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

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ultima VIII, Day 5

I suppose I should take a few moments to specify my blogging goals going forward. Obviously, ultima VIII is nearly done, leaving Ultima IX and ROV2 to play. I tried a little ROV2 today, and I'm betting on < 8 hours of gaming to finish this guy up. Ultima IX will be more difficult, but new copies of the discs are on their way, and I have begun looking into Glide emulators so that I can play Ultima IX without huge numbers of crashes that result from using its normal Direct 3D support. Note that I have really not played games much in the past, oh, six-to-ten years, so I am far from an expert--as I understand it, Ultima IX used Glide, and then Glide died. Way to go guys. According to Random Website, Glide was particularly for Voodoo graphics cards, which I find curious considering a certain other use of "Voodoo" that caused Ultima-related headaches sometime before :-P

I guess I will probably need to be playing on my new desktop instead of my laptop as well...

Back to 1994. My last blog left off with me mastering the extremely easy magic of the Theurgists, and I subsequently decided to go see the sorcerers. I got there and spent a good half hour or so wandering around, trying to find a way over the giant lava river. A note on lava in this game--if you touch it once, you will probably die, because the Avatar just says "Agh!" and does his pain animation, and moves a step back...usually into more lava. So you get him saying "AghAghAghAghAgh" over and over until he's dead; you cannot run away due to the tiresome pain animation needing to run its course. In any case, I eventually gave up and went back into the cave from which I came, a very large cave off of the catacombs, full of water and random zapper traps and a few ghosts. I recalled one other door, and this one led to Carthax Lake, which is the home, sort of, of Hydros aka the Lurker, who controls Tempestry. She lives off of a big white platform with a dolphin on it, and she talked to me briefly, promising that she'd give me Tempestry powers if I freed her. All right! So I did so, and spoke to her again. Turns out I'm an idiot, and she'd rather go kill Devon--"Let's see who can reach Devon first!" Granted, she is (?) the sea, but I bet I reached him first by double clicking on my recall item...Devon was mildly upset, but to my surprise didn't seem to care that I freed hydros, saying that I have an odd luck about me. Then he tells me "Go see the sorcerers" but "Dude, I just CAME from there" is not a response option offered. Incidentally, freeing Hydros causes random fog. So if some of my screenshots seem washed out, that's why.

This whole sequence raised a few questions...
-If Hydros is trapped, in what sense does someone who dies at see "rest with the Lurker?"
-So when i first played Ultima VIII, I thought Hydros was some sea creature, and her tentacles rose from the sea to speak to you. But this time, playing on a gigantic screen, it occurs to me that these might actually be extremely long, thin waves. I propose a vote--is Hydros manifested via tentacles, or long thin waves?

I then continued on to Daemon's Crag, the sorcerer's domain, and home to a huge amount of lava. I chatted with two of them--Bane the Friendly, and Vardion the Jerk. Thinking that these guys are a bunch of liars, after speaking to Bane, I used the "Speak Truth" spell before talking to them, or at least before talking to Vardion. Bane had previously informed me of my and her truenames, and she asked me to help get Vardion's. Ah, what a dilemma! But since the "Speak Truth" spell had no effect, I assumed that Vardion was genuinely concerned about Bane, and therefore gave him her "truename" which he promptly used in order to kill her with a daemon (I guess she didn't have "banish daemon" prepared?)

With her dead, and me surprised, the Sorcerer leader Malichir comes by and tells Vardion to hurry up and train me. I will skip over the training, except to say that sorcerer spells are a pain in the rear to set up, but nowhere near as annoying as before the patch is installed. I had assumed that, much like Necromancy, I would be wandering around with the spell reagents in a container, but since the reagents do not stack, this didn't happen! In any case, with that training done, he sent me off to the Obsidian fortress, which is worthy of a new paragraph.

There are basically 5 things to note about the obsidian fortress:

1. Arcadion, the black sword daemon, is there. He's been trained as a sorcerer, but he doesn't recognize you. Apparently this is him back in the past or something.

2. Much of the rest of the fortress is spent wandering around, collecting pentagram symbols. These symbols are blue, and you should avoid at all costs single-clicking on them, because your game will crash. Apparently someone didn't bother to give them an official name.

3. Flame Sting, a nice weapon which causes bursts of fire when you use it, is hidden, well not so hidden, in the Obsidian Fortress. It's probably my favorite weapon, even though i was also fond of the thunderclap produced by the Slayer mace.

4. At one point, you are attacked by some random children. So this game has at least two cases of kiddy attacks! Wow.

5. Vardion is also a jerk--he never bothered to tell me I need an ignite spell prepared, though he did tell me about the candle I needed. After you pass the Obsidian fortress, you summon Pyros with the assistance of Malichir and some other sorcerers. But since I did not have ignite prepared, I tried to light my candle myself. Silly me! This made Malichir mad, and he began shooting fireballs at me, but I was wise and dodged behind one of the other sorcerers. Thus began a massive sorcerer battle royal, in which everyone summoned daemons and send blasts of fire at everyone else, while I hid myself away. I assumed this was not the way the game was supposed to proceed, and reloaded.

I still was unable to create an ignite spell, because of the paucity of Malichir's reagent selection, but at least P survived this time. Pyros is not as violent sounding as he ought to be; I think the voice is not so great. Afterwards Malichir expresses his irritation wit me via a flame bolt. Jerk!

I quit at that point, having played for more than the usual two hours. The next thing to do was to go speak to Malichir about the tongue of flame, which I need to escape the island...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ultima VIII, Day 4


Thus says the spiderwebby skeleton of Khumash-Gor, just before his ghost arises, which in turn is just before I cast "grant peace" before he can toss an exploding skull my way. Stepping back twenty minutes, and I'm wandering around the Zealan temple. This part of the game was one of two or three that required a walkthrough, due to this one annoying part where you have to toss a tiny little rolling sphere to activate a pressure plate that I did not realize existed. This part of the game also featured a multi-colored laser beam that kills me if I walk through it. Odd.

Speaking to the Zealans was interesting. I don't remember their names, but there was a generic woman, a Klingon-sounding warrior, and a guy that sounded like he was extremely bored about the whole process. In any case, they instructed me to steal a pyramid tip for the purposes of getting off the island.

