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

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ultima Underworld II, Day 6 and 7

I didn't realize I was so far in my "days" of playing Underworld II! In any case, I have devoted this week to being something of an Ultimarathon, because I have made a point of reverting to my traditional 2-hours-a-day schedule from earlier this year before I had legitimate obligations!

So this blog will document my gaming from Monday and Tuesday, whih essentiall involved solving most of the Pits of Carnage and the Scintillus Academy.

The former was pretty rough--The pits are essentially three arenas, all of which are hard to fight in except the Earth arena (just a simple brown floor) and a lot of people who want to kill you. If you go downstairs, you meept a large group of other monsters which also desire your death! Whoopie! I explored all of the second level and only enough of the third to meet the pre-blogging troll named Blog. Appropriate! He assisted in fetching the gym for the world.

The pits are pretty boring, overall, and a bunch of the generic characters have the exact same portrait as other non-generic characters, leading to confusion. The last time I played Underworld II, I distinctly remember using the pits as a place to win huge amounts of gold: There is a fellow who will pay you to fight up to five enemies, and I would slaughter them all. However, this time around I seem too weak for even one of the male warriors, but I can slice up the women pretty easily (disturbing, perhaps, but there it is). I was unable to find much in the way of good weapons, and no one is even willing to train me in swords there, which was surprising.

The Academy is one of my favorite parts of the game, and far easier than I remembered. It consists of eight levels. The most famous are probably the gigantic 3-D maze for which your automap is useless, and maybe the level in which you have to leap onto platforms that cause other platforms to disappear--the aptly titled "non-reversible processes" test. You don't regain mana during the exam, but oddly I didn't really need to use any magic. A good thing, since I never bother learning magic in the Underworlds and can barely cast Lesser Heal!

I ended my game at the exit to the facility--They have this "secure vault" in which are stored a few sweet runes, but unfortunately I can't seem to get through the door in the ethereal void that leads me there. It occurs to me that I never bothered to try the key that got me in the vault in the first place, and I will feel like an idiot if that works. In any case, I'll mess with that awhile longer before I give up and go back to Britannia.

At present, my biggest problem in the game is lack of training. My skill in swords is very high, but not in attack or defense, and no one seems to do a good job of training either of those skills. Geoffery does them, as I recall, but only gives me like one point per training session, whereas the Dupre-like-guy Lothar in Killorn Keep gives me 3 or so points per session of swords! As it stands, I can fend off most monsters, but some things--male warriors and reapers--give me an extremely hard time.

I may post tomorrow again or wait till Friday, but I expect I will finish up my quest in the Ethereal Void by then. I seem to recall that the hardest of all is the Tomb of Praecor Loth, due to the trio of very difficult enemies you have to face at the end, but I also remember the place being truly stuffed with cool magic stuff. In my next few sessions I also intend to identify some of my magical items and discard the less useful ones in order to make room!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ultima Underworld II, Day 4 and 5

Well, I have played a fair amount of Underworld this week. Perhaps not quite four hours. It does seem like "finishing" each world takes roughly two hours, although given my recollection of the sizes of the upcoming mazes, this may not hold true!

The world I beat in this round of playing was Talorous, where some glowing blobs talked with me and assisted me in developing a plan to fight the Guardian. Well, one of them did, the future-predicting one. How did he not predict that the Guardian would ruin things? Anyway, in the process I faced a moral dilemma in having to murder the Bliy Skup Ductosnore, the guy responsible for creating new members of his species. He also has a sense of humor--he left the i on the floor after it fell off from the sign to his room. On Talorous, I made the mistake I always make--I don't realize that the picture on the wall in the lower level is actually a device I need to pick up and use elsewhere!

That quest took up a few hours. The rest of my time was spent in Killorn Keep and elsewhere, just exploring. As requested, I tried to get the serpent statue from the Goblins in the basement of the castle, but I did not succeed this time. I managed to do it the last time I played--I remember that you have to kill a whole lot of worms, then talk to the goblin leader, and then come back sometime in the future and he randomly gives you the gift. I guess no one really gets that thing simply because there's no point in going back there!

Actually, maybe there is. A reaper who has the key to the armoury is nearby, as I recall. In spite of the fact that I just hit the 11th level, I am still too weak to take him out :-(

My general thoughts on the game are quite positive. The game manages to fuse the good points of Underworld I--mainly a strong atmosphere (the ice caves seem very lonely, for example)--with the strong plot of...Well, Serpent Isle, I suppose; in that game, the plot moved forward and there are consequences to your actions. Just a few minutes ago, Dupre told me he's going to go to the ice caves and fetch water for the castle. Granted, he never actually does it, but it's conceptually neat that people are going out and doing things.

