Main Option Suggestion
This game has old school spell-out-letter-by-letter text during cut scenes that can get a little tedious, especially during clean up. If you'd like to speed up the text appearance or even have each bubble appear instantly, there's an option for that in the main menu under Utility!
Basic Battle System and Controls
Almost everything your party members can do in battle depends on how much Amri they have available, which you'll see as yellow squares under their health bar (we'll get into what Amri is story-wise later). Actions and Abilities require specific amounts of Amri, shown by the yellow squares on the menu. Your battle party members gain a square of Amri each turn, but if that's not enough to use the Ability you want, the character can Rest for a turn and earn an additional Amri square for the next round.
Each party member has two 'stances' with different Abilities to choose from for the encounter you're in. Stances can be swapped between encounters using the menu or spending a turn mid-battle by hitting . Your battle party starts small, but eventually, you'll have four characters fighting for you in pairs. While you can swap your pair members mid-battle(see Battle Bonds below), you cannot swap a current party member with a dormant character.
Most enemies have specific weaknesses, but there is flexibility on how you exploit them based on the party members available to you and your team preferences. Controls throughout the game are very intuitive, but as you progress, you'll want to occasionally dive into the Abilities menu and replace the lower level abilities with upgrades and new options. Don't worry, I'll remind you about this as we go along!
Developing Your Party
Your party members reach levels by earning XP. Each new level gives the member a Talent Point (TP) to use on their Talent Board. You spend TP to add Talent Tiles to the Talent Board, which can be stat boost tiles, character-specific ability tiles, or perk tiles usable by any character. Tiles can't be removed once added to the board, but can be swapped with the same tile type, ie: swap a Magic boost tile for a Might boost tile; swap Amon's Stun ability tile for Mug; or swap the Earth Master perk tile for the Electric Master.
Experience, Enemies, and Encounter Bonuses
Your party gains XP by (surprise!) defeating enemy encounters. Your party also gets XP multiplier bonuses for finishing battles in certain ways such as No One Took Damage, No One Died, Tough Enemy, and the number of enemies faced, which I'll go into a little further in a moment. If a character's level is 5 or more over an enemy's, that character will not receive XP, so keep that in mind when trying to balance your current team with new party arrivals. So more on the Enemy Number bonus:
When exploring the Overworld, you'll run into wild enemy encounters, and these enemies come in groups. Each group is drawn by your proximity to it, which will cause the group to notice and chase you, and the more groups you draw in a single battle, the more XP your party gets! You've gotta be very careful when you enter a new area with enemies more powerful than you've dealt with before, but the sooner you can comfortably take on two or three groups at a time, the faster your party will level up.
You can see how many total enemies you've drawn on the bottom-left counter, and the gold gauge around the counter times how long you have to either launch a first strike by hitting or outrun them. As you outrun an enemy group, they'll go from an active exclamation point to a blue question mark over their heads and slow down, until that disappears and then they stop chasing. You can run around to flee an encounter entirely, reduce the enemies drawn to a more manageable number, or even lure groups together to fight many enemies at a single time for a big XP bonus.
If the gold gauge runs out before you escape or launch your first strike, the enemies catch you and have the advantage. Accidentally running into a group means neither your party nor theirs gets the first strike and all participants act based on their speed.
Success in Earthlock depends on your management of Battle Bonds forged between pairs of party members. Your team will be small, two at first, but as it grows you will not only choose the battle party but who each member is paired up with. The more battles a pair fights together the more powerful their Bond will grow, providing buffs and bonuses to the pair. This Bond level is shown by the stars between the pair in the menu, with 5 Stars meaning a pair is fully Bonded.
Bond Star levels 1, 3, and 5 give an additional TP when earned and each level of bond takes longer to reach than the last, so you want to switch your pairs up often. During battle, each pair will build their bright blue Bond bar shown between the paired characters. When full, the pair is able to activate their Special attacks with a set amount of Amri to share. So if Amon and Gnart are paired and bonded with enough Stars when you use Gnart's Special, there might be enough Amri squares for Amon to use his, or you can wait and Gnart's Special again, until the Special Amri allotment has been spent. While there is an option to swap Bond pairs mid-battle if, for example, you think a different pair's Specials would be more effective, I personally didn't find this option necessary even in tough encounters.
So with all that covered, let's start our adventure in Umbra!
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