From there I headed to the Argentrock Isle, where the Theurgists hang out. I encountered a few old guys, some generics, and one young fellow who had done a great job passing the theurgist test, except for the final one, where all you have to do is cast heal on a Torax. Humorously, I never did figure out how to get out of the pit with the injured Torax in a legitimate way, and I then used Mythran's recall item to get away. The first test I passed was a series of simple questions, and in the case of the second test, it merely involved collecting lumps of silver from underground. In fact, the lumps were large enough that with each one of them I had to dump some other object onto the ground, beginning first with my mass of "destroy trap" scrolls, followed then by yellow potions.

The metal was required for creating spellcasting focuses--and in fact, I am happy to note that all that's needed to cast the very useful Theurgist spells (notably--"Aerial Servent" to grab objects from afar, "Restoration" to...well, restore you, and "Wings of Air" to allow you to leap over obstacles and land far away from here you intended, usually drowning in the process.

So apparently, about an hour of training allows me to become a Theurgist, blowing away even the young fellow I mentioned earlier (Torwin) in my speed of learning. It's cool that in Pagan, becoming a high powered mage takes a few minutes. Of course, I have the sizable advantage over other students of being able to save and load my game. Ever considered how useful such a feature would be in real life? In any case, creating the focuses required a trip back to Tenebrae, where I decided to take the time to rescue poor old Devon from the jail. A cinematic encounter later and Mordea is dead, and the two other Tenebraean characters are laying on the dock groaning. With the focuses I headed back to the island where i discovered that Brother Xavier's healing touch focus was stolen, and he was too stupid to cast "Hear Truth" and talk to the other three people in town about who might have it. Turns out it was the young fellow Torwin, who intended to use it to resurrect his father, the guy executed at the very beginning of the game. Of course, his father's head is in the sea, so resurrection entailed that Torwin jump off the cliff and into the water and die. Oh well. He dropped his ring on the way, and I took it back to his mom in Tenebrae. Actually, I did that waaaaay later, but pretend it was now.

From there I spoke to Stratos, the maternal whirlwind sitting on a rock nearby. She told me I could not have the breath of wind which was too bad, since I had only just then realized that the breath of wind would be a cool artifact to have.

Now I will agree with a comment: Theurgy sucks. In fact, I only ever bought the very first spell, the confusion blast, which I never used because the damned reagents were so insanely expensive, though I almost felt I SHOULD use it because otherwise I have no use for obsidian in the game. By the time I hit Stratos, i was almost covered in magic armor, so the stores in Tenebrae were not much use, and I don't need to eat either. Oh well. I


I feel compelled to reply re: "Have you ever played Zelda?" I was thinking specifically of the side-scrolling palaces/bridges/etc in Zelda II where, as I recall, leaping around bridges suspended in midair, jumping over chasms, and crossing collapsing rock-bridge were all common requirements. Maybe Castlevania would have been a better comparison. I was trying to think of an analogy with some other RPG that involves lots of jumping around traps that are difficult to imagine actually existing.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ultima VIII, Day 3

So the game continues in the third day! As mentioned last time, the quest involved in his day was to seek out some corpses, talk to them, and then jump across lots of dopey Zelda-esque platforms. Well, actually, the latter was not specifically sated, but I've learned that it is implicit in all quests in Ultima VIII. The necromancers, of whom I took several screenshots which I have no room for (due to the need for an absolutely essential two-shot sequence later), were mostly friendly, except for one who did not trust me, and called me "meat." What an insult. Just what are you? Rotting meat! Not very logical, Necromancer. Anyway, they taught me some spells one or two of which I actually used. Specifically, I used "grant peace" to banish some ghosts. There is also an "avoid death" spell that the necromancer who told me of it said I would need at some point, but which I do not seem to need. Leaving the necromancers put me on the roof of the catacombs, and leaping off required some extra healing potion because they are very tall indeed.

From there it was off to Tenebrae to be confused wondering what the heck I did wrong, and then subsequently off to the catacombs again in order to go talk to Lithos, the Titan of Earth, and connoisseur of corpses: "Her rotting flesh will perfume my garden of delight" was most definitely his most memorable line. The way there was riddled with danger, mostly in the form of more Zelda transplants, including mysterious rocks floating in mid-air for no reason, rising and lowering stones, and everyone's all-time favorite--Vanishing platforms! I also had to explore this annoying area where pillars produced dangerous blue fields between them, though once I got to the end, I received the treasure of the appropriately named, "Blue Field Passage Gem." Ever wonder how the Avatar just knows the names of stuff you click on? It was particularly silly in Serpent Isle; click on a weird glowing circle and it says "Chaos Serpent Eye." Oh...of course! In any case, this quest was kind of tiring, due to the sheer amount of craling and jumping and monster ignoring you have to do. On the plus side, I found a sweet axe called Deceiver nearby. My only complaint is that it isn't very fun--Slayer claps thunder when you kill a monster; Flame Sting burst flame, but this one just sorta kills things, with no special effects :-(

When I returned to the necromancer (what's the guys name? Vividos or something? I keep thinking of "Vardion" but I know that's not him) he told me I was now able to seek the Birthplace of Moriens. He describes the amazing experience he had there, though not in any detail. He also made me totally confused by giving me "the key of the scion," which looks exactly like the magic wand with a skull that is used to cast necromancy spells, except this one actually oens doors...somehow. Anyway, it opens a lot of the locked doors I found in mapping the catacombs, and one of them is labeled "The Birthplace of Moriens." In the pre-patch version of the game, it was labeled as "Towards Fate Do You Travel," and the Birthplace did not exist. That's the kind of totally bizarre problem that I just do not understand--how can that have gotten through any kind of playtesting, or even a brief survey of how the quest was supposed to be accomplished?

In any case, the end result is not as inspiring as implied by Mr. Vividos. You can almost see the little speech bubble over the Avatar's head saying, "What, this is it!?" Fortunately, just around the corner there's a bunch of Zelda traps that you can easily escape, including...well, I won't say dumbest, but man it's silly...the rolling spiked ball. I think it's in the top 5 absurdities of Ultima VIII. Let's make a list:

1. Morgaelin's complete lack of continental shelf
2. Rocks floating conspicuously in midair
3. Physics-defying spiked rolling balls
4. Vanishing midair red platforms
5. The skull of quakes

The Skull of Quakes you ask? Why, it's found pretty nearby to the spikey balls I just described. What possible use could a skull of quakes be? Isn't it obvious that you would go somehow place it inside a mysterious red half-circle, thereby causing an earthquake to open a teleport pad? When I first played Ultima VIII, the only reason I thought to do this was way into the game, when I was literally double-clicking the Skull of Quakes and trying its little cross hairs on everything. So bizarre! Ahhhh.

