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

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Runes of Virtue, Day 4

Well, strictly speaking my 4th day of Runes of Virtue was sometime at the beginning of this past week, but somehow I have not gotten around to blogging about it until today. A large part of the reason is, of course, that there's so little to say. The Isle of the Avatar's Stygian Abyss is, as one would expect, chock full of crazy traps and creative puzzles. Some of them, for example, require you to push rocks around and create passages in walls with them using a lever that makes walls vanish and reappear (it's difficult to explain...), and on more than one occasion you must take advantage of your enemies' capacity to kill each other and/or destroy spider webs. My least favorite puzzles, however, are the big rooms full of blinking teleport arrows. You must use them to move to the exit, but the fact that a screen full of dozens of blinking arrows gives me a headache added to the challenge significantly! There's some magic armor in the abyss and it was, to my surprise, not very difficult to get to. The endgame, as one might expect from the Game Boy, is relatively anti-climactic. You disappear from the dungeon where you got the rune of humility, and appear kneeling before Lord British. The end.

-Ultima II, which gives you an ad for another game in the Sierra version (anyone recall which game? I can't get my Sierra copy to work)
-Escape from Mt. Drash where you are told in block text on a mold-green background you achieved the title of "Questor." Woo hoo.
-Ultima IX, where that idiot Raven and Lord British look up to see that for some reason you have exploded and have turned into an ankh made out of stars in the sky.

I was tempted not to include Ultima II because of my fondness of the "ALL HER WORKS SHALL DIE!" message that you receive upon Minax's death.

Back to the issue at hand--Runes of Virtue. Overall, and amusing diversion. THe only serious flaws of the game are the irrelevance of the premise (retrieving runes related to virtues) to the dungeons (which have nothing to do with the virtues) and the odd game mechanics (pushing levers and eating mushrooms seem to have about the same effect, and how does a rope build a bridge?). Beyond that, the game is not overly challenging, and the ability to restart over and over makes up for its lack of a save feature (though in a world of emulators, who cares about poor save features anymore?) I would not suggest the game, however, for an actual Game Boy due to its length and the repetitive nature of gameplay when you cannot save. As a final note--I still think those wizards look like vampires! Look at the big black cape with high collar and the pointy teeth!

One could argue that the game is canonical--After all, it appears to take place sometime following Ultima VI, and the goal is to rescue the Runes and become knighted, and a certain drunken paladin has just recently been knighted as of Ultima VII. Never mind that he was apparently a "Sir" long before that. And even if he wasn't, Lord British has some pretty stringent requirements for becoming a knight if it takes, what, 300 years of continuous service?

Expect a slower rate of updates for the next two games--Underworld II and Serpent Isle. The reason is simply that playing them is less fun because it's only been a little over a year since last played the games, and Ultima is more fun when you've forgotten a large portion of the game. On the other hand, it's been about 7 and 12 years since I played Ultima VIII and Ultima IX, so those will be a lot more fun for me. Plus, those two games are not particularly good, and it's a lot easier to write criticism than praise :-) I remember when I started the blog I speculated that it might take a year to do--but I kept up a pretty intense pace back when I was unemployed, and it seems like I'll probably be done before Christmas as I result, despite my much slower-goings lately.

I also need to take some time at some point and reply to comments and other feedback again. Maybe during my Underworld II blogging!


RazorBlade79 said...

I found your blog 2 weeks ago and read through most of it now, very entertaining :)

I especially look forward to your walkthrough of Serpent Isle, because that's my favourite Ultima.

You said you play all games with DOSBox, but ain't it nicer to use exult for U7? (and Pentagram for U8)

GrahfZilla said...

Wow it's funny that I found this blog because I was just thinking about embarking on a similar quest to yours: finishing all of the Ultimas once and for all.

BTW where did you find the music only version of the UIV patch? The only one I can find is the upgrade version which includes the VGA patch...which doesn't seem to work. The thing is I think the unworking VGA patch is conflicting with dosbox because half the time the game doesn't recognize my keyboard.

GrahfZilla said...

Oh I got the patch to work. I think I might try to get my hands on the SMS version of Ultima IV, just for kicks.

Natreg said...

Aren't you gonna play Runes of Virtue 2 next??? I think you should :)

GrahfZilla said...

BTW I started my own blog about pretty much the same subject. It's not going to be as good as yours because I don't have the same writing ability but It should be entertaining nonetheless. Check it out at ultimatrip.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

He got the old version of the U4 music patch from me. I had it stored in my downloads. It's at http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~paulryan/Downloads/u4music.zip

Anonymous said...

GrahfZilla, you're in for a treat with the SMS version of u4 - no more having to type questions, ALL possible ones appear as options, and dungeons are in 2d. Music is great, the whole game is much easier to control and looks good too. Good luck finding a copy though, if you're after a cartridge - its very rare, mostly released in europe, but I'm sure you can go Zacks' way of playing the apple2 ultimas ;-)

Natreg said...

U4 for the sms is great but I think some dialogue was changed... not sure about that... It's been a long time since I played it (wish my master system was still working heh)

Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog from the beginning (and playing Ultimas since U2 on the C64 in 1984), and am finally able to contribute something: The ad at the end of Ultima II was for "The Wizard and the Princess"!

Looking forward to your next entries! :-)

Dr. Cat said...

As the head of the team that made this game, I have to comment about the save game issue. We set up the three difficulty levels to address this issue. On "easy", if you die you're just sent back to the previous screen/level, giving you a very trivial loss of time & effort. This is a lot like auto-reloading of saved games so you don't have to do it yourself. The medium and hard settings would do things like not healing you to full on a death-restart, or sending you to the top of the dungeon if you died on hard, forcing you to work your way all the way back down. But on easy setting, I think the game is hardly lacking or repetitive. I was also very proud that we auto-saved the game state to the battery RAM after you exited each screen, so you didn't have to go to a "save game" menu option before turning your Gameboy off. Just go to a new screen and turn it off - or if you forgot to, you usually wouldn't be set back more than a minute or two (levels were only 16*16 tiles).

I was also very proud of our two player mode, which had an additional 80 levels designed for cooperative and/or competitive play. All in all I am prouder of Runes of Virtue than any other game I worked on until my latest. Though Ultima 6 is a close third place. Incidentally, the DragonSpeak scripting language I put in my newest game, Furcadia, has its earliest roots in the puzzle system we designed for Runes of Virtue.

Also - did you find the secret "Origin Offices" level we put in Runes of Virtue? I think it was hidden under a wishing well by one of the shops.