Unless you count Mount Drash, this game was the first spinoff from the Ultima Series. It was intended initially to be a series of games but in the end there was just this and Martian Dreams. The premise isn’t that different to what Origin had been doing for years with the likes of 2400AD. They had a state of the art engine which had been used for Ultima 6 and used it to make a few more games. This time they tied it into the Ultima series which was possibly a mistake as the sales weren’t great.
The Origin FX engine has been bolted onto the start to do the introduction complete with orchestra fly-by.
There is a quite nice title page with parallax scrolling landscape but no introduction as such.
The introduction is only told in some very brief descriptions + still pictures.
The premise of the series is basically that using the orb of the moons you got from Ultima 6 you can go anywhere in time and space giving Origin complete freedom to send the Avatar anywhere. The intro shown here is described in the manual in much greater detail and in the Avatars own words. Unless I’ve missed one, this is the first time the Avatar actually speaks more than name, job etc… Its not a bad read but doesn’t seem true to Ultima in many ways shice the Avatar is supposed to be you and not just a character in the game that you control.
The plot in a nutshell is that you, a reporter (Jimmy Malone) + your scientist buddy (Rafkin) have been transported by your moonstone to a hidden valley somewhere in present day earth. This valley seems to be populated by dinosaurs as well as various ancient tribes.
The character creation uses a variation on the standard virtue questions. There are only 3 questions here rather than either the 8 in the Ultima series.
I wake up in the witch doctors hut and get asked the obligatory copy protection question before I can start the actual game. No doubt I’ll see a few more of these before the end.
An oddity about the series is that some of the core characters from Britannia are around to join your party. Right at the start is a Iolo lookalike Triolo who joins straight up. He supposedly half remembers me as do all the other Britannian characters I will ever meet but there is no real explanation as to how he got here.
Triolo is my magic caster in the party. The magic system is greatly simplified to Ultima 6 again. There are only 9 spells in total and they are cast by using one of 3 types of plant on one of three totems. Its a simple enough system – it kind of combines effects from Ultima spells. I.e. cure spell cures all your party of poision and heals at the same time.
I start off the game in a small native village and ask around for information. All my party has been scattered across the valley so one of the first jobs will be to retrieve them. Aiela was carried off by Darden of the Urali tribe who are apparently hidden. The ex-shamen Topuru knows where to find them and lives on an island in the North – I will have to find him later. Unlike Ultima 6 most of the village natives have exactly the same conversation trees with a few standout characters (often just the shaman and leader).
Rafkin is in the next village along. He is acting as a sort of shaman – all I have to do is ask him to join and thats it.
The engine itself is very similar to Ultima 6. Things have been rearranged a little bit – e.g. the moon/sun is shown above the main window now. This is a good idea since you couldn’t see it half the time before. The tileset is more or less entirely new also. The jungle graphics don’t look bad at all – possibly a minor improvement and certainly a change.
Rafkin advises we find Jimmy and Aiela next. I head out for the tribe that Jimmy is rumored to be with.
On the way, I I come across the Tichticatl “village”. They are far more advanced than the rest of the tribes and have a huge stone structure in the middle of the jungle.
Jimmy is staying with the oddest of the tribes (the disquiqui). They are permanently drunk and holding him hostage so he can marry the chief’s daughter. They aren’t too worried when I let him go however.
I head back again to try to find Aiela next, and decide to raid the stone city on the way for goodies. This is something that is very different to standard Ultima’s. There is no punishment for taking anything you see lying around and seems to be the only way to play the game. I find something of an armoury and take all the weapons from under the guards noses with no consequences.
Topuru is somewhere near the Barako tribe. They like in a seperate mesa across a huge canyon. Someone has fortunately built a bridge.
I run into another familar face – this time calling himself Dokray.
He talks about uniting the tribes. I make it a point to ask every chief about this from now on.
I’ll need a boat to get out to this island to talk to Topuru. There are rafts in the river but apparently I will need four paddles first which means trekking all the way back down to the Disquiqui.
The chief also tells me about a stranger living in a cave – if I get these paddles I’ll check that out as well.
There is quite a bit of combat in this game wandering around the valley’s (probably more than Ultima 6). My companions are all pretty handy so its usually over quickly and not too hard. You start this game at level 6, Triolo is Level 7, etc.. There isn’t much room for improvement except for Jimmy who is Level 2.
While I’m here I ask about uniting the tribes and the chief agrees just like that. I’m sure it will get harder.
One of the main enemies in the game are a warlike ant race called the Mymidex who seem to be universal enemies for everyone. They are fairly tough to kill and always attack in swarms – I’m doing my best to just avoid them for now.
Back with the Kurak – they say they will unite if I rescue Aiela.
The Yolaru want me to fetch them 10 obsidian swords – I’ve already pinched a few so that shouldn’t be too hard.
