Naval Conquest Guide - August 1, 2023
Naval Conquest is a new mode for The Demon Rush: Legends Corrupt, where the player must fend off the Occultist Imperator and his fleet through a combination of naval combat, standard combat, and exploration.
The player has 30 days (20 days in Legend Plus difficulty) to prepare for the arrival of the Imperator's Fleet, and in that time, they must prepare by finding buried treasure in the form of Mez (money) on desert islands, gather food and lumber from forest islands, visit town islands to recruit sailors, go on naval missions, engage in sea trade, donate food to towns, and go on shore leave for their sailors' morale, among other activities.
About this guide
This guide focuses on approaching Naval Conquest on Legend Plus difficulty, and should apply to all lower difficulties as a result. Naval Conquest playstyle specializations of combat, exploration, trade, and sailors have each been able to clear Legend Plus difficulty, and this guide is based around those clears.
Those who would prefer to work out their own approaches to Naval Conquest may wish to avoid this guide.
Naval Conquest -- Field Basics
The "field" for Naval Conquest is a procedurally generated ocean that consists of 64 islands -- 8 of them are towns, the other 56 are randomly forest or desert. The player starts in the center of the map, and there are circular boundaries at the "edge" of the oceans to stop the player from going too far away and not finding any islands.
As the player explores, the fog of war on their map will be removed, letting them see islands that they had already encountered, as well as enemies (excludes sharks and krakens found in the wild outside of naval missions or the battle with the Imperator's Fleet).
Island colours have various meanings on the Naval Conquest map:
Additionally, a red X will appear on forest/desert islands that still have resources on them.
The timer for each day will tick down while the player is sailing their ship, are on islands, in naval combat and in standard combat on islands and when boarding/being boarded. The timer will pause in the Pause Menu, the Town Menu on town islands, and during the mini-cutscenes for digging/foraging on desert and forest islands, revelry and shore leave. Each day in Naval Conquest lasts 120 seconds.
While forest and desert islands are important for gathering resources, finding town islands is an exceptionally important objective, regardless of the crew's playstyle.
Town islands allow the player to do the following:
One of the most important features of town islands are that they are the only method in Naval Conquest for saving the game -- that alone is a reason to either seek out new towns or keep old ones in arm's reach, depending on the situation.
Schooners and their more powerful brothers, Galleons, can be built with Mez and Lumber. A single Schooner requires a significant amount of Mez and Lumber as is (5000 Mez and 300 Lumber), while Galleons need an even larger amount (15000 Mez and 1000 Lumber). Boats in the fleet will participate in naval missions (and do not die permanently on naval missions if they sink) and in the big fleet battle with the Imperator at the end (they do sink permanently, but that does not matter due to it being the final battle).
The Cetacean can be upgraded in various ways -- Health, Cannon Damage, Ram Damage, Defense, Speed, Amenities (Morale), and Command (boosts damage and defense of other boats in the fleet). These upgrades cost Mez and Lumber, and the amount needed rises with each upgrade's current level (1000 Mez and 25 Lumber each multiplied by Current Upgrade Level + 1). Each upgrade for the Cetacean has a maximum level of 10.
Donating 1000 Food to towns will level up all boats currently in the player's fleet by 1 level (max 10) and will boost the level of each Cetacean upgrade by 1 level. Early donations to towns may help make the Cetacean stronger and more versatile earlier if the player requires Speed and Amenities for travel and the other upgrades for naval missions, but later donations when the player's fleet is typically larger and the Cetacean has higher overall upgrade levels is often better, due to it being more cost-effective overall.
While purchasing Food and Lumber directly from a town is a fast way to acquire small amounts (50 Mez for 1 Food or Lumber), sea trade is a FAR more cost-effective method, getting rates of 1000 Mez for 200 Food/Lumber PER boat dispatched (including getting to trade Food and Lumber for Mez, as well as Food for Lumber and vice versa). However, sea trade has some limitations of its own -- it requires multiple boats to be lucrative, takes 3 ingame days by default, and only one sea trade expedition can be done at a time.
Naval missions are another important activity to undertake in towns -- on choosing a mission, the player will have a time limit to defeat enemies based on the chosen mission. The player will be able to have 1 boat from their fleet accompany them for most missions (the first in fleet order not on sea trade), and can deploy 2 boats from their fleet for the Ocean Liberation mission. Any boats that participated in and survived the naval mission will gain multiple levels ups based on the chosen mission. Boats that did not survive the mission or those that did not participate at all gain only 1 level, while boats on sea trade expeditions gain nothing.
