Dark Side Medal Analysis

Dark Side finally... mostly... gets Medals right. Awesome.

Note that Dark Side abandons Ice and Fire's experiment with 5 ranks in Medals, returning to 3 ranks as per Armored Princess and base Warriors of the North. I have mixed feelings about this, but overall I think Ice and Fire ended up with a few too many very grind-y Medals, so I lean positive on the change.


Grand Strategian
Level 1

Earn: 20 fights won without casualties.

Benefit: +200 Leadership.

Level 2

Earn: 50 fights won without casualties.

Benefit: +500 Leadership.

Level 3

Earn: 100 fights won without casualties.

Benefit: +1000 Leadership.

A return to Armored Princess' values, nothing more.

In real terms you can actually get Grand Strategian maxed out weirdly early, as Dark Side has a bunch of early battles that are super-easy and if you took a casualty in them it's because you're really, really sloppy. Though Dark Side's pacing is also just weird in general, so it's not a very fair comparison.

Still one of my favorite Medals in the series.


Headhunter

Level 1

Earn: Defeat 10 Heroes.

Benefit: 5 Rage granted at the beginning of a fight with a Hero.

Level 2

Earn: Defeat 20 Heroes.

Benefit: 10 Rage granted at the beginning of a fight with a Hero.

Level 3

Earn: Defeat 30 Heroes.

Benefit: 15 Rage granted at the beginning of a fight with a Hero.

Basically Armored Princess again.

Dark Side has enough Heroes who are challenging when first meetable where stuff like army composition or willingness to accept casualties can influence your decision on when to fight them that, while it's still a kind of boring Medal, the meta aspect of maybe delaying fighting a specific Hero until you've gotten the next rank in Headhunter is probably at its most relevant in Dark Side. So that's a point in its favor here.


Dragonslayer

Level 1

Earn: Kill 1 Dragon.

Benefit: +5% Attack against Dragons.

Level 2

Earn: Kill 10 Dragons in total.

Benefit: +10% Attack against Dragons.

Level 3

Earn: Kill 100 Dragons in total.

Benefit: +20% Attack against Dragons.

Same unit list as Warriors of the North: Emerald Green Dragons, Red Dragons, Black Dragons, Ice Dragons, Bone Dragons.

Still kind of... okay? Why is this a Medal?...


Treasure Hunter

Level 1

Earn: 50 chests opened. (Field and battlefield chests both count)

Benefit: Combat experience generation increased by 3%.

Level 2

Earn: 125 chests opened.

Benefit: Combat experience generation increased by 5%.

Level 3

Earn: 250 chests opened.

Benefit: Combat experience generation increased by 7%.

Takes forever to get, especially since Dark Side is way less fond of plopping chests and the like on the map. in fact, unlike prior games if you want to max Treasure Hunter you'll basically have to go out of your way to make it happen. The only thing you can do in this regard is bring Pirate Ghosts into battles and try to dig up a chest every single time, too, so grinding it out is a bit obnoxious, and the payoff isn't even that high. Still, if you get early access to Pirate Ghosts, consider bring them along for a while, just to help with this Medal. They're also a pretty decent unit in Dark Side, so that's not necessarily a burdensome thing to do.


Battle Alchemy

Level 1

Earn: Inflict Burn/Poisoning/Freezing 100 times.

Benefit: Burn, Poisoning, and Freezing do 10% more damage.

Level 2

Earn: Inflict Burn/Poisoning/Freezing 200 times.

Benefit: Burn, Poisoning, and Freezing do 20% more damage.

Level 3

Earn: Inflict Burn/Poisoning/Freezing 500 times.

Benefit: Burn, Poisoning, and Freezing do 30% more damage.

Takes longer than in Ice and Fire, but also builds up faster per rank.

The Medal doesn't list Bleeding, not even in the .txt file, but I've never paid close enough attention to be 100% certain it doesn't affect Bleeding. If it does, awesome, if it doesn't, that makes Bleeding... still your preferred option for inflicting damage over time since it effectively increases the damage of all your other damage over time effects. So. Not very important.


