Our Lord is Saved!

After 5 months and 7 days of question, did Sergorn the Avatar rescue Lord British from the Underworld.

But boy that was… hard.

So I now have the answere: it is possible to finish Ultima V without having a full 8 level party or even a level 8 Avatar… it’s just damned hard!

Getting through the Underworld wasn’t so hard… I descended to Shame without much difficulty and Blinked eastward toward the center of the World.

Now flying through the lava did cause some damage… which actually led to a death and a reload because I err… just wasn’t very careful. But I did finally came to the entrance of Doom and called forth VERAMOCOR!

Afterward came the starting room with its weird purple energy walls… but thank fully, I did have my beloved Scepter of Lord British to open the way.

Now Doom was hard. Real hard. Nevermind the fact that’s is basically one big maze which makes you turn around and round, and requires you to move back and forth again between levels. But most importantly it does offer the most powerfyl monsters the game has to offer: Mongbats, Sandtraps, Wisps, Daemons and Dragons… which makes it basically a hell to come through.

I did move forward and through really until one of the later rooms began to provide too hard for my whole party… ending up with me having four dead party members – including of course my two mages and Iolo. I did had one scroll of Ressurection left, so I used it to ressurect Dupre and we did the last few remaining rooms as a threesome… which was hard, but doable with some cleaverness and tricks (and notably some good use of those An Tym scrolls I had stocked).

Now before we get to the end I’d just like to give a special mention to this room:

Why? Because this is the exact same room where I got the first time I played Ultima V before losing my saves. Yes… I had like one other room after this one and I would have finished the game. Which is just frustrating in restrospect.

Bo this time I passed, with difficulty but I passed. And so I finally came to final room with Lord British inside of his mirror…

Do I mention to say this is such a cool concept? The first time I got there I kind of sat there for a short while, wondering what the hell to do.

But well I passed the mirror and got to Lord British at that. Funnily enough the first time I did got there… I actually answered no to Lord British, not fully understanding what he was asking me. And it got stuck to watching my characters being bored to death in Lord British’s prison. Oh well…

When I answered yes though… I remember being blown away by that beautiful Red Moongates and I kept thinking Moongates should be all like this, because really: I love red!

Now one have to admit the ending has the ungrateful bastards kind of feeling. I mean you basically just saved the world, Lord British… and you’re just back home with no explanations. Goodbye, au revoir, sayonara. I mean I strive to be virtuous and all but there are time you’d want to whack our liege hard.

And so here I was. Back home. With all my stuff gone. And only a dream to find out the rest. Oh well.

By the way Lord British, you really should have killed Blackthorn when you had the chance: he’s gonna betray you again!

So this is if for Ultima V. I have to say except for the annoying grinding in the later hours, this really was a blast to play in spite of its age. This will always remain an unique and special game in my heart.

Now onward to Ultima VI: The False Prophet!

Let’s try out this Doom thing…

So I did found out a pretty nice place to level up. As I matter it is the very same place I used the last time I played the game! There is this room at the last level of Dungeon Wrong with an upward stairs, and exit to each side and four big sort of pillars to each corners.

As it turns out, each of the pillars contains three deamons, which are amongst the most rewarding monsters to kill in the same as they give a big whooping 19 XP each time. Which makes it 12 deamons, altough to actually grind you need to only kill 11 each as monsters do not reappear in room and you kill them all.

The technique is simple. First you need the crown of Lord British equipped so that the deamons can not possess your characters or teleport outside of the pillars. Then you need to equipe your characters with either a morning star or better a Halberd which allows to attack two tiles away. This way you can go an kill these deamons over and over again without any risk of damage.

It works.

It just takes a LONG time.

So having now my Avatar at Level 6 and my other PCs at Level 5 I’ve decided to go and try to free Lord British with them. It’s probably gonna be hard, but there’s a chance it might be doable…

My lord awaits me….

But he’ll have to wait bit.

I apologize for the time this update took (especially since this cover were I was two days ago), but the last few days have been pretty hectic in terme of working on Return to the Serpent Isle.

So as I mentioned last time I was back in the Underworld through Deceit, looking this time for the Shard of Falsehood. Now finding the Shard wasn’t so hard, and after a short while of exploring I managed to find it on that island.

Now getting back up to the surface… that was something else. You see the first/last room of Deceit near the underworld, is actually a room with secret passages… and dragons. Which basically wiped the floor with my party. Now after a couple of loading I managed to come through but with three deads, including my Avatar which was the only one capable of casting Uus Por at that point.

