Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ultima II: Trudgin' Along

Life is picking up speed again, or at least it has for the past week or so, but I'm still pushing forward, albeit slowly. This post is a couple days due at this point, covering a session from... Wednesday-ish, I think, but hey, slow and steady wins the race and all that!

And now on to the good stuff.

Not yet, but I'm sure I will eventually.
There comes a point in the Ultima games (and indeed, most RPGs) where the game readily and definitively opens up. A point where the training wheels come off, a point where basic survival is no longer an issue and honest-to-goodness exploration becomes truly possible, where early stumbling blocks become little more than a small speed bump, if that. The definitive transition from Act I to Act II, from the humble beginnings to the real meat of the story and the game.

For Akalabeth, that moment is figuring out the magic amulet, skyrocketing your stats to nigh deity-level, whereby the only real limiting factor anymore becomes your food counter - and even then, you've got an easy way to beat up beasties for the gold necessary to replenish it.

For Ultima I, I think that moment comes when you obtain your first ranged weapon, able to start wearing down enemies before they can strike you back, allowing you to approach fights with less worry that each one will turn into a battle of attrition. This in turn allows you to put your money toward things other than hit points, and lets you push your way further into dungeons and spend longer out in the world rather than attempting to keep to the safety of the towns or castles.

For Ultima II, that moment is unequivocally the moment you commandeer your first ship.

Yep, he's definitely programmed to receive.
Up until that point, it's a desperate dashing about from here to there, hoping enemies will spawn where you can actually do something about them, hoping that your stats are enough to not make you lose too many hit points, hoping that you'll be able to scrounge up enough gold to replenish your food or at least be able to swipe enough...

That all changes once you get a ship. Your cannons can strike down most enemies in one hit, their location is no object to you as you can reach the islands, food has no meaning as it doesn't decrease when you're on a ship - you can then turn your goals toward more far-reaching things. Collecting enough gold to increase your stats, stocking up enough food to make exploration a bit more feasible.

I have no idea what this thing is.
And indeed, that was the first thing I did. This post actually covers two sessions, but I took no screenshots through the first as it was entirely spent sailing around the AD years looking for literal cannon fodder - I don't know how many creatures I blasted in the name of treasure. By the end of it I was swimming in gold and had gained a couple levels. (Which reminds me - what's the point of keeping track of levels and experience if they have no discernible effect whatsoever? Gaining levels doesn't increase my stats, and it's not even a requirement of anything else as far as my knowledge goes - at least Ultima I required you to be level 8 before a princess would tell you where a time machine was.)

When I started my next session, I blew all my gold on raising my hit points to respectable levels, then sailed over to the Hotel California to up my stats. Musing briefly on being a prisoner there of my own device, I wandered around New San Antonio to get a sense of the lay of the land - I'd come here often, after all. There were monsters in the pool there (whose bright idea was that!?) and I learned at the pub that mages carried wands and staffs, and that aviators needed skull keys. I also explored Lord British's castle a little more, and found a brother by the name of Antos in the chapel that asked me if I'd met his father yet.

With that under my belt, I decided to timegate myself over to Pangaea and see what I could see there - the map took some deciphering, but I eventually made my way over and stumbled my way into Baradin's Town. The deli was rather crowded there, and I stumbled across an oracle, but I had no money for a reading, so I made a mental note to check back later. On my way back, I realized just how many monsters crowded the very beginnings of the planet - I made a mental note to come back when I was a little stronger.

What the heck is this referring to?
While I was out exploring, I decided to snag a couple clerical spells (that was why I had no money for an oracle reading) and a new sword, then make my way into a tower. Dungeons and towers are different experiences than they were in Ultima I - I needed torches to see my way, I came across monsters that would blow them out, I stumbled across many traps that tools helped me get through... all in all, dungeons and towers struck me as rather more dangerous places than they had been in Ultima I. Less variety of creatures, but more interesting to navigate.

