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

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ultima VII, Day 9

Last night's quest revolved around heading to the Cube generator on the fellowship retreat island. In theory, you're supposed to join the Fellowship in order to be able to get there, but I don't feel the need to do so. I took my flying carpet from Yew to Jhelom to begin with, where I landed and saved a weakling innkeeper, who stole a flag from the local fight club through a series of bizarre circumstances, from a duel in which he was sure to die. My choices were to convince a warrior-cum tailor to trick the angry fighters with a fake flag, or simply to kill them all. I chose to kill them all, then realized that I think one of those people shows up in Ultima Underworld II in Lord british's castle, and felt bad. But then the game froze.

So I had to repeat all of the above, only this time I decided to do the fake-flag option. The guy wanted me to come back in a few hours, so I went to a local dungeon, wandered around awhile, and then came back. The dungeon was somewhat devoid of interesting treasure, but I did have a difficult situation with some shockingly dangerous bats. Dupre was heavily injured at one point and dropped unconcious to the ground, while I continued onward. When I came back, the bats would kill him. I reloaded the game several times, and finally managed to get Dupre to survive by putting an invisibility ring on him (from another area of the dungeon). The dungeon also had a dancing skeleton. Or maybe that is the one near the shrine of honor? Anyway, I got the flag, ended the duel, and headed out.

On the way there I saw a big nasty nest full of garbage, a dead kid, and one of my favorite disgusting corpses in Ultima VII--and this is in a game that's got plenty of disgusting corpses. Yes, it's the crushed skull man, where it's just one big bloody grey lump where the head used to be. There's also a body where the leg comes off, and Iolo gets completely severed in half when he dies! Ew. Anyway, this nest was outside of a harpy cave that was devoid of harpies, as well as of interesting treasure besides a lightning whip, I think. At the shrine of Honor, where the harpies were at, I found an abandoned baby. Spark told me I needed to get it back to Lady Tory, whom I have never met--fortunately I was on my way to Serpent's Hold anyway!

At Serpent's Hold, I stopped in and talked to the characters who are quite similar to those of Star Trek: The Next Generation, with the exception of two of them, maybe three depending on how you feel about Minion representing the weasly Wesley crusher. I solved a smashed statue mystery there, and also found the key to a cool treasure chamber that contains a wide array of awesome magic weapons, including the infamous Juggernaut Hammer, which is probably my faovirte of them all--a big glowing hammer that does a bunch of damage.

From, Serpent's Hold, I flew my carpet to the fellowship retreat island, landed, and talked briefly to Gorn, who the Guardian, masquerading as his god, was telling not to trust me. I then encountered a fighter-woman who told me to leave, and who was thus slaughtered. Which reminds me--I also had to kill the leader of the Library of Scars in Jhelom (the fighter group I mentioned earlier) when I confonted him about the serpentine dagger found at the Minoc murder scene. The cube itself however, emitted a piercing noise that knocked me to the ground when I got nearby, and which caused me to die when I got right to the entrance.

The next step is to head to a few islands after I buy a ship. I refuse to use the ship British gives me, because that seems cheap. I'll probably buy one from Trinsic or Serpent's Hold, though they are awfully expensive. Then I'll go to the Lyceaum, find out where to get a caddelite helmet to defeat the cube, and then do the Forge of Virtue.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ultima VII, Days 7 and 8

Well, another few hours of gaming have gone by whilst I have been travelling for relocation purposes. I apologize for the lack of screenshots--my Internet has simply been too often disconnecting to be able to arrage and publish the photos before it goes out again.

The plot has picked up a lot of speed, and I'm remembering some difficulties I had in the past. The Sphere gnerator was inacessible due to a moongate that teleported me backwards. TO get through it I needed--for some reason--a magical hourglass, but the mage who owned the device was too insane to enchant it for me. I also had to head to Paws to buy the hourglass, and the lady at the shop was so grouchy that I felt compelled to also buy a spitoon, a rocking horse, and a sextant--though the sextant was a good deal!

The magic carpet is another magic item that was mentioned in comments--I did indeed pick it up from Despise, and it's made travelling to some of the other locales a lot easier. Getting that hourglass enchanted required a string of plots. First, I went to Penumbra, whom you might recognize from Ultima VI. I awoke her by kissing her. Actually, I just dumped an orange potion down her gullet. She rose and sent me off to find an ethereal ring owned by Draxinosum. Hooray, Terfin, land of the gargoyles! The statues of Mondain and Minax no longer seem threateing, by the way. Minax has a goofy crown. At any rate. Drax sent me to the isle of Spektran, but not before I foiled yet another Fellowship-sponsered violent act, in this case the destruction of the gargoyle altars.

