I had concerns that playing Ultima 4 on the NES might prove to be slow going after the last post and having spent half of Sunday on it this has certainly proved to be the case. I am catching up on podcasts while I’m at it though and progress in the game is steady if unspectacular.
I made it to Buccaneer’s Den where I found the price of keys to be an eye-watering 2000gp. I decided at this point to ditch all but Iolo out of my party, gathering and selling the equipment belonging to everyone else. I equipped both of us as well as possible with the money buying a crossbow for Iolo and this has helped to speed things up a little with smaller monster parties to fight and fewer people to keep battle ready. I would have left Iolo behind as well but since I’m playing a fighter I need a rudimentary spellcaster occasionally.
Monster encounters are far more frequent than I would like on the surface but my first thought was still to try out a dungeon. Visually these are bland but don’t look too bad, a definite improvement over the PC version anyway. Again, there is no sign of monsters walking about and it’s simply random encounters but there are pre-designed rooms to work through some of which have secret walls. This part of the game feels much more like the PC port and looks to be where the game will come to life. It’s no bad thing since as far as I can tell there is no down/up spell in this version so I’m going to have to do these dungeons the hard way.
Much like above ground, the dungeons proved to be comparatively tame. They weren’t exactly piled with gold but I did come across the occasional cache and slowly grew my hoard. It’s hard to build up large quantities of gold in this game as chests never have anything except money. Selling armour in other Ultima games has always been the better source of income.
When I finally had the 2000gp the key proved to be a better deal than I’d feared as it can be used over and over for every door in the game. I spent the rest of the day gathering runes, grinding virtue stats and trying to attain avatarhood.
The virtue statistics are more simplistic than in the original due to the curtailed towns and conversations which was a real detriment to this section of the game. I’d swear some of the questions have the answers the wrong way around also which can make them trial and error. It didn’t take all that long to locate all the runes though and I now have 5 out of 8 partial avatarhoods.
Playing the game so far has been more than a little tedious with the incessant random encounters occurring far too often for my liking. If I’d been on an emulator it would be been on 500% speed long before now but I’ve not got that option open to me this time. These encounters are more or less the same thing over and over and it’s all just grinding that can be done on autopilot (hence the podcasts). The monsters in the NES version hardly vary in strength taking either one or two decent hits to kill. With two party members with decent bows, they rarely make it to point blank range and it’s all too easy and very monotonous. Ultima 3 was far more of a challenge and had more of a clear role for the different characters which varied depending on monster and character level.
I’m still looking forward to properly exploring the dungeons which was much more entertaining from the little I saw but I want to gain avatarhood first as in this version it apparently allows me to climb towers in two of the keeps to get the best weapons and armour. I tried climbing these anyway to see what happened but it proved to be an endless set of staircases with no top. I expect I’ve got several hours ahead of me before I’m able to get either of these so the next post may be several days as I fit it in around everything else. I might take a look at the Ultima Online Collector’s Guide in the meanwhile as that finally arrived in the post on Friday.
I’ll veer off topic to end this post as one of the coolest things to ever make its way through my letter box arrived yesterday. Despite the Origin blog, my gaming genre of choice is without a doubt adventure games and as a huge and long time Gabriel Knight fan one of the Kickstarters I’m most keenly awaiting to see reach completion is Jane Jensen’s Pinkerton Road. The rewards in that Kickstarter included 50 pencil sketches of Gabriel Knight design artwork. These were all rescued out of a dumpster years back by a fan who generously donated them to the cause. Anyone who backed enough got to pick their top 10 favourites and some maths was done from that to decide who got which one. I was a little tactical in my choices spurning the more obvious picks and was fortunate enough to get my number 1 choice which is now framed and stuck on the wall:-
This is a concept sketch for the end of the game with Gabriel and Grace overlooking the ruins of a voodoo hounfour which was hidden underneath New Orleans. This scene has always been a personal favourite which is why I picked it, I love the dialog, music and the slightly downbeat tone struck and it’s easily one of my favourite game endings of all time. I’m over the moon to have got this and it’s a proud addition to the growing set of gaming memorabilia covering the walls on my 3rd floor.
From one adventure Kickstarter to another, the long anticipated Dreamfall Chapters surfaced a couple of days back. This will be the third in the Longest Journey series and is a game I’ve been eagerly awaiting for years. It’s still got nearly a month to run and anyone who enjoys adventure games should be backing this one as far as I’m concerned.