Dark Side Skill Analysis Part 2: Spirit

Dark Side retains the Spirit name for the green tree. Fits a bit better to the Demoness, so that's something. Beyond that it's reasonably familiar from prior games.

Power of Spirit
+1 to Attack and Defense.

+2 to Attack and Defense.

+3 to attack and Defense.


Skill tree requirements: None.

Notably more expensive than in Warriors of the North, but not substantially changed, and a lot of Skills are more expensive in Dark Side. On balance, it's not that different. The main point in its favor is that if you're playing Neoline you'll want to max it eventually to max out Lord. For the other classes you'll probably get the first rank and no farther.

The player can right click units in the field to get a list of the unit types and an overall estimate of the threat level of the battle group. For the Demoness: also +20% Gold from Chests.

The player can right click units in the field to get a list of the unit types and an overall estimate of the threat level of the battle group, and can also click on castles and 'shelters' for the same effect on any battlegroup within. For the Demoness: also +40% Gold from Chests.

Now the player gets a precise unit count when right clicking on enemies. For the Demoness: also +60% Gold from Chests.

Skill tree requirements: None.

At last Scouting is pure Spirit Runes!... of course, it's lost its Intellect boosters, making it pretty worthless (again) if you're not the Demoness. And... even for the Demoness, it's not all that great, though you should max it early anyway just to maximize the Gold gain, since Lord calls for ideally maxing the entire tree regardless of individual Skill quality.

I really don't get why it's so expensive, though. It's a bit difficult to directly compare Dark Side to The Legend in this regard since The Legend's costs were lower but this was offset by giving you fewer Talent Runes to spend, but I'm reasonably confident in saying this is the most overpriced Scouting has been in the series, and with the least justification. I could kind of understand it if the Neoline-exclusive quality was part of its base effect and then Neoline added some other, more notable effect, but as-is... seriously, why is it so expensive?

If you're not playing Neoline, you should take the first rank to unlock access to Skills of actual value and then ignore the later ranks. Unless you're playing some kind of ironman no-loading challenge or something, Scouting remains inferior to, you know, getting into a fight and reloading if you don't like what you're seeing.

+2% Leadership.

+4% Leadership.

+6% Leadership.

Skill tree requirements: None.

It's taken 4 games, but finally Glory has been done right!

Now, early in the game Dark Side's Glory is actually quite bad -if you have 2,000 Leadership the first rank is adding a pathetic 40 Leadership, vs the 200 you could expect in prior games- but that just means it's a minor pain to have to get the first rank for Skill tree progression purposes. In the long haul when even Daert is going to easily break 20,000 Leadership (And thus you'll be getting 400+ Leadership per rank of Glory), Glory is just plain better than in any prior game. This is particularly appreciated when playing Neoline, since she'd want to max all the Spirit Skills regardless: it's quite nice to not feel like you're purchasing complete garbage just because you feel obligated by Lord to do so.

I do think the value should perhaps have been higher, though. Bumping it up to even 3% per rank would do a lot to make it less invisible in the late game without overpowering it.

But on the other hand this is seriously a huge improvement over every prior iteration of Glory, so whatever.

Each enemy unit has a 10% chance to miss its first turn. Additionally, 1 'friendly' Trap is placed before battle begins.

Each enemy unit has a 20% chance to miss its first turn. Additionally, 2 'friendly' Traps are placed before battle begins.

Each enemy unit has a 30% chance to miss its first turn. Additionally, 3 'friendly' Traps are placed before battle begins.

Skill tree requirements: Power of Spirit.

It's the Skill from Warriors of the North, but awesome.

By far my favorite thing about it is that it 'fixes' the Trapper Medal: no longer are you dependent on the whims of the RNG to get started on Trapper early on, which was always frustrating since Trapper can outright feed into itself, making for a weird 'I don't necessarily need Trap-the-Spell to get Medal ranks once I have the Medal' key-is-in-the-safe dynamic. Now you just need to buy Diversions quickly.

The utility of it advancing Trapper isn't even some finicky hypothetical you'll have to work for, either. At the beginning of the game, the Traps are hideously powerful (Just like the Trapper Medal, they're Level 2, which is a massive damage spike on Traps in the first place and the early game Leadership/Health values are just laughably below the Trap damage), to the point that even on Hard and Impossible there's a decent chunk of the game where having an enemy stack walk into them is that stack being dead, full stop. If you're careful to manipulate enemy stacks, Neoline can easily have the first rank in Trapper just on Diversions before she's even unlocked Rage!

