Dark Side Rage Analysis
Max Rage level is 60. This is baffling, given that you're liable to hit that well before you've unlocked the endgame (Bar playing Daert, I suppose, whom may fall a bit short at level 57 or so), even if you ignore the wholly optional islands. I'm not sure if that's a deliberate choice or another example of Dark Side's lack of polish. It's even more cringe-worthy with Bagyr, due to how fast he'll gain Rage experience.
That aside, this is inarguably the best Rage has ever been in the series.
In broad terms, it's most similar to Warriors of the North's handling: you have 9 Rage moves, they're each on a separate Rest period (There's no Olaf-set equivalent to be an exception), you have a single Rage experience meter, and there's some conceptual divides to the Rage moves that have limited practical relevance. Unlike Warriors of the North, none of your Rage moves is plot-gated aside the initial acquisition of Rage being plot-gated. Unusually, you actually get three Rage moves to start with: Orc Strike, Jealousy, and Necro Pack are all available right away. In conjunction with Dark Side's Rage moves having minimum Rage level requirements, your first several Rage levels tend to go into upgrading your current set instead of purchasing new moves.
Conceptually, there's three lanes or sets of Rage moves: an Orc set, a Demoness set, and a Vampire set. This is reflected in animations, with Blacky (Your Rage-providing buddy, though you can rename him once if you like) having a different form he takes on for each such set, but in practical terms the sets only matter through Action Rage's Rest reduction starting with your class-associated set, then doing another set, and then adding in the final set. You can argue each set has some trends, I suppose, but it's not like there's a large enough sample of moves for such a statement to be particularly meaningful. It's not like the classes/characters have exclusive Medals for boosting their associated Rage moves, either.
The complete separation on Rest periods is huge, finally doing away with the problem where some Rage moves are more or less impossible to justify using because they're directly competing with other Rage moves. Back in The Legend, Reaper's Black Hole was not only overpriced, but it competed with Soul Draining and Rage Draining, making it almost impossible to justify using it. Back in Armored Princess, Rest was global and so less-desirable moves like Lava Call never found themselves being used by virtue of them interfering with your Rage access as a whole. Back in Warriors of the North, the competition between Viking Vortex, Ice Blades, Lord of the North, and Loki's Aid tended to mean that at any given moment at least one of them was basically impossible to justify using because it meant not having access to something better for several turns afterward.
In Dark Side, there's only one Rage move I think is objectively a junk move (Cupid the Demon), and I still find it worth using in longer battles where everything else is in its Rest period. This is especially true of Bagyr thanks to his potentially-unlimited ability to spam Rage moves within a single turn, held back solely by RNG and personal Rest periods, but even for Daert and Neoline this situation crops up semi-regularly. So while it would be nice if Cupid the Demon was a better move, it's not a move where you could remove it from the game and have it be basically 100% improvement for the player, which is a huge change.
Note that I'm not going to be providing 'final stats' numbers. I couldn't find the Rage level-ups in a conveniently-readable format in the game's files, and no one else online has done more competent code-diving that I'm aware, so these are all derived from making notes of what was offered in-game as it was offered across multiple runs. It's probable that I didn't see the full range of possibilities, and also possible that I made an error in counting somewhere -Dark Side has an unusually large number of cases of simply repeating the same level-up parameters multiple times, particularly for the 'improved control' upgrades. Makes it harder to keep track of how many times it was offered anew.
Damage: 80-100 Physical
Lethality: 4% Physical
Does Physical damage to a single chosen enemy. Some of this damage is percentile, in addition to the more conventional damage, but the percentile damage is still Physical and thus modified by Physical resistance.
Something worth explicitly mentioning: Bagyr's Blood Rage does double the percentile portion of the damage.
Orc Strike is your archetypical basic attacking Rage move, just like so many others across the series. It's the best of the bunch; in the early game it's basically a slightly stronger Earth Blade but with no anti-mage bonus or a Crushing Blow with no push, but once you get into the midgame where the raw damage fails to keep up with growing stack sizes suddenly the Lethality component ensures Orc Strike is one of your best opening moves. It's my favorite basic attacking Rage move in the series, being the only one that isn't irrelevant or pushed into a supporting role as the game advances. It can easily do 10,000+ damage to enemy stacks in the late game, with only other percentile effects able to reliably keep up.
Early on, you should be focused on getting finishing blows to rank up Lord of the Darkness, particularly as Orc Strike is your best option initially for getting finishing blows. Jealousy can't do it at all, and Necropack is more expensive and better used trying to soften multiple targets, and later in the game Orc Strike will rarely have the opportunity to get finishing blows off.
Overall, though, Orc Strike is straightforward in its utility. Really really good, but straightforward.
Damage 1: Damage: 150-170, Lethality: +1%, Rage: +3
Damage 2: Damage: 240-300, Lethality: +1%, Rage: +3
Damage 3: Damage: 400-500, Lethality: +1%, Rage: +4. Rest: +1
Damage 4: Damage: 700-900, Lethality: +1%, Rage: +4
Damage 5: Damage: 1100-1400, Lethality: +1%, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Damage 6: Damage: 1700-2100, Lethality: +1%, Rage: +5
I'm reasonably confident this is the full set of damage upgrades. I always get Orc Strike maxed on damage reasonably quickly, so I've had plenty of opportunities to be offered a hypothetical seventh boost. Furthermore, in conjunction with the base Lethality and the Lethality upgrade, this puts Orc Strike's Lethality at a nice even 20%. Sticking to the pattern would require another five damage upgrade ranks.