Deceit feels a lot like a maze really, with a lot of secret doors, traps, and passage – basically deserving its name. To be fair I really got lost and was starting to lose all hope when I got lucky: after sleeping one too many times, my Avatar suddenly ressurected. I don’t know if that is normal aspect of the game (altough I do remember it did happens to me before many years ago), but it saved my life especially since I was already on level 1 – except not in the proper area.

Once back in Britannia, I headed straight to the Lycaeum where I paid my hard earner money to ressurect my dead party members. After that, it was straight to the Flame of Truth… and farewell Faulinei!

Now for my next step I decided to forget about the Shard for a while and thought I should go and follow the steps of Lord British’s original expedition. So I headed straight to that waterfall area west of Trinsic.

So I was now in the Underworld and straight following the expedition of Lord British.

So I followed those falls again and again until I got to that big poisonous area, and then finally… to the tombstone of the valiant knights who feel defending Lord British… and in front of it: the Amulet.

Finding Destard was more tricky as this area to the Underworld was pretty large… but I found it eventually, and managed to get back up… but err careful retreat of many areas filled with Dragons (I am NOT a coward, I am just careful!).

So now there was only one thing left: the Shard of Hatred. I had leard in was under Lost Hope Bay, so I decided to get down Dungeon Wrong. I’ve always liked this dungeons because it has many rooms, cells, loot, and monsters. I did however was focused on getting to the Underworld and decided to do this as quickly as I could.

So I got into the Underworld, and climbed the dangerous mountains southward to find it: the Shard of Hatred!

In order to offer some variety, I decided to get back up through Covetous. This is also an interesting dungeons altough probably a tad too much like Wrong (I like how they turned it into a proper mine later on). It was not too hard however, and I was soon backup.

And so I headed straight to Serpent’s Hold, called for Astaroth and used the Shard of Hatred… before realising that I should have gone to Empath Abbey instead (for my defense: I was very tired). So as they say… I reloaded and went back to Empath Abbey. And there I called forth Astaroth.

Goodbye buddy! Now that’s it for the Shadowlords… just please don’t coalesce and come back as a big red entity called the Guardian, please ?

So now I had only one thing left to do in the game really: Stonegate.

I headed straight to the fortress, and found the deamon Balinor.

I did answer his question correctly, but the bastard attacked me anyway, so I sent him back to the deamonic planes. So I entered the fortress and here it was: the sceptre of Lord British.

And so here I am today.

The Shadowlords are dead.

I have the Sandalwood Box.

I have the three artefacts of Lord British.

I have the Mystics Arms and Armors.
I have the Word of Passage and know how to find Doom.

In other word all left for me to do is to go inside Doom and free Lord British.

This is not that easy however as my characters are level 4 at most… which is just not enough to survive the dangers of Doom.

Which means: grinding. And a lot of grinding.

Meh.

I don’t look forward to this.

All in a day’s work…

Well that was a busy day trying to save Britannia!

As I mentionned in my last post, it was now time to get litterally Underworld. Of course that require some prepping first: notably loads of reagents. Of course this brings the question: why the HELL are Shadowlords always in THE city you NEED to get to buy your stuff?

But as I said: reagents. After that I sailed toward the Isle of the Avatar, and onward to the Dungeon Hythloth. A little “Ignavus” and there it was: Hythloth awaited. Now, getting to the Underworld was actually quite easy… because it has this stairs basically getting you all the way to Level 7… so you just need a little “Des Por” and voila: the Underworld is there!

So I head straight for the lava at the base of the Abyss, and here they were the Mytics! (Altough I kind of wonder how they hell Mystic Robes turned into Mystic Armors, hmm?)

I unfortunately was not very careful and erm… Jaana suffered a little mountaining accident and did… which is kind of sucky as it deprived her of much experience!

Knowing that the Shard of Cowardice laid nearby, I continued by exploration of the Underworld through a lot of Blinking. I gotta admit it was actually quite a wonderful design idea to have this area fully designed for the use of the Blink spell. It is a shame it never got any use in later instalments. The Underworld can be really hard – it’d b okay except for one thing: those DAMNED Mongbats: not only they are numerous, but they move twice faster than you and hit hard. It actually is kind of crazy to think that these would become highly comon monsters in later Ultima game.

But after much exploring (and much reloading as well I shall confess) I finally found it: the Shard!

And so here came the process of getting back. So more blinking. More mongbats (ugh) and more Hythloth. Now I was glad to have that Lord British’s crown as the first room upward came with three Daemons. But I disposed of them easily. And thus I went up. There was much “Uus Por” but Britannia was there!

I waited no longer and headed straight for Serpent’s Hold. So I called forth Nosfentor, and well… she didn’t pose much of a resistance.