There are five naval missions that the player can choose from:
As naval missions can only be undertaken once every 6 days per town, it is important to find as many towns as possible and to choose the correct naval mission based on the player's chosen crew, time remaining for the Imperator's arrival, the level of resources required at that time, the current difficulty and the number of levels boats in the fleet may need.
Another factor to take into consideration -- sea trade expeditions and naval missions cannot be undertaken if 3 days or less remain before the Imperator's arrival. The timer is a very crucial aspect of Naval Conquest to take into account, as a result.
The player can also recruit sailors from town -- sailors are very valuable for boarding enemy boats and fighting off enemies on desert and forest islands, to the point where they can make these activities much more time-efficient with a full sailor crew of 50. They cost 200 Mez and 10 Food each, but also die permanently if they reach 0 HP in battle.
Sailors will need their morale maintained, or else they will slowly leave the player's employ -- or worse, mutiny on Legend and Legend Plus difficulties. If a mutiny occurs, the player will permanently lose and fight up to 16 of their own sailors, so morale is important to keep sailors happy.
By default, morale ticks down by 1% every 5 seconds by default (with the tickdown slowing down with the Amenities upgrade for the Cetacean), but does not tick down during naval combat, naval missions, or when the player is not on board and on an island, so there is some leeway there.
To maintain morale, the player can spend 1000 Mez at a town for the party to go on shore leave and restore morale to 100%. A portable version of shore leave is available, known as revelry, which allows the player to spend 100 Food while onboard their boat to restore morale up to 75%.
Shore leave and revelry will also take up time -- whatever is remaining for the current day. This can mean nearly the full 120 seconds or just the final 1 or 2 seconds -- the timing of shore leave and revelry can make all the difference in the player's limited resource of time.
Naval Conquest -- Battle Basics
The player boat and all enemy boats are capable of firing cannons (the player needs to have the camera facing the side to fire the Cetacean's cannons) and unleashing ram attacks (build up enough speed and hitting a target with the front of the boat). Cannonfire is a ranged attack that focuses more on damage, whereas ram attacks are "melee" attacks that focuses more on decreasing boarding threshold. When dealing with enemy boats, more ramming can aid in boarding and more cannonfire will be better for trying to sink boats.
The boats in Naval Conquest also move at high speeds, so the timing of cannonfire needs extra consideration against both the player's current speed and the enemy's. The cannons also fire in a staggered pattern, so it is best if the side of the player's boat is able to face the enemy for as long as possible.
Sinking enemy boats will net the player a small amount of Mez. Boarding ships will reward the player with the Cetacean and all allied boats health restored by 50% (useful only in Ocean Liberation naval missions and the final battle with the Imperator's Fleet), a far higher amount of Mez, as well as Food and Lumber, with enemy Galleons providing more than Schooners. Though the rewards for boarding are much higher than sinking a ship, the player will need to engage in standard combat for a boarding victory, which can consume valuable time, especially if the player has not recruited many sailors to help speed up the process.
The player's sailor reinforcements in the current battle also gain a 10% boost per sailor permadeath from the current battle. Though it is better to ensure your sailors survive, sailor reinforcements will at least enter the fight with higher power.
Sailors also receive a "crew size" bonus, where ALL sailors gain stat bonuses of 5% per sailor AFTER the 10th. A crew of 20 will be 50% stronger, and a max crew size of 50 will be 3x stronger. This bonus endures through sailor permadeaths for the current fight, so a crew of 50 reduced to a crew of 40 will still have the 3x bonus rather than a 2.5x bonus for the remainder of the battle.
Aside from enemy ships, the player will also encounter sharks and krakens. Sharks are speedy and fragile monsters that will attempt to attack the player's boat before swimming away and returning for another strike -- cannons or ram attacks work fine on them. Krakens are slower but tankier monsters that try to slow boats down by colliding into them and then attacking them with their tentacles -- cannon attacks are preferred over ram attacks against krakens due to this.
Sharks, krakens and schooners will also appear in the randomly in the oceans when not on naval missions or fighting the Imperator's Fleet in the final battle. Schooners can be boarded as per normal to try and gain additional Mez/Food/Lumber on victory.
The player will also have access to Naval Magic, the nature of which is based on each individual party member. Each naval magic has a cooldown of 20 seconds and typically only has purpose when engaging in combat with monsters and boats in naval combat.
