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

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 6

Another day, another gigantic dungeon. Today's quest was to escape from the Mountains of Freedom, which i believe I did in record time, for me anyway. To begin with, I hooked up with Frigidazzi, who falls for me because...I dunno, maybe I just smell good. She dances around, and gives me a kiss which oddly looks like a punch in the face, and we go to bed. Filbercio, her lover and the lord of the city, then drops in, sees me, and immediately banishes me by way of yet another absurd trial to the Mountains of Freedom, the most dreaded dungeon in all the land. Her goblin servent is supposed to leave, but she stays in the corner watching us. Please stop reading if you're under 18, because you can almost make out exactly two pixels that are probably supposed to be nipples. I'd should have gotten a screenshot of the Avatar nude, because him climbing in bed with that gigantic two-handed sword is pretty amusing, and potentially disturbing...

Honestly, I'm not sure why. I guess other people who are sent there cannot save their games, nor do they have a demon sword to call upon, but still! It's a long series of puzzles and mazes, although only the first part has much of a maze; the rest is fairly linear. There are a few highlights worth noting, however. First is this guy named lorthondo who isn't really explained, but who seems to be king of the mountains, and who threatens to kill you repeatedly, but who never actually engages you in conversation. He turns one guy into a giant bone dragon, which was kinda cool. In the end, you have to blow him up via Arcadion, whom you picked up in gem form back on the Isle of Fire. I always thought that was kinda sad, but the way in which the Black Sword is nonetheless used for the plot later in the game is cool. I'm still using it as a weapon, though I seem to recall that as such it's no good until you get it fixed later.

Other entertaining aspects of the dungeon are Stefano, the thief who for inexplicable reasons was tolerated in Moonshade for a long time before being sent here, the depressing dead baby inside a female fighter that you have to kill, and, of course, the Big Room o'Levers. I have a screenshot of that--basically, it's a series of brief and weird, dream-like quests, such as leading some generic woman to her pet nightmare, who promptly kills here; putting carrots on the plate of a bunny, and then giving flowers to a ranger whose gal is dead. He then goes and fixes a stuck lever for you...and then turns into a skeleton and explodes! Wha!?! Finally, there's a tricky teleport hallway that the designers did pretty well, which appears to go on infinitely, until you drop an item and realize you are simply teleporting backwards over and over. Usually, teleporting seems to have a lag time, but in this case it's nearly seamless, and pretty confusing the first time through. Unfortunately, it's one of those things that doesn't replay well once you know the trick!

After escaping the Mountains of Freedom, I made a brief visit to Torrissio to buy Create Automaton, for kicks. he tells me how old his family line is, and says that many of his forefathers were killed in the war with the demons that "brought an end to the age of the two kings." I assume he refers to Britiannia, but it makes me wonder if he realizes that he's on one of the old continents from that time period.

Oh yeah, and I have been skipping out on one of my goals for Serpent Isle, which was to discuss its relationship to previous games--And here I should point out that the town of Brother was situated, long ago, where Monk Isle is now, and Magic was the city somewhat south of Moonshade's present location. The island you teleport to in order to get the phoenix egg was once home to the dungeon called Morbid Adventure, though i think that name would be more appropriate at this point for the Mad Mage's isle! There's also Dead Cat's Life, which is on the isle of Claw, but which you never see in-game, though I believe there was once intended to be a plot item associated with it.

With that cleared up, tomorrow I will tackle two days, mostly because the next two days of gaming were primarily spent wandering around buying spells :-P If you're curious, today in "real time" I killed an ice dragon and am seeking a horn. I still anticipate finishing the game before Halloween, but the blog will extend beyond that most likely--though I forgot about Silver Seed, and if that add-on is too long it ill push the blog into November. But all the better! It would amuse me for the blog to take exactly a year to complete. I am worried about Ultima VIII's performance in DOSBox, by the way. Anyone got tips?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 5


The 6th day of my adventure was spent bouncing between islands--the quick version is this:
-Hop on a turtle
-Pull a lever, revive a bird and fetch an egg
-Collect some body parts and make a man
-Talk to a guy who wants to be a cornstalk
-Visit a swamp and get a spellbook

It was actually pretty busy! One cofusing aspect of the game was Erstam, who seems to think the orange glow-ey yellow apparatus in my backpack was his and that it was replaced with the stupid dagger that Lord British gave me (he coulda at least given me a great dagger...), when in fact I am pretty sure it is the hand that got replaced, and the wacky apparatus was the vampire Vasculio's, who got the un-useful Rudyom's Wand as a consequence. But I don't remember. In any case, that seems like a minor plot oddity no one had time to correct.