Don’t worry lass. You lil’ brothers will come join you shortly.

Now with one less pain in the ass, I went back and ressurected Jaana at a healer. I then proceded to go and do all the Virtue Quest remaining and such I learned that Lord British was at the center of the world and that I should call forth VERAMOCOR. Wait I already called that forth in Ultima IV! Geez…

One thing done, I figured I might as well head for the next Shard. So I got to Deceit… but then suddently: STARVATION! I had no more food and my character were starting to die. So I went to Moonglow and bought 1000 of food. I should be good. So I headed back to Deceit… and then I noticed that… I had no more torchers :'(.

So basically I headed to PAWS to get 99 torches.

An Avatar’s life is never easy…

So I could now enter Deceit. But as it turns out it was even easier than Hythloth, since you had a trap door letting you fall all the way to Level 8. A lot of damage of course but heh, what can I say? And then of course Des Por was my friend.

And so here I am now, in the darkness of the Underworld, this epic music in my head, looking for the last piece of my former nemesis’ legacy to destroy.

Here I come Shardy-boy !

The depth awaits…

I have to admit… that Ultima V really has much less content than I remembered.

It’s interesting how the game feels scaled back from Ultima IV in a way: the town are much smaller, there are many less NPCs, and as such it is much easier to remember and note down all the clues. (And they said that Ultima IX had small cities :P)

Now of course the NPCs have a lot more depth than their Ultima IV counterpart and much better dialogues, but it feels to me that Ultima V was more focusing about adding depth, both in term of plot and gameplay, even at the cost of a reduced sized. Which is good.

This does means basically that after only a few hours of gameplay I have basically talked to all the NPCs and done all that there is to be done on the Surface. I have the Spyglass, the Sextant, the Crown, the name of all three Shadowlords and the location of their Shards, the way to destroy them from Sutek, the location of the Mystics in the Underworld… basically all that is left to me are the Virtue quests which are currently underway, and getting the scepter… which will wait for the death of all Shadowlords, thank you very much!

The only thing I did NOT do, was was betrayed a council member to get the Oppression’s password. I could admitedly have cheated, but I’d rather not. So this made Blackthorn’s Palace a tad more difficult, but it was nice to infiltrate the place and avoid all the guards.

Now I do have to admit having err… pillaged Castle Britanni’s treasury a couple of time. But don’t you give me that look! Lord British always says that I can help myself in the Castle, so I’m sure he would have said the same here! I was stealing from the Oppression in a sense, really!

And I really needed money for a boat.

Of course the minute I got a boat, it felt like Pirate ships started popping everywhere but whatever…

Also I actually did made a single trip to the Underworld. I didn’t MEAN to do, but my boat err… kind got caught into a whirlpool. But it’s okay, I met Captain Johne and recruited it, so I know have my full party. Despise is also an easy dungeon, so getting back up really wasn’t that hard.

No of course I have lot of dungeoning left to to do. And a lot of Underworld to explore. But I figure I might as well start with Hythloth.

I mean these Mystics sounds nice.

(So what? There’s no law about being an Avatar who like having great armors and stuff!)

Britannic Journeys

And so here I am, journeying again in the lands of Britannia, looking for this missing monarch who had this stupid idea of getting lost in the Underworld! Geez!

First and foresmot though: the manual! One one got to say that the Book of Lore is one hell of a manual, it’s a fun read, it’s well written and is again a knowledgeable ressources of the world or Britannia. It’s alerady better written than Ultima IV’s and I’d say it’s pretty much reaching the top notch quality that will remain right up till the end of the series.

The introduction was fun to watch especially considering my knowledge of Lazarus which kept the exact same theme. I also love the “view” at the down of the menu screen which shows the introduction done in-engine! I created a character for fun just in order to do another Virtue Question thingy, but I actually transfered my character from Ultima IV. This is a feature I’ve always enjoyed a lot and which I’m glad is kind of getting back in game like in Mass Effect. It also makes things a bit easier, since I’m starting with a Level 5 Avatar, which is quite a lot!

Now the game, boy it’s such a blast to play! I have to admit doing a couple of little mods: first I inverted the Greyson’s Tale and Village Tarantella tunes in the music patch (not having Greyson’s music in the towns feels wrong to me :P) and I applied a patch remplacing the Britannian runes for English runes. Yeah I know it’s not very hardcore but eck, I like having proper alphabet!

I must say I really love the graphics of the game though, they have this dark feel which fit well with the tone of the game, better animation and also gets more realistic (no more of these silly walls with letter to say what kind of shop you are in, but real signs!)