Incidentally: max Orc Strike. It's just that good.
Lethality 1: Lethality: +10%, Rage: +6
This is the only separate Lethality upgrade. In conjunction with maximum damage upgrades, Orc Strike ends up with 20% Lethality, which is a quite nice amount and ensures that even in the endgame when Orc Strike's regular damage is fairly meh it's still a fantastic opening move for softening up enemies.
If you're offered this in the early-to-midgame, you might want to put it off, as 10% Lethality for +6 Rage can be a poor trade at the time. You should take it eventually, though, as it's doubling Orc Strike's final Lethality value all by itself, and in late-game battles the Lethality rating will easily account for 95% of your damage output.
Increased Control upgrades
Control 1: Rage: -10, Rest: -1
As far as I'm aware, there really is just the one Increased Control upgrade.
You should take it. Orc Strike is just that good.
Area: 3 tiles (Triangle)
Damage: 100-200 Astral damage
Rage per target: 2
Hits all units in a radius for Astral damage. For each unit hit, also generates a certain amount of Rage.
Orcish Rage is basically Rage Draining from waaaay back in The Legend, but much better-designed.
Two mechanics points: to be completely clear, the number of targets does matter for the Rage generation: at base, it can't actually even pay for itself, because it can only hit 3 targets for 2 Rage apiece while costing 8. Secondly, Orcish Rage is very nicely coded (Unusually for Dark Side) and calculates the final Rage modification appropriate to the cost and the generation: if you spend 10 Rage and generate 12 Rage, the game just tells you the final +2. It's really nice and clear, and it avoids the player having to plot around avoiding weird inefficiencies in the move's behavior.
Orcish Rage itself is kinda shaky in its utility. Its damage is serviceable when you first unlock it, generally, but it fails to keep up with growing stack sizes, and once that falls away Orcish Rage is stuck just being a Rage generator. There's a mid-early period where that can be useful if you've been leveling Orcish Rage, but past that point every class/character can consistently generate enough Rage naturally that Orcish Rage struggles to find relevance.
The main caveat here is that for Bagyr it bounces back into relevance once you hit the point of being able to use Rage multiple times per turn. At that point it can be a nice gamble for when you're running low on Rage; if you trigger another Rage usage, Orcish Rage can potentially have fed the successive move where a different move might've left you inadequate Rage to use another move in the turn.
But for Neoline and Daert, an argument can be made you should avoid leveling Orcish Rage unless your other options in a level are worse.
Also note that unlike Reaper's Rage Draining, Orcish Rage does have friendly fire. This makes it particularly unappealing if you're fond of getting into melee combat in spite of everything I've said about ranged combat being largely superior.
Damage 1: Damage: 120-240, Rage per target: 3
Damage 2: Damage: 140-280, Rage per target: 4, Rest: +1
Damage 3: Damage: 180-340, Rage per target: 5
Damage 4: Damage: 220-400, Rage per target: 6
Damage 5: Damage: 280-480, Rage per target: 8
Damage 6: Damage: 340-560, Rage per target: 10
Except for the second one, it's all free! If everything you're offered in a given level is overall undesirable, you might as well take this simply because it's pure improvement.
Area 1: 7 tiles (Circle), +10 Rage
Area 2: 19 tiles (Diamond), +16 Rage
Note that since Orcish Rage's Rage costs are only modified by these area upgrades, the first one more than doubles the Rage cost and the second one exactly doubles the cost. They also both more than double the strike zone, so in an enemy-dense environment it works out nicely, but if there's not a zillion enemies it's not so hot a tradeoff.
If you're considering using Orcish Rage at all, ever, you should probably at least take the first upgrade. It dramatically improves its ability to pay for itself or, in the early game, potentially finish off multiple targets where the base area could only catch one enemy.
Increased Control Upgrades
Control 1: Rest: -1
Control 2: Rest: -1
Control 3: Rest: -1
Yes, like Rage Draining back in the day, you can't lower the Rage cost on Orcish Rage. Unlike Rage Draining you can actually increase it via the radius upgrades, which is a bit annoying.
I'm not 100% sure three Rest-downs is correct. I'm not sure it's not, though.
In any event, it's worth taking if the alternatives in a level are terrible, since it doesn't cost you anything.
Damage: 200-350 Physical damage
Shield 'leech': 10%
Strikes all enemies for Physical damage, and then generates a shield on a chosen allied unit which blocks all damage until it's destroyed. The shield is derived from a percentage of the damage done.
Orc Shield's targeting is slightly unintuitive, as you target an ally, which is just jarring when it comes to an attacking effect.
