Dark Side Unit Analysis Part 4: Neutral Animals



That's right, I'm covering Neutrals early.

Beast
+10% Ice resistance-10% Fire resistance.

Beast is still around, still the same.

Bear
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 160
Leadership: 70
Attack/Defense: 14 / 16
Initiative/Speed: 2 / 2
Health: 60
Damage: 7-10 Physical
Resistances: -10% Fire, 10% Ice
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Beast, Brutal (Doubles Attack for the next attack or until 2 turns have passed pretty much anytime damage is suffered), Hibernation (If the Bear fails to take any action on its turn, such as by Waiting without moving, it falls asleep. On its next turn, the 'top' member of the stack heals to full, and the turn after that they get an actual turn)

No more Stun is all.

Though Dark Side is possibly the worst entry in the series for Bears anyway, as in prior entries it was reasonably plausible you might not have access to units that push aside Bears in the early game. Even in Warriors of the North, to an extent. Not so in Dark Side, where you have guaranteed access to units that can fill a similar role but better 100% consistently from the start of the game, no matter which class/character you pick.

Ancient Bear
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 240
Leadership: 80
Attack/Defense: 18 / 20
Initiative/Speed: 3 / 2
Health: 70
Damage: 9-12 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical-10% Fire, 10% Ice
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Beast, Brutal (Attack is doubled for 2 turns after taking damage, unless the damage was from an enemy's counterattack), Hibernation (If the Ancient Bear fails to take any action on its turn, such as by Waiting without moving, it falls asleep. On its next turn, the 'top' member of the stack heals to full, and the turn after that they get an actual turn)

They've lost Stun. That's it. Just like Bears.

Also just like Bears you're really unlikely to actually use them, regardless.

Polar Bear
Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 540
Leadership: 150
Attack/Defense: 22 / 26
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 2
Health: 130
Damage: 12-22 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical-10% Fire, 20% Ice
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Beast, Brutal (Attack is doubled for 2 turns after taking damage, unless the damage was from an enemy's counterattack), Hibernation (If the Polar Bear fails to take any action on its turn, such as by Waiting without moving, it falls asleep. On its next turn, the 'top' member of the stack heals to full, and the turn after that they get an actual turn), Hardened (20% Ice resistance and +50% Defense in snow battlefields)

They've lost Stun, they're no longer immune to Freeze, and they've lost Spirit of the North and Icy Grip. They've also dropped 30 Leadership.

The overall result is that they've just about reverted to the Armored Princess version, except now they can be Frozen and they're less resistant to Ice but it's a real damage type now. It's a disappointing shift from the moderately interesting version of Warriors of the North.

You're also unlikely to have proper access to them until it's waaaaay too late to care. For that matter, you probably won't fight them until so late in the game you probably don't care about the differences between them and the other bears.

Cave Spider
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 24
Leadership: 14
Attack/Defense: 4 / 4
Initiative/Speed: 2 / 3
Health: 14
Damage: 2-4 Physical
Resistances: 20% Physical-10% Fire
Talents: Web (Charge: 1. Ensnares an adjacent target below Level 5 with a web for 2 turns, preventing the unit from leaving its current tile or using Talents that involve moving)
Abilities: Underdweller (+50% Attack in underground combat), Stone Skin (20% Physical resistance)

No change. Alas.

Though hey maybe you'll luck into the spider-supporting gear and have some fun with them in a run of your own. Dark Side does have a couple of Items that put together make spiders kinda stupendous, if still glass cannons.

Venomous Spider
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 20
Leadership: 12
Attack/Defense: 5 / 1
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 3
Health: 12
Damage: 2-3 Poison
Resistances: 80% Poison-10% Fire
Talents: None
Abilities: Poisonous (30% chance for melee attacks to Poison for 3 turns), Poison Immunity (80% Poison resistance, cannot be Poisoned), Weakness to Fire (-10% Fire resistance)

Some name changes, no actual mechanical changes. Alas.

At least you fight Undead, snakes, and other heavily-Poison-resistant units less often than in prior games. That makes them less terrible. Not a lot less, but somewhat less.

Fire Spider
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 60
Leadership: 30
Attack/Defense: 12 / 12
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 30
Damage: 4-5 Fire
Resistances: 50% Poison, 25% Fire-20% Ice
Talents: Web (Charge: 2. Ensnares an adjacent target below Level 5 with a web for 2 turns, preventing the unit from leaving its current tile or using Talents that involve moving)
Abilities: Poison Protection (50% Poison resistance), Fire Resistance (25% Fire resistance), Vulnerable to Cold (-20% Ice resistance), Persistence of Mind (Immunity to mental effects), Flaming (Melee attackers are always Burned, if possible)

No changes.

They thus remain the best of the spiders, and their two charges of Web can be quite useful if you're careful. This can help cover a gap if you end up with access to them in the very early game and not some other unit you'd prefer.

Unfortunately, Imps and Scoffer Imps tend to push them aside in real terms. Sneer can even be used to achieve similar utility as Web if you know what you're doing!

