Runes of Virtue was another Ultima spin off series, this time developed for the gameboy. The gameplay has very little to do with Ultima although there are a few familiar people and locations. In the game a figure called the Black Knight has stolen the runes and hidden them in the dungeons. You travel between all the dungeons trying to get them all back. The gameplay is a combination of combat and puzzle with a lot of pushing boulders around (ala Boulderdash), flipping switches and the like. There are some minor RPG elements in that your stats improve as you collect runes so you will be able to take more damage, use more magic, etc. For magic, there isn’t spell casting but you can use certain objects as you collect them which will consume spell points. Combat is just click to fire in the direction you face and very simple.
I’ve never owned a gameboy although I do have a hacked PSP so I’ve dusted that off for the first time in months to play this on the excellent MasterBoy emulator. I thought I’d taken a load of screenshots on the way but now I come to try and get them off the psp there is nothing there and it looks as though there is some bug or other in the emulator. I’ll not be bothering with screenshots for this post therefore. Never having owned a gameboy I’ve nothing to compare this game against either. The ROM is just 128k – the original Apple 2 Ultima probably took up more room than that so its a bit unfair to compare ROV against the rest of the series.
There is a choice of characters at the start of the game – I went for Dupre as the strongest fighter. This just changes starting stats/equipment a bit. The game itself starts in Britania but not Britania as we know it. The realm is now 4 or 5 distant islands and bears little relation to the rest of the series. There are a couple of locations which you can walk into which are basically shops + LB’s castle. LB sends me off to the first dungeon just to the North. The dungeons are where I will be spending most of the rest of this game – the dungeons can get quite complex – you kill monsters, push boulders, flip switches and collect keys to try to travel between levels and find the rune. As an added complication some dungeons have alternate routes which lead to some artifact or other. For example at the start of the game you need a wand of fireballs to burn certain spider webs. This grants access to a boat that sails off to another island on the main map later in the game. In this way you have to complete some dungeons before you get access to others.
The same music plays in all the dungeons and it has to be the worst piece of music the fat man has ever composed. This is not a game to play with the sound on – the limited abilities of the gameboy don’t help here. The dungeons are surprisingly large and complex, especially the Stygian abyss at the end of the game. There is a good 5 or 6 hours of gameplay which is impressive out of such limited space.
Other than that I don’t have a lot to say about this. There isn’t any storyline, the gameplay never really varies. I didn’t get bored as the puzzles kept on coming, all in all this was probably a decent title for the gameboy. Its a light, fun puzzle game but nothing much more.
Next: Wing Commander 2