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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 17

Boy do I need to finish this Serpent Isle blog up! No fear, this is the second to last day. With luck I shall begin Ultima VIII this weekend! bets are now open on how long that one will take--my recollection is that the game is not terribly long, but there is a fair amount of tedious stuff you need to do to win. But I only played it once, way back when it was released.

Speaking of first times--The worst game-stopping bug in Serpent Isle, to my mind, is the dream world, where if you die, the stuff you had there vanishes. As a consequence of this, I lost a key that is required to open a door near where Rabinrath lives, and thus could not finish the Dream World quest. That is "old news," but I was vaguely reminded of it on the Isle of Crypts, where I could have spent days wandering around trying to get anywhere had I not broken down and checked a walkthrough, learning that you need the balance blackrock serpent to continue onwards. And, quite frankly, day 17 consisted of "finding a bunch of missing quest items." In order of my acquisitions...

1) Balance serpent
Turns out that this goody is among Silverpate's treasure, Silverpate being a pirate who left a map hidden in the basement of the Sleeping Bull inn. That place has since been destroyed, the only survivor being Wilfred, who will join your party, and then cowardly run away if he gets too hurt. Inexplicably, the Sleeping Bull is loaded with dead guys who look like Brendann from Monitor. More inexplicably, there are "trails" of blood that lead to bodies, but in at least one case, the "trail" leads directly through a wall! Anyway, the basement is as empty as ever, and I eventually found the map, teleported back to Skullcrusher (I must have been there a dozen times now), and went and found the pirate's treasure after getting hit by lightning bolts and picking up lots of those annoying caltrops.

2) Order serpent
Technically, I probably fetched this one on the previous day, when i went to Moonshade, but it's worth mentioning here--I get the key to fetch this Serpent from...erm, that guy...from the dungeon,,,thief who people want dead? This is the blackrock serpent which I picked up in Ultima Underworld II, making Ultima Underworld I the only canonical Ultima game that does NOT get a reference in Serpent Isle. Hmm, actually the Worlds games don't either, do they? Ah well. Serpent Isle is more self-referential than most. Martian Dreams is only mentioned in Underworld II, and Savage Empire in Ultima VII and, obviously, Martian Dreams. This reminds me that I need to post all the UWII screenshots someday...

3) Eye of Chaos
I found this on a gold platform behind the place where the Great Heirophant is laid. Not sure how the hell i was supposed to look there. However, it's clear that when you see a big glowy read thing, you should pick it up.

4) Eye of the Serpent
Not to be confused with the eye of Chaos (or the one of Order!) this bauble is held by an old man in the basement of the Temple of Tolerance; he drops dead on the way out, and it can be used to chat up the Heirophant of Chaos, whose dead body is nearby. This may be the second least useful quest object in the game, the bottom position being a tie between all the random quest-item like junk you can pick up that do nothing!

5) Serpent Crown
6) Serpent Armor
7) Serpent Staff
This was a trio of adventure. The staff required for me to kill the Troll King near the gargoyle city underground. I remember when i first played Serpent isle, I found this staff and had no clue why it was there. I kinda wish the troll would talk to you the way the goblin king did, by the way. From there, I headed north to Fawn, where I discovered nearly everyone is dead except the gatekeeper, who seems unconcerned about eveyone's demise. Ruggs tells me that Mad Iolo (The not-mad-anymore Iolo presumably felt a bit embarrassed about now) came to town and tore the skin off of Yelinda, cut the tongue from fellowship-jabberer Leon, and basically slaghtered everyone else. So I fetched Yelinda at the swamp--still not having figured out how to get to Fawn's Serpent Gate, this proves to be annoying--and once I gave her yet another marginally-useful quest item (a magic brush that the game calls a comb), she sends me to her treasure chamber, which is actually mighty impressive--a firedoom staff, magic sword, magic armor, an infinity bow, and other junk (including the Serpent Armor). Sweet! From there it was south to the forest, where I stopped by a tree and fetched Hawk's treasure, the Serpent Crown, near where I hit up the house of wares with its exploding "glowing box" and the evil pirate. Why did the Avatar not recognize a computer, anyway? Finally I ended things by taking a brief trip to Monitor, noted everyone except Harnna was dead (she had suffered some traumatic brain injuryand did not note the corpses littering the street), and then hit the serpent gate.

Monitor looks good ruined, by the way; I like the smashed walls at the town hall. Why wasn't there more of this? It seems like ruining a town in Serpent Isle basically means trading the chairs for broken chairs, tossing garbage randomly, and making all the fences vanish. Not to say it looks bad, but when I see Monitor, I think the others could have been cooler.