The addition of Traps also incidentally softens the swinginess of the turn-missing aspect. In Warriors of the North, it's not unusual for me to back out of a fight and come back later because absolutely nothing on the enemy team missed its turn even though I had Diversions 3 and that was a problem. In Dark Side, I often shrug when few or no units miss their turns because odds are pretty high the melee enemies will be delayed anyway by walking into the Diversions Traps. It's only really in the very early game -where it's important to squeeze every drop of value you can- that I semi-regularly reload if I'm not happy with the Diversions results.

Diversions is also subtly soft-buffed by Dark Side's much greater fondness for battlegroups made of large numbers of stacks, making it much harder for the RNG to completely crap out on you. So that's a nice bonus. The flipside to this is that it's often much less likely to successfully disable most or all of the entire enemy battlegroup, so really it's more accurate to say it's more RNG-resistant all-around.

All-around, Diversions in Dark Side is a fun, fantastically-designed Skill. The least nice thing I could say about it is that I consider it perhaps too essential -with every character/class, I always beeline as best I can to maxing it out as early as I can, it's just that good. And to an extent that's less about its quality per se and more about how its design intersects with Dark Side's early-game design and Medal considerations. (eg that using Diversions to get started on Trapper is far easier at the beginning of the game than later, and that it also makes it a lot easier to make progress in Grand Strategy since it can land kills without your units getting in danger) It never stops being a good Skill, but if halfway through a run you disabled it I would only moderately miss it; it's optimal to get it early, but it's not a game-breakingly good Skill in the long haul.

+10% combat Experience for the Hero. Additionally, +1 Intellect.


+15% combat Experience for the Hero. Additionally, +2 Intellect.


+20% combat Experience for the Hero. Additionally, +3 Intellect.


Skill tree requirements: Scouting.

It's base Warriors of the North Learning. Unit experience didn't get ported forward from Ice and Fire, that's all.

Learning is still kinda a dumb Skill, but still salvaged by the Armored Princess-onward addition of an Intellect bonus so whatever.

If an enemy force contains identical unit types to the Hero's current army, up to 3% of the matching enemies will join the player's stacks. This cannot take the player over their Leadership. Additionally, for units the player cannot recruit in this way, 4% of the army deserts, reducing the stack size the player faces, without any penalty to Experience or the like.

If an enemy force contains identical unit types to the Hero's current army, up to 6% of the matching enemies will join the player's stacks. This cannot take the player over their Leadership. Additionally, for units the player cannot recruit in this way, 8% of the army deserts, reducing the stack size the player faces, without any penalty to Experience or the like.

If an enemy force contains identical unit types to the Hero's current army, up to 10% of the matching enemies will join the player's stacks. This cannot take the player over their Leadership. Additionally, for units the player cannot recruit in this way, 12% of the army deserts, reducing the stack size the player faces, without any penalty to Experience or the like.

Skill tree requirements: Glory.

Same as Warriors of the North. So; actually worth leveling. Not even accounting for how the Demoness will want to max it eventually because of Lord.

The funny thing is, its classic functionality is borderline-worthless in Dark Side, as you'll usually be using some form of Dark unit, and you don't fight those very often, particularly not Traitor Humans, Zwerg, or Dark Elves: in spite of how logical and cool it would be, Diplomacy won't steal enemy Knights to add to your Dark Knights, for example. As such, Diplomacy is actually probably best to ignore as much as you can if you're not playing the Demoness, as the Spirit and Might Runes are better spent elsewhere.

This is compounded by the fact that, for whatever reason, Undead seem to be exempt from Diplomacy entirely. They're not a common enemy, but you fight enough groups of Undead over the course of the game this is a bit of a strike against it, especially since Undead would otherwise be the single most realistic set of units to leverage the unit-stealing behavior against. Nearly everything else is either incredibly rare to fight as enemies in a context Diplomacy can activate (eg Traitor Humans, Zwerg, etc) or not something you're liable to field. (eg various of the Neutral units) 

The whole thing feels like a bit of a missed opportunity, but oh well. It's functional enough.

