Warriors of the North Companion Analysis

You level your Valkyries (Increasing their passive bonuses and improving the effectiveness of their activated out-of-battle skills) first by gifting them Items of a type they 'prefer' ('Preference' makes it sound like you can give them other Items for a lesser boost or something, but no, you just have to give them their 'preferred' Item type{s}) until they stop accepting them. (I think the progress is that you need 1/2/4?) Once they're Level 4, if you talk to them they'll have a new dialogue option (They're all something to the effect of 'what's bothering you, Valkyrie?') which will generate a Quest that, upon completion, brings them to their max level.

Note that they don't care about the Item's Level. Ideally you'll gift them low Level Items, and save the higher Level ones for Artifactor smashing. This is especially relevant if you're actually pursuing the Crystal Collector Medal, though it comes with the caveat that no Valkyrie cares about Helmets/Hats so you can feel free to smash those the instant you have the relevant ranks in Artifactor. Same with Clothes, though this doesn't crop up often in Warriors of the North -there's just not that many Items of the Clothing category, and they're somewhat biased to the late game to boot.

Each Valkyrie has a passive bonus they provide, with whichever Valkyrie is considered to be the 'head' Valkyrie having a bigger bonus than if they're not in front. When you have only one Valkyrie, she is the head one, naturally. Each Valkyrie also grants you one new Rage move, as covered in Rage, and additionally has an activatable out-of-battle skill you can use every so-and-so many battles, which normally provide a benefit in the next battle. You can only have one such skill activated at a time, and this includes that if you use Gudrida's Furious Revenge and then let the Rage drain away entirely you still can't use another Valkyrie's skill.

Also note that their battle cooldown rates all advance even with Keeper fights. This is unusual; Items that eg have Morale that rots per battle won't advance their 'clock' off of doing a Keeper fight, but the Valkyries will. This can occasionally be useful if you want to fiddle with the timing of Item shenanigans and Valkyrie shenanigans. Mostly it means you shouldn't blithely upgrade a bunch of items back-to-back while ignoring your Valkyrie.


Christa the Stunning
Passive: Chests provide more gold.
Head: +8%/+13%/+17%/+22%/+25%
Back: +2%/+3%/+4%./+5%/+6%
Gear preference: Regalia.
Max level Quest: You'll have to give her 1 million Gold. That's... it.

Active
Rite of Grief
20 battle cooldown
In the next battle, the player gets a percentage of the Gold value of any units they lose. (10% at Level 1, 15% at Level 2, 25% at Level 3, ?% at Level 4, 100% at Level 5?)

Rage Skill: Christa's Gift.

Interestingly, the internal files designate Christa as the fifth Valkyrie, even though she's the first one you encounter in the game. It's especially interesting because she's the only Valkyrie that's out of order.

Unless you're really lucky, the bigger obstacle to getting Christa to max level isn't going to be the exorbitant Gold cost, but the overall rarity of Regalia, especially low-Level/disposable Regalia. Every time I've run through Warriors of the North, a million gold was a noticeable chunk of change but not breathtaking by the time I'd found enough Regalia I was willing to part with.

Christa is ideally made Head Valkyrie when you're running around scooping up stuff without fighting, and more debatably should be put in back when you're going in for combat. She does affect the rewards from chests in battle, but they're uncommon, and in the long haul the occasional case of a chest giving a bit less gold in battle really doesn't matter. On the other hand, that micromanagement gets tedious, so personally I mostly don't bother. I tend to just keep her in front up until I've maxed Fat Cat, and whenever I stop keeping her in front I don't bother to pull her out for out-of-combat chests even though that would be optimal. It's... one of the more ill-thought-out elements of the Valkyrie system, unfortunately.

Christa demanding Regalia to level her is honestly rather frustrating. She's the single most difficult Valkyrie to level up, period: I've done 3 runs that got far enough to assemble the full set of Valkyrie, and in all three she was by far the last Valkyrie I got to Level 5. The fact is, Regalia aren't very common, low-Level Regalia are especially unusual, and the whole situation is compounded by how Regalia are fairly versatile and even the 'bad' Regalia are usually something you could justify using over other Regalia depending on the situation. I usually end up having to donate Level 3 Regalia that aren't even all that bad to get her to max Level at all, let alone in an even vaguely timely manner, which is unusual: Hilda is the only other Valkyrie where I ever donate anything above Level 2, and it doesn't happen nearly as often as with Christa! And even with this flexibility, Christa still ends up not hitting Level 5 until partway into the late game, never mind that she's the first Valkyrie!

