Day 143

I head back down from Stratos and get congratulated by Stellos. He gives me a hint on how to get the breath of wind from Stratos which is strangely helpful but I’m leaving this until the end.

Instead, its time to find titan #3. I’m using a walkthrough map again to find the correct location in the catacombs. My Scion key opens the door as usual.

Theres a recall pad in here near the entrance.

Hydros is the easiest titan of the lot to find. I just walk around and over a bridge and thats it. She has been trapped here and wants me to help release her by opening the ground of the grave of her captor.

I have to go through another dungeonesque area – full of trolls and the like. Its nothing too difficult.

I soon find the grave and cast open ground.

The ground splits and a waterfall is created.

I recall back to Hydros and she is a lot less pleasant this time around. Lightning is flashing and the place is looking a bit misty. She spares my life for freeing her but goes off to cause trouble.

I return to Tenebrae. Devon has lost his powers now the titan is no longer under control. Its misty and throwing out lightning here also and he is worried about floods. Being a generous sort he doesn’t blame me and even thinks it might be for the good in the long run.

Having said there was no weather in the game yesterday, I see the locations go misty all the time now. There isn’t any rain to be seen as such so I guess Origin never got around to it. The mist is a minor irritation as its harder to see what I’m doing.

I go for the final fire titan next. The entrance is just to the east of the last one. A little lever on the wall opens up a secret door to let me in.

When I get here, I see a man teleporting around on the far side of some lava. To reach where he is I have to use the final air spell I got from Stratos to perform a giant leap.

A bit more lava jumping and I reach the settlement of the sorcerers.

The first sorcerer I meet gives me a new name and then tries to enlist my help in a conspiracy to dethrone the current first adept by discovering his true name. In order to do this she has to give me her first name to take me on as a student.

When I meet the guy who’s name I’m supposed to find out, he wants me to do exactly the same to Bane. I seem to have to make a choice between the two of them with no information to go on at all. Since I’m already here I choose to help this guy and give away Banes real name.

He immediately summons a demon and sends it round to kill her. I feel kind of guilty now.

All the fuss attracks the attention of the head sorcerer. He is now an adept short which is apparently where I come in and I get to learn sorcery. Guilt cured.

I’m sent to the library to learn spells. The magic system here involves using pentagrams with various colors of candles and reagents placed near these candles + an item in the middle to bind the spells into. In this way I can create my own magic wands and the like charged with a given number of casts of a certain spell.

There is a whole new set of reagents for this magic all based on volcano rock. This is fire magic after all.

I do of course have to pass some tests before I can become a sorcerer. This time they are a bit more relevant than having to stand on a tall rock while a god attempts to blow me off. I have to prove myself by casting 3 of the spells.

Up to this point, I’ve been quite enjoying the last couple of days of Ultima 8. This spellcasting process reversed things in no time. The game is so exacting about placing reagents in exactly the right spot it is unbelievably frustrating. This is added to by the object picking up and moving being so ludcrously difficult. E.g I try to drop my reagent just behind a candle but decide to throw it halfway across the room instead. I then can’t reach it to move it so have to walk over but I’m too near or too far away so have to shuffle backwards and forwards a dozen times until I can actually move it. I think I’ve got it in the right place, try to cast the spell but it still doesn’t work so I try to move it closer only to throw it again…

You get the idea at any rate – I have to repeat this process for around 10 spells eventually and it is not fun.

I manage to get the 3 to complete the test done after a while and get sent off into the obsidian fortress to the west to be tested.

The illustrious leader shows up and immediately sets two demons on me – he does at least hope that I survive which makes me feel better about it. I could stick around and fight but don’t.

There is a non-hostile demon in the next room who seems friendly until he offers me reagents and another pentagram to prepare more spells. He would obviously like to see me suffer.

I think it’s the demon who was trapped in my sword in Forge of Virtue – he has the right name but doesn’t appear to recognise me.

Past the demon is another area – this is a central hub surrounded by four tests where I need a different spell prepared to pass.

Each test tells me what spell I need which makes them easy enough when I’ve prepared. My flame armour spell stops the endless fireballs in this area from hurting me.

I find a magic shield near the end which does the same job for the trip back.

There is also a symbol which I grab then head for the next test.