If you have other notable absurdities, please add them in comments! I might start having to approve them due to excess spam, but I hope not to...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ultima VIII, Day 2

Well, my second day was focused on the necromancers, although for some reason or another, I don't seem to have any screenshots of the necromancers. Maybe they are actually in Day 3? Anyway, this involved two quests. One involved collecting some reagents--Executioner's Hood, which was under a tree near the cemetery (and which is aptly named), and some sticks, which, humorously, only come from one tree off in west tenembrae, and which are called "dead man's elbows" (not so aptly named). The second one was one of the more amusing quests in the game due to its absurdities--Mordea, the Tempest and leader of the city of Tenebrae, stole the ceremonial dagger that is needed to kill of the dying Necromancer. I am unsure why she did this--the net result would ultimately be Lithos, the local titan of the earth, getting annoyed and causing earthquakes and so on. Anyway, she has it hidden in her bedroom. The key to her bedroom is hidden under a pillow, and her servant gave me the key to the chest in her room where the dagger is hidden. Well, I wandered in to fetch the thing while Mordea was asleep, and made the mistake of assuming the chest in question was behind her bed--needless to say, she got upset and killed me. This happened repeatedly, until i broke down and slept so that she'd leave.

And slept.

And slept more.

But she never got out of bed! Then I remembered a notable detail of this game--time doesn't pass until you trade screens. Did I talk about this in the last blog? Anyway I went out and came back in, and indeed, Mordea was awake in her throne room, yapping about the need for more executions. So I just walked past her, into her bedroom, opened her closet, retrieved the dagger, and went and returned it to the Necromancer, and he was kind enough to make me his acolyte. Technically, he was not yet the Necromancer; instead, it was a woman on an altar, who he promptly stabs to death. From there I was sent to the catacombs to meet the previous Necromancers.

And boy did this waste a huge amount of time--nowhere in the game are you told "this is the necromancer's den." Instead, you just have to randomly walk into a room whose floor collapses under you. Of course, it's surprisingly hard to go down holes in this game (this is why I did not get Slayer), and I ultimately had to aim a jump just right to end up falling in the hole. But that is tomorrow! There are also some levers that turn the world upside down. I don't understand what this means, exactly, in terms of the actuall experience of the Avatar, though.

In the meantime, Bentic was executed. Eek. Poor library guy. Devon, the fisherman who rescued me, was also imprisoned. I had a chat with him, and saw Bentic's book hidden in an evidence room in the jail. I need to do something about this, but I was unable to find a way to get into the evidence chamber...

Finally, some comment replies. I agree that the characters are well animated, but they are ugly in the first place, and a smoothly-moving blurry blob is still a blurry blob. I also find the animations pretty annoying, in terms of interaction with the world--it's infuriating when I can't attack a monster because I am busy going through some random animation sequence (or worse, when I am going through the various directions of rotation before I can turn around and run away). Agh. Finally, I would note that it's a bad idea to get too creative about getting places. I have a screenshot here of me hidden underneath the waterfall, because I accidentally fell behind the wall there. I have similar shots in the catacombs and elsewhere, so we'll see more of this.

The day associated with this part was pretty good. Except for the catacombs, which are interesting but which need better directions. Making the map was particularly fun; I haven't ade many maps since Ultima VI or so.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ultima VIII, Day 1

Well, it's the moment everyone hs been waiting for. Well, only a few oddballs who love this game. I for one, do not love this game, and I was going in with such low expectations that if it had electrocuted me, I would have been impressed. Actually, that's Ultima IX--Ultima VIII would impress me by merely kicking me in the shins.

In all seriousness, as I play the game (this blog is also retrospective, but on the advice from the Serpent Isle posts I will not specify how retrospective) I can get a pretty good idea what a really cool game with the same premise and world would have been like. The first thing you notice, from a modern perspective, is how absolutely desperately his game wants to be 3D, from the jumping and climbing, to the excessive frames in the character art, to the fact that the walls are so huge that it's easy to randomly lose objects behind them. But the fact that it's decidedly not 3D leads to some of its biggest drawbacks...

1) The isometric perspective where you and monsters are constantly hidden behind walls and other objects
2) The hideous character art. Faces are like smudges. Beren looks like Gumby with his weird parabolic arms. They're all like really low-res 3D models
3) The fake 3D models require huge numbers of animation frames, wasting space that could have been used for more monsters, weapons, more everything

As far as plot goes, this day was spent wandering around Tenebrae. The place is mostly empty except for generic peasants and guards, sometimes in pairs, spouting the same lines about paying taxes over and over again. Let me see if I can remember everyone inside the city walls...There's the tempest, her manservent, her bored girlservent, Orlock the bartender,his waitress, the goth buffoon with the giant axe and no clothing, the trainer, and...oh yeah, the blacksmith. That's eight. I guess it's better than the typical town in Savage Empire, but yeesh. Beyond that we've got three guys living around tenebrae, four tempests, five(?) sorcerers, and a necromancer. And an old hermit. So the whole word is pretty tiny.

I forgot Bentic, the dude who is unable to rise from his chair! He is at least colorful-looking.

Like I said, my first day was all wandering around--I found a pit that as I recall leads to a magic mace, but for the life of me I can't figure out how to climb into the hole; the Avatar merely walks around it. I also talked to Mythran, the old hermit, who gave me an item that recalls me to various locations (with the inventive name "Recall Item"). He also makes potions and has a bunch of physics-defying, endlessly rolling spiked balls in his foyer. I'll save my floating platform/sinking stone/etc. bashing for later, when it becomes extremely absurd. But suffice to say you end up feeling like you're stuck in Castlevania in this game.

None of this is to say that the game is necessarily bad, but the first impression when you play is, "Holy crap, what did they do!?" Most of the cool features that have been hallmarks of the game since Ultima V have vanished, some of the best features of the latest game (the paperdoll inventory, the awesome character portraits) have been eliminated, or in the case of the paperdoll inventory, made so non-functional that it might as well not exist.

Now I feel compelled to list some high points of the gameplay.

1) Being able to climb and jump allows for some quick navigation. In Serpent Isle, there was this ridiculous walled-in area east of Monitor with teleporters inside, and it was simply insane that you couldn't just jump over the section of wall that looked about 1 foot high. Here, you eel less absurd because you can.