I really wish Christa had been swapped with Mista as far as Item demands goes, because the current dynamic is fairly ridiculous.

I've already been over how fairly incredible Christa's Gift is in the early game, so in that regard it's quite appreciated that Christa comes first.

Character-wise, Christa doesn't have much of one. This is a bit of an issue in general with the Valkyries; ironically, the fact that they're tied into the main plot tends to lead to them being especially perfunctory in their handling, instead of them engaging significantly with the core plot in a way prior Companions would've been a huge pain to do for limited payoff. Christa is narratively defined more by being the first Valkyrie than by any internal character traits, with her personal character being limited to basically 'she likes pretty things and money, with the latter possibly just being an extension of the former'.

I also cringe a little at the fact that you get explicitly told 'the Stunning' is in part a reference to her 'stunning beauty'. It could certainly be worse, but overall the Valkyrie get more focus on their beauty and whatnot than on being warriors serving literal gods who take the worthy dead to Valhalla and so on. That's broadly in line with prior Companions, but prior Companions weren't warriors sent by divinities to aid the player character in fighting against elemental evil. They were people your character took an interest in and convinced to join them on their journey for internal reasons. Emphasizing how attractive they were in part served to provide a reason why this or that particular character caught the player character's eye while so many other NPCs have no chance of joining you on your journey. In the Valkyries' case, it just feels gratuitous.


Gudrida the Fierce
Passive: Max Rage increase.
Head: +4/8/16/24/28
Back: +1/2/4/6/7
Gear preference: Gloves, Belts, and Boots.
Max Level Quest: 10 Orc battlegroups spawn across Nordlig, Vestlig, and Fastland. You must destroy them all to complete the Quest. There's 3 per island, all restricted to the main island, with the exception that Nordlig has a fourth occupying its lighthouse's island. Note that this Quest can't be triggered until you've reached Greenwort.

Active
Furious Revenge
7 battle cooldown
Immediately grants the player Rage. (The value is 5/10/15/20 Rage added for Levels 1/2/3/4, whereas at Level 5 it fills your Rage to full)

Rage Skill: Gudrida's Rage.

I'm going with 'Furious Revenge' for her out-of-battle Skill, even though the dialogue refers to it as Gudrida's Rage. Gudrida's Rage makes more sense, but then I'd be talking about how Gudrida gives Gudrida's Rage and also Gudrida's Rage.

Gudrida's Item requirements aren't particularly difficult to meet overall. While Gloves, Belts, and Boots are individually not particularly common categories, collectively they show up fairly regularly and they all three include really junk-y options like '+1 Defense and nothing else' that are easily replaced with actually-decent Items. She won't jump straight to Level 4 when you first get her, but she might hit Level 3, depending on your luck.

It's annoying her Level 5 Quest can't be triggered until you've reached Darion, particularly since I'm pretty sure the only reason this was done was because the idea behind the Quest is that while you were gone the Viking lands were invaded, rather than because of any game balancing feature or anything. The Viking in particular can easily reach such huge amounts of Rage and Rage requirements that her Level 4 Rage gift ends up well below what you need/what she'd give you at Level 5 even though you're not very far into the game, but this can happen to any class, such as if you luck into the Rage Set early on. (Which I've done, so this isn't a pure hypothetical!) So she can be by far the most dramatic a jump in utility going to Level 5, and then there's a plot-lock preventing you from actually taking her there.

Gudrida tends to be my default head Valkyrie, especially once I've gotten far enough to start having ranks in Bloodlust. Her boost is useful no matter what kind of army you're fielding, no matter what kind of army you're facing (Aside Bosses, of course; make sure to swap her out before you fight a Boss), and no matter what class you're playing, and swapping her around doesn't create any weird annoying problems for you like with Hilda.