Still, I was losing more than I was gaining from the venture, so after gathering some more gold, I went back to Baradin's Town to see if I could get any good advice from the oracle - and promptly got swarmed. I'm pretty sure I had to fight through a conga line of at least a dozen creatures before I could make my way into town. That was... well, one of the most entertainingly tense experiences I'd had yet in this round of Ultima II. I gained little use from the oracle for my trouble, being told that the Queen is the King and the King is a spy, whatever that meant, and a musing on the evil man is capable of. I suppose I should know something about that, considering all I'm about to do.

It was about there that I drew my session to a close again, my next goal getting enough resources to up my stats to the point where I could start smacking guards around and beginning to enact some of that aforementioned evil that men are capable of. Grinding ahoy!

Everybody wants a piece of me...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ultima II: Honor Among Thieves

As is traditional, my opening stats.
And so my (in)glorious adventure of Ultima II begins! Having conquered the World of Doom and defeated Mondain the wizard, Aric the Stranger now finds himself attacked in his own world. This is probably the weirdest thing to wrap my mind around when it comes to Ultima II - I mean, this is meant to be Earth, but it doesn't take long at all to traverse the globe, and anyway, Britannian (er, I guess Sosarian, at this point) characters can be found hanging around. I can only surmise that Minax's attempts to strike down the Stranger and conquer the planet through the timegates have distorted space as well (inextricable as the two are from each other - yay physics!) as Sosaria and Earth are beginning to merge together... yeah, I'm thinking about this one a little too much. It's confusing to begin with, so might as well just run with it.

Anyway, as I indicated in my intro post, I decided to make Aric a cleric this time around, which is turning out to be rather an odd choice, thematically - I mean, my main means of getting more food has been stealing it thus far, which is hardly a holy thing to do. And just what are clerical orders based around in Ultima II-era Sosaria? It's never established that there's any gods, at least not by this point. Ultima III's manuals shed some light there, but now? I'm stumped. And probably overthinking things again.

Once I had my stats and such in order (hey, that reminds me, what's with the other races in Sosaria, too? I can play as four, but I never really see anything except what appear to be humans, although I suppose it never specifies one way or another, just indicates class, and-- NO, stop that!), having opted to emphasize the physical stats at least a little, I was dropped into BC-era Canada, unarmed, unarmored, and waving a cross about. First order of business - equipment!

Guess this is who the town's named for. Feel kinda sorry for him.
I blundered my way over to Towne Linda, getting accosted by a thief in the process, just outside of the city and before I could get myself anything more hard-hitting than my bare fists. I managed to knock him down, though, and I crossed my fingers that I'd get lucky - but alas, no blue tassel for me, just a cloak. I bought myself an axe and some leather armor in town, as I felt certain I had the stats to make use of them, then spent a bit of time in the pub to pick up some tips. I learned that some fighters wore magic helms, and that I needed ankhs to open space. I wandered around town a little bit more before picking up a horse in the hopes of it helping with food to at least a small degree, and with food becoming a concern, I left Linda and set my sights on Le Jester. In the village, I bumped into a nymph who told me I should visit the Hotel California (I hear it's such a lovely place), and after buying what food I could, I went out into the world to slay some monsters.

So close, and yet so far - stop taunting me like that!!
And from here on, most of my session consisted of hunting down monsters, whacking them for gold, and hoping against hope I'd run into a thief and that I'd be able to procure a blue tassel to commandeer a ship from him. The opening stages of the early Ultimas are always tense, hoping that you can cling to your wits tightly enough to not run out of hit points or food while you struggle to climb up the ranks, but I feel like so much of the early game of Ultima II is based on luck - that monsters will appear where you can actually get to them, that right kind of monster will appear (namely thieves, as they give you the most interesting stuff when you defeat them, and then a ship, once they give you the right item), that you'll get the right thing from them when you whack them, and all the while trying to keep your supplies up.