Spektran, as I remember, was one of the hardest parts of the game because the stone harpy that you have to kill (the pet of the insane "sultan" who purchased the etereal ring from Draxinosum) is quite difficult. I died multiple times, until I discovered that she is uniquely susceptible to lighting bolts from a lighning wand! With the ring, I headed to Deceit as instructed, a dungeon which is much smaller than I anticipated. I found the tetrahedron generator after walking through many a wall, and killed this big red goofball called an Ethereal Monster. In this case, I used the firedoom staff that Horace the Liche gave me in Skara Brae.

A quick trip via carpet to Nicodemus got my hourglass enchanted, and a Recall spell got me to the sphere, which was simply a maze of moongates. I easily mastered it, but to my sadness its destruction deactivated all of the moongates :-( Now I probably should buy a boat...but I have enough gold to do so now, anyway!

Here's a list of things I haven't done yet:
-Find some treasure in Destard
-Explore obscure islands
-Explore some of the deeper forest areas
-Drop by Serpent's Hold
-Visit Jhelom

I think I'll do these things before I hit the main plot again, and also do Forge of Virtue somewhere in between. Ultima VII is, overall, a pretty easy game.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ultima VII, Day 6

Today was Despise day! Claus was right--there is plenty of gold to be had there. The dungeon can be divided into basically two parts, one of which I think is actually Shame. The first part is the most complicated, with about six or seven different keys, and a lot of switched that need to be flipped. Among other things, I found a lost wizard. The hardest part is frankly trying all those keys on every door! There was also one chest that I could never seem to unlock...One of my favorite parts is the section of the game where you walk across this bridge to another set of mountains. Having seen that bridge while exploring north of Britian, it was exciting. Plenty of magic items lurk inside the dungeon, including one of my favorites, the magic boomerang which can pass through walls. Sadly, mine seems to have vanished at some point--I don't nderstand where it went, but I have noticed sometimes magic axes seem to randomly drop on the ground.

The second half of the dungeon is more tedious due to the large number of teleport traps
and this annoying pillar that launches fireballs that blow away your party in seconds. There was a similar launcher earlier in the dungeon, but I was happily able to block it with some barrels. Incidentally, what does the switch next to that launcher do? Anyway, I found the sphere, but can't get in--as expected. So I headed the other direction and found the chambers of some bad guys who planned to attack Lord British's castle! This is the location of the first full suit of magic armor, as well as magic and flame swords. The flame sword is a favorite of mine, since it obviates the need for a torch. In order to help carry all my new stuff, I recruited Dupre from Jhelom and then used the recall spell to get back into the dungeon.

Now I must branch to a different subject. The first time I ever played Ultima VII, my brother had the strange experience of the paladin and pirate from that group of bad guys I mentioned earlier appear on the roof of Lord British's castle! What might have caused that? The event made me wonder--maybe f you wait long enough, they all appear and conquer the castle? Hmm...Highly unlikely, given the Ultima VII code has been more or less analyzed and reanalyzed a million times by the Exult teams and others; if there were anything there, it would be known.

Finally--Transcripts for most of the games are available on Underworld Dragon's "The Literal Ultima." Are VII and Serpent Isle and the complete VI available anywhere? I always feel bad when I refuse to help people, but I remain curious about what they would say if I did...

Tomorrow I'll finish off the sphere...Then, the tetrahedron? Most likely. Then the Isle of Fire I think...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ultima VII, Days 4 and 5

Well, I have a bit of catching up to do! The usual bits of moving/new job anxiety have interfered with my gaming, but nonetheless I got some questing done over the past couple of days. I began with a quick jaunt to Emp-land, where I was instructed to acquire honey from the local bee caves. With a smoke bomb and luck, I did so, and fed the Emps. I also did some exploring, thought not too much because I died so regularly. I managed to encounter some renegade mages, some fighters who bizarrely called the guards if I moved their meat, and some pirates.

I didn't feel too much empathy for the Emps, pun intended, because it seems to me there are plenty of other trees they could live in. Adapt or die, ya bums! Well, maybe not. Anyway, after ending the destruction of their homes, they gave me a whistle which allowed me to commune with the local Wisps, who in turn wanted a notebook from our friend Alanger in New Magincia. After talking to him, and finding a lost locket, I was booted to Skara Brae--the job of an Avatar is to be led around by the nose to a lot of locales to solve problems no one will solve on their own! But I'm glad to do it, because helping people is good and helping people is even better when you get big piles of cool magic weapons out of the bargain.