8) Final Serpent Tooth
This is posessed by the trapper, who hacked up (but oddly, did not skin) most of the reamining Gwani. Man, saving the chumps on this island has been such a total waste of time! In any case, I went and found him, he proved to be pretty damned weak, and now he's dead and I have a tooth that will get me to Sunrise Isle, where the game will end. Hooray!

My birthday was last week, just after the Thanksgiving holiday, but I forgot to ask for a copy of Ultima IX, my original CD being lost. I'll pick it up on eBay, I suppose.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 16

This will be a shorter entry than I typically produce, due to the fact that this part of the game was somewhat buggy...The bulk of this day was spent in he Castle of the White Dragon, which was full of clever traps and mocking insults from my companions as they tried to destroy me. Interestingly, the first encounter I had was with the king of the White Dragon himself, who I was nonetheless able to destroy with ease. Most of the castle involved finding keys in assorted locations; I should add that I didn't explore anything close to the entire castle! I'm not sure why, but I never made it in the dining room or kitchen or one of the studies; I never found the keys, but I remember from my first effort playing the game that those rooms were at least interesting...In any case, I went downstairs as soon as I could, and made the remarkable discovery that if I were killed by monsters in the game, I would be spontaneously resurrected with Iolo, Shamino, and Dupre, even though their evil counterparts were wandering around the basement of the castle! This fact incouraged me to destroy them as quickly as possible and get out, lest something else go wrong.

Killing them proved to be fairly easy. Trying to fight them outright simply got me killed, so instead I cast mass sleep and killed them. When resurrected, they were all contaminated by Chaos and refuse to talk to me except to say random insane phrases. Guess what I had to do? That's right; off to solve three more shrine quests! At least these are not as boring as the tedious Ultima V shrine quests. Anyway, I had already done the quest at the temple of Discipline, so I merely fetched more water. At the temple of Ethicality, I had to give up some gold and also fight Batlin to the death, and save a man from some flames. I failed the gold-giving-up test once because I failed to notice I had some gems in my backpack. The guy at the test refused to let me take it again that same day, so I simply reloaded an old game and re-took it. The temple of Logic required that I navigate a maze (kind of an annoying maze, too) and then solve a "murder" mystery, of who killed one of the automotons and stole his key.

I forgot to mention another bug--after their crazy counterparts were healed, my companions immediately joined me instead of hanging out at Monkey Isle. So I basically had to carry around a bunch of insane buffoons to these temples. Dupre was cured quickly, but at the temple of Logic, Iolo died in one of the maze chambers, and I had to fetch the water and resurrect him to cure him. Right after I did that, a random monk appeared to me and announced Xenka had returned, and I was whisked off to Monk Isle to chat with a very grouchy ex-farmwoman. She complained about the people in Moonshade, and asserted the justness of Lord British and his virtues.

I wish I could add a section on Day 17 here and do a combined day, but unfortunately too many interesting things happened on that day so I am stuck with this rather lame entry. I am happy, however, to report that I've broken my monthly-entry record since I began working! Oh, I just remembered something I can talk about...a decent part of the second half of this day of Adventure was spent trying to find anything in the Isle of Crypts. Apparently, it turns out you need the blackrock serpent of balance (yet another random quest item) before you can get anywhere, but nothing in the game tells you this fact. I had to check a walkthrough after a great deal of frustration (there is a plaque that reads, "Stand here to continue in balance" and I stand there but nothing happens, argh!).

As a final way to add some space to this entry (so I can jam this last screenshot in, mostly), I'll note that I had to kill a whole lot of jesters, each of whom had one lonely piece of garbage in their inventories.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 15

Continuing from where I departed the present time and went back to the Silver Seed...

I arrived back in the Spinebreaker mountains, and headed on to Batlon's hideout, where I promptly killed Brunt, Deadeye, Palos, and Selina. Actually, it wasn't prompt. Selina has to die last and will not die until the others are dead, yet my idiot companions invariably focused their attacks on her. So I would wait around forever and she wouldn't die; eventually, I realized the problem and had the Avatar wipe out the other three, at which point Selina finally collapsed and i could take her useless blink ring and her ridiculously convenient Dispel Field scroll that I will need soon--The second most contrived element of the game (The first was the door that won't open even if you do the right thing, mentioned a few days ago). The next scene has Batlin opebning the wall of lights, something going wrong, the Banes escaping his body an invading my Companions, and the Guardian killing him--"See how I reward those who fail me!"

Incidentally, that comment by the Guardian was my "recycle bin emptying" noise for the longest time in Windows.

I had to repeat that whole scene about six times--first, Boydon exploded, so he had to leave; later, a Juggernaut Hammer vanished after the companions turn all evil. This was followed by a myriad of other absurd problems, mostly due to my failure to save my game at convenient times. Eventually, I escaped and in short order accomplished two goals: Freeing the Gwani horn from an energy field (so convenient Selina had a Dispel Field scroll!) and freeing Gwenno from ther icy tomb with that horn (whee, I'm led along on a leash!). From there I had to cure Gwenno's sickness by acquiring the water of Discipline, which in turn required a visit to Moonshade.

