Player reflexes must be keen to inflict higher damage to the enemy by using attacks known as Battle Abilities. Players enter Battle Mode to attack, and chain together Chain Abilities. This gives the power to achieve long combos and out-damage the enemy. Mastery of chain attacks and the resulting swing in power in favor of the player is balanced with a system called RISK that decreases Ashley's defense faster, the more attacks are performed at one time.
In the field map, players may engage the enemy by tapping the attack button to enter Battle Mode. Game time is paused, and a wire frame sphere appears around Ashley; its radius is his weapon's attack range. Individual enemy body parts within this sphere can be targeted. Once a target has been set, game time resumes, and chain attacks can be started.
To chain together attacks, the player must respond to in-game cues by pressing buttons corresponding to different attacks in timely succession. This is a similar game mechanic to rhythm games, except that the choice of the next button (other than it being a different button) is tactical rather than mandatory. If Ashley for example attacks a Crimson Blade soldier, an exclamation mark is displayed over the Crimson Blade's head, indicating the moment where the player can chain a new attack together with a previous one. If the player fails to chain, or use a defensive ability, RISK is not accrued. However, RISK will still be gained if the chain is successful and the attack itself Misses, or if a defensive ability is successful and the opponent's attack misses.
Defensive Abilities are used outside of Battle Mode in response to enemy attacks. They allow Ashley to reduce or reflect damage, avoid and remove status ailments, damage the opponents' Magic Points, etc. An exclamation point appears as before, indicating when Defense Abilities can be used. The HP restored by defensive abilities is applied after damage is dealt, but if a defensive ability that restores life is used successfully and applicably, Ashley WILL NOT DIE from damage that reduces his HP to zero.
- For example: Ashley has 20 HP remaining, and is attacked by a Crimson Blade's hammer for 50 damage. Ashley's HP is reduced to zero. The player successfully responds with Impact Guard. Ashley survives; in fact Impact Guard returns 25 HP to Ashley, which is more HP than he had in the first place.
The player can target different areas of the body, and damage is done according to the part of body attacked and the affinity of the weapon used by Ashley. Chain attacks are based on this initial damage value, but do not themselves have Affinity or Class, and the targeted body part is always the same as the original hit.
Chain abilities must be assigned to one of the four right buttons to use; a maximum of two can be offensive and two, defensive.
The initial chain skills, and all successive chains, are skills that Ashley once knew as a Riskbreaker and recovered by him as he regains his memory of his prior career. He first regains memories and therefore, his first four skills, at the first boss battle; the Minotaur in The Gallows room of the Wine Cellar. These are Level 1 skills; subsequent chains are accessed by completing chains to accumulate sufficient Battle Points (BP).
Each chain in combat earns (# of chains -1) BP. Only four skills from Battle and four from Defense are available to choose from at any one chain levelup.
BP requirements on the way to a fifth level skill are, according to a walkthrough: +20 for level II; level III - +34; +18 for level IV, and for level V, +23.
The requirements of new chain abilities are affected by Overkill; chain completion above what is necessary to acquire a new ability does not count towards the next ability.
When a skill is chosen, it is replaced by a new skill at the next skill levelup, and so the order in which the new skills appear can be seen as Chain Levels. It does, however, seem possible that there is a true skill tree for chains; that which skill is chosen affects which one will appear to replace it- specific skills must be learned to access specific higher ones. If so, there is no mention of it in any guides. More testing required. Requirements for chains can be fulfilled as least as soon as the enemy is dispatched, but it is possible that this is only a default, and that the levelup can occur in the middle of battle, if Ashley puts away his weapon to exit Battle Mode (more testing required).
Each type of chain and defense attack has a tactical usage, eg in the case of a Crimson Blade which has negligible Magic Points and does not attack with spells, for example, the player would benefit from eschewing the use of the Dulling Impact chain ability, which prevents the target from using spells, or the Mind Ache or Mind Assault chain abilities, which attack the target's Magic Points.
Impact Guard and the appropriate Ward for Magic can be used by very twitchy players to be invulnerable to killing blows, and thus never need to heal. This is a vital savings of time in Speedruns, like this one from TAS_AND_SUPERPLAY on YouTube; at 28:50, Ashley has 30 HP, is dealt 59 damage, and ends up with 29. Seconds later, he has 30, is dealt 64, and ends up with 32. The second hit proves that the HP is returned AFTER damage has been dealt and going to zero does not result in death when a heal is imminent, rather than the damage being halved, since even 32 damage would have been enough to bring him to -2 HP.
Battle Abilities Edit
- Dmg = damage.
- () = chain evade is ignored
- BP = Battle Points from successful chaining
- PP = Phantom Points-energy acquired by doing attacks or being damaged
- DP = Damage Points-repaired to full, they diminish with wear and tear from usage
|Crimson Pain||2||100%, & 30% to self||VIII|
|Dulling Impact||3||Silence||III-34 BP|
|Gain Life||2||30% ()||I|
|Gain Magic||2||30% dmg as MP ()||II-20|
|Instill||1||10%, & 100%+gems as weapon PP||IV-18|
|Mind Ache||1||Dmg = (Max MP - Current MP)/5||VI|
|Mind Assault||1||30% as MP dmg||II-20|
|Phantom Pain||3||Dmg = PP, & PP to zero||IX|
|Raging Ache||1||(Max HP-Current HP)/10||V-23|
|Temper||2||40%, & 200% to weapon DP ()||I|
Defense Abilities Edit
All defense abilities are performed as a response to an enemy's attack and percentages are calculated from that attack's damage. Beneficial effects such as HP MP restoration etc are of course returned to Ashley
|Absorb Damage||4||20% physical attack as HP|
|Absorb Magic||4||20% magic attack as HP||VII|
|Aqua Ward||4||50% Water damage as HP||II-20|
|Demonscale||4||50% Dark damage as HP||VI|
|Fireproof||4||50% Fire damage as HP||II-20|
|Impact Guard||4||50% Physical damage as HP||I|
|Phantom Shield||6||Shield PP as HP, PP to zero|
|Reflect Damage||2||40% of physical attack TO attacker||I|
|Reflect Magic||2||40% of magic attack TO attacker||IV-18|
|Shadow Guard||4||50% Light damage as HP||V-23|
|Siphon Soul||6||50% magic attack as MP||III-34|
|Terra Ward||4||50% Earth damage as HP||II-20|
|Ward||1||Cure Paralysis, cure Numbness||I|
|Windbreak||4||50% Air damage as HP||II-20|
- Break Arts, which cost Hit Points (HP) but can do more damage than regular attacks and do not add to Risk.
- PSX Longplay [147 Vagrant Story (Part 2 of 4)]-Chain levelup animation and new chain selection menu at 3:45:40