Skara Brae, the city destroyed by fire, is one of my favorite sequences in all the games. First, you learn the long and depressing story of Quenton, whom you met in Ultima VI and whose murder was unsolvable. Turns out his wife was raped and sold as a prostitute by a group of guys (not Mondain's henchmen, I guess) and Quenton himself was murdered for failing to repay a debt. Marney, his daughter, died shortly thereafter. How depressing! But I guess everyone I knew in Ultima VI is dead now, right? Anyway, the wizard Horace went even more insane than he already was and built up an army of the dead with which he would conquer Britannia. My goal in being there was to ask the alchemist who destroyed the town about the secrets of life and death--but as expected he only offered to help me if I got rid of Horace.

I did so, with the help of the Mayor, and freed a lot of souls of Skara Brae's past, save for the alchemist--who explained to me that I was a fool and that there were no answers--and a creepy ferryman who carries a blue scythe that you cannot get in the game save for one of the so-called cheat locations. With the information in tow, I got Alagner to let me fetch his notebook, which was well-hidden, and at long last I finally managed to meet the Time Lord through the wisps, the whole point of this tiring venture! He immediately told me to head to Despise and destroy a spherical generator there. Humorously, I don't actually remember what keeps you from doing so, but I will find out.

The plot sure picked up some steam the past couple of days! I played about six hours, I think, and got pretty far. I think I will do the Forge of Virtue as soon as I destroy the second of the three generators, depending on how long that process takes. I figure that's about halfway?

Surprisingly, gathering gold has proved to be a problem! I need a whole bundle of it to buy magic spells, notably mark and recall, but it's hard to come by. Once I have a ship I will do a little cheating at Buccaneer's Den to 'earn' more, but in the meantime I fetch it mostly from mages in the woods. Food is much less of a problem. I discovered that among the best, most filling things to eat are the meats-on-a-stick that you can get from dead deer. They each have about six, I think, and a single serving seems to fill my party up quite readily!

Dungeon Despise awaits, but before hitting that realm, methinks I should do some training and pick up Dupre. That will involve visiting the only own left that I have not spent a moment in, save Buccaneer's Den and Serpent's Hold, which require boats. Oh yeah, Terfin, too. I forgot about that place.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ultima VII, Day 3

The game continues apace! First, some brief comments on comments--Bugs, bugs, bugs! I can't say there are very many in Ultima VII, actually--there was a vanishing key bug, a vanishing body bug, and a gate-closing-prematurely bug that I remember. The first was remedied by a patch, the second by careful walking in Minoc, and the third simply by not flying a certain mode of transportation over the isle of the Avatar. I've only rarely heard of game crashes associated with Ultima VII--I suspect other problems for the person whom it crashed on constantly! I also recall Daggerfall being terribly buggy--it's one of those games that was staggering in scope and exciting to play until I realized it was all just randomly generated, at which point I threw in the towl--but only after walking across the ocean on a horse (you could also jump across...) The thing I hated most about that game were the NPCs in buildings. I've heard of NPC's having no personality and seeming like cardboard cutots, but geez, these guys were literally so!

Today was spent in Yew and in Minoc, primarily. I killed a thief named Kleg in Yew,who was masquerading as a monk in Empath Abbey, withou anyone noticing somehow even though there were a grand total of two of them. Yew was otherwise not that exciting--I gave some flowers to a woman there to put on her grandmother's grave, and I neglected to look at the tombstones...I also did a little uninspired painting, as in the screenshot. My original goal for visiting was to drop in on Nicodemus, but he is stuck behind a magically locked door, and I haven't bought the relevent spell yet. I find that in this game, I am more keen on travelling the countryside than using moongates, though actually I think that was my approach in Ultima VI as well.

The road to Minoc was more difficult--I fought slimes, snakes, and alligators on the way, and had to deal with a highly annoying vanishing-body bug, since murders had been committed and I needed to collect evidence. Eventually I found that if I took a back route to the sawmill where the murdere happened, I could prevent them from vanishing before i could examine them. I found a serpent-shaped dagger, and a candalabra that the local candlelady confirmed was from the Fellowship. That beggar in Britain who accused the Fellowship of murder as part of a joke was right! (I'm just pretending as if I haven't played the game before.)

In any case, while in Minoc I prompted the local shipwright to kill himself when he realized that his boats caused countless deaths. It almost makes me curious what would have happened had I given him 1000 gold to buy a deed...I also dropped in on a Fellowship meeting, and was intirgued by the comments of my companions! I almost wanted to go gather up all the ones I can find, and then visit each Fellowship meeting in each town just to see what they have to say...

I didn't do any further exploring in the mines or anything, and I ended my game just near the moongate, which I will probably use to go to Jhelom and find Dupre. Soon maybe I will be strong enough for some more thorough exploring and magic-item gathering! The only frustrating thing so far has been, as expected, keeping my party fed. I swear, if I hear "I could use a little food" one more time, someone will not need food anymore...

I had my fortune told by a gypsy, which sort of gave up a bunch of plot threads at once--gotta talk to the Wisps, gotta join the Fellowship, gotta go to Moonglow...In a way, I wish it had been a bit more subtle, like learning about the new threat to Britannia much more slowly or something, or better yet, having to put the pieces together myself. But it's all good, there's still plenty more out there to do! I also continue to enjoy reding all the random books I come across. If only theyhad been rewritten for Serpent Isle and Ascension...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ultima VII, Day 2

After my experience of the past two hours, I suspect that my blog for Ultima VII is going to be a very long series of micro-commentaries, because the game is so rich in detail that I have not yet grasped many threads of the primary plot. Today I primarily explored the remainder of Britain, and then paid Cove a quick visit. Britain proved to be chock full of mini-quests.

First of all, I now have three extremely low-paying jobs: I make bread for the baker, I gather eggs for Max, and fetch pumpkins for Brownie. Now I am rolling in the dough quite literally! I also caught Patterson hooking up with the curator of the museum (whose stones of virtue I pilfered handily) and told him he needed to end his affair. Baking bread was enjoyable, but frustrating--the damned baker continually picked up his bags of flour and failed to put them back down! He also periodically stole my bread from the oven. Very annoying. I dropped by Iolo's Bows, and was disappointed that I didn't get anything free, but I was happy to note the high price that serpent venom fetches with a certain apothecary.

Cove was less interesting, save for the moderately OK-looking shrine maintainer, Natassia, whose dad was killed and whose mom comitted suicide shortly thereafter. Most of the other characters in the town didn't have much of anything to say, to my surprise, considering how verbose the people of Britain tend to be. Rudyom did complain about his inability to cast spells, but he was less insane than I expected.

A brief trip to Yew followed, where I met Tseremed, and as a result I now desperately want the coversation files from Ultima VII so that I can read how all the various companions are introduced in conversation with him. After that was a little pixelated nudity in the nearby Bee Cave, and a quick visit to Smith who, to my total surprise, referenced Martian Dreams! With Spark having made a note of Savage Empire when I first met him, I have to wonder if there might be some Underworld reference buried in the game somewhere.

That's all there is to note so far. I gathered a lot of chain armor from various fighters whom I encountered (and who died) on the road to Yew, but I am looking forward to some magical booty later in the game. I'm not sure what to do next, actually--Chuckles has sent me to Minoc, and the Coveians seem also distraight with that city, so that may be my next stopping point, once I finish with Yew anyway.

Obviously this game is progressing more slowly--new job anxiety has made me less excited about gaming, for some reason, but I'll try to keep up! Someday I might even get around to uploading screenshots :-)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ultima VII, Day 1

Well, today was one of those cases where my first day was spread over several days! I got a bit preoccupied with other things this week, but I had some time to devote to the Black Gate.

THe thing that surprised me most about the game when I began playing it was how the graphics of this one have aged so much better than its immediate predecessors--Ultima VI seems to bright and pixelated, whereas somehow Ultima VII, especially the grass and the roads, does not have this issue so much. The only downside is the character portraits, which are very tiny in Ultima VII compared to VI, and awful compared to Serpent Isle. Graphically, I think the biggest improvement is the full-screen game, without any information scroll or other stuff on the sides to shrink my view of the world.

The conversation tree system is much easier on the brain than Martian Dreams, which was so full of text that it was pretty touh to remember all the keywords while also getting the gist of what the person was saying--Although there is more realism to typing in words, I think I prefer Ultima VII's style.

The primary shocker about Ultima VII versus its predecessors, though, is the immersiveness of its enviroment. The clouds and the rain looks really good on-screen. and the atmospheric effects like birds tweeting and the sound of wind are excellent as well. The most important improvement is the ability of NPC's to interact with their world in an enormous number of ways--cooks moving stuff around and cooking in the kitchen, people calling for more food in the pub, Batlin's Fellowship hall exploding after being rigged with powder kegs...Wait, that was my doing...

As far as what I've done so far is concerned, I got some clues to the murders in Trinsic, and solved a serpent venom theft in Paws. So far my impression is that most of the fellowship members are arrogant bastards, and annoying to boot, but many of the non-Fellowship people are also not that nice. I headed to Britain, but only talked to a few people--including a fish and chips salesman who says he just painted his totally invisible wagon--but dashed up the castle instead, when I realized Britain is so thoroughly packed with people that I won't be able to talk to them all in one sitting. British wonders who sent the moongate that took me to Trinsic, and he also thinks his subjects are unhappy. I also had to change the diaper on a baby in the nursery, but the caretaker there was terrified of me when I used the dirty diaper on her. I also upset a stablehand when I dumped a big bucket of blood on him.

I think my next hour or two will be spent in Britain, exploring, and possibly chatting up Rudyom in Cove about blackrock. The game did crash on me once, in Britain, which was disconcerting--it just locked up as I walked. I hope this is not a common theme.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Comments, UW thoughts, etc.

I feel like replying to some comments before I talk about Ultima VII. I played for a bit today--I explored Trinsic and then solved a robbery in Paws, but I only played for a bit more than an hour and I am looking forward to doing a little bit more before calling it a "day 1."

It's been said my fondness for Ultima Underworld did not come through in the writing, which as I glance over it, is pretty true. I blame this a lot less on the game, and a lot more on the nature of extemporaneous writing--it's so, SO much easier to write sarcastic comments and crticisisms than to write clear and meaningful praise--and usually criticism is more entertaining, too (observe a site like X-Enterainment).

However, part of the reason is the game itself. Without much dialogue, and the game being mostly about exploring, it's hard to come up with very much to say. With one of the main numbered games, I might have written about how it tied in or references other games, but this one does so little of that. I did briefly look for similarities between this Abyss and the Abyss in Ultima IV, but found zero, so that idea went out the window.

Calibrator mentions the experience of "living in the Abyss," which is an experience I agree with. A lot of it is lost in later replays--I remember when someone shoved me down a hole on the first level, and it was quite an experience trying to figure out how to get back to where I was. But knowing all of these details in advance means there are fewer unexpected adventures. Level eight was mostly a surprise, though, because I had never bothered to really explore it before. Also, there were many things I'd forgotten about on levels one and two.

However, I do contend that I explored nearly every nook and cranny--my missing runestone apparently is something I just failed to notice on the ground, for example, in the bandit den on level three. I like to look at the walkthrough when I finish a particular blog in order to see how well I did, how much I missed. In Underworld, it was less than Savage Empire, I think--but of course, exploring is rewarded in Underoworld (and vastly more so in Underworld II)!

Finally, I think there is a certain lack of drama in Underworld. I remember a pretty powerful sense of sadness in Underworld II, when you explore the tomb of Praecor Loth and meet his deluded liche companions, or when you find the frozen, dead city in the ice caves. In Underworld there was less of this--I did like the conciliatory but still-arrogant tone of Tyball when he died, but for the most part the inhabitants of the abyss seemed pretty content with their lot in life. There are, however, a few similarly gripping moments in the game--meeting the old, ruined Corby for example, or talking to the remarkably intelligent troll leader, or hearing the green goblin king speak highly of Cabirus.

One change I might have made in the game would have been to not actually show the Slasher of Veils, because he looks...well, not that threatening. Sort of goofy, even. I think that could have heightened the endgame drama. Also, maybe a better sense of what the Abyss once was before it collapsed might have been useful--only a few locations seemed to once have a recognizable purpose, like the Acadamy or the great hall on level five, for example.

I call it my third favorite game because the experience of playing it when it was new was simply such a revelation, on the same level as my first few minutes of Ultima VII, where I got the sense that, wow, this game is a different sort of thing from what I've seen before.

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

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Ultima Underworld, Day 7

First, to deal with some comments:

1. Someone might ask, and I will admit it now--yesterday's screenshots were irrelevent to the content of the post. Most were just amusing things I saw, such as multicolored ghosts, a spectre named Warren, and a talking door.

2. Concerning Ultima VIII: I will be using the same software/hardware for it as every other Ultima game, namely DOSBox on my HP Pavillion laptop. I play in a window and leave a page of notes open on the left.

3. Someone on Facebook mentioned Ultima VIII as being their favorite of all the games. That made me feel sad.

4. Concerning skulls on tombstones--the gargoyles had them, but so did some other people it seemed.

5. Someone mentioned being unable to play heir Zelda games due to the graphics. This seems odd to me--I just played Zelda II a few months ago. I'm also fond of a similar game, Battle of Olympus. I almost exclusively pay retro games, to be honest. I've played only a very few games (Half-Life, Age of Empires) that I enjoyed in the past ten years or so. The magic seems to have been lost somehow, in preference for of mass-marketing.