Moonshade is in sad shape. Most everone is dead, save people who I need to do things for me (I think Shamino the Anarch considered this when he decided who would die). For some reason, Ale the Parrot is still wandering around, but Edrin is dead, as is his brother. Rocco is dead too, but Petra yet lives. This is good, because I need to drag her off the the temple of Discipline to change bodies with me. That same temple involved finding some Y-shaped doodads to put in slots on a machine at the front of the shrine, but humorously you can click-drag the slots around the screen! I never found one of the two, but they don't seem to be necessary.

Curing Gwenno got me some information--namely, I need soul prisms. Three of the not-dead people in Moonshade pulled that off for me, but they need items that, conveniently, I had pilfered from Vasculio the vampire back in Skullcrusher aka Skullsmasher. With the soul prisms created, it was off to White Dragon Castle!

But not really. Actually I had to visit three more shrines to get water related to three Chaos virtues: Tolerance, Enthusiasm, and Emotion. Tolerance was the most interesting, since in the process I rescued poor stranded Mortego (though he vanishes shortly thereafter) and talked to a guy who's been alive for hundreds of years because a mouse stole a key and hid in a very blocky maze. Man, narrating this takes forever! The short version of the other two shrines--Enthusiasm: Wander around a convoluted maze that has no apparent association with the concept of Enthusiasm. Emotion: Talk to a green little girl in a wall who explains how to collect some emotion-themed stones that look just like the Silver Seed (bu not silver). I dump this water on the soul prisms (hey, Gwenno references soul cages, as in the Black Gate!) and all is prepared for my journey tothe White Dragon castle.

All this leads to one of the more confusing aspects of the game--What am I doing, exactly? As my recollection goes, Batlin vanished from Britannia and went to the Serpent Isle, where he freed the Banes of Chaos, and then the universe started falling apart with the teleport storms, earthquakes, and so on. Then he opens the Wall of Lights for...the purpose of getting into the void, thinking for some reason that he will beceome all powerful? And then he announces that he's been tricked, the Banes escape his body (why was this triggered by opening the Wall of Lights?) and go into my companions. So did this kill him, or did the Guardian? Or was the "see how I reward those who fail me" just posturing? If the imbalance is causing the storms and all, why is it only happening now? The Great Earth Serpent was yoinked away all the way back in Exodus' day! I assume it's because of the Banes being freed, but the storms keep on happening even after they are trapped...But that's tomorrow!

In any case, I am afraid Serpent Isle leaves me confused if I think about it too much.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Silver Seed, Day 2

So the Aaram Dol portion of the Silver Seed quest proved to be the most difficult. The other two quests in the Fiend's Domain and the Abandoned Outpost proved tricky, but not exactly difficult. Technically, I only got the belt of strength from the latter quest in a "day" beyond this one, but shhh, I won't tell anyone if you don't...

The Fiend's Domain was hard to navigate due to lots of fire traps--I ditched my companions at the gate because Boydon constantly exploded, and blasted through the puzzles as a result of my quick gloves! Two goals existed--getting the orb (which allows access to the silver seed), and getting the ring of reagents. The latter was created for the Fiend, an unfriendly fellow from whom all sense of Order was expunged. He lost it due to an automoton's mistake, and in fact the ring is visible just outside the gate to his home, though it takes quite a bit of navigation through invisible walls to actually reach the thing. Nonetheless, the quest was direct since all it required was making a map and avoiding a fair number of traps.

The abandoned outpost, like the Fiend's domain, proved easy in terms of the orb and difficult in terms of the magic item (this time the belt of strength). The most clever trap in this section was a series of gates, two of which are not actually there; they are illusions and you can walk right through. Figuring that out took forever! A much more annoying trap related to a golden platform with an obscure sign; somehow, I was supposed to figure out that I had to put a lightning whip on the platform. I confess, I had to check the walkthrough for that. And I'm glad I did; I probably would have never figured it out otherwise! Jumping ahead a bit, the outpost also has a well that may be descended using rope (apprently rope is useless for any other purpose), and some magic force fields that must be destroyed by reading a scroll (that puzzle also took forever, but at I got it eventually).