Before combat begins, the player can rearrange their troops anywhere within the default starting positions.

Before combat begins, the player can rearrange their troops anywhere within up to 1 tile of default starting positions.

Before combat begins, the player can rearrange their troops anywhere within up to 2 tiles of default starting positions.

Skill tree requirements: Diversions and Learning.

It's Tactics, but with a third level version... which was actually achieved by making a new basic rank, instead of going past the old upper limit. Tactics 1 is still useful, but not nearly as much as prior games' Tactics 1, and in particular suffers a bit from a Scouting-esque flaw: you can always achieve the exact same effect by reloading and shuffling your units in their slots.

As such, I'd generally recommend not bothering buying the first rank (The addition of having to click 'start the battle' is a real-life inconvenience you don't need to suffer) until you've got enough Talent Runes to jump straight to rank 2 unless either you desperately want to unlock Foresight or are Neoline and are trying to prioritize purchasing Lord.

I like the idea of Dark Side standardizing Tactics so it has 3 ranks like most every other Skill, but I wish it had handled it some other way.

Scrolls are now sold for 30%, non-Scroll Items are sold for 50%, and Prisoners generated by combat are increased by 10%.

Scrolls are now sold for 40%, non-Scroll Items are sold for 75%, and Prisoners generated by combat are increased by 30%.

Scrolls are now sold for 50%, non-Scroll Items are sold for 100%, and Prisoners generated by combat are increased by 30%.

Skill tree requirements: Diversions and Diplomacy.

Base sell price for Scrolls is 20%, and for non-Scrolls is 25%, for reference. (And thankfully the Skill actually tells you that itself!)

I'm not sure why Trade is back, let alone with a new graphic. It's neat that it interacts with the new Prisoner mechanic, I guess? But it just means the player is back to 'don't sell anything until you've maxed Trade', only now you'd generally rather smash non-Scroll Items for the Magic Crystals (Especially since Crystal Collector is back in a non-horrible form) so it's really only 'don't sell Scrolls until you've maxed Trade'. Which is obnoxious if you're not the Demoness, since Trade is deep into the Spirit tree, and even for the Demoness it's a bit annoying since funds are tight in the early game and being able to sell Scrolls without feeling like you're costing yourself down the line would help a lot.

Trade is one of Dark Side's few This Was A Mistake Skills, and it's unfortunate it's a pretty big one.

Morale penalty from racial intolerance reduced by 1.
Morale penalty from racial intolerance reduced by 2.
Morale penalty from racial intolerance reduced by 3.

Skill tree requirements: Learning and Diplomacy.

It's Warriors of the North Persuasion, only now Morale penalties can be much harsher so it's actually been de-facto nerfed. -3 was as intolerant as a single racial interaction could get in Warriors of the North, making Persuasion 3 completely wipe racial Morale penalties. In Dark Side, -5 is actually normal for Light/Dark hatred.

Admittedly, the player has little opportunity to acquire Light units, and even less cause to actually field them, so this isn't as harsh as I'm making it sound, but still.

In practice, there's little incentive to have more than the first rank if you're not playing Neoline, and the primary reason the first rank is worth getting is that it's needed to access Oratory. The fact that it incidentally wipes out some of the interdark intolerance is a nice bonus. The ranks beyond that are generally worthless if you're not trying to level Lord, which is unfortunate. Dark Side really needed to either replace Persuasion entirely or rework it to better fit into Dark Side's overhauled racial moral framework.


Bonus of +1 Initiative, +3 to ranged unit Attack, and -7% damage taken initially.
Bonus of +2 Initiative, +5 to ranged unit Attack, and -14% damage taken initially.
Bonus of +3 Initiative, +7 to ranged unit Attack, and -21% damage taken initially.

Skill tree requirements: Tactics.

The game specifies these bonuses decay over turns, but it doesn't clarify the mechanics. I'm pretty sure it works as dropping one Skill tier per turn until you're at no bonus, same as I think Onslaught works, but not 100% certain.

