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

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.


Leprechaun Sniffer, Esquire. said...

I loved the House of Wares: blowing up the computer was my favorite and Strike Commander remains, to this day, a tough-as-nails flight sim with great acting.

I hated the access puzzles in general due to how obscurely one had to consider they were to be done. That one is nowhere near as hair-pulling as the door lock.

I saw the stone too, mistaking it for a nugget. Maybe they were planning on letting you get Mark eventually?

Anonymous said...


following this blog from the beginning and having read some of the Cageblog as well, I just wanted to express my thanks for the great reading.

I have to comment on your remark about SI's linearity: It's true, this has some annoying consequences and the access puzzle may be one of those, but SI is actually the best example for how to do linear gameplay right. Being comparatively restricted - at least, compared to U7 - the player is to a big extend controlled by the game. That is true. But it is also this control that leads to an enormous density in atmosphere. SI's plot is just too big as that it would have fit into the same map without restrictions. There are some maps around the net that show impressively how about every inch of the map is used - perhaps one should consider this as an archaic way of data compression.

But in the way it was done there was even some space left on the map to put some items on, eg. the software pirate, the liche-on-top-of-the-hill, the frozen ships in the north, some ruins etc., not to be essential part of the gameplay but to constitute this unique atmosphere.

Well, thanks again for your effort, I hope you'll have some more time to spend on the blog in winter.


Anonymous said...

There was another "stones" stone in the Magelord's treasury, inside a chest I think.