When it comes to standard combat, higher difficulties provide the usual alterations -- relentless enemies on Legend, enemies with their abilities on Legend Plus.
For Naval Conquest, Legend Difficulty also provides more enemy reinforcements in standard combat, and causes mutinies to occur rather than the crew slowly leaving when morale hits 0%. Naval entities, like sharks, krakens and enemy boats, gain 50% boosts to their stats.
Legend Plus Difficulty adds an even greater number of reinforcements to standard combat than Legend, but also adds more severe mechanics.
Firstly, Legend Plus gives the player only 20 days, rather than the standard 30, to prepare for the Imperator's Fleet. This alone cuts away one of the player's most precious resources in Naval Conquest -- time. Legend Plus requires the player to focus more on their crew's strengths than on other difficulties to succeed.
Like Legend, naval entities gain stat boosts, though on Legend Plus, those boosts are 100% higher rather than 50%.
Wild enemies are also replaced by hunter boats on Legend Plus. Hunter boats are Galleons with one important difference -- any ram attack that they make on the player will cause the player to be boarded. The enemies will be green priests of Genasma and purple priests of Vigomendo, and they are meant to cause even further problems for the player. The priests of Genasma will heal their allies (which eats up time) and the priests of Vigomendo will lower morale by 5% every time the currently-controlled player character is hit (but not AI party members) -- which could lead to a mutiny if the player is hit too much. Unlike boarding enemy boats, the player getting boarded provides no additional rewards.
Hunter boats are meant to be an oppressive force to take away more of the player's limited time, though hunter boats can be handled in a few ways:
1. Sail faster than them. Tara's passive provides the necessary speed for the Cetacean to outrun hunter boats, though other non-Tara crews will need some Speed upgrades from towns to do the same. Putting an island between hunter boats and the players may slow hunter boats down, but if the distance between player and hunter boat is too great, the current hunter boat will despawn and another will appear nearby.
2. Use Knight's Arctic Blast naval magic to slow down the enemy without initiating combat. This is similar to number 1, but also has the advantage of the player being able to make sharper turns when being chased by a hunter boat when the magic is not on cooldown, since the enemy's speed is heavily reduced and it won't get to catch up as easily.
3. Use towns for cover. Hunter boats do not move when the player has disembarked onto an island, and will despawn when talking to a town NPC, which can give the player some room if a hunter boat gets too close to a town. Hunter boats will also not appear during naval missions, which can be initiated from towns.
4. Let them board you and get them out of your hair. Direct naval combat is not recommended, as one stray ram from the hunter boat has you boarded anyways, and the time spent trying to defeat a hunter boat normally is better spent on Galleon-hunting naval missions where the player gets actual rewards. When a hunter boat is defeated, it will not respawn for 3 ingame days. Ironically, despite the hunter boat's priests of Vigomendo being good at lowering morale, having a large number of sailors will actually make being boarded easier and go by faster.
Despite how harsh Legend Plus sounds, it has been cleared using all 10 characters and all naval playstyles -- combat, trade, exploration and sailor focuses.
Choosing a Crew
At the start of Naval Conquest, the player will choose 3 of the playable characters to lead their crew. Each character brings their own moveset for standard combat (identical to the one from Onslaught, Conquest, and Heist), a Naval Magic to be used during naval combat against enemy boats, sharks and krakens, and a Naval Passive that contributes to other aspects of a Naval Conquest campaign.
Combat Moveset -- Hyper Blade, Line Overdrive, Tornado
Naval Magic -- Windcatch -- For 5 seconds, the player boat and all allied boats have max acceleration, and both ram damage and ram boarding threshold decreases are boosted by 50% for 5 seconds.
Naval Passive -- Fleet Command -- Allied boats (but not the player's boat) inflict 50% more damage and boarding decreases, and receive 50% less damage.
Analysis -- Cherry is primarily a lategame-oriented character that focuses on the player's fleet. She won't contribute greatly to the player's acquisition of resources in the early game, nor will she aid much in direct naval combat or in helping sailors much.
However, the damage and defense boosts she provides the player's fleet allow for some obscenely powerful ally boats in the Ocean Liberation naval mission and the big fleet battle with the Imperator at the end. It also allows for greater survivability of the player's fleet during naval missions, allowing boats to gain levels to begin with. Needing twice as many shots to sink ally boats, 50% more cannon damage, and 125% more ram damage while Windcatch is active will make brand new ally boats feel closer to max level boats and max level ally boats will become a force to be reckoned with (to say nothing of Command upgrades to the Cetacean adding more of a fleet boost).
