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

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 2

This blog covers my second day of adventuring on Saturday. Of course, the phrase "adventuring" is somewhat dubious. The short story is I walked to fawn, wandered around awhile, and Dupre got thrown in jail. This part of the game is pretty amusing, but it's also a bit dull because you don't really DO much; instead, other characters sort of lead you by the nose.

I did experience some humor, though, because I decided to wander into Fawn late at night, but all of the normal plot events still took place--there was a teleport storm, the locals get scared, a drunkard asks Iolo to play a tune, etc. Eventually the local captain of the guard chases me down and I meet Lady Yelinda, the most beautiful person in all of Fawn, although to my eyes she looks a bit too much like Dolly Parton. Anyway, in this brief exchange, a series of toasts, Dupre says just about the most foolish thing anyone says in any of the games, save for everything said by the Avatar in Ultima IX. The screenshot speaks for itself.

So Dupre is tossed in prison for blasphemy--incidentally, Iolo or Shamino say it if Dupre is dead--and I have to attend a sham trial, a concept that will repeat itself in Moonshade soon enough. Much of the testimony is funny, and I posted some highlights. It is true, I did spend much time in Fawn wandering around and looking in houses, eating other people's food since stealing is a-OK in this game. I also tried to construct a stairway up to a crate on the top shelf in the docks, but to no avail. :-(

Serpent Isle is somewhat more linear than Ultima VII, but the Fawn quest is unusual in the degree to which you don't really do much of anything. A pirate tries to kill you, but he shows up wherever you are. As long as you talk to people, you don't need to find anything or flip any switches or kill any monsters. Giving away part of the the next blog--if you choose to just sleep from one part of the trial to the next, the quest you are supposed to finish in between gets solved even though you quite literally did nothing!

So I ended Saturday's gaming just before the beginning of the second half of the trial. This new style of blogging is convenient, since I now have several days of material to write about, but it does not inspire me to post often. Hmm.

As a side note, "teleport" is not in Google's spell checking dictionary.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 1

Friday began my Serpent Isle experience. I have to admit--I have played he beginning of this game probably a dozen times at this point, and I have the sequence of quests more or less memorized. Even some of the conversations stick in my head!

The first thing I noted when I originally played the game was how shockingly badly your party is equipped for their quest--Shamino doesn't have any armor, and the weapon selection of the companions is poor at best. I was buried in magic junk at the end of Ultima VII! Where'd it go? I won't even get into the fact that I became weaker, yetagain, right after finishing Underworld II...

In any case, my gaming time was spent wandering around Monitor, chatting up the locals, becoming a knight, and attending a really cruddy banquet in which a fight breaks out. The knight's test dungeon is located where Dead Man's Walk once was many years previously, whereas the town of Monitor was founded near what once was the town of Turtle. There are serpent ruins scattered loosely around these areas, and it seems as if most of the Serpent Gates which connect various places throughout the game are on spots of old towns.

Someone claimed that Serpent Isle was tedious--and I guess I see why; there is a HUGE amount of in-game text to read through, and sometimes the game won't let you read it all. For example, if you talk to Harnna, a healer in Monitor, you can ask her about everyone in town plus all kinds of other information, but after a few questions she says she needs to get back to work! Ahhh. There is also the fact that the game is fond of making you wai around for events to happen--A woman wants to make me a wolf cloak, but I have to kill 24 hours before it will be ready. That's OK since there is a fair amount to see in the town and nearby, but this early in the game it can be boring due to the fact that monsters kill me extremely quickly (in the Knight's test, a gremlin finished me off in three hits...)

I've also heard complaints about the game's linearity before, but I don't agree with them. It's true, there are certain segments of the game that are partitioned from previous segments, but within each basic section, the game is fairly nonlinear--you can solve the three town quests in any order you wish, for example, but all three must be solved before you can head north.

My favorite part of the game is that it's a pretty detailed world, and the order in which you do things tends to affect other characters' perceptions of you, so that people in Fawn remark on the fact that you have become a knight, for example. Also, each town has a fairly distinctive architecture, and even the names of the townsfolk seem to all go together.

So one day is down. I'm surprised that it took a whole two hours, actually! I've not yet decded when I will take on the Silver Seed add-on to Serpent Isle. I think maybe I will do it just before I find Batlin, but I'm not sure yet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Loose Ends, Serpent Isle

So it's been two weeks since I finished Underworld II, and about four days since I first planned to start Serpent Isle. I've had a ridiculous problem, however, in that I come home from work around 6:00, eat dinner, and then invariably fall asleep on the couch or a chair until 9:45 or so! Thus I wake up and barely have enough time to do my handful of chores before I go to bed :-P


I feel I was somewhat less thorough in my playing of Underworld II than I usually have been with the other games, or at least I was less thorough in my blogging. I think this is because of the marathon schedule, where I was posting a blog about several days' worth of adventuring. Also, the lack of posted screenshots was a bit of a problem. I'll also grant that UW1 and UW2 have been hard to blog about because their world is less detailed than those of the other games, at least in terms of things to do like the ability to bake bread or build stacks of crates to climb onto walls, etc.

