No rest for the weary! Before I start talking about Underoworld I, I will mention a forgotten loose end from Martian Dreams and offer some final thoughts on that game.
5) Who is the lady with glasses who wears green, the first person you see in the line of people to go back to Earth?
Martian Dreams was a little less fun because I had already played two games with the same engine; there was less excitement in starting it because I had gotten used to that style of play. It also suffered a little bit from a problem that Savage Empire had, in that the difficulty level of certain monsters (especially the crawling cactuses...I despised those things!) discouraged me from exploring Mars as much as I explored Britannia in Ultima VI, which is why I missed those shoes (also, according to Paulon, they were hidden under a rock...) and the green lady. I did try to explore some places, though, it's just that I didn't find muh to see. I went over every nch of the terrain west of Hellas, for example, when I was waiting for that seed to grow, but just didn't see much. I think the plot of this game was vastly superior to that of Savage Empire, but the interactivity went a step backwards (at least in terms of building stuff from raw materials), as did the NPC scheduling to some extent (I saw Carnagie vanish and reappear elsewhere on a number of ocassions, and Yellin never moved, let alone slept).
I think Martian Dreams did highlight the desperate need for a conversation tree system like Ultima VII. There was a LOT of text, and sometimes it is hard to both read all the details, and also keep in mind all the keywords you need to ask about. I tried to keep a queue of keywords in my head, but I sometimes forgot them because one keyword would generate so much more information. Also, I remember asking Carnegie about "cannon" referring to the space cannon that would launch everyone back to Earth, but instead he talked about how it was too much work to make me any cannonballs. Eh? That being said, the choices of character icons was improved over Savage Empire, and I liked how all the characters in an area seem to have a distinct icon (a strategy also used in Serpent Isle to great effect).
Now, onto Underworld. I love Underworld--It didn't usd to be my favorite Ultima game, and it still isn't, but it's moved way up there, maybe to #2 or #3 (note to self: do a countdown at the end). The plot and the game engine and the quests and all seem perfectly in tune with one another, and it presents kind of a "micro story" of an event in Britannia, a fairly mior historical note, that we don't otherwise see in the games. Mygame time today...Well, there is very little to talk about. I thoroughly explored level one of the dungeon, chatted with goblins and wimpy loser human outcasts, and so on. It had the feel of an "introduction" level; even the treasure that I found didn't seem very impressive (it sucks to do an annoying jump only to find a "servicable leather cap" for the effort...)
A short plot recap: A mysterious blue bearded fellow contacts me as I sleep and yells in a hilarious voice, "treachery and dooooooom!" His brother is releasing a great evil. I am sucked into his wobbly blue head and appear in the bedroom of the local Baron, whose daughter has just been kidnapped. I am tossed in the Abyss, suspected of conspiring to kidnap her. That's basically all the information you start with.
I will take some time to talk about my choices in creating my character. A lot of my choices were based on my memory of the game, specifically, you eventually get a Sword of Justice that you have to carry around all the time, so it seems quite reasonable to start with a good swords skill. I also recall that swimming is *extremely* tedious if your skill is low, so I chose that too. My final option was the Lore skill, which helps me identify magic items, also a nice skill! My chracter class was Bard, because 1) it's what I always end up as after the virtue test and 2) it allowed me to choose both swimming and lore.
I am currently level 6, but I have not used any of my skill points yet--you raise skills by using the points at shrines, but you must know the mantra for each skill, and I have not found any mantras yet (not for specific skills anyway). All I have I a recipe for rotworm stew. I will probably be using a lot of those points on magic skills--currently, I think I have a whopping 2 mana points, which is not very useful for spellcasting...
Also, as a special feature, and for this game only, I am going to make a list of "When did it happen?" evidence that I get from in the game, because one of the most fun parts of Ultima Underworld is figuring out when it happened with respect to the 200 year gap between Ultima VI and Ultima VII.
WHEN DID IT HAPPEN?
-The king of green goblins knew Cabirus, who died not long before the greys stole off into the night.