A Red Rider’s guide to a Red Riders game: Return to the Dark Forest

Introduction

Hi everyone, it’s turtle551 and I’m so excited that you’re here reading our guide for “Return to the Dark Forest.” Being of Red Rider lineage, I was really curious about “Return to the Dark Forest” when it was announced. Okay, maybe more worried than curious, considering how special T.D. Group’s “Beyond the Mists of the Emerald Mountain” was when we played it last year. 

But my worry became relief and quickly became joy as I played “Return to the Dark Forest.” The people at Jadestar Games really did their research and it shows. Everything from the character design, the plot, the locations, and even the sounds were incredibly accurate. I personally was impressed with how they translated the magic Red Riders can wield into a unique battle system, especially how it takes into account each character’s emotional state. The introduction of things like the Confidence scale and relationship ties between party members made the battle system really unique and fun to play. 

There’s a lot of great things in this game pertaining to the Red Riders, which I’ve flagged as “Anecdotes.” As with all of the content on GameZoo Reviews, this guide is intended to be spoiler-free so if you find any areas that you feel cross that line, please contact us!  

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Side quest: Obtaining the Legendary Red Cape

FAQs

  • When is this side quest available? After the mission to save the dwarves from the evil queen
  • How long does it take to finish this side quest? It’s pretty short, clocking in at around an hour on average.
  • Any prerequisites or dependencies? Technically no, but a lot of highly, highly, HIGHLY recommended strategies that rely on completing the other side quests that precede this one in this guide (ex. Unscalable Tower mission).

Anecdote: You know it’s going to be good when it already starts with an anecdote haha – but really, this is one of my absolute favorite parts of “Return to the Dark Forest.”  This is an optional side quest to obtain Garnet’s ultimate weapon and it is absolutely worth it. I wish it wasn’t optional because it’s so good! 

The folks at Jadestar Games designed this quest to mirror the Forest Seeker Trial that Red Riders go through as a sort of coming of age. I was really impressed with the overall experience of this quest so there might be more anecdotes than usual (sorry-not-sorry!).

Before you begin

If you’re interested in completing this side quest, I highly recommend reading through this first as there’s a lot of pre-preparation and conditional recommendations. 

I highly recommend taking a three-person party approach for this quest.  It’s possible to solo this but I actually had more fun with a party approach.  If you’re interested in doing this solo, go ahead and head over to Cactus King the Third’s guide (they’re great people, tell them I said hi!). 

What do you get from completing this side quest?  A ton! 

  • Gold: 10 Ultra Revival vials, 5 Teleportation Feathers, Moonlit Staff 
  • Silver: 5 Revival vials, 2 Vision Feathers, Sapphire Ring 
  • Bronze: 2 Vision Feathers, Ruby Shield

And of course, you also get the Legendary Red Cape, which gives you the Changeling skill. The Changeling skill is super, super, super helpful as you get to the endgame, but throw in the goodies you get with a Gold rank and it’s really a no-brainer. That said, I’ve included recommendations for both Gold and Silver ranks in the strategies for this quest.

Anecdote: I thought the rankings in general was a nice touch!  It’s very similar to the grade a Red Rider is given upon successfully completing the Forest Seeker Trial. While everyone earns the title of “seeker” at the end of the trial, everyone gets a different grade depending on how well you did. It’s seen in the name you’re granted where, generally, higher achievements are associated with a larger thing (ex. mountain vs hill, forest vs tree, etc.).

For party recommendations, it depends on which rank you’re aiming for and if you’ve done the Unscalable Tower mission and Rapunzel has joined your party. 

If you’re aiming for Gold rank, Rapunzel’s Ensnare and Enshield abilities are really good for the boss battle for this quest.  If you haven’t completed the Tower mission, Arie is a good second choice for her Hypnosis ability.  However, you need to make sure the relationship ties are near max level.  (If you want to quickly improve the relationship ties, head over to our guide for the Sleepy Beauty side quest!) 

For your third party member, just go with your most experienced healer.  Just make sure their defense – both physical and magical – and evasion are high as well.  I personally went with Bella and used the A Rose By Any Other Name side quest to raise her experience. 

If you’re aiming for Silver rank, you’re going to want your two hardest hitters – both for magic attacks and physical attacks. This may depend on how you’ve built up your different characters, but for me, this was generally Snow and Mu Lan for magic and tanking respectively.  To raise these characters’ experience, try the Dark Side of the Moon side quest, which helps with both magic and physical experience points.

Starting the quest

To begin the quest, go to the Red Mountain Village and head over to the inn. If you talk to the man at the fireplace and pay for his meal, he’ll tell you a story that will begin everything.  Make sure to save once he’s given you the charge for the quest!