This one is a test of my flash spell. This doesn’t do what may spring to mind but does in fact teleport me a short distance.

I use the spell to get past rolling balls and the like and pick up another symbol.

Next its endure heat and I can use the spell to walk across the darker bits of lava.

Theres another symbol in a chest at the end.

Finally I need the entinguish spell to put out all the flames around this pentagram.

I return to Arcadion who sends me back through the teleport to see the master.

The master has yet more tests and wants me to cast a few more spells. I prefered the demons. He will have to pay for this sooner or later…

Before I get to the spells I find a very interesting book among the reagents with details of how the titans used part of an blackrock pillar to gain their powers – the same pillar which I own a piece of. I will be wanting to grab all these items for myself it seems to remake the pillar.

I cast my spells – after the last one he sets another daemon on me which I have to banish. This guy is really asking for it.

For now, I’m summoned along with some other acolytes to call the titan. I don’t have a candle which I need or the ignite spell prepared making me feel a bit of a fool during the summoning.

I’m helped out, and we summon the titan.

The master wants to know about the fire in the sky (aka the sun) for some reason. I notice this was more or less the translation of the name I was given. The titan can’t help so he asks for some power instead.

The titan obliges but isn’t too happy about being held and attempts to break free.

He kills one of the others and knocks me down but using the tongue of flame, the master banishes him again. Now I know where the item I want is.

I head straight back for the masters lair to get the tongue. He doesn’t like being disturbed and attacks.

He falls to a few hacks of a sword. This is what he gets for making me perform sorcery.

I find a book on him about the tongue of flame – as well as the tongue itself. I’m not supposed to take it into the great pentagram apparently.

I now need to get the other 3 bits of the blackrock obelisk. First off I head for the earth one which is somewhere in the pits of the dead. I have to get through a locked door first and the key is way off to the north.

I get the key eventually and return to open the door.

There is a likely spot of earth + a tombstone just incase it wasn’t obvious.

I cast open ground and the heart of earth appears.

Next its the breath of air. I feel a bit more guilty about this one as the air titan seems doesn’t really deserve me pinching her power. I cast reveal and the item pops into existence. I then use my aerial servent spell to fetch it for me.

I ask Devon about the final piece. He doesn’t seem too sure but he thinks he might have found it and put it in a chest in his study. While I’m here he also gives me Salkinds old house.

The tear is exactly where Devon told me along with his stash of money which I pinch.

I was stuck for quite a while at this point. To pass the time I decided to take my tongue of flame to the great pentagram to see what happened. As the titan is released he rains fire down on all the world – this appears to be neccessary to proceed but I’m not certain on this one.

Either way, when I return to Mythran there is now a new topic of conversation and I get to ask about remaking the obelisk. To this end he sells me a new spell (Ethereal travel) which sends me to the etherial void once more.

This place is looking a bit different to the last time I was here. He did warn me about the titans intercepting me on the way. There is another central hub with four paths going off it.

I head down one and end up in a lava filled map. I find this strange looking symbol on the ground but it won’t do anything.

A lot more wandering and I end up right at the NE of the realm. This area is full of collapsing floors and little holes in the ground that spit fire.

I manage to get to a shrine and since the guardian asks me not to go near it, I know I really should. The chest is full of little balls which I take.

Using these balls on the points of the symbol pops up stepping stones.

I jump over these and find Pyros. He sets more demons on me but I just use the tongue immediately on him and both he and the demons die.

This is a pattern that I will be repeating. Next up is what I think at first is the water realm where I have to jump across a load of irrating columns. My avatar insists on jumping too far or not far enough half the time. Thank god for the quicksave button.

I use my breath of wind item on Stratos and defeat the air titan as well.

Next its water.

This is more jumping on platforms…

Hydros is at the far end and sets her other tentacle on me but I just use the tear to defeat her.

Next its the earth realm. This is just a lengthy cave area. There is some sort of invisible walkway on this bit but its a lot easier to cast endure heat and walk round the lava.

The hardest thing in this realm is attempting to climb this ledge which takes me about 5 minutes of frustrating clicking.

The final titan is here and sets golems on me but not in time to stop me using my final item.

I take these items back to the void and lay them out as instructed by the book I got from Mythran. My tip isn’t glowing yet…

Double clicking on this, I get a message that I feel powerful – I wonder what that actually did and if I could have used it earlier?