I'm going to seek to rectify the situation with Serpent Isle. I WILL keep to a marathon schedule when I finally start playing, but I will only blog about one day at a time--so even if I finish the game in two weeks of marathon sessions, I'll have material for perhaps four weeks worth of blogs, one every few days. I think writing about two days at a time made the Underworld II blogs less fun to read. The slower pace of posting for Serpent Isle will also mean it will be easier to format and include screenshots, which are highly essential this time!

I will also use the following theme in my discussion of Serpent Isle--In what ways does the game enhance, reference, and/or ignore the history of the series, specifically in reference to the continent as it was portrayed in Ultima I? Serpent Isle is a great game in no small part due to its awareness of its own history, and there will be a whole lot to say about the topic!

The quest shall begin shortly!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ultima Underworld II, Day 10 and 11

Another 5.5 hours, another game...

Finishing Underworld II took a lot longer than I had initially anticipated. Much of it isn't worth recounting--I wandered around trying to find the right place to use Altara's scepter in the various other worlds, and then I sought out some mud and basalisk oil (turned out I already had three bottles of the stuff on me--great scott!) in order to, of all things, suck some kind of air daemon inside my body. This took much longer than I thought, especially because a) I kept making wrong turns in the void and falling off ledges and b) No one bothered to tell me that you have to cast Iron Skin in order for the daemon to not slaughter you when you break its container! I puzzled about that for awhile before remembering my previous gaming experience.

Far more interesting are two things. First, I got the serpent statue! The requirements to get it are nutty, but I hit upon them when I got an unusual conversation option--one of the goblins offered to teach me tracking. Odd. So I let him, then talked to him again, and he handed the serpent over! I feel good that now the beginning of the next game will make some sense :-P It's not really a blackrock serpent, it is more silvery than that and it might be facing the wrong direction (though honestly, how can these serpents face any particular direction? Can't you just turn it over?). This quest is way too convoluted though, because it requires you do something wacky--go back and randomly talk to these goblins late in the game--and that you do something totally unrelated by asking him to train you in tracking.

The second interesting thing is, of course, the sequence of battles leading to a meeting with Praecor Loth, one of the more depressing parts of the game, as depressing as the entirety of Killorn Keep. Actually, everything in the game is depressing, all those conquered worlds...Anyway, what makes Praceor so depressing is that the three liche-companions who had served him for his life are so totally self absorbed that they force the king to live as a ghost because they refuse to let go of their earthly existence. I think you can convince one of them to let you by, but not the others; in either case, I killed them all. The "Smite Undead" spell was extremely useful in that regard! When you finally meet Praecor Loth, he is totally oblivious to the fact that he's been dead 700 years, and informing him that the Guardian conquered his planet and that he is buried in his tomb is not very fun; moreover, you can pretty easily see something similar happening in Britannia.

The rest of the game zips on by. The Killorn anti-Avatar, Mors Gotha, stupidly drops her spellbook, and you grab it up; then, she invades Castle Britannia. I killed her by turning her to stone and then whacking her over and over again. Then the game ended, and somehow Lord British suddenly has a throne!

I'll probably post more thoughts about the game later, but I will do something else first...In Ultima Underworld II, you visit eight different worlds. Whenever I bump into the number eight in an Ultima, I feel compelled to associate them with the eight virtues! So perhaps each of the world could plausibly be associated with one of them...

Killorn Keep: I don't think I can associate this dismal, forgotten keep with anything but compassion, as I invariably feel sorry for the dusty old Lord Thribis, the drunken Lobar, and that senile Ogri.

Pits of Carnage: I associate this place with valor, which is sort of a no brainer since you are slaughtering everything in sight, and gaining respect through your merciless killing, and in Ultima terms, valor is all about blood.

Ethereal Void: This is something of a dreamscape in which you encounter bizarre situations, and moreover it tends to be somewhat postmodern and self referential. Thus I can't help but associate this place with spirituality.

Goblin Tower: Here you are forced into a humble position, at least at the beginning of your visit, and you have to hide who you really are, so I would obviously think of this place as representing humility.

Talorous: This one's pretty tenuous, but I think that the death of the Bliy Skup Ductosnore suggests sacrifice, except usually "sacrifice" is you sacrificing yourself, not sacrificing someone else, lol, especially not against his will! But I think some of the other Talorians engaged in risky behavior in order to change their world, too.