(Anecdote: I know this is vague, but I’m trying to keep this spoiler free! It makes sense once you go through it, trust me. And no, nothing scary or anything hidden here, even in the dungeon – thanks for asking, kite-worm!) 

Maze

Maze: Shadow Grove

After you’ve received your charge, you’re ready for the first part of this side quest.  Simply take the northwest exit out of the village and head towards the grove just to the west. 

Now, calling this a maze is a bit of an overstatement but the hard part is the time component.  If you want to get Gold rank, not only do you have to get through the maze quickly, but you also have to find the treasure chests – which are of course placed in areas not on the direct path to the exit.  But fear not! I was able to figure out the most efficient path through the course. (Why do we spend over 20 hours on a single piece of an optional side quest? Because we have no lives we love you, our readers!) 

As you might have guessed, your completion time affects your overall rank – the faster you get through the maze, the higher your rank.  The number of treasure chests you obtain also helps your rank, but there are certain treasure chests that truly count (three of them, to be exact). Here’s what I was able to figure out: 

  • Less than 15 minutes: Gold rank
  • 15 – 16 minutes: Silver rank
  • 16 – 17 minutes: Bronze rank
  • More than 17 minutes: No rank

The fastest I was able to get through was 12 minutes, but I’m pretty sure it was a bug because I was only able to do it once.  

Not convinced that this simple sounding maze really makes a difference? Well, for several run throughs, I clocked in under 15 minutes (14:42, 14:50, and 14:49 to be exact) did the dungeon and boss battle, and got a Gold rank. (Long time readers might recall that here at GameZoo we have a three-time minimum for replication standards.)  Just for giggles, the next run through I deliberately waited 10 seconds so I could clock in at 15 minutes.  I did the dungeon and boss battle exactly the same and, you guessed it, Silver rank. 

Tip: If you’re not near the pink apple tree statue by the 14 minute mark, restart the game. If you’ve saved at the inn, you won’t have to go through the dialogue again and can just restart the maze. 

Maze directions

Note: These directions correspond to how you key them into your controller/keyboard, not how your character actually turns on the screen!

Quick summary: Right, left, left (first chest), right, up (middle), left, right (second chest), backtrack then down, down (middle), right, left, right, right (third chest), up, left, right 

Turn-by-turn

  1. At the first fork, turn right (east) 
  2. At the two weeping trees, turn left (west) 
  3. Just before the collapsed wall, turn left (west) 
    • To find the first treasure chest, inspect the purple flower on the north wall  
  4. Continue to the right (east)
  5. At the three-way, take the middle path to go up (north) 
  6. At the howling tunnels, turn left (west) 
  7. At the laughing statues, turn right (east) 
    • This will lead to a dead end with the second treasure chest
  8. Backtrack to the laughing statues and now take the downward (south) path
  9. At the fork, continue down (south) 
  10. At the stream, crossover by turning right (east) 
  11. At the basket-looking shrub, turn left (west)
  12. It’s a bit eerie, but when you see the wall of eyes, take a right (east)
  13. At the next fork, take a right again (east) 
    • This is where you’ll find the third and last required treasure chest
  14. At the three-way, go up (north) 
    • This is where you’ll reach the pink apple tree statue! Do a time check here! 
  15. After the pink apple tree statue, turn left (west) 
  16. At the last fork, turn right (east) and continue on to the exit 

Anecdote: Okay I have to admit that at first, I thought this was going to be dumb. It’s really easy to make a maze that really has no point (two words: orange swamp). But! I actually really enjoyed this one! The biggest surprise was that Jadestar incorporated the Red Rider dialects of Wind and Earth. For example, there’s a pattern in the wind that coincides with the three treasure chests, and the correct path itself is very cleverly marked (white leaf technique, for those keeping score). I was really impressed at how detailed it was! Of course, you can get through it without being fluent in these dialects but for those who’ve studied it, it’s a great easter egg.

Dungeon

Dungeon: Grandmother’s house

Next up, your reward for getting through the maze: A dungeon!

Really, it’s not that hard, especially if you’ve done the Cinderella side quest – it’s almost the exact same, just with the creepy factor cranked up to 10. Really, this dungeon is the only criticism I have of this side quest. Things are too straightforward here, with not a lot of surprises or deep thinking needed. Add to all this the fact that you can just equip Garnet with the Snow Queen’s ring and nullify all encounters makes it that much more apparent that this “dungeon” is more being used as a medium to share backstory rather than a place to test your skills.

