Let it be known--this game is vastly harder than all the previous games. Right now I have visited most of the towns--save Buccaneer's Den and New Magincia, which are a pain to get to--and I have solved one of eight Boring Shrine Quests. What is a Boring Shrine Quest, exactly? Each shrine gives you a quest--it tells you to go to the Codex, read a few words, and return. Excitement! It was sheer luck that I was able to finish one. While I was twiddling my thumbs over in Skara Brae, a pirate ship came up to the shore and I captured it! Previously I had expected to need to buy one for a thousand gold at the shipwright (I already bught a skiff, but they cannot sail over the deep waters...).
I also hit the roof of the castle and picked up a magic carpet and a sandlewood box. I did the latter by visiting a lighthouse in south Britannia (ironicall, it was not the place I was looking for) and a guy taught me to play Stones, and a previous character had told me playing Stones on the king's harspichord would cause something magical to happen. For whatever reason, though, I am unable to open the box, evn though it clearly looks like a chest. Anyway, the magic carpet is extremely useful because it alows me to zip over annoying rivers and so on, and outrun most of the monsters around--and it allowed me to randomly dig up a rotting corpse! This is particularly important because fighting is the fastest way to die repeatedly--Especially snakes which spit poison, rats which bite poison, seahorses which shoot poison energy blobs, and basically every damn thing that poisons when it attacks! Gah.
In terms of plot, Ultima V is a lot like Ultima IV: talking people allows you to gather together a lengthy list of assorted items needed to finish the game. Then you just have to go find the items! One such item is the crown of Lord British, which I was instructed to fetch by members of the resistance hiding out under Yew. Except, of course, it sits atop Blackthorn's volcano-surrounded castle. Aye carumba. How am I supposed to survive that exactly!?
For the time being, the key thing to accomplish is arming myself more effectively. I need ranged weapons in particular. In this game, you get hurt by all kinds of random things, such as accidentally bumping into a cactus tile in the desert, or looking through a telescope during the daytime. Sometimes crystal balls give you a "death vision," and then there's the ocassional fireplace you need to crawl into. Getting poisoned is a particular pain, since it occurs frequently--lots of monsters do it, swamps do it, fountains can do it, and searching the bloody splatter after you kill an enemy can do it.
The bottom line is that playing Ultima V is a fairly tedious process, particularly since the game doesn't bother to tell you when you are being unvirtuous. For example, taking crops out of the fields seems to have kicked my virtue down a notch. What a pain, because food is eaten very rapidly and is very expensive.
At present I'm not sure what to do next other than buy the weapons I mentioned. I guess I should solve all the various shrine quests as a starting point, as there are a handful of characters who do not trust me, and I think they will allow me to open the dungeons.