In any event, it's basically Onslaught, Quickdraw, and Caution all rolled together into a single Skill and then made to actually last more than one turn (Well okay Quickdraw already did that), which is actually pretty decent! The fact that the bonus runs out is still a bit of a pain, but it's nowhere near as meh as Onslaught or Caution ever were, so I'll take it. It's also another new mechanic that genuinely encourages trying to get into the thick of things with the enemy as fast as possible so you can take advantage of the damage reduction. It tends to be overshadowed a little by how the Initiative boost and the ranged unit Attack boost both incentivize shooting the enemy to death, but it's very nice that Dark Side keeps making these efforts, where prior games persistently operate on the badly wrong premise that rushing into melee will be the player's default strategy and ranged-heavy forces are weird and underpowered.

It's also surprisingly Rune-efficient given how many Runes each rank costs, which is nice.

+1 Morale to Orcs, Demons, and Undead.
+1 Morale to all Of The Dark units and all Neutral units.
+1 Morale to all units.

Skill tree requirements: Persuasion.

I actually like this Morale spreading out a lot more than the Warriors of the North version, even if it does amount to rank 3 being largely irrelevant. It's a much more natural progression 'outward' from your core units to encompass everything else, given how Dark Side is set up.

That said, the third rank is really only worth pursuing if you're playing Neoline, and only because it feeds into Lord. Vikings-the-faction are basically the only units that benefit from it that the player has cause to care about, since Of The Light forces aren't really worth bothering with when you can just use their Dark counterparts, even aside how rarely the game gives you proper access to Of The Light units.

In fact, it's often not worth bothering going past the first rank, because you're so strongly incentivized by so many mechanisms to use Dark races. Notably, toward the beginning of the game you're quite likely to be using Black and/or Red Dragons, but even Neoline won't be able to get to Oratory 2 fast enough to make that a strong argument for pursuing Oratory 2 for its own sake. By the time Oratory is a realistic purchase, the dragons will be losing their luster. (Though admittedly Dragon Riders never stop being overpowered and are classed as Neutral)

Oratory also suffers from Dark Side having overhauled Morale so that each tier is weaker. I really feel Oratory ought to have been a +2 to Morale. Morale has always had the issue that its impact is sufficiently small it's difficult to really say whether it did anything at all, but this problem is at its strongest in Dark Side as far as single-tier boosts to Morale. I consistently buy Oratory 1 as Bagyr, but I wouldn't be surprised if realistically it's a waste of Spirit Runes that could've been spent into something actually useful.

As always, the following Skills are exclusive to the Mind Spirit class, the Paladin Skald Demoness, and I'll be using this space as a class mini-analysis.

Much like Bagyr is the first time the series has really made the Might class distinctive, interesting, and plenty powerful in its own right, Neoline is the first time the green class has properly had a coherent vision behind it that was executed well. Warriors of the North was on the right track with making the Skald king of Leadership, but then it muddied the waters with the Edda mechanic and carried forward the Paladin-ism of resurrecting fallen troops. Neoline strips out the Edda mechanic and makes the green class distinctive by being the class that will bury the enemy in bodies.

She has more Leadership than you do. She needs less Leadership for her troops than you do, so her already-high Leadership actually goes even farther than it sounds. She automatically replaces casualties for free, and not like 'oh one stack was completely wiped out let's bring it back' but rather 'every single battle I fight more flock to my banner, fighting back against the tide of attrition'. She passively retaliates for a proportion of the damage you did, which hurts when she has such numbers backing her.

Also she has Sense Weakness for some damn reason, which has no connection to the rest of this, but unlike Edda it doesn't completely warp the class focus so sure why not.

Taken altogether, Neoline is master of raising massive armies that never run out, and while Leadership is designed to minimize the difference between 'this stack is made of a powerful unit' vs 'this stack is made of a lot of weak units' and whatnot (That is, to an extent more Leadership value is interchangeable with greater Attack and Defense), there are still a number of ways this genuinely matters. It means that many scaling Talents are much more effective in Neoline's hands -Heretics nuking someone with their Healing Talent is only affected by stack count, not Attack and Defense scores, for example- but it also means that certain tools are quite difficult to leverage for her. Interestingly, where prior green classes have had a focus on Resurrection-the-Spell, Neoline finds it much less valuable than the other classes: since it heals a certain amount of Health rather than eg a percentage of the stack's original size, if Neoline and Bagyr both lose a full third of a stack of so-and-so unit type, Neoline will have to cast more Resurrections to undo all the casualties than Bagyr would.