2) I'm having trouble thinking of anything that isn't plot or concept related instead of an aspect of the gameplay or construction of the world itself. I know a lot of people love the music, but I find almost all of it forgettable. I enjoy breaking out tunes from Ultima VI and Ultima VII outside of the context of the games now and then, but in Ultima VIII they seem like mood music that is uninteresting outside the game context.

So this blog is a downer. I will be nicer when I actually get involved in the plot. I thought it was ironic, though, that Ultima VIII included a parody of a competitor, the description of which might apply to this game ("a pale imitation").

Man I don't look forward to playing Ultima IX. Oh, I should add that I looked up ways of improving DOSBox performance, and found that you can set the CPU core and cycles to "Auto" and the improvement is shocking. The game went from barely playable with slow movement and skipping music to almost too fast. Why, why, was this not the default!?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 18

Well, it's time to end the Serpent Isle blog! But I must first acknowledge an error--In the last blog, I described killing off the Trapper, when in fact that happened on this day, as you will note from the screenshot! (Did I mention he oddly killed the remainder of the Gwani but left their bodies just laying around instead of skinning them?) It was the last thing I did before Dupre was sent to sacrifice himself.

Actually, that is a mistaken phrase. In reality, after I finished off the Trapper, Xenka informed me that one of myself or my Companions had to sacrifice him/herself for the greater good. I drew the shortest straw, and so we were all sent to Monitor, where I removed Renfry's ashes from the crematorium machine (Renfry rand the cremation service in Monitor--this was one of the more amusing details of the city's destruction) and pulled the lever, intendeding to hop in. But alas! Dupre felt guilty for all the crimes he had recently committed, and leapt in in place of me. A sad tune plays and you see a nice brass urn roll out from the machine.

So what did Dupre do, anyway? Iolo slaughtered people in Fawn; Shamino blasted them in Moonshade, but it's not clear that Dupre did anything at all, besides sit around the White Dragon Castle and plan for my doom. Anyway, this sacrifice by Dupre fulfilled the crystal ball prophesy in the ice caves of Ultima Underworld II, which I am sad to report I did not get to see due to that game's bugginess :-(

The rest of the game was a whirlwind tour. Xenka immediately sends me off to the Skullcrusher mountains (AGAIN!) to open the Chaos Wall of Lights, and send Dupre's soul into the void so that he can control the Chaos serpent while I go and release the great earth serpent. The more I think about this, the more confusing it is. Why doesn't the Order serpent need anyone to bind to it to control it, or the Earth Serpent for that matter? In any case, this qualifies as the most boring quest in the Ultima series. It entails nothing more than exploring three levels of a gigantic maze in the back of that dungeon (after blowing up some big golden doors). The maze is mostly devoid of anything interesting at all. There are a some rooms, and a few monsters (particularly a dense forest of gremlins that are extremely annoying; I didn't even try to fight them) but no treasure, no books, nothing else. Eventually you reach the Chaos temple area, and if you are lucky, notice a secret door in the back through which you enter and see the Wall of Lights. With the Chaos banes (oh yeah--maybe that's why you need Dupre to undergo this binding; I forgot about that) you send Dupre into the void, and he prevents the Chaos serpent from attacking you.

Side question--where can I download all the ultima voice files? I have a tool that extracts them from Ultima VII, but it doesn't quite work for Serpent Isle, and I am additionally way too lazy to convert the .voc files.

From there I head back through the maze, chat with Xenka, who finally sends me on to Sunrise Isle, a huge dreamland-like "island" which on the map takes the place of where the Eastern Signpost was in Ultima I (creative reference, almost as good as Bulldozer -> Sleeping Bull!) but which gives no evidence of being on the planet at all. Actually, Gwenno did freeze to death there, so maybe that indicates it is in the frozen north somewhere (I gave up trading boots between the Companions and just let her die). Sunrise Isle is largely a series of puzzles--Collect the items that symbolize each virture. Then gather cubes of ice and fire(!!!). The hardest part is the very first one--you have to remove blue and red serpent statues from some pedastals and place them on the scale. The only problem is that the "scale" looks absolutely nothing like a scale I've seen. The only clue that it's supposed to be a scale is a) a chain nearby and b) the complete lack of anything else to do.

In any case, I finally made it to the last chamber, right after I presented the Great Earth Serpent with the serpent crown, staff, and armor, the emblems of the Great Heirophant, which somehow got scattered all over Serpent Isle. As a reward, I was given the Order Serpent Eye, a blue glowing thing. This was good, because I had the Chaos Serpent Eye, and I was certain that the Order one must be around somewhere, but I never saw any mention of it! And the Chaos serpent eye just showed up in the random secret room behind the Great Heirophant's mummy. This was one of the more confusing aspects of the game, I'm afraid. Anyway, from there I took out some servents of the Order serpent (ice elementals), and heard the famous alliterative line, "Slay me! Slay me with the Serpent Sword, and send my soul back into the void!" That sword was the rusty-looking Ophidian sword Xenka gives you, and it's lucky I remembered to keep the damn thing with me.

As a side note, the last time I played this game, I totally forgot to pick up the Chaos blackrock serpent from the slot I dropped it in when I used it to send Dupre in the void, and I was so mad that I broke down and cheated to create a new one. This time, however, I remembered it and finished the game entirely legitimately!

In the void, I see the Serpents all combine with each other in a manner reminding me of the serpents-around-a-staff medical emblem, and then the Guardian snatches me out of the void and drags me to "another world altogether!" Then the game crashed, and I immediately reloaded, played through the last scene again, and finally saw the credits in a relatively anticlimactic manner. I am sad that I didn't get a "You beat Serpent Isle in XXX days!" message, so I'll end this game with a screenshot of a gigantic hand!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 17

Boy do I need to finish this Serpent Isle blog up! No fear, this is the second to last day. With luck I shall begin Ultima VIII this weekend! bets are now open on how long that one will take--my recollection is that the game is not terribly long, but there is a fair amount of tedious stuff you need to do to win. But I only played it once, way back when it was released.

Speaking of first times--The worst game-stopping bug in Serpent Isle, to my mind, is the dream world, where if you die, the stuff you had there vanishes. As a consequence of this, I lost a key that is required to open a door near where Rabinrath lives, and thus could not finish the Dream World quest. That is "old news," but I was vaguely reminded of it on the Isle of Crypts, where I could have spent days wandering around trying to get anywhere had I not broken down and checked a walkthrough, learning that you need the balance blackrock serpent to continue onwards. And, quite frankly, day 17 consisted of "finding a bunch of missing quest items." In order of my acquisitions...

