Day 68 – Martian Dreams

This is the second and unfortunately last of the Worlds Of Ultima games. This one was headed up by Warren Spector who doesn’t seem to know how to make a bad game. Its been a few years but I have played this one before and regard it as one of my favorites of the Ultima series.

As ever the game uses the OriginFX engine – the intro has been changed to use Mars instead of earth.

The plot goes as follows – in 1893 Percival Lowell built a cannon with the purpose of shooting a ship to Mars using a new found explosive.

The day before the ship is supposed to take off many of the Victorian periods leading figures are getting a tour but someone sabotages the ship.

And it fires a day early..

Now you must rescue them. How you get there in the first place is explained in a second introduction.

Dr Spector from Savage Empire, receives a call to see you urgently but not from you.

As soon as he shows up an unknown woman hands over a package

She urges us to hurry then disappears again.

The package contains a book allegedly written by Spector himself in 1895, a note for Tesla, a map and a picture of us with famous victorians.

We follow the map and head towards a cave hidden away in the mountains.

And sure enough find Teslas lab.

Following the instructions we use the orb of the moons at a given angle.

And are sent 100 years back in time.

We give Tesla his note

Dr Blood is less than eager to believe us not surprisingly

But the fact that he wrote the note himself convinces him.

Apparently they are just about to send a second expidition to Mars to find out what happened to the first one and we get to tag along for the ride.

Its a great introduction, all in all. It’s a bit improbably but not too much of a stretch and intelligently written which is a nice change after Wing Commander 2.

The character creation is somewhat similar to the other Ultimas but far less obvious in its workings.

I get asked a string of questions and these somehow influence my statistics. I just answer truthfully and don’t worry about these.

This gets me into the game itself at last. It should be said that Mars in 1895 is a lot different to the Mars of today – it has a thin atmosphere, some life (either worm based or plant based animals). The manuals give a lot of detail about a sentient Martian race also who were plant based and born with the races knowledge which they extracted from the soil. The race apparently died out but cities and canals were left on Mars.

The first stop is going to be the crash site of the original landing. I’m given cooridates by Tesla who recommends I get a sextant + any other equipment from the rear of the ship.

I talk to all of the other of the ships occupants first – nearly every character in this is a famous Victorian which is an interesting idea. There are a few made up characters like Dr Blood who I can go back to be healed at any time. The back of the ship, sure enough is full of equipment which I take a lot of including a crowbar to open the ships door.

Tesla won’t let me out until I answer the copy protection question.

Thats easy enough and I’m soon out of the ship.

Most of the surface of mars is fairly barren but there are still forests of strange trees around and quite a bit of wildlife (all of which seems to be hostile). The oxygen levels are low which affects all my characters stats unless they are carrying oxium which you chew to release oxygen. This can be found or bought around Mars.

It doesn’t take long to find the first landing site.

Leftenant Dibbs is there apparently waiting for us.

Apparently the original expidition found cities and evidence of advanced technology.

They also used some sort of dream machine which drove some of them mad. Dibbs is a real mine of information infact on what has been happening. Some of the people set up a trading post which he recommends visiting first.

I’m attacked by some six legged Sextellegers on the way. They aren’t too hard to kill – its a similar difficulty level to Savage Empire monsters although they do always seem to be in larger groups in this game.

To get to the trading post I have to cross a canal – these are dry at the moment and run all over the surface of Mars. There are a few bridges here and there which I can use but they are few and far between.

At the trading post Buffalo Bill offers to sell me ammo and the like but he also mentions his missing supplier Cooter.

Calamity Jane will sell me berries which the manual says have some sort of power to give telekinesis, spatial awareness or psychic ability to talk to objects. These are seriously out of my price bracket at the moment. Oxium is being used as money.

I get detailed instructions on how to get to Cooters place so I head off there next.

When I sleep I get a chance to increase my level. This is done in a fairly standard pick one of three options in a dream just like Savage Empire.

There is a maze like series of chasms to get through before I find Cooters mine.

I can’t get into it though – I remember Bill saying I needed some of those berries which I can’t afford + there is a plank just out of reach. I’ll have to come back later.

I head for the nearest city Olympus next – There is a man standing outside who won’t let me in as he thinks I might be a madman and infectious somehow.