All this orb collection leads to the main point of the Silver Seed add-on...The silver seed! (Who would have guessed?) Finding it required pressing a seriously obscure button deep under Serpent's Fang, the citadel you are in during the game, which causes a giant cask to move nearby, uncovering a stairwell. I found the cask movement entertaining, because previously I had passed by it and thought to myself, "Huh, I seem to recall there being something odd about that cask..." but because I only ever played Silver Seed once back in 1995 or so, I had no memory of what was special about it. In any case, when i go down there, I am accosted by a group of female monks who want to kill me because they, gasp, serve the Guardian! I had met them earlier before some of my quests, but they offered dubious advice and then vanished, and I failed to mention them. They died, and for some reason they carried keys to a glade where I can plant the now-recovered silver seed. Karnax the monk appears from nowhere, and cheers me on, also telling me that the silver seed cryptically mentioned by the Forest Master is ruined and worthless, thus ruining the mystique of that character. Thanks a lot, Karnax.

Anyway, the silver seed is planted and grows into a big silver tree. Karnax assures me the job of restoring balance will be much easier, which is true, but that's because of my big pile of magic gear, not because of some tree! This is basically where Silver Seed fails--it has a bunch of fun, useful stuff, but it tries to be relevant to the main plot. yet, because the main plot by necessity must be able to be completed without Silver Seed, it cannot be relevant. I think it would have been better to do like Forge of Virtue, and make a neq quest largely unrelated to the main one, but nonetheless interesting. On the plus side, I like some of the new character portraits, and some of the additional backstory you get concerning the Order/Chaos war. Silver Seed raises more questions then it answers, though, the most pertinent being...Where the hell *IS* Serpent's Fang, anyway? It is not present in the main game, which takes place hundreds of years later. Is it destroyed or what? And what about the tree itself, where's that? And how did Karnax get there!? Were the monks chasing me servants of the Guardian back then? But Ultima IX asserts the Guardian came into being when I became the Avatar. How does that work? Ahhhhh. I hate time travel!

But at least the game revealed the Forest Master is just a brainless chump who doesn't even notice that his Silver Seed is rotten. He was pretty rude to me, you know!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Silver Seed, Day 1

Overall, finishing the Silver Seed took about 5 hours, most of which was spent wandering around mazes, so I am tempted to combine it all into one entry--but nah. I'll do two! But they will probably be shorter than usual. The Silver Seed...It is surprising that it was even made, given the fact that Serpent Isle, after the point you kill Batlin, has a decidedly rushed feel to it, so it is interesting that anyone went to the effort to make an add-on, even if there is a sense of hurried-ness to the whole Silver Seed adventure.

The premise is this--The Monks found an old amulet and give it to you; you go back in time through its use and must solve quests to prove you are the Champion of Balance. There are four quests, and a variety of treasures as well. The first treasure you get is the magic keyring, which from the screenshot you can see that I rather desperately need! Serpent Isle is absolutely buried in keys, man...and they have a lot of types of keys and lots of colors, yet still multiple versions of all of them! It's almost like the wider variety of key types ironically drove the proliferation of keys even though I suspect that was what it was intended to solve...

The first quest I went after was the maze. It was built by some famous architect, and there's also a helmet of light laying around inside, and a cat person. The walls open and close as you step into a room, and sometimes you get trapped, needing to escape by death! Fortunately, you can shortcut through the maze by virtue of the fact that you can often run into a room and then dash backwards just as the wall closes, which would have normally locked you off from the old room, bu which opens doors in the old room--so if you don't like your current selection of doors, you can step into another room and then instantly backwards, and new ones will open. As a result, I finished the maze in like 8 minutes.

The second quest was vastly harder--Aram Dol is a liche that lives nearby. In Ultima I, liches were floating heads, as they were in later games like Ultima IV. I don't think there were any in Ultima VI, but in Ultima VII and Serpent Isle they have become red-robed mummies with crowns on their heads. Aram Dol lives in a big cave area chock full of miscellaneous undead, along with some spider people who are weirdly pixelated--almost as if the artists simply blew up the spider body and stuck a person on the head. In any case, I faced skeletons, mummies, and zombies; there were many secret passages and a few puzzles, leading ultimately to the Showdown with Aram Dol, which was nearly impossible to win. My ultimate strategy came down to this:

1. Have all my companions leave to avoid their deaths
2. Cast Vibrate on Aram-Dol, forcing him to drop all his magic spells (yes, they look like little fireballs and death bolts on the ground)
3. Grab the key to the treasure
4. Get the axe and gloves that he has
5. Use the newfound strength and dexterity to kill the Liche

Even with that strategy it took three or four tries! But ultimately, I killed the liche and got another orb. Ultimately the orbs are used to get the silver seed, a seed needed to restore balance in some unspecified way (more on this weirdness later). While in this lair, I also met a dragon. He had a series of riddles, and I solved all but the last one--and it seems to me my answer on the last one must have been correct, but he insists I am wrong. Let me see if I remember the riddle...