1) Balance serpent
Turns out that this goody is among Silverpate's treasure, Silverpate being a pirate who left a map hidden in the basement of the Sleeping Bull inn. That place has since been destroyed, the only survivor being Wilfred, who will join your party, and then cowardly run away if he gets too hurt. Inexplicably, the Sleeping Bull is loaded with dead guys who look like Brendann from Monitor. More inexplicably, there are "trails" of blood that lead to bodies, but in at least one case, the "trail" leads directly through a wall! Anyway, the basement is as empty as ever, and I eventually found the map, teleported back to Skullcrusher (I must have been there a dozen times now), and went and found the pirate's treasure after getting hit by lightning bolts and picking up lots of those annoying caltrops.

2) Order serpent
Technically, I probably fetched this one on the previous day, when i went to Moonshade, but it's worth mentioning here--I get the key to fetch this Serpent from...erm, that guy...from the dungeon,,,thief who people want dead? This is the blackrock serpent which I picked up in Ultima Underworld II, making Ultima Underworld I the only canonical Ultima game that does NOT get a reference in Serpent Isle. Hmm, actually the Worlds games don't either, do they? Ah well. Serpent Isle is more self-referential than most. Martian Dreams is only mentioned in Underworld II, and Savage Empire in Ultima VII and, obviously, Martian Dreams. This reminds me that I need to post all the UWII screenshots someday...

3) Eye of Chaos
I found this on a gold platform behind the place where the Great Heirophant is laid. Not sure how the hell i was supposed to look there. However, it's clear that when you see a big glowy read thing, you should pick it up.

4) Eye of the Serpent
Not to be confused with the eye of Chaos (or the one of Order!) this bauble is held by an old man in the basement of the Temple of Tolerance; he drops dead on the way out, and it can be used to chat up the Heirophant of Chaos, whose dead body is nearby. This may be the second least useful quest object in the game, the bottom position being a tie between all the random quest-item like junk you can pick up that do nothing!

5) Serpent Crown
6) Serpent Armor
7) Serpent Staff
This was a trio of adventure. The staff required for me to kill the Troll King near the gargoyle city underground. I remember when i first played Serpent isle, I found this staff and had no clue why it was there. I kinda wish the troll would talk to you the way the goblin king did, by the way. From there, I headed north to Fawn, where I discovered nearly everyone is dead except the gatekeeper, who seems unconcerned about eveyone's demise. Ruggs tells me that Mad Iolo (The not-mad-anymore Iolo presumably felt a bit embarrassed about now) came to town and tore the skin off of Yelinda, cut the tongue from fellowship-jabberer Leon, and basically slaghtered everyone else. So I fetched Yelinda at the swamp--still not having figured out how to get to Fawn's Serpent Gate, this proves to be annoying--and once I gave her yet another marginally-useful quest item (a magic brush that the game calls a comb), she sends me to her treasure chamber, which is actually mighty impressive--a firedoom staff, magic sword, magic armor, an infinity bow, and other junk (including the Serpent Armor). Sweet! From there it was south to the forest, where I stopped by a tree and fetched Hawk's treasure, the Serpent Crown, near where I hit up the house of wares with its exploding "glowing box" and the evil pirate. Why did the Avatar not recognize a computer, anyway? Finally I ended things by taking a brief trip to Monitor, noted everyone except Harnna was dead (she had suffered some traumatic brain injuryand did not note the corpses littering the street), and then hit the serpent gate.

Monitor looks good ruined, by the way; I like the smashed walls at the town hall. Why wasn't there more of this? It seems like ruining a town in Serpent Isle basically means trading the chairs for broken chairs, tossing garbage randomly, and making all the fences vanish. Not to say it looks bad, but when I see Monitor, I think the others could have been cooler.

8) Final Serpent Tooth
This is posessed by the trapper, who hacked up (but oddly, did not skin) most of the reamining Gwani. Man, saving the chumps on this island has been such a total waste of time! In any case, I went and found him, he proved to be pretty damned weak, and now he's dead and I have a tooth that will get me to Sunrise Isle, where the game will end. Hooray!

My birthday was last week, just after the Thanksgiving holiday, but I forgot to ask for a copy of Ultima IX, my original CD being lost. I'll pick it up on eBay, I suppose.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 16

This will be a shorter entry than I typically produce, due to the fact that this part of the game was somewhat buggy...The bulk of this day was spent in he Castle of the White Dragon, which was full of clever traps and mocking insults from my companions as they tried to destroy me. Interestingly, the first encounter I had was with the king of the White Dragon himself, who I was nonetheless able to destroy with ease. Most of the castle involved finding keys in assorted locations; I should add that I didn't explore anything close to the entire castle! I'm not sure why, but I never made it in the dining room or kitchen or one of the studies; I never found the keys, but I remember from my first effort playing the game that those rooms were at least interesting...In any case, I went downstairs as soon as I could, and made the remarkable discovery that if I were killed by monsters in the game, I would be spontaneously resurrected with Iolo, Shamino, and Dupre, even though their evil counterparts were wandering around the basement of the castle! This fact incouraged me to destroy them as quickly as possible and get out, lest something else go wrong.

Killing them proved to be fairly easy. Trying to fight them outright simply got me killed, so instead I cast mass sleep and killed them. When resurrected, they were all contaminated by Chaos and refuse to talk to me except to say random insane phrases. Guess what I had to do? That's right; off to solve three more shrine quests! At least these are not as boring as the tedious Ultima V shrine quests. Anyway, I had already done the quest at the temple of Discipline, so I merely fetched more water. At the temple of Ethicality, I had to give up some gold and also fight Batlin to the death, and save a man from some flames. I failed the gold-giving-up test once because I failed to notice I had some gems in my backpack. The guy at the test refused to let me take it again that same day, so I simply reloaded an old game and re-took it. The temple of Logic required that I navigate a maze (kind of an annoying maze, too) and then solve a "murder" mystery, of who killed one of the automotons and stole his key.

I forgot to mention another bug--after their crazy counterparts were healed, my companions immediately joined me instead of hanging out at Monkey Isle. So I basically had to carry around a bunch of insane buffoons to these temples. Dupre was cured quickly, but at the temple of Logic, Iolo died in one of the maze chambers, and I had to fetch the water and resurrect him to cure him. Right after I did that, a random monk appeared to me and announced Xenka had returned, and I was whisked off to Monk Isle to chat with a very grouchy ex-farmwoman. She complained about the people in Moonshade, and asserted the justness of Lord British and his virtues.

