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

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ultima IX, Day 7

Well, my blog is more interesting when I make random contreersial statements. But more on that later! First, I must cover the Ultima. Today's quest was to visit Destard. Actually, it was to visit the town of Valoria (I guess Jhelom was eaten by the volcano?), discover that I am not allowed to get in without slaying a dragon, and then going to Destard to do so. Getting to Destard was a bit of a pain. I tried to get to the ice-capped mountain with a secret entrance through an area west of Britain, but without a great deal of luck. It turns out that the easier way is through the city of Dawn, a ruined town southwest of you. The name Dawn amuses me--although everywhere on the game map is east of somewhere, I would have imagined dawn would be in the far east on the usual orientation of the map of Britannia. But maybe the sun rises in the west here? I never checked.

Anyway, Destard has one of the more bizarre quests around--like several dungeons, a major part of the quest is to gather items that serve as keys to unlock another locale. In this case...it's broken dragon eggshells. Glad to see dragons are still in Destard! Several of the pieces are scattered in a Wyrmguard hideout where a cult worshiping the giant dragon living in Destard is located, too. Her name is Taloria, right? Aren't Talorians the big headed mind-reading people who Captain Pike meets in the un-aired pilot of the original Star Trek? Anyway, the main thing you have to do is collect the eggshell bits, which I managed to do. One of the most memorable encounters in the dungeon was with this utterly gigantic zombie torso what I think yells "Boo!" and attacks me when I open a grave.

There's also a liche defending an eggshell chunk and some bone armor, a helmet I think. Throughout the game, I encountered several pieces of bone and/or blackrock armor, but it always bugged me because they always seemed to be either boots or helmets, but due to my swamp boots and my helm of radiance, I really don't want those kinds of armor, lest I lose the benefits of the old stuff. Oh well.

The end of the dungeon came when I confronted Taloria, who offered to join me and fight the Guardian to rule Britannia. You've got to be joking, right? This dragon is a fool. And I was very was not to agree to her terms, because I simply drank an invisibility potion, and killed her in like three slashes from my lightning sword. Weakling! After returning to Valoria, I was allowed in, and I saved the life of a wizard, whom the Guardian suddenly killed. This I found very confusing, because if he can just arbitrarily undo all my actions, why did he only undo this one? Weird. Anyway, I convinced the townsfolk to help be fight off a trio of demons, got the sigil as a consequence, and cleared the shrine. Tomorrow, the Stygian Abyss! And a weak "arch" mage.

Onto comments. With regards to plot construction, I guess I wasn't clear. I find the game highly disjointed, especially the Ambrosia->Hythloth jump, and the Buccaneer's Den->Deceit jump. Or the summoning of Pyros(!) that occurs tomorrow--the feeling you get from these is that chunks were sort of haphazardly spliced together to make a storyline, and that's pretty much what happened.

I disagree with those who say you get the main elements of the game working, then add the details. To my mind, what made Ultimas good was the style in which they were made--a world editor with lots of cool features, and then the world created to exploit those great features. Ultima 9 had several versions of this game world, it seems, and again, the game is spliced together from elements of all of them. Had they started with one world editor and then developed the whole game with it, I think it would have been great, even with something very close to the present story arc.

As to art...I don't believe I said art was operating within constraints, but rather that the desire to do that is a trait I associate with artists. In any case, the statement that "...it has virtually no validity when applied to other art forms" is just silly. I don't know anything about painting, but there are enormous numbers of very specific forms, structures, and systems in music that serve to limit the materials used, and/or the way in which are used, from large scale structures with required movements, to rigid systems dictating the ordering of tones or allowed harmonies. People experiment with new forms, new instruments, etc, but there is also a strong conservative movement in music.

But that's beside the point--The reason many people might not consider games as art is because gaming is an experience, in the same way that cards cards can obviously be artistic but solitaire, the process by which someone uses the cards, would not be art. Similarly, a play is considered art--but the experience of an actor as he performs in the play, is that itself art? To my mind, that's the root of the problem. Obviously I have a broad definition of what art is (see my John Cageblog; lots of Cage's music is in the form of processes to be carried out to structure and create a performance rather than objects to be performed). Using art as a value judgment is also idiotic; just because some piece of art is terrible doesn't make it not art.

I think that covers it all for today! Great comments. I guess playing a recent game draws people in more than the ancient stuff, though I enjoyed the oldest ones that rarely get airtime the most; I felt I was offering a service to them in some sense!


Natreg said...

I could be mistaken, but I think the Dragon was called Talornia.

The talorians are those creatures in UW2, I think...

Adamantyr said...

Glad to hear you didn't have any crash issues on Valoria... I certainly did. And I also didn't get the "heroic" version of the island's music when I cleansed the shrine. In fact, I think it's just silent... which is odd, because it's on the files. The WAV extractor tool I used to retrieve them got it with all the others.

Yeah, I agree that the plot feels like it was patched up. Not QUITE as bad as Serpent Isle after the Banes go amok, where the dangling threads are like a carpet.

I'm not sure why they threw in the town of Dawn near the dungeon... there was an old fan fiction story (quite well written, in fact) that was post-Ultima VII where the Avatar finds the lost city of Dawn from Ultima III, which faded into the Void, where it became vulnerable to the Guardian. The Avatar manages to save the townsfolk and destroy the connection to the Void so the Guardian can't use it, and the townspeople build a new village of Dawn. Maybe the U9 developers read that one too...

What always bothered me about U9's design was the general feel of the landscape as you walked around. The Yew area's a good example. It's not so much a living world as an amusement park. Peasants stand out in the middle of nowhere and say nothing relevant. In Ultima VII they were either bandits or full NPC's with something important to say. Very disappointing.

Anonymous said...

I see what you mean about the disjointed nature of the game, now that you clarify it. I agree, that is a problem, but really not the biggest one. I've experienced far worse in other games.

I still think that the dialogue is the real crux of a lot of the troubles with the game, though. Much of it was probably not read through before being put into the game - the question about the wolf mentioned earlier, the "stealing is always wrong" part in the Well of Souls (especially in regard to his previous previous recent adventures), and the infamous "What's a paladin?" line in Trinsic.

Anonymous said...

The Pyros summoning is pretty clearly in the game because they had already made the cutscene for it. Of course, when they did that, it was a dream sequence for Lord British in the other plotline, where the Guardian is trying to get him to distrust the Avatar. But, they had this cool Pyros summoning cutscene, and so they decided they had to use it.