The rest are tough. I'd tend to put the Ice Caves in the justice category, but not for a compelling reason except that you are restoring a balance of sorts by preventing the Guardian from drawing power from the world. The Tombs I tend to associate with honor, since the three companions of the king are obviously not behaving honorably, but also I associate it with honesty, as you must force the dead king to confront reality. That leaves the Acadamy, which I can't really see as representing anything.

On a final note--In each world you collect a blackrock gem, but they seem to be rather randomly located. Sometimes, they are in the location where you use Altara's staff to break the connection with the world; but sometimes (like in the Ice Caves), they are somewhere totally random. Hmm...

Also, on a final note, there is a VERY strange area in Praecor Loth's tomb, where you can go down one hallway if you go one direction, but that hallway does not exist if you go the other direction. It's on level three, near the maze with all the portuculli. I found it very confusing and I don't know how the game engine could support such a thing...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ultima Underworld II, Day 8 and 9

Well, this actually covers my gaming from the last three days--but one of those days was shorter, so I am not calling it a "day." As one might expect, playing the game is easier than writing about it, especially for the Underworlds because there are not as many random world details to talk about. However...we can speak of the lack of random world details. Where'd LB's throne go!?

Anyway, on Paulon's reminder, I was able to complete the "secure vault" and get a Vas and a Tym rune, plus a few others I lacked. Now I am only missing Ex. And that rune is very useful, because with it you can cast open, a spell I am in desperate need of due to a seriously tiresome portcullis maze in the tomb of Praecor Loth.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Before I hit that tomb, I went to the Ethereal void and wandered around awhile. The void has, essentially, five distinct sections. The section you enter is this highly random (as a dreaming Blog says, "stochastic") arrangement of platforms and darkness, chock full of gazers, imps and other beasties that do a boatload of damage in one hit (I've had fireballs that did 50+ hit points!!) The other areas are distinguished by color. Here's some thoughts on each:

Yellow: A big annoying maze. Really, really annoying, since there's no automap here (or anywhere else in the void). But fortunately there ar eonly a few floating brains to contend with, and it's easy to finish.

Blue: Here you meet a man who wants some eyeballs, a wisp, and a HUGE number of monsters that fly out of range of your attacks and blast you with distance spells. Agh. There's some treasure, but I died too quickly to get to it. Fortunately, once this is done, there's nothing else.

Purple: This one's a hoot. The first part involves some purple slides, with the final one leading into a frankly rather shocking image of the Guardian's wide-open mouth! From there you hit one of the highlights of the game--A black and white maze full of stick men that brings back memories from 1980 (or last February, for me) and the old Akalabeth. I seem to recall that a powerful weapon of some kind is hidden here, but I don't remember where and I couldn't find it.
Red: This is called the "red hell" and for good reason. It's full of fire elementals and difficult daemons, of a wide array of different varieties. I didn't get too far with my "RUN, RUN, RUN!" method--I leaped over some lava chasms, was teleported to a poisonous swamp, and then to another dark room, where I died of intense poisoning. Lesson: Have magic and the ability to cast cure before coming here again.

At the end of each level, you leap Q-bert like on a pyramid and change it to various colors.

Since I couldn't finish red, I decided to go to the only reamining world instead: The tomb of the kind Praecor Loth. I think the sequence at the end of this part of the game--where you face the three companions of Praceor Loth, the king, and then speak to him and convince him that he is dead and his kingdom is gone--is among the more gripping sequences in the whole Ultima series. I invariably have mixed emotions when I play through that part of the game. SOmetime when the blog is over I'll make a list of all such similar moments that help make the games worth playing.

In any case, I'm not quite to that point yet--I'm just wandering through mazes. On the plus side, I have found a black sword and the sword of stone strike Paulon mentioned in comments to the last post. on the minus side, I don't know where I'm going :-P I think I need to head up to an area marked "EXIT" on the third level of the tomb, but sadly that area is surrounded by flying fireballs. I may go back to Britannia before continuing.

Speaking of which--I just noticed that I have a total of 36 training points. 36! Where did all those come from? I thought you got like one per level. In any case, that emphasizes my need to head back to Britannia--I need to train my attack, defense, and spellcasting. I think it's been dumb of me to ignore spells until now, because some of the monsters really need distance magic; moreover, "open" will do wonders for certain annoying doors...And I have so many random magic items I cannot identify, too!

Allright, enough for one day. I know I am a lazy bum concerning the screenshots. I think when I finish this game (Tomorrow? Monday?) I will start adding a few. I'll probably take a break for awhile before beginning Serpent Isle, by the way. After that, only two games remain in my immense quest!