I finished off part 1 about to head for Cove which is a short hike to the East of Britain. The main quest here is to get Rudyom’s wand which assuming this all pans out how I expect I will be needing much later in the game. This is being kept safely in a dungeon for some reason offering my first chance for some serious dungeon delving.
Using my newly available illuminate spell, I can now see all the way to the edge of the screen in the games dungeons. The layouts are all grid based with square corners and are essentially mazes. There are keys to be found in some of these for specific doors and levers to be pressed so there are simple puzzle elements + lots of monsters of course and to be fair they are reasonably fun to play through.
Ultima 7 only allows for one save game and no saving whatsoever in the dungeons. Given that they are quite large, I’m glad that the combat is easy or restarting could soon become a chore. At the end of the dungeon is a large red dragon acting as a boss guarding the wand. You’ll have to imagine this as I didn’t fancy trying to grab a photo while being chomped by it. Once bested, the dragon drops a key which opens up a door which conveniently whisks me back to the surface. There is some variety but this turns out to be a typical layout for the many dungeons ahead. It’s best to heal up before taking the exit door as all the creatures guarding the dungeon entrance have respawned which nearly caught me out on this first dungeon.
I had a pair of delivery quests to complete from part 1, the state of both of which was apparently not stored in my save game as I had to go back to Britain and restart each of them. While delivering Batlin’s package in Minoc, I get my fortune told and receive what will ultimately be the main quest of Ultima 7 to find the Time Lord, with the help of the wisps and the emps. Batlin in the meanwhile sends me off to Destard to retrieve the contents of a chest.
Destard is a maze of identical square rooms and is by far my least favourite of all the dungeons. The chest I’m asked to find doesn’t actually contain anything and is surrounded by fireball shooting gargoyles on the walls. I also have to deal with another dragon in here but it’s finding the keys and the exit that take the time. I didn’t have to resort to drawing a map on any dungeons but it may have helped in this case.
Despite only finding an empty chest Batlin lets me join the Fellowship, so it’s time to follow up on the quest to find the Time Lord. Part 1 is befriending some Emps around Yew. On the way to Yew, I spot a sign for the honey cave which I know I’m going to have to brave so I head there first. The bees prove to be one of the more difficult opponents as they can fly through all the walls in the dungeon and are very nearly as fast as I am so I can’t simply run away. I learn later that I could have bought a smoke bomb from Empath Abbey (now just a house in Yew) but I manage to get in and out with some honey after a couple of practice runs. The rock on the second screenshot needed to be moved with a lifting spell to pass which isn’t really a puzzle as such but would bar characters below a given level.
After some time sweeping through the forest, I come across a group of 3 emps around a campfire. They talk about the pollution in the area but there doesn’t look to be anything in the game I can do to help. One of them swaps some honey for a magic lantern which will allow me to communicate with the wisps at night.
I locate a wisp are just North of the emps. It would be extremely difficult to spot if not for being given away by the change of music.
The wisp sends me to New Magincia in order to collect Alagnor’s notebook.
This means my first trip off the mainland. Back in part 1, I was offered a magic boat in Britain for 3000 gp which I can now afford so I go and take him up on the offer. I’m expecting this to show up on the dock outside the shop and am a little surprised when it’s not there. After a short while, I notice it’s actually sat sparkling away in my inventory, a magic boat indeed.
If I use this while standing on a dock, I’m given a map which I can select any of the docks on the map. I’m instantaneously teleported to wherever I choose.
In New Magincia, Alagnor doesn’t just hand over the notebook and instead wants me to go to Skara Brae to learn the secrets of life and death. Curiously he has a door to a dungeon called Sagatious in his basement, one of a number of dungeon names which are new to me. I’m suspicious the notebook will be in here (and will ultimately be proven right) but do things properly instead and head for Skara Brae.
In the real Ultima 7, Skara Brae was destroyed and home only to restless spirits. In this version I can’t quite make up my mind whether the residents are supposed to be alive or dead. All the houses are in good condition and the residents look normal for the most part but I can’t speak to them until Mordra casts “Shade Speak”. The blacksmith even has a line about the place being like a ghost town these days.
Skara Brae is under the control of an evil spirit of some description called Rudolfo who has entranced and stolen the blacksmith’s wife. To complete the quest here I have to carry a music box to her and return a ring to the blacksmith proving that they remember each other. He then hands me over a cage to trap Rudolfo whom I have to kill and then put his bones in the cage.