I mostly kept to the BC years to fight, sneaking over via timegate to the AD years to visit Lord British for HP and Port Boniface to swipe food from the McDonall's (oy) ride-through, feeling somewhat guilty that I have to resort to it so often and cringing over knowing what other less-than-moral acts I'm going to have to commit by the time I've defeated Minax. I found sea serpents rather frustrating to deal with, as they'd keep running away after getting hit, and being sea-bound creatures and me being land-locked, I had no way to go after them, until I figured out their pathing and managed to lead them into little eddies where they had nowhere to go. I was vaguely amused by the point I caught two of them on either side of  the Indian subcontinent, bouncing back and forth between them to trade hits on them.

Okay... but it would help to know why...
I explored the four towns I kept to, the two in the BC years and the castle of Lord British and Port Boniface in the AD years. I was told to find the Father and claim the ring, so it's nice to have that plot point triggered properly somewhere. Thieves constantly taunted me by popping up on islands where I couldn't reach them, and I shook my fist at them as I rode by. Still, it was better than my last game, where I had a demon appear in England that tried paralyzing me whenever I rode by the English Channel.

Eventually enemies stopped appearing on the main landmass of the BC years - I guess I hit a max enemy limit or something. I poked into Le Jester to whack the thief at the entrance, careful to keep him between me and the guards (man do guards hit hard!!), but still no luck. By this point I'd managed to blunder my way to level three, and a couple thousand hit points and food, so I felt I could explore a little more. Blundering my way through timegates, I whacked a thief in a time zone I had no idea where, and after the dust settled, I squealed - somehow I'd obtained not one, but two blue tassels - and a ship was on the horizon!

After taking it for myself, I sailed around cackling madly while firing cannons at everything in sight, and to my further delight, realized I'd ended up in the AD years - New San Antonio was sitting there calling my name. After hitting level four I made port in Australia to call it a day, ready to build up gold so I could boost my stats.

It's slow going, but now that I've got a ship? Things should be, pardon the obvious pun, closer to smooth sailing.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ultima II: Opening Thoughts

Oh, Ultima II.

I kind of view Ultima II as the series' equivalent of the book of Leviticus - the first major potential stumbling block for any well-intentioned individual attempting to take in the entirety of canon from the very beginning. (Of course, I happen to find Leviticus unironically fascinating, so the analogy kind of breaks down in my case, as any analogy does sooner or later.)

Ultima II was released in 1982, two years after the initial foray into the series. Following up on the Stranger's defeat of Mondain, it introduces his young apprentice (and possibly lover) Minax, the eponymous enchantress taking out her titular revenge upon the one who slew her former master. The sci-fi elements get ramped up in this game, making use of time travel (inspired by Time Bandits, which I've never actually seen) as well as space travel, and is notable for purportedly being set on the planet Earth - as well as the other planets of the solar system! It was also the first to feature the eventual series staple of a cloth map, and was published by Sierra On-Line because they were the only company willing to include it. I don't have any of the cloth maps myself, sadly, but I did get a chance to see one for Ultima IV at an exhibit near me a couple years back, and it's something I'm glad became one of Ultima's trademarks - it really adds to the whole sense of getting absorbed into the game.

The manual for Ultima II is fairly straightforward - it hasn't quite hit the stride of the old in-universe manuscript that the later manuals would exemplify, but it does a decent enough job of getting one in the proper mood for the game. I did notice, however, that it harps on orcs a fair amount for some reason or another. It paints a rather vast, sweeping picture of the game world to come, but for me, the manual hypes it up to the point where it's kind of disappointed when it comes to the game itself. I do enjoy the Tale of Minax that finishes out the manual, though - the story of Mondain's fall, the rise of Minax, and the inevitable forgetting of your deeds should you succeed, due to the nature of time travel. Only two pages of the manual, but it's very well executed.

In my opening post to this blog, I made mention of the five Ultima games I'd finished at that point, and Ultima II was not among them. In the time since, that's no longer true - during my long hiatus, I powered through the game as something of a mindless distraction. So I'll have to wait until I hit Exodus before I can start getting excited over the prospect of seeing the ending to an Ultima game I've never finished.