Gudrida's Rage is, of course, a fantastic Rage skill, and it's honestly quite frustrating how you have to clear out a good chunk of the island she's on to get her to join you. Ninjaing your way to her location doesn't help if you haven't killed all the Heroes. I tend to feel that it's one of four low points in how the early game is designed, with the other three being the Giant Undead Spider, the extremely limited number of enemies to fight on the first island before being thrown into an unavoidable and challenging fight, and lastly the choice to not let you build Rage experience prior to meeting Christa. Of those four... it's probably the least problematic. Annoying, but if someone was only willing to fix two of these issues the Giant Undead Spider and the overly-tiny pool of enemies on the first island would be my first choices by far.

Character-wise, Gudrida is thankfully a bit better-defined than Christa is. She's an angry furious warrior of anger and furiousness who angrily beats enemies to death with her anger. It could use more nuance, but it's something focused on her nature as a warrior, and if you talk to her she has dialogue a bit more focused on how you shouldn't be a wimp and whatnot so it's not like there's nothing else to her. And really, her limited character mostly comes back to the game not having the Valkyrie engage with the main plot much.


Hilda the Warrior
Passive: Boosts Leadership.
Head: +200/500/700/900/1000
Back: +50/125/175/225/275
Gear preference: Weapons.
Max Level Quest: On Merlassar, a fight with a dragon Hero spawns in a building. You must defeat them.

Active
Banner of Valhalla
15 battle cooldown
In the next battle, the player's forces gain Initiative, as well as Speed at higher levels, and also Persistence of Mind at level 5. The progression is 1/0, 1/1, 1/1, 1/1, 2/2 of Initiative/Speed, with Level 5 additionally adding Persistence of Mind.

Rage Skill: Hilda's Arrows.

Note that it's mechanically possible to find Hilda before Gudrida, but she won't actually join you until after Gudrida has joined you. No real reason given. It's a bit annoying because it's not that hard to ninja your way to Hilda, whereas it's actually both fairly difficult to ninja to Gudrida and more importantly she demands you kill 3 local Heroes before she'll join you. Which means you really need an actual minimum amount of strength to acquire Gudrida. It's all sort of arbitrary, and I can only hope the underlying reason was something understandable like 'it crashed the game if the player got Hilda first and we couldn't figure out how to do away with that bug so we gave up and just said you can't' rather than 'because we decided you'd get them in this particular order, shut up'.

It's also worth pointing out that playing Ice and Fire lets you get Hilda to Level 5 much earlier than in the base game. In the base game, you won't get a chart to Merlassar until you're something like 2/3rds of the way through the game. In Ice and Fire, you can get it when you're less than a third of the way into the game. This isn't tremendously huge, but it can occasionally allow you to make a fight more manageable if a key problem for you is something Persistence of Mind will block. (eg Evil Beholder's mind controlling one of your units)

Hilda's Leadership boost is fairly annoying. If you like having her as head Valkyrie, then you'll have to figure out how to offload the above-Leadership troops in any situation you're considering swapping her out for a different Valkyrie for a fight. If you don't want to deal with all that nonsense, you end up just leaving her in back all the time. The boosts aren't even all that significant relative to what your Leadership is likely to be relative to her level at any given point, so it's not like it's a way to help you push past some single particularly tough encounter.

Hilda demanding Weapons is also a bit awkward, though not nearly so bad as Christa wanting Regalia. While low-Level Weapons are a bit rare -make sure you do the tutorial! It gives a guaranteed Training Axe! And Runes!- and out-and-out junk Weapons are uncommon, there's enough Level 2-3 Weapons that are strictly inferior to other Weapons that it's not like it's an opportunity cost to give them up. It's just a little annoying how it costs you more Magic Crystals than if you had a healthy supply of Level 1 junk to donate. Slightly more bothersome is how slow she'll tend to level -she's not as bad as Christa is about taking until late in the game to hit max level, but it still contributes to her Leadership boosts being pretty irrelevant. If you've gotten her to Level 5, your Leadership is probably already somewhere over 10,000, where even putting her in front for 1,000 Leadership is kind of whatever.

Banner of Valhalla is generically useful, which actually makes it pretty hard to find a clearly good time to use it. I mostly just use it whenever its ready to advance the Favorite of the Valkyrie Medal.