I wish I could add a section on Day 17 here and do a combined day, but unfortunately too many interesting things happened on that day so I am stuck with this rather lame entry. I am happy, however, to report that I've broken my monthly-entry record since I began working! Oh, I just remembered something I can talk about...a decent part of the second half of this day of Adventure was spent trying to find anything in the Isle of Crypts. Apparently, it turns out you need the blackrock serpent of balance (yet another random quest item) before you can get anywhere, but nothing in the game tells you this fact. I had to check a walkthrough after a great deal of frustration (there is a plaque that reads, "Stand here to continue in balance" and I stand there but nothing happens, argh!).

As a final way to add some space to this entry (so I can jam this last screenshot in, mostly), I'll note that I had to kill a whole lot of jesters, each of whom had one lonely piece of garbage in their inventories.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 15

Continuing from where I departed the present time and went back to the Silver Seed...

I arrived back in the Spinebreaker mountains, and headed on to Batlon's hideout, where I promptly killed Brunt, Deadeye, Palos, and Selina. Actually, it wasn't prompt. Selina has to die last and will not die until the others are dead, yet my idiot companions invariably focused their attacks on her. So I would wait around forever and she wouldn't die; eventually, I realized the problem and had the Avatar wipe out the other three, at which point Selina finally collapsed and i could take her useless blink ring and her ridiculously convenient Dispel Field scroll that I will need soon--The second most contrived element of the game (The first was the door that won't open even if you do the right thing, mentioned a few days ago). The next scene has Batlin opebning the wall of lights, something going wrong, the Banes escaping his body an invading my Companions, and the Guardian killing him--"See how I reward those who fail me!"

Incidentally, that comment by the Guardian was my "recycle bin emptying" noise for the longest time in Windows.

I had to repeat that whole scene about six times--first, Boydon exploded, so he had to leave; later, a Juggernaut Hammer vanished after the companions turn all evil. This was followed by a myriad of other absurd problems, mostly due to my failure to save my game at convenient times. Eventually, I escaped and in short order accomplished two goals: Freeing the Gwani horn from an energy field (so convenient Selina had a Dispel Field scroll!) and freeing Gwenno from ther icy tomb with that horn (whee, I'm led along on a leash!). From there I had to cure Gwenno's sickness by acquiring the water of Discipline, which in turn required a visit to Moonshade.

Moonshade is in sad shape. Most everone is dead, save people who I need to do things for me (I think Shamino the Anarch considered this when he decided who would die). For some reason, Ale the Parrot is still wandering around, but Edrin is dead, as is his brother. Rocco is dead too, but Petra yet lives. This is good, because I need to drag her off the the temple of Discipline to change bodies with me. That same temple involved finding some Y-shaped doodads to put in slots on a machine at the front of the shrine, but humorously you can click-drag the slots around the screen! I never found one of the two, but they don't seem to be necessary.

Curing Gwenno got me some information--namely, I need soul prisms. Three of the not-dead people in Moonshade pulled that off for me, but they need items that, conveniently, I had pilfered from Vasculio the vampire back in Skullcrusher aka Skullsmasher. With the soul prisms created, it was off to White Dragon Castle!

But not really. Actually I had to visit three more shrines to get water related to three Chaos virtues: Tolerance, Enthusiasm, and Emotion. Tolerance was the most interesting, since in the process I rescued poor stranded Mortego (though he vanishes shortly thereafter) and talked to a guy who's been alive for hundreds of years because a mouse stole a key and hid in a very blocky maze. Man, narrating this takes forever! The short version of the other two shrines--Enthusiasm: Wander around a convoluted maze that has no apparent association with the concept of Enthusiasm. Emotion: Talk to a green little girl in a wall who explains how to collect some emotion-themed stones that look just like the Silver Seed (bu not silver). I dump this water on the soul prisms (hey, Gwenno references soul cages, as in the Black Gate!) and all is prepared for my journey tothe White Dragon castle.

All this leads to one of the more confusing aspects of the game--What am I doing, exactly? As my recollection goes, Batlin vanished from Britannia and went to the Serpent Isle, where he freed the Banes of Chaos, and then the universe started falling apart with the teleport storms, earthquakes, and so on. Then he opens the Wall of Lights for...the purpose of getting into the void, thinking for some reason that he will beceome all powerful? And then he announces that he's been tricked, the Banes escape his body (why was this triggered by opening the Wall of Lights?) and go into my companions. So did this kill him, or did the Guardian? Or was the "see how I reward those who fail me" just posturing? If the imbalance is causing the storms and all, why is it only happening now? The Great Earth Serpent was yoinked away all the way back in Exodus' day! I assume it's because of the Banes being freed, but the storms keep on happening even after they are trapped...But that's tomorrow!

In any case, I am afraid Serpent Isle leaves me confused if I think about it too much.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Silver Seed, Day 2

So the Aaram Dol portion of the Silver Seed quest proved to be the most difficult. The other two quests in the Fiend's Domain and the Abandoned Outpost proved tricky, but not exactly difficult. Technically, I only got the belt of strength from the latter quest in a "day" beyond this one, but shhh, I won't tell anyone if you don't...

The Fiend's Domain was hard to navigate due to lots of fire traps--I ditched my companions at the gate because Boydon constantly exploded, and blasted through the puzzles as a result of my quick gloves! Two goals existed--getting the orb (which allows access to the silver seed), and getting the ring of reagents. The latter was created for the Fiend, an unfriendly fellow from whom all sense of Order was expunged. He lost it due to an automoton's mistake, and in fact the ring is visible just outside the gate to his home, though it takes quite a bit of navigation through invisible walls to actually reach the thing. Nonetheless, the quest was direct since all it required was making a map and avoiding a fair number of traps.

The abandoned outpost, like the Fiend's domain, proved easy in terms of the orb and difficult in terms of the magic item (this time the belt of strength). The most clever trap in this section was a series of gates, two of which are not actually there; they are illusions and you can walk right through. Figuring that out took forever! A much more annoying trap related to a golden platform with an obscure sign; somehow, I was supposed to figure out that I had to put a lightning whip on the platform. I confess, I had to check the walkthrough for that. And I'm glad I did; I probably would have never figured it out otherwise! Jumping ahead a bit, the outpost also has a well that may be descended using rope (apprently rope is useless for any other purpose), and some magic force fields that must be destroyed by reading a scroll (that puzzle also took forever, but at I got it eventually).

