Rage Draining.

Speaking more directly to the gameplay, Rage Draining being acquired is a gamechanger for non-Warrior runs. (And to a much lesser extent Warrior runs) Paladins and Mages tend to struggle to generate enough Rage to eg cast Zerock's Underground Blades at all, let alone in a timely manner, and this problem tends to feed into itself since Spirits of Rage gain experience for being used. Since you struggle to use them in the first place, they don't get experience to potentially reduce their Rage costs. It's not unusual in a Mage or Paladin run for Zerock to lag several levels behind the player, and upon acquisition of Rage Draining rapidly catch up and possibly even pull ahead of the hero's own Level! Even Sleem may have been struggling to keep up properly, since the point Reaper shows up is well past the point where Evil Shoal has stopped utterly wrecking armies. Lina appreciates it too, as her skills tend to run pricey, though I've already covered her other problems.

Thematically, I have no idea why Reaper has Rage Draining. I don't object, I just don't really get the connection to his lore stuff. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the real reason he has it is because he's the last Spirit and the developers wanted Rage Draining to be a thing and wanted it to be on the last Spirit. Or something of the sort.

Damage Upgrade 1: Damage: 70-200, Rage Drained: 15
Damage Upgrade 2: Damage: 90-220, Rage Drained: 20
Damage Upgrade 3: Damage: 110-240, Rage Drained: 25
Damage Upgrade 4: Damage: 130-260, Rage Drained: 30
Damage Upgrade 5: Damage: 150-280, Rage Drained: 35
Damage Upgrade 6: Damage: 170-300, Rage Drained: 40

+20 damage per level. Simple. It's a good thing the real reason to boost it is to increase the draining, 'cause that's awful damage. That piece is +5 Rage drained per upgrade, also simple.

Unsurprisingly, this de-facto takes the place of any Rage reduction upgrade, as Rage Draining's Rage cost is fixed, and what changes is the amount it generates.

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

Vitally important if you want Reaper to ever contribute with his other skills and you aren't playing a Warrior. Even with both upgrades, Rest 3 is still fairly harsh, but it's actually reasonable to end up having him use something like Soul Draining -especially if you went with running Soul Draining as 5 Rage/20% damage, as covered earlier- without it being little more than experience grinding.

Final Stats
Damage: 170-300, Rage Drained: 40, Rest: 3, Rage: 5

The damage is a nice bonus, and indeed it's worth pointing out that max-level Rage Draining will actually tend to do more overall damage than a max-level Smashing Sword, thanks to hitting multiple targets. While being cheaper and in fact generating piles of Rage. Plus Astral damage isn't resisted, unlike Physical.

It's a bit silly how good of an attacking move Rage Draining ends up, when comparing it to other cheap damaging Rage skills, given the damage is very much not the point. Between its damage being surprisingly decent and the fact that it helps fund bigger moves like Underground Blades, Rage Draining tends to push aside Smashing Sword and to a lesser extent Poisonous Spit, at least for non-Warriors who desperately need the Rage generation help.

Indeed, Rage Draining is also a bit of a gamebreaker, not necessarily in the usual sense, but in the sense that it busts the design assumptions of the game. Normally Rage generation slows down starting on the tenth turn of a battle, and stops entirely on turn 20, but once you have Rage Draining you don't really care about that. So long as there's a non-Gremlin enemy on the field and you make sure to reserve at least 5 Rage for Rage Draining, you can keep on using Rage for as long as it takes to finish off the enemy army. A patient player could literally have a Black Dragon just staying out of reach of the enemy while wearing the enemy army down with Rage, even if it takes 100 turns or the like. It's not healthy for the game.

As such, I'm very glad no later game has anything comparable to Rage Draining in terms of Rage-on-demand.

Time Back
Target Level: 1
Rest: 5
Rage: 20

Returns a single unit (Friend or foe) to exactly as it was at the start of its previous turn.

Note that a unit doesn't have a defined start condition until its own turn rolls around. It doesn't crop up too often, but it's an unpleasant surprise to find that the Cyclops you were planning on Time Backing into mint condition after all the enemy ranged attackers dogpiled it before it could make a move is actually not possible to fix because it's still the first round.

Note that when I say Time Back returns the unit to exactly as it was, I mean exactly. Talent charges/reload times will be set back, buffs and debuffs will be undone or brought back with their appropriate duration, damage will be undone -or healing undone!- and they'll be shifted back to the tile they'd been in before. This last point is actually another important limitation on Time Back: if the tile the unit used to occupy is currently occupied, you can't use Time Back on the unit. As such, if you're thinking of using Time Back on a unit, you should make sure to not move any of your other units into the tile they started in.

