Day 1 – Akalabeth & Ultima 1

I’ve raced through the first couple of games today. They really didn’t take long at all to play through, maybe 30 mins for akalabeth and a couple of hours for Ultima 1. This is going to be easy!

Akalabeth

There’s a couple of remakes knocking around but I chose to just play the one that came with the Ultima collection in dosbox.  I chose a fighter and rerolled my stats a few times until most of them were in the 20’s, in the shop I bought a weapon and a load of food, then set off to find Lord British’s castle. The overhead map for the game world is only 20×20 so this didn’t take long to find. He then raises all my stats by 1 (thanks a lot LB) and sends me off to kill one of the critters in the dungeon. I go to the nearest one (they are all identical) about two steps away from his castle. 

Every dungeon floor is the same every time, including the position of the monsters so its always predictable once you’ve been playing the game for a bit. The best strategy here seems to be to stick around on the first level, killing the easy baddies and opening the chests to get some gold. Then go back to the nearest shop, get the best equipment, and as many amulets as you can afford. Then I saved my game just before entering the dungeon, use the amulets (the effect is random for fighters) until I turn into a lizard man. This seems to roughly multiply all my stats by 2. Oddly enough, if you keep using amulets and turn into a lizard man again it doubles your stats over. By saving and restoring, when the random effect doesn’t work out I had a character with all stats in the 200’s inside about 5 mins. This made me completely invulnerable to all the monsters, except gremlins who could still steal food.

There isn’t too much to say about the rest of the game, each time you complete your quest LB gives you another creature to kill which is 2 levels lower down in the dungeons. The final one was a balron, I think. I dispatched that, got made a knight, and that’s the end of the game. The end message is basically the same as the original version but you aren’t given a phone number to ring.

For a 30 year old game, written in his spare time by a student it holds up pretty well. Its extremely simple but its pretty good fun for half an hour. 

Ultima 1

I’ve not seen any upgrades around for this so just played the Ultima collection version in dosbox. I chose a fighter once again. This game is basically Akalabeth with a decent overhead map system added in and a space combat subgame – I read somewhere that tile graphics were invented for this game and they are now used instead of lines to draw all the maps. The dungeons are nearly identical to Akalabeth with a few additions like trap doors (can climb down them but not back up), and traps that drop you a level. My strategy for this game was to buy some basic weapons at the start and then use the nearest dungeon to gain enough experience to get me up to level 3. This is pretty easy as you regenerate hit points when you exit a dungeon (depending on how many things you’ve killed). So I just walked back and forward down the first corridor of the dungeon, killed everything, exited, and repeated. This raised my hit points loads and got me some much needed cash. The experience however does not raise your stats. Next I found a town that would sell me an air car – apart from getting me everywhere on the map this has a nice set of lasers to blast enemies with. I then set out to find all the castles to get quests and visit all the signposts on the way. There are 4 lands each with 2 castles, containing kings, princesses and jesters. One of the kings gives you a quest to slay a dungeon monster ala Akalabeth, the other to find some place or other. Once you complete the task, you then go back and get either a gem and a clue, or a bonus to your strength stat (this is the only way to raise your strength). You can be on quests for all eight kings at once and do the quest several times if you wish. 

Back to the signposts, these are dotted around the map and you enter one to raise your stats. You then have to visit a different signpost before you can raise your stats again however. This is one of the oddest ways to raise stats, I can think of in an RPG. My strategy was just to pick nearby pairs and fly between the two until my stats were maxed. There’s also one signpost that gives you weapons (a better one each visit) which I used to get the blaster. I maxed out all the stats this way at any rate, completed the 8 quests so my strength was in the 60’s, and then went to buy a space shuttle. This does seem kind of out of place in a fantasy game – I gather that the idea was that the technology progresses throughout the game. Hence the lightsabers, blasters, aircars etc. The space combat bit was added as there was room on the disk to fill up. 

The space section is basically a sub-game that has little to do with the rest of the game. First off you have to dock your shuttle using the arrow keys with a little space station. You then choose one of the other two ships docked with it to actually explore space, and shoot tie fighters with. One of them has loads of fuel and not much shields and the other vice versa. The combat itself is dead easy. You move your crosshair around on screen, the little alien ship moves accordingly. i.e. if the crosshair is above it moves down, to the left it moves right, etc… When it gets near enough so that you can see the hole in the middle, you can shoot it. For some reason you seem to have to aim slightly above it. Something I never noticed before, is you can use the spacebar to get your crosshair back to the middle of the screen, which makes things much easier. You get 100 experience for every alien shot and I think you have to kill about 18 to become a space ace. Once I’ve done that I hypered back to the middle of the map, docked, got back in my shuttle and went back to Britannia.

The next task was to go to a castle, kill the jester to get his key then fight past the guards to free the pricesss and get her out again. She then tells me where the time machine is – its kind of odd I hadn’t noticed it before since its the same size as LB’s castle. I then go back into the same castle where new guards have been recruited and all is now forgiven, offer up all my money to the king to get my health up to about 6000.

Next its off to the time machine, I insert the four gems from the kings quests and this is it the battle with Mondain. I head straight for the gem and try to get it – it shatters dealing me about 3000 damage. I then blast Mondain over and over until he turns into a bat and tries to run off. I then have to chase around after him all over the map trying to get within one square and blast him, at which point he runs off again and I start chasing. This is kind of anti-climatic and more like some sort of game of tag than an epic battle but eventually I get him. There’s a nicely written screen of text at the end of the game where LB congratulates me. 

All in all, the game was fun enough. Theres no real story to it, but all the different elements come together well. It was easy enough not to be frustrating and not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

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