All this orb collection leads to the main point of the Silver Seed add-on...The silver seed! (Who would have guessed?) Finding it required pressing a seriously obscure button deep under Serpent's Fang, the citadel you are in during the game, which causes a giant cask to move nearby, uncovering a stairwell. I found the cask movement entertaining, because previously I had passed by it and thought to myself, "Huh, I seem to recall there being something odd about that cask..." but because I only ever played Silver Seed once back in 1995 or so, I had no memory of what was special about it. In any case, when i go down there, I am accosted by a group of female monks who want to kill me because they, gasp, serve the Guardian! I had met them earlier before some of my quests, but they offered dubious advice and then vanished, and I failed to mention them. They died, and for some reason they carried keys to a glade where I can plant the now-recovered silver seed. Karnax the monk appears from nowhere, and cheers me on, also telling me that the silver seed cryptically mentioned by the Forest Master is ruined and worthless, thus ruining the mystique of that character. Thanks a lot, Karnax.

Anyway, the silver seed is planted and grows into a big silver tree. Karnax assures me the job of restoring balance will be much easier, which is true, but that's because of my big pile of magic gear, not because of some tree! This is basically where Silver Seed fails--it has a bunch of fun, useful stuff, but it tries to be relevant to the main plot. yet, because the main plot by necessity must be able to be completed without Silver Seed, it cannot be relevant. I think it would have been better to do like Forge of Virtue, and make a neq quest largely unrelated to the main one, but nonetheless interesting. On the plus side, I like some of the new character portraits, and some of the additional backstory you get concerning the Order/Chaos war. Silver Seed raises more questions then it answers, though, the most pertinent being...Where the hell *IS* Serpent's Fang, anyway? It is not present in the main game, which takes place hundreds of years later. Is it destroyed or what? And what about the tree itself, where's that? And how did Karnax get there!? Were the monks chasing me servants of the Guardian back then? But Ultima IX asserts the Guardian came into being when I became the Avatar. How does that work? Ahhhhh. I hate time travel!

But at least the game revealed the Forest Master is just a brainless chump who doesn't even notice that his Silver Seed is rotten. He was pretty rude to me, you know!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Silver Seed, Day 1

Overall, finishing the Silver Seed took about 5 hours, most of which was spent wandering around mazes, so I am tempted to combine it all into one entry--but nah. I'll do two! But they will probably be shorter than usual. The Silver Seed...It is surprising that it was even made, given the fact that Serpent Isle, after the point you kill Batlin, has a decidedly rushed feel to it, so it is interesting that anyone went to the effort to make an add-on, even if there is a sense of hurried-ness to the whole Silver Seed adventure.

The premise is this--The Monks found an old amulet and give it to you; you go back in time through its use and must solve quests to prove you are the Champion of Balance. There are four quests, and a variety of treasures as well. The first treasure you get is the magic keyring, which from the screenshot you can see that I rather desperately need! Serpent Isle is absolutely buried in keys, man...and they have a lot of types of keys and lots of colors, yet still multiple versions of all of them! It's almost like the wider variety of key types ironically drove the proliferation of keys even though I suspect that was what it was intended to solve...

The first quest I went after was the maze. It was built by some famous architect, and there's also a helmet of light laying around inside, and a cat person. The walls open and close as you step into a room, and sometimes you get trapped, needing to escape by death! Fortunately, you can shortcut through the maze by virtue of the fact that you can often run into a room and then dash backwards just as the wall closes, which would have normally locked you off from the old room, bu which opens doors in the old room--so if you don't like your current selection of doors, you can step into another room and then instantly backwards, and new ones will open. As a result, I finished the maze in like 8 minutes.

The second quest was vastly harder--Aram Dol is a liche that lives nearby. In Ultima I, liches were floating heads, as they were in later games like Ultima IV. I don't think there were any in Ultima VI, but in Ultima VII and Serpent Isle they have become red-robed mummies with crowns on their heads. Aram Dol lives in a big cave area chock full of miscellaneous undead, along with some spider people who are weirdly pixelated--almost as if the artists simply blew up the spider body and stuck a person on the head. In any case, I faced skeletons, mummies, and zombies; there were many secret passages and a few puzzles, leading ultimately to the Showdown with Aram Dol, which was nearly impossible to win. My ultimate strategy came down to this:

1. Have all my companions leave to avoid their deaths
2. Cast Vibrate on Aram-Dol, forcing him to drop all his magic spells (yes, they look like little fireballs and death bolts on the ground)
3. Grab the key to the treasure
4. Get the axe and gloves that he has
5. Use the newfound strength and dexterity to kill the Liche

Even with that strategy it took three or four tries! But ultimately, I killed the liche and got another orb. Ultimately the orbs are used to get the silver seed, a seed needed to restore balance in some unspecified way (more on this weirdness later). While in this lair, I also met a dragon. He had a series of riddles, and I solved all but the last one--and it seems to me my answer on the last one must have been correct, but he insists I am wrong. Let me see if I remember the riddle...

A tailor needs thre strips of the same color cloth to make a shirt. He has a large stack of disorganized cloth, each strip being of one color, and there are four colors. His assistant is lazy, and just randomly grabs cloth from the table. What is the minimum number of strips the assistant must grab to ensure the tailor can make a shirt?

Bonus points to anyone who knows the game's answer and can explain why it is the correct one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Serpent Isle, Days 13 and 14

Onward and northward! This blog comprises two extremely eventful days, but which deserve to be combined since, once again, much of the time was spent wandering around and exploring, rather than doing stuff tat deserves extended commentary. I guess I can break it into basically four parts...

Going North
One thing I invariably forget about this game is that after you pass through the Gorlab swamp, you don't really have an opportunity to go back to the towns again. You can do it, but it means you have to trudge all the way back north--you don't get teeth for the northern Serpent gates for quite awhile. So this time I was glad to remember to bring enough cloaks and boots and fur hats for my whole party! Last time I played Serpent Isle, I forgot, and I ended up trading fur boots between Iolo and Dupre; whoever wasn't quite dead yet got the boots until the other was near dead, then they taded...In any case, armed with my cloaks I headed north through a remarkably large dungeon. Among other things, I found a Moongate, a key to the "House of Wares" in the woods near Monitor owned by a disgusting, cigar-smoking pirate named, appropriately after one of the Serpent Isle developers. Also, I went to a lot of trouble to build stairs up to a cool mountaintop tower, only to discover that there was nothing there but some skeletons and a liche statue seated on a throne.

