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

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Martian Dreams, Day 1

Among all the Ultima games, Martian Dreams features one of the most creative plots around. The backstory is thus--Perveival Lowell, the guy who didn't discover Pluto but for some reason I thought he did, unvelied a space bullet which could be catapulted to Mars at the 1893 world's fair. Due to sabotage, the bullet was launched with a handful of well-known personalities from the era on board. Communication was lost, and it was up to Nicolai Tesla to build a new bullet to seek them out. The Avatar is contacted in his own time, and uses the orb of the moons to teleport back to that era, and subsequently launches to Mars, which you find to be inhabited (or formerly inhabited--the canals are bona fide canals, at any rate).

The graphics are...very red. The game also plays mysteriously slowly, unless I am in solo mode--I think it has to do with the huge numbers of monsters that will chase you tirelessly. I have not accomplished a lot so far--I just visited the old crash site, and rescued an old miner named Coot. On my way back I ran into a mean looking fellow guarding a gate who demands the signatures of the suspiciously named Sherman, Yellin and...I forget the third, but it's an obcious play on Dupre, so I can enter his town. In any case, they ar off exploring a mountain on the other side of the planet, and that seemed like a good place to call it quits for the first day!

So far, the hardest part of the game is not dying. monsters, including cacti and beans, attack you regularly, and much of my time is spent reloading my game to avoid tiring encounters. Unless you are buried in warm clothes, freezing is also likely late at night, and you require "oxium" in order to not essentially suffocate in the thin air. Freaking convenient, that oxygen-containing chewable mineral, eh? Coot is the guy who prospects for oxium all over the planet, and rescuing him got me a map to the "mother lode," which conveniently is not too far away from where my trio of signature-weilding explorers.

I played this back in the spring of 2003, and once before back in the fall of 1995 or so. I remember posting on Origin's CompuServe forum (I think they were in GAMAPUB, for Game Publisher's Forum A), with the title "Sextellegers kill Wild Bill and Jane." I wasn't kidding--some monsters, called Sextellegers, killed two main characters, and I had saved the game. Oops.

My second effort eight years later was more effective, and I got to the very end of the game, where you enter the land of your dreams and rescue some people. Sadly, I reloaded my game to do the rescuing again (it is quite fun!), and a character who assists me refuses to recognize a plot flag, and the game was basically insoluble at that point. Very frustrating.

So my history with this game is pretty negative. I will be doing more frequent backups (the joys of colossal hard drives--I just back up the entire MARTIAN folder) in order to prevent this from happening again.

Glad to see comments from a Savage Empire developer! As a side note, the duration of the day in Savage Empire probably has nothing to do with the frame limiting, because time passes in a turn-based manner and time does not pass unless I move. I think the day-night cycle is just faster. Thankfully, in Martian Dreams it seems much, much slower, and you are practically forced to sleep through the night.



Jay said...

This is probably my second favorite of the extended Ultima series (after VI, which is the first one I played). I just love all the historical personalities and the pseudo-science.

"use - dreamstuff"

Anonymous said...

One VERY important bit of advice - look at the map. It doesn't show everything, but what it shows of the terrain and locations is accurate, aside from the random layout of greenhouses depicting a city location. They aren't good enough to act as a street map unlike in some Ultimas. But it is good for finding your way through mazes like Noctis Labyrinthus or the canyons of Syrtis Major. If it shows a building, there's something there worth looking at.

Anonymous said...

Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory, named in honor of Percival Lowell. (so you were close)

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, and I may very well be as it's been awhile, this was one of the first games to require a hard drive.

I seem to recall a lot of outrage on the forums because of that - not that Origin pushing the hardware limits was anything new at the time.

I was a huge Ultima fan at the time but hadn't had a IBM Compatible computer, so missed out on U6 and the two U6 engine games. I basically had to live those games by following the discussions, so those are my memories of these games...sigh.


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