When I first was introduced to the Ultima series, I got my hands on the first four games entirely, but never played II much because my system ran so fast that I blinked and starved to death whenever I loaded the game. I also have very vague memories of an Apple II in my third or fourth grade classroom that ran Ultima II, but I never played it much then because I never could figure out what the heck I was supposed to be doing.

Barring the game I've just finished, Ultima II is the one I most recently played, and thus is the freshest in my memory, and... well, they're not quite as fond of memories as they are when it comes to, say, Ultima I or Ultima IV. I find it a little draggy, jumbled, and far too grindy for my liking, but hey, it's next in line and has its place in the Ultima series, so back unto the breach I go!

I mentioned back in the beginning that I intended to use graphical patches for this game, and the screenshots I've included here probably serve as good evidence that I'm following through on that. The original graphics were a four color scheme that just grated on my eyes and made it very confusing for me to figure out who all I'd already talked to, so I opted for an EGA update (courtesy of The Exodus Project via Pix's Ultima Patcher) to the graphics that made it less of a chore and allowed me to focus on the game rather than trying to fight the system itself. I played a thief in my first runthrough a couple months ago, but I'm leaning toward a cleric this time, once again an attempt to make use of spells more, and the cleric list intrigues me more (mostly because they allow me instant exit from dungeons). Wish me luck!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ultima I: Closing Thoughts

My stats, as I went into the final battle.
As I wrapped up Ultima I yesterday, I found myself musing on what exactly it is about the game that appeals to me even in the face of its age (even the remake is older than I am, after all). I come back to the game fairly often, after all, it's one of my go-tos when I need to unwind and want to just smack around a few pixelated monsters, rather than lose myself in an in-depth story. It's a fairly grind-y game, yes, what with shuttling back and forth between stat-raising signposts, whacking monsters for gold and experience... yet even with all that, I don't really find the game boring at any point. I think a good deal of that is that the early grinding feels tense enough to be engaging, and by the time you reach a point where you're not biting your nails when three enemies come crawling inexorably toward you, the game's opened up enough that you can grind in a few different ways - if you get tired of increasing stats, you can go dungeon delving, and if you get tired of that, you can go exploring the continent and slay monsters there. Or go poking around space and shooting aliens. There's enough variety to keep one occupied, and even if it does get rather repetitive after a while, there's just enough to keep it interesting in some manner or another, whether that's changing up what you're doing or changing up how you approach it - spells versus weapons, and so forth.

Ow! My brain!
So with my previously mentioned intent of looking at the games from a storyteller's perspective, how does the tale of the First Age of Darkness hold up? Well, it's a simplistic story, to be sure, but I think for a game of its time, it holds up pretty well. The general premise is laid out decently enough (evil wizard makes monsters that threatens the land, slay them and figure out how to slay him in the process), and the story, such as it is, is well paced. There are three crucial plot points that move things forward in the game - that you need four gems, that you need to travel through time, and that a princess will help a Space Ace accomplish such - and each one of these points comes as part of the reward for finishing a needed quest. More than that comes as flavor text from taverns, which are plentiful enough that they're not too obscure to find. It's a very compact story, of course, necessitating leaving more to the imagination than the game itself, but then again, that's what really caught me about the Ultima games to begin with - they leave a lot open for the player's interpretation. Ultima I sets a good precedent for the games to come in that respect.

As for Ultima I's role in the larger story, coming off Akalabeth's prologue, Ultima I makes for a good first chapter, starting things out strong. We've established a main villain, and though it's not Mondain himself we find ourselves fighting against as the series goes on, we do feel the effects of the legacy he leaves behind at least through Ultima VI, and perhaps even beyond, depending on how one wants to interpret events. Whether it's his comrades or the remnants of his magic, Mondain's role in the events of the Ultima games resound through the series, and it's here that we first lay down what he's capable of. It makes for a fine opening to the tale of Ultima as a whole.

All in all, every time I play Ultima I, I find it to be an absorbing and enjoyable romp, and this time around was no exception. It's simple, but it works so well, and that's the beauty of it.

