So using the teleporter, I got transported immediately to Lord British’s castle.
This is basically the point where you lose all hope of having a flawless voice acting when you talk to Hennington, Lord British’s seneschal, who is addition of being annoying and useless has terrible voice acting!
Things are better upon talking with Lord British, who is wonderfully voiced by Ev Lunning. This a good dialogue, altough the king appears as usual to be a bit clueless about what happens to his land. And in any case he does provide with a bedroom this time, and allows you to take any equipment you want in the Castle.
He also sends you on your first mission: to inquire to the closest Column in the nearby dungeon of Despise and see if anything can be learned about its nature.
Talking to the people around is nice and teach you a few things… but it’s pretty obvious the people in the Castle are… not quite in tune with the rest of the world.
The most interesting person to talk into the Castle is Vasagralem, King of the Gargoyle which informs you that he has been exiled from the Gargoyle underwater Dome of Ambrosia and that one of the Codex lense has been stolen.
I must say I’ve always felt Ultima IX has pretty much nailed the Gargoyles. I wouldn’t have mind for the winged to be a bit more bulky, but most importantly the voice of Vasagralem is just perfect and fits wonderfully with what you would expect from a Gargoyle!
But there’s only so much you can do in the Castle… so it was time I began the adventure proper and enter the city of Britain.
Now Britain appears at first glance to be much like you would expect and to have recovered really well from the Cataclysm.
But there is obviously something wrong when you hear the speech from the Mayor’s Aidon. It appears he has basically created a new policy to banish all the sick and poors from Britain to the nearby village of Paws.
The Compassion of it is questionnable, altough there is some form of twisted logic in there. The idea being that by banishing all poverty from Britain the city will prosper, get richer and that these riches can be use to seend food and medicines in Paws, thus making everyone better in the long run.
It’s a bit of twisted policy… but I guess you could argue this might work. That is until you get into Paws… but more about this later!
While I’ll freely admit that some parts of Ultima IX lacks subelty, I do feel the way Britain in handled is actually pretty good. It does basically show how the Columns are subtly corrupting the minds of people and not just, say, turn the Compassionate people of Britains into hateful people.
That does in the end summs up well the concept of Ultima IX: this is about war with the Guardian – but it’s not about building vast armies and leading an open war, it’s more about a philosophical war and corrupting Britannian and its core values from the inside.
And I would argue it’s more than fitting for an Ultima finale!
You realize that this policy is supported by most people of Britain though, altough there are a few exceptions. It is also pretty obvious that most people feel Lord British is clueless and has lost touch with its people… but it’s hard to disagree with them now, is it?
One point of note the visit in Britain is the Cathedral of Love though.
It doesn’t have that much to do in terme of plot, altough you learn that it was built in replacement for Empath Abbey which had been destroyed during the Cataclysm with the other Keep of Virtues. It also offers a couple of subquest to do for later in the game.
The other point of note is the museum, which as always in Ultima housed many items from previouses games, and a beautiful “Tapestry of Ages” showing events from various Ultima games.
The museum for me is a good representation of everything that is wrong with fandoms nowadays. It’s basically a nice gift for fans to reminisce of prior games and adventures… and some of them had nothing other but complain because you know, this medaillon should not have this shape, or this staff should have a different color! It actually doesn’t even deserve more comment that.
In any case, having talked to everyone in town, I figured I might as well visit Paws and see what the fuss is all about.
One point though: getting to Paws was hardeous. And I mean really. At this point of game, it is hard by default – unless you got a class which added some strength (and thus life) to your Avatar, most monsters can basically kill you in one or two hits. In addition since I used the monster/economy patch to make combat harder, this means that any people can be really difficult and has to be taken carefully.
And this is they key of Ultima IX combat – while you can clickfest away, it’s more efficient to take things slowly.
But well… after a few death and reloads (and encounter with that funny bridge troll and I mean it – asking him to count to ten is great :D), I finally got to Paws.
And this is basically there that you graps the complete ridiculousness of Aidon’s plan.
Paws is basically a dump in the middle of a swamp, with houses getting engulfed by it! So in other words, you can forget about people getting better in such conditions. Paws in Ultima VII was already a mess… but here, that’s hell.
On a design perspective though, it is trully wonderful place and incredibly immersive. You really get the sense of the place it is, and the dangers around with rats, goblins and more! The music accompanying the area is also just really creepy and atmospheric.
I got to point that the first time I played Ultima IX, it also offered me one of my most baffling and immersive moment of my entier gaming life.
Here I laid, having just killed a rat… reduced to a pile of goo. And suddenly a vulture came upon me. I expected an attack… and all it did was go and eat from the remains of the creature.
Now can you name any other game in the history of videogames with something like that?
At this point I really would have liked to explores the areas around Paws and Britain a bit – because you see contrary to what some people would want you to believe, Ultima IX remains a fairly big game for its time and offers a LOT of exploration to do. Because while it is true that the game gets cities which are much smaller than Ultima VII – the wilderness has a lot to offer. And most importantly what some people tend to forget is that Ultima IX being in 3D, it really offers a new dimension to the world design… because it’s also about exploring things above and below.
So much like Ultima VII before, Britannia is a pleasure to explore and indeed, pretty much each time I replayed Ultima IX I’ve always discovered new things!
But as I said… exploring at this point in time feels of kind like suicide. So I returned to Britain and exited through the easter entrance – ready to do the mission Lord British has given me and head for Despise…