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

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ultima IX, Day 10

Time to begin the last post for the last game!

Before heading off to Terfin to confront the Guardian, I had a brief chat with my Companions in castle British. This part of the game was notably more lame than I'd expected--a few made dubious claims about their past help to me (Mariah didn't do jack fighting Batlin...), but most just told me to keep in mind whatever virtue they represent.

From there, I hit Terfin. I was hoping to avoid a cheesy conversation with Raven, but it turns out her telling you about a secret cave causes a giant rock to move out from in front of said cave. From there it was into the dungeon! And what an amazingly longer-than-expected dungeon it was. This time I had to find a big stack of power cubes, as well as kill off a lot of monsters. The gargoyles towards the beginning were the hardest because they did a huge amount of damage with each hit. Later on, it was just endless Wyrmguard that get sliced down in one or two hits from my lightning sword.

I encountered three other people. One was a girl who was searching for treasure and asking for help finding the key to the treasure room. Of course, she never goes anywhere or does anything with the key. Another was an insane guy in blue who thinks I caused the Guardian to turn away from him. He tried to punch me but died rapidly. The third was a woman who was poisoned by some gargoyles in a torture chamber, and demands that I kill her; I politely refuse and tell her "just go cast cure." Well, it didn't give me the option of doing that, but that's what I imagined!

There weren't that many exciting sights in this place. There was a room full of aquariums that was kind of cool, and some severed heads, but for the most part it felt like a barracks, with weapons around and books you can't read. Eventually, I finally made it to the Guardian's entirely black chamber. I put the sigils around on some highly convenient pedestals, causing him to pop through the nearby black gate. Here he is! Boy, he might actually be a little shorter than me. And he does look like a muppet. The Guardian was much more threatening in Ultima VII, somehow, particularly because he puts his dukes up like a boxer when you attack him. Yeesh. In the end, I create a "barrier of life" and then cast Armageddon, destroying the Guardian and myself, and making an ankh appear in the sky. The end!

Well, that's it for 20 years or so worth of gaming. Ultima IX was not as terrible as I remember it, but it was just as disappointing in terms of what I would have expected from an epic conclusion to the series. The failure to emphasize the cool characters the series had developed is a prime reason for complaint, as well as the poor manner in which the various set pieces, mostly designed for an unrelated plot, were all tied together haphazardly with the modified game. I tend to think the complaint voiced in comments about the bad dialog is related to this. I understand the difficulty here--it is very easy to fall into a trap where every conversation is "insider" stuff, that only the guys who've played all the games will get. Ultima IX went the opposite way and we we end up with "What are gargoyles?" and other idiocy from the Avatar.

Still, it's clear that they had a pretty cool world-building tool to play with in creating the Ultima IX we have now. My thinking is that if they'd stopped development on the engine and spent, say, 6 mos or a year creating a world and filling it with people and stories, we would have had a much better game. However, it's unlikely this could have happened without budget being slashed or people yet again being pulled away to work on the internet version of Ultima.

Note my weird phrasing--I've discovered that if I say the actual name of that not-off-line version of the game, I get piles of stupid spam comments. So I'll resist. I particpated in both the pre-alpha and beta test of that game, and got the "charter edition," and you can even find Ophidian Dragon mentioned in the original version of the hint book! But I really didn't like the game at all, or any MMORPGs for that matter, so I've ignored it here.

Did Ultima IX invite you to kill children? A missing feature!

One fun thing to waste more blogging time might be to reflect back on all the games, and see if I can decide my final "ranking" of the various games. I am pretty sure the main canon would fall in the order of (worst to best) 2-1-9-8-3-4-5-6-7, but working the spin offs in would be hard. Except for Drash, we all know where it ends up!

Well, thanks for reading. Maybe someday I will have UW2 screenshots posted! The person I thought was interested in the giant screenshot collection was actually interested in pirated games, so no, I won't be providing those. I own all the games I played, save Drash and Akalabeth; if you really want to grab them illegally, Google makes it easy enough.