If only I could say the same for the next game... but that's for another post.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ultima I: The Fall of Mondain

Today saw the end of the life of the wizard Mondain. Who knows what repercussions Aric's actions will have as they echo down the ages, but for the moment? Sosaria can breathe easily again.

It's like he was waiting for me...
The venture began with a jaunt to the Lands of Lord British. The kindly king (to an extent, I mean he's still got a princess in his dungeon) had asked me to pay a visit, and presumably my respects, to the Grave of the Lost Soul, which I'd found at the end of my last session, so I picked up a strength bonus from him before heading to the Tower of Knowledge in the northeast corner of his realm, for another strength bonus from the King of the White Dragon. I checked my spell inventory, just in case, and saw I only had two Ladder Up spells, so after wandering around a bit trying to find a place to restock them, I was ready for my final dungeon expedition.

It was Doom that I poked into in order to make my way down, down to Goblin-Town-- er, I mean, down to the ninth level to slay a balron. I cast a blink spell to see what would happen, since I hadn't yet, and was teleported about three steps away. Ah well, experiment did nothing of worth, really. I had little trouble until I hit level four, in which I got swarmed badly just off the ladder, but I came through all right. I came across a passage in which I was blocked in both directions by a barrier, and just past one of them was the ladder down behind another barrier - I was glad for my destroy spells yet again! I'm going to have to remember that in future playthroughs, I got some good use of that spell this game.

How many of these have I gone through now?
Levels seven and eight passed without much to comment on, which I was glad for - I was nervous that I'd get hopped on by gremlins and my food stores would dwindle down much too far for my liking. That never happened, though, and as soon as I got off the ladder to the ninth level, I found myself attacked by a balron from behind! I slew it with a cry of INTERFICIO, and that was that. My trek back upward was more dangerous than the way down, I think - I used a few ladder up spells to bypass the gremlins, but got swarmed on level five, and by the time I stumbled back up to level four I was down to about 600 hit points. Ladder up spells saved the day for me then.

What else am I gonna do with that button?
Shamino rewarded me with the final gem, this one white, and nine items from his stores, which I used to replace the armor that had been eaten (yet AGAIN) by a gelatinous cube. After blowing all my stockpiled cash on extra hit points, I headed over to the northwest island on the continent, took a deep breath, and stepped into the time machine. After inserting the proper gems and hitting the LAUNCH button, I was thrown through time and yanked out of the contraption by magic to face Mondain himself.

There he was, cloaked and robed in a fiery chamber, chanting over the still-forming Gem of Immortality. That was my first goal, I knew - if Mondain completed the Gem, then all of my hard work would be for naught! So I hurried my way over and smashed the Gem to bits - and wracked myself in the process! It hurt, a lot - I went from over 8000 hit points to just barely above 2000. I slung a few spells at Mondain, discovering that Kill spells only seemed to make him stronger, before resorting to my blaster. Time and time again I fired at him, until he turned into a bat. I chased him into a corner, where he turned back (!) into his wizardy self, my world shifting as he shot his telekinetic attacks at me, before I forced him to flee as a bat once more. After a good deal of chasing (and crashing into a wall for even more damage at one point, in my gusto to defeat the evil wizard), I finally managed to strike the finishing blow, undoing all of Mondain's evil actions as they echoed through time.

Ow. Ow ow ow.
The effects put me in stasis of some sort for a thousand years, back to the present, where Lord British expressed the gratitude of himself and his people for my actions - which left me wondering how exactly he knew what they were, if I changed time and all. But in any case, the wizard is dead, and Sosaria is at peace again.

