Ultima 6 SNES – Part 2

(The images are currently missing from this post after my previous web server died but will hopefully be replaced soon)

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The first job in Ultima 6 as I remember it is to go around all of the shrines ridding them of gargoyles which was the task I set myself for this next part. This in turn this requires the mantra and the rune to be gathered from each of the respective towns. I gathered the rune of compassion in part 1 so I head straight for the shrine with that only to find that the combat with all those gargoyles is a little much for my starting party.

I expect we all know the U6 story well enough to realise that I shouldn’t really be killing off the gargoyles but there doesn’t appear to be any button I can press to come out of combat mode so it’s not really optional. This isn’t the version to play for the more pacifistic Avatars out there. Coupled with that, there is no means to pick a single party member to control as with the PC Ultima 6 engine games. I always liked that feature of the engine too – it led to some nice little puzzles in the spin-off games but here it’s strictly one for all.

The combat gets considerably easier once I start to get some better equipment and level up a little but since I need the shrines to level up in the first place I resort to some judicious saving/loading to get through this first battle. I don’t do anything significantly different on the subsequent attacks but eventually I’m victorious.

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On the SNES I don’t have to learn/use the mantras at the shrines. I use the rune to remove the forcefield and can then talk to them to level up/meditate. An Ultima game of this era without mantras seems like heresy but I suppose my Avatar should have them down by rote at this point.

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Another oddity on the SNES is that combat leaves no bodies behind but does occasionally leave chests to search for treasure in something of a nod to early Ultimas. Along with the missing bodies, this port apparently has references to death removed even down to the extent of the healers casting “Great Awaken” on expired party members. Even dead party members don’t have bodies but become ghosts that follow the rest of the party around still carrying all their equipment. Reviving them is quite expensive but with maximum karma (which I soon have after clearing a shrine or two) there is no penalty for death so it’s far cheaper to kill off my Avatar and then the whole party is revived for free. A definite money saver.

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Using the orb of the moons to speed around, I go from town to town repeating the process of freeing each shrine. Exploring the towns was my favourite aspect of playing Ultima 6 with the incredibly detailed conversations and characters. In this port some characters are no more chatty than their Ultima 4 equivalents after their conversation was cut to fit but there is still plenty of life to the towns and it’s impossible not to enjoy even this cut down version.

Fetching all the runes played out much as I remember it but it’s been a few years. The original had a strange quest in New Magincia where I had to find out which person in town was the most humble. This has been replaced instead by a wild goose chase where every person in town has lent the rune to someone else in turn except they fail to mention it unless I follow the chain through one person at a time eventually back to the town mayor where it started.

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The quest for the rune of valour still involves getting Sherry the mouse to go through a hole in the pub wall in Jhelom. With the lack of individual party member control this presents a problem which is handled by making Sherry an inventory item instead. If I use her from the inventory I get control until I run her back to the Avatar and then everything she is holding gets dumped in the Avatar’s inventory.

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There are other concessions to the less flexible game engine. There is no playing musical instruments here so Gwenno just has to teach me stones which is then picked up automatically when trying to join the guild in Minoc. This was the last of the 8 runes and playing this far took most of a morning.

With all 8 shrines freed, my party was at a stage where they are now well able to cope with most combats. One valid tactic appears to be to just keep carrying out kamikaze raids on the gargoyles until successful, then getting my avatar killed off at the next shrine if needed to revive the rest of the party. With the gargoyles regenerating after each failed attempt, it’s a great way of building up experience although I might criticize this as rewarding failure.

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The second (and from what I recall much longer) stage in beating Ultima 6 is tracking down the second half of a tablet which is needed at the Lycaeum to translate the Gargoyle Book of Prophecy. Step 1 is getting to Buccaneers’ Den which inconveniently isn’t on the route of the orb of the moons. I decide to go via the sewers under Castle British which first means buying a skiff to get to an island on level 3.

This is all going well enough until with my party safely skiffled I run into a horde of rats. I wasn’t expecting the combat system to kick in at all in this situation but I’m forced to fight them from within the skiff except none of the rest of the party get a turn so my Avatar is single-handed. He eventually beats them down but gets poisoned in the process and doesn’t survive the rest of the trip. I’ll make another attempt at this in part 3 staying further from the shore.

The sewer dungeon layout and every town in Britannia for that matter have been exactly as on the PC to the best of my knowledge. Now I’ve had time to explore, U6 SNES is turning out to be a whole lot better than I’d hoped it would be. There have been compromises to the platform but out of the 4 Nintendo ports I’ve played so far this is easily the one that is most like an original Ultima. It’s got me not wanting to stop playing at any rate and I’m looking forward to gathering the treasure map next.

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