Now I just have to arrange the items correctly. They glow red when I get them in the right place so this isn’t a problem. A black obelisk pops up with strange demons/ghostly forms in it. I walk straight into it and the end cutscene begins.

The end cutscene shows the avatar walking through some sort of transitional world and then arriving in a lava filled world complete with giant guardian head. This ending is open to interpretation. Is this Britannia? Thats where I was supposed to be attempting to get back to so that would make sense. I have been told all the way through that Britannia is burning and the like so thats what I’ll assume.

The cluebook I’ve been using describes it as the guardians homeworld. Since I know I’m going to be starting U9 on earth I guess I’ll never know for sure.

It’s not a very satisfying ending I have to say. If all my questions were going to be answered in U9 I could live with it but I know that isn’t going to be the case. Despite the poor ending, I’m not too sorry to have got to the end of this one. After a good bit in the middle large portions of today were as frustrating as the start of the game. For me this was the worst game in the series so far. I even prefer Ultima 2 I think (judging it on 1982 standards). That doesn’t make Ultima 8 that bad a game given the company its keeping but it is definitely an irritating one and I’d only recommend it to people with a lot more patience than me.

Next: Wings Of Glory

Day 142

My next stop is going to be Argentrock Isle – I use a map in my clue book to figure out where to go which saves me a lot of searching. The entrance is in the catacombs on the way to stone cove. My key of the Scion opens up the door.

This gets me straight to Argentrock Isle – the map I got with the Ultima Collection cluebook has little annotations on it and shows this as the little island right at the top of the map. This doesn’t bear any relation to where I’ve actually been going. I don’t get why all these locations come off the catacombs anyway. It made sense with the necromancers being in a tomb but why would the only access to the healers be through here. If you can make it to them you didn’t need healing in the first place.

There is the first recall pad I’ve seen for a while in here which I activate. This should save me some walking around later.

Argent Rock is the first new settlement I’ve seen in a long time, with a small collection of houses and a few people to talk to. The population is only around 5 but at least its not another dungeon. Everyone here is a disciple of Stratos the air titan whose powers can be used for healing.

I’m here to learn air magic and volunteer to become enlightened at the first opportunity. I have to pass a series of tests first though. The first of these is a test of wisdom where I have to read about the beliefs and systems of the healers and answer a series of questions.

The monastery has an extensive library full of books I need to read. This give all sorts of examples of virtue and what I should do in a given situation. Stratos seems to be a much more virtuous titan than the last valuing honesty and compassion. Casting resurrection using air magic here costs you your sight I learn though as you have to make a sacrifice of a sense.

The test is easy, once I’ve read all the books. This is just a way to force me to learn the culture of the place more than anything else.

Next up comes the test of centeredness. I’m guessing the writers struggled to come up with a title for this…

This test involves climbing to a high point and Stratos tries to blast me off it with wind.

The high point is just to the NW. As soon as I climb on I’m surrounded by wind. This pushes me in various directions. I have to walk in the opposite one to avoid being pushed over the edge. As long as I don’t try to run this is easy.

I return having passed the test and am sent to find Stellos next.

Stellos has more work for me. I have to create foci which I can use to cast the spells of this order. To do this I need to collect the silver they are made with, from the levels below the monastery, then take this to the blacksmith and finally activate them on the altar.

The levels below the monsastery are accessed through some stairs in a kitchen behind the library. This place is the usual dungeon complete with timing puzzles and the like.

The dungeon is pretty small however and I soon find loads of silver ore in a room to the far east.

I use my recall spell to teleport out of here to Tenebrae and get the blacksmith to make my foci. I have to ask him to make each one at a time (there are a total of 8).

While I’m around, I recall to Mythrans and buy a spell off him. I’ve only got enough money for the one right now. I’ve found things I’d quite like to sell if possible but I’ve not found anywhere sell anything yet so I’m not sure if its possible in U8.

I head back to activate my foci on the altar. I just have to place each one on it. This would be a lot easier if my backpack wasn’t in such a state. I decide to see if I can’t do something about it and sort some of my stuff into bags.

I move all my reagents into one bag and stack them all up. I move potions and scrolls into another and decide I’ll put all my foci into a 3rd after they are activated. This clears up my backpack no end and should save me ages in the long run. It wasn’t exactly entertaining in the meanwhile but its 10 minutes well spent.