I’ve actually considered playing the FM-Towns version of Ultima IV for a while partly because of this: it used the Ultima V tileset for Ultima IV… but somehow it felt too weird to have Ultima V graphics with Ultima IV.

I’ve gotta to say that the addition of night and day is also wonderful because it basically just adds a lot in terme of atmosphere compared to previouses games. Sure days and night pass pretty fast… but it’s still a wonderful feeling.

One thing I must say though, is how streamlined Ultima V feels compared to Ultima IV. It has more depth, better dialogues (or should I say dialogues that feels like real dialogues), but in fact it has much smaller towns than Ultima IV had, and way less NPCs. (For instance Trinsic has a ridiculous total of THREE non-merchant NPCs). I don’t exactly consider that a flaw, but it does make the game easier in a way as finding clues about what to do is much faster than in Ultima IV. I mean I have something like two or three hours of gamplay, but I already have three Words of Power, joined the Resistance, learned were to get the Magic Carpet, and learned all I need to have to find the Sandalwood Box. So it basically feels like things are going lightning fast. Which is good as Ultima IV could feel awfuly slow at times, but comes as an interesting contrast with Ultima IV and does show the very first step of the Ultima series toward a more adventurish approach.

Also: combat is at long last fun to play. I must say the combat and Ultima III and IV were somewhat of a bore due to how limiting it was in terme of possible attacks and weapons. With all its additions, Ultima V feels more fun and more tactical and probably remains amongst the best the series has to offer. I also like finding loot directly on the combat screen even if it’s a bit silly to have chest on giant rats!

So this is it for now but I gotta to say it: Ultima V is still as great as it was 20 years ago. So I’ll be sure to share more of my adventures!

Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny

Released in 1988, Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny was very much… well a breakthrough in the genre. (Yes this a word that is often associated with Ultima games). While not quite the revolution that Ultima IV was three years earlier, it brought many novelties to the genre and the series.

Starting notably with an actual plot.

While Ultima IV was revolutionnary game in many aspects, it had on the whole little of a plot, as the focus was more on the personal experience of the Eight Virtues rather than telling an actual story. Ultima V still maintain a strong focus on the Virtues, but with a more developped plot and backstory this time.

Taking place some unaccounted amount of years after Ultima IV, it tells the story of how following Lord British’s myterious dissapearence in the newly discovered underworld, the reagent Blackthorn fell under the corruption of the evil and mysterious Shadowlords and declared martial law, turning the Virtues into peverted laws (with the Avatar obviously tasked to setting things right). The world feels more real this time, notably as most of the NPCs are treated more seriously, with less real-world reference and characters such as Buddha or Shakespere. The main quality of the plot was probably its lack of manicheism in spit of having obvious “foozles”, and crafting one of the most subtle episodes of the series.

It marks also a first in term of consistency, as for the first time in the series the sequel takes place in the exact same world as its predecessor. Indeed, due to the dual map nature of the game, the overland map of Britannia is virtualy identical to Ultima IV down to the number of tiles used, with everything still at the same place. There are some differences and variations, but it’s the same world and it feels like it.

The gameplay mechanics are similar to Ultima IV as well but with a refined combat system allowing for attack in every directions and different range depending on the weapons used, and most importantly the appareance of a day & night cycle. This aspect is even more important because it brings NPC schedules to the world, with the game making full use of it by having some NPCs only available at a certain time.

On a personal level, Ultima V holds a very special place in my heart (which is also why I worked on Lazarus so many years ago). While I did know Ultima before it, it was the first Ultima game I began playing my myself instead of just watching my older brother play, with a Robert&Collin’s by my side to help me understand all the dialogues. It just was incredibly immersive at the time, and was clearly my most memorable gaming experience back then… the Atari ST version having all the musics was also a plus and helped to contribute to the atmosphere from the epic main theme to the haunting Greyson thune used for towns, whose first notes always gave me chills in the fear that a Shadowlord might be about. It litterally took me years before I finially got to the end of it, but it was well worth it.

For this playthrough, I’ve eventually decided to just settle on the PC version because it is the easiest to do and will also allow me to transfer my character from Ultima IV. I’m actually not fully pleased in a way, because while Voyager Dragon’s patch add the music the PC version was sorely lacking… it only adds them in the Apple II fashion, which was not quite the same as the Atari ST version (for instance the Atari ST version had “Dream of Lady Nan” used whenever camping which was very fitting, while the Apple II/PC version uses “Stones” for sleeping and the “Dream of Lady Nan” at Lighthouses). Voyager Dragon had planned an Atari ST variation of his mod, but it never happened alas 😦

In any case stay tuned for Ultima V, I am already eager to begin it!

Ultima V Cover