The overall effect is amazing and I love it.

This does come with the unfortunate caveat that Neoline's success as a design is pretty heavily undermined by Blood Priestesses being a thing. Sure, Neoline can take a seed population and raise it into a full army by nurturing it with a series of battles... but so could Bagyr and Daert by just having Blood Priestesses Sacrifice up more copies from what amounts to nothing. I'm tolerant of this error in no small part because I suspect that if Dark Side had been properly polished the devs would've noticed how abusable Blood Priestesses are and closed that exploit -that it's a product of being rushed, and not of fundamentally bad principles.

But if you play 'honestly', it's seriously a joy to see a green class done right.

All enemy troops suffer -1 to Morale. Additionally, every 2 ranks of Spirit Skills (Counting from the 10th, meaning this bonus first shows up on the 11th) lowers the Leadership requirements for all units by 1%.

Skill tree requirements: Everything Tactics, Trade, and Persuasion.

Curiously, the game's spritesheet has graphics for two more ranks of Lord:

Archmage technically does too, but only because it's recycling the original Archmage 1 graphic. Chieftain uses a whole new graphic, and it doesn't have versions for second and third ranks.

It makes me wonder if there was a period they were considering the super-Skills having multiple ranks, or if the Lord graphic is actually hijacking art meant for a different Skill, or what. It's curious.

In any event, Lord sounds a bit underwhelming in practice -and the minus for enemy Morale is definitely a bit eh- but in actuality it cements the Demoness as queen of leading massive armies. -17% to all Leadership requirements when your entire tree is maxed is more than 20% more leadership, functionally, stacking favorably with Glory and critically stacking favorably with other Leadership reducers. You've got a Medal -one you're absolutely guaranteed to get at least two ranks in- that reduces female unit Leadership requirements, you can get Leadership requirement reductions from your current Title, and Dark Side is fond of gear that reduces Leadership requirements in general, such as how each Hero starts with an Item that gives 10% off of their species or how you're guaranteed access to a series of Items that slash the Leadership requirements of Traitor Humans. -17% off is pretty darn nice by itself, but it turns amazing when you're stacking it onto other effects; Blood Priestesses, for example, benefit from Connoisseur of Beauty and the Demon Leadership reducing Item, which would normally max out at -30% (-20% from the Medal, -10% from the Item) to Leadership, a 42% increase in Leadership. Backed by Lord bringing you down to -47% Leadership, you're very nearly doubling how many of them you can field.

So yeah, Neoline can field monstrously huge armies, and in particular gets far more benefit out of Leadership-reducing effects. When you're playing Neoline, you should keep an eye out for gear that reduces Leadership requirements on units: there's quite a lot of cases of this for various Dark factions in Dark Side, and in Neoline's hands this can be astonishingly effective. Then there's how this all interacts with Recruiter, as we'll be covering in a minute...

Sense Weakness
+3% crit chance for all units, while enemies have 3% less crit chance against your units.

+5% crit chance for all units, while enemies have 5% less crit chance against your units.


+7% crit chance for all units, while enemies have 7% less crit chance against your units.


Skill tree requirements: Lord.

I have no idea why they brought back Sense Weakness, let alone made it one of Neoline's exclusive Skills. It remains a really lame, overpriced Skill, and Dark Side has done nothing to change that.

You'll max it eventually to max Lord, but that's the only reason why. This should be one of your lowest priorities, above only higher ranks in Persuasion and Oratory.

After battle is completed, 1% of your Leadership in your current units is added to your army.

After battle is completed, 2% of your Leadership in your current units is added to your army.

After battle is completed, 3% of your Leadership in your current units is added to your army.

Skill tree requirements: Lord.

The above is approximately the in-game description. It's not correct, but the truth seems to be very complicated and somewhat randomized. I've seen even rank 1 adding a unit I could only lead 11 copies of at the time, I've seen it provide 11 Imps one battle and 17 the next battle, and I've never seen it provide a Black Dragon. It seems to get a bit confused if it's having to stuff two units in reserves because you're full, refusing to add to more than 2 units at a time... but if you have a unit simultaneously in reserves and in your force, this limitation sometimes goes away... it's all very strange and confusing, and your main takeaway should be that using high Leadership units is actually really effective with Recruiter, contrary to what you might expect with such low percentages.