I head back to Stellos with the news and he now wants me to go back to the caverns and complete another test. He doesn’t tell me what it is but says I will know what to do.

Down in the caverns to the west is an injured creature. I jump over to it and cast heal on it. The new magic is very simple to use – I just double click on a foci and the foci represents one of eight spells.

I return with the news and get congratulated but now a healing foci has been stolen. It will clearly have to be me that tracks down the villain.

I walk around talking to everyone but don’t learn much. When I return to Stellos, he gives me a bit of detail about one of the people here (Torwin) who is apparently conducting reasearch about combining foci. Torwin isn’t exactly the politist of people here and is the obvious culprit. There are only 4 people to choose from anyway, 1 of them is the guy that has lost the focus, Stellos is clearly not going to be the one so that only leaves the other 2.

The focus was apparently stolen during the night while its owner slept. I’m dropped a hint about using magic to learn the truth.

One of my spells is a hear truth spell. I cast this and talk to the monk in the library. He says one thing and I presumably hear another in brackets afterwards. He thinks Torwin has taken the focus and he has gone to the high point where I took my second test.

I head straight there and find Torwin. In a long cutscene he tells me that his father was the man I saw being executed at the start of the game. He’s too impatient to complete his training and wants to ressurect him. This would involve fetching him from the halls of the dead but since he was sent to the lurker this isn’t even a possibility. He wanted the second foci to attempt to combine both for more power. He won’t listen to reason and attempts the leap of faith to find Stratos.

This doesn’t work out and he plummets to his death. Before leaping he throws away the focus and a ring and I pick both of them up.

I return with the news and now get sent on the final test. I have to take the leap of faith myself and talk to Stratos.

The leap of faith involves jumping all the way to a platform I can only just see to the NW of windy point. Stratos must give me a helping hand as I make it no problem and carry on jumping all the way to the platform infront of Stratos. She sweeps me up in a load of air and I get to talk to her briefly.

Stratos is definitely a kindlier type of titan. She gives me a new focus and also mentions another item which she refuses to give me as it would sever her link with the healers here. I’m clearly going to need this in the long run but I’ll leave it for now. Apart from anything else I expect that would sever my link also and my spells would stop working. My next job is to seek out the water titan.

Today has been a big improvement on the last few days and far more along the lines of what I’d expect from an Ultima. The settlement at Argent Rock is ridiculously small but I’ve got the change in gameplay that I was looking for. There are still minor irritations such as having to create the foci 1 by 1 but the monastery was a lot more interesting than the dungeons that have gone before.

I don’t think the engine copes very well with indoors/outdoors. I’m sure Argent Rock is outside but with walking through the catacombs to get there and the graphics, it feels like its been built inside a giant cave. There are no clouds or weather in Pagan and its always dark. With the whole layout of the world being built around a catacomb hub, I really get the feeling that these areas were all just shoved together in an attempt to get the game released a year earlier than it should have been. Putting together arbitrary dungeons has to be a quick process compared to designing a realistic village complete with characters, dialog, books, schedules, etc… If that is the case then I’m hoping I’m past the filler and onto the meat of the game now.

Day 141

It’s two simultaneous posts today as yesterdays got left on a memory stick in my office.

The first thing I find today is a chest full of every type of potion. Hiding under one of them is a key – there appears to be a tradition of hiding keys under things in Pagan.

Its not long before I find a locked door to use the key on – finding the correct key in this mess takes a little while.

I find a long corridor with skeleton guards past the door – this has to be the hall of the mountain king.

Sure enough, Lithos appears when I get to the end. He has full speech with the speech pack but the avatar is stuck with text which makes for a strange sort of conversation. The acting is nothing great as ever but it adds a bit more gravitas to the occasion. The titan comes across as being incredibly arrogant and not worth worshiping but my avatar is very polite and bows to him for all that. The titan wants Lothian to serve him in death and I’m given the task of interring the body to complete my apprenticeship.

Before I head back to the surface, I stick around to see if there is anything left to explore. I’m unable to get back across the platforms I had to jump across to get here though so I’m stuck using my recall spell to return to Tenebrae. I’m sure its highly preferable to the pre-patch version but the jumping still doesn’t always work correctly and I end up missing my target.