Those points made, Time Back is a skill whose potential uses are basically only really limited by your imagination. You can use it to stall an enemy stack, hurl a Furious unit into the midst of the enemy and then undo the damage taken from the dogpile, reuse charge-based Talents without bothering with Gift, effectively accelerate the reload on reloading Talents, shuffle a unit in an awkward position out of the way, drop a Trap and Time Back an enemy unit onto it...

... though when you first get Time Back, it's limited to Level 1 units, which is not so good. It's a bit unfortunate, as Time Back suffers from a learning-curve example of the kind of dynamic I described with Lina: a player is unlikely to be impressed by Time Back when they first get it, and so is likely to prioritize upgrades on the other, more obviously useful skills, and so Time Back never really gets an opportunity to show off its impressive qualities, leaving the player convinced it's just a bad skill. This applies to every skill a Spirit of Rage doesn't start with to some extent or another, but Time Back suffers especially badly from it, in part due to secondary design decisions: there's a guaranteed source of Resurrection Scrolls in Kordar, so by the time you can Time Back Level 1 units you very likely can Resurrect them instead, so the obvious utility of undoing damage isn't some new capability, even for non-Paladins.

Similarly, Level 1 units often either lack Talents or their Talents aren't anything to get excited over. In terms of visceral experience, Time Backing a Zombie stack just does not impress.

I'm not sure what a good solution to this particular problem would be, unfortunately.

Level Upgrade 1: Target Level: 1-2, Rage Required: +5
Level Upgrade 2: Target Level: 1-3, Rage Required: +5
Level Upgrade 3: Target Level: 1-4, Rage Required: +5
Level Upgrade 4: Target Level: 1-5, Rage Required: +5

Worth it. In particular, Time Back is one of a handful of ways to undo casualties on Level 5 units, and by far the one with the least caveats.

Now, in terms of priorities you might not be in a hurry to get Time Back to its max Level range. If you're really just wanting to use it to have Sea Dogs Fury Attack for massive damage and promptly undo it, you only need to get to Level 3, and can focus on Reaper's other skills for a while -or on Time Back's other upgrades, for that matter.

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

As always, worth it. I kind of wish there was a third Rest-down upgrade, though I completely understand not wanting a fourth one -with four of them, it would be possible to do shenanigans like having a Sea Dog stack use Fury Attack every turn, while suffering no casualties, which would itself generate a lot of Rage to fuel this silliness.

A Rest of 3 is a bit frustrating, though.

Rage Upgrade 1: Rage Required: -10
Rage Upgrade 2: Rage Required: -10

Notice these exactly cancel out the cost increases from the Level-expanding upgrades. This is a big part of why it's completely worth it to max out its Level range, as it doesn't actually end up any more expensive than it started.

Final Stats
Target Level: 1-5, Rest: 3, Rage: 20

20 Rage isn't cheap, but it's no Underground Blades or Black Hole either. For non-Warriors it can be a bit of a pain to scrape up this much Rage in a timely manner, especially when it's so tempting to just use Rage Draining right away, but that's okay, as Time Back really makes sense as a Rage skill aimed at the Warrior. A Mage can appreciate Time Back, but their focus is more on killing everything with their Spells, and the Paladin doesn't really know what they want to be. The Warrior is all about smashing things with your army and all, and being able to minimize casualties, maximize Talent usage, etc, is fantastic when you're being army-focused.

Black Hole
Damage: 300-700
Rest: 5
Rage: 40

Hits all enemy units with Astral Damage.

Supposedly Black Hole varies its damage with the Morale of affected units, but The Legend hasn't implemented Morale on enemy units, and it's not capable of friendly fire. I dunno, maybe it could crop up by forcing a unit to be over your Leadership cap while having positive or negative Morale? That's silly-niche, if so. One of the clearer examples of how The Legend is actually sort of... not exactly unfinished, but definitely not at its intended design goals.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to justify using Black Hole 90% of the time. If you want a Rage attack that hits everything on the field, Underground Blades is roughly 50% the cost (Comparing eg fully upgraded stats), does only slightly worse damage at highly upgraded levels (Ignoring that Astral damage will never be reduced, but also ignoring that Underground /Blades will actually do more damage against mages), and critically Zerock generally doesn't have anything better to do. Reaper's other three skills are all amazingly useful, and using Black Hole means not using them! It's probably not an exaggeration to say Reaper's other three skills are the best Rage skills in the entire game. They all cover different niches from each other, too, with Rage Draining in particular being dirt cheap and a great 'filler' choice when you have nothing in specific to do. (Such as because it's the first turn and you haven't generated enough Rage for anything else)

Thankfully Black Hole does get a second chance to shine in Orcs on the March, but that's for the future. For here and now, Black Hole is overpriced/underpowered for its price. As with Zerock's Rockfall, I'd seriously suggest simply refusing to take it. (Unless, like, you've got Soul Draining at a comfortable combination of cheap and decent damage and don't want to boost the damage and the cost, and your being offered 'upgrade Soul Draining or buy Black Hole') The only major caveat to this is that Reaper will actually run out of non-Black Hole-based levels to spend into before max level.