Anyway. If you don’t have the Snow Queen’s ring, the encounters here are low-level bears so just make sure you have a lot of honey and oat traps and you’ll be fine. (Low on items? Head over to our item cheat sheet!)  Just go through all the rooms in a clockwise order and find the shinies. No really, there’s a shiny item in each room. Collect them and then piece everything together in the living room and you’ll break the illusion and head into the boss battle. 

Shiny items locations:

  1. Front left sitting room: Feather next to the creepy mirror
  2. Bathroom: Cup on the bottom shelf above the toilet
  3. Upstairs closet: Pin in a shawl in the top right drawer of the clothes chest
  4. Kitchen: Spatula in the sink by the creepy window 

Anecdote: In the Forest Seeker Trial, the equivalent to this dungeon happens on the third day, where everyone’s sleep deprived and running on fumes. Even though there isn’t much to do here, I thought Jadestar translated the weirdness that happens during this time in the trial in an interesting way.

Boss battle

Boss: Wolf 

The Wolf is an illusionist, and will change its form between two, uh, let’s call them “personas.” The first is the Grandmother, the second is the Huntsman. It will revert back to its regular Wolf form after a certain time period (I wasn’t able to find a pattern but typically it was less than 5 minutes). The Wolf really doesn’t do that much until it evolves into a “rage” when its health falls below 25%. 

(Anecdote: Again, trying to keep things spoiler free here, sorry for being vague!)  

Details: 

  • Wolf: Illusionist
    • Howl: Deals 500 – 550 physical damage to all characters, with a 75% chance of inflicting Doubt (this increases to 90% when in Rage mode)
    • Snatch: Deals around 350 – 400 physical damage to a single character, but also has a high chance (less than 50%) of inflicting Confusion and Doubt (increases to 75% in Rage mode)
  • Grandmother: Earth mage
    • Rooted: Deals 400 – 450 physical damage to a single character and causes them to lose at least 2 turns
    • Vine whip: Deals 300 – 500 physical damage to all characters, depending on proximity. Also has a 50% chance of inflicting Poison.
  • Huntsman: Hunter
    • Axe throw: Deals 400 – 600 physical damage to all characters, depending on proximity.
    • Rush: Deals 700 physical damage to one character.

Battle strategy: In order to obtain a Gold rank, you cannot inflict damage onto the Grandmother or Huntsman personas. I repeat: Do not inflict damage onto the Grandmother or Huntsman personas. Typically Howl will precede the switch from the Wolf’s normal form to one of the personas, but it’s not as obvious when switching between personas. The key here is to watch the character’s eyes: If you see a blue light start to take over their eyes, a change is about to happen. If you listen closely, you’ll also hear a low howl just before the switch. 

The Grandmother and Huntsman personas can deal a bunch of damage if you’re not careful, which is why you need your characters to have high deflection, evasion, and strong armor. In general, stick to healing and defending when you’re facing one of the personas, then unload when the Wolf is in its normal form.  

Key spells, abilities, and attacks when facing one of the personas:

  • Cure, level 3 (boost with Angel Wing) 
  • Slow, level 3 (boost with Swamp Mist) 
  • Non-damaging abilities like Ensnare (Rapunzel) or Hypnosis (Arie)
  • Protection spells like Enshield (Rapunzel) or even Conceal (Garnet)
  • Any and all deflection boosts 

Key spells, abilities, and attacks when facing the Wolf – normal form:

  • Silence, level 2 or higher (boost with Tiger Pendant)
  • Smother, level 2 or higher
  • Confidence boosting items like Hero’s Song
  • Haste, level 3 (boost with Flash Feather)
  • Any level 5 or higher physical attack like Dragon Whip (Mu Lan) or Stillness (Garnet)

If you heed my advice and don’t inflict damage to the Grandmother and Huntsman personas, they’ll eventually rebel against the Wolf.  However, if you do inflict damage, all is not lost. It’ll be a longer battle and a lower ranking, but keep the damage to the personas at a minimum to maintain any chance at receiving a ranking. 

Once the Wolf’s HP drops below 25%, there’ll be a cutscene and a rage transformation. Be careful here as the Wolf’s accuracy and speed double. The biggest difference here in strategy is to simplify: Keep your main attackers in high spirits, high health, and unload with everything you have. You’ll start to get a rhythm and overwhelm the Wolf. Once finished, all you have to do is go back to the inn to collect the Legendary Red Cape!

Anecdote: This was a big surprise when I realized this strategy, which really only came to me when I remembered the Forest Seeker Trial. I asked around and apparently, there is always some element of identifying when to be nonviolent. All in all, really impressed by Jadestar’s research for this side quest! 

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