First job here is to get that keyring that Natreg told me about. Its in a barrel at the start of the game – at the time I guess I was distracted by the beheading that was going on.

I head back to Vividos. He gives me a new key which I can use to inter the body and gives me fairly unhelpful directions to find it. This new key will open more doors in the catacombs – I’ve seen enough of the catacombs and was hoping I could stay away from them.

The body turns out to be just outside the building I was in but I don’t discover this until I’ve walked round the cemetary a couple of times. It would help if it wasn’t half hidden behind the scenery. I’m not entirely happy about making the body a slave to the titan like this but I suppose Lothian knew what she was doing and signed up for this. I use my new key on her and the ground swallows her up and the titan proclaims that he is happy with the offering.

I return with the news and I’m now officialy Scion. Since I now know what happens to Scion’s in the long run this is further incentive for getting off of Pagan and back to Britannia but I must be safe for a good few years yet.

My next task, its back to the catacombs to make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Moriens. I’m pretty sure I’ve already seen this in my wanderings through there previously.

Sure enough I find the plaque. This is definitely the right place. I use my key on the door.

Through here is a tomb with a load of sparkles on it – these don’t appear to do anything but look significant.

Next door is a body with a restore to sight scroll which makes hidden things visible. I use it to see what will happen and a chest appears absolutely stuffed with goodies. I’ve got a few of these scrolls which makes me wonder if I should have been using them at the time.

I find a book on a skeleton which looks highly significant. There haven’t been a lot of books so far in the game and this stands out in the endless dungeon-like catacombs. It describes the Zealan gods before the titans became powerful. It also mentions using a ceremonial disc to talk to the gods – I’m actually carrying one of these already which I picked up from Mythrans house. It was described as a ceremonial shield and I was hoping to be able to use it as a shield but its just been cluttering up my backpack every since.

The next area of note is a chest surrounded by levers. Pulling the levers doesn’t achieve anything – I have to move the skull candle by each lever then pulling one opens up the fence around the chest. In the chest is a key which I use on the door to the north.

There isn’t a lot in this new area but I do find something called the skull of quakes. I don’t know what it is or what it does but anything with a title like that has to be important so I take it with me.

Finding nothing else to do here, I head back for a fenced area I saw earlier. This is a maze of sorts with pressure plates that open/close bits of the fence. The trick here is to climb upto the raised area and jump off the end of it to bypass the last parts of the maze.

This gets me to a tomb with a suspicious looking area of earth and the conveniently placed ingredients for an open ground spell. Sure enough casting the spell opens up the ground allowing me to drop to the area below.

Down in this new area I see another of those ceremonial shields out of reach behind a load of stalactites. I can’t get through here so I head the other way.

I reach a strange area with a floating platform covered in marbles. I mess around here throwing marbles up onto the platform for a while with nothing happening. There seems to be a primitive physics system in the game so you can knock marbles into each other and they roll off. This isn’t getting me anywhere until I notice a platform of the far side of the fence which I can throw a ball onto to open it up.

I head north and jump over this beam to avoid damage.

I next have to complete one of those tiresome ‘tower of Babel’ type puzzles. These things are more of an exercise in patience than anything else.

I have to walk on pressure plates. Walking on the one in front of a block lowers its smallest platform, walking on another raises it again. After messing around with this for a few minutes I move it to the left hand side. Nothing happens – apparently I was supposed to move it to the middle….

A few more minutes later and I’ve moved it to the middle. A door opens at the top and I run up….

…straight into a beam which kills me off instantly.

I reload and complete the babel puzzle yet again and this time cast stone flesh before I run through the beam. I reach what looks like an important location and use a couple of keys I found earlier to get in.

This room has 3 statues of the Zealan gods. I take the hint from the book I read earlier and drop the shield on the altar. The old gods all speak to me (in full speech again) telling me to go into the next room and get a blackrock pyramid from the spirit in there.

The door is locked but I’m carrying an open portal scroll I picked up somewhere which opens it up. I have to defeat the ghost before I can steal his blackrock pyramid. I consider mixing up a spell for this but that would mean trying to find the ingredients in my backpack so I hack at it with my axe which does the trick.

