I mean this is a legitimate question, is it not?
Ultima VI had these big sewers… anod nothing in Ultima VII. And yet, back they are! Actually when I think of it the way Castle Britannia looks and feel in Ultima Underworld II is actually much more consistent with Ultima VI than Ultima VII. Not that I mind heh.
So here I am, now beginning my adventure in Ultima Underworld II.
For starter I got say I don’t have much to say about the manual, “A safe passage to Britannia”. It is a nice enough read… but it doesn’t really feel like particularily special book and feels rather common by Ultima standard. I would say the only part really interesting is the small chapter about the reconstruction which to me begin to outline the change in Britannian society that explains why the world had returned to the Virtue by the time of Ultima IX.
For the game itself, I’ll begin by stating that I love the main theme of the game. I also love the fact that the theme is recurring throughout the game with multiple variations to enjoy. I’m kind of mixed about the Introduction however. The intro of Ultima Underworld told a nice story… this one is nice and to the point – but feels really short. Also: no voice? Granted this is no necessarilly a flaw considering the dubious quality of the voice acting in Ultima Underworld and Ultima VII – but it’s still feel a bit lacking.
Now, contrary to the first game where I created a fighter – I actually created a Mage this time. Note that there is a very good reason for this: in Underworld II you starting equipment varies a bit depending on your starting class – and Mages and Druids are the only classes which begin with the Mani rune.
This is essential for a few reasons: first it allows you to heal yourself. Second, it allows you to cast the Jux Mani spell which has devastating effects on monsters making their health lower fast. Last but not least: Mani runes are extremly hard to come buy in Underworld II. So while starting with a mage class tend to make earlier combat a tad more difficult, it’s a worthy reward in the long run.
Now beginning with exploring the castle it’s fun: especially talking to old characters from Ultima VII and companions (altough one got to ask: where the hell is Shamino?). What I think interesting is how much the U7 character feels like an improvement to their Ultima VII counterpart really. Nelson and Miranda are prime exemple: they feel like a frase in the Black Gate, while they both come up as strong charismatic leader figure in this game.
But of course there is only so much talk can do, so I began my quest proper by exploring the sewers below the castle.
One point of note: remember how I complained Ultima Underworld felt too easy? Well not so much with Underworld II. While calling combat hard might be a bit of a strech, it is definily much more challenging that its predecessor – but it’s allright as it makes the game more fun.
So after a couple of hours of play, I did finally get to the bottom of the sewers and the mysterious Gem in the middle of it. I should point however – that this does not means I’ve explored all the Britannian sewers since there are still many area not accessible to me, notably because of powerful monsters lurking there.
As it turns out, I did enter the Gem and I am now at the very beginning of the Prison Tower world… which as you’ll see later – is a marvel of game design.