A tailor needs thre strips of the same color cloth to make a shirt. He has a large stack of disorganized cloth, each strip being of one color, and there are four colors. His assistant is lazy, and just randomly grabs cloth from the table. What is the minimum number of strips the assistant must grab to ensure the tailor can make a shirt?

Bonus points to anyone who knows the game's answer and can explain why it is the correct one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Serpent Isle, Days 13 and 14

Onward and northward! This blog comprises two extremely eventful days, but which deserve to be combined since, once again, much of the time was spent wandering around and exploring, rather than doing stuff tat deserves extended commentary. I guess I can break it into basically four parts...

Going North
One thing I invariably forget about this game is that after you pass through the Gorlab swamp, you don't really have an opportunity to go back to the towns again. You can do it, but it means you have to trudge all the way back north--you don't get teeth for the northern Serpent gates for quite awhile. So this time I was glad to remember to bring enough cloaks and boots and fur hats for my whole party! Last time I played Serpent Isle, I forgot, and I ended up trading fur boots between Iolo and Dupre; whoever wasn't quite dead yet got the boots until the other was near dead, then they taded...In any case, armed with my cloaks I headed north through a remarkably large dungeon. Among other things, I found a Moongate, a key to the "House of Wares" in the woods near Monitor owned by a disgusting, cigar-smoking pirate named, appropriately after one of the Serpent Isle developers. Also, I went to a lot of trouble to build stairs up to a cool mountaintop tower, only to discover that there was nothing there but some skeletons and a liche statue seated on a throne.

Ice Dragon
Once I *finally* escaped the dungeon, I found myself in a frozen wasteland. I managed to chat to some furry Gwani, who asked that I fetch some ice dragon blood for them. No doubt this would be easier if I had the dragonslayer sword from yesterday, eh? Anyway, this part's pretty linear. Getting the blood entailed "sailing" on an ice raft that we somehow managed to steer, swinging in circles around lots of sea serpents! The ice dragon lair was a teleport maze, essentially, eventually leading to the front of the maze where I killed, you guessed it, an ice dragon--and actually without much difficulty. Delivering the blood got me the instructions for entering the Skullcrusher mountains. This is where linearity sucks--The puzzle you solve to get into Skullcrusher requires placing some runes on pedestals in a certain order. Just a little trial and error uncovers the order you ned to use, and voila, the gate opens! Except it doesn't...Instead, the Great Earth Serpent pops up ad tells you that you are forgetting something. Bah!

Skullcrusher is the Chaos lair, with a convenient Serpent Gate guarded by a bunch of crazed mallet-weilding automotons. Oh yeah, and a hideos vampire who teleports out of his coffin and threatens to kill you unless you give him the Magebane (acquired earlier from some jealous penguins). Actually, he offers a trade...but kills you anyway (though he DOES give you the spell he offered as a trade, which is honest, if pointless). If you drop the sword on the ground, he instead offers to spare you if you feed him one of your companions. Naturally, I said OK, but for some reason Iolo and pals were not very keen on the idea. In the end, we just killed the guy. We also picked up some stolen items which, by sheer coincidence, happen to be the items needed in Moonshade later in the game. Except Filbercio's magic topee; I left that there. The Chaos city seems perhaps too literal in its embodiment of Chaos--the streets are wacky, there are random pools of water, and stairs are stacked in a disorganized fashion. There's also some big, as I recall un-openable, metal doors behind which the last surviving Chaos warriors locked themselves when the Order army attacked. The ultimate fates of the Order and Chaos people are thus not made exactly clear--Order went through the Wall of Lights into oblivion, and Chaos was mostly destroyed except for a few behind a big door...

From there it was a rapid trek across the ice to the Spinebreaker Mountains, where I almost reached Batlin. Spinebreaker is basically one big city-like area with a temple (and two juggernaut hammers, woo hoo!) and a lot of Batlin-set traps. Isn't it sorta odd that the only four dark-skinned guys I can think of in this game try to kill you? There's Shmed, there's the fellow who accosts you in Spinebreaker, Brunt (actually, he didn't--the game failed to trigger his movement for some reason, so I just kinda walked by that trap...) and there's one each in the party that attacks you outside the Mint and in the group inside Shamino's Castle. But I digress. Palos also threatens you, calling you...well, you can read the screenshot. It's a nice Ultima 6-and-previous reference! It's also humorous to hear about something that you personally did in "ancient times" because you live so freaking long...

Now I abruptly end. There were earthquakes and it was clear batlin was about to open the Wall of Lights and, somehow, destroy us all and I needed a break--So I went to the gate in the middle of town and used the Serpent Amulet I was given on Monk Isle and began the Silver Seed quest!