So ends the tale of the First Age of Darkness. It didn't take me all that long to finish up the game today, but I certainly felt powerful while doing it (I think the fact that Pandora decided to blare Nightwish in my ears while dungeon crawling may have aided that along a bit)! It was a fun romp this time around, giving me a chance to play around with aspects of the game I haven't really done much with before - the destroy spell really helped a lot more than I expected! It was also the first time I'd seen Mondain transform back from a bat, and it was the first time I tried a kill spell on him as well - which the game claimed made him stronger. All in all a good time. I'll compose some final thoughts on Ultima I in the coming days, and then it's off to the next game. I hear Mondain had an apprentice who's none too happy with Aric

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ultima I: Spacing Out

My play session this time around was a little on the short side, but I still managed to get a few important things accomplished! First and foremost of tonight's adventures was my venture into space, the natural place to begin after having bought a space shuttle and stocking up a good deal of cash with which to refuel.

Hostiles everywhere!
So after making sure I had my reflect suit equipped (I'd had to replace it yet again after a gelatinous cube got to it), I hopped in and blasted off into space! After maneuvering my way into a docking station, I parked my shuttle in favor of a speedy attack ship, pulled up a scan of the vicinity, and went hunting for enemies! They were plentiful to the south, so I decided to circle my way around, making my way to the eastern edge of the map and then turning back around. I was hoping I could defeat twenty enemy ships in one go, without needing to refuel - though I had enough cash on hand for three refueling trips - and kept pushing my luck, thinking I could go just one more sector before needing to find a place to refuel! When I started dwindling down to about 100 fuel, though, I relented and stopped by a refueling dock, which happened to be in the very sector I'd just cleared out. Back on the starways, I found out I'd been just two ships shy of making it to a Space Ace on one tank of fuel - and jumped the gun on attempting to get my screenshot, so you'll just have to take my word for it on that one!

Get back here! You can't escape me that easy!
There's not a whole lot to say on playing through that section of the game, but its presence is certainly worth talking about. In a game full of castles, knights, swords and sorcery, the sci-fi elements can make things feel a little disjointed, and this is most flagrant during the space section. Yet, somehow... it works. Maybe part of it's due to having established time travel as an integral part of the plot, and for a plausible sort of reason - if the gem is what makes Mondain immortal, then clearly the secret to his demise must lie in doing so before the gem made him immortal. Time travel is an important part of Ultima II's plot as well, but it's not played with quite as much, I feel, which I'll get to in more detail when I cover that game (assuming I remember). In any case, it feels less out of place than it does in Ultima II, to my mind, and I can't quite put my finger on why, much as I try to puzzle it out. As wacky as it is, and as dissonant a chord it strikes against the more properly fantasy elements of Ultima I, it works and it's enjoyable. And maybe therein lies another part of its secret - it's a fun little diversion, a shaking up of the way the game has gone up to this point, something different that's still meaningful.

What do you mean that's the wrong key??
Back on Sosaria, having actually landed safely rather than needing to burn up in the atmosphere and kill myself due to not having enough money on hand to change ships like I did the last time I played the game, I hopped back in my aircar and headed for the Lands of Danger and Despair, what will become the setting for Serpent Isle several games down the line. Having hit level eight last update and becoming a Space Ace this one, of course I had to go rescue a princess while picking up the quests for the kings. The Castle of the White Dragon was closer, so I paid him a visit, and once he told me to find the Tower of Knowledge (back in Lord British's territory, if I recall right), I fired my blaster at his jester followed by practically all of his guards. And it turned out the jester had the wrong key! So it was off to Shamino's, where I was told to kill a balron. But I misheard it as a bard-ron, and shot his jester too, who had the right key this time, and the princess (Dianne by name) in her gratitude told me a time machine was on the northwestern part of the continent. I found it right by the Grave of the Lost Soul (which Lord British wanted me to find, another reason to pay his domain a visit), and that was where I called it a night. I still need one more gem to power the machine, and that'll come from slaying a mighty balron (and surviving to tell the tale, of course).

The end is in sight! Watch out, Mondain. I'm coming for you.

Just one more gem...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ultima I: Back in Action!

Well, that was something of an ordeal. But here I am once more, back to the Ultima!

I feel stronger!
The first part of my adventures today were trying to remember exactly what it was I was doing. According to my notes, the last thing I'd done was visit the Pillar of Ozymandias for the King of Olympus, then return to him to get a bonus to my strength, halfway through my explorations of the Lands of the Dark Unknown. So to kick things off, I did it again. And again. Since I'd started the game as a mage, my strength was low to begin with, so I made the trip back and forth a couple times to give myself a much needed boost.