A mechanics oddity: if you place Orc Shield on a unit that's allied but not under your control (eg Demon Portal-summoned units), the unit gets confused and always immediately Defends when its turn rolls around. Looking in the code, this appears to be a consequence of Orc Shield being derived from Ice Prison. This isn't too big a deal since Orc Shield is ideally used on valuable units instead of disposable ones, but it can be an unpleasant surprise to run into it.
Another mechanics point is that Orc Shield will actually damage Objects. This can be annoying if you want an Object to stick around (The AI will often slow itself down by pursuing and destroying Objects), but the Health 'leeching' extends to such Objects so it's usually advantageous, increasing the shield's strength for free. Do keep in mind that generated Objects don't properly have an assigned 'team', so it'll eat Objects you made for your benefit too.
On a different note, it's worth pointing out that where Glot's Armor didn't care about the qualities of the unit inside of it, Orc Shield does. This means Orc Shield's protection goes further when leveraging favorable resistances (eg an Orc Shielded Imp will have the shield last twice as long when sustaining Fire damage as compared to equal Physical damage), and it also means the Defense of the unit underneath actually matters. As such, Orc Shield is, somewhat counterintuitively, better placed on eg Orc Chieftains than on Furious Goblins. This is actually quite nice, as a problem throughout prior games was that a lot of Level 5 units were not only inherently not that great once Leadership got high enough you're fielding several copies (Made worse by how the series is largely reluctant to give you access to Level 5 units early enough to properly leverage their individual durability) but made even more bad by contextual elements like being immune to Resurrection. I think Orc Shield might be the first mechanic in the series to really encourage you to buy a Level 5 unit and then try to use it as your meatshield!
Conversely, where Glot's Armor was guaranteed to block at least one full attack, Orc Shield is not. If an attack does more than the shield's HP in damage? The shield goes down and the unit underneath takes the remaining damage. In conjunction with the fact that the game doesn't provide immediate feedback on how much damage the shield just absorbed -it simply displays a zero if the attack was fully absorbed- you end up having to rely on either crunching the numbers yourself or getting a feel for roughly how much damage a unit it likely to take in a given situation for determining whether a shielded unit is really safe to hurl into the fray or not. It can be a bit frustrating, particularly when you're only a little bit off in your guess but it still leads to a casualty or the like.
Nonetheless, Orc Shield is really quite the nice move.
Damage 1: Damage: 350-500, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Damage 2: Damage: 500-650, Shield 'leech': +5%, Rage: +10
Damage 3: Damage: 650-850, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Damage 4: Damage: 800-1050, Shield 'leech': +10%, Rage: +10
Damage 5: Damage: 1000-1250, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Generally should be more of a priority than increasing leech rates since more damage will also equal more shield rate. Especially since the fourth damage upgrade has the same benefits and trade-offs as the leech upgrade while also increasing damage.
Shield Leech Upgrades
Shield 1: Shield 'leech': +10%, Rage: +10
With this plus the full damage upgrades, you'll be leeching 35% of 1000-1250 damage. That's 350-437.5 shield HP per enemy struck, which means a typical/small battlegroup will be providing close to 2,000 HP of shield if you use it right away. That's enough to prevent around three Archdemon casualties! Or two and a half Black Dragon casualties, which are a particularly appealing option since there's so few effects for protecting or healing them. Against even larger battlegroups, it can easily pop up into the 4,000 or so HP range, which is more than enough to ensure you can hurl a unit into the fray against smaller stacks without worrying about casualties.
Increased Control Upgrades
Control 1: -10 Rage, -1 Rest
I wouldn't be surprised if there's more than one, but I've never been offered more than one for Orc Shield. Admittedly, there's not often much of a difference between 6 Rest and 5.
Generates an indestructible statue in a chosen open tile. An enemy unit that lacks Persistence of Mind within its radius will become hostile to all units, as if Frenzied, for the duration of the statue's existence. If the affected unit dies or otherwise ceases to be affected by the statue, the statue can immediately do the same to a new unit, if there's any enemies in its range. Units under the influence of Jealousy strongly prefer to attack units within 2 tiles of the statue, and will almost always pass their turn Defending if no other units are in that radius. Only one statue can be on the field at a time: if a new statue is placed, any existing statue will vanish.
Jealousy, like so much of Dark Side, is a bit buggy. Sometimes the statue vanishing will cause the affected unit to become permanently omni-hostile, instead of freeing it from the effect. This is particularly worth noting for how it interacts with the AI: the AI forces will ignore a Jealousy-ed unit, so as to avoid wastefully just beating up their own forces, but if it's omni-hostile with no Jealousy statue, the AI is suddenly eager to dogpile onto what used to be their unit.
Though while AI units will normally ignore a Jealousied unit, AI Heroes will frequently do silly stuff like slap Helplessness on the Jealousy victim. Jealousy is thus especially useful in Hero fights, potentially protecting you from the Hero's spellcasting turn. On top of that, a Jealousied unit doesn't provide an enemy Hero a chance to cast, so it can also be useful to manipulating the timing of when the enemy gets a chance to cast or even prevent them from casting entirely if you've finished off or disabled enough other stacks.
