First, a comment on the custom items. I never used the Flail and rarely used the water shield, but others have told me they're useful for a number of fights. I'd probably have used the Flail more were I playing on a lower difficulty setting; I can't deny it's a fun weapon. As for the water shield, all of the boss fights where I would have found exchanging stamina for durability useful included lightning attacks, so I only really used it to avoid catching fire. The only one that I really considered problematic was Quake. Evan and I have discussed this, and he seems to agree that he wrote himself into a corner between that one and the superboss. If a weapon like that needs to be used to beat something (which every offensive spell does for the superboss), it has to have at least some degree of aim, but this renders it overpowered against everything else. (As it is now, I was able to cheese a good number of spirits - including the one supposedly strong against its element! - and most minibosses with it, even on Swindling.) The only workaround I can think of would be to
When writing this, I'd initially planned to save discussing the bosses for last, but this connects to the item issue a bit. The wind spell, like the rest, is optional, but the final boss of Ending B has one attack that can't reliably be dodged without it (the one with the spinning lasers). Others have told me otherwise, mentioning something about running through the circles before they're fully grown, but this would require you to be standing so close to the boss before it starts charging that it could score a guaranteed hit on you with a different attack. That fight was probably my least favourite in the quest. The rest, barring Patra (seriously?), were spectacular. They're incredibly diverse and always kept me on my toes. Some have complained that they're "overdesigned" and too complicated for a ZC quest, but I personally don't see how boss complexity is bad; in fact, what I loved most about this quest was throwing myself at each one until I'd completely taken its attack patterns apart (which, on Swindling, you will need to do for the ones you can't cheese with Quake). Beating the superboss felt like a real accomplishment, the reward be damned.
SpoilerMy only two complaints about the superboss are as follows:
- Its design more or less forces you to pause-buffer (because of all the weapon-switching you have to do). As a result, I had an easier time with this guy than with Tartaros in IoR, even though the former is clearly tougher on paper.
- Its second attack cycle includes both the time spell and a leaping attack that can't just be jumped over with wind on the spot. This is problematic because a good number of spells can't be used to cancel the former, creating a possibility (albeit a somewhat remote one) of forced damage when accounting for the immunity mechanic.
I think the one place where this quest was weakest was the story. This might just be because I have a habit of over-thinking plots, but I felt like this one had more holes than a certain North American dairy product everyone thinks is from Central Europe:
SpoilerStill, the plot didn't seem to be the focus of this quest, and it was still fun despite the holes.
The music was also great. This quest really benefited from the OGG soundtrack, especially the tracks for the desert, story bosses, and superboss.
The enemies and map design were good, but I felt like a few places were downright unfair (and would be on any difficulty). The worst offender was definitely Miasma Keep, in which you can easily end up trapped until you win a lengthy race against a timed switch. This does not mix well with tracking Keese, and this part of the map was my least favourite as a result - yes, I hated it even more than lightning attacks in general (which were also frustrating). Also, I somehow reached the third key guardian without ever seeing random weather. I've been told this is rare, but it still stopped me from doing several sidequests until I figured out how the random trigger works (protip: it's time-based, not screen-based).
Other comments: There's one key and one inventory space you'll never use, due to what I've heard was a miscount and an unfulfilled contingency, respectively.
Final score: 4.5/5, because only the Quake, Trinexx, and map design issues really hurt my enjoyment of this near-masterpiece. Rounded up to 5 because that's how mathematicians do it for some reason.