The situation is a little less dire with the Warrior, whose accelerated Rage generation can enable them to do back-to-back field nuking, alternating Black Hole and Underground Blades, but Black Hole is still painfully expensive for its damage, and the Warrior has other, more useful options open to them -they find it easier to pump Soul Draining to the fairly good damage levels without finding the resulting cost utterly unbearable, for example, and with their army focus Time Back is exceptionally useful. Black Hole is merely lackluster for the Warrior, instead of unbearably awful.

Damage Upgrade 1: Damage: 500-900, Rage Required: +15
Damage Upgrade 2: Damage: 700-1100, Rage Required: +15
Damage Upgrade 3: Damage: 900-1300, Rage Required: +15
Damage Upgrade 4: Damage: 1100-1500, Rage Required: +15

+200 damage per level. Simple.

Notice this means damage has diminishing returns in percentile terms. And you're spiking the already-high Rage cost each time you take it. The diminishing returns issue is fairly typical of Rage damaging moves, but the only case more egregious than Black Hole's progression is the insane cost jump on Soul Draining's final damage upgrade, and this problem is a big part of why Black Hole is difficult to justify using/upgrading. The first damage upgrade is probably worth considering, but past that? Eeeeh.

As already covered, a Warrior might be able to get away with it... but Black Hole is still surprisingly lackluster. Which is too bad, because I actually quite like its animation.

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

If you're going to do anything with Black Hole, getting all the Rest-downs should be your highest priority so that Reaper can get back to using his actually useful skills as quickly as possible within a battle.

Rage Upgrade 1: Rage Required: -10
Rage Upgrade 2: Rage Required: -10

If you're gonna focus on Black Hole, yeah. Grab 'em. If not, you won't even be offered Rage-downs, so it's a bit of a moot point.

Final Stats
Damage: 1100-1500
Rest: 2
Rage: 80

Seriously, 80 Rage to probably do more damage than Underground Blades (Underground Blade's max damage max roll is 1210, compared to Black Hole's low roll of 1100), which costs half what Black Hole costs? Black Hole's max damage roll isn't even twice Underground Blade's minimum damage roll! I mean, if the enemy army is made entirely of Ghosts and Knights and other strongly Physically-resistant units, Black Hole does actually come out ahead, but otherwise...

I'm honestly confused as to why Black Hole is so bad. Just comparing its numbers to Underground Blades makes it obvious Black Hole is terrible. If Black Hole had done more like 3000 damage for 80 Rage at max, it would be agonizingly expensive, but actually worth using when you managed to scrape up that much Rage, and whether that makes it acceptable or not would come back to the difficult-to-accurately-determine question of how much Rage a player can expect to be generating in the mid-to-endgame. I'd get the issue if Black Hole was borderline-unusable, but because the Rage cost is unreasonable alone. I don't get why it's just so obviously bad compared to Underground Blades.

And Underground Blades doesn't even stay competitive into the endgame!


Reaper is difficult to handily describe as a whole. He's probably the 'best' Spirit of Rage, inasmuch as three of his skills are really good where other Spirits tend to have 1-2 skills that are all that worthwhile at any given moment (eg Sleem's Evil Shoal is fantastic for a while in the early game, and becomes basically worthless in the long haul), but even just trying to summarize him as the best Spirit is a bit misleading given how awful Black Hole is. Nor is there a coherent theme to Reaper's ability set, in terms of gameplay utility. That's not a bad thing, but it does make it tricky to summarize him the way I did the prior Spirits.

In any event, Reaper tends to dominate your Rage usage when he arrives. He can seem a bit underwhelming at first -Soul Draining doesn't impress when you first get it, while Rage Draining and Time Back's full implications aren't immediately obvious- but he's the one Spirit who can always do something useful...

... well, not quite always, since Soul Draining doesn't work on Undead and the like, but the point is he can meaningfully contribute at low Rage, at high Rage, early in a fight, late in a fight, against unevenly-sized stacks, etc.

The funny thing is, the fact that he has three Astral damage attacks just doesn't really rate as a big deal. You'd think it would be a noticeable part of what makes him so good, and it's really just not important.

Next time, we get started talking about Skills, starting with the Might tree.


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