Another weird quirk of Jealousy is that if a summoner generates units while under the effect of Jealousy, the resulting units will be permanently hostile to all. Strictly speaking I think this is just a general behavior with hostile-to-all units, but stuff like Frenzy normally blocks off a unit's willingness to produce summons, so it's only Jealousy you're likely to see it routinely/at all.
A minor quirk of Jealousy is that it's possible to arrange for a unit to leave the statue's radius (Such as through Infernal Exchange, or pushing or pulling effects), and the unit will remain hostile and fixated on attacking units within the statue's radius, even if it's far from the statue and has much closer targets. This mostly discourages trying to manipulate a Jealousied unit's position significantly, but notably the Jealousied unit does not, as one might expect, default to running to rejoin the statue. As such, it's feasible to eg Jealousy one archer, then Infernal Exchange it so it's blocking off another archer, and while the result will be neither of them will try to fight each other, the Jealousied archer also won't move from its position if there's nothing to attack in the statue's radius, thus temporarily taking two ranged units out of the fight with one Jealousy.
By far Jealousy's most important quality, though, is that it doesn't care about Leadership. This makes it a tremendous boon for handling battlegroups that are far larger than what you're supposed to be dealing with, letting you take a key ranged unit out of the fight, or stall a key melee unit while it blocks off a key ranged unit so neither of them is creating problems for you, while you use percentage effects and so on to wear down the rest of the force. It also means its value only climbs as you get deeper into the game, since it effectively auto-scales to the enemy.
Also note that you don't have to worry about your troops coming under the statue's effect. Feel free to drop it next to one of your own units if that's the best position.
Further note that Jealousy works on many units that are supposed to be immune to mental effects but lack Persistence of Mind per se. It works on the Undead, for example. The exceptions are Plants, Ice Creations, Gremlins, and Bosses.
Range 1: Range: +1, Rage: +6
Range 2: Range: +1, Rage: +6
I don't believe there's any further range upgrades, but I also don't particularly care. I don't really consider it worth expanding Jealousy's 'attack enemies too close to the statue' radius, as its initial value of 2 tiles is basically the perfect balance. Larger radii do make it harder for enemies to get outside the radius, but they also make it much more of a pain to keep your own units out of the statue's radius, and my experience is that Jealousied units have a strong preference for attacking your units before enemy units if both are in the Jealousy range and the unit's attacking range. So aside from testing for the purposes of this post, I ignore the radius upgrades on Jealousy.
Level 1: Level: 1-3, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Level 2: Level: 1-4, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Much like Christa's Gift in Warriors of the North, I'm not sure this is worth taking because I'm not sure it actually does anything. The other reason I'm not sure it's worth taking is because if it does work, having a more limited Level range gives you a bit more control. I personally tend to take the first rank because a lot of the units I most want Jealousy affecting are Level 3 units, like Bowmen, and because it's not a huge burden to burn one level on a just-in-case-it-works scenario, but I'm a lot more skeptical on bolstering the Level range all the way up to 4, especially with the Rest and Rage increases.
Duration 1: Duration: +1, Rage: +4
Duration 2: Duration: +1, Rage: +4
Duration 3: Duration: +1, Rage: +4
I wouldn't be surprised if you can increase Jealousy's duration even further, but much beyond this is probably not worth pursuing if it is an option. The base duration of 2 is painfully low, but 4-5 is generally more than enough for most purposes.
Control 1: Rage: -7, Rest: -1
I'm strongly confident there really is just the one upgrade. If there is another, it must have some requirement I failed to meet. Maybe it requires the second Level range upgrade and I never actually took that?
Flames of Passion
Damage: 10% Fire
A single target enemy that lacks Persistence of Mind takes percentile Fire damage. Then a friendly stack of the targeted unit type is generated out of a percentage of the damage done in an adjacent tile, which lasts 3 turns. The unit can act in the same round it was generated.
I like the subtle heart image made by the flames.
I specify 'that lacks Persistence of Mind' because Flames of Passion works on Undead, Cyclops, etc. To the best of my awareness, only Plants, Ice Creations, and units with the regular Persistence of Mind Ability are actually immune. Irritating that the units actually vulnerable to Fire damage are the only units who aren't buggily vulnerable. Oh well.
That said, Bosses and Gremlins are also immune to Flames of Passion. Not that this is particularly a surprise, but it's worth being explicit.
Note that the game rounds down when determining how many members the produced stack will have. ie if you did 100 damage at 40% conversion rate to a unit whose Health is 21... you'd get only 1 member in the resulting stack, even though the damage you did is juuuust under the Health total of two copies of the unit. Surprisingly, this rounding down has no qualifier for ensuring you summon something: if you do so little damage it shouldn't add up to even one member of a stack for you, you won't get a stack at all. This will only rarely crop up; many of the bulkiest and/or most Fire-resistant enemies of the game are immune to Flames of Passion (eg Black Dragons, Red Dragons, Archdemons, Cyclops...) and/or only show up as enemies late enough that their stack size and your Flames of Passion strength should be great enough to produce at least one unit. (eg you don't fight Demons until very late in the game) It's a surprising bit of consistency; most games will, in equivalent situations, round down but then force a minimum of 1, rather than rounding down to 0.
