Ophidian Dragon blogs his way through the entire Ultima series, from beginning to end.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Ultima Underworld, Day 8

I'll add screenshots for today and tomorrow as soon as I get some decent speed going.

Well, as expected, the game was completed in about an hour and a half this past afternoon! That gives a total of approxmately 16 hours for the whole game--somewhere between the Worlds of Ultima games and IV, V, and VI. I guess I can organize this post using my previous list of things to do, one by one:

-Smoke some incense with the wizards on level six

This process required three steps, actually, to get three different words for a mantra to get the Cup of Wonder. The mantra is oddly appropriate in a way--insahn.

-Tell the magic word from Gurstang, a prisoner, to a wizard on level six

This resulted in what might be the wimpiest quest in the whole game. The wizard who got the word from Gurstang sent me to a book in the library, which sent me to a shrine where I said the word and got the key f Truth. I did not gain any Truth or knowledge from the quest, because I do not know what "Folanae Fanlo" means.

-Give a picture of Tom to the sad old lady on level five

Poor old lady misses her Tom. Her tears got me the key of Love, and then I had the three-part key!

-Also on level five, learn a flute tune. Requires finding a flute.

I found the flute, as Paulon suggested, on level two. it's sort of a random thing, and I wonder why they didnt bother to put a flute on the level where you need it, or why there are so few in the game. I learned the tune and got the cup from an alcove. i remember the first time I played the game, it took me forever to realize it was playing the flute at a random spot, not playing the flute at a shrine, that gets you the Cup.

-Level five again: Get the giant nugget of gold from a wizard

Did this and gave it to Goldthirst, who gave me a crapola axe in return.

-Find a crazy man on level three and get the taper of sacrifice

Got it. The taper is nice because it never burns out, but not so nice because it lacks much light-giving capacity.

-Get my sword from Shak (finally) on level two

I got but never really used the sword of Justice. I also opened a chest on level two that I forgot about and found my missing Corp runestone! All that I don't have now is Rel (I got Flam from a wizard--see below).

-Find the wine of Compassion. So far, no one has given a crap about the Urgo guy that I rescued from the Lizardmen. I'm pretty sure this leads to the wine, but how, I know not!

Turns out this guy was around a tight corner that looked like a closed passage on level six! Oops. He directed me to the wine of compassion.

I also buried Garamon's bones, but I admit I had to cheat--I couldn't seem to "use" the bones, and tossing them on the gorund didn't do any good. As it turns out, I CAN "use" them and just didn't press the mouse button hard enough or something. After much frustration I consulted a walkthrough on the topic, and found I had to "use" them on the grave*stone* which is an oddball way of burying someone.

The discussion with Garamon was amusing--I had to say that I was willing to destroy my Talismans of Cabirus, but that I would regret it. I have noidea why--Most of them are crap. The sword is pretty good, as is the shield, but who cares about the bottle of wine that I can't even open?

This brings me to my final conclusions about Ultima Underworld. The game itself is pretty cool, and there's a wide variety of things to do even if the terrain on all the levels looks largely the same. The magic system is novel, though I barely used it, and there's plenty of interesting treasure around. I also like saying entire sentences instead of "name," "job," "bye."

The quests you complete are often pretty disappointing though--Killing the hard gazer gets you a wacky pizzacutter, and giving away the pizzacutter gets you...a ring that doesn't do anything. OK, OK, that's the ring of humility--fair enough that it's humble and doesn't do anything, right? How about that standard of honor I got for defeating Rodrick? I guess you could argue I also got his magic sword...And I suppose the quests for the book and the wine are not very challenging. How about the cup of wonder, then? it's a pretty involved quest, and the obect you get does nothing. I am also reminded of the goblin king who complains about spiders, and who does not care once I kill them all off.

That's fairly nitpicky though--I just wish there had been some creative magical powers for each of the talismans, even if they areas weak as the taper giving a small amount of light forever. Maybe the sword could detect nearby enemies, or the cup give you a hallucination something like Wizard Eye of Ultima VI? Oh, there is a spell like that...Roaming Sight. That would be pretty cool.

The skill system is also pretty cool, even if some of the skills--notably the trap skill--are of very limited use. One website insists the swimming skill is useless, but I disagree for characters with minimal magic skill like my own. I think it would be fun to give the game a try as an unarmed guy, who gets good deals through bartering and unlocks doors with picks or something. However, I suspect it's just easier to kill monsters to get food.

