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

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ultima IX, Days 3 & 4

So the next two days of my game playing were not very thrilling, especially the second. They deal with my brief visits to the dungeons of Deceit and Covetous. After my completion of Hythloth, I headed to the dungeon of...Hold the presses. I feel the sudden urge to make fun of stupidity come on!

pride, leading to death by one's own deeds. Also one of the anti-virtues in the world of Ultima
"Hythloth caused many many deaths when Hitler tried to raise up the Nazi's, his master race."

Ohhhhh boy. Even if the writer were correct in the definition, the usage doesn't make much sense.


From Hythloth, I returned to Buccaneer's Den, where Blackthorn captures me and tosses me into a dungeon! Specifically, the dungeon of Deceit. Which, strictly speaking, isn't a jail. Escape involved the use of a phase spider statue, which allos me to enter a parallel universe exactly the same as the present one, but where I can pass through tables, chairs, gates, and other non-door items. Manipulating levers there causes equivalent gates to open in the real world.

I'll just let that paragraph pass without comment, because there's no hope in trying to make any sense of it. Just let it pass, because the rest of Deceit is fairly entertaining, with weird timed-arrow shooting puzzles, some lava draining and filling, and so on. Eventually I met Mariah, though y ou don't seem to be able to avoid her via conversation; instead, i just ran past her. Outside in Moonglow, I am sent on random quests by a wizard who wants me dead, and whose quests are simply wild goose chases. In the last quest he sends me to...a cave where I find the item to control his soul.



OK. Continuing...Another wizard wants Mariah's shield. I go into her house and down to her basement, and flip some switches to retrieve the shield. Mariah appears out of literally nowhere, tells me to watch out for the mage, then vanishes as if she never existed. Trading the shield for the sigil lets me cleanse the shrine, and I'm done! Oh yeah, I made the "Lycaeum," which is now a floating building with a dubious oracle in it, appear. It told me the mantra that I already knew...

Cove...erm, Minoc...uh...Cove...that is, Minove was next. It seems like Minove was the least-thought out portion of the entire game. Blackthorn is in the town hunting for the lenses with which he can view the Codex; when the townsfolk refuse to hand them over, he puts a curse on the town using some really ridiculous magic words (I think "klunk" was one of them), which I assumed to be fake because before he said it, he added "You folk are a supersticious lot..." But it turned out to be real! Ahh. The dungeon on the island was Covetous, where I retrieved a blackrock crystal ball which always tells the future, but which for whatever reason I can't use to, you know, help me in my quest. The dungeon itself was a fairly tiresome one, with multiple levels and some fairly tough monsters (Skeletons that come back to life unless you steal a bone--I had about a dozen skulls in my backpack at the end).

Oh yeah, it had the worst enemy of all--massive numbers of crashes. Maybe every 10 minutes. The experience was so thoroughly miserable that I used a walkthrough to get me through it in as little time as possible. That allowed me to find a powerful bladed staff which actually doesn't seem very tough, and a helm of radiance that there is NO way I would have found on my own! Maybe I'm missing lots of other magic items, too.

That done, I headed back to Britain, hoping to never set foot in Covinoc again. I did learn one random plot detail--Julia, the guardian of the glyph of sacrifice, is in love with me. Poor girl. Is that why she'd always be seriously mad at you when you asked her to leave your party in the previous games? Hmmm...

Moonglow also posed a lot of problems for me--saving my game there and then reloading did not work, so I had to go back into Deceit every time. This was quite frustrating. I also experienced crashes, but switching to emulated Glide let me get through without a problem. I anticipate finishing the game tomorrow, but the blog will continue for a few more days. This is a LONG game and I have spent an enormous amount of time playing it!

One of the troubles of this blog, of course, is that it's so goal centered that I don't feel compelled to spend as much time just exploring and seeing what's around in this or the other games. Actually, I guess I did in the beginning (I remember visiting all the planets of Ultima II), but this late in my effort I am honestly pretty eager to be done! I can't believe it's been a year.

I have written on my hand a note that occurred to me at work yesterday, while writing interrupt routines for some printer firmware and listening to music--The song "Hope Road" by Anne Clark has some cheesy electronic music that for some reason brings to mind the castle music in Ultima III for the NES. My brother played that game for many hours when I was much younger, and listening to the MIDI version of the game music now brings back a lot of memories. Plus, the tune itself is fairly wistful. Which leaves me to think about Ultima music generally. Ultima IX's is very nice; a variety of presentation, with each town involving the melodies of its requisite principles of Truth, Love and Courage...I need to figure out how to extract it. Ultima IV and V have some good songs as well, and I also like the "Bane" theme from Serpent Isle. The most cohesive music is probably in Ultima Underworld II, where there's this attractive recurring theme in all the music, most notably in the haunting tune from the Tombs of Praecor Loth and the one from the ice caverns...