Something important to keep in mind for maximizing Flames of Passion's utility is that a Flames of Passion summon only dies when its final turn actually ends. Thus, if you want it to last just a little bit longer to absorb some more punishment in this turn... have it Wait. There you go, you've extended the duration you're getting use out of it.
A weird, surprising mechanics point is that Puppeteer absolutely works with Flames of Passion summons. You won't see it very often because Flames of Passion summons last only briefly, and also are prone to being murdered by enemy stacks due to their resulting small size, but it can be used to get you a seed population of unusual units from unusually early.
Also, just as Blood Rage affects the percentile component of Orc Strike, so too is Flames of Passion able to do double percentage damage.
Flames of Passion seems lackluster when you first get a hold of it, but is probably the second-best or best of your Rage skills once you're past the midpoint or so of the game, due entirely to its percentage damage. Early on, it'll be flatly inferior to using Orc Strike or one of your attacks with no percentile component, unless you want a short-lived distraction. Late in the game, Flames of Passion can easily be your single hardest-hitting Rage move and still generate a distraction -only by that point the distraction will actually be pretty tough!
So let's talk upgrades.
Damage 1: Damage: 15%, Rage: +6, Rest: +1
Damage 2: Damage: 20%, Rage: +6, Rest: +1
Damage 3: Damage: 25%, Rage: +6, Rest: +1
Damage 4: Damage: 30%, Rage: +6, Rest: +1
Worth every level.
Notice that Orc Strike ends with 20% Lethality vs 30% percentage damage on Flames of Passion. Orc Strike's 1700-2100 damage when fully upgraded isn't able to make up the difference when the percentage component can easily be over 10,000 damage late in the game.
Also notice that Blood Rage means Bagyr can randomly chop off more than half of a stack with Flames of Passion. Yikes.
Conversion 1: Conversion: +3%, Rage: +6
Conversion 2: Conversion: +3%, Rage: +6
Conversion 3: Conversion: +3%, Rage: +6
I have no idea what the devs were thinking with the conversion upgrades. They're tiny boosts in performance that are directly inferior to increasing the damage, as increasing damage also increases the size of the generated unit. The only good point is the lack of an attached Rest increase, and it's not much of a good point. If your other options in a level are worse, sure, go ahead and take it, but uuuugh.
Increased Control Upgrades
Control 1: -10 Rage, -1 Rest
Control 2: -10 Rage, -1 Rest
Control 3: -10 Rage, -1 Rest
Worth it! Take them all!
Cupid the Demon
Pain Mirror damage: 5%
Hex Miss rate: 20%
Spawns a high-flying unit which each turn picks a target enemy. It then has a 20% chance of using each effect in its list on that target, with its initial list including Pygmy, Pain Mirror, the removal of a single positive effect, and Hex. It will always do at least one thing in its list to its target.
One buggy aspect of Cupid the Demon is if you use it during the turn of a unit that's already Waited, it has a habit of eating the unit's turn, particularly if it's the last unit of the turn. A related oddity is that if the turn order has changed such that the current unit is moving before a unit it 'should' be moving after and you use Cupid the Demon, the turn order will be immediately recalculated, interrupting the turn of the unit you're currently in control of. This can be seen most readily when dealing with Berserkers, since they automatically go berserk and double their Initiative when more than half the stack has died; normally the turn order will go-
Unit doing damage to the Berserkers->the unit that was next->the now berserking Berserkers, since they've jumped ahead in turn order->whatever would have gone next if the Berserkers weren't berserking
Whereas if you use Cupid the Demon before the Berserkers get their turn, 'the unit that was next' will have its turn pushed back until any berserking Berserkers have gotten their move. This won't crop up too often, not least because Vikings are virtually nonexistent in Dark Side and there's just not that many ways for the turn order to readjust in a relevant way, but it's something to keep in mind in the handful of situations where it can mess up your plans... or be exploited, for that matter.
Note that the Pain Mirror damage listed is, as with the Spell, a percentage of the damage last done by the unit. 5% is thus nearly nothing unless the unit somehow did utterly ridiculous damage to one of your units. And as with Pain Mirror, it has to be real damage. A unit that attacks an Ice Spike for 10,000 damage will still only take 1 damage from Cupid the Demon's Pain Mirror. Or possibly zero damage. I'm pretty sure I've seen that.
One major flaw with Cupid the Demon is that it doesn't work on magic-immune units at all, in spite of being a Rage effect. This doesn't crop up very often, but it does mean that it'll never help against eg Black Dragons. So if you're facing a battlegroup made entirely of Spell-immune units? Don't bother using it unless you just want Rage experience and literally everything else is on cooldown. Also note that Cupid the Demon can't affect Gremlins.
Overall, Cupid the Demon is an interesting idea, but it's probably the least useful of Dark Side's Rage moves. You can't control what it targets, the imp itself acts extremely late in the turn, and its effects are generally fairly minor. Pain Mirror will usually be inferior to using an actual percentage effect (ie Orc Strike, Flames of Passion), even if you try to set it up so an enemy gets a chance to do huge damage beforehand. Stripping a buff is only occasionally key, and it's not like Cupid the Demon prioritizes targeting stacks that have been buffed, Hex is random and only benefits you if an afflicted unit is allowed to attack, which you should be endeavoring to avoid. Pygmy is the only reliably solid thing it can do initially, and it won't use it as often as you might hope -my suspicion is that Pain Mirror is set up as the 'fallback' option where if nothing rolled a success it uses Pain Mirror anyway, because Pain Mirror gets used by itself far more often than any other effect.
