Day 88

I headed straight for Bucaneers Den. The effect of the cube was immediately evident from the first guy I talk to who tells me that the Crown Jewel makes regular trips here and has just gone to the Isle of the Avatar.

Danag at the fellowship hall is just full of information now. The fellowships special project at the moment is building the black gate for the guardian to come through. I will need Hooks key to get it which I can find in the caverns behind the house of games.

Hook is nowhere to be seen but inside a locked chest I find a list of murder victims with myself and LB next up. I also get the key to the black gate caverns here.

While I’m here I have a look around these caverns in Bucanneers Den. Considering the item I actually needed was right at the start they are pretty extensive and connect to all the main fellowship buildings in town.

The fellowship even have a torture room down here complete with a few prisoners and a troll/orc torturer.

After following the caverns for long enough I get to the back of the baths. There is enough money here to supply me for the whole game but I really don’t need it. There doesn’t seem to be anything to accomplish here so I leave for the Isle of the Avatar.

I find the altar easily enough, the codex isn’t here any more of course and there is just a note explaining how to view it now.

Off to the side I find a giant stone throne the guardian is planning on using.

Flicking a switch behind a secret wall to the NW gets me into another dungeon. The whole of the island is pretty much taken up with this place so it takes a bit of navigating.

The trickiest of the puzzles in here involves sitting on a “throne of change” which appears to do nothing but actually teleports me to one of several identical locations. Its simple enough once you realise its teleporting you.

I find another throne which makes the throne of change teleport me to the final location.

So days after starting out I finally find the black gate.

All the main protagonists are here so I finally catch up with Elizabeth and Abraham after chasing them around the whole game.

After a few brief words the final battle starts and is pretty easy. A couple of my companions die but I resurrect them after its over. Batlin runs away to no doubt show up again in Serpent Isle. I place the three prisms on the pedastels around the gate, use the wand on it and it triggers the end cut scene.

The last cutscene is superb. It doesn’t last long but the music, acting and graphics are probably better than the introduction. Its a fitting end and while blatantly plugging the sequel it doesn’t leave me feeling short changed.

 Now I’ve finished the game I thought I’d put a few thoughts about it up here. I won’t attempt a detailed review as there have been plenty of them already.

For some reason I never really got sucked into this game in the same way as the previous Ultima’s. I never got bored but somehow there didn’t seem to be too much incentive to push on. Its hard to say why this was but my guess would be that the overall plot of the game just doesn’t play that big a part in things. You spend far more time just talking to people who have a lot to say, none of which really affects the game overall. This isn’t a bad thing as such but the actual story in this game is probably more basic than some of the older games like Ultima 5. For me this is a game to play over a long period of time and just slowly explore the world rather than just concentrating on trying to get to the end. I do like my story based games so its perhaps not the best suited to my temperament of the series so far.

As good as the new engine is, there were quite a few minor annoyances which probably contributed to me not playing it for all these years. The inventory system almost seems like a step backwards. Rooting around for items in backpacks is just a pain in the neck and the contents shift around by themselves all the time so I can’t attempt to organise them. I really struggled with being able to carry enough also – its hard to know what could be important so I don’t like to leave stuff behind. A couple of other minor things – to attempt to go into a situation with 1 character I have to ask every party member to leave one by one. There is a similar problem getting LB to heal the party one member at a time. These are steps backwards from Ultima 6.

Ultima 5 was too combat intensive for my liking. The Ultima 6 engine games got this about right offering full control of the avatar with the other characters sorting themselves out. Here, I think it went too far the other way. Combat was just a case of hit ‘C’ and hope for the best with little feeling for what was going on. The fights tend to be dead quick as everything (my party included) seems to die in no time. When I played the forge of virtue pack right at the start of the game, I complained that it was essentially an authorised cheat to make the combat easier. With hindsight now, the combat just gets in the way in Ultima 7 and something that makes it easier is definitely a good thing.

I don’t know if its the easy combat or smaller dungeons but Ultima 7 didn’t have the epic feeling that the earlier games did. Making your way through the abyss at the end of Ultima 4 or 2 dungeons in a row in Ultima 5 at the end of the game feels like a major achievement requiring preparation, tactics, learning the dungeon and quite a bit of luck. There is a real forboding feeling about taking on some of these dungeons and its just not there in Ultima 7.

This isn’t really an RPG as I understand the definition. Tangled Tales was described as an adventure/lite RPG and I would class that game as having a similar degree of RPG-ness to this. It is definitely closer to an adventure game where walking around the world, talking to everyone and using the right items in the right places are the most important aspects. Each Ultima has been an incremental change from the one before it but after so many games this is simply miles away from the series roots.

Despite my minor gripes, Ultima 7 was definitely an amazing achievement. The size and detail of the world is just incredible and I’m sure I’ll go back to pick up some of the bits I missed at some point. I know some long term fans didn’t like the game much.  Its curious how some people can regard this as one of the greatest games of all time and others see Ultima 6 or even Ultima 5 as the last one thats worth playing. I can understand this point of view but the fact that the series changed along the way is probably what kept it alive for so long.