Today has been a busy day. I am bleary eyed from excessive Ultima Underworld...Or at least what feels like excessive Ultima Underworld, because when I really think about it--just about everything I did was rather brief in terms of time, but I did a whole lot of stuff. Last night (well, Friday) I killd Tyball in about 20 minutes. The guy is pretty weak, when you get down to it, but he's a wizard so what do you expect? He's powerful from a distance but in combat he's primarily just a dude with a beard. Killing him saved Ariel, who was locked in a jail along with her deus ex machina in the form of an "amulet of travel." With Tyball dead, I am forced to deal with the demonic Slasher of Veils on my own. On Tyball's tombstone, I might write: "Here lies Tyball, evil wizard, and creator of a very annoyig maze. RIP."

With such a dangerous quest I did the only natural thing--Head up to the northwest of level seven to look for treasure. I eventually found it, in the form of a lighted helmet that glows like a lantern, and a black sword. The sword turned out to be total crap. It takes forever for my bard to swing it, and it seems to do less damage than the jeweled sword I got from the Chaos Knight on the floor above! Oh, I also went and solved a quest for the key of courage, which was basically a long string of combats--At the end you face some of the hardest monsters in the game, and ridiculously I did not look at them to decide what their names were, but they look totally goofy. They are outlines of a person with big yellow eyes and they disappear and reappear--They don't give the impression of a powerful monster that can turn invisible, just the impression of a goofball with one frame of animation missing. One of them also guarded the worthless-to-me black sword.

Today was spent exploring level 8, and there's a lot of cool stuff down there. Sadly, the vast majority of it seems to be plate armor which are too heavy for me and weapons that I don't use! The single best item, possibly the most useful in the game, was a regeneration ring from up in the northwest. The most overrated item has to be the invisibility ring that I found with Garamon's bones (For the forgetful Garamon is the blue bearded fellow who appears in my dream to tell me things that are not very useful--in the intro, he also says "Treachery and doom!" in a hilarious way). The invisibility ring seems to not do much, anyway, and all my enemies are able to target me without a problem.

With a full map of the lowest level (which is oddly devoid of quests or things to accomplish--you can skip nearly the whole level without a problem) I am now prepared to head back up and accomplish the few quests I still have left behind. In no particular order:

-Smoke some incense with the wizards on level six
-Tell the magic word from Gurstang, a prisoner, to a wizard on level six
-Give a picture of Tom to the sad old lady on level five
-Also on level five, learn a flute tune. Requires finding a flute.
-Level five again: Get the giant nugget of gold from a wizard
-Find a crazy man on level three and get the taper of sacrifice
-Get my sword from Shak (finally) on level two
-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!

I could also use a better sword, but I just haven't found anything decent. I need it to swing fast and do extra damage. How about fireballs or something? Bah.

I got a mysterious "underworld error" on level seven of the abyss, in fact, I get it whenever I enter or exit the level. It seems to not matter, but it makes me nervous nonetheless. I also found this crazy flying rat on level eight--I would be standing on a ledge, and then the rat fell in front of me from nowhere, and then it suddenly slid off into the air and I didn't see it again...until an hour later, as I headed to the exit of the abyss, where it was floating in midair!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Ultima Underworld, Day 6

Let it be known, level seven is unbelievably difficult! Well, actually, the first part was not so bad. I cleaned house on four separate guard posts, only to discover that clearing them out does you no good--the doors still lock behind you. I made it to the prison, and got, among other things, a crystal to help me find treasure, and access to escape route that goes nowhere but to a lava pit and a locked door. Argh.

Now, the lava pit is fairly useful, in that there is a door that will lead me to a crown I need to get through a maze, and I was thoughtfully given the key. From there, I have already identified (by accident) the bridge that leads to Tyball's maze, and I need only get the crown, use the convenient levitate ring I also found, and walk through the maze and hopefully kill Tyball. Exploring the rest of the level will have to wait until then--trying to go in the "opposite direction" from the maze is futile, because it's just more stupid locked doors.

I am not sure if this is how you're supposed to beat the level or not, I feel like I missed something and skipped half the level! I'll go back and see, assuming what I missed is not needed to kill Tyball. You know, I am not sure but I think I only found out his name earlier today (though I remembered it). In any case, the primary challenge has been avoiding fireballs from those damned elementals, because they can do a huge amount of damage--45 and beyond, man, so they can kill me in two hits or possibly even one hit (I was not at full health while dashing past the elementals). They are also hard to kill because I seem to miss them much more often than any other monster. Maybe if I switch from my extra-damage sword to my extra-accurate sword, I might have better luck defeating them.