Note that Cupid the Demon doesn't try and hover over its target or anything. As such, where the lightning ball Rage moves of prior games could get in each others' way, stacks of Cupid the Demons can all elect to target the same unit, potentially. This... is actually a bit of a disadvantage, since eg if one succeeds in a Pygmy on a target and then the other Cupid the Demon goes for the same target that means no possibility of a Pygmy cast on another enemy. It can be lucky if a particular enemy dishes out a lot of damage, though, since they might be hit with a reasonably powerful Pain Mirror twice. But most of the time, it's a flaw.
Damage 1: Pain Mirror Damage: 10%, Hex Miss rate: +1%, Rage: +4
Damage 2: Pain Mirror Damage: 15%, Hex Miss rate: +1%, Rage: +6
Damage 3: Pain Mirror Damage: 20%, Hex Miss rate: +1%, Rage: +6
Damage 4: Pain Mirror Damage: 25%, Hex Miss rate: +1%, Rage: +6
I don't really consider these upgrades worth it. The first one is okay, since you're doubling Pain Mirror's damage output for a minor cost increase, but past that... eeeeeh.
Curse 1: Adds Slow and Doom, Rage: +6, Rest: +1
Curse 2: Adds Weakness and Helplessness, Rage: +8, Rest: +1
The first upgrade is worth considering. Slow and Doom slapped on enemies for free can be quite the big deal, taking a slow melee unit out of the fight or giving you the opportunity to stack loads of damage on a key target. Weakness and Helplessness are less helpful, and come with a bigger price increase to boot.
I don't believe there's a third tier, though it's possible I simply never got offered one. If there isn't, the second tier isn't even something you'll grab in pursuit of better stuff.
Hex 1: Hex Miss rate: +10%, Rage: +8, Rest: +1
Hex 2: Hex Miss rate: +9%, Rage: +8, Rest: +1
I have no idea why the developers think you would ever want this line of upgrades.
At max, assuming what I've seen is everything, you'll get Hex to cause a Miss 45% of the time. That's... pretty respectable, but it's fundamentally random, both because Cupid the Demon won't necessarily cast it in the first place and because they can still hit if it does get cast, so it's not anything to pursue or rely on. It's certainly not worth taking the Rest increases and cost increases!
If it was free, or was a minor Rage increase like +2 per step with no Rest increase, that'd be one thing, but as-is... seriously. Skip them.
Duration 1: Duration: +2, Rage: +8, Rest: +1
I've only ever been offered this in a run where I was deliberately leveling Cupid the Demon to make notes for these posts, and only after I'd invested quite a lot of levels into it. So I'm pretty sure it's got some minimum requirements of investment before it can be offered.
Though honestly I'm not sure why you'd bother. By the time you could have Cupid that high level, battles don't tend to last long enough for the additional duration to matter particularly.
I was never offered an Increased Control upgrade, though I wouldn't be surprised if there is one.
Damage: 80-100 Physical/Magical
Curse chance: 20%
Radius: 1 lane
Generates a 'wave' that travels from a chosen empty tile in a direction of the player's choosing, inflicting Physical/Magical damage to all units along the way, with hit units having a chance to become Cursed for 3 turns. (Which lowers Morale)
Necro Pack is really just Evil Shoal, except you start out only firing a single straight line (You have to upgrade to reach Evil Shoal's radius) and it's mixed damage with a Curse chance. I'm fine with that, even if Necro Pack tends to fall off in utility in the late-game.
One weird mechanics change is to the wave expansion behavior. If you fire off the wave in a position where eg the first left lane's initial appearance point will be blocked by impassible terrain, then the entire left-side portion of Necro Pack will fail to spawn at all. This mostly crops up in some of the odder Keeper fight maps, but it can weaken certain angles that Evil Shoal wouldn't have had any issue with. I'm not sure if that's an overlooked glitch or a deliberate change. I can't imagine why it would be deliberate change, but Dark Side has some confusing decisions so I can't discount the possibility.
Damage 1: Damage: 150-185, Curse: +5%. Rage: +5. Rest: +1
Damage 2: Damage: 285-355, Curse: +5%, Rage: +10
Damage 3: Damage: 485-605, Curse: +5%, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Damage 4: Damage: 750-935, Curse: +5%, Rage: +10
Damage 5: Damage: 1080-1345, Curse: +5%, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Damage 6: Damage: 1475-1835, Curse: +5%, Rage: +10
Yeah, I have no idea why Necro Pack has such weird damage numbers.
