Ophidian Dragon blogs his way through the entire Ultima series, from beginning to end.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ultima II, Day 2

So I'm noticing that the "days" of my titles have little to do with the amount of time actually spent playing the games in question--For example, finishing "day 2" of Ultima II has finished about 6 hours of playing, whereas the same time was spent in all three days of Ultima I. So In terms of how long it takes, to finish the games, you should note the hours rather than the days. My hypothesis is that the time for each game will be approximately exponential until ultima 6, and that and the rest of the games will take the same amount of time to complete.

Ultima II continues apace. Yesterday I rised my stats and I explored the solar system--with shocklingly little point. Much time was wasted trying to raise my strength, only to realize that there is a bug in Ultima 2 that prevents strength from ever going up! Oh well. I will get to some of the particulars of flying in space in Ultima II in a moment, but I believe they solidified my belief that Ultima II is a significantly inferior game to Ultima I. The reason I claim this is that Ultima II is almost completely devoid of goals. In its predecessor, you were assigned quests to fulfill, and clues pubs led to other particular quests. Granted, some of the quests were not related to Mondain really, and they could be fulfilled multiple times. Ultima II's major flaw is there is almost no direction, and there is really only one plot element: You have to get Father Antos's blessing. Well two, if you count "go kill Minax" as part of the plot. The remainder of Ultima II is about sailing around and blowing up monsters to earn gold and raise your stats and hit points--the screenshot shows me doing just that, blasting a long row of beasties in the Time of Legends in which Minax resides.

Beyond emptiness of the plot, the other big flaw of Ultima II would be its superficiality. There are lots of aspects of the game that could be used to make some cool quests or clue-giving devices or even just immersion, but they are unused. Outer space is the prime example. I explored all of the planets, wandering through whatever towns are there, and I was sad to realize there is absolutely no reason to ever visit any of them, aside from Planet X. Now, I did encounter some interesting things, but they are only in-jokes or only matter due to subsequent games. For example, on Venus I believe you encounter Dupre, whereas you encounter piles of other names that probably would mean something were I familiar with the video game personalities c. 1982. THose you generally find in "Computer Camp" on...Neptune?

The most insanity can be found on the town of New Jestre on Uranus, from which the screenshot on the right comes featuring me being surrounded by a swarm of violent clowns trying to kill me. What...? Planet X fares a little bit better, featuring Castle Barataria (reminds me of Ultima I) and Father Antos, who as far as I am concerned sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of his goofy suroundings. Father Antos' blessing is needed to get the ring from an old man under "a tree" in a quite literal fashion (see the screenshot), as described by the poem "Seers" in the town tell youwhen paid. I'm not sure exactly how you are supposed to know to bribe the old man with 500 gold before he gives you the ring, though. My guess would be that you are told to get the ring from him, and previous experience with the hotel clerk at Hotel California (gah!) teaches that giving money to people can be useful. I could say the same about Sentre, who gives you the quicksword, Enilno (Online as in Sierra Online spelled backwards...gah again); no plot point tells you to offer him money for the sword, but you see "quickswd" as an option for readying when you press R to ready a weapon, and he says "I have a quick blade." So I suppose that would be enough had I not already known what I had to do. In any case, I now have both of those items and once I raise my hit points I can go kill Minax.

I expect I will finish the game tonight, after another hour or two of play. The next step is to move on to a game I have never played, Escape from Mt. Drash! Will it stink? Almost certainly. After that game I will play Ultima III, which I have neer finished. I expect it will take much longer simply because combat is much more tedious in that game. I will close with a screenshot featuring a notable character in the game, who mentions the time constraingts that might suggest why Ultima II does not seem fully fleshed out...

7 comments:

Voyager Dragon said...

Great blog Ophidian! This is really making me want to play through the series again.

You mentioned that you couldn't raise your strength, but I'm curious how you tried. Was it by bribing the guy in Hotel California? I don't recall there ever being any clues about that in the game and I'm pretty certain I missed it my first time playing through. I do remember U2 was very good at not giving you clues to certain things.

Voyager Dragon said...

N/m... just read the blog entry a little more thoroughly and saw that you did try the bribe.

Anonymous said...

I think I remember reading in some official Ultima book that you could control which stat would get raised by counting your keystrokes once you entered the town. The number of keystrokes when you transact with the hotel clerk would determine the stat to be increased.

I forget how many stats there are--maybe six? So, you would have something like this:
1 Keystroke: increase stat1
2 Keystrokes: increase stat2
3 Keystrokes: increase stat3
4 Keystrokes: increase stat4
5 Keystrokes: increase stat5
6 Keystrokes: increase stat6
7 Keystrokes: increase stat1
8 Keystrokes: increase stat2

...or something like that.

I'm enjoying your blog!

Jared

Ultimate Carl said...

Love all the easter eggs, especially the Garriott one.

Tim Wu said...

Just won Ultima II ! 15 years after first winning Ultima III. Feel strangely proud of that. It actually took a lot of time, mainly because played on and off for a long time, and because I took the time to explore the planets, some of the dungeons, etc.

For me the best part about Ultima II is is crazy ambition (Time travel! 10 planets! Dungeons! etc.).

I also like the quasi-meaningless of so much that's in the game, like, say, Computer Camp on Neptune. Like the real world, its just full of weird stuff that doesn't necessarily make any sense. Love it.

Amazing how much stuff is on 3 floppy disks.

In a world that demands that things "make sense" Ultima II is such a refreshing change.

Unknown said...

Ultima was basically Garriot's attempt to create a total escapist fantasy. I think he was 19 when he wrote the original Ultima, really a teenage D&D nerd who was into escapist fantasy. So when he wrote Ultima II he would have been in his early 20s. So from that perspective Ultima II really was the wild imagination of a young nerd given infinite license to create whatever escapist fantasies his imagination could create. It is a direct outgrowth and expansion of the concepts in the original Ultima... Space is BIGGER. BETTER. More planets to visit! Time travel is BIGGER. BETTER. More time zones to visit! Sure, it lacked cohesiveness, but that's not what he was attempting. He was trying to create an alternate world that he wanted to live in. As an adult he essentially fulfilled as much of those dreams as he could (look, he made it to the international space station... a fulfillment of his Ultima 1 fantasy of spaceflight, docking with the ISS)

Ivan Sorensen said...

It's worth watching Spoony's reviews of the Ultima games, and this one in particular. He covers a lot of the same issues verbalized here.

Nice to see multiple screenshots on the blog too. It really helps illustrate things better