Sacrifice: Pyro Mission 5
For this mission, Pyro provides...
1000 Mana, 3 Souls
The Pyrodactyl is basically the Blight if the Blight didn't suck. Where Blight Mites was a pretty lame ability, Viscous Oil is shockingly good -Zyzyx's description makes it sound like it just slows enemies down while making them more vulnerable to fire somehow or another, but it actually completely disables the targeted unit and actually has a little bit of splash to it! (Though note it also has friendly fire) The damage increase is just a bonus -which is good, because I honestly have no idea how it works. My suspicion is that it causes all 'damage over time in the form of being lit on fire' effects to do more damage and nothing else, but I wouldn't be surprised if it just generally increases Pyro unit damage against targets. Or just increases damage in general, really.
Like the Blight, the Pyrodactyl is held back as a direct combat unit by melee flier physics, as well as by being moderately vulnerable to ranged attacks and severely vulnerable to direct spell damage, but while I don't like investing the micro into it Viscous Oil genuinely makes the Pyrodactyl a worthy addition to your forces, albeit one you'll probably only use one or two at a time. (Unless you're using them for Manalith-raiding, but I've already covered how little use this has in campaign play) This actually makes it one of the rare Pyro units where the Pyro statline is overall inconvenient -losing durability and gaining damage output on a unit whose damage output is held back by physics problems and whose primary usage is a special ability is fairly inconvenient.
In spite of the name and the nuclear-looking icon, Explosion in practical terms is just the Pyro version of Erupt. The damage is higher, but only by a little. Explosion's actual utility is centered around scattering enemies, and in particular it's one of the better spells at potentially hurling enemies into a nearby abyss, with a very large area it can launch enemies in and fairly significant launch distance. Erupt is probably better at pure disruption just because its knockdown shockwave travels so far, not to mention Erupt is acquired earlier and casts faster, but Explosion is one of the best spells at abyssing targets after a Bore or when near a natural Abyss.
I personally think it's a pretty terrible spell, and in conjunction with my personal dislike of using Pyrodactyls for a rainbow run I'd rather skip this set -especially since Erupt covers the utility of Explosion and in some ways is superior- but there's certainly worse out there.
I hate this mission so much.
Actually beating it is already a pretty uphill battle. It's a 2v1 where both enemy wizards have access to artillery while you still don't, and no the Pyrodactyl isn't a good answer to artillery, Grakkus is one of the nastier wizards in the game just from his sheer durability, and they both have tons of Guardians on their Manaliths. Furthermore, due to vagaries of map design and AI, they have an obnoxious habit of first attacking you together, which can easily turn into a no-win situation where they just crush you underfoot and you can't do much about it.
That stuff is mostly just the standard 2v1 stuff, and while the campaign really doesn't seem to get how impactful 2v1 is it's not the thing that makes me hate the mission. That part can also make for a fun challenge.
No, the side objective of bringing the Pyrodraulic Dynamo online is what's infuriating.
First of all, the game has the most absolute miserably awful approach to handling the Slave retrieval mechanics possible. You approach a group of Slaves, and they switch from Pyro yellow to Eldred white, with the game outright claiming they're (your name)'s Slaves, just like any unit you summon. This means the AI forces will attack them on sight. Nonetheless, they aren't really yours. They won't Teleport with you if you Teleport and you can't select them to issue orders to them. Further, they follow you. This means you can't try to block off enemy forces from chasing down fleeing Slaves -no, they'll be right behind you, getting themselves killed on Erupts and Flummox fire aimed at you. It also means you can't 'fire and forget' the process of activating Slaves -you're going to have to walk yourself over by Faestus at some point.
Second of all, when you do activate the Dynamo it's pretty much exactly the same damn thing as fighting the Dynamo, only you're not supposed to destroy it. You still have no control over where it fires, it's still indiscriminate, you still get inadequate warning. Oh, and the scripting is broken; in the video one time when the Pyrodraulic Dynamo fires the game repeats the 'the Dynamo needs time to get started' cinema. That's not the first time I've seen that particular glitch happen, either.
So you've put in all this effort and your reward is the game potentially screwing you over. Thanks. Peachy keen. Exactly what I wanted. In this very video I'd probably have killed Charlotte a good five minutes sooner if the Dynamo hadn't fired right next to me!
Okay, so that's all awful, but, hey, it is a secondary objective. You can just ignore it, right?
Well, no. Not if you want the Boon. You have to activate the Dynamo to get the Boon.
Well, okay, so you banish Charlotte, whittle away Grakkus' forces, and then go activate the Dynamo. Dumb and tedious, but less dumb than the alternative, right?
Oh wait, no, I misspoke: you have to activate the Dynamo on a time limit. 14 minutes or less gets you the Boon. Otherwise? Nothing.
So you take this already fairly hard and to an extent basically RNG-based mission, and then if you want to be stronger for later missions you have to turn the mission into an outright torture session. This video was my fourth try, and there was a bit there where I was sure it wasn't going to be my last.
I have no idea how this mission didn't have playtesters throttling whoever designed it.
Narratively, this mission is... a bit weird. We've got Eldred backing up from his 'this doesn't help us against Marduk!' whining to Mithras in the present to instead randomly going 'oh hey the Dynamo might be helpful against Marduk'. This is particularly bizarre given the implied mechanics of the Dynamo really don't fit to it being potentially useful against Marduk -it seems to have a limited range and it's a giant structure that presumably has to be built on site, so it's not something you're going to run Marduk down with and vaporize him using.
More subtly, if you compare this to the Charnel mission where we attacked the Dynamo, Eldred is inexplicably in the same starting location in both of these missions. When we did the James Pyrodraulic Dynamo mission, Eldred also started here, but hey, in both the James and Charnel missions we were attacking the Dynamo. Sure, makes basic sense. So why is it when we're defending the Dynamo the two Altars that Pyro's forces were using are now James' offensive base while Eldred's offensive base is now his defensive base?
A more understandable bit of weirdness once you're familiar with the broader campaign setup is how we're locked into the next Pyro mission without any particular justification. This is an artifact of the fact that, for the most part, a given god mission number will always give you the exact same mission, and we're hitting the part of the plot where instead of everything being canon events actually diverge. In particular, I'm going to mildly spoil things and explicitly spell out that Pyro by default dies earliest of the gods. Also, if you don't play Pyro the Dynamo has always been destroyed or is about to be destroyed, not successfully defended. (eg the next Charnel mission would be attacking the Dynamo with Charlotte having been captured by Pyro -she was banished, not captured, in this Pyro mission, so obviously that Charnel mission would make no sense as a follow-up) These two points together mean the campaign has to lock us into Pyro here to avoid obvious wonkiness. In general, this ties into a lot of the mid-late mission locking, where the reason the game won't let you jump from one god to another god is because their narratives at that step are incompatible.
This incidentally means that the Pyro route really is fairly distinctively its own route, since it has to have a very different set of events to accommodate Pyro not dying early.
See you next Pyro mission.