Level 6 six was easy to complete, because there weren't too many monsters. I never found the Vilus guy--maybe there was a secret door somewhere that I missed. The golem who guards the shield of valor was a total laugh to defeat, I beat him in like six hits. I remember my first time playing, I had to shove him in the lava to get the shield, but that seems insane now, because he fell so rapidly! That means I've gotten or know where to get six of the eight talismans. I found the book of honesty, and now the shield of valor.. Shak is repairing the sword of justice, and there's a crazy dude who has the taper of sacrifice on the third level. I have the standard of honor and the ring of humility. That leaves the wine of compassion and the cup of wonder. I've gotten no clues on the wine, but I think it has to do with that Urgo guy who I rescued, based on my memory of he game--yet no one of the Seers on level six asked about him. The cup of wonder requires some shrine-based triangulation, but I don't know the relevant mantra. Those are basically all the loose ends--well, except for one more. One of the seers is looking for a guy named Gurstang, but I have not met him. I've not encountered him yet. Actually, I guess that is several loose ends...

1) Finding the cup
2) Finding the wine
3) Who the heck is Gurstang?
4) Where is Vilius?
5) I'm still missing Tym and Corp moonstones, I think. And Flam maybe. I never cast spells, so I am unsure. :-P

A friend of mine has begun the game as a mage, and I think level seven may prove impossible for him. It really is sort of insane to disallow magic, because it basically says to the player, "You really, really ought to be a fighter!" Ah well. How long to finish the game? I dunno. There's a few more bits and pieces, like the three-part key and I think burying some bones or something. I'm guessing the biggest time-consumer will be finding the hints and the related object, but the hard combat will mostly be over as soon as Tyball goes down.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Ultima Underworld, Day 5

Well, I did not make as much progress as I had hoped yesterday. As it turned out, there was a decent chunk of level five that I had not thoroughly explored, and I had to spend a lot of time navigating my way all the way back to level one to fetch some spider thread. Most of the ghoulish quests are now completed--carrying ten fish to one of them was a pain due to the fact that fish way one stone each--but they are mostly easy to appease. The result is a set of dragon boots which assist me in wandering around lava pits. Yay! Well, except for the flute guy. I also dropped by Shak's shack on level two, in order to give him the two halves of the broken Sword of Justice to repair.

Wait a minute. I forgot to mention where I found the hilt. Well, I dropped into the tombs behind the bullfrog puzzle on level four, and explored, and lo and behold, it was the hilt! I didn't expect to find it, it was just there. The rest of the tombs were not so exciting. I sliced up a bunch of ghosts (killing ghosts with weapons never made any sense to me, but digress) and skeletons, and saw a bunch of graves. Two questions arose immediately:

1) Why are there crosses on some of the tombstones? Wouldn't ankhs make more sense in the Ultima context? The same goes for grave crosses in earlier games.

2) Who in the world, when choosing tombstone inscriptions for their friends, chose the "Evil Looking Skull" option? You can see one in the screenshots I have for this blog.

So I did a lot of exploring, even finding a secret door to connect those tombs to the rest of level five (sadly, I am still missing a door connecting that section to the northern part, because getting from one location to another is annoying). I also encountered a wizard who was collecting zanium from the local mines. As it turns out, the local mines are just Pac-Man, complete with colorful ghosts. I managed to collect most of the zanium from the mine, and I will be rewarded with a big useless gold nugget. However, I am inspired to offer it to the Dwar.....ahem, the Mountainman king in the hopes that he will give me something cool in return. He seems obsessed with gold.

What else? I did some exploring on Level 6, beginning by meeting with the wizards. I've always found the wizards hilarious--you walk into their room, and they immediately begin telling you to take books to people, how to pick up the VAS runestone, etc. There's even one lady who goes on a long-winded blabbering about mantras, totally apropos of nothing. I guess they are just obsessed with their work. I was informed of an evil wizard living to the...northwest? His name is Vilus and I guess then next thing I will do is kill him. I was also told to retrieve the book of honesty from the old Acadamy's library.

Some of the remaining quests are too easy because I remember them from the last time I played. Fortunately, my memory of level 7 is mostly gone. I am planning to take it the hard way, and try and kill off the mad wizard's entire orc/troll/fire elemental/etc. army. Wish me luck.