Snake
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 70
Leadership: 30
Attack/Defense: 14 / 8
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 2
Health: 30
Damage: 3-6 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison-20% Ice
Talents: Forceful Strike (Reload: 1. Attacks a single target across an empty tile, doing 4-7 Physical damage and Stunning the target)
Abilities: Reptile (+20% Poison resistance, -20% Ice resistance, -30% to Attack and Defense in snowy battlefields), Poison Protection (50% Poison resistance)

They've lost Snake Agility. I'm all for getting rid of that particular kind of randomness, even if I'd prefer to not have them flatly nerfed.

The three main strikes against Snakes, Swamp Snakes, and Royal Snakes, though, are that

1: You have reliable access to Imps and Scoffer Imps, which are able to strike at a distance much more consistently than any of the snakes while having overall more useful qualities.

2: You tend to get low counts of erratically-placed supplies of snakes when you get them at all.

and 3: Dark Side doesn't really do snake support like the prior entries. I've personally never seen the Snake Boots in it, for example. In conjunction with how it has much more in the way of Demon-supporting gear/generally great support for Dark races (Most Titles provide a Morale boost for the Dark races, you can purchase permanent boosts to entire sets of Dark races, etc), the Imp/Scoffer Imp issue is particularly dramatic.

As such, I've personally never used any of the snakes at any point in Dark Side.

Swamp Snake
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 60
Leadership: 28
Attack/Defense: 12 / 8
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 2
Health: 28
Damage: 3-5 Poison
Resistances: 80% Poison-20% Ice
Talents: Forceful Strike (Reload: 1. Attacks a single target across an empty tile for 4-6 Poison damage, and Poisons the target)
Abilities: Reptile (+20% Poison resistance, -20% Ice resistance, -30% to Attack and Defense in snowy battlefields), Poisonous (30% chance for melee attacks to Poison for 3 turns), Poison Immunity (80% Poison resistance, and the stack cannot be Poisoned)

There goes Snake Agility again. No other actual changes.

Royal Snake
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 220
Leadership: 60
Attack/Defense: 18 / 18
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 64
Damage: 6-10 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical, 80% Poison-20% Ice
Talents: Forceful Strike (Reload: 1. Attacks a single target across an empty tile for 8-11 Physical damage, and Poisons the target)
Abilities: Reptile (+20% Poison resistance, -20% Ice resistance, -30% to Attack and Defense in snowy battlefields), No retaliation, Poisonous (30% chance for melee attacks to Poison for 3 turns), Immune to Poison,

They've lost Snake Agility and now Reptile giving them an Ice weakness actually applies. This is the Royal Snake's low point in the series. Only The Legend's version is not clearly better, and in real terms it was actually useful so functionally yes it is.

Wolf
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 60
Leadership: 30
Attack/Defense: 10 / 6
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 3
Health: 24
Damage: 3-6 Physical
Resistances: -10% Fire, 10% Ice
Talents: Howl (Charge: 1. All living units of Level 1-2 are hit with Fear, and additionally have a 50% chance of skipping their turn entirely)
Abilities: Beast, Night Vision (+50% Attack at night and/or in underground combat), Rabid (20% chance to inflict Rabid for 4 turns on melee attacks. Rabid units are hostile to all units, but the effect ends after the first time they attack something), Horde (Larger stack size leads to more Attack and Defense, to a maximum of +50%)

The main change of note here is that Howl now works on anything that's alive and below Level 3. And isn't immune to mental effects, of course. The point being it now works on eg Imps, Orcs, assorted Neutrals... it's actually pretty crazy-making to fight, particularly since Imps and scoffer Imps both qualify and are really good units.

Horde has also been reworked, and for some reason the reworking is a nerf. It wasn't a big deal in the first place, I've no idea why Dark Side felt the need to make it weaker.

As far as player use goes, this is, oddly, possibly the best game in the series for Wolves. (Cannibal) Werewolf Elves are not available until so late in the game that you're nearly done with the game, whereas Wolves are available from more or less the beginning of the game, making the whole 'why use Wolves when Werewolves are better' issue largely irrelevant. Furthermore, you fight enemies susceptible to Howl much more often than in prior games, between its range of targets being expanded and the fact that classic cases of immunity that still apply (eg Undead, Cyclops) are fought less often overall. If inflicting mass Fear is useful to you for some reason, Wolves are going to be your go-to for basically the entire game.

I've never bothered, personally, but if you want to give them a shot this is the game to do it.

Hyena
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 40
Leadership: 20
Attack/Defense: 12 / 14
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 18
Damage: 3-4 Physical
Resistances: -10% Fire, 10% Ice
Talents: Preparation (Reload: 1. The Hyena's next attack automatically crits. Does not end the turn)
Abilities: Beast, Night Vision (+50% Attack at night and/or in underground combat), Scavenger (Can move up to 2 tiles beyond current movement range, if there's a corpse to move to), Horde (Larger stack size leads to more Attack and Defense, to a maximum of +50%)

No direct change, just Horde being reworked.

Of course, with crit damage having been lowered and Horde weakened, Hyenas are just plain terrible in Dark Side. Given they've never been a particularly great unit, and Dark Side hasn't done anything like provide Hyena support... don't bother. And don't be particularly concerned by enemy ones, either.