I get the blackrock pyramid from a chest behind the throne along with a few other goodies. When I go back outside the statues give me a new quest. I have to find the other titans, steal there powers and become a new titan myself of a fifth element – Ether. How or where I do this I don’t know but there are areas of the catacombs I haven’t explored yet.

Ultima 8 continues to annoy me – completing the tower of babel thing 3 times with this clunky interface was painful. I seem to be spending nearly all my time in a never ending dungeon. Whatever happened to exploring the towns/world and talking to everyone? The population of Pagan appears to be tiny. Tenebrae was a decent size – I realised this was the games only town but I expected to see some smaller settlements elsewhere. The map that comes with the game appears to be pointless and has just been included purely because Ultima’s have always had cloth maps.

Playing around with the marble puzzle emphasised just how difficult it can be to pick an item up. The engine is very fussy about being close to the object but if I get too near I’m assumed to be standing on it and I can’t pick it up either. If a marble rolls infront of a wall and out of sight then its lost forever – there needs to be some sort of function where walls vanish if they obstruct the view.

1994 really hasn’t been the best year for Origin games all round but I have got System Shock and Wing Commander 3 still to come which should be something of a redemption when I get there. My favorite game of the year so far has been Pacific Strike. It was by no means great – more of a rehash of old themes using existing technology but it was fun once it got going. About 1/3 of Origins games came out inside this 93/94 period and there is definitely evidence that they were turning out too many to maintain high quality levels.

I went into Ultima 8 expecting it to be a bit of a departure from the rest of the series but otherwise a decent game. I suppose if I was into dungeon crawls I’d be enjoying it more although the interface would still be a problem. The storyline and dialog isn’t bad but its so slow at coming between long dungeon stretches. I’m desperately looking for a change in the gameplay now when I start looking for my next titan. I can’t cope with more maze-like dungeons, dodgy puzzles/key hunts and platform jumping. I’ll be making liberal use of walkthroughs otherwise to speed through as quick as possible.

Day 140

Necromancer #3 is just down the corridor with all the lightning. He gives me a spell to call the dead to help me out in battle. I never used this – I expect it summons a few ghouls.

While searching for the next one I find a shield, something I’ve been wanting for a long time.

The next spell I’m taught by necromancer #4 is grant peace. I think I can use this to kill ghosts and skeletons but its usually easier to avoid combat in this game (so far) and I haven’t used it yet either.

Finding the 5th necromancer proves to be a bit harder. It’s much further to go for one thing but a lot of the areas I have to pass through spit fireballs at me and I can’t stand still for any time at all without being hit.

To the south I find some magic armour – guarded by a pit trap. These pit traps are a constant annoyance – they are completely invisible and walking on them means instant death as you fall through the floor to your death. Accidently running into water is also instant death and the monsters can hack me to pieces in no time if I get in the wrong position. I’ve never died so much in an Ultima and I’m having to save constantly – this game really needs a quick save button for that reason.

I’m feeling a bit better equipped with my magic armour now – a helmet and gauntlets would be nice to complete the set but I should be better able to cope with combat. I need a longer weapon more than anything else – the range on this dagger is a bit pathetic.

Heading West from where I got the armour gets me to a lava filled area. Jumping onto a particular platform here teleports me to another new map.

I find necromancer #5. This one teachs me an invulnerability spell of sorts – now this sounds useful. The snag is that I’m only able to use it once….

It doesn’t take long to find where I’m supposed to use it. I arrive at a corridor with no way through other than straight into the path of a fireball spitting trap.

My new spell works and I get through unscathed.

There is something that I’m guessing is a troll on the other side. I’d usually run away but since my spell hasn’t worn off yet I take him out with my dagger. This takes quite a lot of hits but I get there in the end. There isn’t any great reward for this.

In fact the way the stats work in U8, there is no reward for combat at all. My three stats are increased by swinging my weapon, running/jumping, and casting spells as far. It makes no difference whether I’m actually achieving anything though so I could just sit there clicking my mouse for half an hour striking nothing and presumably max out my strength stat. I really don’t like this system at all – the levelling in other Ultima’s opened up new spells as you progressed and rewarded combat. Here I’m best off running away and if I ever need to up mystats for some reason I’ll just click away and increase them.

