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

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ultima VIII, Day 6

Well, I hope everyone had good holidays; mine was spent with quite a bit of Ultima-ing, so that I now have all of ROV2 completed and ready for a leisurely blog-through. Actually, it may not be that leisurely, because geez, I don't know what to say about the ROV games because their plots are not, shall we say, overly dense.

But before that, I have to zip through my final gaming in Ultima VIII. I'll upload screenshots later because I seem to have forgotten to prepare them--this blog was not really planned, I just happen to need to kill time while a gigantic number of files copy. Anywho--

There were really three parts to this day, actually about three hours worth, of gaming enjoyment. The first was very brief, but required wrapping up the sorcerers. I knew I needed the Tongue of Flame, which our good friend Malichir possessed, so i went into his house (well, cave) to see about getting it. He was not thrilled to see me, and summoned two daemons, and launched fireballs at me. Holy crap! I used my focus of invisibility, waited a REALLY long time, and finally turned invisible inside his flame circle. Then I smacked him with Flame Sting until he was dead, after which I banished the two local daemons. Well, that's one way to get an item. I deny the claim of murder here, since he attacked me first, in spite of what one "List of Evil Things the Avatar Does in Pagan" says. In fact, very few of my actions are questionable. The only dubious one comes about ten minutes after obtaining this flame tongue, when I go take the Breath of Air from Stratos. I guess I stole it, but on the other hand she did nothing to stop me, and I seem to recall at least one of the Theurgists being OK with it. In any case,I dumped a bunch of red potions around to save them the trouble of casting healing spells in the future.

The second part of this day was titled, "How the hell do I get the Heart of Earth?" A book I read suggested visiting the Pit of Death. Boy was this ever a mistake. I spent a good 45 minutes wandering around a maze devoid of any valuable treasure (though there is a cheat room...) and full of zappies, spikeys, and flamies. As it turned out, all I had to do was either create a golem or use a key or climb over a wall, then cast Open Earth in a big chamber with a zobie or two, and take the Heart of Earth for my own. At least I got a free (minus effort) map of the Pit of Death out of it! I then hit
Tenebrae, after a quick trip to the Sorcerers to stand inside the Pyros Pentagram in order to free him. Oh no, flaming rocks falling everywhere!

It's clear now that I need to become Titan of Ether, gaining unsurpassed power to...basically do nothing with! Yay! The only missing piece is the Tear of the Seas, which is Hydros's blackrock object needed for teleporting. What great quest will I need to do to fetch it? An underwater city? Oh boy!

No, turns out Devon found it in his nets one day and he gave it to me. Then Mythran taught me the ethereal travel spell, and it was off to finish the game! First, to kill all the titans by using their own Blackrock doodads against them in their own domains!

The domain of Earth was first, which was full of blowing-up mushrooms and cliffs inside a dank cave. Overall, it was boring, save one "oh, screw this!" moment in which I am standing on a ledge before a bunch of lava, and I had previously read a book saying to toss some rocks to find my way across. I did that for a bit. All the rocks sank into the lava. So I just cast Endure Heat and ran across.

Waterland was just changelings, curvey bridges, and water. Hydros zapped me with lightning but died quick. Air was even shorter; besides some falling hovering rocks, it was only a few steps before I could kill the Air god, who just abruptly vanished--no cool death scene.

The final elemental plane was that of fire, which was also rather tough because getting to Pyros requires a lengthy gauntlet of daemons and floaty eyeballs and other meanies, just when you ot finished exploring an ultimately worthless abandoned house. But evnually, your each Pyros's gigantic pot that he calls home. Why does he live in a giant pot? I do not now. In any case, I kill him, though maybe he's not really dead since he shows up later.

On a different planet.

And somehow he helps me get into a dungeon.

Man, Ultima IX is crap. But you already knew that.

With all the Titans dead and the Pagans free from being turned into zombies for eternity, being exploded by sorcerers, and subject to the will of Tempests (and from the oppression of good health) I was free to leave and go to...Mystic White Pillar Land! And then Guardian Head on a Hill Land! And then I get to wait six year for a garbage sequel. Man, thinking about it still makes me mad!!

