I think today was the day when I finally got into this game. There was no specific reason for this, it just takes me a while with each new Ultima for some reason. It’s why I never got round to playing them all.
I headed off looking for the 2 reagents. I’ve been given quite clear instructions on where to look. I start out looking around the east road map for executioners hood. I find a couple of mirror images of myself shuffling at me like something out of an asian horror movie.
These turn out to be changlings. When I hit them I usually knock them down and they transform into their true shape. They are a lot less dangerous in this form.
In the NE of the area I find what I’m looking for in a small pit full of these changlings. I’ve not talked about the new combat system yet. There isnt a lot to say. As far as I can tell it involves clicking on the enemy as fast as possible. I’d swear that I’m far more likely to hit in some directions than others and that I strike faster when I’m aiming directly up or down. Hitting the enemy sends them reeling back, giving me a chance to strike again and stop them hitting me.
Because of this system, once I’ve got a hit in I tend not to take any more damage. The dangerous stage is at the start. I’m not very impressed with the combat – it’s a bit arcadey but without introducing a skill element. I prefer the system used in every Ultima game so far except for Ultima 5 and even that had a better system with the problem stemming from combat being too slow/frequent.
There doesn’t seem to be any levelling up that I’ve noticed. Some of my stats have improved through combat by the end of this days session but I’ve no visible measure of experience points or anything like that. It appears that my stats will just slowly increase throught the game through combat without me having to train or level up.
The other reagent I need is outside a burned out house in west Tenebrae. There is a ghost guarding this and I don’t attempt to take that on at this point but just grab the sticks and scarper.
I take my reagents back and I’m now an apprentice. I’m given a key which I can use to cast spells and given my next task which is to learn spells from the long dead necromancers who invented them.
I’m told to gather the reagents in the library and read the books to learn my first few spells. I then need to go to a building north of the cemetery and use one of my new spells to open up the wall and enter the catacombs.
I follow these instructions to the letter. I have to avoid another ghost but make it through to the wall.
The new spellcasting system is a bit strange. I have to place the appropriate reagents in a bag, close it and then use a caretakers key on the bag. When I reopen the bag there is a little icon representing the spell. Using this casts the spell and the icon then disappears. This system is a bit unwieldy but I guess it might not be the same one used for all the different types of magic. I mean if I get offensive fireball spells and the like I don’t want to have to put reagents into a bag one at a time like this in the middle of combat. I suppose I could prepare them in advance. I’m not certain right now if I can double the reagents and get double the spell icons.
Something else I’ve not mentioned yet is the new inventory system. It’s very much the same as Serpent Isles actually with wearable items appearing on my avatar and everything else going into my backpack. Its been simplified from U7 with fewer slots available.The new backpack is small and finding things is a pain in the neck. Things stay where you put them which is good but why did Origin make the thing so small. Why not have a backpack that fills the screen?
My spell works and opens up the wall allowing me access into the catacombs.
The catacombs are huge and full of skeletons which I attempt to ignore. I’m just about strong enough to beat them but they reanimate after you kill them so it doesn’t get me anywhere. I find a lever which flips my screen upside down – I’ve not seen this trick since Prince of Persia – even my mouse movements are reversed. I end up reloading when I’m bashed to death by a skeleton that catches me up after I spend too long trying to reverse the lever.
Further in the level, by grabbing hold of a ledge, just before the floor collapses from under me I get to a chest containing my first bit of armour in the game (magic leggings). I then head for the hole in the floor and drop down a level.
This level is quite dangerous with collapsing ceilings and traps of varying sorts. I manage to make it through to my first necromancer and cast death speak on him. The reason I’m here is to attempt to learn spells from the necromancers who created them – its an initiation test of sorts before I can become a true necromancer. He gives me a spell which allows me to pretend to be dead. I will need this to reach the next necromancer – he also mentions that some stalactites which were blocking my way before will now be gone.
I find the area with the ex-stalactites. On the far side its guarded by 3 big red things. I’m no doubt supposed to use my new spell here but that would be far too much hassle and I just run round them. My attempt here to capture a screenshot of them didn’t go all that well and I just about got a couple of feet in the picture.
The next necromancer gives me a stone flesh spell.
This time I do need the new spell as I run down a corridor with lightning everywhere.
Thats where I stopped for today – I’ll carry on seeking out necromancers next.
I’m enjoying the game now but it isn’t feeling like an Ultima. To some extent Serpent Isle didn’t either – this has carried on moving in the same direction and got a bit further away from the roots of the series. I hear the guardians voice piping in more than any other game (usually with the same few phrases) but this seems a bit forced as if Origin knew that this game didn’t have a strong link to the rest of the series. I don’t think its the story so much – Martian Dreams was every inch an Ultima in a strange setting with no real ties to Britannia. It’s something to do with the nature of the gameplay. Ultima’s were very much games of exploration and discovery with quests there in the background to push you along. The quests seem to have taken over more and more as the series has gone on.