Well, I got through the game for the first time today. Version 1.0a, Standard mode. Chose Elenor as a Thief. After an uneventful Chapter 1, I switched to Hard Mode and felt that it lives up to its name. I beat it with a party between level 12 and 16. (Loren and Elenor at 16, Karen at 15)
The game feels pretty balanced early on, but later on you notice the speed difference between someone with 140 speed and someone with 120, or even 130 speed is pretty ridiculous. I think the mages generally have problems keeping up, since if you poured that much into their Skill stats they probably won't have much SP and can only cast 2-4 spells before running dry. Warriors have it better since they can spam low-delay, low-cost skills and attacks, and of course you need a few people who can soak up a few hits without getting staggered.
You guys have heard this already, but the Speed stat feels kinda broken late in the game since it feels like... the number of turns you get as your speed increases goes up exponentially
, it feels like. The most crippling thing that can happen to you or the enemy late in the game is probably Stagger or Slow on a fair amount of your party, because of this (and Paralysis of course). Balancing can be tough though; it's because of little tricks like this that I was able to get through Hard Mode without too much grinding.
I won't say which characters are good or not since there's a few I didn't try, and I messed up the skill trees of some characters since I didn't realize I'd only be able to fill about 1/4th of it by the end. I will say however that Loren was the major damage-dealer throughout the whole game with her Rally and damage boosts to her secondary sword.
Karen was also very useful, attacking 2-3 times as much as anyone else by the end, having Focus Target, and able to Slow a staggered enemy with 100% success rate. Elenor provided good support with her Hero skills, but nothing special in the way of fighting. I also thought Amukiki was good for a while because of Battlecry and his ability to guard the front row, though speed-wise he fell behind in Chapter 4. I got some use out of Apoli's Paralyze spells too, even though the mages got generally screwed over late in the game.
Other stuff that helped:
- Equipment that gives you resistance to normal-type attacks, for the frontliners. Big help against Breza, and for those one-on-one duels.
- Equipment that gives you more SP regen. My Warriors were recovering about 10 SP a turn by Chapter 4, so it didn't matter that much how much max SP they had. Oddly enough, I couldn't find much similar stuff for Thieves. Maybe that was an attempt at balancing them?
- Haste items, so that I didn't have to blow 3 skill slots for a Mage to learn a Haste-like skill.
- I didn't use bombs, but I see great potential in that since it's rare for people to be doing 100 damage a pop, and often even 50 damage a pop thanks to high enemy defense.
Fost was surprisingly not hard, considering that the demon army ran my party through the wringer. Not sure if I should be thankful for that, or feel anticlimactic because I had a harder time with the drakes outside... (although I'll own up that I really should've brought more anti-fire equips before going to a place called Hellburn
) Is the Head supposed to have Restore in this version? It just kept using attack spells after the other parts died...