Hilda's Arrows is junk, and the fact that it's junk is actually a contributing factor in it being annoying that you have to acquire Gudrida first. If you could ninja your way to Hilda directly, Hilda's Arrows would have a noticeably larger number of battles in which its damage was meaningfully relevant where the battles themselves were challenging enough to care. It's especially frustrating that Gudrida's Rage starts out so much stronger than Hilda's Arrows, as it means even if you grab Gudrida and then ninja to Hilda directly with no fights in between it's still the case that you'll have extremely narrow circumstances in which Hilda's Arrows is worth using. At their base values, hitting two units with Gudrida's Rage is just better than Hilda's Arrows hitting its full 3 enemies, and Gudrida's Rage can initially be spammed turn in and turn out!

If Hilda were swapped with Christa, Hilda's Arrows would still end up junk in the long haul, but you'd get to enjoy it for a respectable chunk of the early game, and having it placed earlier would also mean you'd have time to level it up so it's more competitive with other skills before they show up, so it would stay competitive for even longer.

Alas.

Character-wise, Hilda... exists? I really couldn't put a name to her characterization. I'm pretty sure the developers were just as hazy as I am on what Hilda is really about, too. She's named 'the warrior', when, you know, they're all warriors. That does not speak to a strong, distinct concept.


Regina the Stone
Passive: Boosts the Attack of Level 5 units.
Head: +4/+8/+12/+16/+20
Back: +1/+2/+3/+4/+5
Gear preference: Armor and Shields.
Max Level Quest: You have to sacrifice 10 units to Regina in total. They can be (almost) any Level 5 unit except for Bone Dragons, but they must be a Level 5 unit. You can do this in steps.

Active
Tribute to Weakness
15 battle cooldown
A number of stacks that are below Level 4 will have their casualties undone after the battle. (This won't allow a fight to count for Grand Strategian's purposes, note) This is 1 stack at Levels 1-2, 2 stacks at Levels 3-4, and 3 stacks at Level 5.

Rage Skill: Regina's Messenger.

Annoyingly, her max level Quest doesn't seem to have been updated for Ice and Fire, as she won't accept Tirexes, and I suspect this extends to not accepting the other Level 5 units added by Ice and Fire, though I haven't specifically tested the other cases.

Note that Clothing (The Item type that used to be Dresses in Armored Princess) doesn't count as Armor for Regina's gift purposes.

Her active Skill gets translated as 'Trembling Hammer' in the dialogue box, but Tribute to Weakness is what gets listed when you hover over her and that makes way more sense, so it's what I'm listing. I wouldn't be surprised if this is some Russian pun or something causing the inconsistency... it's also somewhat inconsistent. Usually it will completely undo casualties from the affected units, but sometimes it will undo merely the majority of the casualties. I suspect a bug, but it's possible it's a feature not communicated at all. Either way, it's frustrating.

Armor and Shields is one of the easier Item requirements to meet, as you get a fair few low-Level Shields that are A: complete junk and B: directly inferior to other Shields, and while low-Level junk Armor is a bit rarer Armor still has a tendency toward 'and now you've found an Armor that's 100% superior to this one and will never again care about the inferior one'. Between these points and how they aren't particularly rare Item types, it's possible -not probable, but reasonably possible- that you'll be able to get her to Level 4 the very instant she's joined up.

One thing that's a bit frustrating is that Regina's passive bonus and her active effect encourage completely different army types. This is offset some by the fact that her passive boost isn't even that useful -Level 5 units all have innately high enough attack that between their innate value and your Hero's value there's plenty of times they'll have the maximum damage bonus anyway- but it's still a frustrating and somewhat inexplicable bit of her design. It doesn't really help that Companions in prior games encouraging you to specialize in specific unit types made game design sense but a Valkyrie doing so does not; in prior games, you got to customize yourself in part via Companion. In Warriors of the North, they're unavoidable always-on boosts, and so just distort your incentives.

Tribute to Weakness is one of the more useful Valkyrie overland skills for helping you push through a battlegroup that's supposed to be too large to really be worth taking on. Just bring along low-level stacks of some kind, have them handle your tanking needs, and watch them bounce back to full afterward. Having a couple of low-level unit types you keep in a convenient castle to swap them in, or maybe in Reserves if you're fine with not being able to use your Reserves slots for other things, can be worth considering. The only real flaw there is that Warriors of the North's endgame progression is... pretty generous, such that increasingly that kind of situation isn't relevant. The skill also recharges too slow for you to just keep such stacks in your rotation and be reckless with them on a semi-routine basis. It's too bad; the skill itself doesn't need to be changed, it's just Warriors of the North's late game needed better tuning.