I’m hoping that Serpent Isle which was headed by Warren Spector will be more story led (in the manner of his last game Martian Dreams) and if thats the case it has the potential to be my favorite of the lot. I remember the reviews at the time seemed to rank Serpent Isle as the better of the two games but I never even got started playing it.

Next: Wing Commander Academy

7 thoughts on “Day 88

  1. Serpent Isle is indeed more story led than Ultima VII. And it has lots of references to almost all the ultimas prior to it. It’s rather curious that a game like it, which was rushed and hat a lot of it’s plot cut was actually that good.

    About the inventory system… well it does not get any better in Serpent Isle (althought the game adds several hot keys for some things), but at least in Ultima VIII items remember where they are.

    Btw, I don’t know if you notice it, but if I’m not mistaken, one of the prisoners at Buccaners Den is the character that writes the Ultima VII cluebook (still waiting for replacementdocs to make your uploads avaliable btw heh).

  2. I’ll look forward to Serpent isle then but it could be a month or two before I make it that far. I’m expecting Privateer to take a long time.

    I still need to scan the Ultima 7 cluebook in sometime but you are right about it being written by Alagnars apprentice who was locked up in the torture room. I’m reading my way through all those books after I play the games as a rule.

    Replacementdocs take forever to approve manuals as a rule – I scanned and submitted nearly all of mine on there before I started my current job which would make it pre March 2006. I still have manuals that haven’t been approved from that first batch + a few that were approved just a couple of months back. Posting a request in the forums usually helps.

  3. I think I would try requesting them then (I did it a looooong time ago anyway).

    Just curious, any of the not approved docs you submit are from any Origin games? I’m really interested in origin games lol Specially on cluebooks

  4. There’s no easy way to check which manuals are still pending and I’ve lost track of which are missing – I just know that I uploaded a few more files than have been approved. Most of them are on there now but I shouldn’t have had to wait a couple of years. As far as Origin stuff goes, I don’t think there are any cluebooks other than the 2 I did a few weeks back. If there are any other Origin games missing, there is a good chance I scanned it in and its pending.

    I’ve definitely got quite a few Origin books I haven’t scanned. I went out of my way to get all the Ultima cluebooks but if I saw any others along the way I picked them up as well. I kind of forget what I own though as I always shove them inside the game boxes (if they fit) – e.g. I have absolutely no memory of buying it but I just found out I’ve got the Shadowcaster clue book. Others I know I own are the Wing Commander 1 & 2 guide, Bioforge, Wings Of Glory, Cybermage, at least one of the Crusader games, official book of Ultima (1st Ed), Avatar Adventures, More Avatar Adventures & the two Ultima fantasy novels. I’ve got all 6 of the Shay Addams Quest for Clues series which were published by Origin – they can prove to be pretty useful if you are stuck in some obscure 80’s RPG/adventure game but don’t offer much more than a walkthrough. If any of that lot appeals or if there is a specific manual you are looking for then let me know and I’ll add it to the list. I think I’ve got a complete copy of all the games except Caverns Of Callisto & Metal Morph. I expect I’ll find a few more cluebooks as I play the games but I probably won’t get around to scanning anything in until I finish this blog.

  5. wow, just wow….

    Well, actually I’m quite interested in everything from origin, but to be more specifically on everything from Ultima.

    Those Ultima books would be great. But those are not really manuals so I don’t think Replacementdocs would accept them.

    If I’m not mistaken those were some kind of novellizations about Ultima, that would really be great to read.

    About scanning them that would be really appreciated. No problem about waiting for you to finish your blog. Just knowing that you may do it after that is more than enough to me, and I thank you greatly.

    About any other manual, I wonder if you have the runes of virtue ones. I always wondered if those have any kind of history in them or were just plain manuals about the controls.

  6. I’m sure you are right about the two novels not being replacementdocs material – I’ll put them up on my own webspace as an ebook if I ever scan them in. They are fantasy novels based in the Ultima world around the Ultima 5/6 timeline although they don’t star any of the main characters. They aren’t brilliant but are an ok read. They wouldn’t have much appeal to anyone except Ultima fans. I wouldn’t mind giving them another look some time myself now I know the series a bit better.

    The avatar adventures books are cluebooks in the form of novelised versions of the ultima games – they don’t read too badly at all if you’ve not got them. Replacementdocs might accept these but I’m unsure.

    I’ve got the gameboy ROV & SNES ROV2. The manuals are pretty uninteresting. There is only about one page of introduction text (in a very small manual). Theres a bit of introduction to the game characters but theres no plot description as such. There isn’t much of interest but on the other hand they are quite small so wouldn’t take long to scan.

    Thanks for the link to Shadowcaster btw – I’ve downloaded it so its ready to go as soon as I finish UW2.

  7. Now that you’ve played through U7 and SI, if you haven’t read through these, I highly recommend them. They are humorous (I think) tales of how to play through a few of the later Ultima games in twisted ways.

    The author finds ways to subvert the plot of the games via bugs and loopholes and the occasional hack, and still finish the game. It’s a fun read-through. I believe you’ll appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *