Ding, dong, thw witch is dead! Today I whacked Minax in her own castle, Shadowguard. There's not much to say about it, except that it was a bit easier than I had expected. Were there not a bug in the game that prevents you from raising strength, it would have been even easier! The most surprising thing about Minax is that she looks pretty much identical to Mondain, except for a thinner waist. In later games, she is depicted as wearing an exceptionally stupid hat. In this game, she's just another cloaked weirdo.
The challenge of beating Minax is one primarily of patience, because when you kill her in one spot, she simply vanishes and re-appears in another corner. It's really quite annoying, because every step yu take towards you causes you a few hundred hit points as she yells "DIE FOOL!" In the end, though, she succumbed to the Quicksword and all her works died with her, meaning that many black squares appeared from nowhere. I presume this resulted in the timeline being fixed.
The big question, to my mind, is what happened in Britannia/Sosaria during Minax's reign? I assume that Mondain's defea severed the four continents from one another, but it's not clear what transforms the world from the old shape to its newer shape. I'm alsonot sure if Minax attacked Earth as a means to stop the pre-Avatar from killing her later, or if she attacked Earth to prevent him from undoing the damage she had already caused. The game is highly vague on these subjects! In any case, I think it's best to assume that Minax did bad things to Sosaria, and British travelled to Earth to help you in two of the four timelines.
The next game is Ultima III, Exodus, which is apparently so different that it got inducted into CGW's hall of fame where U1 and U2 did not. I have not played it thoroughly, but I did get the impression that the game takes itself far more seriously than its predecessors, and that the solution to the game was notably more complicated than that of the previous two--you do fight through a big miserable castle to win, but you do not kill Exodus directly, and Exodus' nature is note entirely clear even in the end.
But before I get to delve into Ultima III, I must tackle that most obscure of spin-offs, Escape from Mt. Drash. It was released by a friend of Garriott's without his knowledge and is clearly non-canonical. Having just played it for a few minutes, I can assert without hyperbole that is one of the absolute worst games I have ever played. However, this blog may soon feature the first in-depth review the game has ever received! Right at the moment I am having trouble choosing a good emulator. MESS seesm a bit broken, for example. There is an MS-DOS port, but I don't trust it (at the very least it lacks the music) and I can't get screenshots from it anyway. Suggestions?
Oh yeah, finishing Ultima II took approximately 7 or 8 hours, I think. A huge portion of the time was spent slowly gaining experience as usual, but getting a boat made life so much easier. I don't think I will get this benefit in the later games, though.