Trapper

Level 1

Earn: Finish off 10 stacks with Traps.

Benefit: +25% damage on Traps, and 1 'friendly' Trap is placed at the beginning of most fights.

Level 2

Earn: Finish off a total of 50 stacks with Traps.

Benefit: +50% damage on Traps, and 2 'friendly' Traps are placed at the beginning of most fights.

Level 3

Earn: Finish off a total of 100 stacks with Traps.

Benefit: +100% damage on Traps, and 3 'friendly' Traps are placed at the beginning of most fights.

Basically a return to Armored Princess. Except now Diversions places Traps, making Trapper easier and more consistent to earn early and its damage boosts even more consistently useful. Awesome.

Primarily due to Diversions, Dark Side actually has my favorite iteration of Trapper in the series. Being able to count on getting started on Trapper from very early on without having to luck into a Trap Scroll is fantastic, and the ridiculous Trap stacking that can result fairly quickly makes Dark Side the most RNG-resistant on the utility of Traps. Where in prior games it was fairly routine for Trapper Traps to end up all out of position to do anything useful, in Dark Side it's exceedingly rare to not have at least two Traps in useful positions once you've got your full 6 starting Traps.

So even though Trapper is, itself, no different from Armored Princess, in practical terms it's much better-designed of a Medal.


Dark Keeper

Level 1

Earn: Cast Blur, Avenger, Power of Night, or Dark Shroud 50 times in total.

Benefit: +3% resistance to all damage types on all units.

Level 2

Earn: Cast Blur, Avenger, Power of Night, or Dark Shroud 150 times in total.

Benefit: +5% resistance to all damage types on all units.

Level 3

Earn: Cast Blur, Avenger, Power of Night, or Dark Shroud 400 times in total.

Benefit: +7% resistance to all damage types on all units.

Yes, that is a Nazghul. No, you don't get any in Dark Side.

It's Guardian Angel, but with a darkness-themed set of defensive Spells. Which there aren't many of. Still, Blur has a quick animation and even though it's RNG-based its utility is pretty consistent as far as situations it applies in. And Dark Shroud is super-amazing. (The in-game description refers to 'Dark Cover': this is Dark Shroud, presumably having been translated differently in this case without the translators catching the inconsistently) So grinding Dark Keeper honestly isn't as obnoxious as Guardian (Angel) was in prior games, unless you have bad luck with Scroll access.

... which is unfortunately pretty likely. Dark Side is stingy with Scrolls and it's stingy with letting you access new islands to get new shops and a lot of your shops are actually locked behind conquering an entire island anyway so you can spend a fairly lengthy portion of the game just... not having any of the limited pool of Spells that advance it. Dark Shroud can be gotten through converting Life Light Scrolls, but those are rare, so that doesn't do a lot to mitigate the RNG influence here.

Dark Keeper could've been handled a little better, is what I'm saying, but it could easily have been worse.


Blind Rage

Level 1

Earn: Spend 1000 Rage in total.

Benefit: +1% crit chance on all units.

Level 2

Earn: Spend 7000 Rage in total.

Benefit: +3% crit chance on all units.

Level 3

Earn: Spend 21,000 Rage in total.

Benefit: +7% crit chance on all units.

Not really that different, and still pretty boring as a Medal, just as it was all the way back in Armored Princess.


Fat Cat

Level 1

Earn: Gold in purse passes 500,000 Gold mark.

Benefit: 3% more Gold from battles.

Level 2

Earn: Gold in purse passes 1,000,000 Gold mark.

Benefit: 7% more Gold from battles.

Level 3

Earn: Gold in purse passes the 3,000,000 mark.

Benefit: 10% more Gold from battles.

Oh god why Dark Side. You did so well with Crystal Collector, why did you decide to make Fat Cat even more ridiculous?

