Well, Ultima VI is finished. The final esctions of the game are some of my favorites in any of the Ultimas, really--You visit the catacombs and are a bit shocked to have some chats with Mondain, Minax and Exodus! I especially enjoyed the references to the details of the earlier games, especially how the intro to Minax mentions that you "destroyed her castle and all her works," which mirrors the endgame text from Ultima II. I also appreciate how the three dungeons for the Gargoyle virtues of Control, Passion and Diligence relate to their theme. Control is all about pulling levers to open eight gates and two force fields (!!), but many of the levers do the same thing. Diligence was the one that gave me the most trouble when I played the game back in grade school--4th grade, to be exact. It's one big grid of dungeon rooms with monsters hanging out, and it took ages for me to find the secret door that leads up to Exodus. Of course, this means that puzzle has no replay value! In any case, it was cool to see high-res portraits of my enemies from the first few games, since the original artwork, shall we say, left a bit to be desired (In the original game, Minax was exactly the same as mondain but with two fewer pixels on her hips...)
There's not much else to say about the game I guess--finishing it is very straightforward, involving going to the Codex and doing what it says. This leads me back to one of the first posts, where a comment mentioned how it was possible to beat the game while killing only three things. I propose that the game can be defeated without killing anything. Here is my brief hypothetical walkthrough--the only question is where to get a few invisibility rings to avoid the few combat areas, and where to get some fast gold. I am not sure if certain things trigger game flags or not, so I wrote this under the assumption that no conversations trigger game flags at all. If they do, then you have to talk to more people...But here it is anyway:
-Talk to LB, learn tu use the orb, get spellbook/gold/reagents, have Sherry joing you, then go get rune of Compassion and a cauldron
-Teleport to Yew, get rune of Justice, a log, and buy Unlock Magic, Dispel Field, and Telekenesis from Nicodemus [unless he doesn't have them, I don't remember], and buy 40 spider silk
-Take the road East of Yew, take the skiff to Stonegate and get the Vortex Cube, have Dupre carry the skiff
-Teleport to Jhelom, get the rune of Valor, have Sherry leave
-Teleport to Gargoye Land near Hythloth, talk to Captain John, get the vocab, and have Beh Lem join.
-Surrendur, get the broken lens, have it repaired
-Teleport to Moonglow, get the key and the rune of Honesty and get the Britannian lens
-Teleport to New Magincia and get the rune of Humility.
-Sail south to Sutek's castle and get the balloon plans
-Teleport to Minoc, make a board, get the panpipes, get the rune of Sacrifice, have a basket made
-Teleport to Trinsic, get the rune of Honor and walk to Paws, get the silk thread made.
-Teleport to New Magincia, get the bag made.
-Teleport to gargoyle land, near shrine; visit shrine, talk to it twice and say the mantra to get a sacred quest.
-Teleport to all the shrines in turn and liberate them, gathering the moonstone
-Teleport to the Codex and end the game.
I think this should do it. The only monster of note is the hydra in Sutek's castle, but you can justwalk around it to the secret door. I believe you can win without killing a thing!
Speaking of Sutek, Paulon makes an argument for the logic of the Pushme Pullyu, and I think he is right--as long as you know that the opposite head is talking, it doesn't really matter which is qhich. The problem I saw was that the heads themselves introduce the puzzle, and I can get boh sides to make the claim that "Pullu always lies," and they can't both say that without breaking the game I think it would be better if the claim about who lies and who tells the truth were made elsewhere.
I also must correct my "most useless spell" claim, since evidently you can make spikes vanish with vanish. I think I will give the award to...Eclipse! I can't think of how an eclipse does you much good, besides looking cool. Which reminds me, I didn't see any eclipses this game, but I saw them sometimes when I played my first time...
Some final thoughts on Ultima VI...It was less fun than I expected, but that's only because I played it through last year, and most of the puzzles were still fresh in my mind. Given other couple of years, I'm sure I will forget a lot and it will be enjoyable again! One of the disadvantages of playing the game with foreknowledge is that I didn't make any of the random discoveries I did in Ultima V, such as finding the mystic armor in the middle of nowhere without even knowing it was in the game! Equivalent events in Ultima VI the first time I played included finding lots of map pieces by accident, and...Actually. I guess it was mostly limited to finding random map pieces! I also failed to experiment with the enchant spell, which can be used to enhant magic staves. I can't remember how that works--I think the staff can be used to cast another spell of your choosing? overall, though, I think I squeezed out mostof what the game has to offer. I even sold some grain to the miller in Paws!
One og the mos important additions Ultima VI had was the character portraits. it's hard to overestimate how much value this adds to the game, simply because it's far easier for me to associate people's faces with their names. In Ultima V I had to remember "the guy that hangs around the orchard is Terence," whereas in Ultima VI I can simply recall the face and look around. Also, seeing the face allows my imagination to picture this specific person talking, and it also serves as a visual clue to previous conversations. One of the unhappy parts of Ultima VII was the way in which these portraits are dramatically smaller! The new, more colorful tileset brings the world to life in a way that was not the case with the previous games--as did the presence of lots of random creatures, like rabbits bouncing around, birds surrounding you in the moongate locations, and deer dashing through the woods. There was a much stronger sense of the world's continuity, overall--The "set piece" battles on the road were particularly fun, like meeting (and killing) another party of dventurers (and a party of headlesses and trolls) on the way to Skara Brae; the fact that you meet the same thing in the same place later only detracts a little bit from the suspension of disbelief.
I had more fun playing it than Ultima V, but the familiarty was a bit of a downer. I'm glad it's been years since I played Ultima VII and the rest of the games (Except Serpent Isle and Underworld 2)! Even Ultima IX, I have not played since 2000, and am likely to find it to be a new experience. As for Savage Empire, well, well that will be almost an entirely new experience!
Speaking of Savage Empire--when I hit journey onward I am dumped back to a DOS prompt. I have to use game.exe to play. Anyone else have this issue?