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23. Inferno

Enemy Tribes: Dakini, Matak, Chumara

Starting Spells: Swarm, Lightning, Convert, Landbridge, Invisibility, Swamp, Hypnotise, Tornado, Erode, Earthquake, Flatten, Firestorm, Magical Shield, Angel Of Death

Permanent spells you can get: None

Temporary Spells you can get: Firestorm

Buildings you can get: None

Vehicles you can get: None

With this level you begin the final stretch to the end of the game. On the next three worlds you will face all three enemy tribes. Fortunately on this one, even with the blood red water and the eerie sound effects, you don't have to put up with the environmental hazards you saw on Fractured Earth. You start out at the south end of the largest continent. The Dakini and Matak are also on this continent, to the north and northeast, respectively. The Chumara are located on an island to the east. There is a Stone Head around the center of the continent, around the place where the three settlements meet. Tall impassible hills block the other land routes to the Dakini and Matak, so you'll have to go by the Stone Head if you pass them over land. (A side note here: One of these hills separates a very direct path between the Matak and Dakini settlements. I didn't try this when I played through the level, but maybe casting Erode on this hill and opening up a new path would bring those two tribes into more direct conflict, ala Building Bridges.) The good thing about this level is that you have lots of space to build and no one starts with any of their settlement built.

This will give you time to build up your forces before you get attacked. There are a lot of trees lying around, so this will allow you to build up quickly. I found that I built a lot of Huts (17 or so) in order to have a lot of mana for my big spells, so you might want to be careful where you place your buildings. If you don't cover up the nearby trees, you'll have them to build stuff later on when you need it. Also, since the other tribes will be busy building their own settlements to begin with, you should grab 6 Wildmen and send them over to worship the Stone Head. The Dakini will send 6 Braves of their own to worship, but you might be able to get a use of Firestorm before they get there. Since you (and everyone else) has Firestorm already, don't think that the Stone Head is a big priority. Defense is a bit tricky in this level, much like Bloodlust. You don't want to put your Guard Towers directly south of the Stone Head, where the obvious choke point is, because both the Dakini and the Matak build Guard Towers for their own Shamans on top of the nearby hills. This extends the range of their Lighting spell significantly, and if your Towers are too close, they will burn them to the ground. You have two options to counter this. First, build your Guard Towers just north of the two hills overlooking your settlement, in between the pass between hills.

There are two avenues of attack in this area, so you might need to build two sets of Guard Towers. The problem is that the enemy Shaman (typically when its the Dakini from what I saw) accompanies the attacking parties. She'll make short work of your Guard Towers unless you see them coming and have some Swamps or Lighting of your own. The way around the Shaman problem is the other method, close off the land routes. Get to the top of the east hill north of your settlement and cast Land Bridge across to the other hills to raise cliffs. I built my cliffs heading north/northwest towards the Dakini settlement. This will take care of Matak attacks well enough, but be sure to follow the chain of hills all the way up and make sure there are no climbable ramps or you've just given the enemy a high road to your settlement. If you choose to seal yourself off like this you'll buy time to build and not have to deal with ground attacks. What you will have to deal with is boat attacks. None of the tribes in this level seem to favor balloons, but they all have boats. The Chumara especially like to send a spy over via boat and burn down a few of your buildings. You can build a perimeter defense against this if you want, but it's an awfully big perimeter.

(Also, I found that it seemed to take a real long time to build anything on this world, even when you assign a lot of Braves to the construction. They'll gather all the needed wood, and then stack it outside while they hammer away at the building in progress. I don't know if it's some glitch with this level, or just my perception, but don't be surprised if it takes a while for things to get built.) So you have plenty of room to build (assuming you don't build over the large groves of trees) you'll want to be able to expand as far north as possible. Creating a cliff wall might also cut your easy access to the Firestorm Stone Head, but it's only a spell that you already have. However you build your defenses, you should build as many huts as you can and fill them with Braves. Keep your standard 10 Warrior 10 Preacher defense force on hand for spies and boat incursions, and I still recommend an air force for this level. As Solo proved, your Shaman is very deadly at this point in the game. With lots of Huts to fuel your mana, you should be able to charge you spells very quickly and run balloon raids with your Shaman to soften up the enemy tribes before you hunt down the rest with your Firewarriors.

If you choose to slug it out without your Shaman, here's a tip I've noticed regarding balloons and Firewarriors. I'll try to be as clear as possible, so bear with me. In general, when you attack the enemy settlement with your followers, a lot of the non-Brave follower classes will rush to meet your attackers. When you're attacking with balloons, this typically hasn't mattered in previous levels because there aren't that many enemy Firewarriors to hurt you. In these later levels this is not the case. The enemy tribes have a lot of Firewarriors, and if you attack an enemy settlement while they're still alive, they will abandon their old defensive positions and come at you, along with all the other Warriors and Preachers. Your Firewarriors, if left to their own devices, will fire on whoever is nearby and convenient. This does not necessarily mean they'll attack the enemy Firewarriors who are an actual threat. The strengths of the Firewarrior air force are mobility, ability to avoid most other followers, and strength in numbers. If the enemy Firewarriors on the ground show up and start picking off your balloons while they're all shooting at some helpless Preacher, you'll loose Firewarriors and balloons very quickly.

However, if you manually target the enemy Firewarriors you'll almost invariably order your balloons deeper into the enemy settlement, where there are probably more Firewarriors headed your way. The trick then, on these later levels, is to make hit and run attacks. Find some poorly defended spot and start picking off the enemies there. Don't go too much past their perimeter, but fire at people until you provoke a response. Pick off the enemy Firewarriors as they come, but if they start showing up in larger groups, pull back to where they can't follow (across a hill or over water). When you see the enemy defenders turn back to what they were doing, send your balloons back to do another hit and run. The goal is to kill enemy Firewarriors, enough to the point that they can only send a few of them at you at a time, numbers that won't hurt your balloon force.

You win in this situation because even though they will start training new Firewarriors right away, if you can keep your balloon force intact you can kill those new Firewarriors as they come out of the Training Hut, and then raze the Hut. Once all, or most, of the enemy Firewarriors are taken care of, proceed to pick off the Warriors and Preachers wandering impotently beneath your balloons, and then the rest of the enemy settlement. The last thing to note when attacking with balloons, I've said it before and I'll say it again, fear the enemy Shaman. If she casts Swarm underneath your balloons, a whole lot of your Firewarriors will find themselves on the ground, where those Warriors and Preachers aren't quite so impotent. Just try to time your attacks to happen when the Shaman is dead, either kill her with your own Shaman or some other way, and then have your Firewarriors in the settlement kill her again when she reincarnates. As long as she stays dead and out of the way, you only have to worry about enemy Firewarriors.

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