So while I wait for the Shadowcaster CD to arrive, I changed my next game to Ultima Underworld 2 instead. I have played this before but it was a long long time back and I’d not played any of the main Ultima series to compare it to.
The intro is reasonable – the artwork is nice but its otherwise fairly unexciting and certainly not as much fun as the UW1 intro was. There is no speech in the intro at all. The plot is that during a celebration to mark the year since the defeat of the guardian, Castle Britannia has been trapped inside a giant blackrock gem.
The character creation is the same as in UW1 but on starting the game a few differences are immediately obvious. First off the view window is quite a lot bigger but more significantly this is a completely different sort of location to anything in UW1. I’m in Castle Britannia with beds, log fires, etc.. Its a change from the 8 levels of dungeon in the last game.
I gather my equipment and head for the throne room. This uses a new set of textures again – the environment in this game is clearly going to be a lot more varied.
The castle is also full of people from the main Ultima series which always helps to give a game a bit of depth for the verterans who have played all the rest of the games.
Lord British sums up the situation. Something else to note here is the character portraits are much larger than any previous game to date.
The guardian puts in an appearance at this point. I’m used to hearing all his words with full speech after Ultima 7 but its just text in this game. There are new digital sound effects on the plus side so I get creaking doors and the like.
I walk around the castle talking to everyone. There are plenty of familiar faces around – in fact I don’t think any of the characters are new to the series. I can ask what they have been up to for the last year since U7 and the dialog is up to the standards of the main series, although I admittedly have fewer conversation options. Nelson hints that there should be a smaller blackrock gem somewhere in the castle in the same manner as the generators in U7.
Iolo and Dupre are in the castle (although I’m on my own this time). Iolo tells me that the sewers have become infested with monsters.
The layout of the castle is very similar to that in Ultima 7. The secret passages all around the edges are still there as well. I find a secret door in my room leading to a rune bag.
My first monster is just outside although its not hostile. The graphics for the monsters and people are a lot more detailed in this game. Some of them in UW were really low res and this is a big improvement.
Dupre gives me the key to the sewers. Going down there looking for a blackrock gem looks like my first quest but I’ll go around and talk to everyone else first.
Nanna seems to upset about being ordered around by LB. I’ll hear more about this later.
Nystul is on much better form this game now the generators are destroyed. He gives me all sort of information about the spell being so large it may effet other realities and seems quite confident he could undo it if we could get the spellbook it was cast from. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that.
After I’ve talked to everyone, its time to head for the sewers. As soon as I climb off the ladder I’m attacked by some rotworms and a bat. They aren’t too hard to beat.
Just round the corner I bump into a thief who has come through the passage from Buccaneers Den (I don’t remember this still existing in Ultima 7?) to rob the castle. He gives me my pocketwatch and I persuade him to turn himself in.
I explore the sewer a bit more. Its more familiar UW territory although there are moving platforms and a few other things I’ve not seen before. There are blatantly some areas I’m not tough enough for yet. And the two gazers above make mincemeat of me.
Avoiding the difficult areas I make my way down a few levels and find the gem. Its a bit too big to stuff in my backpack Ultima 7 style. It has 8 facets one of which is lit. I walk into that facet and find myself teleported into some sort of basement.
I appear to be in some sort of tower filled with goblin guards. I bluff my way past them with a delivery note I find.
Apart from having to put up with a little verbal abuse from some of the guards, I’m not learning much here until I find a human working as a slave in the kitchens. It seems I’m in one of those alternate worlds Nystul was talking about. In this world the goblins have enslaved humans with the help of the guardian. There is some sort of resistance leader called Bishop on the top floor who I will need to try to rescue.
I get a pair of Franzium coated gauntlets from a goblin smith for coming up with a way to make them for him (coating iron gauntlets). I’m sure these will be useful later.
On the fifth floor I meet the captain of the tower. He immediately assumes I’m some interrogator he has been waiting for. Contradicting him with all these goblins around doesn’t seem like a good idea so I play along and he sends me up to see bishop on the top floor. He gives me some more gauntlets which I need to get into his cell + the password (meander).
Bishops cell is behind this forcefield which is where the gloves come in.
Bishop has actually heard of me although I’ve no idea how. He is kind of my equivalent on this world it would seem.
He gives me a clue to a potential ally in another world who also opposes the guardian.
He also tells me about a small blackrock jewel appearing in his cell, but the captain of the guard has it now. This sounds useful so I’ll have to try to talk the captain out of it. I give Bishop my spare pair of gauntlets so he can escape.
The captain hands the gem straight over.
He’s less happy when I tell him that I couldn’t get anything out of Bishop and decides to attack me on the spot. The goblin guard outside joins in the fight but I just about manage to beat them. One of them drops a keyring which is a useful way of keeping all my keys organised. I could have done with that in U7.
There is a locked prison cell just outside. One of the keys opens it up and I talk to the troll inside.
I tell him hes free to go and he immediately takes out every single goblin in the tower on his own.
There was a locked cell on the top floor, so I go back up to see whats in there now I have some keys. He doesn’t have much to say other than something about being discovered by giant cat. There isn’t much else to do here other than raiding the armory so I make my way back to Britannia.
When I go back up to the castle Miranda immediately takes notes of what I’ve been up to so she can pass news onto everyone else and also points me in the direction of a few characters with things to tell me. This is a pattern for the game which will repeat throughout as I remember. After certain key events (usually beating a world or the like), everyone in the castle has new things to say. Its a nice touch to see people actually taking note of what I’m doing in this game. There was a bit of that in Ultima 7 but in all the others its always been the case that no one reacts to anything you do.