Now my final conclusions. Wait, first, a comment on a comment--the blue pentegrams that crash the game are not the regular old pentegrams, which are not blue; they are the ones you collect in order to get out of the Obsidian Fortress. Also, the default on my installation of DOSBox did not match yours.

The two things that annoyed me most about Ultima IX were the removal of great features from the earlier games, and the severely restricted choice of actions. A moral dilemma is not much of a dilemma when you have little freedom in your actions or, especially, choice of words. Curiously, the jumping puzzles and the other action game detritus distracted significantly, for me, from the more interesting aspects of the game, such was the overriding question of, how do you behave when thrust in an unknown situation? You could tak Star Trek approach, and refuse to interfere with the natural delopblah blah blah, as in that stupid episode where Wesley is going to be executed for stomping some flowers on the planet of random nakedness. I think even Captain Picard himself would be OK with undoing the havoc wrought by an arch enemy on Pagan. Except for an hour or so of falling flame rocks and some mist, I think overall Pagan is better off after my departure. The Theurgists can quickly learn to heal the natural way (red potions!) and the Sorcerers can learn to blow townfolk up the natural way (mushrooms!), and the guards in Tenebrae can continue interrogating peasants for all eternity.

So ends the game. It's not the worst in the series--I'd put it slightly behind Savage Empire, but ahead of Ultima I and II--and in terms of the concept and "what could have been," it's a very good game--a compelling but not epic plot (necessary after the insane scope of Serpent Isle), a new locale, and so on. So Imaginary Ultima VIII is probably in the realm of Ultima VII or VI, but sadly my imagination, though vivid, isn't what I actually played.


Nick said...

Finally! For years I've seen so much of the Ultima community talking about all the evil things you do in Pagan, but I certainly never felt that way; destroying the Guardian's elemental gods and removing their hold over Pagan always seemed like a good thing to me! (with the notable exception of the Breath of Wind...) Honestly, it's not like the Avatar was always super virtuous in any of the other games either; there were always some actions that needed justification.

Claus said...

Honestly, Pagan does sound confusing, even more so than Serpent Isle. I dont think I really want to play that one any time soon.

But phid, grats!
On to some more!

Brian said...

It's interesting, being the first Ultima game I really experienced when I was younger, I never thought it was really all that bad. Of course looking at some of the limitation of gameplay after playing some of the others, I can see the cause of distress from more veteran players at the time. Looking back on it, I had no issue with the plot or the setting, and still remember it fondly as sort of a dark eerie adventure on a bizzare little island. The combat was boring at best, but probably not more so than the other games for me, and yeah the jumping was a nightmare, saving saving saving, all the time.

I remember finishing the game accidentally! I had no idea what I was doing most of the time because I was probably too young to fully understand what everyone was talking about, so when I beat it, I was a bit taken back I had managed such a feat. Anyway, a great return visit to what is really been labeled as a black sheep of sorts in the series, but one I still love, and a fair review at that.

Kobra Kai said...

Sorry for taking too long to read and comment your post.

Yes, I was referring to the Blue Pentagram symbols. You can click on them as many times as you wish and it will be labeled as "Symbol" or "Symbol of -spellname-" (if it's enchanted) and it doesn't indicate the number of charges left, since it has unlimited charges (until your casting goes awry... and this unenchant your Blue Symbol). Your game is buggy... at least this was just another bug in the middle of many other ones.

Regarding DOSBox, if your version is above 0.70, then, according to the manual and the config files, "The default setting (auto) switches to max if appropriate". I've used all versions of DOSBox since 0.58 (AFAIR). It's strange your version of DOSBox behaves differently.

DOSBox 0.65 (or bellow) upper memory management sucks, so no matter how powerful your computer were, Ultima VIII would run like in a 386 DX50 or worse... that means, in order to play Ultima VIII descently, you need DOSBox 0.70 or higher.

Thanks for sharing your Ultima experiences in this blog.