Thanks for the clarification on the mantra for summoning the giant sea turtle. I had entirely forgotten that those words were Gargish, even though when I looked it up, there was a long discussion on the subject on the Ultima Dragons newsgroup back when I was a more active member of that commnity and I actually remember reading the posts about it now. In any case, the turtle was a bit of a letdown--The back of the box has this cool image of you and your party attacking some dark monks on the back of a turtle, but that never happens in the game, which is a source of much woe. And the turtle didn't really do much, either. The phoenix quest proved more entertaining, since the island was full of those weird green men who attack you, somehow, by stretching out their necks. I was amused that the phoenix seemed pretty nonchalant about its constant rebirth, and more amused that someone had actually gone to the trouble of constructing a lever that served no other purpose but to revive the thing, yet did not bother to revive it. I was reminded of the rather dubious story Tacitus (Roman historian) tells in the Annals about a phoenix, and I was only reminded of that because a friend and I had been reading Tacitus lately and he just sort of randomly interjects that story into the midst of an unrelated topic. But that is itself an unrelated topic to my blog!

Monk Isle also proved fun, but I did not spend as much time there because I know I will be spending a lot of time at that place later--I did read a few of Xenka's prophecies, some of which seem surprisingly specific, certainly more specific than the random prophecies you encounter from supposed psychics in the real world. But I digress...I remember reading that Xenka would return when all the bells rang, and so the first time I played the game I went over to the bell tower and actually tried to ring them all at once. It didn't work.

My favorite character in Serpent Isle is probably the dude that tells me about the tides needed to collect mandrake root from the swamp on Monk Ise (even though a book in the library claims they are random) because he professes to be a Child of the Corn and looks quite disheveled. Along with "Indeed. Put it on the table," the phrase "Canst thou hear the cry of the corn?" is one that instantly reminds me of Serpent Isle. In any case, from there I teleported back to Moonshade via the Serpent Gate (now that Erstam gave me a jawbone and some teeth, I am able to bounce between islands easily, although conveniently he only happened to have ones that keep me off the mainland...)

Back in Moonshade I chatted briefly with Frigidazzi, who would like me to stop by her abode late at night to discuss cold spells. I hope this is not just a ruse to magically undress herself with a rainbow, perform a dance of passion, make the blankets on her bed teleport away, and then have sex, because if that happened, the Magelord would get mad and throw me in the Mountains of Freedom. Wouldn't that be sad?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 4

The 5th day of my adventure in Serpent isle began by telling Hawk we needed to hit the water and sail to Moonshade. he agreed, in spite of the danger; soon, myself, a local merchant, a peasant and his parrot, and Hawk were on board ship and avoiding lightning storms. I was fortunate to avoid the "waiting in the ship forever" bug that others have encountered, although I was made nervoud that the parrot walked towards the boat, then suddenly turned the opposite direction and went off screen. He came back a few seconds later, though.

Moonshade is a big island, and of the cities I think it has the most distinctive layout. Monitor is cool because all the streets have names (how many of you bothered to read them?), and Fawn has awesome architecture and a certain empty feeling (Fawn seems full of empty houses), but every home in Moonshade is distinctive and it's very easy to remember who lives where.

Like Fawn, the Moonshade quest is spent, to some extent, waiting around. First, a witch sends me a scroll; then, Flindo arranges a banquet for me. The banquet, much like the one in Monitor, was interrupted by bad news about blood moss, but on the plus side the automaton nearby did not complain when I bagged the whole feast in Shamino's backpack, including the "demon roast."

The next two quests are a little questionable in my mind--First, you have to go retrieve blood moss from a swamp. Why? because Pothis, the local apothecary, is too weak to avoid a few slimes to get it himself. Then, Rotoluncia (the witch mentioned above) steals one of your companions under the brainless premise that because Batling had a pet daemon (actually a gargoyle...), we must know how to control daemons. I guess she "summon daemon" spell from Ultima 6 and earlier has been forgotten? In any case, you have to go kill her, and she proves to also be a total wimp. She is hiding out on an island that previously she'd shared with the ruler of the city; in their shared bedroom we discover a banana, a whip, and a diaper, among other things, and thus learn too much information about their activities.

Back in town, Pothos gives information required to go meet his fater, the mad mage. This time playing through the game, I finally remembered that I do NOT need to write down the mantra and all that are required to summon a turtle to go meet him.

General comments...
Iolo makes an odd statement about how I was able to use power without understanding it in the days of the False Prophet. Huh? Maybe he is referring to the fact that I retrieved the Codex without knowing the gargoyles revered it?