-Not much to add here, though I found a reference to gargoyles in the tombs. The wizards on level six also describe the library having been shut down and overrun for years, but again they don't say how many years.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ultima Underworld, Days 3 and 4

Well, Underworld has not disappointed the past two days, and in fact I have mostly finished three levels of the dungeons in that time. Level three was pretty complicated, because there is no initially easy way to get from the stairs to the Lizardmen's domain. I ended up swimming downstream until I found a bridge. Actually, there IS a door, but it involves a button puzzle that also creates skeletons, and I didn't really try it out. Curiously, the Lizardman area is not marked with ankhs for some reason, even though the ghouls are so marked two levels down. Their are three quests to fulfill--one each for the red, green and grey lizardmen. The green guy wanted me to give him enough food (two fish, two pieces of meat, two corns, and a bread) to free a trapped mute wizard named Urgo, and I had to learn the language. The red guy wanted a big ruby for unspecified reasons, whereas the grey one wanted me to swim and retrieve a note from his leader, Ossikka, who had been missing for awhile. This is the point where the denizens of the Abyss begin to seem completely pathetic. The bones of Ossikka were literally about a 15 second swim from the guy who is looking for them! Come on.

The next floor is home to knights and trolls, and I rapidly joined the knight's order down there, while also befriending a bunch of trolls. I was a bit scared of this level, because I had to face off against Rodrick, the Chaos Knight in the northern section. However, the fact is that I had so extensively improved my combat skills that I had little to worry about. I hit him four times, getting a "green" response indicating he wasn't badly hurt, but yet in three more hits he died (one yellow and one red). For my trouble, I got a jeweled sword, as well as a set of unknown magic chain armor from a waterfall area somewhat nearby to the trolls. My weapon collection has not really improved, in other words--I am pretty desperate at this point for that Lore mantra! This level also houses the bullfrog puzzle, which is not much of a puzzle. All I had to do was raise the earth a few levels, and jump through an imaginary wall. This might be tough in concept, but because the illusion-passage shows up on my automap, it was easy to find!
With Rodrick dead and my bard at level 11, I decided to tackle some loose ends on level three, where I killed a handful of brigands, and snatched up a sword shaft. Making a bowl of rotworm stew for a troll was more annoying, because I had discarded the recipe in a mountainman room on level two, which was annoying to go back to (This pales in annoyance to my need to go to level one to get some spider thread, though, as demanded by a ghoul).

Speaking of ghouls...They are demanding. One needs fish. One needs thread. One needs a flute, and I don't know where to find one. I saw one and thought "Don't I need this later on?" and then thought "Well, I can come back for it." Oops. I quit my gaming for the day in the actual crypts of level five, where ghosts haunt.

I do wonder if I am missing some of the game. but I don't think so--I like to have a 100% complete automap, so the only things I might be missing are some secret doors that I don't see. Would the search skill help here? What I need most right now is Lore, because I have collected dozens of scrolls, potions, and wands, with little idea what they do, and they take up so much room that I get a "this is too heavy" message when I try to pick up, say, a scrap of paper! Tomorrow, I intend to wrap up level five and six, before tackling the maze on level seven on thursday and probably finishing the game on the weekend.

-Judy on level six was engaged to be married to Tom by Cabirus, but she is an old woman now. If we suppose they were both, say, 23, and her current age between 55 and 75, we might suppose Cabirus died and the Abyss colony fell apart, at most, between 30 and 50 years before I arrived. It's much more likely to be less than that, though.
-The ghouls did not exist when Cabirus was arround; they emerged when they had trouble finding food and ate corpses instead. But they don't give a clear idea when it happened, only phrases like "many years."
-Ossikka was gien a note by Cabirus, and Ossikka's bones had evidently been lost for awhile. It's hard to judge this one though--any halfway decent search party would have found his bones in a few minutes. Maybe this was just one lone, obsessed grey Lizardman? Who also couldn't swim? Or even see very far? Anyway, Ossikka must have been dead awhile if the time frames above are plausible, but it does seem he died very soon before the collapse because the note he carried mentioned the need to preserve the alliance of Lizardmen.

My laptop has been giving me trouble with its AC power, and I am worried it will be unable to charge or be plugged in soon, which would sort of bring the blog to a halt. I need to back the games up on a different machine, though all the others are much slower and might have trouble with DOSBox.


I've decided it would be amusing to write haiku for each day playing each game, describing my accomplishments, or lack thereof. Here's some for the early games:

British is stingy
The thieves steal out of my hands!
Then I starve to death
Amulets are key
Lizard man kills everything
Gremlins? Still tough

Dungeons give hit points
Stealing from shops gives weapons
All that's left is quests
Signposts and monsters
And lonely jailed princesses
Can all raise my stats
I am a space ace
Now the princess likes me more
(Mondain likes me less)

Ultima II:
British: Still stingy
The ride-thru guy hates me now
My boat slaughters all
While exploring space
A mass of jesters killed me
But I got the ring
DIE FOOL she tells me,

Escape from Mt. Drash:
The gremlins: so cute!
The mazes: pretty easy
The game: just awful

UW, two days worth, tomorrow. Due to haiku, my thoughts are short. Sleep time.