Ice Dragon
Once I *finally* escaped the dungeon, I found myself in a frozen wasteland. I managed to chat to some furry Gwani, who asked that I fetch some ice dragon blood for them. No doubt this would be easier if I had the dragonslayer sword from yesterday, eh? Anyway, this part's pretty linear. Getting the blood entailed "sailing" on an ice raft that we somehow managed to steer, swinging in circles around lots of sea serpents! The ice dragon lair was a teleport maze, essentially, eventually leading to the front of the maze where I killed, you guessed it, an ice dragon--and actually without much difficulty. Delivering the blood got me the instructions for entering the Skullcrusher mountains. This is where linearity sucks--The puzzle you solve to get into Skullcrusher requires placing some runes on pedestals in a certain order. Just a little trial and error uncovers the order you ned to use, and voila, the gate opens! Except it doesn't...Instead, the Great Earth Serpent pops up ad tells you that you are forgetting something. Bah!

Skullcrusher is the Chaos lair, with a convenient Serpent Gate guarded by a bunch of crazed mallet-weilding automotons. Oh yeah, and a hideos vampire who teleports out of his coffin and threatens to kill you unless you give him the Magebane (acquired earlier from some jealous penguins). Actually, he offers a trade...but kills you anyway (though he DOES give you the spell he offered as a trade, which is honest, if pointless). If you drop the sword on the ground, he instead offers to spare you if you feed him one of your companions. Naturally, I said OK, but for some reason Iolo and pals were not very keen on the idea. In the end, we just killed the guy. We also picked up some stolen items which, by sheer coincidence, happen to be the items needed in Moonshade later in the game. Except Filbercio's magic topee; I left that there. The Chaos city seems perhaps too literal in its embodiment of Chaos--the streets are wacky, there are random pools of water, and stairs are stacked in a disorganized fashion. There's also some big, as I recall un-openable, metal doors behind which the last surviving Chaos warriors locked themselves when the Order army attacked. The ultimate fates of the Order and Chaos people are thus not made exactly clear--Order went through the Wall of Lights into oblivion, and Chaos was mostly destroyed except for a few behind a big door...

From there it was a rapid trek across the ice to the Spinebreaker Mountains, where I almost reached Batlin. Spinebreaker is basically one big city-like area with a temple (and two juggernaut hammers, woo hoo!) and a lot of Batlin-set traps. Isn't it sorta odd that the only four dark-skinned guys I can think of in this game try to kill you? There's Shmed, there's the fellow who accosts you in Spinebreaker, Brunt (actually, he didn't--the game failed to trigger his movement for some reason, so I just kinda walked by that trap...) and there's one each in the party that attacks you outside the Mint and in the group inside Shamino's Castle. But I digress. Palos also threatens you, calling you...well, you can read the screenshot. It's a nice Ultima 6-and-previous reference! It's also humorous to hear about something that you personally did in "ancient times" because you live so freaking long...

Now I abruptly end. There were earthquakes and it was clear batlin was about to open the Wall of Lights and, somehow, destroy us all and I needed a break--So I went to the gate in the middle of town and used the Serpent Amulet I was given on Monk Isle and began the Silver Seed quest!

Speaking of a screenshot (like I was two paragraphs ago), I forgot to mention one thing in the icy waters--I found a boat with some skeletons, whose bodies are full of stuff that vanishes if you get too close and they come to life. One of the things they are carrying is a yellow stone that says "stones" when you click on it. I think it's the only one in the game, and it doesn't do anything. Weird.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 12

After navigating the very poison-y and maze-like swamp of Gorlab, I arrived in the great northern forest. The name is apt--it's very big, and the trees are somewhat different, with the hollow stumps being brown instead of gray. Among other things, there's the trapper's hideout, a Serpent Gate, and a curiously locked Castle of the White Dragon. The gate is on the site of one of the old Ultima 1 towns, as I recall. There's a dearth of characters up here, save for a trio of explorers, one of whom stole a magic device from one of the few other characters around, the Forest Master, who is from Pagan. The thief, Draygan, is quite friendly, but the burned ship that some of his former companions are rotting on suggests the friendliness is a ruse. The short story is tht you go fetch some herb, and you put Draygan to sleep and kill him, stealing away his orb--it made him invulnerable, but apparently it's easy to steal stuff from him (and not everyone else in the game!) when they are asleep. Interestingly, in a bit of extreme convenience, as soon as you kill him, the Forest Master, who wants his magic thingy back, appears out of nowhere and takes it from you! Why didn't he just teleport into Draygan's hut at night?

In any case, as a reward he gives yu a whistle--are you still keeping track of the unique quest items?--which you use in conjunction with one of the more cumbersome quest items, Cantra's wooden practice sword, to track the little girl down. The whistle summons an attractive and amusing dog, who will also do tricks for you. He sends you off to Shamino's Castle, which, as you might suppose from the name, is the castle once controlled by Shamino. He expresses shock at seeing it again; I express shock that it looks nothing like it did in the old game! We enter through a secret passage and explore a bunch of locked rooms, my favorite being one that has crazy gushing ovens that blast you with steam when you approach. In several rooms, Shamino's former lover Beatrix, daughter of the King of the White Dragon, attacks you, as retribution for Shamino's departure during the days of Mondain even though he was there when *I* dropped by. Don't blame me, Beatrix! Oh, and Shamino...about that princess you had locked in your dungeon back in the day? Or maybe that was how you convinced Beatrix to marry you?

Anyway, I shall cease digging up old bones (pun intended). Eventually you encounter Batlin and his buddies; the latter mostly die, the former escapes, and then you summon Monks to take Cantra's rather gruesome corpse back to Monkey Isle, where she will run around saying disturbing things about desiring your flesh until the end of the game...Eventually, the next time Shamino dies, beatrix heals him and gives him a book of questionable love poetry. In the corner of one of the castle chambers, i know there to be a Dragonslayer sword, which I like to give to Shamino due to its uniqueness, but I'm afraid I was unable to figure out how to open the chest containing it this time through. I am a little overloaded with keys at this point, and I may have missed one...And bashing it didn't work, though I vaguely remember needing to bash it repeatedly? Lockpicks were also not effective...

Tomorrow...The great north!

I should add some more text here to buffer the last image...I guess this part of the game is a little disappointing, because the forest is really pretty big, but you barely spend any time there at all. It's fun to just explore, though.