Cherry's standard moveset in combat lets her turn around a bad fight easily by letting her stall with Tornado before using the invincibility of Hyper Blade and Line Overdrive to deal massive damage safely (preferably after block staggering to ensure hits). Though time is of the essence in Naval Conquest with its always-ticking-down timer, it is always preferable to have the option of turning around a fight gone wrong.
Combat Moveset -- Power Drive, Energy Flow, Unexplained
Naval Magic -- Arctic Blast -- For 5 seconds, a large ice sheet prevents enemy boats rams and cuts movement of enemy boats/monsters in it by 80%. Enemy boats in the ice suffer double boarding decreases.
Naval Passive -- Highway Experience -- Sea trade expeditions are sped up from 3 days to 2 days.
Analysis -- Knight is a heavily trade focused character with a specialty towards faster sea trade expeditions, and though his passive seems simplistic, it is hugely powerful, since it allows the player to have roughly 50% more sea trade expeditions (all things considered equal). It also reduces the expiry time for starting new sea missions to more than 2 days before the Imperator arrives rather than 3, so Knight can be invaluable for acquiring a large and versatile number of resources throughout a Naval Conquest, assuming the player returns to towns frequently enough to start new sea trade expeditions.
His Arctic Blast magic does not provide any damage, but its large area of effect of reduced movement and boosted boarding thresholds from attacks is excellent for making enemy boats much easier to deal with and board. Its lack of damage can also be used to keep hunter boats at bay on Legend Plus without triggering combat, which means less time spent dealing with them and more time spent setting up trade deals.
Knight's standard moveset, especially Energy Flow and Unexplained, is great for dealing with multiple enemies at once, and his high Attack stat lets him contribute to the end of battle that much faster.
Combat Moveset -- Deadly Arts, Thunder Storm, System Shock
Naval Magic -- Stormcall -- For 10 seconds, lightning bolts strike an area. Enemy boats or monsters hit by a bolt take base ram attack damage and boat boarding thresholds lower by 2x base ram strikes.
Naval Passive -- Crude Jokes and Lively Stories -- Morale at sea lowers at half speed, and revelry at sea can boost as high as 100% as opposed to 75%.
Analysis -- Alberto is a sailor focused character with a specialty in maintaining morale. His Naval Passive allows for a far lesser need to return to towns for shore leave or spend some of the player's limited time on revelry -- but, if time does need to be spent restoring morale, Alberto makes it so that the more portable revelry is as effective as returning to town for shore leave. His wide-area System Shock stun also works well with sailors, giving more opportunity for them to attack stunned enemies without issue and prevents Priests of Vigomendo from hunter boats from unleashing hits to lower morale.
Alberto's Stormcall Naval Magic strikes randomly over an area, which means there is a chance that hits will not land, especially against a single target. However, when it comes to the Ocean Liberation naval mission and the fleet battle against the Imperator, the many targets there provide more chances for successful lightning strikes, and even a handful of accurate hits can have more of an impact than most naval magics.
Combat Moveset -- Kill Chop, Backhand, Chasm
Naval Magic -- Vesselshatter -- On selecting an enemy ship, that ship is instantly dealt damage equal to 0.5x base ram damage and boarding threshold is decreased by 3x base ram damage.
Naval Passive -- Experienced Sailor -- The player boat's damage and boarding decreases from their own cannonfire and ram damage is boosted by 25%, and the player's boat also has 25% higher movement speed.
Analysis -- Tara is a offensive-oriented naval combat character who brings a lot to the player's advantage against enemy boats -- higher cannon damage, higher ram damage, her Vesselshatter Naval Magic providing immediate boarding damage, and her movement speed letting the player pull ahead of enemy boats for both evasion purposes and gaining a lead to turn and fire cannons in scenarios where the enemy boat is chasing the player. Her movement speed is also handy for travel itself, whether it be an exploration based team searching for desert and forest islands, or returning to town islands that much faster.
Her moveset for standard combat is valuable, especially when boarding a boat due to its smaller arena size -- Chasm can cover a good area in most boarding battles, her standard attacks can kill Occultists and Scorchedarm Occultists quickly, and her Backhand into Kill Chop combo can be good for wearing down Mountain Occultists.
