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

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.


Natreg said...

I have been reading your blog recently from the beggining (I haven't yet finish heh) and I'm thinking of replaying the Ultima games once again.

I did what you are doing back in high school (minus Mount Drash and blog heh) and was a great experience :) I still keep some maps, final game stats, and notes in a notebook somewhere...
Wish I remember where...

Anyway, keep it up man! this blog is great.

As a little piece of advice... I have noticed you are gonna play the Runes of Virtue games after u7... I think you should play those next... cos they are more related NPC wise to u6 than to u7 (the u7 related part in RoV2 is a big plothole anyway...). As a matter of fact I think you should have played those just after u6

Anonymous said...

I played through part of UW1 years ago and thought that the drama in it was the whole idea that there was this idealistic society built up in the former dungeon and now you only see the remains of it with tons of infighting going on and people just trying to bearly survive. You also, as the Avatar, finally make it back to Britannia but are mistakenly locked up in this dungeon until you "save the Princess" which soon becomes "save the world."

It would've been nice if they tied it to the other Ultimas more though. There is little to no mention of you saving the world, Sir Cabrius, the Stygian abyss colony, etc. etc. in any other Ultima I believe.

dfan said...

Hey, I just found your blog, and have been reading through the entries with interest, especially the ones on UW1, since I was one of the developers :) (programming, writing, level design, sound effects)

It was really fun reading your progress through the game, especially since I've forgotten so much about it (it came out 15 years ago!). I was especially happy to see the screenshot of the talking door, which I was inordinately proud of.

If you want to see the most obscure text in the game, start a new game, name yourself Eyesnack, and then go talk to the real Eyesnack and tell him he has a silly name. Never say that we didn't write robust code!