If you haven't gotten enough Ultima over the past year, someone else is running a similar blog, in a somewhat less purist manner (I think it's called "My Ultima Journey"). And if you like video game blogs generally, check out Blogging Zelda and Blogging Final Fantasy and other similar blogs; I don't read them (not being into those games or, frankly, any non-Ultima RPG) but it's cool to have started something of a blogging trend. Actually, probably someone did this before me, so I'll rephrase and say it's cool to think I began a trend I may not have actually begun!

If you just dig me, I'm probably going to begin some other totally unrelated blog project soon. My CageBlog was cool, and I learned rapidly how to (not) write a topical blog; I wish I had not finished it so soon. Blogging Ultima has been a big improvement over that project. I'm glad it took a year to complete; I almost wish I had dragged out the earlier games a bit longer, in fact! Hopefully the next one will be even better. It's been a blast especially due to the quality & quantity of comments I get, so thanks to everyone who contributed in that way!

I also encourage you to start your own blog on whatever peculiar topic interests you, since there's always a few other people out there. And if you're a nerd like me, nothing attracts dates and money like a giant video game blog. Just kidding. But it's fun anyway.

Go in Virtue!



Anonymous said...

"The person I thought was interested in the giant screenshot collection was actually interested in pirated games, so no, I won't be providing those. I own all the games I played, save Drash and Akalabeth; if you really want to grab them illegally, Google makes it easy enough."

Don't make assumptions, please, if you meant me.

I really wanted to know how to obtain these games legally, since most of them are not being sold at all these days.

Anonymous said...

Can you provide any way for me to get this collection in a legal manner?

When I asked for a way to get these games, why do you think I wanted the pirated versions?

I buy and play a lot of games. Please don't make assumptions about me without knowing a thing about me.

I'm sorry I even commented on your blog at all. I thought I would just be nice to a fellow Ultima fan.

CageBlogger said...

OK, fair enough. People regularly demand pirated copies on the newsgroups. The sad news is that it's pretty hard to get them. Ultima IV is available legally for download at various places on the Internet (any of the major Ultima sites should have it). The Ultima Collection with Akalabeth and Ultimas I - VIII was also packaged with the Dragon Edition of Ultima IX, which you can find on eBay, usually for pretty cheap (the one I bought was $10).

The Underworlds were once released in a package deal, but to my knowledge there is no easy way to get the other spin-offs. :-(

Sorry for the assumptions,

Anonymous said...

Just to tell you a little bit about myself, and my interest in Ultima games.

I once bought an EA Classics Collection which had Ultima 0 to Ultima 7, but the CD was corrupted and I couldn't get most of them to work, so I had to return it to the shop.

So all I was asking was whether there is any legitimate seller of this collection any more.

Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for the quick reply.

Sorry for my somewhat angry response.

I have a genuine copy of Ultima 8 in an old games collection CD.

But none of the others. :-)

CageBlogger said...

To clarify--eBay or maybe half.com is your best, probably your only source, for any of the games. If you just want the CD collections, go for the Dragon Edition of UIX with the older games, and the EA Classics version of Underworlds.

Expect to pay exorbitant prices for Savage Empire and Martian Dreams, and insane amounts if you want the original versions of the oldest games (hundreds or thousands of dollars).

Some of the main Ultima sites also have tips on this; try looking for the RGCUD FAQ on google (the FAQ for the Ultima Dragons newsgroup).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, mate.

Buying online is a problem for me, but looks like there's no other way of getting these games otherwise.

Sadly old games just go out of circulation even if they're classics.

Anonymous said...

Loved reading your blog...kudos to completing it!!

Any chance you would be interested in blogging the various fan remakes that have surfaced...like Lazarus, the Ultima 6 Project or even Ultima 9 Redemption when they are finished?

Adamantyr said...

Congratulations on completing the journey through all nine Ultimas. It's been very fun to read the blog postings.