I go to fetch my paddles first however from the disquiqui – I just steal them from one of the huts. This really isn’t very avatarlike. To unite the tribe the chief wants me to put a cow bell on a T-Rex so they can hear it coming.
This is easier than it sounds. I create a spear of shamap using the skin off some Plactha (native alcoholic drink), stick it on a spear and jab the T-Rex with it.
It falls asleep, I put the bell on and run away very quickly.
Thats 2 tribes down but plenty more to go at.
I go searching round the stone city next for my 10 swords and run into Warren Spectors alter ego Johann Spector.
He was brought here by an accident with some moonstones discovered in an archaeological dig. Aside from taking an unpronouncable native name he seems to be losing his marble and has world domination plans. Apparently the ants were mutated by some sort of giant moonstone – he wants to control them to enslave the world and force his leadership. I’m prevented from doing anything about this by the glow which is some sort of forcefield he discovered in an underground city. More of that later I’m sure.
For now this brings the aim of the game together – I need some sort of moonstone presumably to get out of here. The Myrmidex have one but I can’t take them on unless I unite the tribes first.
The next time I sleep – Jimmy has a dream. This is the games way of advancing levels – you choose an animal to follow and it raises the stat related to that animal.
I run into a friend of Aiela’s who gives me a bit more backstory. Aparently the tribes have been united once before by Oloro who also was an outsider with no tribe. He called them when needed by a huge drum.
I cough up the swords and the Yolaru join the union.
And its back up to the Pindiro tribe. I arm four of my party with paddles and sail off on a raft.
I find the cave to the North as described and its occupant Fritz.
He was a colleague of Spector who got brought here at the same time. He gives me some more backstory about Spector losing his mind and also gives me a crystal brain but he doesn’t know what it is or why its called a brain. I’m sure I’ll need it at some point anyway.
Another of my old companions turns up – I can’t get him to join as my party is too big. There are only 5 in it – I expect the max is 6 and is reserved for Aiela if I ever find her.
The Barako cheifs daughter was kidnapped by a gorilla who for no obvious reason is holding her on an inaccessible ledge somewhere. They will unite if I rescue her but I can’t seem to get to the ledge yet so I leave this for now.
Instead, I go in search of the laboratory. The moonstone was so large that brought us here that it brought the room as well. There are all sorts of useful one off items here such as a fire axe, a rifle, a fire extinguisher. I take at least one of everything on the assumption I will need it. I also get one of the ingredients for gunpowder which I’ll try making later.
I find Topuru and he turns out to be missing a few marbles.
Apparently if I get his mind back (which a rival shaman put in a stone) he will help me find the Urali. This means a trek all the way back to the far end of the map – again.
Right by his island is about the biggest monster yet in an Ultima – its not agressive and I don’t provoke it.
On the long walk back I discover drum hill. The drummer hanging around up there builds me a giant drum in exchange for the skin he needed. Now I just need to unite the tribes then.
I find a teleport pad on the way. It takes me to a sort of central hub, with pads leading out to all the others. This could prove a bit of a timesaver when I figure out where they all are.
The Barrab tribe have Topuru’s mind. While I’m in the region, I ask about uniting the tribes. This time the chiefs son needs the root on some giant flower they can’t get to to heal him.
I find a likely looking crossing point but there is a gap.
The fire-axe comes in handy here and the tree makes a perfect bridge.
The flower turns out to be quite dangerous and we have to hack it to bits to get the root.
I take the bulb back and the Barrab are signed up.
Apparently Topuro was just tricked about losing his mind. All I need is any old bit of blue rock which I can get from the Sakkhra tribe who aren’t too far away.
Sure enough there are giant blue rocks all over the place. I hit one with a hammer as instructed and get a small blue rock.
The Sakkhra are a lizard tribe in theory developed from dinosaurs rather than monkeys. They will join the union still if I kill another T-Rex. I leave this one for now and warp back to Topuro.
Its a lot quicker using the teleport and I get back in no time. He accepts the blue stone and gives me very vague instructions to find the Urali.
I have another go at finding this silverback. I don’t get anywhere but I do find this cave that I can’t quite get into with a suspicious looking boulder at the top. The boulder is unshiftable but I do have instructions from Rafkin about how to build gunpowder grenades. If I get the ingredients together, I’ll come back later. I might try one of them on that T-Rex I’m supposed to kill also.
I’m pretty impressed with this game so far. It’s a lot more accessible than the Ultima series and requires no real knowledge of those games. Its not as in depth but is easier to play because of it. Unless I’m missing something its also a lot smaller. There’s only one bit of the map, I haven’t explored yet, I seem to be getting tribes to join up very quickly and I can see the solutions for all the ones I haven’t done yet once I get this gunpowder.