If you're playing Bagyr, these are all absolutely worth taking. If you're not, it's a trickier question: in the long haul, Necro Pack won't keep up with enemy stack sizes, being relegated to being used when your better options are all on cooldown, but in the early to midgame if you've been investing strongly into Necro Pack it'll probably be your overall strongest Rage move by a fair margin (As in, much stronger than an equivalently-invested other move available equivalently early), especially since Dark Side is very fond of having extremely large numbers of stacks in enemy battlegroups. Even into the late game, a fully upgraded Necro Pack can be decently competitive with Orc Strike and Flames of Passion: if you're hitting fourteen stacks successfully (Plausible), Necro Pack will be doing over 20,000 damage and Cursing a portion of your enemies. Compared to Orc Strike doing 10,000 damage and nothing else to a single target, that's actually quite good! And even once enemy stacks are large enough Orc Strike can be doing 20,000 or more damage itself, Necro Pack won't weaken as you tear up enemies. Not until entire stacks are dead anyway.
Complicating the issue is that Necro Pack is, if you're not Bagyr, the Rage move you're most likely to be struggling to cover the costs of. It's easy to end up putting off upgrading it so you can keep affording it, and then find that once you want to accept upgrades to it they're not being offered or they're not pulling it back into proper relevance.
It's a tricky decision.
Radius 1: Lanes: 3, Rage: +10, Rest: +1
Radius 2: Lanes: 5, Rage: +10, Rest: +1
Yeah, it takes a couple of upgrades to get Necro Pack to Evil Shoal's historical radius.
You should absolutely take the first upgrade as soon as possible, though, as it dramatically improves its reliability. With just one lane, you'll rarely manage to hit more than 2 stacks, and will often be stuck hitting only 1 stack. With three lanes, though, you can often catch all 5 enemy stacks in their initial formation for regular-size battlegroups, and 10+ stacks for larger battlegroups. This makes it drastically more cost-efficient in real terms, even though its raw cost has gone up.
The second radius upgrade is good, but less essential, though with the advantage that by the time it's being offered +10 Rage is a much more reasonable burden to bear. The first radius upgrade can easily be the very first upgrade you're offered for Necro Pack, in which case you probably have too little maximum Rage to afford it at all. Ouch.
Increased Control Upgrades
Control 1: Rage: -10, Rest: -1
Control 2: Rage: -15, Rest: -1
If you're investing deeply into Necro Pack, these are essential. If you're not... well, you won't be offered them anyway.
I'm reasonably confident the upgrades I've listed are in fact the full set of upgrades for Necro Pack for reference.
Friendly fire: 100%
Freeze strength: 10%
Freeze area: 1
A triangle of clear, passable tiles is filled in with a Dark Cloud, which blocks off the terrain and Freezes any nearby units both when it's initially summoned and when it disperses. These tiles cannot be passed through by Soaring or Flying units, either.
Dark Cloud is Dark Side's idea of a Rage wall. Unlike prior Rage walls, the enemy can't do anything about Dark Cloud; it can't be attacked to break it, or otherwise ended prematurely. It also can't be trivially bypassed by Flying units, making it much more widely relevant. The fact that it instantly inflicts Freeze on nearby targets can also be invaluable for buying time even if you cant't place Dark Cloud in any kind of chokepoint, particularly when dealing with slower enemies. These qualities help a lot.
Dark Cloud has some key flaws, though. Firstly, its shape is awkward, shockingly so. It's surprisingly common to be unable to place it anywhere useful, even on battlefields that aren't very crowded. Secondly, the Freeze effect is indiscriminate, which makes it undesirable to try to use it as a last-minute barrier; slowing down and injuring your own units isn't all that great a prospect. Thirdly, it re-inflicts Freeze when it disperses, which makes it constrictive to your own future movements, particularly if you have trouble keeping its duration in mind. (The game doesn't keep track of this for you)
Freeze Strength upgrades
Freeze 1: +20% Strength, +4 Rage
Freeze 2: +20% Strength, +4 Rage
Note that Freeze strength's percentile is relative to base Freeze values. Thus, the base Freeze strength of 10% actually means that it only does 1% damage. Dark Cloud's percentile damage is pretty much worthless if you don't pour levels into upgrading its strength, and is still pretty limited even if you do. I personally don't consider it worth the Rage cost increase; if I want more damage from Rage moves, I'd rather focus on... any of the other damaging Rage moves. Even Orcish Rage.
Freeze Area upgrades
Area 1: +1 Area, +10 Rage, +1 Rest
I find the idea here horrifying. It's already a giant pain to use Dark Cloud without impairing your own forces, and this makes it even harder.
Duration 1: Duration: +1, Rage: +8, Rest: +1
Actually useful: the one-turn duration is often inadequate for stalling a key enemy, and against already-slow enemies delaying refreshing their Freeze is useful in its own right. Probably the best of the upgrades for Dark Cloud, in fact.
Friendly Fire Upgrades
Friendly Fire 1: Friendly Damage: 55%, Rage: +4
Just... don't let your units get caught in its radius. This isn't worth it.
These are all the upgrades I personally saw and got their exact numbers on. I know there's an additional Duration upgrade, and an additional Friendly Fire upgrade bringing the damage down to 10%, but I don't know their cost modifications et al. Given Dark Side's patterns, most likely they're the same costs as the prior, but I'm not going to list them until I can confirm the actual numbers. Don't be surprised if I edit this post in the coming months.