The easiest way to gain legal copies of all of the Ultimas is to buy the 1-9 collection on eBay, whenever it comes up. It's not nearly so rare as, for example, the Wing Commander: Kilrathi Saga set.

I figure that EA is approaching the point of wanting to do something new with the Ultima franchise again... or try to, anyway, since they canceled the last two projects. At any rate, look for re-issues of the old games when that happens.

Anonymous said...

Well done Zac! I haven't posted any comments here before but I've been keeping up with your blog for its entire run.

It's been a real blast to vicariously relive the Ultima classics through you.

Hope all goes well for you out in the real world. So long, and thanks for the year's worth of entertainment! :)

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Your blog was one of the most exciting that I followed during the last months/year, I virtually ate every posting of Yours. You spared me a great deal of time, because Your way of judging the games seems so similar to mine that now I don't have to play those old games myself. I'd like to, but I don't have the time. Reading Your blog was the closest I could get to experience the games without actually investing the time to playing them on my own. Thank You, thank You, thank You a lot for that!

Your style of writing about those games is so great that I would love reading more of Your opinions. Since You ran out of Ultima games, maybe You could try others. I see that Your time is limited, and maybe You might not want to invest that large amount of time on another blog again soon. And You seem to like the Ultima games in particular, so maybe You might not want to follow another line of games. But just in case You would like to do something similar again, please be so kind and consider the Elder Scrolls series of games. For me, reading Your "Bloggin Elder Scrolls" blog would be great and exciting. And I suppose there is a big audience for that.

Also, I always felt that the Elder Scrolls was deeply inspired by Ultima. Personally, I felt that Oblivion felt much like Ultima IX did, except that I found it somewhat better (playable) in some ways. (No wonder that some guys now ported the whole Ultima game world to Oblivion as a game mod!) Maybe the Oblivion developers wanted to continue to aims and intents of the Ultima series - without calling it "Ultima" of course.

I don't know if You have already played those games, but I think You could really have a good time doing so. And if You choose not to blog Your Elder Scrolls game experiences like You blogged Your Ultima experiences, maybe You could at least write one or two articles about Your personal opinion, comparing Ultima and Elder Scrolls.

Ah, and: When You make a new blog, could You please be so kind and announce it with a new blog entry on Blogging Ultima? I only read the RSS feed here, so I wouldn't notice it if You announced it somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on completing the series. I haven't been commenting but I have been reading faithfully adn enjoying immensely. Good luck on future projects.

Anonymous said...

Too bad this has come to an end.

Thank you for this blog, I follow you since Ultima 7, but then I read all the previous entries.

It has been great and very intertaining! Congratulations and
all hail Ultima!

Anonymous said...

U9 invites you to kill children on two occasions : the little dying girl in Terfin begging to be killed, and some asshole kid insulting you and then throwing randomly fireballs at you at some spot.

Anonymous said...

"the little dying girl in Terfin begging to be killed"

Exactly. Like I said, for all its shortcomings the game still had some moments that were quintessential Ultima. Do you put the girl out of her misery, or do you leave her there knowing she'll die a slow, painful death? There's no "right" answer as far as the game is concerned, it's there soley to make you think -- that's what Ultima did at its best. (well, that and entertain)

Anyway, congratulations on your achievement.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Mr. Ophidian, this was almost a year of good and regular reading for me, as I have been following your blog since U3, I think. You already occupied a firm place whitin my weekly newspapers whose quality your blog easily reaches. Excellent knowledge and precision in judgement -- that's what a good commentary in general is about.

Thank you for this.


Anonymous said...

It's been a trip! Thank you for bringing back some ultimate Ultima memories.
May the force be with you. I mean.. the virtues. May the virtues be with you.

Joe said...

Thanks for the blog, I really enjoyed it. I have been an Ultima fan for over 20 years, and it was great to relive it through this blog.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! That was a really cool blog. I especially loved reading about the first Ultimas which I never played, and about the last ones when the series went downhill :P I would love to see a greater "wrapping up" post with some thoughts about Ultima in general. Which trends you liked or disliked, what you think makes the series relevant for the gaming world and for you personally, you know, some final thoughts.