I wish I had a better MIDI synth. In fact, I don't know why it's not possible to just go buy some gigantic wavetable, store it on your hard drive, and then let your PC generate extremely high quality waveform files directly from the MIDI. Or maybe it is easy to do that. Whatever the case, you could end up with some sweet versions of the Ultima music.

Oh yeah, Ultima IX's cutscenes have suddenly quit showing. Not that it's much of a loss.


Adamantyr said...

Boy, where did you dig up that incredibly awful definition of Hythloth?

Sorry to hear you hit the crashes... so did I, in the same areas. Moonglow was especially bad, but the Covetous mines weren't much fun either.

Yes, the music's one of the few good things about Ultima IX. Interestingly, some of the tunes that are supposed to play, don't when they're supposed to. You can get an extractor application to pull the music files out of Ultima's sound file. Not sure where it is, but you can find it online if you dig around. (Or maybe someone less lazy than I can post the URL here...)

Anonymous said...

The MIDI thingy is actually vere doable.
Just get XMPlay (www.un4seen.com), download the additional MIDI plugin (http://un4seen.com/download.php?xmp-midi), get a good SF2 font (some are discussed here (http://www.un4seen.com/forum/?topic=7620.0) and you're good to go.

You can listen to the tunes in the player, or just wavewrite/mp3 them, whatever's to your liking.

Anonymous said...

No offense, but the blog was a more enjoyable place to visit before all the Ultima IX hate -- now it just feels like every other cynical Internet-based discussion. If it truly pains you that much to play it, why continue?

Maybe the change in tone is an unavoidable consequence of the general decline in the series post-U7, but I played through U9 recently and managed to squeeze some enjoyment out of it.

Sure there were plenty of bugs: I had to delete my save more than once, flinging me back to my home on Earth until I could get back to my journal and load a prior save; I left a bloody trail of orcs in my wake in order to procure enough axes to build a stairway to floating runes; Shamino just flat out refused to talk to me; etc.

But there were some flashes of the old Ultima in there, such as the Gringolet quest.

I dunno... to each his own I guess. Sure it was a major disappointment as a conclusion to the Ultima saga, but once you get past that it can still be a fun game to play (and still quite pretty considering its age).

MagerValp said...

I personally think the C64 Ultimas have by far the best music. The Mockingboard sounds lifeless by comparison, and MIDI is only as good as the sound font - which more often than not is very bland.

Natreg said...

actually, the end of the game was interesting to me. So as an end to Ultima it works, or so I think.

Also, the fiction done for Ultima X tries to explain some of the errors in Ultima IX.

About the crashes... it's weird... I had crashes sometimes, but not that frequently, not even in Moonglow. I don't know why you are having so many problems with the game.

I have tried it in 4 different computers over the years, and besides the floating runes, I have not experienced anything like what you describe. And I play using Direct3D, not glide. So I don't get it...

Anonymous said...

I really liked the U9 music with one major (and unfortunate) exception:

The combat theme!

God damn that tune was unbearable. I say unfortunate because it's probably the song you hear the most in the game.

MagerValp said...

Oh yeah, crashes - I had plenty of them. I got lots when going on that boat in Moonglow, and after a few reloads my savegame got corrupted. That's when I quit playing U9...

Anonymous said...

One way I found of dealing with crashes that happen repeatedly in a certain area is to lower the graphics settings. Sometimes the only way I could get out of an area without the game crashing was to turn everything down.

Anonymous said...

Some years ago, Garriott was interviewed for a Japanese magazine, and basically said that "hythloth" is a made-up word. It came up because they didn't know how to translate it into Japanese, and so apparently left it as it was, making all Japanese players wonder what it meant. The answer: nothing.

mcmagi said...

Julia, the guardian of the glyph of sacrifice, is in love with me.

I'm actually replaying U9 right now for nastolgia, and somehow I completely missed this bit. Maybe I didn't follow that path in the conversation tree? I dunno.

Anyway, this makes a LOT of sense based on an interview of RG from the Avatar Adventures book (also copied pretty much verbatim in the U9 strat guide). In there, he talks about who his real-life inspiration was for each of the companions. Julia was apparently his girlfriend when he was in New Hampshire.

mcmagi said...

I don't know why it's not possible to just go buy some gigantic wavetable, store it on your hard drive, and then let your PC generate extremely high quality waveform files directly from the MIDI.

You can do just that. Check out Timidity. Sound isn't always as crisp as my SBLive synth, but with the ability to load soundfonts it's far better than most no-name hardware synths even today.