Combat Moveset -- Viper Flight, Aura, Dark Arts
Naval Magic -- Evergreen Ram -- For 5 seconds, all ram attacks by the player's boat deal 3x damage and lowers boarding threshold of enemy boats by 3x the normal amount when hit by the player's ram.
Naval Passive -- Cartography Enthusiast -- If a spot on the world map has a forest island, that part of the map is uncovered sooner. The amount of food and lumber found on forest islands is also boosted by 200%.
Analysis -- Pound is an exploration-focused character that specializes in forest islands, and can help the player with triple gains of Food and Lumber from forest islands between naval missions and sea trade expeditions. This is particularly useful for getting a solid early game start, as the Lumber can be used for more boats for sea trade, and both the Food and Lumber can be used towards charitable donations and general upgrades for the Cetacean respectively (especially for Speed to travel faster to more islands). Pound's ability to spot forest islands earlier through fog of war means the player should almost always know where to find more Food and Lumber out in the wild.
Pound's Evergreen Ram Naval Magic is also excellent for boarding enemy boats faster (which leads to even more resources), and combined with Cherry's Windcatch and its ability to make boats always travel at max speed, a team of Pound and Cherry can unleash 2 high powered ram attacks just by pushing into the enemy boat. Pound can use Dark Arts to power up himself or another offensive based character, and his Viper Flight and Aura can be good for hitting multiple enemies in straight lines.
Combat Moveset -- Viper Cudgel, Far Shot, Viper Blast
Naval Magic -- Boatblaze -- After selecting an enemy ship, that enemy ship catches fire and suffers damage and boarding threshold decreases at 40% base ram attacks per second for 5 seconds.
Naval Passive -- Historical Analysis -- If a spot on the world map has a desert island, that part of the map is uncovered sooner. The amount of Mez found on desert islands is also boosted by 200%.
Analysis -- Cook is an exploration-focused character that specializes in desert islands, and is essentially the desert island equivalent to Pound regarding his passive. Being able to find triple the amount of Mez from desert islands gives the player greater purchasing freedom, as Mez is required for a large number of things -- upgrades, adding to fleet, recruiting crew, shore leave, and more.
Cook's Boatblaze Naval Magic may not be as strong as Tara's for boarding boats, nor can it hit as many boats as Claire's Tsunami, but it strikes a good balance of damage and boarding thresholds for one boat. Though Cook's cooldowns are very high, Viper Cudgel and Viper Blast are high damage, and his Far Shot's ricochets can be valuable for the smaller arena sizes when boarding boats.
Combat Moveset -- Throat Jab, Throwing Knife, Rainfall
Naval Magic -- Tsunami -- For 5 seconds, the ocean's waves will grow higher, dealing 5% base ram damage and boarding threshold decreases every 1/5 second to all enemy boats currently in combat.
Naval Passive -- Cautious Sailor -- The player's own boat damage received is reduced by 50%.
Analysis -- Claire is a defensive-oriented naval combat character, which is quite clear from her Naval Passive flat-out halving all damage received to the player's boat. Her Tsunami looks weak, but it is valuable at chipping away at multiple enemy boats at one time over a long fight, such as the Ocean Liberation naval mission or the big fleet battle with the Imperator. This combined with her defense makes her valuable for larger naval battles.
Claire's moveset is also quite valuable when it comes to standard combat -- her Throat Jab is a potent defense debuff (especially against the Imperator himself), and her Rainfall ability can knock down multiple enemies, leaving them unable to fight back while receiving 50% more damage (on top of any applied Throat Jab).
Combat Moveset -- Twister, Smoke Grenade, Withstand Seal
Naval Magic -- Siege Salvo -- For 5 seconds, all cannonfire from the player's boat deals 3x damage and boarding threshold decreases.
Naval Passive -- People Person -- Sailors can be recruited for 160 Mez and 8 Food each, instead of 200 Mez and 10 Food each, and sea trade expeditions have a 50% higher gain.
Analysis -- Jimmy is a trade-focused character with a minor focus on sailors and naval combat. While he will likely be brought along primarily for his more rewarding trade deals (especially when combined with Knight's faster trade deals), his Siege Salvo Naval Magic is also useful for combat, especially the bigger missions where cannonfire can more easily land hits on big groups of enemies.
While Jimmy's ability to get sailors at lower cost is handy for replacing sailors that die due to permadeath, it's primary benefit is getting large numbers of sailors recruited in the early game when resources are low, and therefore having a large crew size bonus to power up the sailors early on for faster boarding and forest/desert island visits. Since his kit leans more defensive than offensive, Jimmy may be more reliant on large numbers of sailors early on in most cases.