It's particularly frustrating because Dark Side likes to have you burn tons of Gold on Quests periodically, so it's not unusual to have circumstances where you're fairly close to earning the next rank in Fat Cat and then suddenly drop precipitously, where if you'd managed to save just a little bit longer you'd be ahead in the long haul by thousands of Gold. Fat Cat bothered me more in principle than practice in Warriors of the North, as it mostly served to discourage changing unit types very often until you'd maxed it -and Ice and Fire's experience system already discouraged changing your army, so Fat Cat's influence in particular wasn't very noticeable in this regard.

Dark Side has it much more intrusive, and it's frustrating.


Lord of the Darkness

Level 1

Earn: Finish off 25 stacks with Rage skills in total.

Benefit: 5% more Rage experience gained.

Level 2

Earn: Finish off 75 stacks with Rage skills in total.

Benefit: 10% more Rage experience gained.

Level 3

Earn: Finish off 200 stacks with Rage skills in total.

Benefit: 15% more Rage experience gained.

Gifted Warrior got renamed and given Blackie's face for its graphic, but that's basically it. (The third rank takes longer to get than in Ice and Fire, but whatever) It's still an okay Medal.

Unlike Warriors of the North, there's no phase where you have Rage skills but no ability to gain Rage experience, so that's... a difference? Whatever.


Crystal Collector

Level 1

Earn: Collect 50 Magic Crystals in total.

Benefit: +1 Intellect.

Level 2

Earn: Collect 75 Magic Crystals in total.

Benefit: +2 Intellect.

Level 3

Earn: Collect 150 Magic Crystals in total.

Benefit: +3 Intellect.

The key difference from Warrior of the North: just collecting Magic Crystals advances the counter, instead of needing to stockpile the things. This takes it from infuriating and awful to merely an eventually guaranteed +3 Intellect.

I don't think that's a great design choice -as I've said before, automatic Medals aren't mechanically interesting- but it's a vast improvement over Warriors of the North's version so whatever.


Battle Mage

Level 1

Earn: Finish off a total of 30 stacks in battle with damaging Spells.

Benefit: +3% Mana restoration speed between battles.

Level 2

Earn: Finish off a total of 75 stacks in battle with damaging Spells.

Benefit: +5% Mana restoration speed between battles.

Level 3

Earn: Finish off a total of 200 stacks in battle with damaging Spells.

Benefit: +7% Mana restoration speed between battles.

Eh. It's just a Soothsayer-exclusive Medal reworked slightly and made generic.

Might as well pursue it where feasible. Could be worse-designed.


Sealer of Fate

Level 1

Earn: Overthrow 1 King.

Benefit: +5 to max Mana and Rage.

Level 2

Earn: Overthrow 3 Kings in total.

Benefit: +10 to max Mana and Rage.

Level 3

Earn: Overthrow 5 Kings in total.

Benefit: +15 to max Mana and Rage.

This is basically plot-gated Mana and Rage increases. Not... precisely, but effectively, especially in the early game where it's not realistic to avoid overthrowing a local realm's king.

It's actually a kind of interesting way of helping ensure that the player will have enough Mana and Rage later in the game without increasing their base values and without having to lean on the vagaries of the RNG or the like. Sealer of Fate isn't a strongly compelling Medal, but I like it more than some of the automatic ones.


Gracious Conqueror

Level 1

Earn: Take a total of 750 Prisoners in battle.

Benefit: +200 Leadership.

Level 2

Earn: Take a total of 1500 Prisoners in battle.

Benefit: +500 Leadership.

Level 3

Earn: Take a total of 2250 Prisoners in battle.

Benefit: +1000 Leadership.

Grand Strategy, except earned automatically. I mean, you can affect how quickly you earn it by focusing on getting Trade ASAP, and I'm pretty sure Prisoners only generate if the enemy force included humanoid units, but still, you're going to max Gracious Conqueror eventually no matter what you do. It's just a question of how quick it is.

Also notable is that the scaling means the boosts it provides are generally trivial by the time you can get them, particularly if you're playing Neoline. For Daert the first couple of ranks can actually be kind of significant since your Spell power hasn't ramped up far enough to make your army essentially moot and Daert has the smallest army, but for Bagyr and Neoline it's just kinda... there.

Oh well. It's amazing Dark Side isn't more broken than it is, all things considered.


