A short rundown on all the different characters in Valhollian and how they perform in combat. This is not an extensive guide by any means, but should serve as a general guideline.
Ray Brightforce: He’s the only character in the game with perfect availability. If he dies, it’s game over, so you better keep him alive at all costs! Fortunately, he’s a very easy unit to use and he pays off quite well, similarly to Shining Force main characters a la Medion, Max, Ian, et al. He gets lots of AP really early on (maxes out at level 11) and has lots of things he can do with that AP: heal himself, revive an ally, do burst damage at 1 range, or execute an AoE. Ray is one of the best attackers in the game, with a consistently high attack stat and relatively early access to his Ultra Art at level 20. His Ultra Art scales off of 200% of his attack and is among the best attacks in the game.
Fiona Fogerty: She’s an okay unit who can be perfectly serviceable if you need her to be. I say she’s analogous to someone like FE9 Ilyana or Langrisser 4 Shelfaniel, in that they can become good casters, but you’re probably better off using someone else. Fiona is your only thunder-affinity caster in the game. She can heal herself, she gets a 5-range single target nuke for 150% damage at level 5, and she learns her first AoE at level 9. As a thunder caster, she has the upper hand against dark and ice enemies. I personally found that Lyle’s fire damage was more useful but hey, your mileage may vary. Mages in this game are pretty interchangeable, the main difference being their availability, which is where Lyle surpasses her (he’s available for chapter 1, whereas she is not).
Lilfy Wood: Unquestionably one of the best units in the game. Get her to level 9 as soon as possible; that’s when she learns Element Road, which allows her to teleport an ally ANYWHERE on the map. You don’t need to max her out, but you should try to get her 4 AP so she can use 4 Element Roads per battle. For battles where you don’t need the teleport, Lilfy can function as 1) a light-element ranged damage dealer and 2) one of the only healers in the game, alongside Thea and Jessica. She learns Miracle, which is a resurrect spell, at level 5. As a nice bonus, Lilfy also has some of the best mobility in the game and the cutest name in the game (her in-battle sprite is pretty cute, too). Her physical defense is very low however, so try to keep her out of harm’s way. She’ll be getting one-shot as soon as chapter 2.
Doug Parma: AKA the “Duggernaut.” He is the undisputed best physical attacker in the game, owing largely to Heavy Strike, which is the best attack in the game. It only costs 1 AP, scales with 200% of his attack, and he learns it absurdly early in the game (level 5). In addition, he’s a tremendous physical tank, possessing the highest HP and defense values in the game at every level. As some other things he can do, Doug also has a self-heal and an AoE. Mainly though, you’ll just want to use him for his outstanding physical qualities. His only problem is low mobility, which can easily be remedied with Lilfy’s Element Road or by giving him the Boost/Skanda ring(s).
Lyle Fomalhaut: I consider him to be a marginally better version of Fiona. He’s available for one chapter longer than she is, which can make all the difference since he’ll typically wind up a few levels ahead of her. Aside from this and their element though (Lyle is fire), they’re virtually identical units with similar stats who learn all the same spells at all the same levels. Mages are especially nice in the early game, but the later stages tend to be more amenable to physical attackers, so I tend to phase out my mages as the game progresses. But if you are going to bring one mage to the endgame, I’d recommend Lyle. Just look at his expression, too: he’s smug and he knows what he’s doing, right?
Thea Mecca: This may raise some eyebrows, but I firmly believe Thea to be the best unit in the game. There’s just so much that she can do, and all of it is useful. Boasting decent stats and above-average avoidability, she’s a competent melee combatant throughout the entire game. She’s your only healer in chapter 1 and chapter 11, and she’s one of your only two healers for chapters 2-3. Hell, even once you do get Jessica (your third healer), you’ll likely be relying upon Thea primarily to get your heals in, because Jessica’s better off attacking. Thea is the only unit who can transfer AP to another unit, which opens up so many possibilities: an extra Heavy Strike from Doug, an extra revive or teleport from Lilfy, an extra nuke or AoE from Lyle… the list goes on. But what really puts Thea over the top, in my opinion, is “Reactive,” an ability she learns at level 12 which lets her give an ally an extra turn. This equates to twice as much damage from a raging Doug, twice as many teleports from Lilfy, twice as many nukes from a mage, and so on. The best part about it all? You don’t even need to invest that heavily in Thea for her to pay off. She maxes out her AP and gains access to all her juicy stuff by level 12, so you can just keep her at that level and pour experience in to everyone else if you so desire. Thea is the ultimate support unit who consistently functions as the lynchpin of your team. She never takes center stage as the one doing the heavy lifting, but you know damn well the game would be that much harder without her. You also can invest in her to make her into a better combat unit, so there’s that too. I believe she’s usually better off supporting from the sidelines, but there’s nothing wrong at all with making her more powerful. One last thing to note about Thea is that she looks a lot like Thea from Fire Emblem 6. This can’t be a coincidence, can it?