The game got slightly confuse with respect to Mortego. He is standing in his house, asking "How did I get here?" and the like over and over again. However, that's what he says after he is teleported off to one of the serpent shrines off in the frozen north, and it is curious that he's saying it now. He was willing to summon the ghost of Christopher of Trinsic for me, though, who gave me little useful information.

Finally, I retrieved a dubious magical compass from the Seminarium (sp?), and I have packed it away along with a magic orb that gives quotes like "Ask again later" and "You can count on it" a la a magic 8 ball (it also, disturbingly, tells me to trust the Guardian...). I have designated Iolo as my Junk Carrier, while Shamino is my Food and Supplies man and Dupre is my Gold man. I hang on to important quest items.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 3

Victory! Sort of! I finally got to the other side of Gorlab a day ago, that being my 12th (!) say of gaming. This is like maybe 3/5ths of the way through the game, and it's already about aslong as all of Ultima VII took. I forgot how colossal this game is, and of course that's part of its appeal.

Now let's go way back in time...

When I left off, I was standing outside of the temple in Faw, being woeful at Dupre's fate, and in the real world I was saying how the Fawn story is not so compelling because it is resolved in a positive manner no matter what you do. I decided to play it "naturally," and I was sent to manipulate some levers and kill one of the leaders of Fawn, who attempted to slash me with...a decorative sword! Couldn't he afford a real weapon? Yeesh. In any case, the second half of the trial is pretty amusing. Dupre is accused of trying to steal a kiss from the town healer, and Delin the provisioner thinks Dupre's a good match for his daughter. I am especially fond of Zulith whom Ii give a screenshot of, and what I imagine is a completely deadpan, "I don't think that would be advisable" when the local drunk sings a nice lewd tune.

From Fawn I went off to the Sleeping Bull, which is my favorite name in the game, derived as it is from the town of Bulldozer, which formerly occupied the spot in Ultima I. There's not much of a quest there, but I did spend some time wandering the basement. It's always surprising to me that I am the first to discover, say, a hidden door...Is no one else suspicious of the random levers scattered about? One of the nice touches at the inn is the "magical music player" that will provide lots of songs from the game, and elicit comments from your companions ("Not Stones again!" and the like). The primary quest is picking up a woman named Selena who convinces you to go rob the Britannian royal mint, which has been teleported to Serpent Isle and, for some reason, is haunted by weird shape changing, teleport-causing beasties. Selina, of course, is n league with Batlin and a small band of wimps attacks you and tries to kill you as soon as you escape the mint. When she vanishes, she drops a mysterious blink ring, a ring which does nothing, since apparently implementing the blink spell proved too difficult.

Somewhere in Serpent Isel, there is a blink ring hidden in a tree. I can't remember where it is, though...

I alsmot forgot one of the major parts of the game--tracking down all your hidden possesions which are snatched away by the teleport storm in the beginning. There are basically two items that prove impossible to figure out--one is the pile of Filari, which Delin claims is his but which as far as I can tell didn't really replace anything, and the bottle of Moonshade wine, which replaced a map that you didn't start with. Many years ago, I did some experiments by creating items and putting them in my inventory and seeing what vanished, and also by putting certain items on certain characters and trying to make a list og exactly what gets replaced with what. Sadly, that was so long ago I don't remember the results, except that if you give yourself a map of Serpent Isle, it vanishes from your backpack after the storm. The hint book claims that the wine replaced a map of Britannia (!), and so I presume this was just an oversight.

This day also brought to mind one of the weirder parts of the game, one which I deliberately avoided--There is an exploded building in the weeds north of the inn where a major game character is wandering around, for no apparent reason. I was concerned I could break the game by talking to him and abstained. Since Serpent Isle was rushed to release, there are a fair number of oversights like this in the game. We'll talk more of that as things move onward...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Serpent Isle is long!

Just in case you're wondering where I went...I've been doing something akin to a (slower-paced) Serpent Isle marathon, but after day 8 I'm still in my first visit to Moonshade! I had forgotten how long this game can take. My plan was to get past the Gorlab swamp, then stop playing and do a "blog marathon"...So I'll still do that, but getting there is taking longer than I remembered :-P

So I'm not "stalled" as one person commented. I still aim to finish the game & blogging by the end of October; then I'll do U8 in November, and U9 in December and January, squeezing the second ROV game in somewhere.

Incidentally, I promised something "special" a while back after I finished Ultima VII...and it never happened. That was going to be an amusing and brief play-through of "Ultimuh," a ridiculous parody(?) of the series. However, the game refuses to play in or out of DOSBox, so I'm afraid that won't be happening :-(

Back to gaming...For the record, I am trying to buy all the spells and I am waiting for my mana to recharge so I can cast False Coin a dozen more times or so...