Necromancer

Level 1

Earn: Make 500 Undead units out of Prisoners in total.

Benefit: +5 max Mana.

Level 2

Earn: Make 1000 Undead units out of Prisoners in total.

Benefit: +10 max Mana.

Level 3

Earn: Make 1500 Undead units out of Prisoners in total.

Benefit: +15 max Mana.

Note that higher-'tier' units demand more Prisoners to generate, and the Medal goes off of how many units you made, not how many Prisoners you used up. As such, if you want this Medal as fast as possible, you should just make Zombies instead of eg Vampires.

I personally almost never bother to pursue Necromancer, as the Prisoner-to-Undead options aren't as useful as the Prisoner-to-Demons options and none of the class/character options really needs the extra Mana all that much. Daert will end up with plenty regardless, while Neoline and Bagyr are mostly incentivized to use cheaper Spells anyway. I went for it once in a Daert run, and in the end I never once ended up low enough on Mana in a fight for it to have added even the slightest bit of value.

So... unless you're just wanting to do something like a 'living off the land' run of Dark Side or the like, probably just ignore this Medal.


Demonologist

Level 1

Earn: Make 500 Demon units out of Prisoners in total.

Benefit: +5 max Rage.

Level 2

Earn: Make 1000 Demon units out of Prisoners in total.

Benefit: +10 max R.age

Level 3

Earn: Make 1500 Demon units out of Prisoners in total.

Benefit: +15 max Rage.

I always max Demonologist. Imps and Scoffer Imps are amazing units in Dark Side, Prisoner conversion saves money and for a good chunk of the game that actually matters, and more max Rage means more Rage generation so unlike max Mana it's actually benefiting you even if you never manage to reach the values Demonologist is opening you up to.

As with Necromancer, Demonologist is based on how many units you made, not how many Prisoners you used up. If you want the Medal as early as possible, you should only ever generate Imps so you get the best Prisoner-to-Medal-advancement ratio.

I personally usually go for a mix of Imps and Scoffer Imps, though, as I consider the monetary savings and general convenience gain more useful than getting Rage boosts a little bit earlier.


Connoisseur of Beauty

Level 1

Earn: 'Kidnap' 3 Princesses in total.

Benefit: -10% Leadership requirements on female units.

Level 2

Earn: 'Kidnap' 5 Princesses in total.

Benefit: -15% Leadership requirements on female units.

Level 3

Earn: 'Kidnap' 9 Princesses in total.

Benefit: -20% Leadership requirements on female units.

Female units in Dark Side includes: Demonesses, Blood Priestesses, Lake Fairies, Forest Fairies, Dryads, Female Vampires, Amazons, Warrior Maidens, and Dragon Riders. (And of course the Dark versions where applicable) This is a nice Medal in general, helped along by the fact that Dark Side goes out of its way to introduce new female units, and you're guaranteed to get the first rank, and will probably get the second rank. The third rank requires you bother with Amazonia, which is completely optional. It even matters mechanically that female units don't just have reduced Leadership in the first place, due to how Leadership reducers stack. (Example: a unit with 100 Leadership, where you apply this Medal and then subtract 20% via an item would end up at 60 Leadership. A unit with a base of 80 Leadership where you had no Medal and subtracted 20% via an item would result in 64 Leadership)

It's kind of sad Lizardmen didn't make it into the game. I'm curious to if Gorguanas would've been affected by this Medal.

This Medal is particularly advantageous to pursue for Neolone, between how it stacks with Lord and her other incentives to use Demonesses in particular, and least relevant to Daert since his army's size gets less and less relevant as you go deeper into the game.

Merciful

Level 1

Earn: Allow 25 enemy battlegroups to retreat in total.

Benefit: +1 Attack.

Level 2

Earn: Allow 50 enemy battlegroups to retreat in total.

Benefit: +1 Attack and Defense.

Level 3

Earn: Allow 100 enemy battlegroups to retreat in total.

Benefit: +1 Attack, Defense, and Intellect.