Combat Moveset -- Crossguard, Blastback, Black Hole
Naval Magic -- Blue Pulse -- On selecting an enemy ship or monster, the target's movement is completely halted and they suffer base ram damage every second for 5 seconds.
Naval Passive -- Unmatched Loyalty -- The player's sailors deal 50% more damage and take half damage. Mutiny leeway is added, allowing up to 5 sailors per potential mutiny to leave before an actual mutiny starts.
Analysis -- Brooks is a sailor focused character with a specialty in high sailor stats. His Naval Passive automatically gives sailors higher survivability and damage even with no crew size bonus, and a max crew size bonus of 3x stat boosts at 50 sailors turns a sailor crew into a wrecking crew -- they will tear through encounters very quickly. The mutiny leeway from his passive also gives the player the chance to engage in revelry before a mutiny starts, if exploring or a hunter boat encounter goes wrong -- there's a good chance a player will never see a mutiny with Brooks in the party (especially with Alberto or Caesara in the party, too).
His moveset in battle is also more sailor-oriented, with Black Hole holding enemies in place for the sailors to attack targets without issue, while Crossguard and Blastback are keepaway for Brooks.
His Blue Pulse Naval Magic is also versatile in that it can be used on either enemy boats or naval monsters, but it is wasted on sharks (who die easily anyways) and the Imperator's Man-of-war, which needs boarding threshold damage (and Blue Pulse only deals standard damage). It is useful for dealing heavy damage to krakens, as well as for holding enemy boats in place to get into a better position to attack or to keep them from helping their allies in bigger battles.
Combat Moveset -- Bladewheel, Prayer to Ferromant, Heat Wave
Naval Magic -- Boiled Beasts -- For 10 seconds, the oceans will boil over an area. All monsters caught in the area of boiling ocean suffer 20% base ram damage every 1/5 second.
Naval Passive -- Life of the Party -- Shore leave costs require 500 Mez instead of 1000 Mez. Shore leave also temporarily boosts morale up to 150% instead of up to 100%.
Analysis -- Caesara is a naval combat/sailor hybrid character with a focus on niche specialties. More specifically, her Boiled Beasts Naval Magic will annihilate sharks and krakens quickly and efficiently, even on Legend Plus -- while enemy boats are always more of a threat to the player than monsters, the fast removal of monsters prevents sharks from adding more damage to a player's fleet from their hit-and-run attacks and krakens eventually catching up and attacking from behind in the bigger battles.
The lowered Mez from Caesara's passive is minor, but 150% Morale provides so much leeway that Amenities upgrades from the Cetacean combined with Caesara's shore leave can maintain morale very effectively. Caesara's Heat Wave is valuable for battles, as it is a long lasting damage-over-time ability that covers a solid area, and block staggering an enemy into Bladewheel while in Claw Hands stance can be very damaging.
Naval Conquest Playstyles
There are 4 main playstyles of focus within Naval Conquest -- naval combat, exploration, trade and sailors. Though every crew of 3 will need to explore, go on naval missions, send boats out on sea trade expeditions, and most crews will likely need sailors (especially on higher difficulties), those who specialize in a particular area of Naval Conquest will push towards a certain playstyle more than others. This is even more pronounced on Legend Plus Difficulty, where the limited time and stronger enemies will require a player to lean more into their crew's strengths.
Naval combat-focused crews (Tara and Claire) excel in combat with other boats and rely primarily on higher-grade naval missions for significant resource gains. Tara and Claire's combined combat prowess is strong to the point where they can immediately tangle with Galleons in the Fleet Destruction naval mission immediately out of New Game, even on Legend Plus. The extra damage from Tara's passive will make it easier to board boats quicker, the speed from Tara's passive will make evading enemy boat rams easier (while being able to turn to fire), Claire's passive will provide great defense for survival, and Claire's Tsunami magic can help deal with multiple boats at once in longer battles. Tara and Claire also have abilities in standard combat that complement the small arena size from boarding boats, and with Tara's Vesselshatter, boarding will happen much more quickly and reliably (and even on Legend Plus, they can get by without sailors most of the time). Since boarding victories provide even more resources, being able to take on Galleons early on can provide a very large amount of Mez, Food and Lumber.
