Allright, I confess. I finished the game last night. or this morning. It all depends on your perspective, I suppose. Before I posted yesterday, I had gotten everything ready--I bought some mandrake and nightshade, gathered lots of gems and torches, and saved my game just inside Doom. Amusing note--in Ultima IV, buying a sextant involved asking for an unlisted item at the guild. In Ultima V, they inform you it was a limited time offer.
About 3:45, I went to bed, and decided, "Why not go ahead and map the first few levels of Doom?" So I did so. In fact, the first five levels or so are almost all maze, and a particularly annoying maze because ladders really do not match up this time (eg, they are not in the same relative positions on one floor as on the next). There were a few instances of Annoying Invisibility-Less Combat, but I was able to escape those fairly unsathed. The maze was not that confusing since the huge numbers of ladders were connected in a fairly straightforward manner, and I had like 90 gems to work with (and, of course, th ability to reload games before I used all my gems!). This got me down to level 7.
Then things got really, really hard.
I found a room on Level 7 which had a bunch of sand traps (where did these guys come from!?) and daemons and those ever-frustrating wisps. The sand trap in the center covered a ladder. I froze time and killed it--and to my annoyance, I had to get all the pointless treasure it left behind in order to uncover the ladder, thus wasting precious momnts of frozen time! Next was a room full ofdragons and serpents--annoying due to their fiery breath. Freezing time helped here, as I was rapidly able to uncover a hidden bridge and zip on through. Finally, we have a room with reapers and mongbats. More freeze-time scrolls worked wonders here, although I made a terrible mistake and went west instead of hunting for secret doors. The net result is that I had to come back and kill all the monsters, but I made another mistake--it would have been easy to take them out normally, but I chose to freeze time to do it (to save hit points in case another room followed). This used up my last scrolls, and made the next few rooms much harder. Anyway, I found a secret door and went north.
Finally, I could save the game and rest. As a side note, the thing I hate most about Ultima V is that it is so tedious to heal your party. You can rest for 8 hours and gain only two or three hit points--or, about half the time, none at all. Consequently, the next few minutes involved the pressing of the following keys: H-8 Q-Y. Over and over again. If I happened to get attacked (which seems to happen less often with no companions, by the way), I died and reloaded the game, and H-8, Q-Y even more. Now that I think about it, regeneration rings could hav helped, oviously. I am loathe to use up magic items though! That's why I had lots of freeze-time scrolls :-)
Going forward dropped me down a pit into a room full of sharks and wisps. Trying to dash out just got me killed, and I was out of scrolls to freeze time. After lots of trial and error, my solution was to cast charm on two of the wisps, use those to kill the other wisps, and handle the sharks myself. I don't understand why you die so fast in this game. It's true, my character is only level 6, but another, what, 60 hit points wouldn't have madea dfference when every hit from a dragon or a wisp or whatnot takes out about 30-40! Monsters do as much damage as in Ultima IV, it seems, but your total number of hit points is a lot less. Anyway, I finally got through that room, saved, and hit the final room.
This one was a doozy, but another place where having one character was, in a way, beneficial. The room has a bunch of mongbats and daemons, and when you step on a certain square, the area near you fills with lava. My solution was to step on that square, and then stp back over the lava onto the ladder where I am safe. This forced my enemies to come towards me, into the lava, which kills mongbats very quickly. Sometimes mongbats leave chests, and my orginal theory was that three mongbat chests would block off the daemons from attacking me, and I could take them out with the magic axe. Unfortunately, mongbats leave chests too rarely! A much more efficient strategy was to use up my scrolls which summoned daemons, use those to kill of daemons (and keep people from hitting me). Interestingly, daemons I summon have a ranged attack even when I wear the crown, which was a huge advantage. Eventually, I killed them all, and left the room. And I forgot to take a screenshot of the battle :-(
Then I fell into a pit into a chamber with a mirror where Lord British peered at me. I was sucked inside, and he asked about his box. Hey, you nitwit, why didn't you tell me to bring it when you appeared before me when I rested!? Fortunately, I knew about it and I gave it to him, Blackthorn was banished to another realm, and I was immediately sent home. Hooray for me.
Well, Doom was a pain in the butt, and when I checked the clock again it was 6:31 AM. Wow. I was getting really angry towards the end, though, yelling at the screen every time I died (I probably went through that shark room about 40 times). In retrospect, I should have done the following:
-Conserved negate time scrolls. It's better to get hit a few times and heal afterwards in some of the early rooms.
-Brought more reagents. I stupidly came with only 5 mandrake and nightshade, meaning my ability to ast charm was limited. Charm is among the most helpful spells in this dungeon, at least when you are limited to the sizth circle! I also tried out other strategies, like Tremor spells, but that one stinks and hurts no one (after three of them, no enemies died in rooms I tried it in!!).
-Raised my strength at the shrines. It would have been useful because the faster I kill monsters, the more use I can make of my time-freezing scrolls.
Note one thing that is not listed among my ideas for survival--bringing in more party members. Once again, their cost in food and healing and the plain annoyance of haing to control them is not worth what they add in combat, especially since they die so easily.
The last thing I did was out of curiosity--I transferred my Ultima IV character into Ultima V, which turned into a dude with 25 strength, 25 dexterity, 23 intelligence. Good grief, I should have done that in the beginning.
Now, time for my final thoughts. Ultima V has a far more compelling plot than Ultima IV, and I would say it takes everything Ultima IV did and made it either better, or at least more complicated. The dungeon rooms are more interesting and more coherent, and I actually enjoyed exploring them to some extent. After four gmes, Garriott FINALLY got the hint that, gosh, maybe harder monsters should leave better treasure? The outer world is where the game really shines, as NPCs now have schedules, there are lots more interesting places to visit, and the conversations are more interactive and reference one another more often.
On the negative side, a big problem with nonlinearity in games is that their plots are less compelling as a result. Someone tells me to fetch the crown, and I do so, but he doesn't acknowledge it. I destroy the Shadowlords and besides not showing up and "attacking" the towns, no one cares, not even Blackthorn. I'm supposd to be an outlaw, but no one reports me or assaults me, besides the ocassional guard--and I think they would assault me even if I were not an outlaw. The fact that Ultima V is so interactive and quest-driven makes this break in suspension of disbelief all the more glaring, The same is true for Ultima VI, and in some ways Ultima VII. Serpent Isle fixed this to a great extent, so when you become a knight, people greet you differently, even outside of the knight's town, etc.
Ultima V also didn't have much in the way of side quests--but that's OK, because a lot of things were inessential (black badge, spyglass, etc). I am glad i was able to answer most of my questions about those items--the only thing I don't know about is the silver sword, which you sometimes get as dungeon treasure. I only found I once. I also found the glass sword, but didn't see much use for it. Finally, a FAQ mentions a chaos sword, which I ever found--apparently it is in Blackthorn's castle and is "bad news." Oh well. The final question, of course, is this--Why did the Shadowlords give British such a cozy prison? Wacky.
I guess this took about 26 hours to complete, though I haven't added it all up. I look forward to Ultima VI, the first one in the series that I played!