Speaking of a screenshot (like I was two paragraphs ago), I forgot to mention one thing in the icy waters--I found a boat with some skeletons, whose bodies are full of stuff that vanishes if you get too close and they come to life. One of the things they are carrying is a yellow stone that says "stones" when you click on it. I think it's the only one in the game, and it doesn't do anything. Weird.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 12

After navigating the very poison-y and maze-like swamp of Gorlab, I arrived in the great northern forest. The name is apt--it's very big, and the trees are somewhat different, with the hollow stumps being brown instead of gray. Among other things, there's the trapper's hideout, a Serpent Gate, and a curiously locked Castle of the White Dragon. The gate is on the site of one of the old Ultima 1 towns, as I recall. There's a dearth of characters up here, save for a trio of explorers, one of whom stole a magic device from one of the few other characters around, the Forest Master, who is from Pagan. The thief, Draygan, is quite friendly, but the burned ship that some of his former companions are rotting on suggests the friendliness is a ruse. The short story is tht you go fetch some herb, and you put Draygan to sleep and kill him, stealing away his orb--it made him invulnerable, but apparently it's easy to steal stuff from him (and not everyone else in the game!) when they are asleep. Interestingly, in a bit of extreme convenience, as soon as you kill him, the Forest Master, who wants his magic thingy back, appears out of nowhere and takes it from you! Why didn't he just teleport into Draygan's hut at night?

In any case, as a reward he gives yu a whistle--are you still keeping track of the unique quest items?--which you use in conjunction with one of the more cumbersome quest items, Cantra's wooden practice sword, to track the little girl down. The whistle summons an attractive and amusing dog, who will also do tricks for you. He sends you off to Shamino's Castle, which, as you might suppose from the name, is the castle once controlled by Shamino. He expresses shock at seeing it again; I express shock that it looks nothing like it did in the old game! We enter through a secret passage and explore a bunch of locked rooms, my favorite being one that has crazy gushing ovens that blast you with steam when you approach. In several rooms, Shamino's former lover Beatrix, daughter of the King of the White Dragon, attacks you, as retribution for Shamino's departure during the days of Mondain even though he was there when *I* dropped by. Don't blame me, Beatrix! Oh, and Shamino...about that princess you had locked in your dungeon back in the day? Or maybe that was how you convinced Beatrix to marry you?

Anyway, I shall cease digging up old bones (pun intended). Eventually you encounter Batlin and his buddies; the latter mostly die, the former escapes, and then you summon Monks to take Cantra's rather gruesome corpse back to Monkey Isle, where she will run around saying disturbing things about desiring your flesh until the end of the game...Eventually, the next time Shamino dies, beatrix heals him and gives him a book of questionable love poetry. In the corner of one of the castle chambers, i know there to be a Dragonslayer sword, which I like to give to Shamino due to its uniqueness, but I'm afraid I was unable to figure out how to open the chest containing it this time through. I am a little overloaded with keys at this point, and I may have missed one...And bashing it didn't work, though I vaguely remember needing to bash it repeatedly? Lockpicks were also not effective...

Tomorrow...The great north!

I should add some more text here to buffer the last image...I guess this part of the game is a little disappointing, because the forest is really pretty big, but you barely spend any time there at all. It's fun to just explore, though.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Serpent Isle, Days 10 and 11

Well, after vanishing for a week (no good excuse, just lazy), I've returned! I'll continue the Serpent Isle blogging process with the goal of finishing up this week. I'm not sure why there was a request to focus on my blog-related progress rather than my real-time game progress; usually I allot only a sentence or so to the latter, mostly for the benefit of the oddly large number of people who are eager to know when I will get around to Ultima VIII :-P I haven't started that game yet. Once I get very close to finishing this blog I'll begin, for fear that playing it will damage my memory of Serpent isle...

This blog concerns two days, which include a series of time-consuming but not very...evocative(?) adventures. Basically, they were fun to play, but not so fun to try and describe. The first involved retrieving the helm of Monitor from the goblins in the great northern forest, which for some reason isn't frozen like everything else up there. Most of the time alloted to this quest was spent exploring the dungeon there, including finding a nice but oh-so-dangerous firedoom staff (I learned from Ultima VII never to actually use it as a weapon). Incidentally, am I the only one who thinks the paperdoll graphic for the firedoom staff, a wooden staff with a blue glow around it, was pretty bad? In the game world it looks like it's positively flaming! The same goes for the Juggernaut Hammer, which doesn't have the cool flashing effect in the paperdoll that it ought to have. On the other hand, magic swords and flame swords look pretty awesome, and the Black Sword looks especially menacing.

