Mission 4 has a simple layout - all towns but no fort, all surface but (almost) no underground. You are up against two factions, Haven and Inferno. Both send heroes to invade you from their respective bases. While this sounds easy, many people have reported problems in this mission even on normal difficulty. The first wave of invasions from each faction could be especially difficult while Irina is still weak. To make the matters worse, the invasions tend to arrive all together.
Fortunately, we also have full control over when we receive the shock - until we have what it takes to crush them. For a magic hero, this could be as early as Week 3-4 of the first month.
A second, more unorthodox challenge of this mission is that the scripted armies could be... I am out of words. We have seen some large scripted army in Necropolis mission 4. Here, one Inferno town will be particularly hard to conquer early on, but it is at least possible. However, two Haven towns will field stacks that show 5 digits well over 65535. How about 90000 in each stack?! Fortunately, they are optional, and Gelhart is never smart enough to withdraw just 1% of that army to kick our little ass. With that army, we have to wonder why Gelhart has not conquered Asha himself (or more logistically, how does he manage the salary and ration?).
By the way, there is a bizarre side quest that requires you to avoid occupying any territory owned by the Wolf Duchy. Taking Haven towns controlled by the Orange Inferno player or getting neutral Haven towns from quest do not fail this quest, so Blackhole probably specifically refers to Haven towns controlled by the Red Haven player - if you can somehow defeat those monster stacks.
Level cap: 30
Difficulty Index: 5/6 (*6/6, if counting the optional battles)
Last updated: December 5, 2011
Dynasty Traits: As usual, free first generic hero really helps. I also lean towards +3 core and +1 elite creatures, but money is again the bottleneck in this mission. Technically, when you start feeling the money restrain, you should be far enough in the game and have won the most difficult battles. These traits still help at the beginning and middle, which are the most important anyway.
Irina starts in the southwest corner with Town A. She has quite a bit of resource buildings to flag to the south and north, so let's get them done as soon as possible. Your free hero should be Might to get the daily +1 Wood and Ore bonus. Don't worry that you have no priestess - simply sweeping the area with Earth Elementals, Phoenixes, and other powerful spells. The size of neutral creatures rises pretty dramatically in subsequent areas.
North of Town A is Town B, an Inferno-controlled Haven town. Needless to say, the resistance there is very weak there. You should be able to take Town B very soon, which also completes a side quest. East of Town A is Town C, a neutral Haven town. You can either attack it (blood path) or solve a simple quest (tear path) to let it join for free. The quest involves cleaning some inferno creatures on the Lighthouse island of (1), after which the town joins you immediately. There are also quite a large number of floating resources on the sea, worthy to send a hero after them.
Before we go further, let's look at the layout of towns, so we can avoid facing powerful invasions too early. Town D, E, and F are controlled by the Inferno Orange player. Town G, H, and I are controlled by the Haven Red player. The AIs will invade you if you take a town beside one of theirs (except for Town A at the very beginning), and the first invasion comes immediately. For example, if you own town B and C, you can expect invasion from the demons only. If you own town D, you can expect invasion from both human and demons.
In my game, I stole Town D quite early - at the end of Week 2, and had to face three to four quite powerful invasions from both enemies all during Week 3. This made my game very difficult (I was able to drive them off only if Irina turtle inside Town D's level 2 wall). For a Might Irina, it is probably better to delay Town D as much as possible. But as Magic-Tear, you may as well give these 5:1 battles a shot and show the AI what humans are made of. By the way, the Inferno AI in Town D does not invade Town B even if it has the army to. So it is possible that AI is scripted to ignore Town B (not sure about Town C).
So what should we do if we run out of things to kill in the starting area? Actually, there is a secret recruit island waiting for Irina on the very northeast corner of the map. This island isactually part of the mainland if you look it up on the Ashan map (provided on the top of this article. Kudos to Blackhole, for they really make an effort to match up mission maps and the campaign map terrain). On the "island" you will see numerous passive sanctuary creatures, which may join you for free or for money. The four whirlpools on this map (all marked by (2)) are inter-connected. Entering one of them will randomly transport your hero to any one of the other three. Eventually, you will emerge from the whirlpool close to the recruit island at (3).
In my game, I did not visit this island until mid Month 2. The stacks have grown very much due to neutral stacks' natural growth. Therefore, if you are confident about your Irina build, there isn't any need to get to this island in a hurry - let the stacks grow a bit so by the time you harvest them, you get more free units. At the end of the recruit island there is a one-way portal (4), which will send you to the other side of the straight at (4'). Not particularly useful.
One of the initial demon invasions is actually linked to a quest. You will receive the unimpressive shoulder piece of the Prophet Set. The hero is not really more powerful from the rest, but could be still deadly enough so that you have to defend in a town.
Once you own Town D and have driven off the first wave of Inferno and Haven invasions, it is time to think about counterattack during the intermission. The Inferno faction owns Town E and F. While Town F is a lot easier, taking town F will further expose us to inconveniently quick Haven invasion from Town H (and they come quite frequently). On the other hand, if you take Town E, there will be no more demon invasions! So it is strategically sound to take Town E first. It won't be easy - but possible for a magic hero. (If you play Might, you might have to wait a lot longer before marching toward Town E.)
On your way to Town E, you will see a two-way portal (5), which takes you to the east at (5'). This no-man's area also has a number of neutral buildings to be flagged, but you can do it later.
Town E seems to be scripted so that it has to be defended by just creatures (no hero allowed). So even if there was a garrison hero, as in my game, I ended up facing the hero's army first, then attack the castle's creatures. Heroless creatures defending towns doesn't sound very hard, but in this mission they could reach astronomical numbers. I understand that Blackhole wants some challenges for us, so let's take it!