However, since crews focused on naval combat rely on naval missions for most of their income, this means that they will need to find multiple town islands that they can go between. Since it takes 6 days for naval missions to be accessible again from a town island, the player will need to find more than one town that they can make use of (likely 3 or 4 towns will be best), and a naval combat crew may run into some difficulties if they cannot find towns reliably. They also feel the time limit that blocks all naval missions (3 days or less until the Imperator arrives) more keenly than other crews.
Exploration-heavy crews (Pound and Cook) have the most freedom-based playstyle in Naval Conquest. Every island encountered provides solid amounts of resources, and the player will often have these islands uncovered on their map through fog of war. Since they are less reliant on big naval missions or sea trade expeditions, they worry less about needing to find towns, when the timer ends for naval missions to open up in towns again, or rushing back to town for sea trade. They can be played more casually, as a result. Pound and Cook also have Naval Magic that is good for dealing with boarding enemy boats in the wild on Normal/Legend Difficulty for more resources found at random, and they can take on mid-level naval missions fairly early and easily even on Legend Plus.
On the negative side of things, exploration means having to disembark on a lot of islands, which means a lot of combat. Exploration based teams will likely need to drop resources for a lot of sailors to speed up island combat, and that also means having to deal with morale.
Trade-based crews (Knight and Jimmy) have a hard time in the early game. They need to immediately start spending resources building up a sizeable fleet of Schooners (going for quantity over quality in one sense when it comes to their fleet), but they also do not have the naval combat prowess for bigger naval missions like naval combat crews, nor will they have the resource gains like exploration crews will. They are reliant on sailors on higher difficulties to catch up in the early game, but those also take Mez away from Schooner purchases. They will also need to stay within arm's reach of towns (any town, they do not need multiple like naval combat crews) to return for frequent sea trade expeditions, and early trade deals feel weak with so few boats. Whoever the third member is to Knight and Jimmy will likely dictate how a trade crew's early game goes.
However, once they get momentum going, trade crews become lategame behemoths -- if their time is used properly and effectively, they will have a large number of schooners for the final battle (thanks to all the Mez and Lumber they earned through trade), and all of these Schooners should be max level, as should every single one of the Cetacean's upgrades (thanks to all of the Food they earned through trade going to large amounts of charitable donations to towns). Their weaker Schooners will not only be stronger for the final battle due to being max level, but having so many boats in the fleet means stronger reinforcements per boat dying against the Imperator. Even a full lategame team of Cherry, Knight and Jimmy was successful (and powerfully so) on Legend Plus, so trade crews should not be underestimated despite their early game weaknesses.
Sailor-focused crews (Alberto and Brooks) are different in that, unlike the other crew types above, they do not have anything that aids in boosting the gains of resources. However, their focus on sailors allows island missions and boarding battles to end much quicker and much safer. Alberto's maintaining of morale and revelry boosts is great for dealing with shore leave/revelry's time costs, while Brooks' mutiny leeway provides more reliability and the stat boosts he provides sailors (especially with a sailor crew size of 50 gaining 3x stat bonuses on top of that) can be overkill for standard fights, as the sailors will tear through everything with ease and at a quick pace.
A full sailor-focused crew of Alberto/Brooks/Caesara can win an entire Naval Conquest, even on Legend Plus, but is not recommended, due to the heavy lack of resource gains -- it can make for a harder endgame fight with fewer options. As a result, sailor-focused crews would do well with Alberto, Brooks and the third member being someone other than Cherry or Caesara, so that they have some method of gaining resources that their sailors can actually be applied to.
Miscellaneous characters for crews (Cherry and Caesara) provide different types of support for a Naval Conquest. Cherry has her lategame focus on stronger fleets for the final battle, and can more reliably help them survive naval missions to gain big level ups if not going for heavy amounts of charitable donations. Caesara is more versatile and more niche, destroying sharks and krakens effortlessly with a single use of her Naval Magic (naval combat focus), her Heat Wave ability on boarding battles is long-lasting and large area, and providing much more potent shore leaves so that the player does not need to worry about morale (sailor focus).
While their strengths provide a lot to a crew, Cherry and Caesara are typically not the characters that a crew of 3 is anchored around -- they are typically best used to round out a crew with a particular playstyle goal in mind.
Leeway on Legend Plus
Despite how brutal Legend Plus can be with enemies having abilities in standard combat, enemy boats and sea monsters having higher damage and health, hunter boats interfering with the player, and most notably the time limit reduction to 20 days, there is still a good amount of leeway to a Legend Plus Naval Conquest, assuming the player plays the game mode well and their crew's strengths are utilized effectively.