Once I had three or four strength boosts under my belt, I went poking around the signposts of the continent - The Sign Post and the Southern Sign Post (descriptive names!), the latter of which being what the King of Barataria wanted me to seek out, which meant another strength boost, although I forgot to do that until just before I called it a day. I shuttled back and forth between the two signposts to up my stamina and my charisma, and reflected on that mechanic. I like the idea that finding places can boost stats, it encourages exploration and reflects the insights that visiting new places can bring, but it leads to a lot of shuttling back and forth, which can get tedious after a while.

Exactly how is this city Poor?
Which led me to pause in the middle of my Quest for Max Stamina, and go run around the rest of the continent. Here I found a lot of other oddly-named places: the city of Wealth barely had anything, just a food shop, a pub, and an arms store, whereas the city of Poor had everything a wayward adventurer could ask for! I also found it odd that the city of Imagination had nothing more than food and arms to sell me... I suppose I just had to imagine the rest of it? Oh well. I also stumbled across a dungeon that I didn't see any indication of on the game maps, which made me do a double-take briefly. I also paused briefly by Castle Olympus, with the town of Nassau sitting in its shadow. There's a couple instances of cities right by castles in Ultima - Lord British's Castle and Britain, Barataria and Arnold - and I like that touch. The foot of a castle is a good spot for a settlement, after all, and I like that Ultima I actually displays that.

If only this spell destroyed the skeleton, too.
After another round of stat boosting at the signposts, I gathered my wits about me and dived into The End..., another dramatically named dungeon. This was considerably less tense than the last time I went dungeon-diving for a monster - I think I'm getting better at finding my way around them! I played around with a couple other spells on my way down, since I'm playing a mage and all - having the 'Destroy' spell around was actually fairly convenient, as those barriers that normally I'd have to find secret doors around I could just blast out of my way.

I got a little nervous when I got to level seven of the dungeon, as that was when the gremlins started showing up and swiping my food - just as annoying in Ultima I as it was in Akalabeth! I was down to about 100 food when I found the lich that the Black Dragon King wanted me to slay, which I did with a single Kill spell. Musing briefly on the irony of killing a magical undead creature with magic that supposedly stops a creature's heart for a few beats according to the manual, I clambered my way back out (relenting and using a few ladder up spells to be on the safe side) and restocked my food in the nearby town of Gauntlet. Visiting the King to tell him of my victory earned me my third gem, along with the knowledge that a princess (like the one in his own dungeon) would help a Space Ace through time.

Die, lich, die! Er, again!
I spent a good deal more time in the dungeons after that, exploring through the first five levels or so of The Long Death in order to garner enough gold for a spaceship, which I bought in Gauntlet for about 700 gold (not bad!) along with a replacement reflect suit (the last one had been eaten by a gelatinous cube), then again in The Viper's Pit - which did indeed have a lot of vipers, making it one of the rare accurately named locales thus far! - in order to gather enough gold to get me through the space section. Last time I played through Ultima I, I found out that you can't change ships if you can't pay the refueling fee, so I ended up becoming a space ace then burning up on reentry because I didn't want to redo it. Live and learn!

I also managed to hit level eight during all this dungeon exploration, so once I become a Space Ace, I'll be all set to rescue a princess and find out how to travel through time!  Of course, I have one more gem to collect before I can do that, but one step at a time.

This being my first entry in quite a while, I have to say I'm enjoying getting back to it. Sparse as the early Ultima games were, they certainly know how to spark the imagination, and I was gleefully making notes and biting my nails when my food was running low while I was playing today. I'm especially looking forward to taking on space next session - somewhat out of place for a standard fantasy sort of setting, but yet it feels like it fits regardless! I'll have more to say on my thoughts on that next time, but for now - Ultima is fitting me like a glove once again. Onward to space!

Time to head for the stars!