Say hello to possibly the most ill-considered Medal in the entire series!

hate Warrior's of the North's Crystal Collector, but Merciful just baffles me. Allowing enemies to retreat is always a bad idea -it means you don't get Rage experience, you get less Gold and regular experience, you get no opportunity to find chests in battle, and you're potentially missing out on shenanigans like Sacrificing up more troops- and even if that wasn't true actually acquiring ranks in Merciful is borderline-impossible in Dark Side. The game just doesn't have enough enemy groups to realistically find yourself running naturalistically into situations where enemies turn and run, and even the more ridiculous prospect of deliberately avoiding killing some early enemies and coming back when you're powerful enough that they flee would be an extremely long, tedious grind. It would be a huge pain to get even just the first rank of it, and I'm not sure it's realistically possible at all to get the third rank.

And what do you get out of it if you do go through all that effort? Minor stat bonuses!

I sort of like the idea behind the Medal, but it really, really doesn't work in practice.


The following Medals are exclusive to Bagyr the Orc.

Only two per class this time.


Elf Exterminator

Level 1

Earn: Defeat 5 Elf-type battlegroups.

Benefit: +1 Attack.

Level 2

Earn: Defeat 10 Elf-type battlegroups in total.

Benefit: +2 Attack.

Level 3

Earn: Defeat 15 Elf-type battlegroups in total.

Benefit: +3 Attack.

Standard 'murder these jerks for stats' Medal.

To be fair, this one is fully justified by Bagyr's opening story, unlike some of the iffy ones from prior games.


Iron Knight

Level 1

Earn: Cast any of Berserk, Ghost Blade, Battle Cry, or Dragon Arrows, a total of 20 times.

Benefit: +5 max Rage.

Level 2

Earn: Cast any of Berserk, Ghost Blade, Battle Cry, or Dragon Arrows a total of 70 times.

Benefit: +10 max Rage.

Level 3

Earn: Cast any of Berserk, Ghost Blade, Battle Cry, or Dragon Arrows a total of 150 times.

Benefit: +15 max Rage.

Why are we still doing an iron knight Medal for our buff half-naked Orc???

It's literally the Warriors of the North list, but missing two (terrible) options. Alternatively, it's a return to Armored Princess. Either way, it's a nuisance to raise, particularly if you're not lucky enough to get one of these early.

On the plus side, Skeleton Archer access is guaranteed and they're probably the best Dragon Arrow user, so using it in particular is more appealing than in prior games.



The following two Medals are exclusive to Neoline the Demoness.


Warrior of Demonis

Level 1

Earn: Kill 50 Priests of Light, Inquisitors of Light, and Paladins in total.

Benefit: +1 defense.

Level 2

Earn: Kill 500 Priests of Light, Inquisitors of Light, and Paladins in total.

Benefit: +2 Defense.

Level 3

Earn: Kill 1500 Priests of Light, Inquisitors of Light, and Paladins in total.

Benefit: +3 Defense.

Well, you'll get it completely incidentally, and fairly early in the game too, since Humans dominate the early game as enemies.

As with Bagyr, it also fits quite well to Neoline's initial story, where the emphasis is on the holy crusader types assaulting Atrixus and being cruel and all. It makes sense Neoline would thus be particularly angry toward the holy warrior types.


Messenger of the Dark

Level 1

Earn: Cast any of Book of Evil, Plague, or Sacrifice a total of 50 times.

Benefit: +20% Damage on Demons-the-unit, Executioners, and Demonesses.

Level 2

Earn: Cast any of Book of Evil, Plague, or Sacrifice a total of 150 times.

Benefit: +30% Damage on Demons-the-unit, Executioners, and Demonesses.

Level 3

Earn: Cast any of Book of Evil, Plague, or Sacrifice a total of 450 times.

Benefit: +40% Damage on Demons-the-unit, Executioners, and Demonesses.

This is a giant pain in the butt to get really narrow benefits. Don't get me wrong, the damage is appreciated when you are using Demons, Executioners, or Demonesses, and Neoline is biased pretty heavily toward using Demonesses just from her natural access to Demon-the-faction Leadership reduction and the female unit Leadership reduction you're guaranteed to get both stacking with Lord to guarantee an easy minimum of 30% or more off of Demoness Leadership, but it's still a weird Medal to me, and grinding it out is frustrating as heck. Especially since Sacrifice is a bad Spell when you could use Blood Priestesses, Book of Evil is expensive, and Plague is just a poor Spell, particularly in Dark Side.

I do it anyway, just because there's not necessarily anything better to be doing with Neoline's Spellcasting turn, but I wish that either it had wider benefits -such as affecting all Demons- or at better list of Spells to be using. I don't even really see the thematic drive here beyond the vague 'these spells are evil'. Why do these three spells get connected to melee-oriented Demons? What is that?

Ah well, it's not as annoying as some of the prior Medals.



The following two Medals are exclusive to Daert the Vampire.


Enemy of Humanity

Level 1

Earn: Defeat 15 Human-type field units.

Benefit: +1 Intellect.

Level 2

Earn: Defeat 30 Human-type field units.

Benefit: +2 Intellect.

Level 3

Earn: Defeat 50 Human-type field units.

Benefit: +3 Intellect

It's Illiteracy Exterminator, but now you kill Humans for it. But with higher values because you kill a lot of Humans at the beginning of the game.

While not as strongly justified as Neoline and Bagyr's equivalents, in terms of thematics, Enemy of Humanity is still perfectly fine, making Dark Side the only entry in the series (That has Medals) where there isn't at least one just kind of confusing class-exclusive Medal as far as 'why does this class get rewarded for killing those guys'. And to an extent the lack of a strong justification kind of comes back to Daert being the closest to a straight villain of the player characters: it's not that fixating on Humans for driving him out is a weak scenario in general or anything, it's just that Daert himself isn't psychologically set up to have strong hatred toward his foes. He was going to kill them anyway, because he's an evil vampire.

Plus, there's a bit of a double-meaning on the 'Enemy of Humanity' label there, and I'm curious if it exists in the original Russian. After all, 'Enemy of Humanity' could simply be referring to how Daert is a predator of humans anyway, above and beyond any vendetta that might've formed during his prologue.

So this works fine all-around.


Dark Mage

Level 1

Earn: Cast any of Pain Mirror, Fear, Hypnosis, Poison Skull, Sacrifice, Plague, Doom, or Weakness 70 times in total.

Benefit: +5 max Mana.

Level 2

Earn: Cast any of Pain Mirror, Fear, Hypnosis, Poison Skull, Sacrifice, Plague, Doom, or Weakness 210 times in total.

Benefit: +10 max Mana.

Level 3

Earn: Cast any of Pain Mirror, Fear, Hypnosis, Poison Skull, Sacrifice, Plague, Doom, or Weakness 600 times in total.

Benefit: +15 max Mana.

This is a really, really weird list, presumably meant to be reflective of Daert's nature as a vampire -I can't imagine any other reason for why Hypnosis would be in the list- and in practice the main reason it's not an unreasonable burden to get it maxed is because Poison Skull is your baseline attacking Spell anyway. Even if you switch to your first better option the instant you can, you're quite likely to end up hitting the first rank just from using Poison Skull in the early game before you've gotten any other options.

Once you do have other options, it's also fine to use Poison Skull in the closing stages of a battle, so you can push toward maxing the Medal with minimal interference of your actual battle plans, so it's still not too bad. And in the early to midgame, bolstering Daert's Mana is sufficiently important it's absolutely worth doing.

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Dark Side's Medals are a bit rough, and notably it's much more willing to repeat benefits across multiple different Medals which is something I have mixed feelings about, but overall they've got the least painpoints of any of the Medals. There's nothing as torturous as Warriors of the North's Crystal Collector, and nothing as why-am-I-wasting-so-much-of-my-real-time-on-this as Armored Princess' Guardian Angel Medal.

So overall Dark Side has the strongest Medal design, even if Merciful is just... why?

See you next time, when we get started on Skills in Dark Side, starting with Might Skills.

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