Character-wise, Regina seems to be intended to be, like, stalwart or something? I guess? Most of her characterization comes in the form of her being weakened and needing you to kill off an undead lord for her so she can stop being weakened. Once she's joined you, she's basically done talking, and poking at her afterward doesn't really get you much to work with.

I kinda suspect Warriors of the North was a bit rushed, honestly, with one of the consequences of this being that the later Valkyrie just didn't get as much attention. It fits to the Rage skill quality unevenness -Christa's Gift is great, albeit the level upgrades are slightly buggy, Gudrida's Rage is fantastic, and then the later Valkyrie Rage skills range from 'horrible' to 'usable but not great'- and it fits to how the first couple of Valkyrie have more and better writing.


Mista the Misty
Passive: Increases Hero Defense.
Head: 9%/13%/17%/21%/25%
Back: 2%/3%/4%/5%/6%
Gear preference: Artifacts.
Max Level Quest: Retrieve the Shield and Armor of Tyr. The Shield of Tyr is dropped by a battlegroup in Istering, right in front of the bear that was once a man. The Armor of Tyr is dropped by a battlegroup in the Riftlands, nearby Necrotix the Bone Dragon Hero.

Active
Bliss of Solitude
7 battle cooldown
In the next battle, one random stack per turn goes Berserk for 3 turns. Additionally, units that go Berserk remain under your control, whether the Berserk is from the Spell, from Bliss of Solitude, or is a Viking or Berserker using their Talent or the Berserker's Ability triggering.

Rage Skill: Mista's Lightning.

Assuming you've been holding onto Artifacts for Mista, it's very likely you'll hurl a bunch of garbage like Fishing Nets at her and instantly activate her Level 5 Quest. (In which case you'll definitely stumble into the Shield, which is convenient since the game doesn't actually tell you where to go) In my experience, it's completely normal to throw a bunch of Level 1 Artifacts at her and still have more to smash for Magic Crystals!

This is why I wish Christa and Mista were swapped in Item requirements: if Christa required Artifacts and Mista Regalia, what would happen is that Christa would experience a steady progression in power over the course of the game, probably maxing out somewhere in Darion, and when you got Mista she'd jump to Level 2 or maybe 3 and then experience a slow progression from there to her final Level. As-is, it's basically a joke that the game doesn't just have her arrive as Level 4. And honestly it seems like it would make more thematic sense, given Christa's whole thing is that she likes shiny bobbles and bits and Artifacts includes the most gems and whatnot, whereas Regalia tend to be things like flags and badges. Mista's Level 5 Quest certainly doesn't build on the Artifacts theme; it's a Weapon and a Shield, after all.

Bliss of Solitude is very notable for making it worth considering actually leveling the Berserk Spell -being able to use it without disadvantage every 7 battles takes away its primary flaw and makes it not so bad a Spell. By a similar token, Vikings and Berserkers become notably more appealing once you've gotten to Mista. It's not a fantastic skill in practice, but I very much like the idea of it.

I'm unsure if Bliss of Solitude meaningfully levels with Mista, though admittedly it doesn't really matter if you're playing at all sensibly. There are simply far too many junk Artifacts to throw Mista's way, making it trivial to get her to Level 4; the Armor of Tyr being in the Riftlands is the only reason it's not possible to get her to max Level right away.

Also note that Mista joining you is the point at which your horse picks up flight. It's a good idea to go back and check out the Jotun Houses -conveniently marked on your map, and thank goodness because they're easily overlooked- in Nordlig, Vestlig, and Istering once you've gotten Mista, as they tend to sell good Items, such as Talent Rune-providing ones, even if you don't care about reliable access to Jotun. (Which, let's be honest, you probably don't care)

... in Ice and Fire. In the base game, you actually get flight far earlier, before you're even able to reach the island Gudrida is on. This is a change I have mixed feelings about and one of the few serious downsides to playing Ice and Fire instead of the base game: on the one hand, to be honest in the base game flight really is given to you way too early, distorting a lot of the strategic challenge of navigating your environment and managing risk and whatnot, not to mention ending up with flight not really feeling like a reward. On the other hand, Ice and Fire pushes flight access way too far back, and a lot of elements of map design in the game make so much more sense in the context of the early flight access, such as the Jotun Houses that can only be accessed by flight showing up early in the game, the tendency for Warriors of the North's maps to use twisty, tight corridors that make it difficult to avoid enemies, and the related tendency for maps past Nordlig to be a pain in the butt to get from point A to point B if restricted to land routes: because these maps were really designed with early flight in mind.