Like most combat in this port, the fight is simple enough as enemies tend not to move while being shot so it’s the usual button bashing to victory. This still doesn’t free the town but the alchemist gives me a substance of some description which I can use with the trapped bones to destroy Rudolfo once and for all. As my reward, the alchemist will now tell me there are no answers to life and death and I head back to Alagnor with the news:-
A further dungeon crawl later, I have Alagnor’s notebook which I take to the wisp who fixes my orb of the moons which I can in turn use to create a moongate straight to the Shrine Of Spirituality and the trapped Time Lord.
The guardian takes some offense to this. He has been popping up with monotonous regularity as the game has gone on but this does prove useful as a hint that I’m heading in the right direction.
The character art for the Time Lord looks more like an old sailor to me. Surely this can’t be the original art – I’d have to go back and check. At any rate, he wants me to go and talk to Penumbra in Moonglow. On arriving in Moonglow, I can’t help but notice a potion of awakening for sale in the shop which I take the chance to pick up as I’ll inevitably need it.
Sure enough Penumbra is in her usual deep sleep which the potion draws her out of. Despite sleeping through the last 200 years, she instantaneously knows what is going on with the 3 generators being used by the guardian to disrupt magic in Britannia among other things. This is where I come in starting with fetching her a blackrock talisman from the Vesper mine to counteract the tetrahedron generator.
The mine has a handful of walls such as shown above which can only be cleared by using a powder keg (conveniently available in the same dungeon).
Another maze negotiated, I retrieve the necklace, hand it over and now have to go and fetch an ethereal ring from Draxinusom in Terfin. He has of course left it in a dungeon (I’m noticing a running theme here) so it’s off to Spektran to get it.
Getting out again is less easy as I’m faced with this giant red monstrosity which is impervious to arrows. After some trial and error I discover that a serpentine sword I’m carrying does damage it and with an invincibility potion from the same dungeon I manage to take it down. With the ring in hand, I can now deal with the first generator.
I find the generator after one more dungeon excursion. It’s a whole lot smaller than I was expecting and I just have to pick up the smaller tetrahedron on the pedestal to the right to destroy it. I can’t find my way out of the dungeon at this point and end up resorting to the Kal Lor spell to zap me straight to Lord British. I discover that this drops me down a level and to the minimum experience level for that so I lose 45000 of my 60000 experience in one swoop. This probably should have put me off using it again but I used it once or twice more during this session to speed things along. I don’t think this will cause a problem and if I really need to I’ll grind some experience later.
One generator down and it’s back to the Time Lord who sends me off to Despise for #2, after I fetch an hourglass from yet another dungeon.
The spherical generator soon does the same way as its tetrahedral brother. The next goal in part 3 will be to manufacture a caddellite helmet and take down the final cube generator.
Progress through this game has been coming a lot faster than I expected and it’s safe to say that I’ll be finishing it next time I sit down to carry on. The majority of my time has been spent in the various dungeons all of which have been passably entertaining if unspectacular. Some have been quite large but the puzzle aspects are kept to a minimum on the whole with a handful of keys or levers occasionally dotted about to slow the player down. This is never a difficult game by any means but there is at least enough challenge to keep it interesting.
The real strengths in the real Ultima 7 were the virtual world both in terms of the dialog and the interactivity. The dialog here is so cut down that it barely even gets the plot across. I can’t claim to be overfamiliar with Ultima 7 and this is so far removed from it that my memory is barely being jogged so I’m not the person for a detailed comparison. I can say that with so little text, the NPC’s have no personality and the game degenerates into a series of dungeon fetch quests. It’s a horrible waste of the source material. Plenty of other RPG’s on the SNES were so much deeper than this.
As for the world interactivity, it’s reduced down to a handful of useless items that can be picked up, carried around and then dropped again when you need the space for something relevant. The open world is still there I suppose so it does get credit for that and I have stumbled across the occasional treasure chest in the wilderness but for the most part the world is compressed down so much that there is nothing of interest to discover. I’m not seeing any particular incentive to explore when I can crack on with the quest instead.
As a final word I have to quickly mention George Oldziey’s Wing Commander Music Kickstarter. This is an attempt to raise enough money to record sections of the Wing Commander 3 + 4 soundtracks with a full orchestra. How many sections depends on how much money with 15 minutes if the project is exactly funded and considerably more with stretch goals (full details in the updates section). I’ve always loved the soundtracks in both those games and backed this myself without needing to think about it. As it stands, I have a feeling it will be a hard sell for all but the more enthusiastic WC fans but it’s not a huge amount of cash so it must have a chance of getting funded. It would get a whole lot more appealing if stretch goals come into the picture. I’d love to see this happen – if you liked the music in those games anything like as much as I did please consider contributing.