I find necromancer #6 who teaches me the create golem spell. He tells me that I can use this spell to reach the hall of the mountain king and visit Lithos and that I can need to go to Stone Cove via the catacombs.

Visiting Lithos sounds like the way to go although I’m a bit unsure as to where I’m going exactly. I follow the steps up to the right of the final necromancer and this gets me back into a catacomb like level. From here I head a long way SW to this area with a few traps and a lever I need to pull.

This area stumps me for a while. Stalactites keep falling from the ceiling and either blocking me in the area with the lever or outside it. Pulling the lever opens up the metal gate but this is no use if I can’t get to it once its open. After reloading 4 or 5 times I manage to get the stalactites to fall in an area that doesn’t block me. I can’t say I’m too impressed with this ‘puzzle’.

Getting through the now open gate allows me access to a new area which I’m hoping is Stone Cove. I head off to the South exploring and discover an island over a load of floating platforms. This is hidden so I’m looking for something good here but don’t find anything.

I then notice another larger island off to the west of this one. Getting here is a complete pain. I have to jump across more platforms but they are guarded by skeletons. When I get near they attack – a single hit knocks me into the water and I die instantly. Eventually after a load of attempts the skeleton commits suicide in the water before I get to it and I gain access.

The island has a new magic weapon – an axe this time. I try it out on the skeleton ontop of the raised area and it dies in about 4 hits. This is a huge improvement and should make life a lot easier.

I have to turn round and head back over the platforms from here. Near where I entered back to the North I discover a set of double doors. I can’t open them but there is a highly suspicious patch of earth just below. I cast my new create golem spell on the earth.

My golem springs into life – I can actually give it orders to follow or attack and the like. I order it to open the doors which it does but its too big to follow me through into the next area.

Aside from a hostile golem which I avoid, I find an enclosed area with a throne. The lever doesn’t open the gate but I manage to climb over the wall and take a look around. All I find is a lever by the throne which I pull. I’m instantly attacked by a load of ghouls but this lever doesn’t appear to achieve anything else.

I head back to the south and a bridge appears – I’m sure this wasn’t here before which must be where the lever comes in. This leads into an area with floating platforms that fade in an out in true platform game style. with the patched game this is easy – I expect it wouldn’t have been in the original.

My next challenge is an area full of forcefields – my attempt to get a screenshot here wasn’t the best but they flash blue very briefly when I walk into them. The idea of this area is to throw mushrooms to see where the forcefields are and work through them maze style. I could have done this but the easy option seems to be to just run through, take the damage and then sleep to recover as needed.

I do this and reach the other end in no time. There is a chest with a key and a few gems. One of the gems appears to protect me from the force fields so that I can just run straight back through them. I passed a locked door just below the maze and the key opens this.

I expect I must be getting somewhere near to finding Lichos now but I’ve no way of knowing for sure. I’m starting to collect a few keys now and would like to collect that keyring Natreg mentioned but I’ll wait until I run out of things to do here, or find a recall pad rather than retracing my steps.

There are aspects of this game that are starting to annoy me a bit. I find myself having to save constantly – this isn’t such a big thing although it would be nice not to have to go through a menu to do this. Every time I save the guardian comes up with one of about 4 phrases and this is getting on my nerves. The ridiculously small rucksack is worse still – I can never find anything. I don’t want to have to shuffle around 60 little icons every time I have to use an item.

Only being able to move in diagonal lines can be a problem, I had one area in a cave where I had to move down a narrow corridor and I just couldn’t get the avatar to go down it. This isn’t helped by the isometric view blocking my view of what I’m doing some of the time. I’ve found the scenery climbing to be really temperamental – usually it doesn’t work and I have to get into a specific position or try over and over before my avatar will climb up a ledge. More than anything, the endless deaths and reloading are bugging me – things like the pit traps or being knocked into the water a dozen times by the same skeleton with the only way through being to wait for it to commit suicide.

I said yesterday that Ultima 8 was growing on me but right now its going the other way again. There hasn’t been any point in this game yet when I’ve really felt compelled to carry on with it. I’m persevering purely because its now the only game in the series I’ve not finished + for the benefit of this blog. It isn’t bad – I’m just indifferent to it. I could make a case for each game in the series being a classic up to this point even including the spin-offs. Things are going to have to pick up enormously if U8 is to live up to those standards.