My favorite quote from the game so far is a character who found a mysterious key, and who asserts that it "looks as if it might date from the time of Minax!" If this is hyperbole, why not go all the way back to Mondain? It was only a few decades before. And if it wasn't, what dates it specifically to Minax? Does it say "DIE FOOL" on the handle? :-P

Anyway, my recollection is that it opens a door with a mean ghost and some treasure. Thus far I've acquired a magic sword, a magic vest, and some other magic thing (a shield?) but my Lore is too low to identify them. Perhaps I would be better served just raising my mana and casting to be able to cas Identify? I'll have to ponder that one.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ultima Underworld II, Day 2 and 3

Well, another four hours of Underworld II have passed me by! I can very quickly summarize what I did--in Killorn Keep, I explored and found very little worth having. Well,besides a gem, which I found by accident, and which was accompanied by a key that didn't seem to unlock anything. It is rather see the decrepit old Lord British clone named Lord Thribis. In the realm of the ice world, I was able to dig out the lost city of Anodolous and talk to an unhappy ghost. That city always struck me as weird, due to the mass of locked massive doors, and I can't remember if I ever found a key for them in previous playings of those games.

That city, however, features one of the best parts of the game--You find a crystal ball, and looking into it you see your past and future. Sadly, the game sometimes breaks, and the crystal ball doesn't work. I like it particularly because it's the only in-game reference I am aware of to Martian Dreams! In fact, the fact that the crystal ball did not work was sufficient to make me angry enough to quit playing for the evening.

The variety of environments in Underworld has been pretty exciting, but I have some quibbles. The main one is navigation--I am CONSTANTLY getting stuck on pointy walls. In some cases, like with sliding ice, I have had to re-load a saved game because i just couldn't move. I've also had some trouble keeping myself going in the intended direction. I should probably use the keyboard for combat, too, because nothing is more frustrating than accidentally clicking your compass instead of swinging your weapon!

I appreciate the small details though--the talbes and chairs, and the blood spatters on walls (though British really ought to have a throne). I also like the slow collapse of the ecosystem in the courtyard of the castle. Well...Slow is the wrong word, it's insanely fast. They shut off the fountain and an hour later plants start dying! Ah well.

The game's fun, though. I've picked up an array of magic items that I need to identify. I even found a mani runestone so that I can finally cast heal. Still, there is one unresolved question that is surely on everyone's mind:

Where's Shamino!?

Now, unresolved concerns from other blogs:

Screenshots: They will appear eventually. I feel less pressure to get them for the Underworlds, because they are almost always terrible--you see too little to have any clue what's going on. But they are there and I'll post them sometime.

Akalabeth phone number: For some reason, it doesn't work exactly as it is shown in the display. Try this: Search for (415) 569-9126, no quotes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Ultima Underworld II, Day 1

Well, my sojourn into the gem-encrusted castle of Lord British over the past few days went well. What surprises me about Underworld II is how short it is--or rather, how the various worlds in the game vary so substantially in size. The best example is Lord British's castle where the sewers are full of details that you for the most part will never need to explore! In any case, I zipped down very quickly to the gem on the lowest level--This was mainly because it's easy to get there, and because even the relatively wimpy monsters kill you swiftly when you are a weakling level one chump! I found the lair of a gazer and of a reaper, both of which I will kill at some point.

I also believe I have completed the quests associated with the goblin tower, because I got a blackrock object of some form from a leader there. It's curious how cordial the goblins are in that tower, at least to me. Well, there's a trio that call me monkey boy (hey, morons, you're bipedal monkey-like things too, just green!).

Underworld II is very much like Underworld I. The only aspects that have changed are the size of the view window (a little bigger) and the graphics, which are also slightly improved. Oh yeah, there is also "digitized sound," which means that you hear some rather out of place splats and dings and so on when you fight monsters.

Back to the plot--My recollection is that there are eight worlds to explore, and the first, the goblin tower, is by far the easiest. There is a troll in a jail cell on an upper level, too, but I have forgotten how you get it open. There's a guy named Janar or some such who has the keys, but he's fairly friendly and I don't much want to slice him up. Moreover, being wimpy, I can't! I think the next order of business is to go to Syria and others in the castle and get them to train me so I can hold my own in a fight a bit better.

As a final note, I have heard that the castle caretaker Nanna has been grumbling about worker's rights, and soon I'll need to tell Lord British about it, an infamous source of bugginess in the game. I will actually need to consult a walkthrough to remind myself how to solve this quest exactly correctly and not cause a game-stopping bug. Finally, I will need to cheat--Stupidly, I misspelled my name and I will need to break out some save game editor to fix it. Actually, I might be able to simply open one of the files in a hex editor. We shall see.

I only did four entries in all of July! How sad. But then, that's what employment does for you I guess. Underworld II may go faster than I speculated, but I am taking it at such a snail's pace that it may be awhile before I am done!