Indeed, a good chunk of the early game is much more of a pain in Ice and Fire than in Warriors of the North as a result, with some Quests suddenly becoming much more tedious to perform because the different steps of these Quests are pretty short distances apart as the crow flies but much farther apart when taking the twisting land route, relatively easy encounters often placed behind notably tougher encounters (Forcing you to sneak past in Ice and Fire if you want to focus on what's easily in reach first, vs in the base game you just fly past effortlessly), and in general traveling about for purposes like swinging by shops takes noticeably longer. There's a couple of Quests that actually benefit -there's a Quest on Fastland that, if you don't already know how it works, is easy to accidentally bypass the trigger for the fight necessary to complete it in the base game precisely due to your guaranteed flight access- but overall it's a big pain, and though Ice and Fire does make changes to the early maps, very few of these changes are designed to accommodate the lack of early flight.

This change also includes the strange side effect of making a conversation early in the game with Christa very confusing. In Ice and Fire, this conversation is her randomly telling you that you're not worthy of a flying horse yet, for no clear reason. This being because it's a replacement for the base-game conversation of her telling you, "Hey, I'm a Valkyrie, you're a chosen of the gods, let's give you your winged horse already." If you never play the base game, you're just going to be deeply confused as to why Christa speaks up there at all, let alone why it's to randomly tell you she's not giving you a thing nobody brought up.

Again, I actually somewhat agree with Ice and Fire's impulse here, where flight really is given to you too early in the base game, but Ice and Fire's attempt to correct this was... sloppy.

Character-wise, I have absolutely no idea what Mista's thing is supposed to be. She's the only Valkyrie whose title doesn't really seem to be anything other than like a pun-ish thing relating to her name, and her dialogue when she shows up is pretty much just an infodump on what all just happened to get you on the road to the next leg of the plot.


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In practice I feel Warriors of the North probably has the weakest Companion system, with it outright carving away four item slots the game's design still 'expects' you to have, and with the Valkyrie capacity for customizing your hero being much more limited. I'd have rather had something like leveling up a Valkyrie prompts you to pick a bonus out of a list of bonuses that is more than the 4 levels you'd grant them, maybe allowing you to level up existing bonuses as an option instead, with each Valkyrie having her own set of bonuses with only partial overlap with the other Valkyrie, instead of this 'Head Valkyrie' thing. Not to mention I'd have liked to have still had my four item slots somehow or another!

Such a bonus-selection system would be a meaningful and interesting way of letting the player customize their character while still keeping the Valkyrie plot-gated instead of optional. And there's a lot of different angles that could've been taken, such as some of the bonuses being about boosting the Valkyrie's Rage skill!

I appreciate how Warriors of the North dodges some of my complaints with the prior Companion system, but... I feel more was lost than gained, when it gets down to it. One of the more subtle examples is how Sets have lost a lot of viability: in Armored Princess, Sets tended to require Companion support to really justify themselves, because it would be stronger to eg have a great non-Set Weapon, non-Set Armor, and non-Set Shield than to swap them all out for a Set made of a Weapon, Armor, and Shield that were all of dubious quality and whose Set bonus wasn't that great. With a Companion adding in slots, it was far more likely that a Set would actually add value rather than subtract value... without that, in Warriors of the North it's consistently difficult to justify using Sets unless you get really, really lucky with finding all the components of a Set early, before a lot of the guaranteed good/great/amazing standalone Items get fobbed off on you. Getting that lucky being fantastically unlikely, so... that sucks.

Especially since Ice and Fire outright adds in some Sets that are guaranteed to be something you won't complete early enough to be able to justify using them. It's pretty cringe-worthy that Ice and Fire didn't notice the loss in viability in Sets and work to either correct it or at least recognize that new Sets were not really worth the bother of making unless they were made to be really good somehow or another.

Next time, we check out Medals in Warriors of the North.

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