The picture on the right shows how much I had to fight in Town E at the end of Month 1, Week 4 on hard difficulty (I skipped Town C and went straight for A-B-D-E), with an army about 1/10 of it. My strategy of this 37-turn drag involves using Serenity, the cheapest stack-disabling spell, to block the action of AI shooters, while my own shooters destroy other melee stacks, starting from the fastest (and most dangerous) Pit Fiends. This way, the AI was probably fooled to think "we still have superior ranged power, so we don't have to storm out." For many turns, all AI units just defended behind the walls, allowing my small shooter stacks to slowly scratch them to death (Archery II works really well here).
However, at turn 25 or so the AI suddenly woke up, attacked its own shooters to break Serenity, and charged out all together. I was careless to allow my 28 Kensei to fall in the range of the 883 dogs, which were still in the castle, but the wall has been demolished by the catapult and they have high movement range) and the Kensei were instantly wiped out for good (can't resurrect as Sanctuary). Fortunately, I already scratched 3 stacks to death at the point, so the situation was still manageable with an emergency Time Stasis, Tsunami, plus the usual Serenity and Petrify. I came out of this fight losing nothing else. Lesson learned for you: focus on stacks with high movements first and don't leave anything in their range. Pit Fiends and the dogs must go early.
After taking Town E, don't go down stairs 6 first - you are not powerful enough for the boss yet. Good news for us - the Inferno Orange have turned dormant for good. But there is still a weak Inferno hero camped in front of in Haven Town F - might as well end their embarrassment. Once you take Town F, Red Haven will invade you immediately, and after that, quite frequently. But nothing can stop you at this point.
Now there are no more towns you can conquer - Town G and H are defended by ridiculously large armies, and the gate leading to Town J is closed. It is a good time to collect the neutral stacks on the recruit island if you have not done so, and to visit various stats boosts (s) on the map. When you have enough power to win all the harder Arena fights, you should be ready to take on the second last boss in the underworld. Descend the stairs at (6-6') and kick its mouth!
The Breeder Queen is a very unique boss. Its information lists that it has a weak magic power of 250, but it probably only applies to its regular attack, where an Imp flies out just like the normal version's magic ranged attack. However, the Breeder Queen's special attack is actually very deadly if you are not prepared - it attacks a wide area in front of her for thousands of damage on each stack (so don't crowd in front of her, spread to the sides and back if possible).
p.s. There is an achievement about not allowing the Breeder Queen to use her Imp attack. However, I don't see how it can be done, as she does the "ranged" attack even if she was in contact with multiple stacks of Irina.
Apparently, you can cast Time Stasis on the boss, but it will have no effect. The best way to win this battle with minimal loss is to recite a Mass Life Drain scroll on Turn 1, wait for the boss to act then attack (so you avoid the special attack in Turn 1 and heal back the damage), followed by Mass Regenerate and all-out-assault on Turn 2. Then keep healing until the boss dies. Your reward for killing the boss is a Tear of Asha!
After killing the Breeder Queen, the cut-scene suggests that the Haven army "is leaving". Actually the only Haven army left is the one behind the gate between Town H and I, roughly at 7'. (The number marks the exit of a one-way portal, which opens just south of Town I, at 7. I guess Blackhole left the portal there so the Red Haven AI would use the portal to launch its invasions, but I found the AI prefers basic Town Portal.)
Anyway, the gate is now open - one boss fight remains. The final boss in Town I isn't really a 4x4 monster like the Breeder Queen, but a regular hero who commands an OK army - about more than 1000 of core units, hundreds of elite, and dozens of champion when I fought him at the first week of Month 3. Very easy. If he uses just 10% of creatures stocked in Town H (that would be 9000 of each), Irina would have been floating on the sea. Congratulations for winning the Sanctuary campaign!
Finally, let's discuss how possibly we could win the fight in Town G and H on hard difficulty. Since the stacks are so large, if we are ever touched, our stack is gone with the Naga. The key is to avoid all melee contact and counterattack whenever possible. The following abilities therefore are keys:
- Artifact Shadow Comb (1-shot Puppet Master - 2 turns if our spell power is high enough)
- Petrify, Serenity, Time Stasis, Time Stasis (about 5-6 turns at this point)
- Blind (about 2 turns)
- Robe of Sar-Issus (1/2 mana cost) + Dragon Nexus (2 times max mana) + Meditation: so you can last more than 100 turns if required
With these preparations, my Town G battle (the easier of the two, against 45000 Imperial Griffins + 9000 of tier 1-3, but only a few hundreds of tier 4-6) was looking very good. Theoretically, we could PM the Griffins to kill everything else big (tier 1, 2, 3 in the two precious PM turns, as the Praetorians will go down with whatever it protected). Then, we can use Serenity to control the Griffins while shooting it for two rounds every 4 turns (the cool-down time for Serenity). It is even more straight forward than the Town E fight.
I have got some good start in Town G this way, but due to a 100% reproducible game-crashing bug (I have been mentioning this in other walkthroughs), I can't continue the battle. The bug (v1.1.1) is triggered whenever the AI has to act immediately after its PMed stack attacks and kills a lot of units. Well, at least I managed to take a screen shot (see above) 1 second before the game crashed again. The Griffins dealt 194225 damage to the Vestals to wipe them out, and 185509 damages to the Praetorians protecting them. Oh yeah.
How about Town H - 90000 units of tier 1-6? There is some hope. I was tracking the number of creatures inside these monster towns, and found that the garrison does not grow! So if you just keep hitting end turns, you will theoretically outnumber them in the far future. Good luck! Unfortunately, you won't get the 25th year anniversary achievement in campaigns (bug or feature?), or the math will work out just right (100+ creature each week x 52 x 25 = 130,000+)!