The percentages seem to be roughly accurate when you're dealing with low-Leadership units -ie if you can lead 300 of a unit, you can expect to get something like 3/6/9 of the unit at Recruiter 1/2/3 per battle- but there's some generous rounding going on, or maybe a die roll thing, or something. And you don't always recruit a given unit type at all, no particular pattern I can identify.

On the plus side, though, this isn't like Recruiter units in Armored Princess, where they picked one unit to randomly boost: this Recruiter Skill can potentially add troops to all five of your slots just fine. So long as the stars align and its confusing, erratic behavior cooperates, anyway. The biggest  point of consistency I've found is that units that are in reserves and also in your forces take priority over your other units for generation.

Recruiter is kind of hilariously abusable, under the right circumstances. Decent play -not super elite hyper awesome play, just decent- can lead to silliness like having more than twice your Leadership in Archdemons just hanging out in reserves because you keep recruiting copies without actually losing more than one in a given battle. Which can in turn fund recklessly attacking battlegroups you're not supposed to be ready to take on, because you can just accept having the Archdemons wipe so long as you win because you'll just pull half your reserve force that you got completely free.

This actually doesn't work so well with lower-Leadership units, but it is nice being able to shrug off minor casualties and not bother to specifically go re-max your troops when you level, find Banners, etc, because Recruiter will handle that bit for you well enough.

So yeah, Recruiter can be an amazing Skill once you get a handle on making it work for you more or less.

It's also an essential Skill on a design level for finally making it so that being the high-Leadership class is more properly an advantage. Warriors and then the Skald always suffered from how leveraging their 'advantage' ate into their pockets (Though the Skald could bear the burden thanks to how ridiculous the Song of Infinite Money is...), and this is something of a problem for Neoline too, but once you have Recruiter you suddenly have a portion of your costs being covered for free by it. No longer is it 'well sure my army can be twice as large as the next guy's but I literally can't afford to get there'. Huzzah!

Another mechanical note: Recruiter does factor in Leadership-cost-modifying effects. (ie if you've halved the Leadership cost of a unit, you'll recruit twice as many of them after a battle) Also: as far as my testing has worked out, Recruiter seems to be barred from recruiting Neutral units entirely. I suspect this is a brute-force way of blocking you from Recruiting up more Dragon Riders, personally, but regardless it makes Neutral units pretty difficult to justify for Neoline once you're into the midgame. Better to field units Recruiter actually affects.

Eye for an Eye
When your units take damage, there's a 10% chance of the attacker taking 10% of the damage they just inflicted.

When your units take damage, there's a 10% chance of the attacker taking 15% of the damage they just inflicted.

When your units take damage, there's a 10% chance of the attacker taking 20% of the damage they just inflicted.

Skill tree requirements: Lord.

We've seen this Skill before (Favorite of the Gods), and it wasn't very great then. It hasn't actually changed, new graphic aside. Even the in-battle description when it triggers still refers to gods punishing your enemies!

As with Sense Weakness, I don't really get why this was made exclusive to Neoline. It's not that great a Skill, and while Recruiter makes Neoline tolerant of minor casualties, it's not remotely enough to make Eye for an Eye all that useful. It's just very intermittently going to do some minor damage to the enemy. Yay? Why is this being treated by the game as if it's a high-end, class-defining Skill?

That said, Eye for an Eye actually operates on the damage an attack should have done, not necessarily the damage it did do: if your unit dodges an attack, Eye for an Eye can still trigger for the damage they should've taken, and similarly even though Orc Shield displays 0 damage being done if it absorbed the attack, Eye for an Eye will retaliate appropriate to the health removed from the shield. This doesn't do a ton to help it in practice, but it something.

And to be fair, Eye for an Eye does make sense 'from a distance'. Having a bigger army than the enemy and punish them with retaliatory damage scaled to your size makes perfect sense as being part and parcel of Having The Biggest Army in principle. The problem is Eye for an Eye's numbers just don't work out, especially with how hugely Dark Side grows enemy battlegroups in the late-game. So... it's more coherent in idea than in Warriors of the North, but it doesn't work in practice.


Next time, we wrap up Skills with checking out Magic.

It's changed more than you might expect.


Popular Posts