Anyway, killing the goblin king was not so hard. He was disappointed in my failure to eat his Monitor spy. It's interesting that this fellow, Pomidigrum, seems exceptionally brutal and conniving, when the implication is that one of his predecessors, Guodinir (?), was the embodiment of courage (he originally had the helm, and his ashes are used at the end of the knight's test). Anyway, with him dead, the rest of the goblins fell pretty rapidly. I tried to rescue a pikeman, who followed behind me torwards Monitor but eventually ied of a heart attack or something. I also gathered proof that Lord Marsten and Spektor were traitors! I don't really understand their motives--by letting the goblins destroy Fawn and the Sleeping Bull, aren't they essentially giving up control of the entire continent to the goblins? And with the other two Commands dead, how can they possibly expect to hold Monitor? Their scheme is very bizarre indeed. Marsten even lost his "bedmate" (his phrasing)!

But I'll quit ranting. Onward to the Gorlab Swamp, where my party all falls asleep. Interestingly, even automotons will fall asleep if you have any in your party, though they do not strictly announce that they are getting sleepy. Once asleep, you enter the gigantic dream realm, where you see, among other things...
-Dancing naked girls
-Mages torturing one another
-A tiny little moongate that a monk tells you that you need to seek out
-Yourself being killed by Batlin
-Lord British

The latter item is rather sad, as the king is wandering around a totally demolished castle. I was impressed tht the guard-corpse in that scene looks just like the Ultima VII guards rather than the red-and-purple Serpent Isle guards. He's upset by the teleport storms and earthquakes. I suppose I would be too. I run into Smith the Horse as well, though for reasons unknown he does not have a character portrait. He, as usual, gives me a worthless hint. From there I went and defeated a guy named Rabinrath who had put the town of Gorlab (from Ultima 1) to sleep; Siranush in return gives me a serpent...Which was it, the necklace?...which she says was a thing of power from those that settled the Serpent isle after Gorlab collapsed. Interesting--why does she have it? I enjoyed he minor plot detail that she has a dream crystal on her neck that matches the one Edrin has in Moonshade.

Tomorrow...Shamino's castle and the dragon slaying sword I never figured out how to get!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Serpent Isle, Day 9

The game's done! Only a day or two later than I'd intended, thanks to the Silver Seed.

The day dealt with here was spent wandering the subterranean realm of Furnace, which was formerly known as the Hole to Hades back in Mondain's time. It has since been populated by gargoyles, who moved into some old Ophidian ruins there. Theyhave all succumbed to a sleeping sickness, the same one that is affecting the gargoyles and emps in Britannia, and to some extent the other Gwani in Serpent Isle. It's odd, however, that it is not affecting other "wild"races like the goblins or the trolls. Killing the goblins would be a lot easier if they were all zonked out.

The city is pretty large, and in good condition--its like its people just got up and walked out one day. As I recall, this place was the city of balance, so once the Great Heirophant of Balance died, it's probable that everyone there just walked away. It's possible king Zheklas and his gargoyles also cleaned the place up some, but based on the random corpses laying around, that is doubtful. In any case, Zheklas kicks me over to a test of my knowledge of the Ophidian virtues! Actually, he seems to just test my devotion to the principles of order. By far the most memorable of these tests is the infamous red-worm killing test, wherein I fight off a series of unbelievably wimpy red worms that pop out of the ground, something like whack-a-mole, but with worms, and only one at a time. Dupre is off looking for treasure and becomes progressively more insane as I insist on whacking the mo...worms instead of going and gawking at the magic items, etc. with him.

Wandering around the duneon took in the realm of an hour or more, due to the sheer size of the place, and the variety of rooms to explore. Found here is also one of the most useful items in the game--the Everlasting Goblet, which allows you to feed your companions forever! Now whenever Iolo or Shamino whines about how he "could use a little food," I grab him by his collar and jam the goblet in his mouth until he can't breathe, and say, "WILL YOU SOON BE PLUMP YET OR DO YOU WANT SOME MORE????"


An annoying aspect of Furnace is the fire elementals, these flaming fellows who are an excellent way to kill Boydon. I had to reload several times when he died, since he breaks into his component limbs. He is still amusing, though, because you can put his head in your backpack and he sometimes makes pithy comments. My favorite is when you are falling asleep near Gorlab swamp; his severed head pops up and says "We're getting sleepy" or something like that, instead of the usual "I'm getting sleepy." I like that attention to detail.

After exiting Furnace, I went to the western forest, where I found a bottle of ale and which I used to accuse the Monitor innkeeper of being a spy; he then turned into a goblin and urged me to kill his leader. It's surprising he could stick around so long. I also wonder about his story--he claims he and his wife were ambushed by goblins at one point in the past--is this a true story and he simply replaced the expired inkeeper, or was he, as a goblin, married to a human woman (without her realizing it) and then had her killed? That's some impressive acting ability!

Anyway, that was three inhabitants of Monitor I had to kill thus far, but no fear, all the rest die later except Harnna the healer, who merely becomes insane and oblivious to her surroundings. Much of the first half of Serpent Isle is, in retrospect, totally futile!