Gulf Wiig: He looks veritably creepy, but he’s actually a nice guy. As your first ranged physical damage option, he’s an interesting unit when you first can use him. His stats are all-around okay, although he does have good mobility and pretty good defense for a ranged unit. Unlike most SRPG archers, Gulf can actually counterattack well at close range. No doubt Gulf is one of the more versatile combatants on your team: he can heal himself, nuke an enemy for 150% damage at 2-4 range starting at level 9, and will eventually gain access to bows which have 1-3 range. I never found that Gulf was the best at anything, but I never found that he was useless either. He’s worth keeping around and using for a good majority of the game. One last thing to note about Gulf is “Metamorph,” an ability which has a chance of instantly killing an enemy and draining all of that enemy’s HP onto Gulf.
Amelia Goldleaf: Alongside the likes of FE1 Marth, Amelia is proof positive that you don’t need pants to kick ass. Amelia will either turn out terrifyingly strong or terribly mediocre depending on how much effort you dedicate to her. She’ll never reach the same heights as Doug, although she does have better mobility. Amelia’s biggest problem throughout most of the game is the lack of any attacking skills until level 22, when she finally learns Crazy Axe for 200% damage. However, it uses 2 AP, so she can only use this twice per battle (or 3 times, if Thea gives her an AP). Doug, by comparison, has better attack, learns Heavy Strike at level 5, and can use it for 1 AP rather than 2. Amelia will never be as good as Doug, plain and simple… but she still can contribute to your team, so she’s worth using at least. Like Gulf, she has access to Metamorph. There’s also Spin Blade at level 14, if you wanna consider that an attacking skill, which I don’t really. Ultimately, I say you may as well use Amelia because the game gives her to you, but don’t pump her full of experience, since other units can use it better.
Sieg Pinimaar: Unquestionably the worst unit in the game. He starts with the worst stats in the game, which might tempt some into thinking he’s a growth unit who eventually becomes really good. Unfortunately, he never does. At best, he’s usable, and at worst, he’s a liability. Sieg learns Lance Throw at level 9, a 3-ranged attack he can use for 1 AP and which deals 120% damage. He also learns Dragon Fury (his Ultra Art) at level 20, which deals 200% damage for 2 AP. Combat-wise, he can help out by Lance Throwing onto a squishy mage from a distance, but this is hardly ever necessary. In my opinion, the best thing about Sieg is his “Imp” ability which functions similarly to the Thief staff in FE5: he can use it to unlock ANY chest on the map. I like to just leave Sieg at level 7, leaving him on the sidelines and only using him to open the useful chests in any given battle. But I advise against giving him experience; the game is easier if you don’t invest in him. Trust me, I’ve tried. It didn’t turn out well.
Jessica Garland: She’s an interesting and very fun unit to use. Although she starts off almost identically to Gulf, she eventually starts to carve out a niche for herself. For starters, she comes with Nurse, the only single-target ally heal in the game. This is nice, even if it’s not as potent as the Lilfy/Thea heals. She’ll later learn Longshot, which has the best range in the game (8!) and deals 1.2x damage. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of using her though is “Repeat,” which she learns at level 14. This ability performs a regular attack on an enemy and then grants her another turn immediately thereafter. Sure, Jessica might not hit for that much, but she’s a nimble, lithe archer with lots of range and lots of potential actions. I don’t believe she’s anywhere close to being the best unit in the game, but she’s certainly among the most dynamic and entertaining ones to use. I also like her hat. It’s cute.
Gerard Balzar: He’s the melee version of Jessica, seeing as he starts off with Repeat. Gerard’s biggest problem is his piss poor durability: he has bad defense and mediocre HP. To compensate for this, he does have high avoidability. I’d say that for these reasons, he’s analogous to Fire Emblem Swordmasters. He’s in the upper half of the game’s units if you ask me, because Repeat + high mobility can be so dang useful, and because he’s actually a viable dodge tank. As another point in his favor, he learns Roaring Fist at level 19. This is his Ultra Art which costs 2 AP and deals 300% damage, therefore making it one of the strongest attacks in the game. His base attack isn’t as high as Doug’s though, so he still doesn’t eclipse Doug’s 200% Heavy Strike. Still, he’s one of the best attackers lategame and I usually warp in Doug and him first.
Erica Fomalhaut: She’s the ice version of Lyle/Fiona: a mage with pretty much the same stats and all the same abilities. Erica is probably the second worst unit in the game, and the last one who’ll join your group. She has the worst availability in the game, only being playable for chapters 8-15. And by the time she joins you, she’ll be underleveled and won’t have much of an opportunity to even contribute, since most chapters from 8-15 are easily warp skippable anyway, which leaves no room for her to contribute. By comparison, Lyle and Fiona have at least helped you out for the first half of the game (1-7) and will likely be much higher level than Erica by the time she joins. She’s still usable, and there are times when she can one-shot an enemy with her ranged nukes. Overall though, I don’t believe that these few good qualities are enough to counterbalance her weaknesses. I don’t suggest giving her a lot of experience, because it’s largely wasted on her. She requires more of it to become good, and she won’t be as helpful as most of the other units anyway.