Apparently if I get the signature of the three famous explorers to vouch for my sanity he will consider me ok. He even tells me where to find them right at the far side of the map. This can wait for later while I hunt for berries.

Just south of Olympus I find a patch of berries and take all that I can find. One of the berries lets me move the plank in the mine into position so I can walk up it.

There is noone in there but I do find a couple of notes – it looks like he is in Coprates Chasma which is just to the east.

A bit of walking around and I find him barracaded into a cave to avoid about 6 monsters outside. As a reward he gives me the location of his map.

It takes some finding but I get there in the end and dig up his map.

The map isn’t all that specific – I’ll have a look for this later. First I try to find the three explorers.

On the way I bump into Marcus who despite what I’ve been told seems sane enough. He gives me a bit of information about the dream world and warns me about the effects on some of his colleages.

I bump into the madmen who have all been possessed by dead Martians through the use of the dream machine.

There is a huge amount of background detail here once again. The story in brief is that a Martian years ago tried to gain power by threatening the world with a plague he had created. No one thought he would carry out this threat but he released it and everyone was killed off. Some of the Martians somehow retreated into the dream world and have taken possession of the humans to try to restart their species as they believe the plague is now gone.

They don’t seem to be getting too far though – Fazek tells me about a laboratory where they made the fertilizer. I expect I will have to go there and make it for them at some point.

I’m trying to find the explorers for now though so I’ll stick to that quest. It turns out I’ve gone the wrong route as there is no way across the canals – I have to backtrack half the world to get where I want to go.

When I get there Yellin is outside a mine and his companions trapped inside behind a rock fall. He has the parts for a Martian drill but can’t assemble it without a wrench – as luck would have it I picked one of these up some time back.

I assemble the drill

and push it into the mine.

The trapped men are behind – these 3 explorers are obviously more alter egos for Dupre, Iolo and Shamino.

Sherman joins my party as what I’m guessing will be the final companion since that fills up the window on the right.

I get all 3 of them to sign and then take the long walk back to Olympus.

Nathaniel lets me in this time.

Theres a host of characters in here. The dream machine is being guarded but Legrande will let me in if I find his missing brother Jean.

Peary gives me a clue about some sort of electricity broadcasting towers at the North pole. I’ll have to look into these sometime.

I try to find the mine where Jean lost his brother first. I travel some some sort of underground station first.

On the way I find a dead body with a camera. I’ve no idea what this is about but it looks like a quest if I’ve ever seen one so I grab the camera and no doubt I’ll figure out what to do with it later.

I also find the cannon that is constructed to get us back home again. Further down the mountain I can go in a mine entrance and talking to the man making the cannon he informs me that they are just one load of iron ore short. Sounds like another problem for me to sort out then.

Deeper into the mine I find Jean who gives me his masonic symbol to take to his brother.

There are a lot of fairly deadly giant worms around in this mine. I also find some radium which using a lead box and tongs I got from Madam Curie I pick up. Apparently these can be used to power Martian robots but I’ve not seen any yet to try this out on.

Legrande takes the symbol and lets me in.

There doesn’t seem to be anything I can do in here at all after all that effort but there is some Martian headgear I can take which I will no doubt need.

I bump into Edison who talks about possibly fixing the machine using a replacement control from the station underground.

I’ve seen this control already but didn’t try to pick it up so I’ll head there next.

This seems like a huge post for not that much time spent on the game. Its a rich plot with a lot going on – its a little unbelievable at times but for all that this could be the most likely of all the Ultima’s. At least the nature of the world with just a few people on it makes sense here.

Technically nothing much seems to have changed from Savage Empire but the new tileset means it doesn’t feel much like that game. I like the structure of the game most of all – Savage Empire was the same thing over and over. There is none of that here, yet I know what my overall goal is and each quest solved gets me slightly closer to it. The game is obviously trying to recreate the feeling of an H.G. Wells or Jules Verne novel and is actually managing it so far. Its still early days but this game is just as good as I remember so far. The storyline and setting and just so unusual that I can’t think of another RPG like it.

I’ve plenty of quests left to look at. My first priority is probably to try to restore the power to Mars so I can use the teleporters. Anything that saves me walking everywhere would be good.

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