There it is! I have finally started on the path of the Eight Virtues.
After some long hesitation (which notably lead me to start the game both on the PC and the SMS), I finally decided to stick with playing the PC version through the use of xU4 as it allows to use both the improved VGA graphics and the textured 16 Bits dungeons from the Atari ST/Amiga version.
But for starter let’s begin with the manuals. Much like the game itself, the manuals was new stepping stone in the Ultima history: for the first time it was actually written as an actual history books, telling the story of Britannia and the use of magical spell through its second half “in universe”. While there are references to gaming aspect, they are always kept indirect as if not to break the immersion of the player. The manuals are well written and really come as a great read!
After reading it, I’ve finally come and started my quest. The introduction really remains awesome (albeit ugly) in terme of immerding you in the story. After going through the Virtue questions, I surprisingly ended playing as a shephard and started near the ruines of Magincia. While I went in and met the survivor Katrina… I decided not to explore the city right because of how dangerous its swamps makes it. So I exited and got awefully lucky as a pirate ship came by… I managed to kill its crew alone, and thus set sail to the Castle of Lord British and start my quest of the Avatar proper.
Things are going quite well in the end: I am now holding 6 of the 8 runes of Virtues and did get some very interesting informations. I am also ready to get a part in Humility, but unfortunately the shrine is not quite accessible yet. I also have two companions yet, Iolo and Dupre and will be getting more soon as I am already Level 5.
Now admitedly, the dialogue depth of the game is pretty poor by today’s standard: NPCs don’t have much dialogue and the writing would feel amateurish in comparison but it really is interesting to go and talk to everyone and the text parser allows to sometime search some topic that might get you a little lucky. Also it brought back an old habit: taking notes. As the game don’t have any form of ingame journal, and the text interface for dialogues means you have to remember it all I’ve begun taking note on all important aspects – pretending I am playing the game for the first time rather than just go and get the important stuff from memory of where they are.
In any case playing Ultima IV sure is fun… I still have a long way to go before becoming an Avatar of course, but each step lead me closer to this goal.