Nanna is something of a trade unionist and wants me to talk to LB about abolishing the class structure in Britannia. This doesn’t seem like the most appropriate time as no one will ever get the decree unless we do something about this gem but I agree to speak to LB about it. He tells me he needs time to think it over.
I give my blackrock gem to Nystul and he magically warms it and says I should take it to the larger gem and see what happens.
As soon as I do this the ground shakes and one facet of the gem lights up. Another couple of facets start lighting up alternately as well.
Stepping into one of these facets teleports me to another world. This is very different to anything I’ve seen before – its an icy cave world.
There are a new set of monsters although most of them are monsters I’ve already seen with a different colour pallette. I.e. this yeti here looks remarkably similar to the troll I saw in the last world. These guys throw snowballs however which are seriously painful.
It really does feel quite different an environment to the usual dungeons although it could be said that the graphics show their age more because of it. The ice breaks sometimes can I have to swim out – other areas of sheet ice are slippy and I bounce around like a pinball if I try to move too fast (not all that realistic unless avatars are made out of rubber).
One of the yetis get me and I die. This time instead of being dead I awake by the gem. The edges of the lake around the gem have frozen – I’m unsure what this means. Are the worlds seeping into Britannia?
I head back to the ice world and find a human inside a cave. He’s under the impression that this world is not real but his description of the real world sounds even less likely. He does tell me that the yetis are more hostile than usual as they are probably fighting over some sort of bauble. This has to be another gem.
Sure enough I find the gem near a river. There is still a lot of the level to explore so I keep looking around.
I find an ice golem guarding a door to some dam controls for the city of Anodunos. I’ve not seen any signs of a city around here but this sounds interesting. He doesn’t even give me a chance to leave but attacks straight away. I manage to kill him off and he drops the key to the door he was guarding.
Behind it is a pillar with 4 different types of switches on it + a garbled note with instructions.
With a bit of trial and error I manage to work out a combination of the switches that opens up a maze to let me get first a key then a locked door that the key opens with the dam control behind it. I pull the dam control chain but die again at this point and decide to head back up to the castle for some training before I do anything else.
LB tells me he has agreed to Nanna’s demands.
Nanna tells me that the guardian has being trying to influence her but she wisely doesn’t trust him.
I head back for the gem and this time end up in another world – Killorn Keep. This is a flying castle of some description (I only have other peoples word that its flying). It appears amazingly similar to Castle Britannia in many ways and some of the characters are even close to those in Britannia, especially the aging king.
This world has been fully conquered by the guardian and its not a good idea to go around declaring that I’m the avatar. Most people seem friendly enough if a little untrustworthy in some cases. The merchants in the main hall are especially rude and don’t seem to have anything of worth to sell for that matter. I do find a woman in the dining hall who has some dragon skin boots for sale. I know I will need these but despite offering a small fortune she is not interested in trading. I will have to find something specific she wants it seems.
An old servant wants me to find the standard of the keep which was lost during a battle. I’ll keep an eye out for this but its clearly not going to be in this castle.
Lord Thibris reminises about his days as a soldier serving the guardian. He also mentions the banner which is apparently lost in the tomb of Praceor Loth.
I find a mage and remembering Bishops clue mention his name to her.
She tells me that a servent of the guardian will be spying on us somewhere in Britannia and gives me a dagger which will a) open the entrance to his hiding place and b) allow me to kill him.
She tells me he will be hiding near lava and water. I hadn’t seem any lava in the castle but once I explore some new areas I soon find it. The listener dies easily.
While I’m exploring new areas I also run into a reaper who nearly kills me off but I prevail. The thief at the entrance to the sewers mentioned losing the key to the armory when fighting a reaper and I find a key hidden in a recess behind the dead reaper. There isn’t too much I need in the armoury but I grab a broadsword.
When I get back up to the main level I discover that Lady Tory has been murdered! No one knows who did it and many of the people don’t believe it could be a traitor but since she was stabbed it obviously wasn’t done by a monster from the sewers. Some people blame Feridwyn but he doesn’t seem like too obvious a suspect. Patterson had been behaving a bit strangely and would be the more likely suspect but with no proof there is nothing I can do for now so I head back to the keep.
I go and tell Altara I have killed the listener. She now wants me to fetch her a spiders egg + an amethyst rod. I’ve seen spiders eggs in the sewers. I definitely haven’t seen an amethyst rod anywhere though. These she can use to make some sort of weapon but I’ve no idea what it will do.
Taking the hint from the goblin prisoner, I talk to some of the cats wandering around the keep. They are kept as some sort of beasts of burden/hunting but are actually telepathic. They tell me something about a myth about them flying and throwing fireballs in the past and want me to get some information about this.
I’m starting to remember UW2 a bit more now so I have a reasonable idea of whats coming but I don’t remember much of the detail. It feels a little disjointed compared to the last game if I’m honest with the swapping between worlds but the scale of the game is impressive. I don’t much care for the soundtrack, its the worst music of any ultima to date (except ROV). None of it is awful but its all a little dull and frankly depressing. This is a real issue with a game this large as you hear the music over and over – I may give in on it yet and just put some mp3’s on instead. Its quite a downbeat game in general as it is and the worlds I’ve visited so far are not exactly cheery places.