Damage: 300-600 Astral
Hits all units in a radius for Astral damage, with a chance to Stun each target. The damage and Stun chance drops off by a percentage ('Fade') for each tile out from the center, and units outside of the center will be pulled one tile closer to the center if there's nothing else in the way.
Note that the pulling effect is based solely on the initial conditions, and isn't 'smart'. If two units are lined up to one side of the center and could both be pulled toward the center via the same route, the closer one will be pulled and the further one will be left alone, because the closer one was in its way when you used the skill.
Note that 'fade' is the percentage it drops by, not to. Base fade is thus slightly less than 2/3rds damage being lost one tile out from the center.
In spite of sharing a name and general concept with Reaper's Black Hole, Blackie's Black Hole is much more useful. Part of this is simply that Dark Side is fond of battlegroups with large numbers of stacks, making multi-target splash attacks much more reliably powerful, but it's also tremendously helpful to not have it Rest-competing with anything. I often choose other Rage moves before Black Hole against battlegroups with a mere 5 stacks, but unlike Reaper's Black Hole it's not a 'I can never find an opportunity to justify it' thing.
Another part of it is that Black Hole is versatile. You just want high area damage? Black Hole has you covered. You want to pull a key enemy to a key location, or drag a group of enemies backwards? Black Hole is there. You want to block off Talents and/or slow down the enemy army in general? It's not reliable, but that Stun chance will happen with reasonable regularity if you're hurling Black Hole at large enough groups.
Damage 1: Damage: 600-900, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Damage 2: Damage: 900-1300, Stun: 66%, Rage: +10
Damage 3: Damage: 1300-1700, Rage: +5, Rest: +1
Damage 4: Damage: 1700-2800, Stun: 100%, Rage: +10
Remember: since Stun chance drops off from the center, so even with 100% Stun chance Black Hole is only guaranteed one Stun in the bunch. And only if you actually have a target at the center, which you might not if you're focused on maximizing targets or are trying to use Black Hole to manipulate enemy positions.
Even so, being able to 100% reliably force a Stun on a target once you do have it maxed is incredibly useful, and any bonus Stuns helping slow down enemy melee is nice. With upgraded Fade, you'll Stun enemies outside the center fairly regularly!
Note that while the damage looks far greater than eg maxed Orc Shield, since it drops off away from the center the actual totals will be quite different. eg with unmodified Fade, against an idealized clump of 7 enemies forming a circle, max Black Hole damage will be about 4,760-7,840, whereas maxed Orc Shield damage in that situation will be 7,000-8,750. You really need to invest in the area upgrades and Fade improvements for Black Hole to truly be damage king. And even then, it'll lose to Orc Shield once the enemy formation starts breaking up, as far as raw damage goes.
That's fine, since Black Hole does so many other things.
Radius 1: Radius: 3, Rage: +12, Rest: +1
Radius 2: Radius: 4, Rage: +12, Rest: +1
Bizarrely, I've been offered both of these at once. You don't need the first to unlock the second, and should in fact ideally avoid taking the first one at all -it'll free up a Rage level for something else and reduce Black Hole's final cost by 12 and Rest by 1.
Just one more example of Dark Side being rushed having a negative impact on its design.
The second one, however, is key to making Black Hole great, allowing it to hit every stack in eg 15 stack battlegroups where initial conditions have them all clumped together.
Fade Reduction Upgrades
Fade 1: Fade: 50%, Rage: +8
To be clear: this is raising the Fade rate to 50%, meaning damage is halved for each tile out. That's a nearly 50% increase in damage done outside the center, and same for Stun chance outside the center, so it's actually quite worthwhile. Generally the damage upgrades should be priorized first, but Fade Reduction is absolutely worth pursuing.
Increased Control Upgrades
Control 1: Rage: -15, Rest: -1
Control 2: Rage: -15, Rest: -1
Control 3: Rage: -15, Rest: -1
Take them! Take them all!
Unless you've not been investing in Black Hole. But why would you do that?
That's all the Rage moves in Dark Side, but we're not quite done;
This graphic puzzles me.
It's very obviously a variation on Rage Control's first rank, but it's a brand-new graphic to Dark Side's spritesheet -it's not found in prior games' sheets- and it has versions for when you can't use a given Rage move and so on, indicating this was meant to be a real Rage move. Unlike the other graphics in the Rage portion of Dark Side's spritesheet, it doesn't have a little head to indicate that it's attached to a particular character, either, but it goes unused entirely. It seems likely to have been intended to be a 'typeless' (Not associated with one of the player characters) Rage move, perhaps one that generated Rage? Which suggests the Orc/Demoness/Vampire divide was meant to be more meaningful at some point, to my mind.
I'm really curious what this was about.
It does occur to me it might simply have been a filler graphic used before the actual Rage move icons were made, and simply never removed from the sprite sheet. I'm skeptical of that particular theory, but it's not impossible.
Now we're done with Rage.
Next time, we get started on Companions in Dark Side, starting with Bagyr's.
Because Dark Side has a whole different Companions system from any prior game.