Also, after playing all the Ultimas, make sure to report your feat to Lord British at Origin Systems!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a ride. I got a late start reading your blog at around Ultima 6, my favorite one by the way. You did a top notch job and i found myself laughing at different times from the similar stuff that you and I both experienced. I too would like a final blog entry with your overall opinion on the series if you got the time of course!

Anonymous said...

Congrats from me, too!

Not many bloggers finish such a task - let alone those that give up before they finish even a single game...

Thanks for the entertainment!

Stu said...

nice to see you make it to the end! congrats

-stu the lapsed ultima dragon.. "virulent dragon"

Unknown said...

I'll suggest that you should review all your blog entries (and if you're daring, the comments). Then write one last post summing up your thoughts on the entire series, its place in gaming, in culture at large, and maybe what it means to you.

Damn. I sound like a college professor. Sorry!

(No, really, do it! You did manage to get me to play UW2 again after 7 years. ;)

Unknown said...

Very sad to see this blog end! :/ Thank you *very* much for your impressions!! They will be missed.

Anonymous said...

Well i'm sad that this ends, congrats for the blog, however *someone* could comment in this "bloggy" way the excellent Ultima V Lazarus?

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your accomplishment. I've enjoyed coming back to your blog from time to time and reading your progress. I'm a bit envious of your stamina and dedication to something I'd in theory love to do but in practice would never follow through with. I couldn't even manage to get through Ultima IX, even though I made two serious attempts. Something always pulls me away and I never go back. I've enjoyed living it vicariously through you.

Unknown said...

Thanks for doing this blog. I haven't posted before, and just wanted to let you know that I've been reading it the past year and it's brought back lots of fond memories of gaming days long since past. The "big 3" of computer RPGs (Ultima, Might & Magic, and Wizardry) all long since gone and this will always be my favorite.


Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first time commenting. Thanks for the extremely entertaining look at the series over the past year. To me, Ultima never really ended, and unfortunately was left hanging open. That can be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint.

Matt said...

Really enoyed reading your blog, particularly serpent isle; mine bugged out too much (I don't think I could have finished it w/o cheating)... I think the disappoint for long time Ultima fans (Ultima 2 was the first game I bought for my Atari 800) with Ultima 8 and 9 is the game world itself. My favorite part of the "old" Ultimas (they're all old now :) was the "real world" feel. The conversations, the npc schedules, the usable objects. Particularly the latter two are where 8 and 9 really pale in comparison to u5-u7... Removing the party hurt also but at least in u8 it made some kind of sense. Never mind the plot to u9, does anyone remember the 3-d isometric screen shots of the "original" (before the team was shuffled off to UO) Ultima 9... (sigh) what might have been...

Matt said...

sorry to double post... found a link for the curious to Ultima 9 pics. About halfway down the page you can see some of the "original" Ultima 9 picks, basically looks like a 3-d Ultima 7 (quality is pretty rough).



a particular favorite of what might have been!

OttoMoBiehl said...

I'm sad that this blog is ending but I really enjoyed reading it.

Congratz on getting though the games. You made me dig out my old Ultima games and give them a go again.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm one of the U9:Redemption folk.

It is an impressive feat to finish the entire series. The sheer volume of dialogue and stuff to do in U7 alone is, at least in reading transcripts, overwhelming sometimes.

Question: which characters were you referring to from the past parts of the series, that you'd hoped to see in U9?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on completing the series, and for writing such a great blog. I've only just discovered it and it will take some catching up before I've read the whole thing but so far its really bringing back memories.

I've always fancied playing through the series myself and you've inspired me to give it a go. It won't be up to the same standards but I'm going to blog my way through it as well. Whether or not I'll get to the end of the series is debatable but I'm onto my fifth game now (Ultima 3).

For those of you wanting a Lazarus blog, I'm intending to play that instead of Ultima 5 when I get that far.

Anonymous said...

Avatar! Britannia Burns!