Devilfish
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 20
Leadership: 12
Attack/Defense: 6 / 4
Initiative/Speed: 7 / 3
Health: 10
Damage: 1-3 Physical
Resistances: -20% Fire
Talents: None
Abilities: Marine (+2 Morale in naval combat), Vulnerable to Fire (-20% Fire resistance), Night Vision (+50% Attack at night and/or in underground combat), Frightening (Chance for melee attacks to inflict Fear on the target. Victims will fail to retaliate on an attack that inflicts Fear), Frightful Fish (Enemies struck in melee have +40% crit chance for 4 turns), Horde (Increases Attack and Defense by up to 50%, based on numbers)

No direct changes, just Horde has been reworked.

I'm actually not entirely sure Horde even does anything in Dark Side, actually. I've not paid super-close attention, but when I've checked the stats of enemy Horde-having units I've not noticed them getting bonuses to Attack and Defense at all, no matter how large the stack was. It's possible the Ability simply doesn't function in Dark Side.

Lake Dragonfly
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 12
Leadership: 9
Attack/Defense: 3 / 1
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 4
Health: 7
Damage: 1-3 Poison
Resistances: 30% Magic
Talents: None
Abilities: Soaring, Weakness (Melee attacks have a 30% chance to inflict Weakness on the target for 1 turn), Magic Resistance (30% Magic resistance), Paralyzes (Melee attacks have a chance of taking away the target's entire supply of Action Points. This chance is 50/40/30/20/10% against Level 1/2/3/4/5 creatures)

No change.

Unfortunately, Paralyzes remains hampered by the fact that the circumstances it triggers in are circumstances you want to avoid.

Though a bit of a point in their favor is Orc Shield. It's generally better to use it to bolster high-Defense units, but it does offer the potential for a low-risk or risk-free attempt at trying to get Paralyzes triggered. There's a phase in the mid-early game where, if you're aggressive about leveling Orc Shield, it can be used to let you be moderately reckless with glass cannon-y units.

Fire Dragonfly
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 14
Leadership: 10
Attack/Defense: 4 / 1
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 3
Health: 8
Damage: 2-3 Fire
Resistances: 30% Fire-30% Ice
Talents: Haste (Reload: 1. Doubles Action Points, using supply at activation. Does not end the turn)
Abilities: Soaring, Fire Resistance (+30% Fire protection), Vulnerable to Cold (-30% Ice resistance)

They've lost a point of Initiative, bizarrely. No other change.

A big strike against them is that Dark Side provides early access to multiple stable sources of Fire damage. You'll even get Black and Red Dragons early in the game! This takes away the primary value Fire Dragonflies had in prior games, leaving them with just their Haste Talent as a unique quality... and Black and Red Dragons are so fast at base that you only care if you're utilizing Speed boosts that Haste gets to double. And even that's debatable, since Black Dragons can already cross most battlefields in one turn. More Speed than that is of extremely limited utility.

So yeah this is probably the worst game for Fire Dragonflies.


Ice Spider
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 
Leadership: 120
Attack/Defense: 18 / 22
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 3
Health: 60
Damage: 5 Ice/Physical
Resistances: 25% Physical, 50% Poison, 80% Magic-100% Fire, 80% Ice
Talents: Web (Charge: 1. An adjacent enemy below Level 5 is rendered unable to move for 2 turns)
Abilities: Underdweller (+50% Attack in underground combat), Ice Creation (Immunity to mental effects, 25% Physical resistance, 50% Poison resistance, -100% Fire weakness, 80% Ice resistance, cannot be Frozen, +50% Defense in snowy battlefields, -50% Defense in volcanic battlefields, immunity to some Spells), Spits Ice (Range: 5. 30% chance to Freeze enemies for 2 turns)

Weirdly enough, in Dark Side Ice Spiders do leave a corpse behind. That's... actually the only thing about them that's changed. It's really weird. And even weirder is that even though they're still listed in the code as 'turns into an Undead Spider when re-animated', you still can't re-animate them!

Unfortunately, I've personally never seen Ice Spiders offered in a shop in Dark Side, and to the best of my awareness they can't be gotten out of a Wanderer Scroll. It should still be possible to get Ice Spiders into your army, if only by leveraging the Puppeteer Skill to get a seed population you can then Sacrifice up more copies of, but outside that... I think there may be no natural access to them. Which is a bit disappointing, given the decent if luck-based spider support Dark Side has...

In any event, aside the weird corpse thing, Ice Spiders are just as they were in Warriors of the North. Notably, the player doesn't have strong Rage moves for doing Ice damage in Dark Side, so being an Ice damage source at all is a bit more significant a point in their favor. Though on the flipside you fight fewer Demons in Dark Side than in Warriors of the North, so the picking-on-a-weakness aspect is just... not really present. So they're more valuable overall, but have less opportunity to be specifically appealing.

Oddly, even though Bone provides immunity to Bleeding, Ice Creation does not. I... guess they're bleeding water?

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Next time, we continue on to Neutral Sapients in Dark Side.

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