I think the game is overall very good, but has a few play balance issues that arise from
the levels being, so I'm told, designed each by a different person. Thus level seven is extremely hard for a magic user with minimal combat skills, for example, whereas level one is almost entirel self-contained, and much of level eight is of no significance to the game. Beyond that, Underworld was a shocking game to play at its time, technologically, and is still a whole lot of fun. Probably it's my number two or three favorite Ultima. I look forward to talking about this game more once I start playing Underworld II!

Next up--Ultima VII! I noticed a bit of a lag in interest during Underworld, but I think that's because the screenshots are just kind of boring compared to the other games--there's a lack of unique objects and items to take screenshots of. In any case, this will change for Ultima VII! I did some rough math and estimated that if VII and the rest take amounts of time roughly equal to VI, I will finish this project in late July or so. if they are significantly longer...well, the project will be significantly longer ;-) Only time will tell. The agenda:

-Ultima VII
-Runes of Virtue
-Underworld II
-Serpent Isle
-Ultima VIII
-Runes of Virtue 2
-Ultima IX


matt said...

I'm excited. I played through Ultima: Exodous and Quest of the Avatar on the NES but wasn't much interested in Ultima Online - I had no idea before i started reading this that there were so many! Keep it up!

stu said...

I had the feeling you didnt much like underworld, then i read at the end you did. It didnt feel like that in the writing.

Myself, didnt like the UW1/2. Heck, I didnt like ant U* post 6.

will you be attempting 7 in a specific manor to not trigger bugs?

Calibrator said...


He said in the beginning, that he liked it. See here:

But I agree that his approach to the games may *sound* a bit ironic or even negative.
To me, however, its more based on logic and objectivity. It's not only "playing the classics again" but nearly an analysis. Here's why:

Playing, watching or reading something as an adult again often gives you insights that you at first didn't perceive.

I'm sometimes "embarassed" that I did like a certain movie as a kid, for example.

The reason for this isn't necessarily a change of taste but more experience and an increased ability to think logically.
This enables you to better see plot holes or inconsistencies (see Ophidian's time table of events: I would never even consider doing such a thing ;-).

Also the feeling of success is limited compared to the first get through because you already know the major plot twists and explored most of the landscapes/dungeons/underworlds/whatever.

I remember playing Underworld for weeks and not just for eight days. I didn't just play - I literally "lived" in the dungeon and felt happy just running and looking around and explore any nooks and crannies (Ophidian criticizes that the levels don't have that many special objects. I didn't care - finding a single coin or a dead rat would've been rewarding enough when going into a secret passage.)

For me UW1 clearly was the future of gaming at the time. And I couldn't and wouldn't really see faults in game design at the time (except the not perfect texture rendering which got corrected in UW2 ;-)

So, with less success (= less happiness while gaming), more logic and experience the major incentive to such an involving series is probably a mixture between nostalgia and a feeling "to be at home". The latter of course means less (positive) surprises, too.

I guess this reflects on the writing a bit.


Anonymous said...

..concerning the wimpy weapons troubles, I recall that casting LORE on some of the mundane weapons and shields on the lower levels revealed them to be magic as well. Though that could also have been UW2..


Anonymous said...

The swimming skill IS useless if you use the simplified movement system (hold Shift, great for water)

Jonathan said...

Late breaking comment here:

You will find magic much more useful in UW2.

Jonathan said...


"The reason for this isn't necessarily a change of taste but more experience and an increased ability to think logically.
This enables you to better see plot holes or inconsistencies (see Ophidian's time table of events: I would never even consider doing such a thing ;-)."

I dunno, one of my most fun side tasks while playing Ultima and many other classic RPG series was to try and piece together the uberstory (complete with timeline) as I played further entries in the series.

Granted, sometimes I go back and I do find that I made assumptions occasionally that don't necessarily make as much sense as an adult, though they're still plausible from what was said/written/etc.

7th-key said...

Just found your blog surfing for UW. Very nice.
UW andd UWII are my all time favs.
I was never obsessed with the quest for items (otherwise I would play WoW... :P). What makes the game unique to me, beyond the RPG aspects, is the ton of nifty puzzles and secret areas. You really have to interract with the world to get somenthing out of it, and not just fight the boss...
Cheerz and gl with the next ultimas :D

Anonymous said...

If you played this game at time of release it was unbelieveably good

Comparing this to games since many many games havent matched this in terms of what you can do, the storyline and characters and the sense of freedom (despite being in a dungeon) and exploration

This is the grandaddy of gaming that did it all before, show it some respect!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate that this is now several months old, but it's worth noting that there is a flute on level 5 - it's in a corner of the large room just north of the center of the map with the headlesses. It may be in a bag, but it's a while since I played it.