Wins on Legend Plus had been accomplished while, on separate occasions, the first town island went undiscovered for 4 ingame days (out of Legend Plus' 20 days), undergoing a mutiny, not making it back to town in time before the Imperator arrived to make multiple charitable donations, and a lack of resources providing a weak fleet and few upgrades -- though that last one meant a lot of fleeing and casting naval magic, which is a bit of a limited way to fight the final battle. It means that the player can win, but it is typically better to have a strong fleet at the ready.
Preparing for the Imperator's Fleet
The most important objective when starting any Naval Conquest is to find a town island -- this goes for any crew configuration, as towns provide a variety of services, including the only method of saving the game. Sometimes the player is quite fortunate and they can start next to a town island immediately on New Game, other times it can take a lot of searching, but finding a town is necessary for success in Naval Conquest. Exploration-based crews could benefit from making a few stops on forest/desert islands as they search, though, so that they have resources at the ready on arriving at a town.
When a town is found, what comes next depends on the crew's playstyle -- naval combat heavy crews will need to focus on finding another 2 or 3 town islands that they can go between for missions, trade crews will want any town (can be the same or different) to keep nearby so that they can set up more sea trade expeditions, exploration crews will do pretty much whatever they feel like, and sailor-based crews will likely do what's best for their non-sailor focused party member. Every playstyle will need to do naval missions and sea trades, and they can all benefit from grabbing some extra resources on forest and desert islands, but a team should lean into their strengths more, especially on Legend Plus.
When there are 5 days or less until the Imperator's Fleet arrives, it might be best to change objectives to gathering as much Food as possible for charitable donations, so that the player's boat and their fleet can be at their best. Naval missions no longer become accessible with 3 days or less for the Imperator's arrival, and sea trade expeditions have a similar restriction (though with Knight present, he can ease up the sea trade restriction to 2 days or less), so it is best to plan the final naval mission and sea trade expedition accordingly. Desert and forest islands can be visited at this time to round out a player's resources (exploration crews will take to this naturally), with Food being found directly on forest islands, and Mez from desert islands can be traded in for Food (though at less rewarding ratios than sea trade).
Make sure to have enough time to return to town to save the game -- once the Imperator arrives, islands cannot be disembarked onto and town NPCs will disappear along with their services (which includes saving). Recruit whatever sailors can be afforded, upgrade the Cetacean with whatever leftover Mez and Lumber is available, and make any Food donations that can be made. When ready, save the game and go on shore leave/revelry if able to speed up to the Imperator's arrival.
The Imperator's Arrival
The Imperator arrives with boats, krakens and sharks. The sharks will speed up ahead, while the krakens will arrive to the battlefield slowly -- if the player is not careful, they may end up surrounded by these staggered waves of enemies. The Imperator's fleet has no reinforcements, so take down as few or as many enemies as feels appropriate (even boarding the other boats to restore health to the Cetacean and the fleet).
The player's fleet will arrive 3 at a time, and every reinforcement that arrives to replace a destroyed boat in the fleet will gain stat bonuses of 10% per destroyed boat -- this is why it is important to focus on both quantity and quality for the player's fleet. Like on naval missions, the boats will appear in the order they are sorted, so putting weaker boats out early can power up the stronger boats that arrive later.
The Imperator's Man-of-war is the main objective in this big fleet battle, but it is a powerful vessel. It is far more damaging than any other ship type, and it has infinite health -- the only way it can be "defeated" is by boarding it, and it has a higher boarding threshold than Galleons. Depending on the makeup of the player party and the Cetacean's upgrades, they can rely on naval magic, frequently ramming the Man-of-war with high level Cetacean upgrades, or the player can rely on a powerful fleet, especially if Cherry is in the party and the boats in the fleet (especially Galleons) have high levels from surviving naval missions or charitable donations.
When the Man-of-war is able to be boarded (its green boarding bar empties and its sails vanish, like other boardable boats), the player will have to face off against the Imperator and his Occultists. The Imperator himself has a leaping slash attack and will switch between an Attack-boosting aura and an HP regen aura for his allies -- he has these abilities regardless of difficulty. Having sailors present, especially with Brooks and/or a massive crew size bonus (preferably 50 sailors for 3x stats), will provide a very powerful safety net against the Imperator, and they should be able to take down the Imperator and his reinforcements quite easily if they are present and capable.
Once the Imperator and the other enemies in the fight are dead, the player wins the Naval Conquest.