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

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fake Ultima 7, Day 5/6

I'm back! I've played a few more hours of SNES Ultima VII the past couple of days. Among other things, I tracked down and destroyed the sphere and I'm currently--literally, right at this very moment--in a dungeon beneath Serpent's Hold where I am waiting for my magic points to regenerate enough to cast several Unlock Magic spells. This version of the game only has a few of the tunes from the original game, so I am listening to an endless loop of the music I associate with the taverns. The MIDI you can download has a particular name, but it's not coming to mind. I was sad that the Fellowship music doesn't seem to be present, which was always my favorite from Ultima VII. I even taught myself to play part of it on the piano, an amusing experience since I had not otherwise played piano :-P

I am getting off topic. Most of the past few gaming sessions have been spent in dungeons. It seems I never give up hope that I'll find something cool in them! I am specifically targeting the dungeons for which maps don't exist. However, I am beginning to understand why maps don't exist...For example, in the Britannian Sewers, I worked my way to the third level or so and all I get is a door with a brick wall behind it. In fact, the Guardian's head pops up and for some reason expresses his disappointment (see screenshot). I would have enjoyed hearing the Guardian voice from Ultima VII say that, actually. There's also some kind of system of caves by which multiple dungeons are connected, but I have such low confidence that the dungeons will be worthy of exploration that I'm loathe to figure it out.

I just took a break to play the game and discovered that instead of finding my way to the cube generator, I seem to have found my way to the Fellowship Meditation Retreat--And what an un-relaxing retreat it is, full of mongbats and giant spiders firing yellow spheres and green blobs, respectively. This seems to mean I need to delve back into the dungeon. Argh! I should probably create a map this time around...

I have attached some screenshots. These include the stupid brick wall (maybe I should have used a powder keg on it?), the destroyed sphere generator and a conversation with Zorn. Why Zorn? Well, I talked to him recently and it's probably worth seeing how the conversation system has changed. I feel like, but am not certain, that a bunch of the graphics were taken from the SNES Ultima VI. Especially the potted plants and cauldrons, which look suspiciously familiar! I'll need to include those next time.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fake Ultima 7, Day 3/4

Well, I'm back. I played an awful lot of Ultima 7 SNES the past couple of days, and a high degree of disappointment is beginning to set in. I feel like the broken-ness that plagued Serpent Isle and Ultima VII is showing itself in this release as well. I say this because I spent about an hour wandering around Dungeon Stonegate yesterday, and eventually had to give up and load an old saved state because the dungeon appears to be insoluble. Understanding why this was required entails some understanding of the absurdity of the SNES Ultima VII dungeon system: When you enter a dungeon, you are teleported to a beginning spot in a maze and are unable to exit until you find a usually-weakling boss, kill it, and retrieve the "dungeon key" which can then be used on a particular kind of door, teleporting you out of the dungeon. Most of the dungeons are fairly small and repetitive, but they frequently have puzzles including levers, switches that look exactly like Ultima VI's wall switches, and even Zelda-esque holes in walls created via powder kegs. This is all well and good, except a decent percentage of the levers and switches don't seem to do anything at all. There are also keys, most of which look identical, and each of them goes to a particular type of door. Sadly, it seems that keys don't even exist for some of the doors in Stonegate (also true of Conceit, and probably other dungeons). Sigh!

The other thing I don't enjoy about the SNES Ultima 7 dungeons is something that was also an issue with the dungeons of Ultima IV and before: There's just no reason to go in except for quest items. I spent another hour earlier in the week exploring dungeon Conceit, and found nothing except junk--small amounts of gold, potions, and weapons already available from monsters. One of the fun aspects of Ultima VI and to a greater extent VII was that you never knew quite what you would find hidden in the depths! In this game I've become leery of doing any exploration because I might be wasting time and mapping.

I attached some screenshots. One is of the sea navigation system in Ultima VII--Hope you like selecting destinations from a map! Another features the Time Lord with some special purple tiles created just for him. Another includes a stone harpy from the dungeon that replaced Sutek's castle, and the remaining image is of the ethereal monster, which brings to mind another irritant: One of the townsfolk in Moonglow commented that Penumbra had been asleep forever andno one knew how to wake her, but maybe I could figure it out! Well, guess what? The provision shop sells an "awaken" potion! I guess no one thought of that? Anyway, they sold it for 1000 gold, which is pretty absurd given that most monsters drop only a handful of gold coins, maybe 3 or 4. Or else a turkey or a lockpick or one of several fairly crappy weapons. Fortunately, just like Ultima III, you can engage in absurdity to load up on the gold by repeatedly casting "lift" on a big rock near Minoc, fetching a stack of gold, entering a house, exiting, and repeating. That's how I earned enough for the potion and for the boat, which required 3000 gold.

As a final note, I was vaguely aware of the guy on a forum somewhere playing through all the Ultimas with extra screenshots. I seem to recall there were also some blogs for Zelda and for Dragon Quest, but I am not sure if they made it all the way. There's also a masochist out there who is going to play every RPG, and insists on avoiding save states, which seems impossible for some of those early, poorly balanced games where you are wiped out by a tough monster as soon as you enter the dungeon. If life were D&D I think he'd have a higher constitution than I.

I think the blog project the world *REALLY* needs is someone to write about playing every single Tetris-esque game ever made!