On my next day I'll be heading north to the golbin camp and killing their leader and stealing his Helm of Courage, which he stole from Monitor, which they stole from some previous goblin (Guodinir, I think is the name), and where they got it, who knows...One of the more curious aspects of the backstory of Serpent Isle is the goblins, who are quite mean, but who evidently represent courage.

In response to comments--I won't be using that high quality filter in DOSBox, since I don't want my games to appear significantly different from the way they once did; otherwise, I might as well play Exult. Sometimes I think playing these old games in emulators is sort of like publishing old books that might be written in different languages and whatnot. When you publish Shakespeare, which of the versions do you use? Do you correct obvious errors in spelling? If someone would make a new version of Ultima III, should they include the elements that exist only in the old Nintendo version? I have contemplated creating a new version of Ultima (Ultima 1)for Windows, one that emulates all the characteristics of the original, but should I also emulate the fact that the game is shockingly slow? Or that the resurrection feature when you die is hopelessly broken and you often get resurrected in the middle of water?

A harder question concerns the graphics--the Apple II's graphics were weird and used only one bit to represent multiple colors; as a result, solid white text has strange colored shadings to it. Should a new version of the game try to emulate the Apple's goofiness, or would it be OK to make the text solid white? What about the fact that it's in ALL CAPS?

I do intend to work on that project when I am done with the blog. The original code is in BASIC and should be easy to analyze and recreate in a C program given some open-source graphics and sound libraries. Not sure which ones I should use though; I've never done multimedia programming before. It should be fun!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Serpent Isle, Days 7 and 8

In the real-world timing, I am just about finished with Serpent Isle. I should wrap up the game sometime tomorrow, though I might need to play slightly more than two hours (the Chaos shrine in Skullcrusher is a seriously annoying dungeon--a big empty maze, basically--and the Sunrise Isle quest is not exactly brief...).

First of all, on the day I document here, actually two days, I should mention that I obviously misnumbered things so that these are days7 and 8; somehow, I skipped day 3. I should go back and renumber the old entries. In the end, my whole Serpent isle experience will have taken 17 days, plus two for the Silver Seed. I think theat blows away all previous games in terms of length! in any case, these two days were not very interesting. The first was spent endlessly haggling with mages in Moonshade in an effort to buy up all the available spells. I also performed a few dubious experiments for Gustacio, who has been investigating the teleport storms--his logic was not especially clear, though. I don't understand how I was supposed to tell the "change one thing into another" lightning bolts from the "exchange item" lightning bolts--they effect would appear th same, unless the teleported item happened to be nearby...

Ale the Parrot was transformed back into Edrin, an exchange I think pretty much everyone realized would happen within five minutes of meeting the bird :-P I also did some breif exploration. I enjoyed the fact that a gazer that is in an underground area near the town seems to shoot his paralyze bolts up through a hole in the ground. Similarly, the burned out house of Vasculio was a nice touch. I guess I can simpl narrate my screenshots since I'm unsure what to talk about...

The first shows one of the more amusing though not strictly fun parts of Serpent Isle--organizing all the random crap you pick up so that you can carry it all. I end up with a lot of wands and firedoom staffs (which I never use due to their tendency to kill my companions...especially Boydon), lots of food and spare armor, and approximately 100 million random quest items. Cantra's sword, the necklace Ylinda gave Iolo, etc. There are even useless quest items that do nothing...but we'll get to those in the 2nd half of the game!

The second screenshot shows amusing commentary during Gustacio's experiment, but I already mentioned that. The third is in the cave of the ratmen from day 8, whom I was able to put to sleep using a magic harp provided by Mosh the rat woman, appropriately enough, after i gave her fish. I thought cats liked fish, not rats. This particular area seems to be a throne room, but the king and queen of ratment seem to be dead. I wonder what happened.

The final screenshot is a bit of a prophecy from king Zheklas of the gargoyles whom I met at the end of the 8th day. The adventure in his underground domain will bring on us all one of the most important sentences in all of Ultima. 100 bonus points if you can guess just which sentence that is!

Finally, comment on comments...No, I do not use the HQX or whatever filter on DOSBox, largely because I have no clue what it is. As for performance--I have a 1.2 ghz laptop at present, and DOSBox performs very poorly on Serpent Isle; if I have i use too many cycles, the sound gets unbearably choppy and the game too annoying to play. That's my main concern with Ultima VIII. I am opposed to the idea of a boot disk since I don't want to reboot just to play a game, and I would have to make some kind of boot CD for lack of a floppy drive on the laptop. But we'll cross that bridge when I come to it! I do notice that Serpent Isle generates huge numbers of "illegal read" errors in the DOSBox status window...odd.